I grew up with Evil Knievel and the Flying Wallendas. Thrilling as their stunts were, it was always a noisy spectacle. It seemed to be more about man conquering the Grand Canyon or the Tallulah Gorge than interacting with nature. The backdrop was a prop.
In this video, though, Michael Schaefer and Dean Potter create a scene as thrilling in its composition as in the act itself of walking the highline at Cathedral Peak. As the sun sets and descends, the moon rises and looms large — the orb cradling the dyad of rock towers turned burnt-red. As the National Geographic filmmakers say, it is “the ultimate full moon shot” — captured from over a mile away with a serious telephoto lens.
As Mr. Potterbegins his unaided walk, you hear the camera operator take deep, calm but anxious, meditative breaths. And you breathe with him. Oh, if we all could witness such panoramic beauty like this each day…
This week we’re focusing our production efforts on the Sufi idea of ashk, the love of Allah and the divine that has no end. But, inothernews reminds me that romance lives on in the States — in an arena:
The First Family took in an exhibition game between the U.S. and Brazil men’s basketball teams in Washington, D.C. Monday evening. Above, Michelle Obama reacts to seeing herself and POTUS on the “Kiss Cam” at Verizon Center — before the two decide to smooch for the masses.
More amazingly, perhaps, Brazil — up by as many as 10 points during the match — was only down by 7 points in the 4th quarter. The U.S. eventually won the pre-Olympics warmup, 80-69.
~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Muslim Sportswomen on the Rise
by Marium Sattar, guest conributor
At the first ceremony of its kind, fencer and Olympic hopeful Ibtihaj Muhammad was recognized for her achievements as a Muslim sportswoman at the Ambassador Awards. The awards were hosted by the Muslim Women’s Sport Foundation the first week of May to recognize Muslim women in this field. They are a reminder that Muslim sportswomen have broken new ground in the world of sports and helped change perceptions in society at large.
Although there are more Muslim women competing in sports today than there have been in the past, they have an overlooked legacy. For example, Halet Çambel was the first Muslim woman who competed in the Olympics — and did so in 1936, representing Turkey. Many athletes like her were honored at the awards where Muhammad won the International Sportswoman of the Year. However, women’s sports participation in some countries is still limited.
One challenge some Muslim sportswomen have contended with is regulations about athletic dress codes — but they have also paved the way for other players who want to dress modestly while still competing in the games they love. In 2007, for example, the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) placed a ban on wearing the hijab, or headscarf, during matches due to fears that it could lead to choking. The ban even led to the Iranian women’s football team being deemed ineligible from a qualifying match to play in the Olympics; however, this year, FIFA is planning to overturn that rule in light of new hijabs designed specifically for athletes. The decision will be announced on July 2 after further testing of the new hijabs to ensure their safety.
Muhammad says that her faith, which requires women to dress modestly, directed her choice to start fencing, a sport which requires players to cover themselves from head to toe. “Often times, when I’m in competition, I’m the only African American, the only black person, definitely the only Muslim — not only representing the United States but in the competition itself. It can be really difficult…” she said.
Given their diversity, Muslim sportswomen are an inspiration to young women around the world. Yet some young women from Muslim backgrounds still face challenges overcoming cultural restrictions either because their parents believe girls should not become athletes or perhaps simply because they do not have role models. However, these restrictions did not stop Pakistani runner Naseem Hameed, who won the gold medal for her performance at the 100-metre race at the South Asian Games in 2010, making her the fastest woman in South Asia.
As more athletes like Hameed come into the limelight, young women watching them may start to have higher expectations about what they can achieve, especially in sports.
Other Muslim sportswomen have contended with much bigger hurdles. Sadaf Rahimi, a 17-year-old boxer from Afghanistan, is one Ambassador Award nominee who overcame the lack of facilities to practice in and the difficulties of living under the Taliban — which banned women from playing sports. Rahimi, who will be representing Afghanistan in the London 2012 Olympics, shatters stereotypes about Afghan women. Like her peers, she counteracts the misconception that Muslim women cannot play sports, while demonstrating that perseverance can overcome even the toughest hurdles.
In another part of the Muslim world, Qatar recently announced that it will send female athletes to the Olympics for the first time. Brunei has also nominated a female hurdler and 400-metre runner, Maziah Mahusin, to join their Olympic team for the first time. Their participation in sports heralds a new era, one which is more inclusive of all women, and shows that governments are following where women are leading.
Many athletes at the Ambassador Awards said they never expected to excel as they have — a reality that shows young women that they are capable of achieving more than they may think is possible.
At the event, Muhammad reflected on how much her faith and sports have shaped her identity. “I would never have guessed in a million years that my hijab would have led me to fencing, to a sport, but also that I would have grown to love this sport so much. It’s so much a part of who I am; I can’t even imagine life without it.”
Marium Sattar is a multimedia and print journalist, and a recent graduate of the Columbia Journalism School in New York City.
A version of this article was published by the Common Ground News Service on May 22, 2012. Copyright permission is granted for publication.
A Star to Watch During March Madness Who Models the Love of Family and Basketball
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
With March Madness upon us, stories of high-flying success and triumph through teamwork will abound for men’s basketball. But the women’s game, and its players too, often get overlooked. Leave it to Frank Deford to fill that gap with this NPR commentary about Elena Delle Donne, one of the NCAA’s premiere players.
After two days, Delle Donne left the country’s top women’s program at the University of Connecticut to return home to Delaware. The reason? She missed what was most important to her: her family, namely her sister Lizzie who was born without sight and without hearing and has cerebral palsy. But, as Deford points out, ”…for Elena, it was not a matter of leaving anywhere. No, it was only a matter of wanting to be somewhere, with someone where she thought she was more valuable, where she mattered more in life and love.”
These are the stories that swell people’s hearts. Not because of the pain, but because many of us have faced a scenario in some ways similar to Elena Delle Donne’s. We’ve all had to make choices that take us away from our home or the ones we love, whether for work or military service or schooling. The 6’5” All-American did what we aspire to do — to prioritize what’s most important to us and succeed while doing what’s right.
This is really magical. For a 42-year-old former wrestler growing up in a landlocked state and now producing a public radio program (sitting in a cube in front of a screen most days), I admire how he’s been able to meld his family life with his professional life — and do it outdoors. And that he talks about how it grounds him is refreshing.
What an amazing way to raise a family. Can you imagine?
Yeah, which is a really good thing to think as a human. Because we all have a timeline, Peter… but most of us don’t live like we have a timeline.
…but the truth of the 2010 Winter Olympics is that the Games did for this generation of British Columbians what no other event in modern times ever has. It united us.
—Shelley Fralic, from her Vancouver Sun column “Olympics Changed B.C. Forever”
Canadians celebrate in Yonge-Dundas Square after their ice hockey team’s gold medal win over the United States in the 2010 Winter Olympics. (photo: Sam Javanrouh/Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Transgender Male Athlete Plays for NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Team: From Kay-Kay to Kye
by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer
George Washington University point guard Kye Allums recently made headlines as the first known transgender student to play NCAA Division I college basketball. At a press conference held last month, Allums announced: “I am a transgender male, which means feelings-wise, how it feels on the inside, I feel as if I should have been born male with male parts. But my biological sex is female, which makes me a transgender male.”
Allums’ teammates and coach now use the pronoun “he” when referring to Kye (who was born Kay-Kay). Allums, who is a junior, will continue to play on the women’s team. To comply with NCAA guidelines and retain his athletic scholarship, Allums is postponing hormone treatments until after his college basketball career is over.
A profile of Allums in Outsports describes his attempts to try on identities that ultimately didn’t fit the truth of who he experienced himself to be. In high school this meant affiliating as a lesbian, but over time this didn’t feel right. During his freshman year in college his mother sent him an angry text that read: “Who do you think you are, young lady?” All of a sudden, Allums’ awakening as a transgender male began to crystallize.
Allums’ story gets at topics and voices we’ve long been interested in: the spirituality of body image and the lived experience of being transgender. It also raises a flurry of questions about equity, fairness, and where transgender athletes fit into the larger landscape of competitive sports.
When Allums came out as transgender, his coach Mike Bozeman asked him if he thought God had made a mistake. As Allums remembers it, Bozeman followed up with words of support saying, “I’ve had your back through everything. Our relationship has grown from nothing to this, and now you think I’d just turn my back on you because you told me this? No. I love you and I’ll always be here for you.”
In the end, Allums concluded that God hadn’t made a mistake. “I was meant to be like this for a reason. Clearly my life is going to be different from anyone who was born a biological male, because of what I’ve been through. And I was meant to go through all of this.”
Bob Sheppard’s Stadium Cathedral
Nancy Rosenbaum, associate producer
Bob Sheppard was the vocal embodiment of Yankee baseball. For many players and fans, he elevated the game into a kind of religious experience. The iconic announcer, who served as the public voice of the Yankees for over 50 years, died this week at the age of 99.
“The Voice of God,” as he was fondly called, announced each player’s name “clearly, concisely, and correctly.” Former Yankees player Paul O’Neill once likened Sheppard’s voice to “the organ at church.” Sheppard himself described Yankee Stadium as “a cathedral for baseball people.”
For Sheppard, this kind of metaphor wasn’t just rhetoric. He led a deeply spiritual life as a cradle Catholic who was active as a lector in his Long Island church. Even as he became frail with illness and age, he continued to take daily communion at home. His decision to pursue speech as a vocation was encouraged by Vincentian priests while attending a Catholic high school in Brooklyn. He reflected on his faith in an interview with Busted Halo:
“I have a very special love for the Blessed Mother and always have had, it started when I was young I think and I can remember many times at St. John’s Prep Chapel going in to the church there before a baseball game and asking the Blessed Mother to allow me to get a couple of hits that afternoon (laughs). And she did! (laughs) She was good, very good to me.”
Sheppard loved reading and wrote poetry. In 2008, he drafted this poem in commemoration of the last baseball game ever to be played at the old Yankee Stadium:
Farewell, old Yankee Stadium, farewell
What a wonderful story you can tell
DiMaggio, Mantle, Gehrig and Ruth
A baseball cathedral in truth.
(Photo: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)
K’naan Waves His Flag
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Some of the best story lines coming out of this year’s World Cup aren’t about sport at all. They’re about people rising above their circumstances, creating something new, defying their genre, being recognized for their talents.
A Somali-born Canadian who grew up in Mogadishu before immigrating to North America at the age of 13, he takes an unexpected
tact tack when writing lyrics. K’naan doesn’t see much sense, he says, in glorifying the violence and strife that surrounded him in his childhood like many American rappers:
“There wasn’t a voice that understood the, ya know, the gratitude that comes from survival. There wasn’t a voice in music that was doing that.”
There’s much more to K’naan’s story, his art, and his approach to life. Here are three strong pieces I found helpful in learning more about him. Over at Sound Opinions, he demonstrates some Somali poetry styles to Greg and Jim and talks more about his responsibility in addressing the violence and reality he witnessed.
Also, this 2005 profile piece by Sue Carter Flinn in The Coast covers a lot of ground. And it’s fair and thoughtful in the language chosen and scenes described. It has just a little bit more. For example, read Eliott McLaughlin’s description of a story K’naan often tells:
“At age 11, he accidentally blew up his school with a hand grenade he mistook for an old, dirty potato.”
Now read Carter Flinn’s account:
“One day after school, at age 10, during the daily ritual of washing the Qur’an lessons off an ancient wooden slate, he uncovered a live grenade that exploded and destroyed half of his school.”
And, giving CNN its props, check out the video to the right. I enjoyed watching K’naan just actually sit and talk about his work and how he’s processing his recent success, especially his song being honored at such a big event.
I hope you enjoy this week’s Friday video snack.