Death Bus for Blondie Variety Hour: S2 E4 – Underneath the Sycamore

As of today Spotify has arbitrarily decided that it doesn’t like your podcast to include music within the “talk” portion of your podcast, and because I cannot be assed to separate my files to appease this almighty AI-based overlord, the podcast will simply no longer be streaming on Spotify.

On today’s episode we continue the conversation from last week circling briefly back to update you on Bud Light before we move on to talking about sports and people who can and should play them. We also feature our brand new cover of The Postal Service’s “We Will Become Silhouettes” and end the episode with our cover of Death Cab for Cutie’s “Underneath the Sycamore”.

Listen now on Anchor, a subsidiary of Spotify:

Official Transcript:

We’re back with episode 4 of the season 2’s Death Bus for Blondie Variety Hour. I’m your host, Death Bus and it’s great to see everyone. 

Right now I’m listening through the new Canada Post and Death Bus recordings that I’ll play for you later today, but first let’s try to finish that conversation we were having last time.

Since we last spoke Bud Light’s stock has apparently plummeted and the heads of the team’s in charge of hiring Dylan Mulvaney to promote the brand have taken a leave of absence, so, things don’t look great there, but I have to remind you once again this is Bud Light we’re talking about here so it really shouldn’t feel like a big loss no matter where you stand on this issue. 

The thing about boycotting Bud Light into oblivion is that even if the outrage is so incredible as to have that beer completely pulled from all shelves everywhere, destroying whatever legacy you can hold on to as dear as a beer brand, is that while that’s happening, in real time, is that they’re currently developing a brand new beer that they’ll call Buddy Pal but it doesn’t matter because basically it’s going to result in that episode of Futurama where you find out where the Slurm comes from and you learn that Slurm, Slurm Ultra and Slurm Lite are all coming from the same mucus and that’s what makes it so delicious. So some time 3 summers from now you’ll be all, “Wow, this Buddy Pal Lite Beer is amazing. It’s kind of like my old favourite, Bud Lite, but better!” and it’s just Bud Lite. 

As I mentioned in the previous episode, I want to talk about sports and how it relates to this conversation which, to bring everyone back up to speed, is really about how harmful it is to antagonize and bully transgender people on the basis of their personal decision making that doesn’t affect you really in any way, shape or form. 

I feel like one of the biggest issues people have today when it comes to this is that they’re unable to empathize with transgender people because they themselves don’t see themselves plagued by the spectrum of gender, but we’re really not all that far removed from it when you just break this down to basic ideas. 

Sports is something almost all of us can relate to, have played, or at least enjoyed watching on some level – there are a massive variety of them to suit just about every interest and each of them require unique qualities to excel in. 

I come from a family where everyone has played sorts, both team and individual, and at all sorts of different levels. 

When I was a kid I was a figure skater before I transitioned into becoming a hockey player. I also played basketball, volleyball, and on a casual basis just about everything I could get my hands on – tennis, baseball, soccer, rugby and so on. During annual Track & Field events I took great pride in my endurance running feats and events like Shot Put and Long Jump. For many of those events I’d move on to the area meets where you’re then thrust out of your public school bubble and into a much bigger pond with an even wider array of talent. 

It’s really eye-opening being the best Shot Put player in your own school only to go to the area and regional meets to find that other girls are way, way better at this than you are. But you still compete with them and you do your best. 

The same struggle was felt when I made my way into hockey. I was a half decent player, but you’re playing with people of a variety of ages, some may have started the sports earlier, some have had better training, some just possess a great deal of intuition that translates to goals on the ice, but you still belong within that group of players because what you share in common is the love of the game. 

By far, I was not anywhere near being one of the best in the leagues I played in and there were a few times I’d get pushed around or shoved into the boards by someone way stronger than me that’d leave me in some way mildly injured; It’s part of the game and you know those risks when you sign up for a sport like this. 

When I played on school sports teams, those were largely mixed gender for many years. You get used to playing with the boys and the boys get used to playing with the girls. It provides a really unique experience to again be placed within such an array of skill and size and I’d argue it makes you a better player. 

In high school basketball I’d find myself, 5’6 without a great jump shot, playing against women who were 6 foot 4 who didn’t need to jump. I still love basketball and I’ll never shy away from a game on the basis of people who are taller than me on the opposing team because if I did, I would probably never play another game in my life. 

That last point is critically important because there’s something you all need to understand about women’s sports. 

Women’s sports are wildly underfunded. 

Women’s sports are in many cases, actively discouraged. 

Women’s sports are simply not taken as seriously as men’s sports. Just like women’s roles in the workplace are still simply not taken as seriously as men’s role’s in the workplace. Just like women’s roles at home are condensed into what are considered feminine chores and duties. 

You can see how quickly I can veer this conversation into a greater epidemic, but let’s try to stick with the sports thing for a hot second. 

In high school I played hockey recreationally outside of my school system, but at one point my gym teacher had mentioned that there actually is an active women’s hockey league at the high school level but we just didn’t have a team. When pressed about why we didn’t have a women’s team, knowing that we did have a men’s team, I found out the sobering truth that we previously didn’t have have enough players for one and they just assumed this would be the case again this year. 

The league I was otherwise playing in was an open league, which isn’t to say they weren’t competitive but just that they encouraged girls of all ages and skills to come play. 

Whereas my brothers would have the option of playing at multiple skill levels because of the incredible density of boys hockey leagues in our area, if you were a girl who wanted to play hockey there was really only one route to go, so you might be 13 playing with 20 year olds and so on. Not complaining, but the difference was incredible to me then. 

My high school was still really new at the time; my year was the second year it was ever open, so compared to other school’s we really did have a lot less of a student population to pull from, so of course we’d run into the same types of issues in sports I noticed outside of school.  

That year I ran my first campaign. I knew girls liked hockey because I liked hockey and I thought surely there must be more with an interest in playing, even if it’s just casually for fun as part of their high school experience. 

We put the sign-up sheet that day and had the office make an announcement about it the following morning. By the end of the week, the sign-up list had almost enough players to qualify us for a team. 

We were 1 or 2 people short before I really put my feet to the ground. 

I made my way around the school asking just about any girl I could if they wanted to play hockey. I got a lot of no’s but wasn’t terribly discouraged. Eventually we were just 1 name shy.

I recall looking at the sign-up sheet one day as we neared the deadline and noticing a name missing. 

Rose isn’t on the list. 

Rose plays on my hockey team. 

Rose goes to this school. 

Where is Rose? 

I found her the next day in the hallway. 

There’s a funny thing about Rose and I. We were pretty good friends at hockey and got along well, but at school she hung out with a different group of girls that I just about never spoke to. 

She was with them when I came up to say hi and ask her if she was interested in joining the school hockey team. I swear to you I can still see the puzzled way she looked at me. 

This was supposed to be a sure fire win. Rose enjoyed hockey – she was a great player, too. 

Shyly, she’d tell me she wasn’t interested in hockey. Not that she wasn’t interested in playing on a second team or didn’t have the time or whatever the case – she just, it was just a no. 

I couldn’t believe it. 

Her friends were looking at us like we had 3 heads.

It occurred to me then that the life Rose lives in high school was different than the one she lived in our hockey arena and as an adult I understand completely why. 

Because of the way women’s sports are actively discouraged, even the more feminine ones but in particular sports like hockey which are seen as more aggressive or masculine, even women who enjoy those sports have difficulty putting themselves wholly within them. 

A lot of our choices are guided not by what we want for ourselves but for how we’re perceived or permitted by the public – especially in high school. 

So yes Rose continued to play hockey with me and the other girls in our league a few times a week, but we never spoke about hockey at school ever again and when the season ended so did our friendship. 

I’m speaking obviously from my perspective as a woman but this goes both ways in sports and life in general. For boys, it’s difficult to muster up the courage to join gymnastics or the ballet because those are seen as girls’ sports. 

But the problem with women’s sports doesn’t really end with the courage to simply join a league. Once you’re there, there are additional hurdles to cross. 

Here’s an example.

My father coached hockey, including my brothers teams, and both my brothers played. It wasn’t uncommon at all for them to miss holidays, church service or important family events in place of a hockey tournament. 

“Why do I have to go to church and no one else does?” young me would ask on Sunday mornings. 

“The boys have an important practice today,” was the repeated response. 

Not even a game, a practice. 

In later years, I’d find myself having similar conversations with a much different response. 

“What do you mean you can’t come to dinner? You have a volleyball game? Can’t you skip it?”

Because why would women’s sports supersede… supersede anything. Though it isn’t something that comes up often, I am certain a lot of women and girls can relate to this type of conversation. 

It’s not taken as seriously because women’s gender roles are so acutely defined in order to benefit that awful p-word that I refuse to use today. If a woman were to say they had to stay in from a party to prepare a large dinner for their family, it would be insignificant – that’s her role. If that same woman chose not to prepare the dinner for their family for virtually any other reason you can think of, suddenly it’s, “what, you don’t care about your family?”. But anyways. 

Something I hear really commonly, particularly from men in the conversation of women’s sports, is that women’s sports doesn’t and shouldn’t get more coverage or more funding than men’s sports because they’re just not playing at the same level and they’re not generating as much money as men’s sports are. And oftentimes activists in this space are not even calling for more – just equal – but that’s not as easy to debate so we default to the “more” conversation. 

On a certain level that is absolutely true – a lot of women’s sports are not generating as much as men’s sports because you can not get an audience excited and riled up about a woman’s hockey game if it’s being played at the same time as a men’s game and all the networks are exclusively playing the men’s game by choice. 

I bet many of you aren’t even aware what women’s sports are being aired in your network and when they play. 

You’d have to be a die hard fan of the league because simply no one is talking about it until they have to in the case of national coverage or until it favors them in an economic way. 

It doesn’t take a genius to understand how this lack of coverage translates to less girls and women being interested in playing sports as a general whole just like my old friend Rose which is distressing to me because sports are a great way to build your confidence, self esteem and learn new skills; all things which young girls are struggling with now more intensely than ever before. 

Years ago a very important story broke that I’m going to summarize for you here. 

The U.S women’s national soccer team generates more revenue than the U.S men’s games. This wasn’t a one off year, it was multiple years. 

The players from that team went on to sue the league for discrimination on the basis of their sex because in spite of this, they weren’t getting paid very well at all. 

At the time, the women’s team players could earn a maximum of $99,000 which equates to about $4,950 a game, whereas the men would earn $263,320 or $13,166 per game. In one of the years mentioned in the lawsuit, the women’s team was generating $1.9 million dollars more than the men’s games. 

It’s a critical case study because it proves that the old notion of, “they’re simply not bringing in the money so why should they get paid more,” to sleep real quick, doesn’t it? 

And to stress again real quick they were not looking for more, but equal. 

Now, this episode wasn’t really supposed to be about all of that but it’s really important to understand because right now, the focus is on transgender players in sports and once again what we’re fundamentally discussing is the value or ability of a player on the basis of their sex. 

I want to reiterate the fact that there was one hockey league for women in my city when I was a young girl. Even here in Canada, depending on where you live it can be a challenge to find a hockey league. 

I want to also now ask you how many hockey leagues you think there are in rural small towns. Or football leagues, or tennis leagues, or Jamaican bobsled leagues. 

Everyone loves Cool Runnings, don’t they? It’s such a cult classic it’s really hard to find anyone that doesn’t enjoy that film. The only pass you get is if you’ve never seen it which judging by the way many of you speak about sports today, is probably more people now than it should be. 

There are some young boys right now that are waking up at 4AM to take a 4 hour bus ride to a neighboring town to fulfill their dream of being a hockey player. This type of action would be seen as having the utmost dedication, a strong character, a kid who is “going places”. 

There are also girls actively marching around their schools to try and start their school’s first ever women’s football team. Putting up signs, doing student outreach – they could be great politicians one day but today they just want to play football. 

And there are transgender youth who are dealing with the greatest form of gender dysphoria possible, learning to love the person they are and struggling with the way non-transgender youth and adults view them the same way Rose awkwardly looked over her shoulder to her girlfriends who did not know that she played hockey. 

The biggest argument I see against allowing transgender people to join the sports league of their gender comes down to the basis of having a biological difference – it’s one my weekend guest I mentioned last episode was insistent to harp on. 

The argument is that a transgender woman for example should not play in the women’s league because it puts them at an advantage over the other women, nor should they play in the men’s league because then they are disadvantaged by the men and might scrape their knee. 

The same way the 6’4 basketball players towered over my 5’6 frame. The same way those strong as hell 8th grade girls from the next town had the shot put strength of a powerlifter. The same way those girls that had been playing hockey while I was figure skating had mastered their slap shots and board checking before I ever put puck to stick on the ice.

These are things men would understand about women’s sports if they bothered for half a second to watch some which is really one of my biggest grievances with this entire debate. The same people so vocally against transgender people in sports have never in my eyes been very supportive of women’s sports, either. They are the same issue with subtle differences. These people are not concerned about giving women or transgender people the right to play sports – they are just against athletes existing within the professional world of men’s sports specifically. 

I loved sports from a very young age; I played so many I was dubbed a tomboy. I don’t know how often that phrase gets thrown around in public school playgrounds today because I imagine it’s now been changed to include something more derogatory about being transgender. 

I had a short haircut. A boy’s haircut. 

I wore skate shoes. Boys shoes. 

I wore long surf-style board shorts at the pool. Boys shorts. 

I played hockey. Boys sport.

I was uncomfortable in most feminine clothing as a young girl because I simply did not like the way people looked at me in a dress or the way some material itched at my skin. 

This is a feeling most boys will not understand, unless they identify as transgender in some way.  

It’s probably both important and not to note that I am not transgender, but I believe I understand the spectrum of dysphoria better than most because of my own upbringing. 

Growing up and going through puberty is at best, confusing and a little scary. Things change quickly and with that so does the way the world looks and treats you. 

We live in an incredible age where transgender youth and adults have the remarkable ability to alter their bodies to create the look they feel most comfortable in and for some reason there are a whole lot of loud angry people out there who think this is a bad thing. It’s an incredible advancement in science if you ask me. 

Now there are some nuances to this conversation that are too intricate to get into on the heels of everything else I’m trying to fit into this piece today; like asking myself if I was still a young girl today and I knew of all these things were possible, do I think I would have felt pressure to conform more permanently to the gender I more comfortably aligned with then? 

Today all those things I was uncomfortable with as a kid have largely disappeared. I love dress shopping and I’ve learned that truly some fabrics are just nicer than others. We grow and we change.

Was I really ever a tomboy or did I just enjoy shorts and sports? 

Because I certainly didn’t wake up one day and call myself a tomboy, someone else called me that. They assigned a definition to me that based on its explanation I could not then refute. 

The way I’m certain many LGBTQ+ youth are facing right now by their peers and otherwise as I write this. 

A major difference from myself and transgender people in sports is that I was able to find leagues that would take me because I fell broadly into the gender they were defining the league by. What do you do if there is simply no league for the person you are? 

You probably do what a lot of athletes do when they can’t get enough girls for their hockey team. They ask to play with the boys. 

The same way I’d play sports with the boys at recess in school. 

It’s not unheard of. Jen Welter was the first woman to play men’s American football in the United States. In Spain, Mireia Rodriguez plays men’s handball. Ellen Fokkema plays men’s soccer in the Netherlands. Eri Yoshida plays baseball in Japan. 

Are they more or less advantaged than a transgender athlete in those same sports? 

See this really is in no way complicated, people just like to make things complicated and they like to get angry or frustrated by things they don’t understand. 

I think a lot of people are weary of transgender people because they just cannot envision themselves wanting to change their body type beyond adding some muscle or losing some fat. 

But they might get breast implants. 

Or a reduction. 

They’ll get botox. 

They’ll get tummy tucks. 

They’ll get a chin lift.

They’ll have their ears pulled back.

They’ll put spacers in their ears. 

They’ll put colored contact lenses in their eyes. 

They’ll get corrective eye surgery. 

They’ll take pills that allegedly stimulate their metabolism (it’s just caffeine by the way and you probably shouldn’t take those) and they’ll tan their skin to make it darker or bleach their teeth to make them whiter.

But they are not any of those things, those are just ways to alter the way they look so that they feel better about the body they were born into.

To me this is really what this comes down to. Transgender people just want to accept themselves and be accepted. This is an easy thing for any of us to offer them. 

A transgender woman or transgender man playing a sport does not hurt anyone, themselves or cause some sort of incredible damage to the community they live in. I think most people understand that, so why are people so against their inclusion in the sport of their liking? 

I won’t pretend to have the answer but I can harbour a guess and it has nothing to do with the sanctity of sport or the protection of  women within them or if it would devalue the game and its potential for revenue. 

Just ask the U.S women’s national soccer team. 

Now, for a quick ad break.

Today’s episode is sponsored by Ultra Slurm Pro – a protein packed shake to make sure you’re performing at Olympic levels both on and off the field. Ultra Slurm Pro, available now wherever Slurm is sold. 

And we’re back.

I’m really excited to share the new Death Bus for Blondie and Canada Post tracks today. In both, I’ve tried something a little different than previous releases. 

We’ll start with Canada Post and “We Will Become Silhouettes”. For the first time ever I sat down with my new harmonica and tried to use it on this cover recording – I’m not Bob Dylan yet but I think it added a cool tone to this production. By the way, if you haven’t checked out the music video for this song originally by The Postal Service, I’ll link it in the blog because it’s actually so fun you need to see it. 

Here’s “We Will Become Silhouettes”. 

[Play song]

To cap off today I have a high-energy version of Death Cab for Cutie’s “Underneath the Sycamore”. This is one of my favourite’s to date and was entirely too fun to record.

[Play song]

That’s all for today. See you next time and please remember to Slurm responsibly. 

Don’t forget to check out the original recordings by The Postal Service and Death Cab for Cutie here:

The Postal Service – We Will Become Silhouettes
Death Cab for Cutie – Underneath the Sycamore

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