Chamique: On Family, Focus and Basketball
by Chamique Holdsclaw with Jennifer Frey
"It's incredible how things have changed when it comes to girls and sports," says Washington Mystics star Holdsclaw in her autobiography. "I love how people accept women as athletes, women with muscles, and that's what even guys want—for women to be fit, to be strong." Holdsclaw lives in a world of invigorating challenges: There are rebounds to grab, degrees to finish, friends to make.
Not that Holdsclaw's sunny optimism was never challenged by the cruelties of the real world. Throughout her childhood, boys groaned when she followed them onto the blacktop. She shrugged off their taunts, partly because she was such a terrific player and partly because she had bigger problems: Her parents drank, fought and neglected Chamique and her younger brother, Davon. It's horrifying to read of 10-year-old Chamique hustling seven-year-old Davon into the night and onto a New York City subway to escape their mother's rantings. Chamique found refuge in the home of her strict but nurturing grandmother and at school, where, with the help of strict but nurturing coaches (including Tennessee's Pat Summitt), she blossomed.
Holdsclaw's financial rewards have been spectacular. "There was no appreciable difference between the treatment Tim Duncan received [from] Nike and the treatment Chamique received," reports agent Lon Babby, who secured lucrative endorsement deals for both. But to Holdsclaw, an even sweeter reward comes from returning to her old neighborhood in Queens, where, she writes, "I see girls on the court...and no one is teasing them."
The Frailty Myth
by Colette Dowling/ Random House, $24.95
It is a surreal experience to read feminist scholar Dowling's book after Holdsclaw's. Dowling does little to explain the social reasons for the emergence of Holdsclaw and other female sports heroes. Instead, she declares flatly that "men don't like women's bold new intrusion into the insular, comforting, historically antifemale world of sport." In Dowling's world, men still "do everything they can to prevent women from appearing equally capable, physically."
Why is Dowling's view so different? Partly because she relies heavily on gender studies from the 1980s and early '90s, well before the explosion in women's athletics at the end of the century. She is also paranoid. She complains, for instance, that sportscasters praise women "ambivalently" by referring to one player's "little jump hook" or saying that another is "small, but so effective under the boards." But the book's biggest flaw is that it's boring. For 266 pages Dowling drones on, asserting what almost everyone knows: that "the difference between boys' and girls' performance levels may be greatly influenced by societal expectations."
Chamique says it better. To say someone "plays like a girl," Holdsclaw writes, "is so old-school." Anyone who doubts it hasn't seen her game.