Mo’Ne Davis, a 13-year-old girl from Philadelphia, threw out the first pitch in the fourth game of the 2014 World Series between the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants. That may in and of itself be something to pull this low-rated contest out of the TV doldrums, but it carries more significance than merely a bright young person coming into the spotlight for a few seconds in a largely ceremonial role.
In case you weren’t following the news this summer, Mo’Ne captured the attention of the nation by pitching like Nolan Ryan to get her team, the Taney Dragons of Tom’s River, New Jersey, into the Little League World Series. She gained fame by pitching a complete game three hitter (a shutout no less) to get her team there. She suddenly was in all the papers, on TV, and got the cover of Sports Illustrated. Not bad at all for a “girl” who decided to compete and succeed in a notoriously “boy’s” venue.
So now Mo’Ne takes center stage at the Major League Baseball World Series. MLB, and sports in general, can use more of Mo’Ne and stories like hers. Her vibrant, youthful, and enthusiastic appearance (she threw a perfect strike by the way) helps people everywhere forget about steroids, players behaving badly, and professional leagues unwilling or unable to address festering problems that are lingering as people watch every contest, like a nefarious presence lurking under the grass on the field.
What makes Mo’Ne more than special is that she defied a general consensus that girls don’t do that kind of thing. For my 13-year-old daughter – who loves soccer and sees herself as a future Mia Hamm – Mo’Ne is great role model and example of what a girl can aspire to do in sports. If Mo’Ne can get to the World Series to throw out the first pitch, what does her future hold? Perhaps she will grow up and be the first female to break the barrier in MLB and get a serious shot at playing on the field. Even if my daughter doesn’t play baseball, this can make her think of not just being the next Hamm but perhaps getting to be on the pitch with male counterparts someday, if that’s what she wants.
Professional sports are a good deal like politics – basically a testosterone fueled dance over the course of history. Only in a world where men rule most countries could we have so many wars, so much oppression, so little compassion, and a distinctly bleak outlook as we are faced with diseases, terrorism, war, and poverty. Since men have messed up for so many years, perhaps it’s time to let female leaders take over and have a go at it. My thought is that they cannot do any worse and probably could do a whole lot better.
This takes us back to professional sports – an arena that men have continued to destroy through arrogance, greed, and ignorance. It is hard to argue that the males in charge of the National Football League (and the men who take the field for them) have not taken the most lucrative professional sport in the world and turned it into a charnel of embarrassment involving all sorts of crimes and misdemeanors. The attempts to “save” the NFL have mostly involved Little Dutch Boy initiatives, with Commissioner Roger Goodell looking decidedly inept, with his thumb jammed in one hole in the dyke while new leaks are sprouting everywhere. The men who get rich in the NFL should wake up before good Roger is swept away in a wave that could take the league down with him.
The “you throw like a girl” mentality is completely lost on Mo’Ne Davis. You know she must have heard it all, must have faced the questions and the looks of disbelief as she stepped onto fields with boys to play against boys. You have to admire her tenacity, her courage, and grit in taking on the naysayers to get where she has already gone, but now it is beyond getting her to that point. She has performed remarkably and that should open doors, not just for her but for little girls everywhere who pick up a baseball. Instead of saying “never” to themselves when thinking about playing, because of Mo’Ne, they will say “Why not?”
I believe people want to see professional sports reinvigorated in some way, and wouldn’t it be great to see extremely capable female athletes getting an opportunity to compete against males in all sports? I for one would love to see a match between Serena Williams and Roger Federer. Wouldn’t it be exciting to see players from the WNBA play a game against NBA players? What does anyone have to lose from allowing such contests but their preconceived notions and cultural chains.
I have always heard naysayers throwing out things like, “Girls will get hurt” or “girls can’t rise to that level of play.” Well, why don’t we give girls an opportunity to try out and see what happens? What does anyone have to lose? There are more Mo’Ne Davises out there waiting to get their chance, and they deserve it.
Mo’Ne Davis is already a female Jackie Robinson, a breaker of barriers and game changer on the Little League level. She has given girls hope and opened the eyes of males who used to think girls should just try out for the cheerleading squad. Thank you, Mo’Ne Davis, because of you the meaning of the words “You throw like a girl” will never be the same again.
Photo credits: AP, People[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00NLQHB84]