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Commentary: Intramural inequality undermines spirit of play

Michael Schwartz
Arizona Daily Wildcat
By Michael Schwartz
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
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Two athletes approach Rincon Vista Field to play flag football, one male and one female. They both play wide receiver and possess all the physical skills necessary to catch the ball and make a big play. However, when the male scores a touchdown, his team only receives the customary six points while the female touchdown earns nine points.

Did this scenario play out before the days of Title IX, when women rarely saw the playing field in any recreational sport?

No, these are the 2004 intramural rules for co-recreational flag football at the UA.

This rule contradicts the message of last Wednesday's university-sponsored UA discusses Diversity day, billed as the next step towards eradicating discrimination at every level. It featured The Writing on the Wall project, in which the Residence Hall Association officers created a mural of bricks painted with offensive terms, symbols and descriptions to highlight the need for tolerance on campus.

In the midst of offensive descriptions of every race, religion, creed, sexual orientation and gender imaginable sat a brick depicting a situation in which a girl's soccer goal puts two goals on the scoreboard next to a picture of the recreation center.

The creator of this brick described her feelings in a binder present at the site.

"You take power away from women when you give them a handicap," she said. "Don't discriminate."

Teresa Mortara, the undergraduate student program coordinator for the Campus Recreation Center, said the rule, along with others, like the ability to throw forward passes past the line of scrimmage, has been in use at the UA for nine years.

"It's actually a complete form of football which is called 'Razzle Dazzle,'" Mortara said, adding that ASU doesn't use the nine-point rule, but makes sure females touch the ball at least every other play.

Basketball also has a varied rule for its co-rec division, allowing more points when females score.

"It's not just for giving a girl an advantage, it's a different game," Mortara said. "I don't see anybody having a problem with it here, I think maybe in a higher level."

"But here, everyone's just having fun," Mortara said.

But by weighting female scores as being one and a half times greater than male scores in flag football, a message is sent that says girls cannot play with guys even at the lowest levels of recreational sports. However, these women do not catch with one arm tied behind their back or run with a broken leg. They are just as much athletes as many of the guys out there.

This rule implies that all girls possess inferior athletic ability to males and therefore need this handicap to level the playing field.

The nine-point rule was intended to make women a more important part of the team. The extra three points provides squads with loads of incentives to pass the ball to a female near the goal line. Nevertheless, it's even more degrading to ignore the girls until reaching the foot of the goal line then it would be to ignore them altogether.

For example, in Posada San Pedro Residence Hall's previous game, an opposing player intercepted a pass and returned it to the goal line before waiting for a girl to catch up with him to take it in for nine. Unfortunately for him, the defense also caught up and the team failed to even score. This interrupts the flow of the game when guys become preoccupied with passing to a girl for the score instead of just worrying about putting points on the board.

In any case, the rule requiring women to take up three of the seven positions on the field is unnecessary; females do not need rules to give them an advantage on the field. By ignoring these players, teams would put themselves in a precarious position in the game.

With the university moving toward a more tolerant campus, recreational sports must be included. While many of the other problems symbolically torn down with the wall will take years of effort and tolerance to become a reality, merely a single rule must be changed to stop discrimination on the flag football playing field.

The next time a player scores a touchdown, the referee should not look at gender before putting points on the board.

- Michael Schwartz is a journalism freshman. He can be reached at

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