Rick Reilly: Defender of Women
DES MOINES, Iowa — Sixteen-year-old wrestler Cassy Herkelman doesn’t need anybody protecting her from anything. She’s broken her collarbone, split her lip, deviated her septum, wrecked her elbow, all from wrestling. She’s about as dainty as a forklift.
Poor girl. Women’s empowerment has done a lot of great things, hasn’t it? Like turning teenage girls into forklifts, apparently.
She’s her district’s pony-tailed, 112-pound champion wrestler, boy or girl, kangaroo or camel. She’s not a tulip, isn’t a Jane Austen character, and doesn’t wilt in the heat.
Kangaroo or camel, huh? I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean.
So why did her first opponent in the Iowa state high school wrestling tournament default rather than wrestle her?
Because “wrestling is a combat sport and it can get violent at times,” said 16-year-old home-schooled sophomore Joel Northrup, in a statement. “As a matter of conscience and my faith I do not believe that it is appropriate for a boy to engage a girl in this manner.”
Before we go forward, I get this. And I agree. As much as people want to blur the lines between male and female, well, they’re different. And wrestling around with a girl probably isn’t appropriate for a 16-year-old.
Appropriate? When wrestling Cassy, the appropriate thing to do is cinch up your headgear tight. She relishes the violence.
So, of course, Rick will crack a lame joke and say how tough she is. Cause she can do anything a man can do.
Coming into state, the Cedar Falls freshman had won 20 of 33 matches, every one of them against boys. I’m guessing most of them have some kind of faith. I’m sure they all have consciences. And at the end of the match, most of them stood next to her while the ref raised her hand.
Well, they obviously didn’t feel the same way as Northrup.
The Herkelmans — and most of the state of Iowa — praised Northrup for being a boy of faith. “It’s his religion and he’s strong in his religion,” says Megan Black, the only other girl who made state. (These were the first two in the state’s history. Black lost both her matches.) “You have to respect him for that.”
Does any wrong-headed decision suddenly become right when defended with religious conviction? In this age, don’t we know better? If my God told me to poke the elderly with sharp sticks, would that make it morally acceptable to others?
I don’t understand how this is a wrong-headed decision. Because Reilly said so? Besides, poking old people with sticks and not wrestling a girl are, like, not at all similar things.
Maybe the kid doesn’t want to fight girls. Maybe he’s concerned it would be an occasion of impurity. Maybe he doesn’t want to hurt a girl. Maybe it’s really freaking awkward. Whatever his reasons, it’s not the equivalent to poking an old person with sticks.
And where does it say in the Bible not to wrestle against girls? Or compete against them? What religion forbids the two-point reversal?
Oh good, Reilly’s going to try his hand at exegesis.
Remember, Northrup didn’t default on sexual grounds. Didn’t say anything about it being wrong to put his hands in awkward places. Both he and his father, Jamie, a minister in an independent Pentecostal faith called Believers in Grace Fellowship, cited the physical pounding of it.
Okay. So what’s the problem? It’s what they believe.
“We believe in the elevation and respect of woman,” the father told the Des Moines Register, “and we don’t think that wrestling a woman is the right thing to do. Body slamming and takedowns — full contact sport is not how to do that.”
That’s where the Northrups are so wrong. Body slams and takedowns and gouges in the eye and elbows in the ribs are exactly how to respect Cassy Herkelman. This is what she lives for. She can elevate herself, thanks.
I don’t understand how Reilly can bash the Nortrups for their beliefs and then turn around and say this. Listen, there’s a difference between girls and boys, men and women. If a kid doesn’t want to wrestle a girl, shouldn’t Reilly be respecting that decision? I mean he respects the girl’s decision to wrestle with boys, and that’s far more controversial.
Reilly’s being illogical. He’s also being wildly intolerant while trying to preach tolerance. It’s a double standard.
“She’s my son,” says her dad, Bill. “She’s always been my son. Since she could walk, she’s always been the tomboy, busting stuff up, walkin’ through glass with her bare feet. Finally, her grandma said to me, ‘You ought to get her wrestling.’” And she’s been doing it since the second grade.
Weird. I kind of think it’s much more respectful to women to treat them and praise them and love as women instead of turning them into brutes.
If the Northrups really wanted to “respect” women, they should’ve encouraged their son to face her. When he didn’t, it created a national media hurricane with Cassy in the eye of it. She was surrounded by 20 of us Friday not for how she wrestled (she wound up being eliminated two matches later) but for how she didn’t.
This is stupid. I’m firmly in the camp of not putting a teenage girl in a choke hold as a way of respecting women.
“I couldn’t get focused,” she said of the swirl around her. “I finally had to find a quiet place to try to lock in.” Her coach took her cell phone away from her as well as Internet access, but it was all anybody here could talk about. Yes, she becomes the first girl in the 85-year history of the Iowa state wrestling tournament to win a match, but thanks to the Northrups, it’s forever splattered with all this.
I’m mad. The Northrups have a completely valid point. The kid didn’t want to wrestle a girl. There’s a reason that up until like 10 years ago, men and women didn’t mix in sports. They ARE different, no matter how butch a girl might be. It’s awkward for a teenage guy to wrestle a girl. On so many levels. You’re taught all your life not to hit girls, and then all of a sudden you’re supposed to twist them and yank at them and pin them down on a mat?
Neither he, nor his coaches, nor his dad, had any comment. He was reportedly on his way back home to Marion, Iowa, where his mom was about to deliver her eighth child.
For the kid’s sake, I hope it’s a boy.
You’re a douche, Reilly.
**UPDATE** By the way, some of the comments below are pretty good. Read them. A few say what, in my initial rage, didn’t explicate as well. It’s quite arrogant to bash a 16-year-old kid for his beliefs. Beliefs that didn’t hurt anyone, despite Reilly’s efforts to make it look like this has been some sort of horrible ordeal for the girl.
It’s a white-washed load of crap that pretends to be a logical and tolerant defense of the girl, but ends up being a painfully illogical, disrespectful, and intolerant slam on a 16 year-old kid.