Opinion: The case of the 50/50 ball


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Published: 02-19-2024 6:00 AM

A retired professor and former Marine Corps officer, State Rep. Mike Moffett (R-Loudon) chairs the House Committee on State-Federal Relations and Veterans Affairs.

In early 2021, our New Hampshire House Education Committee held a hearing on a transgender sports measure. I had serious concerns about biological (XY chromosome) boys playing contact sports against biological (XX chromosome) girls, but naturally wanted to hear everyone’s thoughts.

Of the 33 folks who testified (mostly moms), 32 passionately advocated for their trans kids. And their testimony “moved the needle” for some of us.

Moms (and dads) want their trans kids to have full opportunities to experience all that they can as they grow up — including sports. The hearing raised much awareness.

But there are other moms and dads out there similarly advocating for other kids as well. They also have strong feelings about what’s best for their children that can conflict with the feelings of other parents. The schism reminds us to be wary about messing with momma bears.

Some would counsel that this subject is a minefield to avoid. Why step into it and opine at all and then get blown up? But as a parent, grandparent, sports columnist, and elected official, I’m going to enter this dangerous and complicated minefield, and hopefully emerge without getting blown up. We’ll see.

Parents experiencing more traditional circumstances need to understand how parents of trans kids see their worlds, as we learned at that 2021 hearing. And conversely, parents of trans kids need to do likewise. Folks on various sides of this issue surely honor parental love.

This year, after much deliberation, I accepted an invitation to co-sponsor HB 1205, which “prohibits biological males from participating in female athletics.” Given the number of people seeking to speak at the Education Committee hearing, testimony was limited to two minutes. I used my time to speak of safety and 50/50 balls.

A 50/50 ball (or a 50/50 puck) involves two players heading toward each other at full speed. I specifically recalled a high school soccer game where my daughter and another girl banged into each other while going for a 50/50 ball. The violent collision was followed by a scream and soon an ambulance was on the field to take a broken-legged girl to a hospital (Not my daughter). The imagery always stayed with me.

The two soccer players each weighed around 115 to 120 pounds. But what if a 100-pound (XX) biological female has a violent 50/50 run-in with a 160-pound (XY) biological male? Ouch.

There are many more pieces to this, beyond 50/50 balls. For example, the NCAA requires trans athletes to take drugs. A male-to-female transgender student who is not doing hormone treatments may not compete on a women’s team.

This mandated drug use requirement is unsettling and complicated. Then there’s the debate over minors undergoing gender reassignment surgery. We recently had a big kerfuffle at the State House over HB 619, which would ban the practice.

Regarding yet another (bathroom) bill, many folks testified about fears relating to biological males in female bathrooms and locker rooms. A proposed criteria for bathroom use essentially came down to what gender a person claimed to identify as. And while most trans kids are wonderful people, there are examples of miscreants exploiting the “identification” situation with nefarious intent. Related concerns deserve attention.

Inconveniently, some folks’ “identifications” also change over time, not just adolescents but in some cases folks who are 50 or 60 years of age.

Caitlyn Jenner is perhaps the world’s most famous trans athlete. In 1976, Jenner won the Olympic Decathlon. Jenner is a strong and articulate opponent of XY trans athletes competing against XX athletes, at any level.

There is a simple (though not easy) answer to this complicated transgender sports participation question. XX’s compete against XX’s. XY’s compete against XY’s. Admittedly, this would preclude some trans athletes from competing on their desired teams. Sport, like life, is not always fair. And while sport can yield ecstatic victory thrills, sport is also about dashed dreams and disappointment. Such is life. At some point, I accepted that I was never going to play for the Celtics.

Any other policy would guarantee ambiguous gray areas, endless conflict, drug mandates, bathroom/locker room danger/drama, and yes, untold avoidable injuries as players pursue those 50/50 balls.

Can we ever get through this minefield to a promised land with clear definition and safety? We need to try.

It wasn’t Yogi Berra but Geoffrey Chaucer who first said over six centuries ago, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”