By Victoria Stoppiello
After I spent most of Thursday and Friday working diligently to accumulate all the data and documents for our tax returns, my husband and I dropped them off at 4:00 p.m. at the CPA’s office. After her review and responding to a few clarifying questions, I was ready for dinner and had a hankering for a regular “California burger,” as my Jersey-born husband calls them. In New Jersey, a burger is a slab of ground beef compressed between the halves of a hamburger bun. You might put ketchup on it.
A California burger, he discovered when he came out west, is standard on the Pacific coast, maybe anywhere west of the Rockies; it consists of not only the meat and bun, but lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and a “secret sauce”—in other words, a salad thrown on the sandwich. That’s what I, the carnivore in the household, wanted as my reward for my diligence, so we went to the most local and reliable source for such fare—a tavern a block from the beach, a tavern that attracts local people and visitors alike, with a big screen on each wall, but luckily with the sound turned off. This allows conversation, even with 20 plus people in the relatively small space.
Our conversation was interrupted, however, by the cheers erupting from a 50-something couple seated nearby, facing one of the big screens—as well as out and out shouting from a group of four women at another table coaching from the sidelines.
After about ten minutes of this, my husband said, “You’re just like your dad.”
“Huh?” I said, eyes glued to the screen. I used to be a basketball fan. At least that’s what I thought, emphasizing “used to be.”
“Basketball was his favorite sport, not just to play, but to watch,” my husband said. It’s true. My dad was a hot-shot basketball player, all-state from Ilwaco High. I went to the Far West Classic with him in the 1970s and saw Magic Johnson playing when he was still a college student—raw talent on display, a play maker, not only playing well, but seemingly so effortlessly he appeared to be truly enjoying it. When I was in high school, I covered all the Vernonia High games for the town’s weekly newspaper, including getting to go to all the away games, so I understand basketball just enough to know a good play or a stupid foul when I see it.
On Friday night, I found myself drawn into watching the second half of OSU’s Lady Beavs against Baylor’s Lady Bears. It was a close game. Baylor (with a 33-1 record) was a big team and fielded at times four African American women and one Asian, while OSU’s team was mostly white gals. Baylor’s Lauren Cox fouled out after a particularly aggressive push against an OSU player. Shot on video from four or five locations, it looked like an egregious offense, the kind that reflected either frustration with the prospect of losing or a generally undisciplined temperament. On the OSU side, center Marie Gulich was a cool contrast, hitting the basket from the outside and staying calm at the foul line. I also noticed the coaches’ temperaments as reflected in their body language—OSU’s Scott Rueck calmly paced, whereas Baylor’s Kim Mulkey seemed wound tight, wearing a bit of mascara to look good for TV, but clearly driven.
The game was exciting; I found myself inadvertently cheering every good move by OSU. Then during a break, the screen shifted to two women speaking, wearing headphones, clearly providing some commentary during a break in play. I found my eyes filling with tears. “What’s up with that?” I thought. The answer: Not only was I watching women play basketball on ESPN, but even the game analysis was provided by females.
A lot has changed since the 1970s when Title IX took effect and girls and women’s sports began having a chance for the kind of funding that allowed boys and men’s athletics to flourish. There are still struggles…the women’s teams who take bag lunches to out-of-town games while the men’s teams eat in restaurants, the conflicts over which group gets priority for using a school’s gym. The old guard that objected to women’s sports getting any funding have literally died off. But that was then; this is now. As long as ESPN finds an audience, in a tavern on a Friday night, women’s sports will have a place in the budget.
This essay was published earlier in the Chinook Observer; OSU won 72-67; then lost in the next game to Louisville.