You can take the girl out of sports, but you can't take sports out of
Back in 1934 when our team won an intramural field hockey game on the
grass in Boulder, we did a silly dance on the field, and headed for the
gym. Notice I didn't say locker room. We had a dressing room and one
shower. But we did have a women's gym.
Sixty-five years later, Brandi Chastain kicked the winning goal in the
final American Cup Women's Soccer game, ripped off her jersey and waved
it around her head while thousands of people in the stands cheered and
her team mates tore down the field to her at full speed. My adrenaline
level shot up, although probably not as high as hers, just watching and
remembering how it felt to win a hard physical game.
It took a lot of years for women's sports to come of age. Girls were
not supposed to sweat. In 1972 Congress finally passed Title IX which
mandates in part that, "No person in the United States shall, on the
basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits
of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or
activity receiving federal financial assistance." You could hear the
guys scream clear to China and even today many colleges and universities
are not in complete compliance.
But there is hope. Steve Marantz, writing in Sporting News, said,
"Sport is a meritocracy. Toughness isn't gender specific. The
toughness of the male athlete may start with cultural expectations. The
toughness of women athletes must come from within." Sounds as
though he just got off a space ship from Mars. We knew that all the
Now that I am in the couch potato phase of life, and television has
discovered the WNBA, I am a star again -- in my imagination. I am
addicted to the Women's National Basketball Association. Their games
are the only women's team sport events that are regularly shown on
television. The season only lasts three months during the summer, but I
am right in there playing every game. The high point in my couch
career came in 1999 when New York's Theresa Weatherspoon and I made a
52 foot running shot that lofted into the basket just as the buzzer
sounded (known in football as a Hail Mary pass).
I have a friend (male, of course) who calls it the Wannabe National
Basketball Association. The only wannabe part involves money. The
women play for peanuts compared to the men. Some of them play in Europe
during the off season for real money.
These women are superb athletes and play top level basketball. Theirs
is not a game of run and dunk and hang on the basket. They play a game
of skill and teamwork. They have had a few seven footers, but one of
the best players in the league is Colorado State's Becky Hammon who at
5'6" , a leader of the New York Liberty.
I don't get to go to the games in person, but I do get detailed reports
about my favorite team, the Phoenix Mercury. My kids have season
tickets and keep me informed. There are lots of children who attend the
games, especially little girls for whom the team members are role
models. They dream that they too -- some day -- could be playing out
there. The Mercs have a new coach this year, Cynthia Cooper who is as
stern as last year's Cheryl Miller was dynamic. But the emotion is not
buried very deeply. They both managed to get ejected now and then.
The players are tough and highly competitive, but the they have fun
playing and they have even been known to laugh during games. They
become part of their communities. This year the Mercs had a "boot
camp," with team members working with interested local women. My
daughter-in-law attended and reported that she emerged star struck and
sweaty and "can't wait for next year's camp."
Women are now making great gains in other team sports as Title IX is
making it possible for girls to start their athletic training early.
There is now a professional women's soccer league and others are
coming. I was definitely born 60 years too soon, but I can dream, can't