Chris Barnes: The Guy Who Lost to a Girl
One day he's a relatively unknown pro bowler minding his own business. The next day he's Bobby Riggs in goofy shoes.
That day was Sunday, when Barnes was beaten in the PBA's Tournament of Champions. You may have heard he wasn't just beaten. Barnes was beaten by a woman, giving him immediate entry into history's Male Ridicule Club.
How could a guy lose to a girl in an athletic event?
Bowling isn't an athletic event.
Rule No. 1 in determining whether an activity is a sport: If the best female in the world can beat the best male in the world, it doesn't qualify.
That doesn't mean Kelly Kulick's victory isn't worth celebrating. In one match she rivaled the achievements of such bowling legends as Earl Anthony, Dick Weber and Fred Flintstone.
It's just that the media, feminists and bowlers around the world will inevitably treat this like Amelia Earhart beating Neil Armstrong to the moon. Not unlike when the U.S. women's soccer team won the 1999 World Cup and Brandi Chastain ripped off her shirt in celebration.
It was heralded as the breakthrough moment for women's sports in general and soccer in particular. Four years later, the Women's United Soccer Association pro league was kaput and jog-bra sales had flat-lined.
Now it's bowling's turn. Kulick's win was deemed an instant ESPN Classic. Terrell Owens tweeted his congratulations, though he noted he could have won the tournament if they'd thrown him the ball more.
It's a feel-good story whenever Girl beats Boy. I enjoy it as much as the next male chauvinist pig. I just think a little realism is called for.
Of course, one man's realism is a bowler's fighting words. I found that out a couple of years ago when I wrote a column questioning Vanderbilt winning the NCAA women's bowling championship.
It sounded like a joke. First, that the NCAA would award a bowling championship to any gender. Second, that Vanderbilt could win it.
I went to the school to investigate. Sure enough, it was all a Title IX-inspired semi-joke. Create a "sport" to meet federal guidelines. Get rid of long-established sports that people (i.e. "men") actually play.
Not that a lot of people don't bowl. I heard from approximately 42.8 million of them, all incensed that I asked a Vanderbilt football player if he thought bowling required the training and skills that his sport demands.
He never stopped laughing long enough to answer. I assumed he meant "no."
The typical retort was "Bowling takes flexibility, strength, concentration and years of personal sacrifice, you Gutterball!"
So does ballroom dancing, but you don't see the NCAA handing out championship trophies in that. Yet.
The same emotional attachment now has people saying Kulick's win proves a woman can do anything a man can.
No they can't. Just like a man can't give birth, ask for directions or watch "Beaches" without having a gun held to his head.
The differences don't make one sex inferior to the other. The differences just make us different. And they make men better equipped for activities requiring speed, strength, endurance and illegal gun possession.
I've revised my definition a few dozen times over the years. But Rule No. 1 has never wavered.
The best female cannot beat the best male except in horse racing. Don't blame me, blame Charles Darwin.
If anything, bowlers might want to mute the Kulick hysteria. Her win just confirms where bowling ranks on the Athletic Meter. She didn't just win a PBA tour event. She won a major.
Get back to me when Lorena Ochoa wins the men's U.S. Open or the New York Liberty beats the Lakers for the NBA title. Now those will be ESPN Classics.
It's best to keep Kulick's accomplishment in context. For some of that we'll turn to the woman who made Riggs look like an old man in the Battle of the Sexes.
"Kelly Kulick's win today at the PBA Tour's Tournament of Champions is not only historic, it serves as a motivational and inspirational event for girls and women at all levels all around the world," Billie Jean King said.
I hope millions of girls are inspired to get off their duffs and dream of becoming an NCAA bowling champion. More importantly, I hope it helps them believe they can compete with men in just about any endeavor.
I also hope that Chris Barnes isn't forever branded as The Guy Who Lost to The Woman.
You may have been beaten. But keep your whiskered chin up, pal. At least you weren't beaten in a real sport.