So much attention was given last month to Title IX that it
risked becoming one more tiresome, empty, Roman-numeraled bag of
wind, in the manner of Super Bowl V or Rocky IV or Thurston
The 1972 legislation mandating equal funding for men's and
women's college athletic programs produced a "Title IX
generation," which in turn produced the World Cup-winning U.S.
women's soccer team, which in turn became the biggest story of
any kind in the last quarter century, at least by some measures.
It was, for instance, the rare subject to appear simultaneously
on the covers of TIME, Newsweek, PEOPLE and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED,
and this tidal wave of coverage--this wave of Title
coverage--threatened to drown out any and all other women in
sports. On the very day that the U.S. soccer players were mobbed
at a rally in New York City, I watched WNBA star Rebecca Lobo
walk unnoticed down Seventh Avenue at high noon, which was
alarming, if only because at the time she was wearing her New
York Liberty uniform.
It is a great relief, then, to see that the national media have
not, as feared, grown weary of women's sports, and we continue to
cover them in August as vigilantly as we did in July. The Women's
World Cup victory has indeed left a legacy. Why, just two weeks
ago, on his nightly CNBC program, Geraldo Rivera devoted the top
of the show to "extreme catfighting," in which women wearing
wife-beater-style tank tops pummel each other bloody in a cage,
all under the direction of promoter Mel Potts, who told Geraldo,
"I am not a misogynist."
Potts was supported on this point by his copanelist, an "extreme
catfighter and exotic dancer" named Pony.
The following week Larry King spent an entire hour with Monique
Brown and her husband, Jim. The couple told the world, via CNN,
that the football great is not a misogynist, nor a wife beater,
nor even a proponent of wife-beater-style tank tops. Or
something like that. The point of their appearance is still
unclear, except to dispel a crazy rumor that the football great
was a physical menace to his wife, who called 911 a few weeks
before to say he had threatened to kill her. Mrs. Brown was, it
turns out, just kidding, a fact confirmed by the hubby, who
nodded solemnly at her every retraction. Kudos to King, the
first prime-time host since Ed Sullivan with the courage to book
a ventriloquist act.
Not to be outdone by television, the mainstream print media
stepped up their coverage of women in sports, which once
consisted of little more than gratuitous photographs of Anna
Kournikova. So this month both TIME and ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
have covered (if that is the right word) a professional wrestler
named Rena Mero, a.k.a. Sable, who, in a $110 million lawsuit,
alleged that World Wrestling Federation officials harassed her
after she refused to wrestle topless. Terms of the settlement
remain undisclosed, though Sable, alas, has not remained
un-disclothed. She appears naked this month in Playboy, reports
Mercifully, The New York Times is above such pandering. And so
the Great Gray Lady last week ran a lengthy sports-section
feature about a genuine athlete in a woefully underpublicized
sport. Keep your eye on her at the U.S. Olympic Archery Trials:
She is Geena Davis, actress, archer, star of Earth Girls Are Easy.
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: DAN PICASSO