Danica Patrick and Lauren Silberman: Why Even Small Firsts Are Still Important

danica

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.

Hit and Run: London is for the Ladies

We knew, going in, that the London Olympics would be the first to feature female athletes from every participating country.  We knew that there were more women than men on both the US Olympic team and at the Olympics overall.  But Thursday, with gold medal matches in both women’s football and water polo, and the first ever gold medals awarded in women’s boxing, seemed even more special for women’s sports (particularly if you happen to be a fan of the US).  The 1918 Hartlepool Expansion Ladies Football Team* up there would no doubt approve.

* Photo via The Public Domain Project, who have a great post of old team photos.

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Ladies Links: Don’t Forget the Chyron Edition

Via Pete Beatty (@nocoastoffense)

My brain is pretty much in the same place as whoever was responsible for that little mistake there, so links it is! Luckily there’s some good stuff you may have missed. Continue reading

Pat Summitt: A Post-Title IX Baby’s Tribute

I have no particular attachment to Pat Summitt or Tennessee women’s basketball.  I came of age after Title IX, where women’s sports, if not always culturally or popularly supported, at least had an acknowledged right of existence.  The way I understood it during my childhood, Pat Summitt was like any other great coach in her chosen sport; famous, respected, and of course, the architect of teams you never wanted your favorite team to run into in the tournament.

I didn’t know back then, that she started coaching Tennessee before the NCAA Women’s Tournament even existed, for a salary of $250 a month.  I didn’t know that the women’s Olympic team she played on, in 1976, was the first ever women’s basketball event at the Olympics.  (Seriously, go read her Wikipedia page, it’s like a primer in women’s sports history.) For someone my age, she was just always there, glaring over the court from the sidelines.  The media fanfare over her retirement is remarkable because it’s not suprising, simply her due as a prominent figure in her field.

Best of luck, Pat. And thanks.

You Go, Girl: Janet Evans

Evans in 1988

In 1988, I started my public career as a sports geek by standing up in front of my entire elementary school and correctly volunteering that the summer Olympics would be held in Seoul, South Korea.  For this feat, I won an official US Swim Team swim cap.

Barely old enough to be one of my babysitters, Janet Evans went to Seoul and won three gold medals.

Now I’m all grown up (I’m actually older than my parents were in ’88) and looking forward to a summer of geeking out about the London Olympics all over the Internet.  Janet Evans hasn’t changed much either: at 40, she’s qualified for this summer’s US Olympic Trials after an unprecedented 14 year hiatus from swimming.

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It’s about time!

Angela James

It’s been a big week for firsts involving women, and you can be forgiven if the first one that comes to mind involves Australia’s new prime minister. This hockey fan, however, was thrilled to learn that the Hockey Hall of Fame has selected two outstanding female players: Cammi Granato and Angela James.

We at Ladies… say “It’s about damn time!” Continue reading

Thank you, Ted Kennedy, from the Ladies of Ladies…

We here at Ladies…don’t like getting into politics. The love of sports is supposed to bring people together. Politics, it seems, always drives people apart. We’re stepping away from that policy today for one reason and for one reason only. You see, we here at Ladies…are, well, ladies. We’re ladies who grew up after Title IX passed, and we have, in no small part, Sen. Ted Kennedy to thank for that.

Whether we competed as high school athletes or not (I ran track until the track season started running headlong into the school musical season, and who can resist greasepaint and the roar of the crowd?), it doesn’t matter. We like sports, and we like watching sports, and like knowing that women can excel at sports. Without Title IX, could we have watched Brandi Chastain tear off her shirt after the women’s World Cup championship in ecstatic glee? Without Title IX, could we have watched Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh dominate in two straight Olympic Games? Without Title IX, would we be able to see Venus and Serena mop up the court, match after match? Maybe. Probably not.

Frankly, it’s interesting that most people think of Title IX in terms only of athletics. (Understandably, since most of the challenges under the law have come in the field of athletics.) That’s not all Title IX did, though. In fact, the original statute never even mentioned athletics. It reads “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” It has been used to ensure equal access to education, and to prevent discrimination against either sex in the classroom. It applies to every aspect of academic life, from your college dorm to your ability to get care at the student health clinic. And ‘you’ means all of you, not just us ladies.

So thank you, Ted Kennedy. We may or may not have agreed with your stances on the issues. We may have voted for you, or we may have campaigned against you. But all of us grew up under Title IX, and for that, as ladies, we thank you.