Everything Else

Today, hockey Twitter responded with justified derision of Pierre McGuire mansplaining hockey to two-time Olympic medalist Kendall Coyne Schofield during her broadcast debut on Wednesday Night Hockey. Coyne responded brilliantly, with the calmness and confidence of someone who knows their shit, and McGuire…well, he didn’t exactly apologize so much as get in the ballpark of, “everyone called me out for being an ass, whoops.” And as most women are all too well aware, often that’s the best you’re going to get in terms of an apology.

And now, there’s the inevitable Twitter backlash of men who can’t believe an incident like this would be put in gendered terms and are horrified—HORRIFIED—that a man’s behavior or words could be criticized in such a way or shown back to him as an example of being foolish. It’s depressingly familiar, but I’ve got good news, guys: only YOU can prevent mansplaining sports! Here’s how:

1. Don’t defend Pierre McGuire. Let’s start with this immediate situation because I’m getting pissed with this backlash. Yes, McGuire says dumb shit to everyone every day. It’s literally what he does for a living—spout off dumb bullshit about the record a guy had as a Bantam in some bumblefuck Canadian backwater. But just because he does that doesn’t mean that THIS dumb shit is no big deal. He was an asshat to a woman eminently qualified to be taking the career step she was taking. Being a condescending dipshit in this very public forum isn’t wiped away just because he’s normally irritating and full of useless information and likely grossly overpaid for it. Accept that, and move on.

2. Women understand sports. Now to get a little broader in the mansplaining realm…You may have read that statement and thought, “Of course women understand sports!” Congratulations, you’re in a small minority of dudes! You may not believe me, and you may know other dudes who discuss sports with women, watch sports with women, etc. But as an actual woman who discusses/watches/follows sports I can tell you in no uncertain terms that the vast majority of guys out there do not understand that we understand sports. Period.

A lot of this comes from embedded cultural attitudes that take a really long time to change (read, calm the fuck down, just hear me out). Girls are discouraged from being “tomboys” and are bombarded with overtly feminine toys, imagery, and anything colored pink literally from before we exit the womb. You can scoff, but this means that boys are taught to talk to each other about sports and play sports together, and that by and large, girls are still in a transition to a time and place where sports and athleticism are viewed as equally valuable in them as they are in boys. It’s changing, yes, but it’s a slow process and for those of us older than just reaching voting age, this was a much less prevalent mindset when we were growing up.

What does this mean? It means it’s tough to overcome that hard coding of “TALK SPORTS WITH DUDES” attitude that’s been drilled into you since childhood. It means that when you take a date to a game, you may assume she doesn’t know what the lines on the court are for, or why a batter bunts, or why anything is happening in a certain way. It means that when women describe why a zone entry failed, or why a screen pass was a terrible play call on a third and long, or how a pitcher didn’t keep his fastball down, you’re more likely to stare blankly than you are to respond thoughtfully, because you can’t compute that a woman just said that.

If you want to avoid mansplaining, you have to start from the premise that a woman—whoever it is, a rando, someone you know, whoever—understands the basics of the sport taking place in front of her, whether live or on TV. She may not be an expert, but then again, she might be. You probably don’t know for sure (and if you do know, like McGuire did with Coyne, you’re a fucking moron), so operate from a place of respect. Sports permeate our culture and more girls than ever are playing, so it lowers your chances of making an ass of yourself if you assume knowledge, not ignorance, in your female friends, relative, colleagues, and fellow bar patrons.

3. Would you say that to a guy? And that brings us to the other side of that gender stereotype situation I described. It’s true: a lot of women don’t follow sports. No one is more painfully aware of this than me because honestly, I’ve only had a handful of female friends who enjoy watching major sports. A lot of that is thanks to a lack of interest, a lot stems from those same attitudes and behaviors hard-wired when we were kids. They reinforce each other.

So I get it, maybe a woman in your life really doesn’t understand why a third down is nerve-wracking, or why one hockey team has fewer guys on the ice for a time. When that happens and you go to open your mouth, ask yourself: Would I say this to a guy? Would Pierre have ever told Mike Milbury which benches the Lighting and Penguins were on? No. If your “explanation” to a woman is not the same as what you’d say to a dude who isn’t familiar with the sport at hand, you’re mansplaining. Full stop.

And that’s the thing—when #notallmen dudes get all up in arms and when Twitter backlashers get all self-righteous, they’re overlooking the key thing feminists want: to be treated equally The actual definition of feminism is the belief that men and women are equal. All other connotations are the result of misogynists creating false interpretations to justify their actions and attitudes. Yes, it is. (Come at me, I stand by this.)

So if you speak to a woman about sports the same way you’d speak to a guy about it, you won’t be mansplaining. You won’t be speaking with the inherent condescension of a response tailored for an audience you assume is unfamiliar (well, maybe you will be if you’re a condescending jerk to start with). Instead, you’ll be providing information like a normal human being. If you get technical and your female listener doesn’t understand, she’ll do the same thing a guy will: ask a follow-up question. And then what you have is a conversation, maybe even an opening of a common area of interest. But if you dumb down an answer (or an unsolicited statement) simply because you’re talking to a woman, you automatically sound foolish.

Because here’s the kicker—you probably aren’t that much of an expert, either. I’ve had guys plead for me to “make her understand football” in reference to their wife or girlfriend. (I field this question a lot but we’ll keep this example to football, far and away the biggest source of these requests.) My response is: explain to her the system of downs. When she understands the system of downs, the game makes sense, and she’ll understand what’s going on, why it’s exciting, all of it. I’ve given this advice more times than I can count. And without fail, the male friend or acquaintance gets a blank look, mumbles something, and walks away. Every. Single. Time. Know why? Because they don’t understand the system of downs. Or at the very least, they have no idea how to describe it.

So dumbing down strategy or play calling for a woman may seem easy, but would you phrase it that way to another man? No, because it would be obvious to him that you’re bullshitting and didn’t know what you were talking about. Guess what? It’s obvious to women too.

Like so much else between us all, when it comes to talking sports, be yourself. Don’t change what you would say based on the audience. Answer honestly about what you know, and be truthful about what you don’t know. Start from a place of trust, and believe this person may know more than you expected, despite having a vagina. Because we’re gonna figure you out either way.

Everything Else

The bye week/All Star Break is about halfway over for our Men of Four Feathers, so it’s time to start thinking about Blackhawks hockey again. After a piss-poor but not entirely unexpected first half of the season, the Hawks sit last in the Central, 27th overall (two points out of the cellar, ahead of the Senators, Devils, Kings, and Flyera), and 30th in goal differential, ahead of only the Kings. Help isn’t coming, and the only reason the Hawks aren’t sitting in dead last in everything is because of a brief spell of competence spanning late December to early January. It doesn’t look good, dear reader.

And yet, I still want to watch this team win, lottery be damned.

On Friday, the Beast From the East (time zone) Adam Hess laid out a case for the Hawks doing everything they can to tank the rest of the year. To SparkNotes it, no, that doesn’t mean telling the players to Black Sox it. In its most extreme case, tanking would involve trading someone like Patrick Kane, assuming his dad would be OK with it, and starting all the way over. And as much as I would be happy with, say, a straight Kane-for-Subban trade, we all know that isn’t going to happen.

I understand why there’s a contingent that would push for a tank: It would lay the groundwork for the future, give Colliton a chance to play guys whom the decision makers believe are part of the future, and give those same guys a chance to adjust to the expectations foisted upon them. But with the roster as it stands, this team is about as close to tanking as it can be. The only way this roster can get much better as it is, is to rotate Seabrook, only play Ward in back-to-backs, and keep Anisimov on the fourth line. The guys who are a part of the future are pretty much already here: Strome, DeBrincat, Harju, Kampf, possibly Delia. All we’re really waiting on is Boqvist and maybe Beaudin and Barratt.

But even if it were possible for this team to tank any worse, I’m not sure I’d want to see it.

Even though this team sucks like a Kirby, I still celebrate the wins. I still jump off the couch and scare the bejesus out of the dog when Top Cat takes a cross-ice pass for a quick one-time goal. Every time the Hawks go on the power play now, I stand and pace in anticipation for a goal that’s more likely than ever to come. And you better believe I nearly lost my goddamn mind when Delia made that jumping save against the Caps a while back, even though it was the result of him completely losing his ass in the crease.

With the expectations as low as they were coming into the year, there’s still joy when the Hawks aren’t puking all over their shoes. Toews’s Renaissance has been a much-needed relief. Watching Alex DeBrincat outdo himself in his sophomore year (he’s on pace for 40+ goals right now) gives hope for a brighter future that might not be as far away as it seems. David Kampf is one of the best defensive forwards in the entire league, which is as shocking as it is exciting.

And though the defense has been a recycled marital aid this entire year, seeing Connor Murphy play well and with confidence is somewhat vindicating. Erik Gustafsson, for all his warts, has been fun in the offensive zone and on the power play, defense be damned. And Collin Delia’s performance, funk and all, has been a respite from the professional ass pickers the Hawks have trotted out since Corey Crawford’s untimely demise.

For all the pissing and moaning I do about this team, there’s still joy in watching them win, even if that shaves at their chances of winning the lottery. I want to see some deadline moves, particularly involving Anisimov; any one of the Shitty Bash Brothers in Hayden, Martinsen, and Kunitz; and possibly Gustafsson if the price is right. But all in the name of winning as many games as possible, because it’s still fun to watch them win, especially when they’re not supposed to. We may have problems with the people running it, some of the players on it, and the countless off-ice embarrassments it’s self-inflicted, but we still derive joy when this team wins. If you didn’t, why would you bother with it?

When the Hawks won the lottery in 2007, they were slated to pick fifth. Even if they lose out, nothing is guaranteed. Whenever possible, I’d rather not leave things up to chance. So, just win, baby.

– Kendall Coyne Schofield is less than one second slower than Connor Mc-fucking-David. Brianna Decker was the best of the best among passers at the NHL All Star Game by more than three seconds—and if you’re taking the NHL’s word that her time was “unofficial” and that her “real time” was slower than Draisaitl, I don’t know what to tell you. This is a league that doesn’t know what goaltender interference is and can’t get goal calls right with all their technology, and now, you want me to believe they know what they’re doing? Anyway, with the league kind of moving toward more skill and speed, you wonder which team is going to give a woman her shot to play in the NHL first.

Think of it this way: If an amateur male hockey player did what Coyne Schofield or Decker—both Olympic gold medal winners—did, front offices would be busting down the gates, right now, to talk to that player about playing in the NHL, or at least getting a try out. There wouldn’t be angst about, for instance, Decker not getting paid prize money, because that amateur guy would likely have a league-minimum contract (currently, $650,000) in front of him by the end of the week.

The NHL took a step in the right direction by letting Coyne Schofield and Decker show off their skills, which are objectively impressive regardless of the context. I very much liked that and would like to see even more of that, by which I mean I would like to see skilled and successful women playing hockey in the NHL in real games throughout the season. I would rather give someone like Coyne Schofield or Decker a look over someone like current Chris Kunitz, Ryan Reaves, or any of the other trash pail assclowns front offices try to trick us into thinking are hockey players today. That they—along with Fast and Johnston—got money to donate to charities, endorsements from adidas, and a chance to show their stuff is awesome, and I want to see more of that. Getting to watch skilled hockey players who aren’t in the NHL upstage hockey players who are in the NHL is 100% my jam.

I’m sure there will always be concern trolls wringing their sticky hands over “What happens when a woman takes a hit from Tom Wilson?” or “How will women cope with the way hockey players act around each other?” or whatever other socially inept excuse they want to peddle to cover for their disdain of women. I do not give a single lingering fuck about what those people think at all. If a hockey player is as talented as Coyne Schofield or Decker proved to be (once again) on one of the most-watched hockey stages around, the question shouldn’t be, “But how can a woman fit into a real game?” It should be, “How can we get this talent on the ice?”

Ain’t no one worried about how Alex DeBrincat will deal with a hit. And if your behavior around “the guys” is so reprehensible as to draw questions about how women would “cope with it,” then fix your fucking behavior. There’s too much talent at risk to waste time fostering whatever illusions these hockey-playing hayseeds have about their masculinity.

Still, I’ll move forward with cautious optimism that the NHL will keep showing us the best Women’s Hockey has to offer until the league takes the logical next step and offers it themselves.

– The Hawks traded Arizona’s fifth-round pick to the Kings for “Another” Dominik Kubalik. He’s a 23-year-old winger whom the Kings drafted in the seventh round back in 2013. He’s playing in the top Swiss League and has 20 goals and 23 assists so far this year. He’s still youngish and, like most guys who hop the pond, needs more ass to his game, but it’s fine. It’s a low-risk, high-reward trade if everything breaks right.