Yesterday, a struggling Phys. Ed student e-mailed a sports discussion group I’m on, asking our opinion about the pros and cons of Title IX. He was obviously trying to whip together a last minute term paper, but he started me thinking. Title IX is a federal mandate that has attempted to level the playing field for women in college athletics by making colleges spend equal amounts of money on women’s and mens athletic programs. It’s a noble idea. Women deserve to have an equal shot at permanently maiming themselves while receiving a college education. In my opinion, without Title IX, women’s athletics would never have made the tiny gains it has made over the past decade.
Let’s face it, colleges have been stuck in a rut where athletics is concerned. They’ve learned over the past 100 years that they can make money on football and basketball games, so they fund these cash cows heavily. Alumni love this stuff and give big wads of cash to schools that have good teams, expensive coaches and the best athletes money can by. So colleges pay heavily for them. Nobody in college athletics has ever been motivated to spend a lot on women’s athletics. Women’s sports has never been able to draw crowds, so they don’t make a lot of money. Without pressure from Title IX legislation, women’s athletics would still be languishing in relative obscurity.
But, I think the colleges have missed something here. I think some of the great spectator sports of the future are being pioneered because of Title IX’s requirements that women’s sports be funded equally by colleges. Even though they have managed to weasel out on that "equal" business, they have had to sink money into women’s sports that they never would have before. As a result, we’re seeing what may become the pro sports of the future generating enthusiastic new support at the college level.
Case in point: Women's volleyball
Here's a sport that's changing toward the future. I remember when women's V-ball drew a mere handful of spectators down at the community college. Nobody seemed to want to show up to watch a bunch of frumpy looking girls swat a ball back and forth over the net. Now, thanks to the incentive (read "threat" here) of reduced funding under Title IX, women's volleyball has changed. Unable to find frivolous things like scholarships and facilities to spend the extra money on, women’s college volleyball programs have invested in substantive, fundamental change in how the game is played. Well, actually what they did was dump the baggy shorts and t-shirts and bought the girls uniforms made of SPANDEX!
Wow! The gymnasium is now jammed for games (mostly with desperate looking geeks and predatory males to be sure, but.....it’s a start). The girls, freed from the constriction of their formerly frumpy uniforms are diving, stretching and (bless 'em) jumping higher than ever before. When the marketing guys catch on, I predict you're going to see a real women's professional volleyball league organized. We've already got semi-pro beach volleyball leagues going right now and they are drawing real crowds and TV contracts. I look for pro teams to follow soon once they realize what money there is to be made in the sport.
Actually, beach style volleyball may be the way pro volleyball goes. For one thing, the beach volleyball "uniforms" for women players are guaranteed to create awesome TV ratings. Soon beach leagues will be running college drafts (if they don't already). Soon college and professional women v-baller's will be compromising their amateur standing, hiring agents, endorsing products and practicing double and even triple "bounce shots" just like their mail counterparts. Just as would-be NBA players practice spectacular "dunk" shots or future NFL tight ends practice end zone dances that skirt the edge of the rules, the women will be creating signature moves, endorsing "designer" spandex fashions and posing for cheesy posters.
Women’s soccer has already found new viewers thanks to the infamous "jerk off your shirt when you win" incident. Guys everywhere are now sitting through hours of international women’s soccer tedium on the outside chance it might happen again.
When you see personal style achieving greater importance than teamwork, when cat fights and temper tantrums are an accepted part of the college game, when we see silicon implants becoming a ticket to professional athletic stardom; then we'll know that Title IX has accomplished its purpose. Women's college athletics will have become as corrupt as men's athletics. Honor, integrity, fair play and sportsmanship will be as obsolete an educational goal in women's amateur PE curriculums as it is now in men's college sports like football, basketball and hockey.
Hey, maybe some of the smaller colleges could start women's wrestling programs. That could be a real crowd pleaser! I can see it now....
"This is Frank Gifford..."
"..and John Madden"
"Reporting live from the 2002 WWF college draft!"
"Well, Frank, were you surprised that 'Sheena the Destructor' went so high in the first round?"
"Not, really John. This girl really stole the show at the NCAA steel cage finals last spring with that signature "double bounce" pile driver from the turnbuckle that she used to beat 'Amazon Queen'."
"I remember that well, Frank. She barely managed to keep that brass brassier on and avoid disqualification..."
"Yeah, but how she ever managed to make that thing jump exactly back into place after she hooked it under Amazon's chin I'll never know..."
"You can bet that one’s gonna be on everyone’s highlight film this year, Frank."
"What an athlete, John! Team Austin has high hopes for this young lady at next year's Thanksgiving Mud Pit of Death Extravaganza!
"We're gonna have to put another dozen legs on our turkey for that one Frank..."
"I hear you talkin'...."
Anybody remember when professional meant something else.
Just one man’s opinion....