An Existential Battle Between Douglas Wilson and Pat Summit

The news that Pat Summit, the winningest coach in collegiate basketball history — that’s any division in the NCAA, men’s or women’s — has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease was devastating. Summit has lead the Tennessee Lady Vols (Volunteers) to unprecedented strings of victory, and has done so with grace, humility, guts, and brilliance. I pray for her health and for her continued success in coaching.

But this news comes on the heels of some typically inane blather from Douglas Wilson, who, of course, has a well-developed and Scripturally-sound view of women’s athletics — as he does every other possible subject in the world. His Logos School’s K-12 program isn’t exactly a leader in girls’ sports, and this perhaps explains why.

“To illustrate, I don’t have any problem with girls competing athletically. But you cannot just say that ‘basketball is basketball,’ and throw them all in there to compete like generic human beings. No, if you are going to have a girls’ basketball team, then one of your goals should be to teach the girls to play and to compete like ladies. If masculine patterns of competition are just accepted across the board, the results will be appalling. In some sports, the girls should compete differently than the boys, and in others, it is grotesque for them to compete at all — in shot put, say, or boxing.” (Blog and Mablog, August 21, 2011)

Well, at least he didn’t suggest that the girls’ uteruses (uteri?) would be rendered unusable by playing sports. That’s a start, I suppose.

But Wilson’s insistence on both injecting his warped view of “masculinity” into every subject and then protecting it like, well, a frail, tiny lil’ gal with a big ol’ heavy basketball, is puzzling and disconcerting. It also reveals an odd insistence that fierce and cheerful competition, athletic energy, enthusiasm for victory, and the exhilaration of exercise is solely the providence of masculinity. Really? Who says? Just because Ruth, Abigail, Deborah, and Phoebe weren’t known for their athletic ability doesn’t mean that girls shouldn’t enjoy robust athletics. The world has changed; it’s inevitable, but they’re not always, these changes, an indication of God’s displeasure. Culture changes, thankfully, but character doesn’t, and it’s character that counts in athletics, not the degree to which ladies sweat. And, yeah, that includes when a big woman uses the gift of her beautiful, healthy body to put a seven-pound iron ball farther than the other women. (I agree with Wilson that women shouldn’t box; I don’t think men should, either, and Wilson’s 2002 sponsoring of a little kids’ boxing tournament via Logos and Christ Church was a nauseating exercise of aggression and macho bluster that, frankly, is far more offensive to God than a female shotputter).

I described Pat Summit as a woman with “grace, humility, guts, and brilliance,” and I’m sure Wilson would be relieved that she exhibits the first two; he might even acknowledge that coaching brilliance might be found in a woman. But Summit’s teams win, and they win because they play hard; they’re “winners,” though, because Summit insists on sportsmanship and character, something all too rare in the world of men’s sports. I think God is pleased when the wonderful game of basketball is played with gusto by anyone — athletics is part of the “dance of life” he delights in.

What displeases God is boorishness, whether on the athletic field or court, or in the halls of Christian academia. And in Moscow, at least, that blustering boorishness is entirely the product of menfolk who dare to claim masculine character over all things good and beautiful — including the joys of athletic competition. Like Soviet hegemony in decades past, Wilson preaches an encroaching masculinity over the things he and his pals enjoy and desire, and then works to keep women out of them by appealing to “reason” that is entirely unreasonable, unenlightened, and unappealing in its arrogance.

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