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Old February 11th, 2010, 11:04 PM
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BigT67 BigT67 is offline

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Arrow Welcome to NASCAR, Danica — now kick butt

Yes, women athletes have come far, but let’s demand a lot more from them

Danica Patrick just missed a top-five finish in her ARCA debut last Saturday.

It’s terrific that Danica Patrick raced well enough in her stock car racing debut last weekend to step up to the more prestigious Nationwide series Saturday, a leap that’s been compared to jumping from Single A to Triple A baseball after one at-bat.

But when it comes to women athletes competing against men, something Patrick has done the previous five years on the IndyCar circuit, I have to be blunt: I want trailblazing women athletes like her to kick some butt already. I want them to win. Big.

I'm tired of seeing women athletes get pats on the head for merely coming close, as if to say, "You're not so bad. For a girl."

Patrick has exactly one win in her IndyCar career before adding a part-time gig as a stock car driver to her schedule this year. But her solitary victory hasn’t and shouldn’t protect her from the rap that until she wins more a nagging question will persist: Is Patrick the real deal, or just an Anna Kournikova knockoff that knows how to do an oil change?

Patrick succeeded Kournikova as the most hyped female athlete in sports, a distinction each of them earned for their exploiting their sultry good looks, not dominating their sports.

It has been 37 years since Billie Jean King swatted aside Bobby Riggs in their Battle of the Sexes match and — no disrespect — I’m tired of the Manon Rheaume-Ann Meyer-Hayley Wickenheisers of the world who have made cameo appearances against men since then. I hope I never hear the words “Silver Bullets women’s baseball team” uttered again. I want no more novelty act tryouts or female extra-point kickers just happy to be in the game. I’m old enough to have seen firsthand how far women athletes have come. Yet part of me thinks, “Why not demand more?”

We already know that some women athletes can beat a lot of male athletes some of the time in certain sports. The late January news that Kelly Kulick became the first woman bowler to ever win an event on the PBA Tour was nice. But I want more athletes such as Kulick or 1993 Belmont Stakes winner Julie Krone, the first woman jockey to win a Triple Crown race. I want all those college and WNBA basketball players who dunk in the layup lines but not in games to lose their timidity and start throwing down like Baylor freshman Brittney Griner does. No more simpering that it would be too embarrassing to miss. Stop making excuses. Start rattling rims.

I want Patrick to go out Saturday and trade paint with the other NASCAR drivers around her for even thinking that she’s just a sexy little marketing bonanza for the sport. Patrick is such a grievously bad loser that some of her foot-stomping tantrums have been laugh-out loud funny. Yet part of me loves that about her, too. I wish more LPGA golfers would do whatever it takes to channel some of the commitment and imagination that drove Annika Sorenstam to dominate the game before she retired and the women’s tour started to shrink and drift.

I loved how Sorenstam relentlessly spoke of chasing a “perfect” round of 54 — a birdie on all 18 holes — but I also wanted her to quit being so aw-shucks nice and drop her apologetic stance about her one-and-done appearance against the men at the PGA’s Colonial tournament in 2005.

Sorenstam, who missed the cut by a few strokes, tempered a lot of criticism for taking an exemption spot from some men’s tour regular that week by stressing her appearance was just a one-time thing, just a way to learn more about her game. But if learning was the point, why stop at one tournament or at the occasional co-ed Skins game? Why apologize for your presence when you golf better than 99 percent of the human beings in the world? Teenage golfer Michelle Wie had it half-right: She had the audacity and stubbornness to think she could compete against PGA players, but those traits would be better coupled with a Sorenstam-caliber game.

If Patrick doesn’t do well the rest of her career, it won’t be because she lacked opportunity. She’s lucky enough to be racing stock cars as a rookie for JR Motorsports, an offshoot of the Hendrick Motorsports group that has dominated NASCAR for years and grabbed both front row starting spots for Sunday’s Daytona 500.

The Nationwide series event that Patrick will race a day earlier on the same Daytona track is a tier lower. But her handlers say her sixth-place debut in a warmup race last weekend proved she’s already skilled enough to make the jump. Patrick’s finish settled a lot of concerns: Could she draft off the cars running in front of her and make up ground on the crowded track? She did. Could she handle the intentional bumping and sideswiping that’s routine in stock car racing but happens mostly by accident in open wheel, Indy-style drag car racing? Again, the answer was yes.

Patrick spun out once in the crash-filled race, then recovered smoothly and daringly took an aggressive racing line to just miss a top-five finish.

“You drove the wheels off that thing, girl!” team co-owner Rick Hendrick told her after the checkered flag fell.

Patrick’s show of attitude last weekend was reminiscent of when she first hit the IndyCar circuit five years ago. She really, truly didn’t seem interested in mere moral victories then, either. Patrick posted the fastest time in qualifying or practice for her first Indy 500 at 229.880 mph. She nearly became the first woman to win the pole position, too.

Before the race Patrick told reporters, "I'm going to go out there and prove to you time and again that I belong here, that I will race up front, and that I'm a great driver and not just driving for a great team.” Then she led the race for 19 laps, losing the lead for the final time with just seven laps to go. She finished fourth overall — the best showing ever for a woman at Indy. Yet afterward she snapped that it wasn’t good enough.

“I wanted to win,” Patrick seethed.

Thatta girl.

By Johnette Howard

Johnette Howard is a New York-based writer who has worked for Sports Illustrated, The Washington Post, and Newsday. She is the author of, "The Rivals: Chris Evert vs. Martina Navratilova" (Broadway Books).

<hr>Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.<hr>

Big T

Friends help you move. Real friends help you move bodies.

Old February 13th, 2010, 05:05 PM
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TazDevil07 TazDevil07 is offline

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Booo!!! I don't think she's gonna last much longer than Erin Crocker Evernham did, imo.

07 Ford Ranger FX4 Level II
01 Mustang Cobra SVT / 90 Mustang LX 5.0


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