Saw Chandler’s post Monday on the Georgia women’s gymnastics team and it brought back memories. My first foray into sports media was actually covering the team as a student for UGA’s daily RED AND BLACK.
(I also needed chalk - hours later in my locked dorm room)
I remember pining for the gymnastics beat at a R & B staff meeting because the gymnasts, despite some obvious post-pubescent issues, were far and away the hottest females on campus. And that included the putrid-perfumed, annoying-accented sorority members populating Milledge Ave.
(Yoculan was like Cruella, but in a good way, of course!)
That fact was made all the more impressive when you consider every morning on campus you couldn’t swing a dead cat without swiping a hungover hottie heading to her 7:50. Even I cleaned up nicely on the social circuit back then, well before the Detroit Lions-esque losing streak that now plagues me.
So I was pretty excited (in more ways than one) when I landed duty covering the Georgia Gym Dogs - especially the prospect of traveling with the team on roadies. (Think loooong, late night bus rides back from Tuscaloosa with two dozen, newly-hormone-impaired hotties)
Sadly, that excitement was soon blunted though after getting to know the girls and the Cruella DeVille of coaches, the now-retired Suzanne Yoculan.
As you might expect from a collection of college-age girls whose puberty was stunted during their teens years, most Gym Dogs were emotional wrecks. Add to that was the constant crock pot of pressure cooked up by Yoculan during the season and you had a ceaseless study in dysfunction. While you would think that might hurt the team’s performance, it often appeared as if Yoculan fed off the negative vibe. (Fun!)
But I could’ve put up with that had I had a shot with one of the pixies (As my roommate called them.). Alas, I soon learned that the football and baseball players had already picked over the effeminate members of the team, forcing me to cover the girls while bereft of fringe benefits.
I didn’t know a thing about the sport when I started in on it, but I soon figured out that college gymnasts were essentially the castoffs of the U.S. national team. The girls who showed early promise but then suffered chronic injuries or grew into their bodies too soon.
College gymnastics is pretty much the equivalent of the sport’s D-League, with some limited exceptions. Not to mention that many major schools don’t field teams, reducing the competition significantly and lessening the luster of all those “championships” Yoculan has won at Georgia over the years.
Though covering gymnastics was still the best gig you could get on the student sports beat. If you’re going to learn how to cover sports, watching fit-tastic females bounce around for months in teeny leotards sure beats slogging through a season covering women’s rugby. (That is, unless you’re an avid admirer of Birkenstocks and aficionado of the finest in flannel pullovers.)
What really got me through it though was the UGA athletic dept. refusing to acknowledge that these beautiful, now-mature girls in skin-tight *uniforms* displayed a sexuality during meets that drew plenty of undesirables to the events. It was always fun to gauge the demographic of the crowd, which primarily featured a busload from the nearest assisted living facility, children under five and a cast of Chris Hansen-magnets.
Of course, no one would ever talk about the overt sexuality of the girls on display. This was a sporting event, and in no way designed to inspire the late-night thoughts of yours truly - or the legion of freshman dorm rats sitting in the front row.
Yeah, I did a lot of wood chopping on the bus trip from Tuscaloosa.