On Wednesday, one of my daughters asked me for help in picking the top female athlete of the past year. She's only 8 and she still thinks dad knows a thing or two, at least for the moment.
She was voting in the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Sports Awards. She'd had no trouble choosing LeBron James for top male athlete, but wasn't sure who to pick from the seven choices for female athlete. It didn't take long for me to figure out why.
Oh, there were a few great athletes, like Serena Williams, who is oh-fer in the majors but still having a great year, and Gracie Gold, who took bronze in figure skating at the Winter Olympics. After that the options weren't as strong. Gabby Douglas was incredible at the 2012 Summer Games, but that was two years ago. Lindsey Vonn, injured, has been at some sporting events this year, but only to support boyfriend Tiger Woods. Candace Parker plays for the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA. OK, I had to look up her team. Danica Patrick has won the same number of races this year as she won last year and the year before that. (Zero). And Hope Solo, well, let's just say she hasn't had the best of years.
It surprised me that more deserving female athletes weren't nominated.
Later that night, on ESPN, Ronda Rousey won the ESPY for Best Female Athlete. For those unfamiliar with Rousey, and I suspect that's quite a few of you, she's one of the UFC's biggest stars. Many might be a bit uncomfortable with someone who makes a living kicking and punching being named Best Female Athlete, but at least she's had a good year.
The next day, a Harris Poll came out listing the 10 most popular female athletes. You would think we actually liked tennis in this country given that half of them were tennis players.
The usual suspects were at the top of the list — Serena and Danica — followed by Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova. After that it got a bit depressing given that three of the next five are long retired: Mia Hamm, Billie Jean King and Chris Evert. Hamm has been off the pitch for a decade or so, you have to go back three decades for Evert's last big win and nearly four for King's.
I'm surprised Wilma Rudolph, Babe Didrikson, and Sonja Henie didn't make the list.
Also included was Alex Morgan. I confess, I had to Google her. Apparently she's a soccer player, and a really good one, but most of the search engine links took me to her Sports Illustrated bikini photos.
It all just reinforced to me how few current, successful, well-known female sports role models there are, even 40 years after Title IX in an era when girls have pretty much equal sporting opportunities growing up. I'm happy to have my daughters follow the exploits of Joe Flacco, Adam Jones, Michael Phelps, LeBron and the rest, but it would be nice if there were more examples of women making a nice living playing at the highest levels of their sport.
Of course, that's me being a hypocrite. It's not as if I have supported women's professional sports.
I think nothing of plunking down money to take the family to Camden Yards or M&T Bank Stadium, but I've never taken my girls to the Verizon Center to see the Washington Mystics. I make them sit on the couch next to me and watch Tiger, Phil, Rory and the rest of the guys on the PGA Tour pretty much every week, but don't do the same for Michelle Wie, Lexi Thompson, Paula Creamer or the rest of the ridiculously talented bunch on the LPGA Tour. They constantly see me with my head buried in articles about the NFL, the NBA, and Major League Baseball, but very rarely do they see me reading about an athlete who doesn't have a Y chromosone.
I'm not particularly proud of any of that, but nor am I alone in mostly ignoring women's pro sports. And it's not just us guys, either. Polls show that women don't have any more interest in women's sports than men do.
I'm not 100 percent sure why. I know I enjoy covering/watching girls play high school sports every bit as much as the boys. Ditto for McDaniel College's men's and women's basketball teams.
Maybe I just need to give it a chance. After all, I eat some vegetables I'm not really fond of for my kids' benefit and I sure sit through enough showings of "Frozen."
I'm really going to try to expose my daughters to more female athletes playing at the highest levels. A perfect opportunity is practically in our back yard this week as Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills is hosting the International Crown, an LPGA tournament that features four-player teams from eight countries battling it out match play style.
Hey, the Orioles are out of town, the Ravens don't let fans in to watch training camp any more, checking it out might just be fun. And it might spark a dream within a little girl.
And there almost certainly won't be any kicking or punching.