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Women, Sport, and Film - 2004
Student Papers
On Serendip

Fierce Competition

Nicole Wittig

Upon watching the films during this course we see many strong women. Female Athletes whose bodies are in peak condition from the real life champions in the documentary to the female boxer in Girl Fight and the passionate basketball player in Love and Basketball. However stories of real women are not always as ideal as those of Hollywood. Failure, both mentally and physically, is at times a harsh reality. Sometimes when somebody is physically injured it keeps an athlete from the game entirely, if the injury is severe enough. But one may recover physically and never have quite the same mental attitude. The main character in this plot will encounter both physical and mental set backs and either triumph over her hardships or be defeated.

A fourteen-year old girl runs into the gymnasium of her middle school with her teammates. They do their warm up routine to stretch their muscles. Form one of two sets of bleachers a handful of people cheer, mostly bored younger siblings and parents supporting their little girls. The baskets have been lowered at opposing ends of the court. The referee sounds her whistle for the game to begin. The two tallest girls from either team stand toe to toe posed for the toss up. Third quarter, the away team has the advantage. The fourteen year old is playing with all of her strength of body and heart. The ball is thrown; she intercepts it. Dribbling down the court, she goes for the open lay up. In mid air she is struck by a vengeful for whom threw the misguided pass. They take a hard fall jumbled on the floor, out of bounds. The girl from the visiting team stands up. The other does not. She is on the floor grabbing her knee. The coaches run out to her, and lift her up to take her back to the bench. The game continues as she sits with a towel over head to hide the tears of anguish.

A few doctors later and her joint is still not quite the same. She struggles in high school trying to get back on a team, but her knee fails her. Eventually she becomes scared to even hoops in her backyard for fear of hr knee's health. She does not want to continue injuring the same knee for fear of becoming crippled. Eventually she gives up on joining a team. But despite all this the dream of playing nags at her. Though she is fine with her current state and rationalizes the thought of all the running, the practices, all the work is not worth it, it still doesn't die within her.

The idea of the game never dying within the girl makes her a self -protagonist. If she knows that getting back in the game is impossible then she could deal with her loss. But she does not know for sure. The knee is not completely unhealthy, but yet never quite healthy enough to allow her to play. She continues to push towards joining a team again, but the knee disappoints her every time. It gives out every year, for three years, the week before try-outs. So she can deal with the realization that her competitive career, no matter how minor, is terminated. She is reassured with the knowledge that backyard hoops or a game of horse on the playground is not out of the question. But even that comes and goes. One day, one sunny day, she will take the shot and when she lands her knee will falter. She will lay on the ground limp with pain. When she regains her composure, she will hobble back to her room. Then the knee will begin to heal again, and soon she will be able to walk again with relatively little pain. And she will be drawn back to the hoop to start the cycle again, because the knee keeps taunting her. She loses weight to make herself healthier and to have less pressure in her joints. She runs to strengthen the muscles, but it never works. Just as she begins to get herself back in the game her knee will fail her, but she does not want to accept this.

Alas, she had to give it up. She gave the game up when she became enamored with another sport: Foosball. It is a game that put to use her hand eye coordination. The skills she used to put the ball through the net, now guided the plastic men on metal rods back and forth across the foosball table. She put her heart into her new passion. Luckily she lived in a town with a foosball league. Amateurs would gather on Tuesday nights to challenge one another to high intensity bouts of foosball. From these early exposures in Bert's Big Bowling Alley, she honed her skills until she was a superstar. Endorsements began to roll in. Eventually she quit her part time job at the local café because such companies like Spalding, Champion, and finally Nike were vying to put her name on their products. The day came when she traveled south of the border to South America where there are professional leagues for these specialized athletes.

Though she failed utterly in her first sport love, she found her niche in another. When she accepted her shortcomings and moved on is when good things happened to her. And she was still able to pursue sports even if it was in another venue. Once she got over her obsession with basketball and explored her other options she discovered foosball. Though she excels at foosball now, it does not function as a substitute for basketball. Basketball will always be in her heart even though she plays another sport now.

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