By Bill Simmons
Page 2 columnist

For everyone's sake, I tried to stay away from this whole "Females joining Augusta National Golf Club" controversy. It's like the old saying goes: "If you don't agree with something, but it isn't bothering anybody too much, then just shut up, look the other way and concentrate on the important things in life -- like playing 'Grand Theft Auto: Vice City' so much that you actually lose feeling in some of your extremities." OK, I made that up.

Augusta National
If old white Southerners want to keep Augusta National as their private playground, it's their prerogative.

But every time the name "Augusta" came up, I looked the other way ... at least until last week, when I heard a Boston sports radio caller invoke Jackie Robinson's name. That's right, as in, "The first female joining Augusta would be like Jackie breaking baseball's color line." Apparently, we've gone collectively insane. Robinson's case centered on an unconscionable level of bigotry, a despicable collection of baseball players and owners, and a class system that desperately needed an overhaul. Augusta's case centers on one simple premise: From time to time, guys enjoy hanging out with other guys.

That's the crux of the issue, isn't it? Augusta's members aren't arguing that women are second-class citizens who shouldn't play golf. We're talking about a group of rich Southerners who enjoy hitting golf balls, telling raunchy jokes, playing poker, ordering people around like Judge Smails, and not answering to anybody. Hey, I don't like them, either. But don't guys have the fundamental right to hang out with other guys? Don't females have the right to purchase their own golf clubs and make them exclusionary to men? Doesn't our constitution condone gender-specific clubs? How does any of this involve discrimination and equal rights?

Of course, some women don't see it this way, something I dealt with last month in my "Ten Tips For Watching Football With the Guys" column. Besides having fun with stereotypes, the column's purpose was to bang home that guys enjoy watching football with other guys, it's a time-worn male bonding ritual, and for the love of God, just leave us alone. I even ended the column with the ski bunny story, just to point out that, yes, there are women out there who know sports and love sports. We accept them, we appreciate them ... we would just rather watch sports with our buddies. I can't emphasize this enough: It's nothing personal.

Well, this drives hard-core female sports fans batty. But I know sports too! I know just as much as you! I'm totally offended that you wouldn't watch sports with me! Why take it so personally? It's a comfort thing, just like playing at Augusta is a comfort thing for those stuck-up Southerners. Sometimes, guys just enjoy hanging out with other guys. It's really not that complicated.

But here's the thing ...

If you're arguing that Augusta should accept female members because (a) this is the 21st century, and (b) the old standby phrase "This is how we've always done it" doesn't fly anymore, that's fine. I'm on your side. Just realize that, if we're operating under that assumption, then we should overhaul every aspect of our culture.

Sheryl Swoopes
The WNBA has been around for six seasons, while the XFL lasted just three months.

If women are truly equal, then why do so many expect men to buy dinner on the first date? Why are guys always the ones buying introductory drinks at bars? Why are men forced to purchase engagement rings that sometimes cost more than new SUVs? Why do weddings revolve completely around brides, as grooms become hood ornaments for the entire day? Why do the vast majority of married women take their husband's names? Why are America's military forces dominated mostly by men? Why is chivalry still in vogue?

Because this is how we've always done it.

Oh, well, that solves it. So we're living by one rule, unless that rule isn't convenient anymore, then we're throwing it out the window? That makes a ton of sense.

The same hypocrisy thrives in the sports world. The WNBA and XFL suffered the same woeful ratings and limited audiences ... so why has the WNBA been given six years to succeed when the XFL was cancelled after three months? Female reporters and broadcasters want to be given the same chances as their male counterparts ... isn't it ironic how some capitalize on their looks to get ahead? Why can female reporters walk into NBA locker rooms when players are dressing, yet male reporters can't walk into WNBA locker rooms? If colleges exist to make profits, how is Title IX constitutional when it eliminates money-making programs in favor of programs that don't earn a dime? And if colleges exist to provide education, why would they possibly admit rent-an-athletes like DaJuan Wagner and Eddie Griffin? Which is it? Why the two orders, Colonel Jessup?

Serena Williams
When you look at Serena Williams' wardrobe, you know the WTA is capitalizing on sex appeal.

Again, I'm just pointing this stuff out. I support Title IX, I would much rather watch Bonnie Bernstein than Armen Keteyian, and the XFL sucked just as much as the WNBA does. But you can't have it both ways. For instance, the most fascinating sport of the past decade has been women's tennis, mainly because they exploit the talents and sex appeal of their players, market the hell out of them, and appeal to men and women. And nobody says a peep. Men aren't allowed to say why we're really watching -- because the sport has more grunting, bouncing, flapping and sweating than the average Skinemax movie -- so we make up lame excuses like "They have more rallies" and "They have more personality than the men." Translation: We like breasts.

For some reason, we aren't allowed to say this. It's sexist. And yet there's Serena Williams dressing like a dominatrix at the U.S. Open, and there's Jelena Dokic wearing a sports bra that's looser than Frank Layden's neck, and there's Anna Kournikova raking in $20 million from endorsements without ever winning a tournament. Yup, we just like watching them hit tennis balls. Never has a sport been more honest and dishonest at the same time.

Of course, women know this -- they know this -- and they conveniently look the other way, even as their tennis sisters are apparently filming the upcoming porn movie "Hookers In Spandex." Yet they won't look the other way with Augusta, because that's an "important" cause. Women's rights are at stake. Somebody needs to become the Jackie Robinson of ... um, female country club members, because this group has apparently been exploited long enough. I know it has been keeping me up at night.

If you want females joining Augusta, and if you rightly insist that women are equal to men, then I'm calling you on it. Let's be equal. Completely, totally equal. Let's throw out any tradition that ever revolved around the phrase, "Because this is how we've always done it." Let's start fresh. We'll even hand over the clicker half the time -- with the money we would save on engagement rings, we could afford to buy two plasma-screen TVs (one for us, one for you). But if you're not willing to start fresh, and if you keep clinging to these hypocrisies that complicate every aspect of the male-female relationship, you're shooting yourselves in the collective foot. You're right, it is time for a change. But you need to change, too.

Hootie Johnson
AP
Don't hate guys like Hootie Johnson. Feel sorry for them.

Whatever happens, one thing will never change: Sometimes, guys just enjoy hanging out with other guys. Unfortunately, we aren't as creative and ingenious as women. The only male bonding vehicles we ever came up with? Sports, beer, golfing, Vegas, fantasy drafts, video games, strip joints, poker, Golden Tee and NFL Sundays. Guys can't interact for extended periods of time unless there's some sort of attention-consuming buffer. We can't just say "let's go to dinner," gab about our lives for two hours, glance through some photos, get bombed on two glasses of Chardonnay and call it a successful night. And we can't interact quite as happily and naturally with a woman in the room, mainly because we're always afraid of what we might say or do.

That's what this whole Augusta thing was about -- these old geezers are trying to preserve the only form of male bonding they have left. To all the females reading this, don't hate these guys. Feel sorry for them. Pity them. You are turning their pathetic world upside down. If you can't appreciate that, then maybe -- just maybe -- you're the ones being shortsighted about this whole thing.

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine.



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