Friday, June 3, 2011

Margot Dydek

I could say I picked her this week because she’s a beautiful, talented and successful role model. However, in truth, the fairy tale like fascination with someone who is MORE THAN TWO FEET TALLER THAN ME is too tempting to resist. For that reason, today’s Awesome Woman of the Day is Margot Dydek.

Małgorzata Dydek (28 April 1974 – 27 May 2011), known as Margo Dydek in the United States, was a Polish international professional basketball player. Standing 7 ft 2 in (2.18 m) tall, she was famous for being the tallest active professional female basketball player in the world. Dydek weighed 223 pounds and had a 7-foot wingspan, yet was distinguished by a grace and agility that belied her size. In 2001, she was the league leader in defensive rebounds, with 214.

Dydek was drafted 1st overall in the 1998 WNBA Draft by the Utah Starzz. She played 10 full seasons of U.S. professional basketball before resuming her career across Europe and was a member of the Polish Olympic team at the Sydney Games in 2000, Dydek currently holds the record for most blocks in a WNBA career, with 877 blocks in 323 games.

Margo Dydek was born in WarsaW to a 6'7" father and a 6'3 mother. She had two sisters, her elder sister, Kashka (6'7") used to play for the Colorado Xplosion of the now defunct ABL, and in Poland. Her younger sister (standing 6'6") graduated from the University of Texas-El Paso where she played basketball and played in Spain professionally in the 2000s. Her mom, Maria Dydek was a seamstress and made all of the family’s out-sized clothes. Popular with players and fans, Margo spoke five languages and was affectionately called Large Marge by teammates.

Dydek, incidentally, was also the leader in flagrant fouls and suspensions some seasons. But she calls herself a good girl. Is it her fault that she looms large in the low post, she wonders. Each of Dydek's flagrants (and suspensions) has come, she insists, as a result of her elbows being face-level with most players in the league. "It's not intentional," she says. "Most times, I don't even see the other player coming." Ouch!

On May 19, 2011, Dydek, at the time pregnant with her third child, suffered a severe heart attack and was placed in a medically induced coma at a Brisbane hospital. She had been working as a coach for the Northside Wizards in the Queensland Basketball League. Dydek collapsed at her home in Brisbane and was taken by ambulance to a hospital. She never regained consciousness and died eight days later on May 27, 2011.[5] As Dydek was early in her pregnancy, the fetus also died.Rest in peace, Large Marge.

OK, now that I’ve outwardly expressed my deep-seated childhood fantasies with giants, let’s get to the real issues. Why is women’s basketball commonly considered “boring”? As a Duke alumni, I know well that the Blue Devils get far more attention than the “Lady” Blue Devils. The ratings gap in viewership of college and pro games and subsequent gendered wage gap in star players’ salaries seem to support this. But have money and popularity ever ben any indication of quality? And many viewers felt the 2011 NCAA women’s basketball final was much more exciting & exhilarating than its counterpart. So, are women naturally inferior athletes to men who can dunk? Or is this society’s sexism at play? Certainly their defensive skills are superior. But are we using an androcentric yardstick? What are your thoughts?

AWU post at