Sunday, May 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Shelton: Stunt won't set back female athletes

Serena Williams, legit athlete, just became the oldest woman to be ranked No. 1 in the world in tennis.

Brittney Griner, genuine performer, just dropped 50 on Kansas State in her efforts to be remembered as the finest women's basketball player ever.

Danica Patrick, real competitor, just finished winning the pole at the Daytona 500, then finished eighth.

And that's why women's sports will survive an out-of-control performance by an out-of-place sideshow performer named Lauren Silberman.

You have heard of Silberman, the would-be placekicker who provided the comic relief at last weekend's NFL regional tryout. For days now, Silberman has been the butt of jokes after kicking off twice — once for 19 yards and once for 13 yards.

"The distance wasn't there," Silberman actually said, "but hopefully the scouts will notice my technique. It's not always length. It's form."

Sigh.

So go ahead. Suggest that Silberman was actually working on her onside kicks. Make fun that she took 20 seconds to place the ball on a tee. Snicker when you read that she isn't legit enough for the Lingerie Football League.

But, no, this doesn't set back women's sports. Not by a day, not by an hour, not by a minute.

Over the years, too much has been accomplished in women's sports for it to be set back by a clown-shoes moment such as this one. This was good for snark, and it was embarrassing for Silberman and for the NFL alike. But it was nothing more than that.

Women's sports is Hope Solo and Martina Hingis and Missy Franklin. Women's sports is Gabby Douglas and Sanya Richards-Ross and Stacy Lewis. Women's sports is Abby Wambach and Lolo Jones and Kayla Harrison.

You know what all of these women have in common?

All of them can kick a football more than 13 yards.

And so, to some, Silberman's failure has become her gender's failure. That seems silly.

Katie Hnida, a former placekicker for Colorado and New Mexico, said to USA Today: "Her performance does not have to do with her gender, it has to do with her experience and her preparation. Unfortunately, what's going to happen now is she's going to be looked at (as inferior) because she was female. But she was terrible."

Mo Isom, a women's soccer goalie who tried out for LSU's football team, told the website TMZ that Silberman's effort could set women back years.

It won't. Granted, Silberman tried to set women's sports back 50 years. She just couldn't kick it that far. She will be remembered as a footnote, as a sideshow. Soon, another female athlete, a good female athlete, will try out for one of these things, and she won't embarrass herself, and everyone will forget about the Silberman Follies.

I don't know how much of Silberman's story was a publicity stunt. If so, it didn't seem to work. Not unless she is selling punch lines. I don't know if her second kick was such a chuckle because she hurt herself on her first.

I do know this. The 28-year-old paid her $275 registration fee, then kicked two balls that barely reached the first-down marker. There was never much chance for much more.

At this point, you wonder if Stephen Austin, the NFL's director of regional combines, felt guilty about taking the woman's money. You can also wonder if a bit of research might be in order before he allowed a competitor to embarrass herself. You know, like asking if she has ever competed in an organized game. You know, even once.

"Our job is to evaluate talent and not leave any stone unturned," Austin told the Associated Press. "We want young, athletic people who have played a sport, typically in college or military or small schools. … Until they get here, we don't have any idea of what they're really going to turn out to do and how they're going to perform."

Well, now you know.

Happy?

This will go down as the goofiest tryout in sports history. Yes, Michelle Wie competed in 13 men's tournaments, and she missed the cut in 12 of them, but at her core, Wie was a golfer. Yes, Manon Rheaume tried out for the Lightning in a publicity stunt, but she was a legitimate women's goaltender. Heck, compared to Silberman, she was Martin Brodeur.

Lauren Silberman? She didn't look like she knew whether to kick the football or bunt it.

Some day, perhaps there will be a woman who can kick in the NFL. Why not?

Until then, women's sports have been Martina Navratilova and Wilma Rudolph and Mia Hamm. They have been Annika Sorenstam and Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Janet Evans. They have been Maya Moore and Jennie Finch and Bonnie Blair.

Thankfully, a forgettable such as Lauren Silberman doesn't have the weight to erase any of that.

The foot, either.

Listen to Gary Shelton weekdays from 9 a.m. until noon at 98.7-FM the Fan.

     
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