What’s in Label?

Labels in sports are a funny thing.  That’s especially true since Title IX kick started women’s athletics in American; or did Title IX kick start girls’ athletics?  That’s only the beginning of the confusion with labeling women’s (girls’) sports.  I’ll get to that in a minute.

Labels are confusing in just about anything we do, not just female sports.  Gentry Dietz, my former star post player and now graduate assistant, keeps telling me I label the Comfort Inn and the Holiday Inn Express incorrectly. 

Since the day I drove down Highway 71 and checked in the Comfort Inn prior to my initial interview at Northwest, it has always been a motel.  When building of the Holiday Inn Express began, I was happy to announce that a new motel had come to Maryville.  Gentry has let me know that I don’t know what I’m talking about.  I think she means about motels, not basketball.

Gentry’s mother works for the Hyatt Hotel.  I agree with Gentry that the Hyatt is definitely a hotel.  Since her mother works for a HOTEL, Gentry gets bossy if I use the wrong labels.  The Comfort Inn and the Holiday Inn Express are both hotels because they have inside entrances.  Motels have outside entrances.  If that’s true, what are motor courts?

My son, Sam, just turned 12 on September 22.  He is one year away from being labeled a teenager.  It will be the fourth label during the years of his young existence.  A year from now, the line to teenagerhood is easy to determine just by the number of his age.  The other labels are a little more obscure.

Obviously, when he was born, Sam was labeled a baby.  I’m not sure when you discard that label, but I think it might be somewhere near his first birthday.  You might not remember when you were a baby, but I bet you remember later in life when your mom put you back in that category.  It probably went something like this, “Don’t be such a baby and make your own bed!”  Parents love to downgrade their children’s status just because they know the kids hate it.

Sometime after your first birthday, you are labeled a toddler.  I think this label is mostly for the makers of kids’ clothes.  Parents can now leave the baby section and look for the sign that says “Toddlers.”  Of course, the price now takes a hike upward; the older the kid the more expensive they become.  I would be willing to bet that there not much more cloth used in making of toddler’s clothes, but you would never know by the price.

There is good and bad about a kid becoming a toddler.  You can expect a lot less crying, which is especially good in cars, trains, buses and airplanes.  Is there anything more annoying than a screaming baby in a confined area?  Toddlers may cry less but they wander aimless about.

When Sam was a toddler, he was with his mother as she sold T-shirts at the Bearcat Youth Basketball Tournament.  When Michele was in the middle of a big sale, she looked up to see if Sam was behaving.  To her horror, Sam was no where to be seen.  Just then, the bell to the elevator rang and out popped Sam.  He had found the joy of ridding the elevator.  He couldn’t talk yet, but his stubby, little feet found their way to the elevator.  Toddlers can find fun about anywhere.  Just don’t discipline them for their imagination or they’ll cry like a baby.

Probably about the age of four, they leave behind the toddler label forever and become a kid.  You know the saying, “You are just a kid at heart?”  What does that mean,?  I guess you now begin a life of shopping in sized like small, medium, large, extra-large, and gigantic size range.

I think of all the labels for youth, being a kid is the best.  If you get dirty, you are just being a kid.  If you dump your milk on the carpet, it’s just something a kid would do.  If you are talkative in the classroom, its kids will be kids.  There’s one problem with being a kid; girls leave this stage a couple of years ahead of boys.  That means for two years, boys remain nerdy kids while girls are a kid of 10 years old going on 16 (a teenager); and they have to live together in the same classroom.

Finally, they all hit that teenager stage.  Since Sam is only 12, I can only speak from past history.  There are many fears for parents that come with raising a teenager.  The biggest has to be the driver’s license.  Since there’s never been a teenager with an attention span of more than 15 seconds, the thought of your teenager behind the wheel of a two-ton vehicle is enough to drive a parent to smoke.  That’s what happened to my dad.  He never smoked until we started driving and he quit when we headed to college.  Teenagers get blamed for everything.

Relationships are another confusing area of labels.  Again, I go to my son for a reference point.  When a couple of his buddies get together, the group sends text messages to an un-named female source.  I sometimes overhear them ask, “Is she still your girlfriend?”  I will stupidly jump in and ask “Who Sam? Who is the current girlfriend?”  He always answers, “Dad, we’re just friends.”

That raises the huge question; when does a friend of the opposite sex become a girlfriend.  More complex is when does a girlfriend become just a friend?  What really gets these young men in trouble is when they introduce their female companion by the wrong label.  For instance, if some recent college graduate introduces his female companion as, “My friend, Carla,” and Carla thinks it should be: Girlfriend Carla, look out.  Even worse, give that girlfriend a friendship ring and they now think they should be labeled as, “My fiancée, Carla.”

You want to really complicate things, call Carla your special friend or your partner Carla and watch the roof explode if Carla disagrees.  Relationships are tough enough without getting the labels wrong.  I think several couple’s counseling sessions could be spent on communicating label expectations.

Labels for shopping excursions have gotten more difficult over the years.  During my teenage years, which weren’t easy, the Lincoln, Neb., build their first shopping mall.  It was really cool to have something as uptown as a mall within 30 miles of my hometown.  Teenagers hadn’t even started “hanging out at the mall” yet, but we definitely could see the potential.

Malls competed to see which one could be the biggest.  I think the Mall of America in Minneapolis is probably the mother-load of huge malls.  The desire for smaller was there, so along comes the strip mall.  The only stripping in a strip mall is found inside small cubicles where you try on clothes.  To some, the term strip mall became a bad term.

Some past strip malls became shopping centers even if it still looked like a strip mall.  I guess the term shopping is better received than the term strip.  Every strip mall or shopping center,( take your pick) has places to eat.  Some strip malls (shopping centers) may have sports bars or dance clubs.  If you discard the strip and shopping terms, these types of destination points are called entertainment districts.  Doesn’t it sound classier to grab a burger at a sports bar located in an entertainment district rather that a sports bar in a strip mall?

It’s time we got back to sports labeling.   Labeling in sports is a dangerous area, especially to the unsuspecting male.  Male sports are simple nicknamed, a Spoofhound, a Bearcat or a Savage.  Turn that into a girls’ sport, and you become a Lady Savage.  Are you a lady or a savage?  Girls should be allowed to have it either way.

From junior high through high school, it’s called girls’ sports.  When the tassel on a high school girl’s graduation hat gets crossed over, they become women’s sports. I cringe when I hear a fan ask if girls’ basketball at Northwest is going to win.  I hope my feminist team members weren’t listening.

All females that graduate from high school are now proudly women.  Don’t anyone dare send them back down to the rank of a girl.  That opinion of labels begins to change about the age of 40.  All of a sudden, being a girl looks pretty good again.  I know what they say, “Men age gracefully, but women just age.”  I guess labeling helps ease the pain of getting to middle age.

The age of 50 was just the death sentence for women and their labels.  Now, thanks to creative labeling, there has been a shot of life into the 50+ woman.  They are no longer aging women; but they are now sultry females called Cougars.  There’s something alluring about a woman if she is labeled a Cougar.  The poor males that hit 50+ years of age are just gracefully getting old, not entering a new era of livelihood.

I’m very confused about all the labeling.  I think a friend of mine had it right when he asked for my help several years ago.  The man was about 45 years old and had just broken up with his girlfriend (it might have been his special friend, partner, or fiancé’s, I’m not sure).  Since I am always surrounded by women, he wanted to know if I could help line him up.  I asked what he was looking for and found out he had one, simple requirement.  It didn’t involved labeling at all.  He told me his only requirement was they didn’t smell like his great aunt.

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Gene Steinmeyer

About Gene Steinmeyer

Gene Steinmeyer coached the Northwest Missouri State women’s basketball team for 13 seasons before retiring after 26 years as a collegiate head coach after the 2011-12 season. He retired as the second winningest women’s basketball coach at Northwest as his 2010-11 team won both the MIAA Regular Season and Tournament Championship advancing to the NCAA National Semifinals one game shy of the national championship game.