Last night I had one of the four duties each teacher at Buchanan High School must serve during the school year. Prior to joining the teaching staff at BHS, I spent three decades in the college basketball world. A couple of my (nine) stops were at Tennessee and USC so seeing extremely talented female athletes isn’t uncommon for me.
Our softball team is, and has been, on an annual basis, one of the top programs in the Valley and even the state. It’s obvious how skilled the girls are by just watching infield/outfield practice prior to the game. The outfielders have rifle arms and are accurate. Our shortstop fields the position like Cal Ripken, Jr. Seriously. When I was in high school in the ’60s, I recall the term “throwing like a girl.” That phrase would never be uttered if anyone took in the action last night.
For an example of another athletic trait, our lead-off batter opened the bottom half of the first with a bunt and her foot touched first base just as the third baseman (is it third baseperson?) fielded the ball. Her speed was evident again when she hit a relatively high chopper and easily beat the throw for another infield single. But most evident was how much fun all the girls were having.
As I watched, I wondered if, way back when, girls were offered the same opportunities as boys what the athletic landscape would look like. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe for a minute that had everything started out equally, professional sports would be coed. Men’s bodies have a distinct advantage over those of the distaff side – although not as much as women do when the subject of childbearing is discussed. However, I do believe the women’s game, whatever game, is probably more advanced from the time it started to now in comparison to the men’s version during the same time period – because the women went to school on their male counterparts. Men began with no plan.
There is no argument that the female gender was hindered by the lack of opportunity and, certainly, the women’s rights movement hastened justice in that area. Now that women are afforded the chance to compete, whether it be in the athletic field, medical field or, simply, at the ballot box, there are some women who aren’t – and never will be – satisfied. They are bound and determined to “make up for the past.”
I was in a coaches’ meeting once when the director of athletics posed the following question to a female coach, “Would you rather see the football team win so we make more money and everybody’s budget is increased or would you rather everybody’s budget be cut?” Without hesitation, she chose the latter. Later, when a foolish, vengeful proposal was brought up, one of the men coaches said, “That would screw the men’s sports.” The same miserable female coach retorted, “Good. We got it for 20 years; now it’s your turn.”
If you guessed the meeting took place at Fresno State, you wouldn’t be too far off. Fighting for a just cause is noble. Continuing to be – I coined the term, a contrarian – does nothing but cause ill will and becomes a divisive force helping no one but the ego of the contrarian.
It’s truly a shame women weren’t offered identical chances men were at the same time nor does it make sense. As the popular Virginia Slims commercial told the world, though, women have come a long way, baby. Unfortunately, there are those who feel they haven’t won unless someone else has lost. Since we’re all members of the same “team,” it would behoove us to work together constructively rather than destructively. Or as the late Al McGuire put it:
“There is an enemy, but it’s not in this locker room.”