Tuesday, May 28, 2013

'Tis the Season for Women in Racing and the Military

Memorial Day has many traditions, picnics, parades, fireworks, and the like to remember our war dead.  One of the most prominent traditions since 1909 is the Indianapolis 500.  Much was made of the fact that Tony Kanaan finally won the race after years of trying.  Less noted was that after Danica Patrick left the Indy series for NASCAR there were four women racers (all international) out of 33.  Two of them finished, 15th and 17th, out of 20 cars that completed all 200 laps.

Danica Patrick did race on Memorial Day however in the Coca Cola 600 race in the NASCAR series which was won by Kevin Harvick.  Patrick was the only woman racer in the predominately white male field and finished 29th after her boyfriend bumper her into a wreck in lap 311.  She finished 385 out of 400 laps.  The chart below shows she lost about 10 places after the crash.  Her best finish was 8th in the Daytona 500 this year. 

Also at this time of year is horse racing's triple crown, The Kentucky Derby, The Preakness, and The Belmont Stakes.  The Derby winner Orb finished fourth in the Preakness meaning there will be no triple crown winner for another year since 1978.  In that race there was a rare female jockey,  Rosie Napravnik finished third or showing in horse racing terminology being the first woman to do so in any triple crown race.  She will ride a different horse in the Belmont on June 8.

As these sports become more inclusive and more mechanized, the talent pool becomes larger to choose from leveling the playing field.  In 1947 when the color line was breached in Major League Baseball, the talent level was raised there and it is very unlikely that the 0.400 batting average level will ever be eclipsed and Roger Maris' and Hank Aaron's home run records were only eclipsed by Barry Bonds with the help of drugs.  The women horse and auto racers don't need to use drugs because they're not doing the bulk of the work.  They're, just like the male racers, just telling the cars and horses where to go.  Women in team and individual sports where they cannot compete against the men still struggle for more attention.  The Olympics are now the best showcase for women's other sports.

Just as sports has become more mechanized, the military has and women have played a more prominent role with the costs becoming more evident as well though not necessarily equally distributed.  Before stepping down, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lifted restrictions on women in combat. Congressional hearings are being held to ensure that they are treated fairly.


The Thomas Merton Center in Pittsburgh is having screenings of the film Band of Sisters from May 31-June 6 and one of the Invisible War (trailer seen above) at the FRIENDS MEETING HOUSE 4836 Ellsworth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213  on Monday, June 3 at 5:30.
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Olympic Medal Counts Still Reflect National Power (or the Need for it)
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