Women have made a lot of headway in sports over the last few decades. The biggest starts in Tennis are the Williams sisters, and the WNBA has showed that women’s basketball has a place. However, this past weekend, women made headway in typically “guy” sports and they should be applauded for that.
Yesterday at the Daytona 500, Danica Patrick started at the pole position. She was the first woman to do that, as well as the first woman to finish top 10. To top it off, Patrick did this at not some B-list race, butthe NASCAR race of the season. Finishing in eighth place, you would think she’d be happy. Again, she had made history. Well, she was in it to win it, and was disappointed with her finish. Folks, I can drive like a bat out of hell, but if I ever made it to Daytona to race, I’d be happy to finish on the lead lap. The thing is, that’s not good enough for Patrick, and that just shows that this is really just the beginning of what may well be a historic season for the Sprint Cup.
Patrick wasn’t alone in making history for women this weekend. Instead, she has to share that stage with the upstart UFC.
Years ago, the UFC started as a brawl in a cage. The idea was to take people with a variety of fighting styles, throw them into a tournament, and see who would win. It was a modern day version of the ancient gladiatorial games, boasting no rules to speak of. However, in an effort to get a little bit of legitimacy, a handful of rules were instituted along with weight classes.
The sport has a reputation as brutal and bloody. So what does that have to do with women? Well, just that the UFC held its first fight featuring the ladies. The UFC Women’s Bantamweight championship was decided between named champ Ronda Rousey and Marine Corps vet Liz Carmouch. Rousey is a rock star, possibly the UFC’s biggest starever. She has won all seven of her professional fights (held in other promotions like Strikeforce where she won their women’s championship) by first round arm bar submissions.
Rousey is everything one could want in a star for a sport still trying to gain legitimacy in the eyes of many Americans. Yes, she’s beautiful. Yes, she’s great for a soundbite with her trademark trash talking. She can also back it up in the cage.
For the record, Rousey’s name might sound a little familiar. You see, like most other mixed martial artists, her roots started in a more traditional martial art. In Rousey’s case, it was judo. The reason her name might sound familiar is that she was the first American woman to ever medal in judo at the Olympics when she won a bronze in 2004 at the ripe old age of 17. She has since moved into the MMA world where she has made it big. How big? In my opinion, she is the most dominant fighter in her class of anyone in the UFC. No one has given her a challenge really, though Liz Carmouch gave it a better effort than anyone else has so far.
Folks, women’s sports used to be a joke for a lot of guys. For many women, the possibility of competing ended after college, and the choices have always been limited. However, Danica Patrick and Ronda Rousey have changed that perception and, as the father of a young daughter, I look forward to how the future takes shape in their wake.