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Sports & health issues happening behind the game DECEMBER ISSUE

Off the Field

Inside this Hazing in the NFL Body Image & the Media Softball vs. Baseball Girls in Boys’ Sports

“YOU PLAY BALL LIKE A GIRL” Baseball vs. Softball Why is baseball more accredited?


How much is crossing the line?

A Letter from the Editors

Dear reader, Thank you for your interest in Off the Field. This magazine is a product of the research done by the students of Katie Vagnino’s Writing 116 class, and was created by combining the ideas of four students that shared a common idea. The goal of this magazine is to educate and inform those who might be concerned about the underlying problems of gender and more in sports today. In this magazine you will find a shared theme in all the articles you’ll read, all contributing to that theme. It is my goal that by the last page of this magazine, our writers will have succeeded in educating you on the topic of what goes on when the fans aren’t watching in sports. The following articles will give you the information that you need to understand the true issues of sports. Once again, thank you for reading, and enjoy!

About the Editors Tyler Korth:

Throughout his high school career he was a four-sport athlete Football, basketball, track, and baseball He also graduated with 253 community service hours. Majoring in Actuarial Science

Tara Nenahlo:

Participated in year round softball and dance. Involved in National Honors Society and student council during her high school career. Majoring in Healthcare Administration

Tyler Gehrmann:

During his time in high school he played Hockey, soccer, and lacrosse. Dedicated writing tutor for his high school peers. Majoring in communications and journalism and minoring in German

Amanda Friedrich:

Involved in her high school softball league. Committed to student council and TA for elementary class.

Majoring in Marketing and minoring in Management.

Where’s the Authority?

By: Tyler Korth A recent hazing incident involving Miami Dol-

perfect representation of the American way. One must not forget, however, that the NFL is a business. Each occupa-

phins’ second-year lineman Jonathan Martin has put au-

tion has unique differences, but it must be universally un-

thority figures in the National Football League on high

derstood that every employee in every industry has the

alert. The conspicuous case shot into the national spotlight right to feel safe at work. Football players are no excepsoon after it was first reported, and the hazing culture

tion. While the Jonathan Martin case is still under investi-

throughout both the NFL and sports in general is now be-

gation, there is no question that Martin felt threatened and

ing heavily scrutinized.

uncomfortable within his work environment, and that se-

There is no doubt that football is embedded in the fabric of America. The beloved sport is faithfully watched by millions, played by thousands, and talked about endlessly. Many have come to believe that football is the epitome of American grittiness and that the rugged sport is a

verity of this harassment was enough to impact his career. In most NFL organizations, it seems that the majority of hazing events are fairly safe and harmless. However, the Jonathan Martin incident proves there is a definite need for

a more effective monitoring system within the NFL to prevent any occurrences such as this one from happening in

in the future. First reported by ESPN’s NFL reporter Christ Mortensen, Jonathan Martin left

thority figures took part in the bullying, practice has now evolved into an opporthere was clearly minimal effort put

tunity for the veterans to take advantage

forth to end Incognito’s abuse.

of the rookies and humiliate them to an

the Miami Dolphins in late October be- According to, hazing is cause he was receiving a substantial

to subject (freshmen, newcomers, ect.)

amount of harassment from his team-

to abusive or humiliating tricks and rid-

mates. Only a few days after his depar-

icule. It is an act that most rookies face

ture, Martin had checked himself into a when joining a team in the National South Florida hospital to be treated for

Football League. These events typically

emotional distress. It is believed that

consist of unusual haircuts, paying the

the team targeted Martin because he

tab on ridiculous food bills, and general

was young and biracial. Investigators

proceedings that are embarrassing for

have record of a voicemail that was left the rookie and entertaining to the veter-

unprecedented level, primarily for their own amusement. His words seem to ring shockingly true in the Jonathan Martin case, as Incognito endlessly taunted Martin until Martin hit his

breaking point. Incognito had no cause for the abuse and had no history with Martin; he simply went on the attack and used the idea of hazing as the reasoning behind his actions.

by Richie Incognito, one of Martin’s

ans. The silly, humiliating practices are This situation is clear evidence that the

fellow offensive linemen, in which In-

often thought of as a rite of passage, a

cognito refers to Martin as “half n-----

way to show that the veterans are supe- culture. While one athlete may have the

piece of s---.” Mortensen revealed that

rior, and as a social team bonding expe- ability to tolerate some of these hazing

multiple sources witnessed Incognito

rience. While it seems that in most cas- jokes or initiation practices, another

NFL needs to better monitor the hazing

use racial epithets and profane language es, NFL hazing is relatively harmless,

may find it very offensive and be men-

toward Martin on various occasions.

there has been an increasing number of

tally and physically displaced. As was

Richie Incognito had been temporarily

voices opposing the idea of hazing or

stated before, the NFL is a business,

suspended without pay from the Dol-

rookie initiation. Former New England

and it is essential that employees feel

phins, pending further investigation.

Patriots beat writer and current Boston

secure in their workplace. The case in-

While Incognito has been a main sus-

Globe sports columnist Christopher L.

volving Martin, Incognito, and the Dol-

pect in the investigation, there are many Gasper wrote an article titled “NFL

phins is very unfortunate because it is

lingering questions about the team’s

must take a stand on bullying and haz-

ruining the “fun” for everyone else who

role in this hazing and harassment.

ing”. In the piece, he discusses that

did hazing within the socially accepta-

Whether or not other teammates or au-

what once used to be a “team initiation” ble limits. Nevertheless, something

needs to be done so another case with

vironment would likely cut down great- be taken. The NFL has a responsibility

severely negative effects can be pre-

ly on current hazing practices.

vented. There are steps that can be taken and

Another step that the NFL can take to overview the hazing culture is to set

proactive ways to combat unacceptable specific rules in regard to the measures hazing practices. Coaches need to be

that can be taken to initiate newcomers,

more involved in the locker rooms.

and then place a very stiff penalty

More often than not, when there is an

when these rules are broken. The

issue of bullying, harassment, and

league should determine a maximum

physical abuse, the actions are done

amount that rookies can pay when the

within the locker room. Coaches do not veterans force them to pick up the food typically enter the locker rooms, so it is tab. They should explicitly state that an opportunity for players to take ad-

whenever there is physical or mental

vantage of others without the authority damage to a player, the hazing has oversight. How often does one see a

gone too far. In most cases, it is almost

student at school act disobediently in

impossible for the rookies to stand up

front of the principal? With the pres-

for themselves because there are so few

ence of authority figures, players will

of them against a much greater number

not only act in a more positive manner, of veterans. but a higher level of integrity will hopefully be attained. There will be fewer chances for players to take shots at teammates who they dislike. It may also result in players better policing each other in fear of disciplinary actions. In general, having some type of authority figure in the locker room en-

It is unfortunate that there is even a need for such rules to be put into place, but it is clear that limits must be set. There is likely no perfect way to solve extreme hazing in NFL organizations, as it is heavily engrained with-

in the culture of sports. However, it is obvious that some type of action must

to better protect the emotional, mental, and physical health of its players, and only the future will show how they handle such an important issue.

Not PRETTY enough. Not SKINNY enough. Not GOOD enough.

By: Amanda Friedrich

ties. Images portraying a female athlete with an ideal body and minimal flaws can make woman think that she needs to

Individuals, especially women, put a lot of stress on themselves when comparing their bodies to athletes and models. With today’s advancement in technology and media, people are exposed to the ideal body image on a daily basis, which is leading to self-unacceptance and body image issues.

change her body. This is why we need to address this body image issue because people go to drastic measures, such as developing an eating disorder or cosmetic surgery to achieve the “ideal body” that many of these athletes have. It’s time to make a change in how we interpret and look at images in magazines before we can no longer grasp a sense of reality.

Magazines, advertisements, TV shows, movies,

Overall, we need to realize that our physical well-being and

blogs, commercials on TV, and social networking sites. The state of mental, emotional, and physical health is more iminfluence of media is rapidly growing today. People are con- portant than the size of our jeans and shape of our bodies. stantly comparing their self-image to athletes and models in magazines and commercials. Women are usually affected most by the media because the images tug at their insecuri-

As the media and constant exposure to images of

“beauty” and perfection become more widespread and part of our culture, many people seek to blame the media for our

obsession with appearance. The media

of beautiful. In my opinion, this is a ma- as the beauty standard and if you don’t

is virtually at our fingertips, ready to

jor problem for our self-esteem and it

fall under this category, you’re not as

influence us on what we should believe

contributes to body image issues. As a

beautiful. Since when did a number on

in. I believe the media does contribute

society, we need to start appreciating

the scale and size of our jeans define

to our problem with image because it’s

our bodies and self-image. Overall ac-

beauty? I strongly believe that stereo-

constantly broadcasting the ideal body

ceptance of our body is extremely es-

typing women on their shape and size is

and showing us people who are superior sential because we need to come to

a major cause for women’s body image

to us. However, I believe the true under- terms that everyone is a different size or issues. The media plays along with stelying issue is the way women interpret

body shape. Size two to size 22, tall and reotyping by using the advertisements

the media, and this plays a significant

skinny, curvy, athletic, short and petite. broadcasted to sell a product. Advertis-

part in how they view themselves. Too

All body sizes and shapes are beautiful; ers consistently use skinny models and

often women are comparing their ap-

however, not everyone can accept this

athletes in their images. Majority of the

pearance to the image in the magazine,


skinny models in images are well under

which is often professional athletes and models, and they start to question what is wrong with the way they look. From this, women start to believe that the beauty standards in the media are what every women should strive for if they want to be considered beautiful.

“Size two to size 22, tall and skinny, curvy, athletic, short and petite. All body sizes and shapes are beautiful.”

After women constantly compare themselves and believe they need

Our society cannot grasp that

to change, the cycle begins and women

it’s not realistic for all women to be tall

become overly concerned with their

and size two. Many people disapprove

persona. Women make it a mindset that the size of the average women and this they need to transform their look in or-

leads to stereotyping. The skinny-body

der to be viewed as the media’s version ideal has been embedded in our brains

a healthy weight. This advertising method relates to my previous question about the size of your jeans defining your beauty. In order to be beautiful, must you be unhealthy? Dr. Burgard, a psychologist who works with clients dealing with weight problems and eating

disorders, states, “I don’t see how we’re going to stop eating disorders until we stop reading character into the size of people’s bodies. It’s stereotyping. We’ve made progress against other stereotypes, and we can make progress

against this one, too.” It’s time, America, to end to end this stereotype. Wom-

-en are already battling with their own self body

As a society, we like to blame the media for a

image problem, we cannot contribute to the problem by

variety of our cultural problems like body image issues

judging someone based on their appearance, weight,

among women. Little do we know, we are responsible

size, and body shape.

for how we interpret the media and the amount it con-

The final point I want to bring up correlates with the previous information about body acceptance and ending stereotypes among body shapes and sizes. A ma-

jor problem that people focus on is they become so obsessed with an individual’s appearance and they stop giving attention to the real accomplishments of an individual – as a friend, coworker, lover, wife or husband, mother or father, daughter or son. This leads to body image issues because people start to believe that their beau-

ty determines who they are and how other people see them. A person can have the misconception that their appearance is the most important part of them and that mindset becomes their reality. Because of this obsession with image, we are letting the beauty industry and corporate America define what beauty is and encourage body hatred. I strongly believe that we need to educate ourselves on what reality is. We cannot let the media and advertisements control our lives and define our sense of worth. As a whole, we need to start questioning the images that are displayed to us and become more educated on overall health. Health is not just having a toned body, it’s a state of physical, mental, and social well-being.

trols our lives. We need to become more accepting towards all body sizes before the media gains too much influence and it’s too late for change.

You Hit Like a

Girl: The New Compliment

By: Tara Nenahlo

prove even softball players are just as talented as baseball

In today’s society, softball is often classified players. All of us have heard or believed that baseball is as being inferior to baseball. However, looking at the funda- more difficult than softball. I grew up with the stereotypes mental rules of each sport they are not entirely different. The and assumptions that male dominated sports were tougher judgment between which sport is more difficult than the oth- than female dominated sports. Over time I developed a love er can be determined through field dimensions. When I was a little girl, I remember in the dead heat of summer my father encouragingly screaming, “Come on, you hit like a girl” or “one more catch and you could be

for fast pitch softball and as eleven consecutive years passed, the feeling of inferiority never faded. This is when the quote “you hit like a girl” became quite offensive.

“You hit like a girl.”

good enough to play against your brother!” And that is what I strived for: to be able to compete against the boys and to

In my opinion, softball has followed the fundamental rules

of the sport more clearly than tinctly different than each other, thus softball is more difficult than hitting a baseball. No matter if you are the lead- making all the difference in determin- baseball, because the lack of reaction ing batter on the team, the softball ing which sport is more difficult than time due to the distance and velocity of player could be asked by their coach to the other. According to an article pub- the ball. hit a sacrifice bunt, and they will do so, lished in a 1974 W omenSports Magaeven if hitting record would be affect- zine, this has been a reoccurring issue ed. Looking back, do you ever remem- topic; deciding whether female athletes ber Prince Fielder hitting bunts to ad- are represented inferior to their male vance his teammates? The answer is counter part. Many could infer that in no. You may be thinking this is not a baseball you are hitting a smaller ball, valid argument because the game of making it less of a target and harder to softball and baseball are played on two see. It is true that the softball is a larger different fields making the situations ball, but from a shorter distance. In this irrelevant to each other. In this case I case, from home plate to the pitching completely disagree. Throughout my softball career, whether it be playing all year round or being captain of my teams, no matter how much effort I put in as an individual, baseball players seemed to get the better end of the stick. Looking at the fundamentals of fast pitch softball and baseball, they are not entirely different. So why would one believe fast pitch softball is easier to play than baseball, if the rules of the game are similar to each other? The fields, indeed, are dis-

circle there is a forty-three feet stretch, whereas in baseball the regulatory distance is sixty-five feet from home plate to the pitch mound. As shown in a study done by FSN Sports Science, an organization dedicated to configuring

The average professional softball pitcher can throw the ball across the plate around seventy mph, allowing its batter to have about .351 seconds to react to a fastball pitch, according to FSN Sports Science. Comparing this to a professional baseball player, their fastball pitches can average at about ninety-five mph, allowing its batter to have .395 seconds to react. Concluding that hitting a softball is more difficult than hitting a baseball. With less reaction times, even though it may seem minimal, being able to get a piece of the ball is often as much luck as it is skill.

science behind sports, used Olympic gold-medalist




played softball for Team USA to conclude which sport is more challenging and trying than the other. By using their high tech equipment they were

able to scientifically prove hitting a

Still not convinced? A softball player is working against gravity. They pitch from the same level as the batter, making a rise ball or even a high fastball almost impossible to hit. In com-

parison, a baseball-pitching mound is raised, in which case the ball is forced

to travel in a downward trajectory. Baseball pitchers cannot throw rise balls like a softball pitch can, just because of the laws of physics. The FSN Sports Science video was able to deliver reliable evidence that showed that the flights between a softball and a baseball differ dramatically. The idea that fast pitch softball is inferior to baseball can be dismissed. When comparing the two sports we can now infer that baseball and fast pitch softball have many more differing qualities than many would assume. So hearing people say “you hit like a girl� is no longer an insult, but should be taken as a compliment.

Can Female Athletes Keep Up With Their Male Counterparts? By: Tyler Gehrmann

Is equality the biggest concern when it comes to opportunities in boys and girls sports? Or does safety trump that? Concerns of playing time, fairness, and even discrimination become prominent when gender equality issues are discussed with the context of sports.

ethics. Could it be that we are just conditioned as a society to

see girls as inferior athletes to men? Or is it that men and women just weren’t made to play the same sports? Whenever the topic of gender is discussed, controversy is to be expected. One can also expect the subject to be very tender. Some say that the reason that you see a girl play-

Today, sports have become more and more controver- ing on the boys’ team in middle school or high school is besial with new rulings, laws, and ideas. Most people will sit

cause no one wanted to deal with the argument that telling

down on Thanksgiving and watch the NFL play. What if you her no would create. But what about a boy playing on a girls’ turned on your television that day, and instead you were

team? Most people reject this thought almost immediately,

shown women playing football? Many people would say that saying things like “he would hurt the girls” or “he would be they’d rather watch the men play because they are accepted

far too good and it wouldn’t be fair.” That brings another

to be better at the sport, and therefore more entertaining. Oth- question to mind: Is it “fair” for the girl to play on the boys’ ers would claim that football just isn’t for women. Why is

team? She might tell her coach that she isn’t afraid of being

that? People bring up the issues of safety, equality, and even

hurt. But does that matter? That means we’re assuming the

boys are automatically going to play a

what sport we’re playing?” The gen-

more physical game than her, which is ders represented in this sentence are not necessarily true. Society immedi-

were over in the ice rink for her to be done “talking” with the coaches and

interchangeable, of course. This raises league officials about our roster. At the

ately weighs the pros and cons that af- a popular question: Are some sports

time I just wanted to go home and I

fect the girl when she plays in the boys just not meant to be coed?

didn’t really understand the ethics of

league, but they don’t think of the ef-

the issue. Now I know that she was

fect on the boys whose’ team it was in the first place. Does it actually seem fair for a girl to leave her own league to come and play on the boys’ team? That’s another player on the team, and less playing time overall for everyone else. Granted, matters are quite different when a girl’s league doesn’t exist. However, often girls can join “boys only” sports for that exact reason – they don’t have a team of their own. This is very common in sports like football, hockey, and wrestling. Among all, wrestling is by far the most controversial as the physical differences between men and women come are far more prominent. Also, more ethical reasons are raised. You will often hear, “Is it okay for a guy to hit a girl?” “Is it really okay for my hands to be on that spot of her, no matter

When I was younger and growing up, I played many sports. Over the

course of those years, I had multiple girls on my teams. The one that I remember most was the girl on my hockey team. She also happened to have a team of her own that was girls only, no exceptions. I have never once in my life seen a boy in a girl’s hockey league. We had a lot of people on our team every year, almost enough to make two teams, but not quite. So we were all one team of many mixed skill and experience levels. With so many people, playing time was tight and strictly monitored. The rule at this age was if you paid, you played. There were no official tryouts. My mom was a member of the board council for my youth hockey association, and I remember always waiting around for ages late on school nights after games

upset with the girl being on my team because it took away from everyone else on the team. She constantly told the league representatives that “the girls have their own league, make them play there.” Thinking back on this, I have to say that she was probably justified for being angry. The girls indeed had their own league, and the girl on my team played in it as well. I would have loved to play two seasons at the same time, thinking back on it again. This whole issue could be solved with a touch of equality – If the girls can play in the boys leagues, then let the boys play in the girls leagues. No more angry parents making their kids wait in the lobby while they grill the league standards about ethics. As a final prominent issue, safety is something that always shows

up on the chopping block when girls and boys sports are hotly debated. It is socially accepted that girls have less physical capability for developing muscle, and so often they aren’t as strong as boys their age. This brings up thoughts of injury. People believe that it’s inevitable an injury will happen when boys and girls play together. So is it okay for that to happen when injuries could be prevented by keeping boys and girls separate in sports? Most people say no. However, equal opportunity is a common belief between genders in today’s society. There is clearly no “best” way to solve these issues, as in the end somebody will always end up feeling cheated. But if these issues persist, how can anything be considered fair? Should league rules continue to be violated to sneak a boy onto the volleyball team? Or a girl onto the football team? If you feel strongly one way, speak up and talk to your league representatives. If you’re an athlete yourself or a parent, make the decision that you feel is most fair and what wouldn’t upset you if you were in the opposite situation.

Off the Field Magazine  

Sports & health issues happening behind the game