This called for an expert opinion. For some keen insight. For a perspective that was beyond my reach.
So, upon reading about a high school baseball team in Arizona forfeiting the state championship game rather than face a squad with a girl on it, I asked somebody who knows something about … being a competitive teenage girl.
“That’s horrible,” my 14-year-old daughter, Emily, said. “Because it’s, like, sexist. I’d be really upset. I mean, I’ve come this far, all the way to state, and now I can’t even play for it just because I’m a girl?”
Which, I’m guessing, would be the reaction of most people who are, not just girls, but competitors.
Which, I’m guessing, is the reaction of most people since the story developed a national reach.
Our Lady of Sorrows in Phoenix refused to play Mesa Preparatory Academy for the Arizona Charter Athletic Association championship game because Mesa has Paige Sutlzbach playing second base.
The teams met twice during the regular season, and Sultzbach sat out in deference to the opponents’ beliefs. But she was not about to miss the championship game.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Sultzbach’s father, John. “We hadn’t anticipated coming across that. I think it’s sad.”
And not just for Paige and her team.
Officials at Our Lady of Sorrows decided that it was better to forfeit, that it was better to deprive their athletes of something they had worked toward all season, rather than subject them to playing against a girl.
Which might not be surprising, given the school’s background.
Our Lady of Sorrows is run by the Society of St. Pius X, which broke from the Roman Catholic Church decades ago because … wait for it … the Catholic Church isn’t traditional enough.
Which makes you wonder if their baseball team uses the designated hitter.
“Teaching our boys to treat ladies with deference, we choose not to place them in an athletic competition where proper boundaries can only be respected with difficulty,” read a statement from Our Lady of Sorrows. “Our school aims to instill in our boys a profound respect for women and girls.”
Our Lady of Sorrows has every right to teach its students whatever it wants to. And it has every right to forfeit the championship game.
But I can’t help but wonder how that will translate when those students leave the tradition-bound halls of their school and enter the real world.
The fact is that those students someday will have to compete with women for jobs. They someday will have to work with women. They someday will have to engage with women in a manner that doesn’t fit their church’s narrow definition of gender roles.
And I can’t help but wonder how, after spending their school years being indoctrinated with outdated notions of male-female relationships, those students will react the first time they have a female boss. If they think girls can tough on the ballfield …
“It’s good they’re respecting girls,” my daughter said. “But, I don’t know, it’s weird. Why wouldn’t they play? Are they afraid she’s better than them?”
Just afraid of finding out.
Greg Jayne is Sports editor of The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4531, or by e-mail at email@example.com. To “Like” him on Facebook, search for “Greg Jayne – The Columbian.”