The latest Nike ad, released on the eve of the women’s World Cup of Soccer, is a heart-pumping, rousing ad that celebrates women’s soccer through the eyes of a child with an exciting dream. As the article “Nike’s New Ad Is a Celebration of Badass Women’s Soccer Players, and We’re Studying Up” says: “The commercial is a who’s who of talented women’s soccer players, from the United States’ Crystal Dunn to Brazil’s Andressa Alves, introducing you to the stars you’ll see in the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup. The real star of the show, though, is Makena Cooke, a 10-year-old soccer player from California.”
In the 3:00 commercial, we follow Makena Cooke running, kicking, falling, cheering, and even scoring alongside the very best of the FIFA women’s World Cup soccer rosters from all over the world. It’s an exciting ad that is sure to lift your spirit.
It might make you want to watch the world-class women’s soccer that the World Cup has to offer. It might make you want to kick a ball around yourself. It might make you want to cry (a few people reported that it made them emotional).
Whatever it might make you want to do, here it is.
Who knows what the Ballon D’or is? Well, I took high school French, so I would guess it is the balloon of gold. But I would be wrong. It’s the Ball of Gold award, given by FIFA (International Football Association Federation) to the best World player of the year. The good news is that this woman– Ada Hegerberg of Norway– won the first Ballon D’or recognizing women’s professional soccer.
Yay Ada! Yay women’s soccer/football! Yay strikers! Yay women’s sports!
But now comes the bad news, which I’ll let the Washington Post (experts in delivering bad news) tell you:
Accepting the Ballon d’Or was supposed to be Hegerberg’s moment. Instead, just minutes after she concluded a heartfelt speech in which she encouraged young girls to “please believe in yourselves,” Hegerberg was approached by French disc jockey Martin Solveig, the event’s host, who had a bizarre query.
“Do you know how to twerk?” Solveig asked in French. Clearly uncomfortable, Hegerberg shook her head and responded with a terse “no,” before appearing to attempt to leave the stage.
Yes, that’s right: some guy who was hosting the event, instead of praising her or asking her about soccer/football, asks a crude sexual leering question, completely deflating her Ballon D’or. Really? Ewwwwww!
I’m happy to report a little bit more good news, though: there’s been a huge media outcry about how gross and disgusting and sexist this guy’s comment was (he deserves no more mention of his name, in my view), and a bunch of professional athletes have issued spirited and strong messages of support. Well, good– it’s no more than Hederberg deserves, and I’m glad people have her back.
In addition, the press was all over this story, and it was gleefully reported by all the major world news outlets from the BBC (which reported it at first as “an awkward moment”), the New York Times to Glamour to Business Insider, which published a story that was really about how upset tennis star Andy Murray was about the twerking comment… Sigh…
But there’s more bad news, which none of the articles I read talked about (although it’s on video). After responding “no” to the twerking invitation, the DJ twerk-asking guy,, some other male host, and I guess the producers of the show all conspired to create a happy ending: they played a Frank Sinatra song, and Hederberg very reluctantly and briefly danced with Solveig before leaving the stage. Interviewed later, Hederberg said she didn’t consider his comment to be sexual harassment, and she posed with him for a picture he posted on Twitter.
I won’t dignify the DJ guy’s non-apology by discussing it. But suffice it to say, everyone was called upon to scramble to create a rapprochement (a word I didn’t learn in high school French) between them. And Hegerberg was required to do all of the heavy lifting, all of the emotional labor, and perform all of the actions to create a pretense of bonhomie (I am totally on a French-word roll here) which had to be exhausting and sad. This is much more draining than playing in a World Cup match, I bet.
What I wish had happened was this: when gross sexist DJ worm guy asked her if she could twerk, she had said, “no, but I do know how to do this”. And she would have done what she knows oh so well how to do, which is kick balls with strength and accuracy. Like so:
After hitting her mark, then the whole audience could’ve risen to its feet, yelling:
That’s an athletic performance I’d like to have seen, one worthy of another Ballon D’or.
At the time they felt organic. Not like I was trying to outrun my aging or shore myself up for the years to come, as the article suggests. More like I had been trail running for some years, enjoying increasingly longer distances and then thought, “Could I run one of those ultra distances?”
To be clear—I’ve never run more than a 50k, though the trails add challenge to that distance. The longest event, time-wise, was in Cape Town, South Africa. Three Peaks Challenge runs up and down the three smallish mountains that push that city toward the sea: Devil’s Peak, Table Mountain and Lion’s Head. That 50k run took me 9 hours.
I went into the longer distances as someone who had run marathons, done half-ironman triathlons and even the Canadian Ski Marathon a couple of times (a two-day, 100-mile cross-country ski). I wasn’t a stranger to the borderline extreme.
Yet, before I did any ultra-runs, I thought that anyone who undertook such an endeavor was trying to avoid something they didn’t want to think about (not just aging). Even when I did the ultras, I felt like the extremes I participated in were just the right length. Anything longer had a whiff of desperation. Yes, that was highly subjective, probably wildly inaccurate and judgmental. I was thinking like that old joke about the driver who thinks everyone driving slower is an old grandpa and everyone driving faster is a danger-on-wheels. (A side note: Who decides what’s extreme? One person’s extreme may be another’s daily dose in these times of ever more punishing activities.)
If you’re getting the feeling that I’m avoiding the question I opened with. You’re right. Until I wrote this, I didn’t want to think that I had a mid-life crisis (more judgment). Looking back now (at a distance of seven years), I see that maybe I was. I had published two books and still felt like a struggling writer. My marriage was not in the best period. I was looking for some way to feel special and strong. When I finished ultras, I felt invincible.
My foray into ultra-running was sidelined by Morton’s neuroma, a nerve inflammation that feels how I imagine an electric cattle prod applied to the ball of my foot would feel. I finally had surgery to remove the neuroma about 18 months ago.
Summer 2017 was my first back running in the mountains. I was cautious (and elated just to be running at all without extraordinary pain). This past summer, I did quite a few 3 to 4 hour runs, including the Sierra Crest 30k I wrote about in this post: Compare and Despair. As I was training, I kept asking myself, “Do I want to be doing more of these longer runs? Do I want to aim for another 50k or even something longer?” Right now, the answer is no.
Unless I live quite a long time, I’m probably past mid-life. Is that why I don’t feel a zeal for the extreme? According to the Medium article I mentioned at the top prime time for the uptick in extreme athletics is 40-49. I hate the thought that I’m not doing the extreme runs anymore because I’m too old or I can’t. Anyhow, I know that’s not true.
Have I accepted my mortality? I’d like to think that I have after much meditation (plus silent retreats, plus a vision quest), but I’m also sure that I have not achieved such equanimity.
What I do have are other challenges on my plate—finishing my book, my first ensemble play being produced at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in March 2019. I don’t feel like I need the extra scare of an ultra run on the horizon, too. I’m enjoying my sleep and time to read novels on the couch on the weekend with my partner.
I’m happy. I don’t feel like I need to prove to myself that I’m strong. I am.
But … I also love running for long stretches of time in the mountains or forest. Another ultra-run is not out of the question. So, if I’m not in midlife anymore, then maybe I wasn’t running far because of a crisis in the first place.
What about you? Have you had or are you in the midst of a mid-life crisis? What does that look like for you?
Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. Sport can awaken hope where there was previously only despair. Sport speaks to people in a language they can understand. –Nelson Mandela, 25 May 2000
Oyugis is a town of about 10,000 in a rural part of western Kenya. The vast majority (72%) live in poverty. Only 5.6% of the households have piped water; 3.3% have electricity. HIV/AIDS is rampant: 25.7% of the county (Homa Bay) population is infected (the highest rate in Kenya) and 61,000 households include an orphan. This has a profound impact on the community – 48% of the population is under 15.
The conditions are especially difficult for women and girls. 12% of girls have a live birth before age 15. Most primary schools (K-8) in the region do not have toilets, so when girls reach puberty, most stop attending school. Sanitary products are not available. As the statistics indicate, many of these girls end up pregnant and with HIV/AIDS. What might one hope to do in such circumstances? How is change even conceivable? Soccer.
I met Festus Juma in 2010. He deeply understands the power of sport for community development. Having family in the Oyugis region, he also understands the power of soccer to motivate local youth. Festus directs the Society Empowerment Project (SEP), based in Oyugis, which leverages soccer/football to teach life skills in areas such as HIV/AIDS prevention; health and sanitation; agriculture & nutrition; reproductive health; peace building; and substance abuse. Girls, in particular, gain opportunities to become fit and strong, to build friendships, and have contact with adult role models. The program also prepares them for youth leadership through training in coaching, refereeing and tournament management.
A current goal of the SEP is to register a girls team in the Kenya Premier League. Doing so will enhance their status in the region. Stronger and better educated girls and women will reduce domestic violence, improve reproductive health and well-being, and decrease HIV/AIDS infections. This is a proven strategy for community development and it changes lives.
Together with my son Isaac, I have been working with the SEP since 2011. Isaac played soccer through high school. Seeing a photo of children in Oyugis playing soccer barefoot on dirt patches, he was shocked by the comparison with his teammates who had several pairs of cleats and fancy uniforms. We began to collect used cleats, uniforms, and other equipment to send to Kenya. (The team featured on the SEP facebook page is wearing Boston Blast jerseys!) It is not cheap to send equipment to Kenya. It is not easy to build a sustainable program that empowers girls in a region where not even food and water is easily available. But sport motivates and strengthens those who participate. And it awakens hope.
Sally Haslanger is Ford Professor of Philosophy and Women’s & Gender Studies at MIT. She works on feminist and critical race theory. She is an adoptive mother, a social activist, and recently was client of the month at her gym!
It’s the first full weekend in October and in Canada that means a long weekend widely celebrated as Thanksgiving. Our family enjoys a giant feed of food. It also falls very close to my birthday and my wedding anniversary.
The changing season and the celebrations feel like a personal New Year. A time for reflection and change.
Soccer season wrapped up and my team, Zidane in the Membrane, won B division. We had a fun season. I grew as a player, forced to play mid-field I found out I’ve gotten a bit better.
My big achievement this year, aside from hitting the ball effectively with my head and getting called on a foul, I was unanimously chosen by my team as “most sportingly”. In a nod to my feminism the organizers changed it from “sportsmanship”. Awe! Everyday feminist feels.
Workout wise I’m heading back to the gym for cxworx classes Tuesdays at 4. The class this week was humbling after several months of not doing those moves. I often have to modify exercises because I don’t have the thrust to mass ratio or my round body simply can’t do some of the moves. So it’s a cognitive load with the cardio, strength and balance. I do like it though but the first day back I was weepy for the guilt of not being back sooner. I did wear last year’s soccer jersey. It cheered me up.
I’m loving Walking Wednesdays with my pals Tracy & Stephanie. We loop around the beautiful park in front of our office.
I’m throwing some treadmill running back in the mix. I want to improve my endurance and sprinting in soccer so I can be better in mid-field.
All in all, I’m feeling good about turning 43 this week. I’ve lots of friends who model what fitness in my forties & fifties can look like.
My sweetie and I are celebrating 22 years of togetherness. It’s official, I’m now at the age where I’ve lived with him longer thanIve lived without him. I’m thankful we keep finding good reasons to enjoy each other and fitness stuff is a big part of that.
So my folks are in town to celebrate my eldest son’s high school commencement. It’s basically the family High Holidays! Food, family and the time to enjoy it. Many things to be thankful for.
Sunday while sitting in Susan’s hot tub after a grueling hot hilly ride Sam turned to me and said “I’ve been meaning to talk to you about soccer.” All eyes shift to me and David laughingly says “Soccer intervention!”
I had been struggling with my right calf after pulling it the week before in soccer. It slowed me down and triggered cramping. Not fun.
Sam went on to explain how things had gone with her knee (read more here). To put it shortly:
Running-we can work with that!
Soccer-have you thought about quitting that?
I can’t remember what Sarah and Susan said but Cate asked me about injury rates on my current team.
They are high and someone does get hurt every week. It’s one of the problems of mixing skilled and unskilled players together. The poorly skilled are likely to hurt themselves and others.
Sarah pointed out that skilled players are more precise. Sam offered they manovre the ball away rather than whack at you.
Cate mentioned she felt the same way about downhill skiing, fun but too high an injury price to pay.
It did get me thinking. I had hoped I’d adapt to the sudden starts and stops. Sam offered that one never gets adapted to that.
I couldn’t play this week as I still can’t run on my calf. It’s too bad, I do enjoy the camaraderie and teamwork.
I’m not sure that I will sign up next season. What about you? Are there some sports or activities you deem too risky to do?