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Cannon: Cherished medal represents girls' entry into sports

Published January 25, 2013 11:41 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

See that right there?

It's a medal. In fact, it's the mother of all medals. It is the world's biggest mother of all medals. Also the heaviest.

How heavy is it, you ask? So heavy that if you pick it up, your arm will automatically fall off. That's right. If it were any heavier, both of your arms would automatically fall off. It's a medal so heavy that mere arms cannot hold it. And guess what. It's mine. ALL MINE!

I know, right?

I received it after running a half-marathon last weekend with my daughter-in-law. I came in 3,151st place. Yes, you read that correctly. 3,151st place. Yeah! Go, me!

OK, fine. I lied. Not about the 3,151st-place part. About the medal part. It's probably not the world's biggest medal. Maybe Muhammad Ali has a bigger one. Who knows? Who cares? Certainly not me. My medal is plenty big and I love it and I am wearing it everywhere I go (even to weddings and funerals) for the rest of my life.

Why am I so proud of it? I'm not sure, but it might have something to do with the fact that I grew up in the days before Title IX, and thus my opportunities to snag huge honking medals for participating in organized sports were limited.

It's not like there weren't teams out there for women before Title IX. Old-timers will remember the Shamrocks. My aunt played softball when she was in the Navy during World War II. Girls played on church teams. And, of course, there were plenty of secondary schools around the country with strong athletic programs for young women.

But my high school wasn't one of them. Unless you were superathletic (in which case you were involved with Girls Athletic Association), there wasn't a lot going on for average girls like me. You tried out for the drill team, not the tennis team. In fact, there wasn't a tennis team for girls, which is why a talented classmate of mine had to play with the boys. Her story even made the local news. Imagine! A girl good enough to play with the boys!

Fortunately, things have changed. I realized this after watching a baseball game many years ago with one of our young sons, who asked which position I'd played when I was a kid. I explained to him that I hadn't played on a team when I was his age.

"Why?" he asked, truly surprised. He knew, after all, how much I enjoy watching baseball.

"Because I was a girl."

"So?"

"Girls didn't play."

From the look on his face, you would have thought I'd told him I grew up in a cave and rode a brontosaurus to the grocery store whenever my mom needed a gallon of milk.

"Well, that's stupid," he said, appalled.

His response was heartening. Here was a boy who simply could not conceive of a time when little girls couldn't play on a team — just because they were little girls.

And that's why I like my medal. I'm catching up, don't you know. And then one day I hope I'm so indifferent to all my medals and trophies that I can put them in a dusty box and send them out to Deseret Industries when it's time to move on.

Just like boys — and girls! — do now.

Ann Cannon can be reached at acannon@sltrib.com or facebook.com/anncannontrib.