Danica Patrick has been around, even in NASCAR driver form, for a while now, and if you are like me you’ve gotten used to rolling your eyes at whatever dumb thing the 13 year old boys who run Go Daddy’s marketing department are making her do now and moving on. So unless you’re a diehard NASCAR fan, you might have missed that this week Danica became the first female driver to ever capture the Daytona 500 pole.
Unless you are a NFL junkie (and I mean a serious, I-am-dvring-the-scouting-combine-footage-on-NFL-Network junkie), you may have also missed that next weekend Lauren Silberman will become the first woman to attend an NFL regional scouting combine as a prospective draftee.
In the context of the wins-oriented sports world, these are not mind-blowing achievements. No one has won Daytona from the pole in over a decade, and anyone meeting the NFL’s general eligibility requirements (and ponying up the registration fee) can attend a regional level combine (it’s the Draft Combine, which is invitation only, that gets all the media coverage, usually).
But tell the little girls suddenly swarming Daytona that Danica’s pole doesn’t really matter. Tell the eleven year old in Philadelphia who still is being forbidden to play football solely because of her gender that the best football league in the world accepting a woman’s application to enter their scouting process as if she was any other player is no big deal. Just think for one minute about SportsCenter Sunday night ending with the traditional celebratory winner and what that looks like if it’s Danica amid the confetti. Think about watching Fox’s Game of the Week on Sunday, and hearing Joe Buck casually announce “Silberman out to attempt the field goal.” We may be a long way from that actually happening (particularly the latter), but the path to both of those endings just got a little bit smoother. And that’s something to celebrate.