Discussion thread

August 1, 2021 • 9:15 am

Once again there’s nothing I see that stimulates me to write; am I running dry, is there no news of note, or is everything happening just a reprisal of what I’ve commented on before? At any rate, there’s no need for me to write when I am not compelled to say something, so perhaps we can have a discussion instead. (I’ll put up a photo-and-video post of Botany Pond’s ducks and turtles later.) But there are things we can discuss.

Here are a few subjects, but you needn’t limit yourself to these.

A lot of people, and not just right-wingers, are complaining about the rapid changes in recommendations by the CDC about how to behave during the pandemic. While the vaccination recommendation remains strong and in place, lockdown and especially mask recommendations seem to change daily. Is this just what happens when what we know about the new variants and about science changes over time, or is the CDC itself conflicted about what to do and say, perhaps because there’s a conflict between their medical opinions and how Americans would react against more restrictions? On the NBC Evening News yesterday, CDC director Rochelle Walensky was asked if she thought there should be the “government should mandate the vaccine on a federal level”.  They were asking her opinion, but she punted, saying that the administration was looking into it, and later issued the following “clarification”:

Even so, I don’t know what she’s talking about. My own view is to act like I did last year and earlier this year: wear masks indoors, stay 6 feet away from people who I don’t know are vaccinated, and wash my hands a lot. And I’ll get a booster. I am less fearful than I was last year, as we know the vaccine strongly protects you against death or hospitalization. But all over America, people are resistant to new lockdowns. Given the data on the delta variant, and the claim that it can accumulate in the nasal passages of those who have been fully vaccinated, and that those people can infect other people—even other vaccinated people—is the federal government acting properly? (I assume people will agree that some state governments have their heads in the sand.)

After missing a vault and falling on her back in practice, gymnast Simone Biles has apparently pulled out of all team and individual events. This is surely wise, as she seems to have lost either her confidence or sense of where she was in the air. She said she had the “twisties”. Apparently this is not uncommon among gymnasts. As Time Magazine reports:

And every gymnast can relate. Biles has since said that the combination of mental stress and pressure leading up to the Olympics have affected her confidence. But, more importantly, she felt a disconnect between her mind and body; her body was no longer doing what she wanted it to. Whatever the trigger, gymnasts call this the “twisties.”

“If you say ‘twisties’ every gymnast knows what you’re talking about,” says Jordyn Wieber, member of the 2012 Olympics gold medal team and now head women’s gymnastics coach at the University of Arkansas. “It’s something all gymnasts experience at one time or another.”

. . .What causes the twisties varies from gymnast to gymnast—sometimes, they can be triggered if the gymnast is training different twisting skills at the same time, for instance going back and forth between double twisting elements, one-and-a-half twists, and triples. Stress could contribute to them. Or they can just descend out of the blue for no reason.

For Biles, they occurred on the world’s biggest stage, and the look of concern everyone saw on her face makes sense. “She is doing some of the most difficult skills in the entire world, and if you’re not mentally in a great place, or have the twisties, then that can be a matter or life or death,” says Wieber. “One wrong landing, or landing on your neck, could be really, really dangerous.” Biles has four skills named after her on the vault, floor and beam, including the daring triple-twisting double back flip on floor exercise.

Biles has been answering questions on Instagram about the twisties, and it’s clear she is experiencing the classic signs. “Literally cannot tell up from down. It’s the craziest feeling ever, not having an inch of control over your body,” she wrote. “what’s even scarier is since I have no idea where I am in the air, I also have NO idea how I’m going to land. or what I’m going to land on. Head/hands/feet/back…”

It’s clearly laudable that Biles pulled out of competition, as gymnasts with the “twisties” who haven’t done so have wound up as quadraplegics. And her personal behavior has been exemplary, supporting her teammates down the line. Likewise with her coaches and teammates, who fully support her decision and have shown her a lot of affection.

What worries me is not Biles’s or her teammates’ behavior, but the reporting that has analogized the “twisties” with serious mental illness: the kind of depression, for example, that still affects swimmer Michael Phelps and perhaps Naomi Ozaka. Biles in fact seems to be receiving support for going public with being mentally ill, something that she hasn’t done!

What’s good about the Phelps/Ozaka cases is that they’ve led to the de-stigmatization of mental illness and the recognition that it’s more frequent than people think. But is there a downside with conflating nerves, “twisties”, or a loss or proficiency with mental illness? I think so, but want to hear from readers.

Finally, speaking of the Olympics, is there too much jingoism evinced in the coverage? Every night on the reports, nearly all the coverage is about Americans, with the inevitable chart showing how the countries rank in terms of medals, like this one:

I know you can’t get rid of patriotism completely, but it seems that this concentration on countries is inimical to the spirit of the Olympics, where politics isn’t supposed to matter. And I suspect there are a lot of fantastic athletes from other countries with stories as compelling as, or more so, than those of athletes like Katie Ledecky and Sunisa Lee. Where are their stories?

Well, those are three suggestions, but any topic is open. As always, I regard such discussions as failures if we get fewer than fifty comments (it’s a peccadillo of mine), so weigh in.

Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ skin

July 28, 2021 • 9:30 am

The new Jesus and Mo strip, called “glee”, came with this note:

Hats off to the Norwegian women’s handball team.

The article, from BBC Sport, reports that, in the European beach handball competition, the Norwegian women refused to wear the required bikini bottoms in a match against Spain, opting for shorts instead (see photo below, with Norwegians in red and Spanish in black). The Norwegian team was fined €1500 for disobeying the rules.

Men, of course, can wear shorts; here’s the difference in the traditional outfits for men vs. women. Is there any reason to mandate this difference save to allow male viewers to ogle female bodies?

Likewise, Germany’s female gymnasts wore unitards instead of the traditional leotards. Here’s a photo showing the traditional vs. unitard outfits in the German gymnastics Olympic trials:

(From yahoo! sport): Elisabeth Seitz, Sarah Voss and Pauline Schafer at the German gymnastics Olympics trials. (Photo by Tom Weller/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Male gymnasts, of course, can dress more modestly, like this:

AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko

Now a few readers have said that, for them, a plus of watching women’s beach competitions or gymnastics is the chance to see skin. But ask the women: I bet they generally don’t like it, and some certainly don’t like it, preferring to have their talents rather than pulchritude on display. And there’s no excuse for mandating skimpy outfits for women. Uniforms should be regulated, of course, but designed not to expose bodies, but for comfort and to facilitate performance.

But I digress. Here’s Mo doubly upset by the “shameless display of female flesh” in the Olympics. And, of course, he’s hypocritical in his cognitive dissonance.

Political protests from the podium banned by the IOC; do you agree?

July 6, 2021 • 11:45 am

The Olympics aren’t supposed to be political, but that went by the board a while back. Countries have pulled out of the Olympics on political grounds, and Olympic athletes have made political protests from the medal podium, a gesture now outlawed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).  Below is an MSNBC news report on the fracas caused by Gwen Berry, who, on the podium after placing third in the hammer throw in the U.S Track and Field trials, turned her back on the U.S. flag and refused to pay attention to the national anthem. This was a protest against  “police brutality and systemic racism.”

As the video shows, however, the anthem wasn’t scheduled to be played during the medal ceremony, so Berry was partly blindsided. Nevertheless, she performed a similar gesture during the Pan Am Games in 2019. For that the US Olympic Committee (USOC) suspended her. Since then, they’ve changed their rules, so that the USOC now allows the exercise of free speech during the games.  That puts the USOC at odds with the Big Guns on the IOC. To their credit, the Biden administration (via Jen Psaki) defended Berry’s gesture.

And the NYT article (click on screenshot).

It’s not clear what will happen if Berry or anybody else violates the IOC’s rules; they say they will deal with it on a case by case basis. Conceivably they could strip violators of their medals.

What do I think of this? Well, in America I think it’s fine to demonstrate; that is, after all, free speech. I myself did something similar in June of 1971, when I became valedictorian of William and Mary’s graduating class. The valedictorian traditionally said a few words onstage, but the College knew I was a hippie Leftist and decided just to call out my name when the award (“The Lord Botetourt Medal”) was given for academic achievement. When they did that, I rose up from the audience, wearing a black armband to commemorate Kent State and to protest the invasion of Cambodia, and I raised my fist for a short while.  That cost me a summer job, as a marine institute where I had applied to work decided they wouldn’t hire a radical long-haired protestor. So be it.

What about the Olympics? I can see their point:

The way I.O.C. leaders see it, they must navigate the interests of athletes from more than 200 nations, many with differing political viewpoints, and deter anyone from taking attention from another athlete’s rare chance to stand on a medal podium.

They argue that one athlete’s demonstration in support of equality and human rights could offend another. For example, Israeli athletes could perceive a gesture demanding Palestinian statehood as support for entities that have called for the destruction of Israel.

And I’d hate to see the Olympics become a fracas of competing political gestures when the Games are supposed to bring people together. On the other hand, very few will want to protest, and at any rate I always come down on the side of free speech. If an athlete suffers professionally for making a gesture, like not getting on that Wheaties box, well, that’s the price they pay. Let it be added, though, that the IOC surveyed 3,547 athletes about whether “political speech and other forms of demonstration should NOT occur on the field of competition”, and 2/3 of them agreed.

So my view is “let a thousand opinions bloom on the Olympic podium”. But I do understand why this looks unseemly, and hope it doesn’t happen every time. I doubt that it will.

Tell you what—let’s take a poll:

Should the International Olympic Committee ban political gestures from the podium?

View Results

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Guy solves three Rubik’s cubes while juggling them

May 22, 2021 • 2:15 pm

This is unbelievable, but is a Guinness World record, so it must be kosher, no? What a talent to not only juggle, but manipulate the cubes in your hand for the brief time you have them so that their faces eventually align. I wonder if you can make a living out of this.

Here are the YouTube notes:

The fastest time to solve three Rubik’s cubes whilst juggling is 5 mins 2.43 sec, achieved by Que Jianyu (China), on the set of ‘La Notte dei Record’, in Rome, Italy, on 17 November 2018.

World’s highest everything

May 10, 2021 • 2:15 pm

Okay, so I can’t vouch for the truth of everything shown here, but some of the feats are pretty remarkable.

First, the highest freefall—the first video shown:

In 2014, Alan Eustace set the current world record highest and longest-distance free fall jump when he jumped from 135,908 feet (41.425 km) and remained in free fall for 123,334 feet (37.592 km).However, Joseph Kittinger still holds the record for longest-duration free fall, at 4 minutes and 36 seconds, which he accomplished during his 1960 jump from 102,800 feet (31.3 km).

That “world’s highest ski jump” is 255 feet. The guy didn’t land on his skis, of course, but plummeted into a snowbank.

The world’s highest airport isn’t really the world’s highest in altitude, but it is the world’s scariest, landing on a cliffside in Lukla, Nepal. I’ve flown into it twice. Believe me, it’s something for the bucket list.

As for that giant wave, it’s 78 feet high as certified by Guinness, and was off Nazaré, Portugal.

Readers’ wildlife photos

April 24, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today we have one animal photo and some “adventure” pictures. The animal photo comes from Diana MacPherson, whom we haven’t seen here in a while. It’s a picture of one of her beloved resident Eastern Chipmunks (Tamias striatus).  The contributors’ words are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

This cute chipmunk was relaxing on the barbecue cover in the sun today.

And Doug Hayes, famed for his “Breakfast Crew” photos of birds, sends us action shots of kayaking from near his home in Richmond, Virginia. These may be the first sports shots I’ve posted under this feature.

Just a few shots of whitewater kayakers taken in Richmond, Virginia from the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge (T. Pott.), a pedestrian and cycling pathway which connects Richmond’s Southside and Downtown. Richmond is heaven for whitewater kayakers and canoe enthusiasts as the James River runs right through the heart of the city and features class II – IV rapids.  The river drops 105 feet over a 7-mile stretch through the city with the most exciting rapids located in the 2.5 mile portion between Reedy Creek and 14th Street.  There are many put-in/takeout areas along the river, maintained by the James River park system.

The American Whitewater website offers a complete description of the Lower James River rapids.

The paddlers in the photos have just left the relatively calm water on the west side of  T. Pott (having gone through the very intense Hollywood rapids about a mile further up river), passed under the bridge and into the rapids on the other side.

Camera info:  Sony A7RIV mirrorless camera body, Sony FE 200-600 zoom lens + 1.4X teleconverter, 1/5000 – 1/6400 shutter speed, f/11, Wide AF + tracking, camera body and lens image stabilization, hand held.

Once again, the question of transgender women competing in women’s sports

February 22, 2021 • 12:30 pm

The article in Quillette shown below (click on screenshot) is odd because the author is listed as “Quillette Magazine”, with no indication who did the research and writing. Claire Lehmann? Other people? If it’s a consortium of editors, they should really say so. Nothing is gained by completely anonymous publication.

Nevertheless, it’s an informative and fair piece that does three things: 1.) summarizes data showing that transgender female athletes who compete with biological women have an advantage not overcome by testosterone suppression, 2.) attacks, successfully, the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU’s) new campaign to make transgender females equal to biological females in every respect, including sports, and 3.) proposes one solution to the dilemma of “how do we allow transgender women to compete in sports?” (There is no issue with transgender men, which is part of the article’s solution to the dilemma.)

It also answers the complaint of transgender rights advocates that we shouldn’t be concentrating on women’s sports. I will respond, as I always do, by asserting that the moral and legal rights of every transgender person should be respected, and full equality mandated for all but a few areas. One of those is sports, and the reason why critics like me concentrate on it is not because we’re using sports as a way to denigrate transsexual people or deny them other rights, but simply because transgender activists often insist that the mere claim that one is a woman (or man) makes them so, regardless of whether they’ve had medical intervention. (This is the ACLU’s claim, for instance.) Ergo, anybody who wants to claim that they’re a woman, whether or not they’ve had surgery or hormonal intervention, is a woman and can compete in women’s sports.

And if the ACLU wants to die on that hill, and call people like me “transphobes,” let them, for their ideological insistence applied to all areas will eventually be the death of women’s sports—sports whose autonomy was fought for for years and now codified in Title IX. And if women’s sports die, or are taken over by transgender women, it will be the silence of biological women athletes that brings this about.


Let’s take the last complaint first. It’s expressed here by a social psychologist:

This sounds good at first, but doesn’t deal with the fundamental unfairness that many perceive of biological men (some with surgery or hormone treatments, some not) competing against women whose physiology and morphology make them less liable to win in any physical competition. Further, the Quillette article proposes a solution that sounds workable for refuting the “making you sit in a gender that doesn’t fit you” argument.

First, nobody denies sex differences in sports; if there weren’t any, we wouldn’t have separate women’s and men’s sports. Here’s the performance advantage of biological males over biological females, separated by sport (caption below from a paper I mention below). These are differences between cisgender men and women:

The male performance advantage over females across various selected sporting disciplines. The female level is set to 100%. In sport events with multiple disciplines, the male value has been averaged across disciplines, and the error bars represent the range of the advantage. The metrics were compiled from publicly available sports federation databases and/or tournament/competition records. MTB mountain bike

One solution to these differential shas been the Olympic solution: a biological male can compete in women’s Olympic sports if their serum testosterone levels have been below 10 nanomoles/liter for a year before the competition. This, however, is more or less arbitrary, as this Guardian article below suggests. It reports on a newish study (right below it) showing that testosterone suppression does not remove all the sports advantages of being a biological male.

Click on the screenshot:

The article is based on the paper below in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (free, and free pdf download):

The summary from the Guardian: two years of testosterone suppression didn’t eliminate all the advantages of biological maleness, though it did for pushups and situps (but see caveats below).

However the new study, based on the fitness test results and medical records of 29 trans men and 46 trans women who started gender affirming hormones while in the United States Air Force, appears to challenge the IOC’s scientific position.

The research, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that before starting their hormone treatment trans women performed 31% more push-ups and 15% more sit-ups in one minute on average than a biological women younger than 30 in the air force – and ran 1.5 miles 21% faster.

Yet after suppressing their testosterone for two years – a year longer than IOC guidelines – they were still 12% faster on average than biological females.

The trans women also retained a 10% advantage in push-ups and a 6% advantage in sit-ups for the first two years after taking hormones, before their advantage disappeared. But the researchers say they “may underestimate the advantage in strength that trans women have over cis women … because trans women will have a higher power output than cis women when performing an equivalent number of push-ups”.

On the other hand, trans men, who took testosterone supplements, became equivalent to biological men after two years, except that the trans men did more situps than biological men (this is why biological males aren’t allowed to take testosterone supplements, and highlights one possible difficulty with Quillette’s solution of allowing trans men to compete with biological men in an “open” category).

The paper below, published in Sports Medicine, concludes that even after three years of treatment, transgender women still retain advantages over biological women in nearly every physiological, morphological, and performance test reviewed, and sometimes those advantages were considerable.

We already know that the ACLU, while engaging in its admirable work on civil rights, including transgender rights, has gone off the rails with the latter, insisting that transgender women must be equal to biological women in every respect. This is largely due to the zealotry of the ACLU’s Deputy Director for Transgender Justice, Chase Strangio, who has done good work on trans rights but is a “trans fundamentalist” when it comes to sports.

Here are four claims that the ACLU has made and which Quillette critiques. Every claim is either misleading or wrong. I won’t discuss them (I’ve dealt with some before), as you can read the article:

Relevant to the last one about separate teams, here’s Quillette‘s solution:

One promising option, for instance, would be to preserve the traditionally defined female category while also rebranding the male category as an “open” category that’s available to anyone. This would allow a biologically male trans woman, or someone who is intersex, to test their speed, skill, and strength in a fair competition, while also not forcing them to submit to a designation they may find inaccurate or demeaning. Once overwrought ideological claims about the nature of gender identity are stripped away, in fact, open athletic categories may even provide a forum for real diversity and universal inclusivity, which is the ostensible goal of those demanding that women compete against male bodies.

As they note, this would be opposed by both conservatives and extreme Leftists, but my problem is different: the possibility, which I didn’t realize until I read the papers above, that testosterone supplements, which I think continue over life, may give an advantage to trans men over biological men in some areas.

What we know now is that arbitrary hormone limits, like the IOC’s, aren’t useful in light of data showing that even with testosterone reduction, trans women retain considerable strength, height, and muscle-mass advantages, acquired at puberty, over biological women. Dealing with that is a tough ethical and practical question.

As for transgender rights, all of us agree that with a few narrow exceptions like sports, incarceration, rape counseling, and the like, trans women should be considered the moral and legal equivalents of biological women. The rub is sports, and, as Quillette writes:

The most humane way to help and support transgender people isn’t to pretend that slogans and hashtags will magically transform them into something they’re not. It’s fine to say that “trans women are women,” full stop, as a matter of certain legal entitlements. But biology doesn’t care about what pronouns we use. And trans athletes shouldn’t be encouraged to inhabit a state of denial. There are creative strategies we can implement to invite, and even celebrate, the participation of trans athletes in all sports. But they can be implemented only once we admit the real differences that exist between the two—and only two—sexes.

I won’t go into why sex in humans is binary, as I’ve discussed that many times before. This article reiterates the data.

By the way, Quillette, could you please let us know who the authors of your articles are? Even the New York Times “editorial board” editors are known to the public. “Quillette Magazine” as an author tells us exactly nothing.

A body-surfing duck!

January 30, 2021 • 1:15 pm

It’s my titular day off, so I’m leaving work before the big snow hits (Chicago’s expected to get 5 to 9 inches of “heavy wet snow”—more in places). I’ve put my car in the University garage so I won’t have to shovel it out.

But for your delight and entertainment, I append a wonderful video of “Duck” Australia’s famed surfing mallard. It’s a domestic Pekin variety, and I trust the salt water won’t harm him. This was featured by the BBC.

Only two more months till duck season begins again at Botany Pond! Will Honey return for her fifth season of duckling production? Put your guesses below.

h/t: Pyers

Once again: transgender women in women’s sports

November 30, 2020 • 1:45 pm

Reader Steve called my attention to an article I wouldn’t have otherwise seen, as it appeared at The Daily Maverick, a South African news website. It’s about the recurrent and polarizing problem of what to do about transgender women, born as biological men, who want to compete in women’s sports. The piece seems quite fair to me, certainly not demonizing transsexuals, but also calling attention to the conflicting issues of fairness in sports towards transsexual women on one hand and towards biological women who haven’t undergone medical transition on the other.

Click on the screenshot to read.

I’ve written a lot about this issue before. I’ve arrived at only one firm conclusion, and that’s that biological men who declare that they’re women, but haven’t undergone any hormonal or medical treatment, should not be allowed to compete in women’s sports. Given the average sex differences in bone and muscle mass, and in strength and speed, this simply wouldn’t be fair to the competing women. But several places, including the state of Connecticut, do allow that, so that unaltered biological men who identify as women are allowed to compete in women’s sports. The results are predictable—the women-identifying men clean up the prizes. I doubt that there are many people who think this is fair, though the ACLU has defended those men when women’s athletes brought a lawsuit.

For intersex people, or for those who have undergone surgery and/or hormone treatment, the issue is much stickier.  For one thing, even with those treatments you don’t lose all of the differential muscle mass that a male gains at puberty. Further, the testosterone titers of a transsexual woman below which she is allowed to compete, as in the Olympics, are purely guesswork, with no research behind them affirming that such titers completely remove the physiological differences that result in different sports performances of men and women.

What is new about this article, which is largely about rugby, is its claim that there is research on the effects of hormones and surgery, but that it doesn’t show what the advocates want. Rather, it shows that the male/female differences are not effaced by hormones. (World Rugby has banned all transsexual women from competing in women’s rugby, with their rationale being safety, since, as they claim, one can hurt someone quite badly with a more robust physique.)

The article first highlights the differences that justify keeping men’s and women’s sports as separate categories:

Simply, [World Rugby’s policy’ argues that a women’s category “protects” the integrity of the result for biological females and in some instances, the safety of its participants. Biological females do not possess the same physical attributes as males and many of these male-bodied attributes have profound implications for sports performance.

So, while the women who win Olympic medals and world titles would outperform most men in most sports, they are vastly outperformed by the males who win the equivalent Olympic medals and world titles.

In the comparison group that matters, there is literally no contest. Take for instance the fact that the best women runners in history are outperformed every year by hundreds of boys younger than 18, and by many thousands of adult men.

The gap between the respective champions in most track and field disciplines is 10% to 12%, and thousands of biological males fit into that space. As a result, if women’s sport did not exist as a category, women would vanish entirely from elite track and field.

Consider next that a 10% to 12% difference is actually relatively small. In weightlifting, the difference is 30% to 40%. For tasks like serving in tennis, it is 20% and for punching power, the male advantage has been measured at 160%.

These differences are enormous and within a relevant comparison group (like Olympic athletes, or high school athletes competing for scholarships), they are insurmountable.

This is not to say that female athletes do not possess extraordinary abilities, as well as technical and mental skills that are necessary in champions. But male-bodied physiological advantages are so large that all attributes unrelated to biological sex, the ones that should actually matter, are drowned out by things like muscle mass, strength, power, body shape and speed.

This creates the moral dilemma of conflicting fairness:

Now, with all those principles and concepts in mind, consider the dilemma for sport. There are individuals whose biological sex does not match their gender identity. Biological males undergo puberty driven by testosterone, but identify as female. What is their place in sport?

A decent and progressive society accepts them. But can sport accept them into the protected, closed category for women? Given the biological realities, if self-identification or gender identity were the sole criteria, women’s sport would become “open”, and its purpose negated.

This then sets up what is basically a “colliding rights” issue, where the rights of females to have a sporting space of their own collides with the rights of other individuals to identify as they wish. Sport finds itself in the middle of that collision. It becomes, effectively, a question of how various priorities are balanced. Those priorities are inclusion, fairness and, in some sports, safety.

Historically, the approach to this issue has been relatively simple – it tried to “fix” the problem by relying on medication or surgical intervention to lower the testosterone levels in trans women.

Given what we described above regarding testosterone’s crucial role in creating the male-female sporting divide, the premise is that if testosterone is lowered or removed, so is the sporting advantage.

The lowering of testosterone can be achieved either through surgical removal of the testes that produce it, or, as per the most recent Olympic transgender policy, medication that lowers the testosterone below a target level for a period of 12 months.

But this approach is controversial for obvious reasons. Compelling an otherwise healthy individual to use drugs as a requirement to participate, which may have serious side effects, is straddling an uncomfortable ethical line.

Even if the athlete accepts this approach, the acid test, then, is whether the outcome is true. Does the suppression of testosterone take away those differences that women’s sport excludes?

It then summarizes the scientific data, of which I was unaware. It appears that these data apply to body differences related to rugby success, but they must also relate to many sports:

The sport then has to make a choice and prioritise them. It can choose inclusion at the expense of fairness and safety, or it can choose safety and fairness, with a resultant compromise on inclusion.

That is the situation World Rugby found itself in during an expert consultation process early in 2020. The scientific evidence, while limited, is consistent and relatively clear. There are no studies that have shown that suppressing testosterone for 12 months makes a meaningful dent in male physiological advantages relevant to rugby.

All the studies that do exist strongly suggest a retained advantage that makes the testosterone suppression policy ineffective at achieving its objective of fairness.

A dozen such studies have found that strength, muscle mass, and muscle volume decrease by between 5% and 10% when testosterone is lowered. Given that the original male vs female difference is between 30% and 50%, the implication is that a significant part of the original advantage remains when trans women are compared to a matched group of biological females.

There is one study suggesting that male endurance advantages in distance runners are removed entirely, which might allow some sports to balance inclusion and fairness, but for sports where mass, size, strength, power and speed matter, the evidence all points one way, in the direction of retained advantage and the necessity of a prioritisation of those imperatives.

Now I wish I had a list of such studies, as it’s usually claimed that we know very little about the effects of hormone treatment on sports performance. (To be sure, this is based on physiological effects supposedly related to success, not what we really want to know—the effects of treatment on sports performance itself.) Apparently, though, we do know some things. The lack of endurance in distance running is interesting, but again, I’d like to see the data. If there’s no effect of testosterone treatment on performance, one might, say, combine men’s and women’s marathons, though the world’s record times for that distance are still about 15 minutes lower for men than for women.

The only solution, if you wish transsexual women to compete in women’s sports, is first to only consider people who have been treated to reduce testosterone, and THEN you must find out what reduction of testosterone can equalize the average performance of transsexual women and of biological women. Doing that experiment seems nearly impossible since it involves measuring not physiology, but actual performance, and correlating that with testosterone level. It may be that no reduction after puberty can equalize performance, and in that case we must do what World Rugby did.

Finally, there’s the option of creating a third category of competition for transsexual men and sex-intermediate people. I can see many people would object to that, too.


A groveling apology from a professor who simply called for more college football, which is apparently racist

September 30, 2020 • 10:15 am

What follows is one of the most ridiculous and embarrassing instantiations of wokeness I’ve seen anywhere, much less in colleges.

If you want to see the equivalent of a full, self-abasing confession in the religion of Wokeness, then read the second article below from Inside Higher Ed. When I initially read it, without reading the forerunner article, I thought it was a joke—so over the top and groveling was it.

But it wasn’t at all a joke. It was from a professor who had written a pretty innocuous article (with a grad student co-author) on the education website, an article that simply called for college football to resume (with proper pandemic precautions) as a way of bringing people together. Though I’m not a fan of college football, it didn’t ruffle my feathers a bit, as I know many people—especially Ohio State fans—are rabid addicts to college football.

It turns out, though that the first author, Matthew Mayhew, must have been inundated with emails and social-media posts, as well as a letter to Inside Higher Ed by another professor (below), all claiming that Mayhew’s position was blatantly racist. It was not.

But read the pieces in order, starting with his pro-football editorial (with Musbah Shaneen). Click on the screenshot below. Here’s the description of the authors:

Matthew J. Mayhew is the William Ray and Marie Adamson Flesher Professor of Higher Education at Ohio State University. He has published more than 75 peer-reviewed articles in journals and is a co-author of How College Affects Students: Volume 3. Musbah Shaheen is a Ph.D. student in higher education and student affairs at Ohio State and a research assistant in the College Impact Laboratory.

In their article, Mayhew and Shaheen simply argue that football is something that can bring diverse people together in a time of trouble. For example:

Although many concerns remain about the health and safety of players and spectators, we happen to agree: college football may be an essential element of our functioning democracy. Here’s why.

That’s way over the top, for democracy in America would do just fine without football, but Mayhew really means that football narrows the divisions between people:

Essentializing college football might help get us through these uncharacteristically difficult times of great isolation, division and uncertainty. Indeed, college football holds a special bipartisan place in the American heart.

At a time when colleges and universities have been placed under extreme scrutiny, many people are questioning the very value and purpose of higher education. College football reminds many Americans of the community values that underscore higher education and by extension America itself. One Wolverine does not have to know another one by name — but the sight of maize and blue accompanied by “Hail to the Victors” unites anonymities through these shared experiences.

. . .This election season has demonstrated how stifled, polarized and dangerous our political differences have become, and college football can remind us of respect — even in the wake of deep disagreement. We can root for different teams, scream at the players, argue with the refs and question the coaches, but win or lose, at the end of the day, we leave the stadium, watch party or tailgate with a sense of respect for the game and the athletes that train so hard, leaving it all out on the field every time. Indeed, if a player is injured, the entire stadium usually applauds, not just fans from one team.

Deep difference doesn’t have to lead to disrespect.

The authors add that athletes shouldn’t risk their lives to entertain fans, and that strict enforcement of pandemic guidelines are needed.

And that’s pretty much it. Nothing is said about black people or race save for this statement that isn’t racist at all:

In addition, football players become beloved community figures beyond the boundaries of the stadium or campus. Football gives players a platform to make statements about issues they care about. We have seen student athletes taking part in protests and making demands for racial equity. We have seen student athletes kneel to protest police brutality. Colleges and universities should take many more steps to empower athletes to engage with the community. Depriving them the opportunity to play doesn’t accomplish that goal.

In other words, canceling football deprives players of the chance to make statements against police brutality and for racial equity. In what sense is that racist?

Yes, the original article is a bit silly, and pretty anodyne, and should have passed in silence. But something happened, and Mayhew immediately tendered a long and groveling apology on the site, castigating himself repeatedly as a racist. Read his ludicrous, back-whipping apology and see if you can figure out how the first article got him canceled:

Some of the apology (it embarrasses me to even reproduce Mayhew’s statements, but this is only a small bit of his groveling:

I recently led a piece in Inside Higher Ed titled “Why America Needs College Football.” I am sorry for the hurt, sadness, frustration, fatigue, exhaustion and pain this article has caused anyone, but specifically Black students in the higher education community and beyond.

I am struggling to find the words to communicate the deep ache for the damage I have done. I don’t want to write anything that further deepens the pain experienced by my ignorance related to Black male athletes and the Black community at any time, but especially in light of the national racial unrest. I also don’t want to write anything that suggests that antiracist learning is quick or easy. This is the beginning of a very long process, one that started with learning about the empirical work related to Black college football athletes.

Rather than make excuses, I should talk about which facets of the article that I have recently learned are harmful — through my students, wider social media community and distinguished academics like Donna FordJoy Gaston Gayles and Gilman Whiting.

I learned that I could have titled the piece “Why America Needs Black Athletes.” I learned that Black men putting their bodies on the line for my enjoyment is inspired and maintained by my uninformed and disconnected whiteness and, as written in my previous article, positions student athletes as white property. I have learned that I placed the onus of responsibility for democratic healing on Black communities whose very lives are in danger every single day and that this notion of “democratic healing” is especially problematic since the Black community can’t benefit from ideals they can’t access. I have learned that words like “distraction” and “cheer” erase the present painful moments within the nation and especially the Black community.

Then the self-castigation begins, and oy, is it embarrassing!

Upon such beginnings of reflection, I have also learned that my love for Black athletes on the field doesn’t translate into love within the larger community — that I have been dismissive of Black lives in moments not athletically celebrated. I have learned that I have taken pleasure in events that ask Black athletes to put their bodies on the line and take physical risks. I have been entertained by Black men who often are conditioned by society and structural racism in ways that lure them into athletics where the odds of making it are slim to none.

I am just beginning to understand how I have harmed communities of color with my words. I am learning that my words — my uninformed, careless words — often express an ideology wrought in whiteness and privilege. I am learning that my commitment to diversity has been performative, ignoring the pain the Black community and other communities of color have endured in this country. I am learning that I am not as knowledgeable as I thought I was, not as antiracist as I thought I was, not as careful as I thought I was. For all of these, I sincerely apologize.

I know it’s not anyone’s job to forgive me, but I ask for it — another burden of a white person haunted by his ignorance. To consider the possible hurt I have played a role in, the scores of others whose pain I didn’t fully see, aches inside me — a feeling different and deeper than the tears and emotions I’ve experienced being caught in an ignorant racist moment.

It goes on way beyond this, with thanks to those who helped professor Mayhew understand his racism, and his “plan for antiracist change”. My response: nobody was harmed by your fricking words. If they said they were harmed, they were either lying or need help. 

Reading the original letter again, I still couldn’t understand this wailing, weeping apology, but then I found that Andrew McGregor, a Professor of History at Dallas College, had written a letter to Inside Higher Ed called “Mythic, misguided view of college football.” McGregor happens to be white, but that’s no bar to virtue-signaling, which McGregor does big time in his letter. Sure, Mayhew was over the top in claiming that college football is an essential part of American democracy, but McGregor whips him over and over again by asserting, falsely, that college football is instead “a symptom of the deep-seeded issues that have contributed to political polarization, racial unrest, the devaluation of education, and prolonged devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic.” (By the way, the term is “deep-seated,” not “deep-seeded”.)

But how did college football become so nefarious?  McGregor argues that the lucrative nature of football has debased the intellectual mission of colleges, and that some college coaches, like Dabo Swinney, make unfounded statements about science and history. Well, I won’t wade into that morass, and can’t be arsed to look it up anyway, because that argument is irrelevant and can’t explain Mayhew’s fulsome apology.

No, McGregor argues that football by its very nature is racist because it demands that black athletes put their lives on the line to entertain white folk:

Amateurism and the very structure of college athletics is caught up in the United States’ system of racial capitalism. The problems of COVID-19, police brutality, and the policies currently being enacted by our political leaders all have a disproportionally larger impact on racialized folks. So too does college football. As the recent decision by a grand jury in Louisville reminds us, the status quo does not value Black Lives above apartment walls. For the Power Five, and apparently the authors, Black Lives Matter insofar as they are on the field playing an inherently risky game. In this regard, they are right: resuming college football is in line with America’s “democratic” tradition.

. . . Black athletes are embraced on the gridiron and in the community as a way to assuage white guilt.

WTF? Assuage white guilt?

And that’s about it.  No matter that both blacks and whites play together on college teams, that a football scholarship is a way for disenfranchised minorities to get an education, and that it’s also one of the only routes to becoming a player in the National Football League: a way to get success and big money in sports. Sure, most college players don’t get that call from the NFL, and we can argue about whether college players should get paid for their efforts and how much “education” football players really get. But none of that is relevant to McGregor’s accusations of racism against Mayhew. McGregor is just spouting off to show that he’s a deacon in the Woke Religion.

Here’s a photo I got when I Googled “Ohio State football team 2019). The team won against the Washington Huskies in that year. The team looks pretty integrated to me, though clearly black players are represented in a proportion higher than among the general population (and surely than among students).

It’s not clear how much pushback Mayhew got from other people, but I’m sure he was inundated with emails and social-media criticism. McGregor’s letter alone doesn’t seem sufficient to elicit such a bout of groveling and tooth-gnashing.

Had I been Mayhew, I wouldn’t have responded to McGregor at all, as no response was needed. Instead, Mayhew has crumpled, spouting mea culpas as he goes down. Like so many, he was so stricken when called a racist that he immediately confessed to Father Kendi.

The rest of us should pity Mayhew. The whole affair is laughable, save that Mayhew has been devastated and, indeed, may have had his career derailed. We shall see. But so long as people like Mayhew grovel, truckle, and beg for forgiveness for an innocuous statement, then so long will the Woke continue their tactics of demonization. As John McWhorter said, it’s time to either ignore or mock these jokers (I’m referring to McGregor, not Mayhew).

Matthew Mayhew, now toast

h/t: Eli