The legend of the female athlete …

Earlier this week the Louisville Sports Commission held its inaugural Louisville Legends Golf Tournament

According to their website, here’s a list of confirmed legends. Take a look … perhaps you’ll notice that one of these is not like the other.

Of the 47 listed “legends” ONE is a woman.

That one representative from the XX-chromosome club? Tori Murden McClure, an explorer, mountaineer, collegiate basketball player, author, activist, president of Spalding University and supreme, all-around badass. McClure is best known as the first woman to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean, as well as becoming the first woman to ski to the South Pole.

She’s used to being one of a handful of female athletes invited to such male-dominated celebrations of sport. But when she arrived to the event she was surprised and disappointed to see no fellow women.

A spokesperson for the Louisville Sports Commission tells LEO that they had a list of a “half-dozen to a dozen women” who they wanted to participate, but for one reason or another they couldn’t make it.

LEO talked to McClure for her thoughts. She tells us:

“I’m not mad at Sports Commission. They’re just going by the standard scripts … It is a couple of times a year that I get invited to something like that, and it is typical that it is two or three women and 20 and 30 guys.

And it is typical that the women are the also-rans. It’s why I’ve become friends with all the jockeys. The basketball players are gods. And then the football players are demigods and then it sort of goes down the pecking order until you get to the jockeys and women (laughs a bit), so the jockeys and the women hang out together, and I like the jockeys for that reason.”

Of course, the word — legend — precludes any robust female participation.  A legend must be rich, famous, iconic. Our culture doesn’t provide a whole lot of avenues for women to achieve such stature in sports. Unless you’ve got the backside for Olympic beach volleyball or a Wheaties-worthy story like Kerri Strug or the Williams sisters.

Here’s McClure’s take:

“Women don’t make money in sports really outside of bowling and the country club sports of golf and tennis. Maybe a little money in swimming from sponsorships, not from professional swimming. The only sports for a long time for women were the country club sports that you played when you were a kid if you were affluent …”

McClure tells LEO she doesn’t see any of this changing anytime soon. And her frustration expands beyond the disparity in how our society celebrates female vs. male athletes.

“We don’t have our intellectual legends. We don’t have our entrepreneurial legends,” she says.

McClure concluded our chat with one final thought.

“There might have been a time in my life when I was proud of myself as the only woman with 49 guys. But I’m way past that point in my life …”

For more on the golf tournament, here are some clips from “Great Day Live,” where there’s a whole lot of ruminating on all the legendary guys.

2 Comments

  1. Jacob Conway
    Posted May 24, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    You’d think Mary T. Meagher would have been listed on that roster as well.

  2. JTT
    Posted June 14, 2012 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    And I’ll note, Tori isn’t really known around here for any “competitive” sports. (She was an Olympic class rower but that isn’t what most people think about when they think of her.)

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