Happy Birthday Title IX! Keep on Fighting.

Donna deVarona, who had no college swim programs to attend after the Olympics.

They learned the hard way that even groundbreaking civil rights laws are not self-executing.

Kelly Belanger. Invisible Seasons

Considering that an earthquake of legislation was enacted on June 23, 1972, you wouldn’t know it by looking at the newspaper archives. Title IX isn’t mentioned in the NY Times story on June 24, which references Nixon signing the “School Aid Bill.” The president’s major gripe about the bill is the lack of restriction on school busing. A tiny note towards the bottom mentions that colleges would lose funding if they discriminated against women in admission policies.

Front page of the NYT when Title IX is signed; most of the discussion about the Higher Education bill is about busing.
Title IX, almost a footnote at the time. Photo from NYTimes.com.

On that day, Kissinger was in talks with “Peking.” The Hurricane Agnes flood was devastating Pennsylvania. The president held a press conference on Domestic Matters, whose first question was about what the administration knew about the break-in at the Democratic Headquarters the previous week. Nixon said, “I know nothing.”

Looking back now, you’d think there was a switch flipped somehow (by Nixon) and voila! Megan Rapinoe and the WNBA burst like fireworks on to the scene. But that’s misleading. Title IX was a slow burn. People at the time didn’t see the fire kindled and, when they did, tried various endeavors to stamp it out. Those pushing for it were political animals, jockeying for position. No one thought about women playing sports. Some of the best ideas come as unintended consequences.

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Lucy Harris: A Whole Lot of Firsts

Center Harris, helping Delta State win its 1st of 3 titles. Photo from The New York Times.

Author’s Note: Ha! Now add Oscar winner to the resume…hers, the director’s, Steph Curry’s, everybody involved! I say let’s have more Oscar-winning documentaries about women–woohoo!

Lucy Harris died about a month ago, but the “Queen of Basketball” seemed the perfect subject to cap off Black History Month, with a tribute to her remarkable career. She won three national championships before NCAA women’s basketball became the commercial juggernaut it is today; she excelled in the Olympics in the days before Team USA dominated women’s Olympic basketball as it does today; she competed when she was the only Black face on the team, on the court, or practically in the building.

Whenever someone is the first, it always means more than a note in a record. There are stories under the stories.

Tall Family, Tall Dreams

Harris is the subject of a delightful but unfortunately short biopic making the rounds on ESPN, produced by Shaquille O’Neal. Ben Proudfoot’s film is narrated by Ms. Harris, who talks about her basketball days with a smile.

Harris was the 10th of 11 children, born to sharecroppers in the deep South of the Mississippi delta. Her idols as a teenager were the basketball heroes of the late 1960s: Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and especially Oscar Robertson, her favorite. She spoke of sneaking TV after light’s out–I had one of those 9-inch sets myself–so the family was not dirt poor, even with so many mouths to feed. By the time Lucy was old enough to watch basketball under the blankets, her siblings may have been working as well as babysitting her.

All her elder brothers and one sister played basketball at Amanda Elzy High School, where they all went to school. They were coached by Conway Stewart, whose team went to multiple state championships, winning one with Harris’ older brother. The year that Harris came along, the team won every game until its last, missing the opportunity to go to state her first year. They fixed that the next year. She broke the school record, scoring 46 points in one game, and captaining the team back to the state championships.

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The Stone Beckons (Day 14, Beijing 2022)

How can you resist? Curling stone photo at Greatbigcanvas.com.

Mayhem. Disaster. Brilliance. Insanity.

Trust the Broom.

If you have not seen the curling at the Beijing 2022 Olympics because you still believe it’s like watching ice melt or golf, then you are missing out.

Try this. Take a ball–soccer ball, baseball, croquet ball, pickleball, doesn’t matter. Go out to the street and place a piece of paper down on one end. Walk to the other end, about half a football-field’s length away. Now roll the ball so it hits the piece of paper (that’s called the button). If you want, you can run in front of the ball while it’s moving and sweep rocks out of the way, just to get the feel of it.

If you think that seems unfair, because the ball will roll too fast, then roll it slower. If you think it seems impossible because how will you aim? That’s curling.

Beijing’s curling matches have been nail-biters, sudden death overtime spectacles, full-out rammies, if my translator is reading Scottish slang correctly. Here are three worth reviewing, even if you’ve already seen them and definitely if you have not.

Constantini working a spell on the stone. Photo from SI.com.
Continue reading “The Stone Beckons (Day 14, Beijing 2022)”
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