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Augusta and Beyond

My favorite comment about the controversy regarding the membership policy of the golf club in Augusta came from a guy taking a course I teach entitled "writing about sports."

"Look," the young man said, "I work at a country club over the summer, and I know women just aren't good golfers, so why should they be admitted to Augusta?"

It's kind of hard to know where to begin to respond to that one.

The figure skating world, like the golf world, has lately hosted controversy and protest. At the arena where the World Figure Skating championships took place in Washington, D.C. Last week, somebody hung a banner that read "judge fairly," and one article reported that even the guy selling pizza was wearing a button that read "no secret judging."

I'll catch hell from figure skating enthusiasts for saying so, but the weekend also featured a more significant, vaguely sports-related protest. A peewee hockey team from Brockton, Massachusetts traveled to Montreal for a tournament, where opposing players and Canadian fans greeted the U.S. kids with upraised middle fingers as their bus, emblazoned with the words "Coach U.S.A," approached the arena. Fans in the building booed the U.S. National Anthem and, according to witnesses, during face-offs, the Canadian kids apparently made sure the u.s. Players heard them saying things like "down with the U.S.A." And "the U.S.A. Sucks."

For the record, I'm all for female members at Hotel Hootie. Like little league, pee wee hockey, and any number of previously grim prep schools and universities, the anachronism in Augusta will become better place when it's opened to both genders.

I don't know figure skating well enough to say much about how points are awarded, but "no secret judging" is always a good idea, whether the object of the protest is the star chamber or a French connoisseur of salchows.

Regarding the hockey players who traveled to Canada, it's a crumby deal for a bunch of kids to have their trip diminished by people insulting their country. I wish for the sake of the children and their coaches that it had been otherwise. And regarding the people in Canada and elsewhere who've become frightened and outraged enough to insult the symbols of this country and the people who visit them from the U.S., I wish those in charge of this country had never given them reason to feel so afraid, suspicious, and powerless to influence events in this uncertain time.

This program aired on April 5, 2003. The audio for this program is not available.

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