Ducks, Dykes, Dynamos
Kessler, Lauren, The Nation
As the University of Oregon women's basketball team, the Ducks, warms up on the court, Aretha Franklin belts out "Respect" over the loudspeakers. The song echoes through Mac Court, which, just a few minutes before game time, is almost empty. The girls aren't listening to the music, but they do look up in the stands and notice the sparse crowd.
In the reserved seats directly behind the players' bench are a hundred or so "Daisy Ducks" mostly retirement-aged women in emerald green sweats and yolk-colored scarves and retirement-aged men in bottle green polyester trousers. These are loyal women's athletics boosters who buy reserved-seat season tickets and come to every game.
They like to watch the women play, but the real attraction, the reason they come here rather than to the men's games, is the intimacy. Coach Jody Runge knows many of their names. The players recognize the regulars, smile and wave at them, take a moment to joke with them. They can't get this feeling of connectedness at a men's game. Here they feel like part of an extended family. They are grandparents to the team. After Thursday night home games, the most devoted supporters host a catered party in a nearby campus building. Jody shows up to say a few words. The gifts filter in and allow themselves to be congratulated or consoled, depending on the night.
In the bleachers just above the reserved seating sits the lesbian contingent, alone and in groups, with and without children, staunch fans who used to play or wished they played or just like to watch women play. Last year someone in the athletic department got wind of a rumor that some lesbian fans were planning to bring a big hand-painted banner to Mac Court that read "Dykes for Ducks." There was much consternation about this, but the banner never materialized.
The relationship between lesbian supporters and teams, whether the teams have lesbian players or not, is a complex one. On the one hand, coaches, athletic directors and the players themselves welcome the solid and enthusiastic support they get from the group of fans who happen to be lesbians. On the other hand, there is a feeling, not often publicly expressed, that visible lesbian support will hurt women's basketball. …