Like a cool shower giving respite from a heat wave, the U.S. women’s soccer team rolls on, distracting us from ugly political and economic news and — for at least a few moments — bridging the country together.
Today’s 3-1 victory over France’s Violent Femmes secures the U.S. team’s position in the final match against Japan, who are playing as I write this. Some are giving credit where it is due: to Title IX and the changes it brought to women’s sports in this country.
Here’s Tracy Baim, publisher and executive editor of The Windy City Group from Huff Post on Monday (after we beat Brazil). “In the nearly 40 years since its passage in 1972, Title IX has been consistently under fire from a wide range of critics. Like the Equal Rights Amendment it uses simple language to level the playing field for women and girls: ‘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.’ This meant that schools receiving federal money had to treat female sports the same as male sports. Some schools use this as an excuse to get rid of under-performing men’s sports rather than provide more for women. But that’s not the fault of women, it is the fault of short-sighted and sometimes sexist school administrators. Watching the Women’s World Cup, and the incredible U.S. quarterfinal win Sunday against Brazil, I am reminded just how important Title IX has been to the women’s movement and for me personally as a woman.”
Goal. Simply put, Title IX has made this country a better place to live in. There are very few pieces of legislation about which a similar claim might be made. The statistics are overwhelming. A 2006 study as to the increased number of women and girls participating in high school and college sports since 1972 was staggering: More than 450%. A study of intercollegiate athletics in 2008 showed that women’s college sports teams had grown to 9.101 — an average of 8.65 per school – from an average of less than one in 1972. 98.8% of American high schools now have a girls basketball team; 95.7% have a volleyball team; and 92% have soccer teams, which is why you’re going to be in front of your TV on Sunday.
Decreased athletic opportunities for males? Seriously? You mean the schools that dropped men’s wrestling or golf or fencing so the football coach and basketball coach can get $7 million a year? Go back to paying them $250,000 and you’ll have money to fund all your other men’s programs.
But when we celebrate on Sunday, let’s take a moment of silence and tip a beer to the man who made it all possible. My father is going to spin in his grave with surplice when he hears me say it: Richard Nixon. Despised these days by both right and left, his legacy unclaimed by any group, though he presided over the integration of the overwhelming majority of America’s schools, gave teeth to the EPA, supported conservation (in Tim Wicker’s biography, Nixon’s attitude was “When in doubt, turn it into a park”), and opened up China.
Never mind all that. He was, if there was some method of proving it, the biggest asshole in the history of American politics. But when the U.S. Women win their second World Cup on Sunday, it would be nice if somebody placed a red, white and blue wreath on his grave.