February 22, 2002

Race and the Winter Olympics (Vonetta Flowers)

Race and the Winter Olympics: Since I've written so much over the years about racial patterns in winners of Summer Olympics medals, a reader asked me several weeks ago if I had anything to say about race in the Winter Olympics. I replied that the role where African Americans have the greatest natural advantage is "brakeman," the primary pusher of the bobsled. It's a job that requires that rare combination of sprinting speed and strength that blacks of West African descent tend to have more of than anybody else. Congratulations to Vonetta Flowers, who just became the first black Winter Olympics gold medallist ... as a bobsled brakewoman.

Despite all the gee-whiz commentary, there's nothing surprising about a sprinter/long jumper switching to bobsled - the Soviets did that all the time with their 100m men who were just below Olympic caliber. NFL players Herschel Walker and Willie Gault have competed in the bobsled, but the in-bred, soap-operaish family of American bobsledders didn't much appreciate rich black superstars parachuting into their penurious sport and hogging their quadrennial moment in the spotlight.

February 20, 2002

Decline of Women's Ice Hockey

Did you notice how Women's Ice Hockey, which set off such a frenzy of feminist patriotic chauvinism in 1998, was an utter dud in 2002? NBC broadcast just the last 6 minutes of the gold medal hockey game Thursday night (Canada beat the U.S. 3-2), while giving saturation coverage to the ladies' figure skating final, which is so popular because it serves, in effect, to crown the World's Top Princess (just as women's gymnastics in the Summer Olympics crowns the World's Top Pixie) . The collapse of interest in the U.S. Women's Hockey team continues a trend of faddish interest in women's teams fizzling in their return performances. In the 1996 Olympics, the U.S. Women's Softball and Basketball teams were the subject of vast hoopla, but in 2000 few fans were interested in them anymore. If this trend continues, the next Women's World Cup in soccer will be a massive let-down. Essentially, I see little evidence of long term interest in women's team sports except among lesbian fans and the kind of guy sports nuts who will watch anything on ESPN2.

February 17, 2002

Dragonfly, starring Kevin Costner

Dragonfly, starring Kevin Costner, is the perfect ghost story for people (e.g., me) who don't like ghost stories because they are too scary. Click here for my review.

Stanley Kurtz on Middle East

Who's having the best war among the punditariat? My nominee is Stanley Kurtz of the Hudson Institute for bringing a crucial anthropological perspective. Here he explains why Middle Eastern societies are so hard to reform - no matter who the government is, society consists of interlocking extended family networks. In an earlier column, he noted that extended families in the Middle East are so powerful because they are so inbred - an astonishing 1/3rd of marriages are between first cousins! Does anybody have Kurtz's email address?

Figure skating appeals more to women and gay men

Yes, I know lots of you couldn't care less about figure skating, but from a human biodiversity perspective figure skating is hugely instructive because it is that rare sport (assuming it is a sport) that appeals more to women than to men and to gay men than to straight men. It is the exception that proves a lot of rules.

Making figure skating judging more objective

The Figure Skating Powers That Be have announced that they are going to try to make their sport's judging more objective by giving credit for each move on a degree of difficulty scale. There's only one problem with this. Figure skating, as we know it, is essentially about being a princess, not a jock. The more they make it more of a sport like gymnastics and less of an art form, the less feminine it will become and thus the less feminine its champions will be. The danger is not so much that skating will crown as winners more burly women like Tonya Harding, who are strong jumpers, but then so was Charles Barkley. No, the risk is that skating will be overrun by more pre-pubescent girls like Tara "The Human Drill Bit" Lipinksi, the 15 year old who took the gold in 1998 with her high-RPM jumps.

The physical difference between a little girl and a woman is basically body fat. Women have higher body fat percentages than girls (more body fat is bad in just about any sport not involving massive heat loss like English Channel swimming or Iditarod dogsled mushing). And their weight is distributed farther from their vertical axis (i.e., they have T&A). Recall how skaters spin faster at the ends of their routines when they pull their arms in. It's basic physics. The same applies with T&A. A womanly beauty like Katarina Witt could never attain the RPM necessary to jump like the stick insect-like Lipinski. Gymnastics has been overrun by pre-pubescents for years (e.g., 14 year old Nadia Comaneci in 1976). That's why they had to set a minimum age of 16 for Olympics "women's" gymnastics. Unfortunately, that just means girls try to delay puberty with dieting, exercise, and drugs, with God-knows-what long term health effects. Ultimately, womanly grace is awfully hard to quantify, but we sure know it when we see it. It would be sad to penalize that in the name of making skating judging more objective.

Surprise! Many male figure skaters, especially in men's singles, are gay

I hope I'm not surprising anybody by stating that obviously a lot of male figure skaters, especially in men's singles, are gay. Here's a lesbian activist's list of publicly out skaters. (Obviously, it's missing a lot of theoretically still-closeted stars). The interesting thing is the dog that doesn't bark - the complete lack of out lesbian skaters. The same is true for gymnastics. In ballet, J. Michael Bailey of Northwestern, the leading demographer of homosexuality, found that more than 50% of male dancers (what my later mother-in-law called "ballerinos") are gay, but he was hard-pressed to find a single lesbian. The simplest explanation is the best: figure skating and ballet (and, to a lesser extent, gymnastics) are highly feminine pastimes, and thus appeal most to feminine (i.e., heterosexual) women and effeminate (i.e., homosexual) men. In general, despite the politicized assumption that gays and lesbians are alike, they are actually radically dissimilar on a host of dimensions. Here's my classic 1994 article "Why Lesbians Aren't Gay," with its notorious table of three dozen traits upon which they tend to differ markedly.

Judging skaters in the Winter Olympics

Judging Skating: An irony of the figure skating pairs controversy is that one of the flagrantly biased NBC announcers, Scott Hamilton, was the beneficiary of one of the most rigged decisions in skating history. Coming into the 1984 Games, Scott had been World Champion three years in a row. Everyone knew that if he won the gold, the personable (and heterosexual!) American would be a great ambassador for the sport. So, even though at Sarajevo Hamilton was sick and skated a weak final program, blowing off two triple jumps, he still was handed the gold. Similarly, Sale and Pelletier, the supposedly martyred Canadian pairs skaters, were only in gold medal contention because the judges decided to not penalize justly their catastrophic double fall at the climax of their short program. I sort of sympathize with this "cumulative" approach to judging, which tries to lessen the general problem with the Winter Games, which is that it's damn slippery out there. Thus, too many events turn on almost-random mistakes rather than on talent. The skating judges try to smooth out the results by voting for the competitors who have shown themselves the best over the years. Of course, on the other hand, that lends skating its aura of bogusness.

Today's questions: sex, race, and golf

Today's questions: sex, race, and golf - Does anybody out there have an explanation for a demographic phenomenon that has long puzzled me? A couple of times per week, I walk by the Studio City Golf Course's driving range. The ratio of white men to white women beating balls is about 10 to 1. Yet, for Asians, the ratio is only about 3 men for every 1 woman. Among blacks, in contrast, the M/F ratio is something like 100 to 1. (Lots of black guys take up golf, but seldom until they are 25 or older, so you never see them on the PGA Tour. But I've only seen about 4 black women golfers in my life!) I notice the same black>white>Asian M/F ratio everywhere else in golf, too. Any explanations? Also, are there any black caddies left on the PGA Tour? Why are almost all caddies white these days? Finally, why are there more blacks on the Senior PGA Tour (e.g., Jim Thorpe, Jim Dent, and Walter Morgan) than on the PGA Tour (1/4th of Tiger)?

Denzel Washington in "John Q"

Denzel Washington in "John Q" - HillaryCare agitprop meets Disease-of-the-Week TV movie meets action thriller Guy Movie. But is it good? My review here.

Jonah Goldberg denounces the Westminster Dog Show for eugenics!

Jonah Goldberg continues his streak of raising interesting topics but not being able to figure out much that's interesting to say about them. Now, he's denouncing the Westminster Dog Show for ... eugenics! "Repugnant thinking that’s died out for humans is thriving at the Westminster Kennel Club... I think Westminster is racist." Take a deep breath, Jonah, and try to remember that dogs wouldn't exist at all if prehistoric humans didn't eugenically manipulate wolves in order to create a new race of canids that wouldn't eat the baby. Further, the wonderful working dog breeds that Jonah salutes exist because of eugenics. For example, Newfoundlands were bred to possess a genetic-based urge to save drowning people. Ah, the unmitigated horrors of eugenics! The big problem with dog breeding today is that it's insufficiently eugenic. The kennel clubs have calcified. They are only interested in preserving the aesthetics of existing breeds, not creating new breeds with new functions as the politically incorrect 19th Century breeders did. It's easy to dream up new, improved races of dogs that would meet real needs. For example, my family can't own a dog because my youngest son is allergic to them. It's time for a massive program to create a new breed of dog that won't give asthma attacks to dog-loving kids . Or, there are some individual dogs that can fairly reliably sniff out cancer in people. They're better at it than my former doctor, who blithely let me reach the final stage of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma undiagnosed. Let's create from them a breed of cancer-sniffing dogs.