Anybody who complains too loudly about Title IX and the effect it has had in the realm of sports needs to remember how backward and bad things used to be.
And they were … for half of our society.
There are no good old days in women’s sports. Only years gone by when, if you were born a female, there were few decent options for you to play sports. Cro-Magnon man, back then, thought it unladylike and unnecessary and even untoward for the majority of girls and women to compete in athletics. What a crock.
Sometimes, it’s remarkable how we can exist for so long in a combo-pack of ignorance and chauvinism, going on and on, leaning our club against the cave wall and denying one gender the sports opportunities provided for the other.
Title IX changed much of that. Since it was put into place 40 years ago Saturday, millions and millions of girls have been afforded the chance to benefit from competitive sports in the same way boys always have. And the advantages of that are spelled out in countless societal studies showing that young females who participate in sports are more likely to live stronger, healthier and more fulfilling lives.
The law, as it’s been applied at schools and colleges, isn’t perfect. It has indirectly limited participation rates and chances to compete for males in some sports. The decline in the number of wrestling programs around the country is often singled out as an example of the negative impact additional attention on the women’s side has had in that regard. Balancing the equation has been forced and sloppy, at times.
But it’s better than having 50 percent of our community completely shut out from all the good things sports brings — to individuals and to society as a whole.
People of my generation remember when there were hardly any real girls’ teams at public schools. There were few qualified girls’ coaches. There were few good facilities. There were few enlightened administrators pushing for competitive opportunities for girls. There were few dollars spent in providing any of that.
The notion dawned, though, on more than just me — Title IX was enacted during my first year of high school — that the idea that boys, at some juncture, should be filed into a brand-spanking-new gym, with great amenities, where they would play their sports, and girls should be filed into a dingy, old undersized gym, with substandard amenities, was not only unfair but illegal.
Think about that for a minute. Gratefully, it sounds foreign to most of us now:
Sally, you have almost no good chance to compete because you’re a … girl.
Danny, you have every good chance to compete because you’re a … boy.
The socialization of that whole thing ran deep, especially amid so much misplaced machismo in sports. What was the worst thing a male coach could call his male players when he saw weakness in them on the field or on the court or on the diamond back in that day? Yeah … a girl. Or even worse … a vulgar term for female genitalia.
Turns out, when they get the right training, the right coaching, the right facilities, the right opportunities, girls aren’t weak at all. They are eager and they are skilled and they are competitive and they are strong.
Title IX graded the road for anyone who isn’t blind to that realization.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 1280 and 960 AM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.