The score is tied at 47. Three seconds of play remain in the first half of the game. Conlon inbounds the ball under Tennessee’s basket and sends it flying to Taurasi who has just enough time to run it to the mid court line and send it flying towards Uconn’s basket. It hits the rim, bounces drunkenly and flops into its target sending Uconn into the locker room at half-time three points up.
This is big; the University of Connecticut Huskies and Tennessee’s Volunteers have been rivals since the dawn of time – well, at least since they first faced each other during the 1995 division one college basketball season. Connecticut’s fans are wild. So much so that someone walking outside The Hartford Civic Center that evening might surmise that Oprah had magically appeared and offered everyone in the stands not one, but two, new cars. The cheering is that thunderous.
And my husband, Joe, and I are fortunate to be a part of the roaring crowd.
That scenario actually took place in the fall of 2001. Not an unusual occurrence for a sporting event except when one realizes that Conlon and Taurasi were not players on the UConn men’s team, but the women’s, and the Tennessee team was the Lady Volunteers. Not men. Women. Playing basketball; jumping, running, falling and flying, playing killer defense and courageous offense. Way to go, girls!
As someone who grew up in an era where women were expected to be prim and proper, it was beyond my wildest dreams that one day I’d be among the throngs of folks who’d avidly follow women’s sports – both collegiate and professional. I could not fathom an era when the members of the female population would not only be allowed to participate in such activities as basketball, soccer and triathlons, but they would be lauded for doing so. And – here’s the big one now – they would still be women – lovely, bright, high-heel-wearing women. Not “tomboys.”
When I was in school our gym classes were composed of such thrilling sporting events as dodge ball, tumbling, and the ever popular spring spectacular – May Pole.
On the rare occasions when we actually played a sport such as basketball it was geared down to our “lowly” feminine level. I remember it so well.
We were placed on teams of six girls each; three played defense; three offense. No one ran further than the mid-court line. Therefore when the ball ended up under your opponent’s basket, the defensive three tried to keep the other team’s offensive three from making a basket. The players did so by jumping up and down, waving their arms wildly and making funny faces at the opposition. When the ball was on your side of the court the roles were reversed.
This was strictly a half-court game. No one moved out of their assigned space. How could they – for they were only allowed to dribble the ball three times before having to pass it to another player. This kept us all nice and neat and clean and allowed for a game that didn’t over-exert our fragile feminine bodies.
Understanding my not-so-athletic upbringing, I suspect you can appreciate my eagerness to bring my two young granddaughters, Alix and Emily, to their very first UConn Huskies game this season. They were going to see physically fit, agile, muscular and beautiful college women excelling in a field that in my generation was almost unimaginable. I, grandmother extraordinaire, was going to give them their first glimpse into the possibilities awaiting them in the world of sports. How excited they would be to witness such an event. How proud I would be to show them how the world has changed as they marveled at the fabulously fit female players charging up and down the court.
Well, as they say; “the best laid plans…” While I gazed at Alix and Emily excitedly watching the game it slowly dawned on me that they were focusing not on the players, but the cheerleaders! I used to look at the cheerleaders, too, but because they were the only feminine presence in the game. Something was terribly wrong here. How come they were staring at the cute little cheerleaders and not appreciating the sight of women playing basketball?
And then I realized “how come.” It was because they already knew that women were able to participate in the rough and tumble sport being played before them. This was no big deal to them. They play basketball and soccer already without giving it a second thought.
That is a very fine thing, indeed, for it shows how very far our society has come in two generations. Whether we want our athleticism to take wing through the arduous routines of the cheerleader or the drills of the basketball player, women today are given the choice. And we don’t have to stop at three dribbles and half a court!
C.J. Golden, author of TAO OF THE DEFIANT WOMAN, and the award winning TAO-GIRLS RULE! is a freelance writer and motivational speaker who travels the country inspiring all with her dynamic spirit and vision as she helps others explore their unique journeys through life. She is an increasingly important voice in the field of women’s studies as her message – of Taoist acceptance coupled with a healthy dose of defiance-resonates with women and girls everywhere.
Visit CJ and connect with other Tao and defiant women and Tao-Girls at www.taogirl.com