The harsh truth is that if someone wants to cut down a man in the sports world, the quickest, easiest way to do that is to call him a woman.
Late in the first half at the Thunder-Heat game last week, the home-team fans were getting frustrated. They were mad at the officials. They were mad at the visitors. They were mad at pretty much everything.
At one point, a guy behind me yelled at LeBron James.
“Quit crying like a girl,” he bellowed.
People around him laughed.
The devaluing of women isn't just a sports problem, of course. It's a societal problem. It's a cultural problem. To be strong and tough is to be a man, and oftentimes, that construct is built at the expense of a woman.
Women are seen as less than.
Look at what happened in the Jovan Belcher case. The Kansas City Chiefs linebacker murdered the mother of his infant daughter a few months ago, then drove to the team's training facility and killed himself. It was a tragic case.
But much of the focus in the aftermath was on Belcher. How he'd worked so hard to get where he was. How he was a young talent gone too soon.
Those things are true, but what about Kasandra Perkins? She's the mother of Belcher's daughter, the woman who Belcher shot nine times.
Where are the stories and the heartbreak over her?
The way that women are viewed and treated in our society and by extension in our sports world won't change overnight. It won't change because Danica Patrick went fast, made history and won the pole at the Daytona 500. But like Billy Jean King, Mia Hamm, Jackie Joyner-Kersey and other trailblazers before her, what Patrick has done is significant.
She has already scored a big win.
How she finishes Sunday won't change that.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.