America is just about a month away from its favorite season — no not Fall, football. From waiting for the Patriots/Chiefs kickoff game in September to small, sleepy towns in the Heartland coming out in droves for Friday Night Lights, so many incredible highlights and inspirational stories are on the horizon.
One such story, already unfolding, is about a small school in Harrold, Texas, with a graduating class you could count with both hands (9). They are forced to play six-man football on 80-yard gridirons, and one of the players, volleyball setter Olivia Perez, was profiled as part of an ESPN long form.
The Perez family lives the way many conservatives applaud: pulling themselves up by the bootstraps when times are tough, and tough they are. Mr. Perez works 12-hour shifts at a job an hour away, then comes home to take care of Mrs. Perez, who suffered a stroke in her late 30s.
Olivia works at the grocery store while being inducted into the National Honor Society for high marks and plays volleyball and basketball. When one of Harrold’s six players transferred to another school, Olivia decided to try football because she wanted to keep the season alive for a friend on the team who had recently lost his father to cancer. After all, Olivia had been the student manager and water girl for the football team in past seasons, and more importantly she was a loyal friend.
So where does ESPN go wrong with this heartwarming, American story? Yep, you guessed it. Fake equality.
“There was sort of an unspoken understanding among the local teams that no one would lay a hard tackle on her. Chillicothe’s coach took it a step further, according to Olivia. ‘He said if anybody hit me really hard, he was going to make them run,’ she says. ‘I think that’s cool.’”
Scrolling through the rest of the ESPN article, there’s no hint of sarcasm or humor; treating the female football player differently is a punishable offense in the Texas town.
A few things to remember, however. Olivia volunteered to play, therefore it seems only fair that if we’re talking about true feminism and equality, players are all treated like players on the field.
Second, and this is overlooked, six-man teams do not have linemen from Permian or Dallas Carter. These players are rail-thin from constant running. Harrold’s quarterback, Creed Henry, weighs only 94 pounds. It seems hard to fathom that even at 5’2″, a female player would ever be seriously hurt if tackled by someone around the same weight, even a bit heavier. There’s an obvious difference between being hit by a 300 pound man heading off to D1 and a 120-pound kid playing scrappy ball.
Now of course, if she ever got hurt, the team would be a player short, again. By the standards of protecting everyone on the team and the league making sure each team has enough players to play, that’s a gentleman’s agreement that can be understood. However, the soft tackles were only for Olivia Perez and her tough as nails persona starts to fade upon some inspection.
Now a girl being treated like a girl on the gridiron instead of an athlete who sacrificed her volleyball season to keep up the Lone Star State’s great tradition of football is nothing to be upset by. If everyone was agreeable to the set standards, that’s fine by me.
What’s shocking is that the mainstream media which has such a habit to nitpick every event for subtle signs of sexism didn’t catch this one. (Where was ESPNW with a commentary piece on modern day feminism?) Perhaps I know the answer: when inequality comes in the form of lady’s privilege, it can be glossed over altogether. While I could hold my breath waiting for feminist outrage, I choose to enjoy the story about the Texas town athlete.