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Reality isn't optional.

Six years ago, Katie Hnida of Littleton, Colorado, was both the starting placekicker for her high school football team and the reigning homecoming queen. "Is this a great time or what?" exulted Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly, delighted that we live in an era "when a young lady can kick the winning field goal on Saturday afternoon and look drop-dead in her spaghetti-strap number on Saturday night."

The "only downside" to this arrangement, according to Reilly, was that "Katie has to shower and dress in the girls' locker room away from the rest of the team." "Sometimes we'll win a big game and I can hear all the guys whooping it up, and I want to get in there with them," Hnida told Reilly. She also professed not to be put off by her teammates' unrefined behavior: "I don't mind when [my teammates] burp, f**t, and spit around me. It lets me know they think of me as their teammate.'"

Allowed to join the Colorado University (CU) Buffaloes as a walk on, Hnida reportedly experienced much uglier things than unrefined behavior. In a recent follow-up story in Sports Illustrated, Reilly recounts Hnida's claims of being subjected to sexual taunting, threats, physical molestation and even rape by her teammates.

The CU football program has been enveloped in a scandal involving the use of paid strippers at recruiting parties, and numerous allegations of rape and other sexual offenses by players; this reflects the corruption that has become altogether too common in college football. Thus it's entirely possible that some of Hnida's allegations may be true. But she has declined to pursue legal redress, and her former colleagues cannot corroborate her most serious charges.

The February 19 Denver Post cited accounts from several current players confirming that Hnida was verbally berated by some of her teammates on the practice field, and at one point had footballs thrown at her head, but they don't credit her reports of sexual mistreatment. One assistant coach pointed out that special precautions were taken to protect Hnida from unspecified threats. A defensive lineman recalled a lecture by former coach Gary Barnett admonishing the players to treat Hnida "like you'd treat your sister." Hnida's essential complaint, observed the Post, is that "Colorado's players, in a testosterone-filled football climate, didn't adhere to their former coach's instructions." After an unpromising freshman year, Hnida was asked not to return. "She made it pretty well known that she didn't want to leave," recalled former equipment manager Megan Rogers, pointing out that this reluctance is difficult to understand "it this was so horrible for her and so uncomfortable and an awkward situation on an everyday basis...."

Remaining unsaid by everybody willing to talk to the press is the most obvious point: Whether or not Hnida's charges are true, she had no business trying to play college football. And Colorado University had no business recruiting her.

After a two year hiatus from college, Hnida transferred to the University of New Mexico (UNM). During the 2002 Las Vegas Bowl against UCLA, Hnida attempted to convert an extra point, only to have her low kick blocked (thereby contributing to a 2713 loss). She succeeded in getting on the scoreboard during the waning minutes of a 72-8 blowout win over the University of Texas-San Marcos in a tune-up game last August. Hnida's supposed achievement earned predictable plaudits for "breaking new ground"--as if her inconsequential (or even counterproductive) role in two games could somehow re-configure the unyielding realities of the combat sport that is college football.

Katie Hnida is, by all indications, a bright and capable person and a talented athlete. If her allegations are true, then her teammates' despicable treatment of her is inexcusable, and part of it (the alleged rape) is prosecutable. But, all that aside, she was as unsuited for the football field as Jessica Lynch was for the battlefield, and for the same reason: Women are not designed for combat. Lynch's father, an Army doctor presently stationed in Iraq, could probably attest to this from firsthand experience.

Shortly before Katie Hnida began her ill-advised college football career, the film Starship Troopers depicted a futuristic fascist society in which the feminist ideal had been realized. Girls and boys played prep school football together; the infantry was sexually integrated, with women fully involved in combat and even sharing showers with the male soldiers. Hnida's cinematic role model from that film could have been "Dizzy" Flores, a girl who, as starting quarterback, could shuck off a blitzing linebacker--and then radiate feminine glamour in a formal dress at the after-game dance.

That's the fantasy, as propounded not only in Starship Troopers but also such television programs such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Xena, Warrior Princess. The truth is that no college football team interested in winning would turn to a Katie Hnida to kick the winning field goal, any more than a serious nation would build its defenses around soldier-ettes like Jessica Lynch. This may not strike feminists as "empowering," but it's reality--and reality isn't optional.
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Title Annotation:The Last Word
Author:Grigg, William Norman
Publication:The New American
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2004
Words:840
Previous Article:Your tax dollars overseas.
Next Article:WMD Charade.
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