NEWS ITEM: Canadian bobsledder and former Olympic Champion Kaillie Humphries— wearing socks bearing the phrase “girl power” — recently became the first person to drive an all-female team against men in a four-person World Cup bobsled race at Mount Van Hoevenberg near Lake Placid, N.Y.
The sports world is becoming ever-more feminized. Consider century-old photos of crowds at baseball venues like Fenway Park. The stands were almost entirely filled with male spectators, most of them wearing ties and quaint straw hats. Modern photos of Fenway Park now show crowds that are about 40% female, with those ubiquitous pink caps.
The feminization of sports continues unabated. Even NFL players regularly don pink apparel to show support for breast cancer awareness. And the most recent Sports Illustrated “Sportsperson of the Year” was female—Serena Williams.
Being of a certain age, I’m tempted to say “You’ve come a long way, baby!” to sports women everywhere. But that might be considered a touch condescending, as that was a 1968 marketing slogan to celebrate thinner Phillip Morris cigarettes for women. Virginia Slims supposedly allowed women to smoke without losing their femininity. Virginia Slims eventually became a prime sponsor of its namesake women’s tennis tour.
Billy Jean (Moffitt) King was a prime mover behind that tour. That pioneering tennis star did more than anyone else to promote women’s sports.
As a freshman at UNH in ’73 I watched King and Bobby Riggs tangle in the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis classic. The men of Alexander Hall congregated in from the dorm lobby TV, hoping to see Riggs dominate King. A young woman walked through the lobby just before the event and was good-naturedly booed. (“There’s the enemy!”) I’m sure the situation was reversed in the women’s residence halls.
King, of course, crushed Riggs and the world was forever changed.
Congress earlier passed Title IX and that legislation resulted in billions of dollars of investments in women’s sports.
It may be hard for females today to imagine a time without NHIAA girls tournaments, but girls could not compete for state titles until the seventies, although there’d been boys’ tournaments since 1922.
Women have also gone on to own professional sports teams, drive in NASCAR events, serve as television sports anchors and write sports columns. On and on.
The San Antonio Spurs made history in 2014 when they hired Becky Hammon as the first full-time NBA assistant coach.
And while Kaillie Humphries’ bobsled team finished last in the aforementioned competition, the fact that the team was competing at all made history. Someday Humphries and company will likely triumph, and that’s OK with me. May the best bobsledders win!
And someday we will also have a woman president of the United States. And that’s fine too.
Just so long as it doesn’t happen in 2016. Or I’ll eat my straw hat!
Who won the first Super Bowl? (Answer follows)
Born Today …
That is to say, sports standouts born on January 21 include golf great Jack Nicklaus (1940) and NBA star Hakeem Abdul Olajuwon (1963).
“I slept like a baby. Every two hours, I woke up and cried.”—Former NHL coach Tom McVie on how he slept after a particularly bad loss.
In 1967 Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers defeated Hank Stram’s Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 in the first Super Bowl, then called the AFL-NFL World Championship Football Game. The contest took place before many thousands of empty seats at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Both CBS and NBC telecast the game.
Michael Moffett is a Professor of Sports Management at Plymouth State University and at NHTI-Concord. He recently co-authored the critically-acclaimed and award-winning “FAHIM SPEAKS: A Warrior-Actor’s Odyssey from Afghanistan to Hollywood and Back” (with the Marines)—which is available through Amazon.com. His e-mail address is email@example.com.