Dave Simpson: The Mind Just Keeps On Boggling

in Dave Simpson/Column

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I thought I’d heard it all, but, well, wrong again.

Last week young persons (is it still OK to call them that?) from Laramie were over here at the Legislature, threatening to leave Wyoming if the state passes a law that biological males (we called them “guys”) can’t compete against biological females (we called them “girls”) in athletics. If the Legislature passes that law, they might leave Wyoming.

We’ve heard these threats before. We were told young people would  leave if we didn’t provide enough bicycle paths and bike lanes. The key to keeping essential young persons in our state, we were told, was to make sure they had plenty of paths on which to ride their bicycles, goofy scooters, and skate boards.

(An old friend once attended a planning meeting in Casper at which the essential nature of bike routes was discussed. When the ability to ride a bike to work instead of driving a car was cited by some expensive consultant, my friend asked, “Have any of you people spent a WINTER in Casper?”)

(Slam, dunk.)

Apparently the bike paths weren’t enough to keep young people here. Maybe it was the lack of exciting night life, recreational opportunities, or enough places to buy $6 cups of coffee with soy milk and environmentally-friendly foam on top.

Maybe, one local commentator ventured, it is that whole “cowboy” image that turns young people off, and makes them rent U-Haul trailers and move lickety-split to Fort Collins. Maybe a top-to-bottom re-imaging campaign is needed, and forget about that whole Frontier Days Daddy of ’em All mystique once and for all.

But now, apparently the unforgivable sin is a proposed law that would keep males from competing with females in sports. After years of being told we must support women’s sports right along with men’s sports, the very foundation of women’s sports is threatened because some guy somewhere, who prefers to be a girl, might not be able to get on the girl’s swimming team and break all the records. Because, well, he’s a GUY! (Are you picking up what I’m laying down here?)

Let me make a couple points. I was on the BOY’S swimming team for all four years in high school back in Illinois. One of the teams we competed against was Hinsdale Central High School, which at that time always fielded the first or second best swimming team in the NATION. It was brutal. I once swam the 400 freestyle against a Hinsdale guy named John Kinsella, who would go on to win a silver medal at the Mexico City Olympics, and gold in Munich. He was so fast that by the time I finished, he was out of the pool and I’m pretty sure his hair was dry. Might have been in his street clothes already.

Competitive swimming was hard work, swimming three, four, even five miles at practice in an afternoon, chlorine stinging your eyes, doing laps for hours on end. When you walked home in the winter cold, your hair froze.

It taught us plenty, however, about taking on a challenge and sticking with it. But never once, not in any of my teammates’ minds, was the notion of competing against female swimmers ever remotely considered. I can’t imagine the ridicule a male swimmer would have richly deserved at the mere suggestion of competing against the girls. Our coach – whose heart was more in football than swimming – would have hooted you off the team at the mere suggestion of such a thing.

So I’m all for a law prohibiting males from competing with females in high school and college sports, It would destroy women’s sports, and I’ve got a couple grand daughters now. (Future barrel racers, I hope.)

The other point: Cheyenne and other Wyoming cities are experiencing a building boom, So for every kid who decides he or she  can’t live in a state that won’t let boys compete on the girls’ teams, there are hundreds of young families moving in. In Cheyenne, we can’t build schools and houses fast enough.

Kids have been growing up and leaving home for, oh, golly, quite a while now. Let’s not panic.

The lucky ones find their way back to Wyoming.

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