Wimbledon reeks

I love tennis.  Women’s tennis, men’s tennis, singles, doubles, love it! The Australian Open each year is a beacon of hope that winter is finally ending and the summer or sport is soon to follow.  But recently, my ears have been assaulted repeatedly by unwanted noise during women’s tennis matches.  And I am NOT talking about any noise made by the players!  I am talking about the incessant complaining and criticism by the female announcers during women’s matches with regard to players’ grunting.

You see, often, when a person makes a powerful, full-effort athletic move, an exclamation of exertion may be heard.  This is true of basketball, volleyball, tennis and virtually any other sport a person happens to enjoy.  This is a phenomenon unrestricted by gender boundaries: men do it, women do it, even kids do it.  The sporting battle cry is an elemental part of sport.  And I must admit, when I dive for a well-placed hit during a volleyball game, I am unashamed of my own exclamations (especially when I get a positive result).  But for some [obvious] reason, women in particular are being ridiculed and denigrated for doing what comes naturally for sportsmen everywhere.

Watching Wimbledon this year, I had to endure female tennis announcers making derogatory comments about the female tennis players on court.  Statements such as female grunting is damaging the sport, women should tone it down, the women’s grunting is distracting, and other myriad critical comments nearly managed to make me turn the channel.  Every women’s match, I find myself more and more offended by this unending tirade of misogyny.  I am personally unbothered by the gentlemen’s or the ladies’ grunting.  It’s a natural phenomenon, as I explained earlier.  But listening to Mary Carillo, Chris Evert and Pam Shriver constantly criticize female players seriously bursts my bubble!

Yes, women grunt during rallies, but so do men.  Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic played for the men’s championship today.  Their match was a continuous exchange of grunts.  Novak even emits what I describe as a double crescendo grunt that peaks just before and just after his strike.  And Rafa’s grunt is just as audible.  But not once did I hear the male announcers lob criticism on them for their liberties.  Oh, and don’t let me get started on some of yesterday’s players like Andre Agassi!  Yet, let a woman like Maria Sharapova or Venus Williams utter the same athletic sounds, and Shriver and friends are all over the television saying they are bad for tennis.

And now there is talk of a ‘ban’ on grunting?  How much more ridiculous can we get?  Can you imagine what would happen if a ban were raised on grunting during tennis matches?  My theoretical scenario begins thus:

During the 2011 off season, the ATP and WTA approved a ban on grunting. With the enforcement of this ban, players can be docked points, removed from a match, fined, and even disqualified for ‘cheating’.  Despite strident opposition by players male and female alike, the WTA has announced that the ban will become effective with the start of the first major tournament of the season, the Australian Open. The chief complaint among players in opposition to this ban is the fear that the ban will prevent players from exercising their full potential on court, for fear of consequences imposed for uttering sounds that are involuntary.  And top women players fear that the ban will disproportionately affect their professional prospects, and have threatened to file civil legal action against enforcement of the ban.

 Spectators and lovers of tennis have expressed similar fear that tennis may lose its competitive edge, post-match penalties will interfere with the sport’s integrity, or that stoppage time for penalties may hamper match progress. 

Not to mention, it would be utterly ridiculous!

I believe that this angst for females making any kind of noise emanates from a cultural misogyny so deeply ingrained in all of us that even women don’t realize they are indoctrinated with it.  In the nineties, when Monica Seles first made a name for herself, she too was ridiculed by announcers, and nicknamed “Moan-ica.”  One would think that 20 years after Monica Seles took Gabriela Sabatini to school, women in sport would be shown a bit more respect.  Who decided how women should act?  Who decided grunting wasn’t appropriate behavior for women?  When did announcers decide how the players should play?  Hmmmm, excuse me, but I think that should be the players’ decision.  The fifties image of the graceful feminine lady tennis player should be the furthest thing from people’s minds as they watch tennis today.  Well behaved women rarely make history.  The announcers and spectators need to get over it.  If you don’t like the grunting, turn down the sound.  Otherwise, shut the hell up already!

Some people make noise when playing sports.

And while I’m at it, commentary surrounding women’s tennis too often descends into the announcers’ perception of the female players’ body and beauty issues rather than discussions about skill or off-season interests.  Not once during Nadal’s and Djokovic’s match today did I hear the announcers discuss the players’ weight, clothing, or physical appeal.  During Wimbledon I have personally witnessed announcers’ discussion of how frequently a player is photographed and an announcer’s issues with another player’s weight (as if it were any of her business).  Seriously, if I wanted to hear about that kind of crap, I’d turn on TMZ.  Geez.

I love tennis, but it’s obvious that, just off court, equality is still a long way off.

Nuclear Disinformation vs. Public Education

My concern amidst all of the positive memories of 2011 ComFest was that participants in the event heard “environmental activists” on Bozo stage promulgate nuclear misinformation.

As a nuclear engineer, I consider it my unique duty to inform the public and communicate openly about the benefits and risks of nuclear power.  Each year, I anxiously anticipate The Columbus Community Festival because it gives me the opportunity to visit home to see and hear the sights and sounds of the town that raised me from a babe.  This year was especially memorable to me, as I was fortunate enough to reunite with many of my friends old and new (some I had not seen since my high school graduation).
My concern amidst all of the positive memories of 2011 ComFest was that participants in the event heard “environmental activists” on Bozo stage promulgate nuclear misinformation. This concerned me because I know one of the core principles of ComFest is working “for the collective good of all people.” I cannot justify how presenting false information as fact works for collective good.  These activists stated, “two plants in Nebraska are underwater”; regulators and corporations collude to “fatten their pockets”; and “without nuclear power… we would have all renewables like wind and solar” (as well as other claims). 
These statements are sensationalized anti-nuclear rhetoric!
To address some of the specifics, the following is some factual information that refutes the messages that were prominently presented as fact at ComFest: Nebraska Public Power District’s Cooper Nuclear Station and OmahaPublic Power District’s Fort Calhoun Station are not “underwater”.  Fort Calhoun has experienced flooding on their property; but, the reactor remains dry inside its watertight containment building.  This is due, in part, to recognition of deficiencies in Fort Calhoun’s flood response plan by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) resident inspector, and the subsequent implementation of improvements overseen by the NRC (reference letter LIC-10-0098 in ADAMS).  When the vessel head problems occurred at First Energy Nuclear Operating Company’s Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station, the NRC fined the owners $5.5 million and kept the reactor shut down for years.  The NRC routinely inspects emergency readiness plans; and mandates owners design and operate their plants in accordance with strict safety standards.
The fact is nuclear power was developed for the collective good.  Nuclear power contributes to U.S. energy independence, and provides reliable, good-paying jobs across many trades and education levels. In 2010, nuclear power accounted for almost 20 percent of electricity generation and more than 68 percent of emission free electricity production in the United States.  The same year, electricity generation from nuclear avoided 1.6 million tons of Sulfur dioxide and 707 million tons of CO2 emissions.  Both Sulfur dioxide and CO2 are greenhouse gases and are detrimental to public health.
On the notion that nuclear can be replaced with renewable energy: with an average wind turbine of 1.5 megawatts – 830 wind turbines would be needed to replace the capacity of Perry Nuclear Power Plant (1,245 megawatts). I challenge these “activists” to explain, where in Ohio would we put 830 wind turbines?  Or in the case of small, residential wind turbines, what middle-class family can contribute roughly $40,000 in capital costs?
For me, ComFest used to symbolize friends and community.  This weekend left me wondering, when did ComFest come to symbolize deceptive activism?  I inquire of the ComFest organizers, whether they are aware that misinformation was spread and if they took any or plan to take any action to ensure that this kind of misleading information is not being spread at ComFest. If they are not planning an action, I respectfully request that they do. ComFest’s organizers, when addressing political issues affecting our community, should strive to present the facts and the opportunity to represent both sides of those issues.  Because isn’t promoting an informed public the best thing, in the end, for all of us?