Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Unfair Advantages in Sports

Amanda at Pandagon has an interesting post on the question whether women have unfair advantages in some sports such as certain kinds of car racing:

After Danica Patrick placed 4th yesterday in the Indy 500, Robby Gordon stepped up to be the whining crying baby.
Robby Gordon accused Danica Patrick of having an unfair advantage in the Indianapolis 500 and said yesterday he will not compete in the race again unless the field is equalized.

Gordon, a former open-wheel driver now in NASCAR, contends that Patrick is at an advantage over the rest of the competitors because she only weighs 100 pounds. Because all the cars weigh the same, Patrick's is lighter on the race track.

"The lighter the car, the faster it goes," Gordon said. "Do the math. Put her in the car at her weight, then put me or Tony Stewart in the car at 200 pounds and our car is at least 100 pounds heavier.

Amanda notes that Gordon modified his comments later on. But the interesting dilemma remains: Should we equalize people by weight to make sports fairer? Or by upper body strength? Or by innate speed? Nope, let's not go there, I bet I hear you mutter.

Though we already do this in many sports such as boxing, wrestling and weight lifting where weight determines the class one competes in, we tend not to do this where the unfair advantage favors those who have traditionally done well in the sport, and that is mostly men. The Danica Patrick case is interesting because it's the opposite of this usual case and in some ways a test case for spotting possible sexism. I would think that jockeys are also worried about the influx of women into their sport as weight is important for jockeys and women are, on average, lighter.

After sparring against partners twice as heavy as I am I tend to favor the idea of weight categories. It was fun to beat someone that big but my back didn't agree in the long run. It would have been completely adequate to wipe the floor with guys my size...

Mostly just kidding.