D.L. Stewart: Women land a punch (and kick) for equality

Contact this columnist at dlstew_2000@yahoo.com.

Athletic opportunities for women have come a long way since the pre-Title IX days, when the only sports that interested my daughter were gymnastics and cheerleading, which, basically, are the same thing.

Now I have granddaughters involved in soccer, volleyball, lacrosse and swimming. I even have one playing on her 11-year-old twin brother’s flag football team. I may be one of the few men in America who can brag about “my granddaughter, the middle linebacker.”

But I didn’t fully realize how fertile the fields of athletic dreams had become for women until I read a story in the sports section of Monday’s Dayton Daily News about the results of the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) bout held last Sunday in Australia. It reported that the defending champion had been defeated by being kicked in the head, then was transported to a hospital, bleeding and battered with facial lacerations and a possible concussion. According to another news source, the outcome “shocked the world,” although that may be the most overused phrase in sports since Muhammad Ali first said it. It definitely shocked the bookies, who had listed the winner as a 12-1 underdog.

For me, the only shock was that the bleeding and battered ultimate fighter was a woman, 28-year-old Californian Ronda Rousey. And that as many as 75,000 paid to witness her being kicked into submission at the stadium by new champion Holly Holm, while millions more spent $49.95 to be entertained by the moment on pay-per-view.

But apparently I just woke up from a three-year nap, because Rousey, an Olympic gold medalist in judo, won her UFC title back in 2012 and has been proclaimed by ESPN as “the best female athlete ever.” Among her nicknames are Rowdy, The Arm Collector and Baddest Woman on the Planet. And she is, undeniably, an attractive woman, although I’m not sure how comfortable I’d be asking for a date with the planet’s baddest woman.

I knew of course, that men have been slugging it out in events Sen. John McCain once described as "human cockfighting" since the '90s. (Please spare me the bit about how football is a violent sport, too, with all those concussions. The difference is that football injuries are the byproduct of teams trying to get to a goal line. In these brawls, beating an opponent senseless is the goal).

Somehow, though, kicking another person in the head for the enjoyment of others seems even uglier when women do it. And, if that sounds both wimpy and sexist, so be it.

But congratulations, women, you’ve finally earned the right to entertain the masses by beating each other up.