There goes P&R Miscellany again, riding his Tolerance sled down his slippery slope. As he did last year when South Dakotans rejected anti-gay legislation, P&R contends that opposition to legislative efforts to repeal the SDHSAA's transgender athlete policy (HB 1161 and 1195 come before Senate Education this morning) is but the thin edge of the wedge the intolerant gay lobby will use to force things down Christians' throats:

We are fast coming to a time in this country, largely because of the offensive intolerance of the homosexual rights community, when it will be both illegal and a "hate crime" to hold to biblical morality on questions of sexuality and marriage. There is a concerted effort to demand the church cave to the immorality, vulgarity, and yes, hate of our present age. The church's schools, both Protestant and Catholic, will be the first major target.

It will start, as it is in South Dakota, with obscene regulations as a condition for participation in sports leagues. It will seem a small thing to many parents for whom athletics are the dominant purpose of a school. Once the schools give on this, though, they will find it harder to gin up the necessary will to resist further incursions and, as they will have already given some ground, the law will not support them when they try to say some other point is a line they cannot cross. Yes, presently the proposed regulation in South Dakota makes an exemption for religious schools—added only after protests. How long will that last? The "exemption" addition itself almost invites lawsuits against religious schools on this issue and the courts have indicated a rather glaring weakness in this area of religious liberty. Before it even gets to that point, we must ask what these regulations will mean when a Christian school hosts a visiting "girls" volleyball team that includes a young man who cannot deal with biological reality? What good will this "exemption" do them then? What will the Christian school do when a couple guys start making out in the stands?

Teenagers making out at basketball games! Dogs and cats living together—mass hysteria!

Accommodate transgender students in high school sports, and boys will start making out with each other? The logic escapes me, as does the challenge for crowd control. If two young people start necking in the stands, the coach or the principal or the janitor breaks them up and says such intimate physical contact is inappropriate. That simple discipline works regardless of who's kissing whom and whether they are flaunting their hormonality at Central or Roncalli.

P&R's logic remains elusive in the slippery-slope argument. He cites the willingness of the high school activities association to make an exception to its transgender policy for religious institutions as a sign that the unnamed gay lobby will get rid of exceptions for religious institutions. The status quo demonstrates its responsiveness to religious concerns, but P&R dismisses that tolerance by crying, "How long will that last?" I suspect it will last as long as the First Amendment lasts (which may not be long, since P&R's conservative compatriots in Pierre have called for an Article V Convention that increases the opportunity for the "gay lobby" and other special interests to rewrite the Constitution in ways P&R and I both might find objectionable).

Not escaping me is the high insult the often otherwise civil P&R heaps on transgender students. Young people whose brains and bodies disagree on their gender are "obscene" and "cannot deal with biological reality." P&R shouts these insults as he calls his fellow Christians to "resist" rather than "cower," but he sounds like he is rallying his discomfited majority to bully a very small minority of vulnerable youth who would just like to play basketball. Are these kids really such an abomination in the Lord's eyes that they deserve such treatment?

I hope Senate Education will eschew both insult and slippery slope this morning and shut down the bills blocking the SDHSAA's respectful and realistic transgender policy.

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I tell people that I have a girl brain, a boy body.

—Jazz Jennings, I Am Jazz, 2012

Two bills attacking transgender student-athletes are enjoying more success than they should in the South Dakota Legislature. Last week, House Bill 1161, which prohibits the South Dakota High School Activities Association from making policy pertaining to sexuality or gender identity, passed House Education on a 9–6 vote. The House deferred HB 1161 Thursday, perhaps because it had already approved the markedly worse House Bill 1195, which not only repeals the SDHSAA's gender-choice rules but mandates athlete gender be determined by birth certificate first, physical exam second. HB 1195 passed the House 51–16 Wednesday.

Democrats remain the consistent and unified defenders of gender fairness. In the votes above, Dems have been joined by Republican Reps. Steve Hickey, Thomas Holmes, Tim Johns, Herman Otten, Tona Rozum, Kyle Schoenfish, and Jacqueline Sly.

When the Minnesota State High School League debated its transgender policy last December, MinnPost interviewed Jazz Jennings, a 14-year-old who was born a boy but who identifies as a girl and competes on her high school's soccer, tennis, and track teams.

Her high school—I have to admit, my gut tries to put quote marks or an asterisk on that pronoun. I hear Jazz say girl brain, boy body, and I can't quite get my boy brain, wired to boy parts, around it. How can that be? What you see is what you get—how can we differ from the visible, physical reality in front of us?

I suppose I don't have to get as esoteric as atomic theory, relativity, or quantum physics to say that my daily experience does not describe, let alone set norms for, everyone else's. There are South Dakotans whose minds and bodies and junctions therebetween aren't like mine. The minor tedium I feel when I'm stuck sitting with guys talking football is nothing like the outright angst that some of my students feel when they are forced to play with the boys when every fiber of their soul says, "But I'm one of the girls!" To negate by law their gender identity is all the more oppressive and cruel.

I may not personally understand a disconnect between who my pants say I am and who my brain and heart say I am, but I understand that the world is more complicated than my limited experience. I also understand that I can be who I am without expecting, let alone demanding by law, that everyone else be like me.

Legislators, if you're struggling with the urge to impose your genetic predisposition on everyone else as "normal," watch this documentary about Jazz Jennings... then pull the plug on House Bills 1161 and 1195, and let the Activities Association and the schools handle this issue in the best interest of their students.

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Watertown Arrows fans didn't like us outsiders talking about the cultural misappropriation inherent in their homecoming activities. Now some Dakota students who attended Sisseton public schools but switched to Tiospa Zina to get away from racial prejudice are saying Sisseton's team name (the Redmen) and homecoming activities offend their cultural identity:

A group of female American Indian basketball players in Roberts County are working on a cause that their grandparents took up more than 20 years ago.

Tate, Mahpiya, Fidelity and Persephone Eastman, along with a few of their friends, hosted a rally this week asking the Sisseton School District to change the name of its team and logo from Redmen [Katherine Grandstrand, "Teens Rally for Name Change," Aberdeen American News, 2015.02.06].

A relative of the girls recalls cultural misppropriation in Sisseton's homecoming activities that sounds very similar to Watertown's:

LeeAnn Eastman said that when she went to high school in Sisseton, she had similar experiences as her daughters and nieces. Because of the way she was treated at Sisseton, she said she transferred to Tiospa Zina.

“I couldn’t handle that,” LeeAnn Eastman said. “You just feel lower, like you’re below them, like you’ll never be as good as them.”

The nickname isn’t the only issue. The way the American Indian is used at school events, like homecoming, is also problematic, LeeAnn Eastman said.

“They crown a chieftain and a princess, and they put on a headdress. The girls braid up their hair, they put paint on their face,” she said. “I haven’t seen it since I was really young, but I know before, they did mock ceremonies. They mocked our ceremonies. ... That’s how we pray” [Grandstrand, 2015.02.06].

The girls organized a protest of the Redmen name before Tuesday's basketball game between Tiospa Zina and Sisseton. The Sisseton superintendent appears to find First Amendment exercise incompatible with physical exercise:

Some people didn’t like that the protest took place before a girls’ basketball game, Sisseton School District Superintendent Stephen Schulte said. It affected not only those in attendance, but the game itself, he added.

“They have an opportunity to come to school board and make suggestions, and the board can act on that,” Schulte said. “But at this point in time, recently, they haven’t done that. They’ve done it in the past” [Grandstrand, 2015.02.06].

Hmm... if a group is aggrieved by a sports team's name, it seems to me the most appropriate place to raise awareness of that grievance would be at an event where that name is being chanted and trumpeted the most loudly. But then, what do I know about basketball?

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It's bad enough that a third of South Dakota's legislators are supporting House Bill 1220, the Legislature's latest assault on LGBT South Dakotans' civil rights. Conservative legislators are taking an extra swing at the T, transgender South Dakotans, by floating not just one but two bills attacking the South Dakota High School Activities Association's new transgender policy.

Last year, the SDHSAA followed several other states in adopting a transgender policy for high school sports (note: this issue doesn't come up in one-act play, debate, band, chorus, etc., where we let everyone play together regardless of gender identity). Rocko McMuscles can't just put on a skirt, shout in falsetto, "I'm a girl!" and go win the girls state shot put championship. The SDHSAA transgender policy establishes a clear and not terribly easy procedure by which a student-athlete can declare a gender identity contrary to her/his birth certificate or school registration papers and participate on the sports teams of that chosen gender:

  1. The student (or parents) give notice to the school.
  2. The school collects information, including documentation from family, friends, teachers, and at least one health care professional, on the student's gender identity.
  3. The school notifies the SDHSAA.
  4. The SDHSAA Gender Identification Eligibility Committee, made up of at least one doctor, one mental health professional, and one advocate familiar with transgender issues, reviews the application and decides within two weeks.
  5. Applicant students can appeal unfavorable decisions to the SDHSAA Board of Directors.

This policy is not exactly a fling-the-door-wide, do-whatever-you-want approach. The SDHSAA is making transgender students clear a pretty high bar before they can join the track team. And the policy is not universal: in November 2014, SDHSAA created a religious exemption for private schools, who simply have to write one measly letter each year saying, "Trans? God says ain't no such thing!"

But that's not good enough for our micromanaging legislators. A whole herd of Republicans propose House Bill 1161, which adds one sentence to statute governing the SDHSAA:

However, the association may not establish policy relating to sexuality or gender identity, other than the basic distinction between the male and female high school activities.

That language would put the Legislature in charge of setting transgender policy for high school activities.

House Bill 1195 sets just such policy, not only voiding the SDHSAA transgender policy, but decreeing that sexual identity shall be determined solely by birth certificate or, in the absence of that document, the determination of the health care professional conducting the student's SDHSAA physical.

Both bills have been referred to House State Affairs, though a date for hearing has not yet been set. I have a feeling that hearing will be uncomfortable.

Looking at another short-sighted, discriminatory bill, I said that calling a corporation a person is absurd, because we shouldn't call things that aren't people people. I suppose backers of HB 1161 and HB 1195 could try some verbal judo and say we shouldn't call boys girls and vice versa. But we're learning that gender is more complicated than that, and the Legislature is demonstrating that it's not intelligent or compassionate enough to recognize that fact.

The SDHSAA spends all year working with schools, coaches, and students to provide everyone with a fair, competitive, and enjoyable sports experience. The SDHSAA has come up with a clear, deliberative process to deal with a sensitive and complicated issue; let's not let our legislators muck it up with their misconceptions and mean-spiritedness.

Related Reading: Minnesota actually followed South Dakota's lead on this issue. Their activities association just passed a transgender policy in December. The first woman to play on a boys' sports team, way back in the 1970s, says folks should chill out: transgender players aren't going to ruin anyone's sports experience.

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Last Real Indians reports an ugly racial incident at last Saturday's Rapid City Rush hockey match. 57 Lakota kids from the American Horse School came up from Allen Saturday to see the game at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center as a reward for participation in an after-school program. Alas, according to dad and chaperone some yahoos in the VIP box above them started "talking crap to our kids and throwing beer on some of the staff and the students" during the third period. Poor Bear says one of the VIP thugs invited him up to the VIP box to fight. The parents and chaperones chose to leave the game.

KOTA gets confirmation that there was a fracas Saturday:

Craig Baltzer, executive director of the civic center, says “I’ve never seen anything like this before. Some of the things being said to the children were racially charged. I don’t know how to perceive people would behave that way.”

For the last five years, the Rush – according to Baltzer – has invited the students to a game. Until Saturday, the students have had good experiences.

“I’m very disappointed in how people behaved,” Batlzer said. “We have to bring these kids back to have a good experience” [Jack Siebold, "Bad Behavior at Rush Game Targeted Native Americans," KOTA-TV, 2015.01.26].

The Rushmore Plaza Civic Center has posted an apology on Facebook. The businessman who provided the VIP box and probably the beer also expresses his regrets:

Tom Helland, president of Eagle Sales, a beer wholesaler, said his company rents the suite and allowed guests from out-of-town to use it. No one from the distributor was involved.

Helland says he is sorry about the incident and that his company is already working with the Rush to invite the kids back so they can have a better experience at a Rush game [Siebold, 2015.01.26].

So some guys get invited to enjoy some of the best seats in the arena to watch a friendly hockey game, and instead of just having fun and cheering for their team, they decide to throw their beverages and pick on children. Thank you, hockey fans, for demonstrating the opposite of manhood.

64 comments

Dakota State University football coach Josh Anderson is unhappy with Oregon freelancer Nigel Duara's portrayal of his program and his community. Actually, nobody should be happy with how they appear in Duara's SBNation.com exposé on NAIA football. Duara makes Anderson sound like he tricked Robert Johnson and other out-state transplants with unkept promises. He makes Johnson sound like a liar. He makes Johnson and other ineligibles sound like lazy bums who arrogantly presume to know more than their coaches. He makes the DSU athletic department sound like a welfare queen counting on Medicaid to pay for health care for the young men it breaks in the pursuit of fleeting sports glory. He makes Madison sound like a Hicksville that doesn't support college football. And he makes NAIA football sound like a pay-for-play racket filled with deluded underachievers on the field and in the classroom.

Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

Coach Anderson appears to have reason to feel betrayed by Duara. He tells Madison sports beater Larry Leeds that Duara misrepresented his intent in writing about DSU football:

What Anderson thought would be a positive piece for Madison became an online rant about a small Midwestern town and the allegedly unmet expectations of a California athlete.

"It is my fault because I took a man for his word when I was told there was a desire to do a 'feel good' story about a young man (Robert Johnson) from California who went to junior college and then came to DSU to do good for himself [Larry Leeds, "Website Story Criticizes DSU; Anderson Sets It Straight About Football Recruit, Program," Madison Daily Leader, 2014.12.26].

Anderson says Duara misrepresents Johnson and his situation. Anderson says Johnson simply didn't meet the staggeringly low eligibility requirements to play NAIA ball:

Students coming out of high school need to meet two of three qualifications to play at the NAIA level. They need an 18 or better score on their ACT or an equivalent score on their SAT; a 2.0 or higher GPA; and must graduate in the top 50 percent of their class.

The only thing Johnson was offered by DSU was a scholarship upon becoming eligible.

"Our football staff and academic administration did all we could do to help Robert pass some tests to help him gain credits which would make him gain eligibility last fall," Anderson said. "Unfortunately, things didn't work out the way we all had hoped, but it was not for a lack of effort on anybody's part, especially Robert's" [Leeds, 2014.12.26].

Um, Coach Anderson? I appreciate your generous words as a coach in defense of your player, even an ineligible player whose comments gave a reporter fodder for some bad press. But let me speak as a teacher: not being able to meet two of the three academic criteria listed above is almost always a result of someone's lack of effort.

Coach Anderson challenges the picture Duara paints of a town not supporting college football. Anderson highlights the meals churches and businesses provide his players, the reinstated Trojan Parent program, and the service projects through which his team repays the community. "The entire town of Madison is nothing but supportive to DSU and Trojan football," Anderson tells Leeds.

Anderson's "entire" perhaps overstates things. Duara does find one local entrepreneur, Beth Klingbile, owner of Gary's Bakery, whom he gets to almost talk smack about DSU athletics:

But not everyone is receptive, like main street cafe co-owner Beth Klingbile. She should fit the profile of a school booster: A cheery local business owner who graduated from Dakota State and stayed in town. But when the topic of Dakota State athletics comes up, Klingbile's smile is a little less certain.

"Yes, they come and ask for donations," said Klingbile. "But that's the only time I see them."

Have you ever given them money?

She shakes her head [Nigel Duara, "An Honest Game," SBNation.com, 2014.12.17].

Duara imputes to baker Klingbile a "less certain" smile and a lack of financial support. Take Duara at his word (and as Anderson says, we should do so with caution), and we have one person to undercut Anderson's claim to entirety. But Duara doesn't balance the brief slice of his Klingbile conversation with an interview discussing the substance of support—the team meals, the Trojan Parent adoptions—with any of DSU boosters. He squirts ink mocking booster and Dairy Queen owner DeLon Mork's name and alleged accent, but he doesn't ask Mork about the specific actions through which he supports the football team of his alma mater.

Anderson may exaggerate just a touch when he says the "entire" town supports DSU football, but Anderson isn't a journalist. He's the leader and principal advocate for his program. He's doing his job. Journalist Duara is not.

(Speaking of balance, Leeds speaks to no one but Anderson for his response to Duara. He does not interview Johnson. He does not get comment from Duara. Maybe Leeds is offering a sort of blogospheric balance: Duara peddles his bias, Leeds gives the local retort, we read both and make our own call.)

That said, Coach Anderson doesn't entirely understand the job of a journalist:

Since time has passed since he first read Duara's posting, Anderson has realized that he is not mad at the author, just really disappointed with himself.

"What I learned, and what I would like others to learn from my mistake, is that I should have had the author sign a disclaimer allowing me to approve the article before anything was allowed to be published or posted," he said. "What is done is done, but I will not make that mistake again" [Leeds, 2014.12.26].

Again, Anderson gets carried away in absolutes. I'm just a blogger (darn right you are! I can hear Duara and Anderson growling at their screens), but I have never had an interviewee hand me any sort of written contract and demand my signature before we proceed with an interview. I've certainly had conversations with sources about what's on the record and what's off. I've checked back with sources to make sure I've gotten what they told me right. But I've never given—and I doubt other journalists give—anyone I've talked to prior restraint over entire articles.

Coach Anderson, did you require Larry Leeds to sign a disclaimer before publishing his interview with you?

Anderson will likely have a hard time sticking with his disclaimer/prior restraint vow. The PR side of his job requires that he share his thoughts pretty freely with the local press. Maybe he can maintain the traditional neighborly agreement with the Daily Leader's sports reporter, but I suspect he's going to have a hard time getting a written contract from every reporter who happens to ask him for a comment on the prospects for next season.

Perhaps Larry Leeds has already reminded Coach Anderson of the proper role of journalists, over coffee at Dairy Queen. Don't overstate your case, Coach—you don't need to resort to your own exaggerations and absolutes to properly point out that Duara dinged your program and your town with sloppy, axe-grinding journalism.

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Nigel Duara's article on Dakota State University football includes one intriguing tidbit on DSU internal politics:

Two years ago, after nonstop losing, Dakota State's president pledged 2013 would be [head football coach Josh] Anderson's last season. Then that president resigned. His replacement, an interim president, hasn't issued any final edict. In the meantime, in an effort to win now and save his job, Anderson decided to go on a spending spree and spent double his $70,000 athletic budget. "I told my wife, I'm sick of nickel-and-diming it," he said. "If I have to hold bake sales, I'll make the cookies myself" [Nigel Duara, "An Honest Game," SBNation.com, 2014.12.17].

Former DSU president David Borofsky went on a canning spree during his two-year tenure in Madison, removing the athletic director, the VP academic, the dean of Arts and Sciences, and the dean and the assistant dean of Business and Information Systems before "retiring" last August and head to a temp job in Florida.

Borofsky apparently could get by with messing with administrators, but perhaps turning his sights on popular hometown coach Anderson broke some camels' backs and got the Regents (including Madison booster Randy Schaefer) to pay attention and bring an end to Borofsky's reign of terror.

And now with the target off his back, Coach Anderson enjoys the freedom to go 100% over budget. Hmmm... I wonder if any relieved professors are enjoying that same fiscal freedom this academic year....

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Dander is up in Madison about a December 17 article on SBNation.com about the Dakota State University football team. Head coach Josh Anderson is unhappy with how Duara portrays his program in his exposé of the shady pay-for-play nature of NAIA football. I'll have more to say about Anderson's heartburn and Duara's thesis in a separate post, but for the moment, I'd like to critique Duara's journalistic skill and apparent cultural biases.

In his attempt to paint some cultural context for his far-flung readers, Duara, who grew up in Florida, got bad grades in J-school in Missouri, and now lives in Oregon, opens his piece by painting my hometown as Nowheresville:

The Middle of Nowhere, the very dead center, is probably somewhere on South Dakota's Country Highway 40 in Lake County. The city of Madison, pop. 6,474, birthplace of Entertainment Tonight co-host Mary Hart, is a good enough place to start looking. The town's motto is "Discover the Unexpected." That's as close to a warning as you'll get [Nigel Duara, "An Honest Game," SBNation.com, 2014.12.17].

Middle of Nowhere? Duara has apparently never driven out to interview Larry Rhoden in Union Center.

While I am glad to get an outsider's perspective that matches with my own long-standing assessment that our town marketing slogan invites ridicule, an article that opens with two glaring inaccuracies does not bode well for the writer's commitment to the truth.

  1. There is no "Country Highway 40" that runs through Madison. There is a county road designated as "40," the old pavement that runs west from Bourne Slough, turns to gravel where the old highway curves north at the old implement dealership, and continues west to the back end of Lake Herman State Park and Dirks Resort. Look at all the places on even that back road!
  2. The population of Madison, by the most recent published Census estimate, is 6,949. 6,474 was the 2010 Census count.

Duara isn't making things up when he says Madison is quiet, even on a home game day. "Madison is in a perpetual state of quiet during the harvest season," writes Duara, "when life in the Midwest should be rowdiest." Duara misses the fact that on a sunny October day, that harvest may have many people out in the fields working (which Duara saw on his way into town, men in a combine, but failed to put two and two together). I don't know what Saturday Duara visited, but he also ignored the competition of hunting season, which could draw many sportsmen away from the stadium for sport of their own. For all his striving to be an astute cultural observer, Duara seems to have been wearing blinders to some fundamental aspects of local culture.

Duara then gets personal in a way that further reinforces my impression that he wrote more of what he wanted to see than what he really saw. I don't know what to say about the journalistic credibility about a writer named Nigel Duara who says DeLon Mork is a funny name. "Unlikely" is the word Duara chooses to describe one of the most respected names in South Dakota business. Duara also sees fit to cast Mork in Fargo:

Mork owns the Dairy Queen in town, as did his father and his grandfather. He survived testicular cancer, twice. On National Blizzard Day, he outsells any DQ in the country. He busies himself around the store, fiddling with the shades or clearing counters. Customers leaving get a "see yuh!" in his heavily-accented speech from the Upper Plains. People like DeLon Mork.

A few wins and a few more close losses have him in high spirits.

"Aw jeez, dey're just turnin' it around up there, aren't dey!" he says, his perpetual smile brightening. He, perhaps more than anyone else, believes in this team and his friend, Coach Anderson [Duara, 2014.12.18].

Duara provides no phonetic transcription of anyone else's speech in this article. He certainly doesn't attempt to capture the regional flavor of the speech of California transplant Robert Johnson and his acquaintances back in exotic Palo Alto. He quotes Trojan player Cliff Marshall in standard English, with complete ending consonants and no hint of his Chicago dialect. He gives a hint of dialect from Johnson and another ineligible player, Collins Macauley, whom he catches leaving out a linking verb and an auxiliary verb in the midst of arrogant presumption against their coaches ("These the real coaches... they calling everything wrong") and using foul language.

Duara takes the one local booster who more passionately than any other can challenge Duara's desired portrait of Madison as a losing town and paints him as an ill-spoken yokel.

As Duara acknowledges, people like DeLon. I like DeLon. And DeLon's a tough enough guy that he probably doesn't care what Duara says about him. But I take it personally that, in pretense to literary wit, Nigel Duara thinks that twitting DeLon Mork, not to mention the entire town of Madison, helps advance his thesis that DSU football is part of an abusive NAIA system.

Were he to notice, Duara would likely twit my response here as small-minded, small-town defensiveness, another aspect of the dull culture that annoyed him so one sunny Saturday in October. The thing is, I agree with much of Duara wrote: Madison is not a big-league town. Dakota State University does not play big-league football. But Duara, with his simple inaccuracies and cultural bias, is not writing like a big-league journalist.

Bonus Copy Editing: Duara says Johnson has a tattoo consisting of "blueish rhombuses." I have a hard time finding a dictionary that will attest blueish as a preferred or even acceptable alternative spelling to bluish. And come on: if you love language, if you're swinging for the literary fences, you don't miss a chance to say rhombi.

13 comments

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