Breaking the Laws of Biology

By Richard McCord

SFAOL Writer

Can female men on horses play basketball

against female gentlemen? Hmm.........

In the passing parade of things, it was not the biggest of events. The girls basketball team from St. Michael's High School beat the girls from West Las Vegas in the District 2AAA Tournament. Or as the headlines said, the Lady Horsemen beat the Lady Dons.

Both teams brought losing records into the post-season elimination, and one of them had to lose the match. Nor could the winner expect to advance much further. So what intrigued me was something outside the action.

What was fascinating was the very concept: that "Lady Horsemen" and "Lady Dons" could even exist, much less do combat with each other. It defied the tenets of two proud languages, and also the laws of biology. It was a hoot.

But I wonder if anyone else saw it that way.

The naming of sports teams is often an irrational affair, in which fierce emotions leave clear thought and discourse behind. Then once a name is chosen, it becomes "tradition."

Take the "Lady Horsemen." Undoubtedly the name's origin goes back to the time when only boys played sports for St. Michael's. They took the Horseman as their symbol--and it was a good one, blending romance and both the Western and Spanish heritage. By the time changing mores dictated that girls should have teams too, the Horsemen had a proud tradition--and the girls got stuck with it. The same thing happened to the Lady Dons ("don" being the Spanish word for "gentleman"). In both cases it was a no-brainer. Literally.

So here we have female men on horses playing female gentlemen, and nobody giving it a second thought. Still, it could be worse. What if we had the Women Horsemen vs. the Women Dons?

Ah, but so too could it be better. I think the answer for both teams, if anyone cares, could come from the gracefulness of the Spanish language. Yes, the English word "Horsewomen" is clunky, which probably is why it was rejected in the first place. But how about "Caballeras"? Its literal translation would be


Now there's a pretty word, and plausible as well. St. Mike's, it seems to me, should be proud to be symbolized on fields of athletic valor by the Horsemen AND the Caballeras.

The names are synonymous, are linguistically and anatomically correct, and both honor the Western/Spanish heritage. And the combination would be out-of-the-ordinary, another plus.

Over in West Las Vegas, the answer is not quite as simple. The easy fix, of course, would be to name the girls team the Donas--the female counterpart to the Dons. But in an English-speaking society, most people would not get it. Soon the school's teams would be known as the Dons and the Donnas, bringing chuckles and lack of understanding.

But what if the girls were the Marquesas? Now there's a noble pairing: a don and a marquesa. Again, the terms are consistent, linguistically and anatomically plausible, and mindful of a special, long-established heritage. The Spanish word Marquesa (or Duquesa or whatever) would soon become as familiar for WLV as the Spanish word Lobo has become for the University of New Mexico.

So that is my modest proposal. However, I do not expect it to go far. As noted, the name of an athletic team is an irrational business, swayed far more by sentimentality, emotion and "tradition" than by due deliberation.

What else could explain the Los Angeles Dodgers, in a town where--unlike the old Brooklyn, where early teams played in the streets and had to "dodge" trolleys--I don't think they have trolleys or any other public transportation YET? What else could deposit the Utah Jazz in a city where there is no Bourbon Street--and hardly any bourbon?

What else makes teams cling tenaciously to outdated and questionable names like the Cleveland Indians and the Atlanta Braves--and the obviously objectionable Washington Redskins?

Many colleges and high schools have dropped such symbols in recent years, and already the new names are settling in. And so would new names quickly become traditional for the Lady Horsemen and the Lady Dons.

But I'm not holding my breath. Several years ago at a great center of learning, Colorado State University, the students were asked in a referendum if the time had come to rename the female teams. The result was a resounding vote to hold onto their old name: the Lady Rams.

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