Project Mack

Mack was a joyous and inspirational presence in the lives of her family members and her friends, and each one of us who loved her struggles to cope with the reality of life without her. To keep Mack with us, her family members, her friends, and I have set up a scholarship in her name, blogged about her life, published her writing, written touching eulogies, used social media to share photos and memories, gotten tattoos, and kept Mack alive in our hearts as we each strive in our own way to carry on with as much grace, hope, and Mack humor as we can possibly muster. The outpouring of love for Mack has buoyed me in my sea of sorrow, and the brilliant and beautiful ways that people pay tribute to the memory of my darling girl gives me strength to keep my head above the water.

Mack’s spirit lives in every beat of our hearts, and to observe her birthday this month I want to recognize one particularly extraordinary effort to share Mack’s spirit and to take her heart out into the world. Founded by Mack’s best friend Justice, Project Mack is based on the principle that individual people can make a difference in the lives of their friends, can influence the character of their communities, and can have an impact on the world. Through this very human project, Justice pays tribute to her friendship with Mack and draws inspiration from Mack’s personal philosophy. Because Mack loved life, was a devoted friend, always kept an open mind, maintained a cool and calm demeanor, and giggled every single day of her life, Project Mack wants to inspire others to “Enjoy Life. Be a Good Friend. Try Something New. Relax. Laugh.” And, most importantly, to “Live a Life of Impact.”

Project Mack

Through inspirational messages, multimedia, and monthly Big Mack Challenges, Project Mack is getting started in Kansas City, where Justice attends the University of Missouri, KC. Whether it’s delivering lunches to a homeless shelter, presenting flowers to nurses, passing out treat bags to students on campus, hanging out with young children at a community center, or hosting a bake sale to raise money for a friend who was facing a serious surgery, Project Mack is taking random acts of kindness to a whole new level. Justice not only channels Mack’s spirit in the effort, but she shares her own gentle nature, her own kind heart, and her energy and enthusiasm to make an impact in the world, as well. I am, simply, in awe.

Mack Madness

At Project Mack, this month is March Mackness and here are Justice’s three new Big Mack Challenges (taken from www.projectmack.com):

  1. Celebrate Mack Day! Out of every #BIGMACKCHALLENGE thus far, this probably is my favorite. Mackenzie, who is the heart and soul of #PROJECTMACK, would have turned 22 this year on St. Patrick’s Day. Mackenzie loved to have a good time and loved the fact she was born on St. Patty’s. It just wouldn’t be right not to celebrate her birthday, so that’s just what we want everyone to do! This #BIGMACKCHALLENGE is simple, go out and celebrate St. Patty’s day and more important Mack’s birthday. Even if you didn’t know Mack, go out and have a great time in her memory. Since she can’t celebrate her birthday, we should do it for her. Then post a picture and tag us in it! #projectmack.
  1. Big Trash Clean up: Our environment is something we really need to start taking better care of. So with this #BIGMACKCHALLENGE we want you to go out and pick up trash and litter. Try and get your teams, family, and classmates, involved! You can even make a community service event out of it. Pollution is something we take way too lightly and we need to take more responsibility for how we treat the earth. We need to be the change we want to see in the world. Don’t forget to post your stories and tag us in it!
  1. Treats for Teachers: Teachers are the back bone of our education system. I don’t think people realize how important they really are. And on top of that, they don’t get even half of the appreciation they honestly deserve. So with this month’s #BIGMACKCHALLENGE we want you to in some way say thank you to those who teach. There are tons of ways to say thank you, so don’t be afraid to get creative. And those college students who are home on Spring Break, maybe stop by and say hi to an old teacher. There are endless possibilities!

Project Mack is pretty freaking amazing, right?!! So, here and now, I am taking up that first Big Mack Challenge by encouraging you all to celebrate Mack’s birthday and March Mackness by connecting with Project Mack. Joining this big and bold movement to embrace our humanity, to be grateful for the people in our communities, and to be a source of positive light and energy in the world is a perfect way to celebrate Mack’s birthday. It’s better than a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday.” More original than chocolate cake with buttercream frosting and sprinkles. And way grander than a mug of green beer. There is no better way to party on Mack Day than to support Project Mack and one remarkable young woman’s effort to cherish the memory of her best friend by living “a life of impact” and inspiring others to do the same.

Please visit Project Mack at: http://www.projectmack.com/. Don’t miss the entertaining monthly videos that shows Project Mack at work.

Like Project Mack on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/projectmackk/?fref=ts

Stay connected on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Project_Mack?lang=en (#Projectmack)

And if you need to be reminded about why Mack cherished her friendship with Justice, check out this blog from January:  https://macksmommabear.com/2015/12/03/macks-best-friends-justice/

Mack and JC 2

Silly Songs and Funny Faces

Mack loved eating, spending time with animals, and watching her favorite television shows, but I believe her favorite activity was making people laugh. For my funny girl, laughter was the essential ingredient for a good life; and I can say with certainty that Mack laughed every single day of her wonderful life. Laughter soothed Mack’s soul, and she developed a passion to evoke laughter in the people around her. She loved to be the cause of a good giggle, to bring on a big belly laugh, or to start a contagious chuckle; and she was particularly delighted if she could cause you to blow soda out of your nose.

Mack employed various strategies for unleashing an outbreak of laughter around her, and her methods reflected the sensibilities of her own inner child. She made up silly songs and sang them in ridiculous voices, and she performed her own unique renditions of popular songs. In a squeaky register, for example, Mack would sing: “And I’m on tonight, you know my hips don’t lie, and I’m starting to feel it’s right,” mimicking the singer Shakira but also adding a Mack-silly twist by singing out of the side of her pursed lips. Mack danced like a fool, could talk right through a belch or a yawn, told stories in a horrendous cockney accent, and always ratcheted up the teen slang with a heavy dose of nerd. Mack relished her repertoire of really, really bad jokes (many straight off of Laffy Taffy wrappers), and she made up her own dumb jokes as well. Of her Mack originals, one of my personal favorites was: “Why did the squirrel cross the road?” There were many that started with this question (and others that started with a chicken), but every time Mack began a joke in this way, she would lean in with an expectant look on her face and pause as she waited for her victim to nod, and then she would shout out the nonsensical answer: “Because there was bacon on the other side!” Mack would usually start giggling before she could offer the entire punchline, and people were laughing before they even knew just how bad the joke was going to be.

But while silly singing, crazy voices, and lousy jokes were useful tools of her laughter-seeking occupation, it was probably the art of the funny face that drew the most laughter. Mack could suck in her lips or bug out her eyes and make us all laugh without saying a single word. Mack’s humor was mostly of the low-brow variety, was usually self-deprecating, and was always fair and good-natured; and since she liked to use herself as the target for most of her humor, she rarely engaged in excessive teasing or orchestrated practical jokes at the expense of others. But there was one practical joke that Mack deemed particularly successful for the laughter it produced; and because it is a personal favorite Mack-story of “Stapes,” Mack’s beloved high school golf and softball coach,” I offer it here in his words:

“One evening after a golf match, the girls were getting brand new golf bags. Their old bags were going to the junior varsity boy’s golf team. Mack asked if her and fellow teammate Becca Ramirez could be the ones to give the bags to the younger guys. She and the rest of the team started laughing, so I knew something was up. After some conversations back and forth, I convinced her to let me in on the joke, because with Mack, she was always up to something. Mack said that her and Becca purchased 10 boxes of feminine products and planned to stuff every pocket in the bags with them. Now image, with me, if you can, 14-year-old boys getting ready to practice with their new Springfield High bags only to find them loaded with tampons. So, of course, I looked at Mack and told her to go ahead and proceed.”

With the approval of her coach, Mack then carried out her humorous plot. She giggled throughout the plans, she laughed long and loud with her teammates as they stuffed the golf bags with tampons, and she chuckled every time she told people that “Stapes” had joined in the laughter, too. But the belly laughs of those boy golfers were the laughs Mack enjoyed the most. They were a new audience for her, and it tickled her pink to learn that she was capable of sharing a good laugh with people outside of her own circle of friends and teammates.

Oh Mack, you were a natural, my dear. We enjoyed the giggles we shared with you, we treasure the laughter you brought us, and we know that every day you made us laugh was a day worth living.

sisters babies  nerd caffeing and yellow nailscheesin with kaitlin

no lips  dancing with a potato eye balls

I Love to Laugh

Writing this blog has been a therapeutic endeavor for me, but it has also been a way for me to share my unique and amazing girl with the world and to keep her spirit alive. Mack and I were close, I knew her very well, and I have been able to share so many stories about her life, her character, her world view, and her zany and charming personality. But I realize that my perspective on Mack and my understanding of her was through the lens of a Momma Bear. Therefore, when I run across an artifact of Mack’s life, I am compelled to share it. And when it comes in the form of Mack’s own words, so much more the better.

Recently, one of Mack’s best friends reminded me of a random Facebook game in which Mack participated back in February 2009 (thanks, Kailey!). It was one of those chain games in which a friend of Mack’s tagged her to “write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals” about herself, and then tag twenty-five people to participate, too. Generally, Mack poo-pooed games like this, and she was very resistant to use social media to call attention to herself. Therefore, it’s quite surprising that she decided to answer this very public request to share personal insights about herself. I have no idea why Mack made this post, but I am thrilled that she did it. It offers one of those precious windows into her soul that has become a priceless artifact of her beautiful life and a sweet treasure for me. When Mack posted these twenty-five random facts about herself, it was 12:35 a.m. on a Saturday night. She was just shy of her fifteenth birthday, a high school freshman in the middle of her first varsity basketball season, well settled in at high school, unusually comfortable in her teenage skin, and already a wise old owl.

Below is Mack’s list of twenty-five random thoughts she offered about herself more than six years ago. I have provided some annotations and a couple of photos to go along with Mack’s words. Coincidentally, I have already featured several of Mack’s random thoughts in previous blog posts (they are hyperlinked) and, no doubt, other items will provide entertaining fodder for future blogs about my Macko. Mack’s wonderful list captures her incomparable humor and charm, offers some honest insights from her heart, and reflects the level of comfort she had with herself at a time when most girls her age are struggling to find themselves and to make their way in the world.

  1. I tend to overthink things. not sure why.
  2. I’m crazy if you know me but quiet if you don’t. [Mack was a little shy around strangers, but that never lasted very long. The close friends she made on the golf course is an excellent example at how quickly her “quiet” faded away.]
  3. I enjoy food. a lot [Oh, Mack, what an understatement!eating 1].
  4. lunch is my favorite [I suspect what she meant by this one is that lunch was her favorite subject at school!]
  5. people say I’m odd, but what do they know =).
  6. Basketball’s chill but it’s not my life [Even though Mack was at the height of her basketball success, making varsity and getting playing time as a freshman, she already knew that basketball did not define her nor did it control her life.]
  7. When I grow up I’m going to have a show on the food network called Mack’s Makin Bacon. I shall be famous [Mack’s love of bacon was legendary, and for a very long time she talked about having this show. A blog post entitled “Mack’s Makin’ Bacon” is definitely forthcoming].
  8. I once had a hamster named Strawberry Fabio McDermott. She died a tragic death. [Strawberry died of wet-tail disease, which is a common ailment in hamsters. Yet, I do suppose her death was kind of tragic, as Mack was so very fond of that little rodent.]
  9. I also had a fish named filis. Her death was similarly depressing. [Mack named a giant carp in our aquarium Phyllis (at least that’s how the Greeks and most other people would have spelled it). During an ice storm one winter when the power went out for several days, we had to leave the house as temperatures dipped below zero. Sadly, we left Phyllis behind, and the poor beloved fish froze to death. Mack was upset with her dad over that one for quite some time!]
  10. I have a pound puppy named Spot that I’ve had since I was two.
  11. I have 2 dogs. One is fat and the other is insanely hyperactive [Napoleon was our fat pug; and Pepper is our crazy Pomeranian]
  12. Stuff doesn’t bother me, I just kinda go with it.laugh
  13. I play golf basketball and softball. I don’t really have a favorite, but I’m best at softball.
  14. I can’t dance, but that doesn’t stop me.
  15. My nails are bright purple at the moment [Mack’s one beauty item was nail polish, and her toes and fingers were always as bright and cheerful as her personality.]
  16. Harry Potter is pretty durn sweet. not gonna lie.
  17. I love to laugh [oh, yes, Mack laughed every day; and she made other people laugh right along with her.]
  18. It takes a while for me to break out of my shell.
  19. I did not enjoy middle school.
  20. When I wake up in the morning, the only thing I want out of life is to stay in bed. [Mack was a professional sleeper…more to come on this topic for sure].
  21. I have 7 pairs of huge sunglasses. They all cost about 5 bucks [Stay tuned for a photo-essay about Mack’s glorious collection of sunglasses.]
  22. Blueberry pomegranate gatorade is disgusting. (that is not really about me, but I just took a sip and thought I should give a warning).super cool 11
  23. My sister’s in Argentina and I am very jealous [Savannah spent a semester studying in Buenos Aires when she was junior at Indiana University majoring in Spanish.]
  24. I watch comedy central, disney, food network, and discovery, and that’s about it
  25. There’s a giant CWLP cone in my room [Mack’s sister stole a giant orange City Water Light and Power caution cone, and when she went away for college Mack inherited it. When we moved to St. Louis, Mack insisted that it come with us. It enjoyed a place of prominence in her bedroom, we have it still, and I will keep it for Mack forever.]

Mack’s Beautiful Brain

Mack’s self-effacing humor, silly personality, and humble nature often disguised her intellect and concealed the profundity of her intellectual curiosity. She loved to play the fool in order to make people laugh. Downplaying her own talents and accomplishments was also one of her ways of putting at ease the people around her. Growing up, Mack also invested so much of herself into athletic pursuits that she frequently put serious academics aside. She often joked about her slacking study habits, and among her friends and teachers, her academic procrastination was legendary. Throughout elementary school, junior high, and high school, Mack’s public persona was that of a witty and affable jock with a strong tendency toward frivolity and fun. Yet behind Mack’s goofy-girl façade, underneath that unpretentious layer of modesty, and well beyond her natural and effortless athleticism, was one of the most beautiful brains I have ever known.

Of course Mack’s family members and closest friends knew the truth about the depth and breadth of Mack’s intellect and intellectual curiosity. I am sure as well that there were people beyond family and close friends who may have noticed the impressive range of her vocabulary, as she peppered her comic routines with new favorite words. No doubt there were others who appreciated one or more of her razor-sharp critiques about a song or a book or a news story. And certainly there were still others who respected Mack’s uncanny ability to make an absolutely astute and succinct observation about the most random of topics.

But because Mack was always so modest and so damn quiet about her intellectual ideas, I think a lot of people might have missed out on Mack’s brain. I think there may be people who knew Mack growing up who never knew that she followed current events from a very young age, that she was reflective and philosophical, that she loved words, especially quirky or archaic ones. There are likely some people who did not know that my girl of few words was a master of debate, that she worried about climate change and the fate of endangered animals, that racism in America haunted her dreams. I am sorry that others might not have been aware that Mack was interested in how mechanical things work, that she learned quickly and possessed a remarkable ability to remember the smallest of details, that she understood people so well because she quietly watched and observed and considered them.

Frequently throughout the years, I would catch Mack engaged in a moment of deep thought. To me there was no sweeter scene than watching her freckled and expressive face as she was thinking through an idea, puzzling over a problem, or contemplating an object or event. It was such a frequent occurrence that I actually captured quite a few of these moments with a camera. While it is true that many of my happiest memories of Mack are of her dramatically delivering the punch line of a very bad joke or badly singing a silly song, it is frequently a memory of Mack’s face in quiet reflection that touches me most profoundly.reflective 2

Recently, I remembered a conversation that Mack and I had about one of those photographs. When we attended freshman orientation at Truman State, I snapped a photo of her peering into the office of a creative writing professor we were waiting to meet. I showed her the photo and asked her what she was thinking about when I took it. She looked at the picture, flashed one of her famous faces of incredulity, and said: “What the hell, mom, why are you all up in my bizness?” I smiled and asked her the question again. She started to say something, but she stopped and, instead, she took a long pause. Then, in a slightly serious tone that took me aback, she said something like: “You know, I started to tell you that I was thinking about how much candy I will be able to eat once I am in college and you aren’t around to tell me to stop. But the truth is, I was thinking about how now that I am a grown-ass woman, I get to take the classes I want to take and read the books I want to read and learn the stuff I want to learn.” And then my smart girl poked her head a few times with her forefinger and said: “the next four years is all about this brain, and that, Momma Bear, is pretty fuckin’ cool.”

When Mack went to college, she shed her jovial jock image, almost overnight; and I think it was partly a deliberate act. She was finally ready to share her brain with the world; she was ready to release the intellectual in her that had been there all along. She maintained her self-effacing sense of humor, she remained true to her belief that boasting and bragging and being a know-it-all served no useful purpose, and, thank goodness, she never abandoned her wit and sense of silly fun. I think it is an absolute fact that the people who knew Mackenzie McDermott at Truman State University would have used the adjectives “smart” and “funny,” in that order, to describe her. And I know that this fact would have painted a permanent smile upon her heart.

Smart and funny is a winning combination in life, and my Mack was a natural at both.

Mack’s Beautiful Brain at Work:

In 1999 and 2000, we put an addition on our house and did a lot of remodeling, painting, etc. I was surprised but delighted at the interest that Mack took in the project. She stood in the yard and watched the carpenters construct the frame of the second-story addition, she convinced her dad to let her help with painting and hammering trim, she asked questions about the tools and the building materials, and she was transfixed when her dad assembled and installed the spiral staircase to the loft. Here she is, just a shrimpy little kid, perched on the newly constructed steps, thinking about the construction going on in the family room below or, perhaps, considering the new view from the reconfigured stairs…

reflective 4

Of all of her sports, Mack probably had the most fun playing softball. She always said that it was her “recreational” sport, even though she played it very well. Yet for all of the fun she had in the dugout, laughing with her teammates, it was actually while playing softball that I saw her engaged in the most thoughtful reflection. In this photo, I think she had trained her attention on the opposing pitcher, perhaps developing a strategy for her next at-bat…

reflective

Mack-Lazy Days

While growing up, Mack was an extremely active kid, and she sacrificed an enormous amount of her personal time and freedom participating in competitive sports. She enthusiastically and willingly made that sacrifice, but it made her a very practiced and determined lover of her infrequent lazy days. Mack took her limited free time very seriously. She redefined what it meant to relax, she took literally her declarations to “do nuttin,’” and she really did know how to let it all hang out. Mack earned her leisure time and, mostly, I was content to let her waste away much of her quiet down time. But it is absolutely true that sometimes the greatness of her sloth terrified me.

Let me paint a typical scene in Mack’s room on one of her famous Mack-lazy days: The curtains are drawn, and the room is dark. Mack is wearing baggy sweatpants (likely without underwear), and she is flat on her back on a bed crowded with clothes, her book bag, a sweaty basketball jersey, and maybe even a pair of her favorite cheap flip-flops. There is a dog stretched out next to her. On a pillow, which she is partly sharing with the dog, her head is propped up just enough so that she can chew and swallow without choking and can see the screen of her laptop, which sits across her pelvis. Warhead sour candies and Miss Vickie’s jalapeño chips or Flamin’ Hot Cheetos are scattered about, and an open 32-oz bottle of blue Gatorade is balanced precariously at her waist. Her lips are blue, and there are crumbs on her face and her fingers. She is watching Fresh Prince of Bel Air, or Sponge Bob, or Parks and Recreation. She is chewing and chortling and texting with two or three friends. When I interrupt Mack’s blissful laziness to ask a question or to say hello, she answers with a belch or a grunt; and then she cheerfully shoos me out the door by waving her hand in my face.Mack eating chips

I was outwardly horrified by these Mack-lazy scenes that I witnessed so frequently over the years, but I secretly wished that I was capable of achieving such nirvana in my own life. For sure, Mack knew how to power lounge like nobody’s business. It was as if she was making up for all of the leisure time she sacrificed along the way. It was like she supposed that in order to be productive in life one also has to know what it feels like to accomplish absolutely nothing at all.

I think that excessive inertia (if that is even a thing), junk food eaten in bed, and mindless television was Mack’s not-so-secret recipe for refueling her soul on the lazy days so she could better face the busy days. Since Mack had way more busy days than lazy ones, I was content to let her practice her particular brand of recuperative medicine. And, who knows, maybe it was exactly those Mack-lazy days that made my girl ever content and ever cheerful, so well-balanced and calm, always patient and sweet. Maybe if we each practiced a little of Mack’s crazy-lazy medicine, we could all be as easy and gentle as she was.

Mack on Sexism and Sports

I miss Mack’s goofy grin. I miss her humor and her charm. I miss her joyous approach to the simple things in life. I miss her freckles. And I miss her intellect, too. Mack’s outward demeanor may have been silly and light-hearted, but she possessed a quiet intelligence, and I loved to engage her in serious conversation. At Truman State, she was blossoming into a social philosopher and a writer, and I lived for our late-night discussions about her coursework in gender studies, creative writing, and literature. I always relished our debates about social issues and pop culture. She was witty and so damn smart. I cherish the conversations we shared. I grieve for the loss of the conversations we will never have.

In the last six months without Mack, there have been untold moments when a news story, an NPR interview with a new author, a Buzz Feed quiz, or some crazy highlight on Sports Center has made me yearn to text her or call her and ask her opinion. I have even, in my head and under my breath, had discussions with her about Ferguson, about the Rolling Stone rape story, about Hillary’s emails, and about the abysmal officiating in the Indiana-Wichita State game in the opening round of this year’s NCAA tournament. In each of these moments and in so many others, I have closed my eyes and tried to hear Mack’s voice. I imagine her serving up an intuitive quip or providing an insightful reflection, because I know that is exactly what she would have done. I valued her opinion in all things, and I am now deprived of her keen insights on all things.mack and me 7

One of Mack’s most admirable traits was her fierce sense of equality and justice, and her sensible feminism always inspired me. Last week, the NFL hired eight new officials for the 2015 season; and one of those new hires is Sarah Thomas. A woman. This news is precisely illustrative of one of those times when I craved Mack’s opinion. I mean, I think it’s great that the NFL has hired a female official, but I want to know what Mack would have thought about it. I want to know how she would respond to the critics who accuse the NFL of political motivations based on a year’s worth of bad publicity. I wish I could talk to Mack about the issues of gender and violence and responsibility surrounding NFL football, a sport we both loved and enjoyed together. If Mack had come home from Spain, she would now be mid-way through her second junior semester and she would have resumed her columns for the Truman State Index. I suspect she might have written about Sarah Thomas. And I have no doubt she would have offered insights born of her intense sense of equality, informed by her personal experience as a football player and a female athlete, tempered by her deep skepticism, and infused with her wit.

In missing Mack’s intellectual voice, I have read and reread her social commentary in the form of her college newspaper columns and class essays and research papers. I have taken some comfort in reading her words, in remembering her voice, and in reflecting on that quiet intellect that I so admired. Mack was still learning and growing as a writer, but she was making an impression on her peers as well as on her momma bear. In remembering Mack, her editor at the Index noted: “She always was a lively participant during our weekly meetings, unafraid to interject her opinions. Mackenzie enjoyed writing about feminist issues, current events, and social issues. She was a skeptic at heart—an important quality for a writer and a thinker.”

I saw Mack as a budding philosopher and a blossoming writer. Mack’s editor valued her opinions and her writing. And I think many others appreciated her wisdom as well. In the absence of Mack’s analysis of the hiring of Sarah Thomas, I am honored to share the following piece of Mack’s work with you now. It is not the cleanest writing she ever did, and it reflects the casual character of a hastily written weekly column by a college kid who always waited until the last possible minute to meet a deadline. But Mack’s voice is there—strong and principled and a bit sarcastic—and I think it provides a window into her smart, feminist soul.

“Sexism is rampant in sports,” by Mackenzie McDermott, Truman State University Index, 11 April 2013

My mother subscribes to the NFL Sunday ticket and watches every game of every season. I also grew up playing almost every organized athletic sport known to man, including tackle football and Taekwondo. Because of my involvement with and knowledge of sports, I never saw or understood that most girls don’t get the same opportunities I did while growing up. It was unusual that I got the opportunity to try my hand at anything I wanted. It was lucky the boys’ teams I joined had supportive and open-minded coaches, children and parents. That’s usually not the way it works. Sexism might be waning slightly, but it certainly still is present and visible when considering sports.

Stereotypes associated with women in sports create a hostile environment. Girls have to break social norms and be subjected to scrutiny to be involved in many of the more “boyish” sports. Because of lack of interest, there might be fewer opportunities for girls to get involved with sports even if they want to. Fewer opportunities perpetuate the idea that girls don’t have a place in sports. These ideas mean NBA players out-earn WNBA players by 200 to one, according to a May 2012 USA Today article. These ideas kept the stands of my high school basketball games empty and those of our male counterparts filled to the brim.

Anyone who says sexism is a thing of the past has never been to a women’s basketball or softball game. Sports should not be dismissed as forms of sexism, but should be observed as a model of the way society regards women and men. A society willing to pay hundreds of dollars to watch a men’s football game obviously has some opinions about the status of men in society. Athletic prowess is characteristic of a strong male, but somehow it is not admirable when seen in women. Male athletes are adored and deified to a ridiculous extent while female athletes are barely recognized. When women are considered, it is with a small shrug and the thought, “She’s good, I guess, for a girl.”

Brittney Griner, a star basketball player for Baylor University, for example, is one of the best female players ever to play college basketball. This isn’t what you hear about, though. Instead, she is criticized for being “manly” by sexist fans. An amazing athlete, who would be looked upon with awe if a man, is instead subjected to discriminatory criticism because she is a woman. This blatant sexism aside, there are undertones even in the language of sports. Everything positive is related to masculinity. You want to be physically strong and emotionally tough, traits seen as positive for men but unladylike for women.

I didn’t know about this type of discrimination until later during my life and for that I’m lucky. I got to have fun the way I wanted to and define myself as an athlete without scrutiny. That opportunity should be given to every girl the way it is given to every boy. Also, boys shouldn’t feel the need to define themselves as athletes just to stick to the status quo either. More opportunities increase interest and thus more understanding about the way women too can be strong, tough and entertaining. Until the stigma about athleticism disappears, sexism will stay alive and well, thinly veiled by the excuse that the men’s game is just more fun to watch.

Sexism is sports column