On this Valentine's Day 2012, and in honor of the late and great Whitney Houston, I think it only appropriate to declare my love for something that has given me the "greatest love of all."
And just what is the greatest love of all? As Ms. Houston intoned, 26 years ago, "Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all." In a phrase, self-respect. Pride.
God rest her soul, Whitney Houston inspired many with her voice. So sad that she didn't beat the odds. Nor did she heed her own four-octave words.
I am proud because against the odds and barriers I faced growing up, as many times as I was told "no, girls don't do that," as a sports-loving,tomboy who wanted nothing more than to meet the baseball, football, hockey and basketball players I saw on my TV screen, I've achieved accesibility beyond my wildest dreams.
My title is "Women's Sports Director, SRN Broadcasting & Marketing LLP."
Along with that, I have a desire to help others achieve their goals and dreams.
Today, I am free to express my passions fully. And most importantly, so can every other young woman with a dream to achieve.
So, right now, I want to say thank you to the most significant Supreme Court ruling that ever came my way, since women were given the right to vote:
TITLE IX....you complete me!
And by the way, Happy 40th Birthday!
In my guest-lecturing at college, many students have grown up under the benefits of Title IX. Chicago native and LA Sparks' Candace Parker, in fact, stated at the beginning of the 15th season of the WNBA in 2011 that she couldn't remember a time when there was no WNBA.
Many other "millennials" aren't aware of the struggles of generations past.
That may be a good thing, but anything forgotten is at risk of being lost. So I am here to remind those of the freedoms we have because of Title IX.
The law states that:
"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...
United States Code Section 20 (source: Wikipedia)
Title IX, as we know it today, was passed into law on June 23, 1972.
Not bad for a kid who was told, at age six, by the local park district supervisor, that "Girls don't play t-ball. Girls play tennis."
To my baseball-loving self, that was a slap in the face. To which I stood up and became an activist for equal access everywhere and for everyone.
If this country isn't about the freedom to be our best selves, what is this country about, anyway?
"Baseball's what gets inside of you. It lights you up...."
Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) "A League of their Own," 1992.
Title IX gave me the freedom to pursue my dreams.
Today, I am proud to be a sports journalist and broadcaster. I have co-hosted a sports radio talk show, a formidable and weekly challenge I treasured. I've had the opportunity to interview the best in every game known to man....Michael Jordan....Nancy Lieberman.....Patrick Kane....Pat Summitt....Geno Auriemma....Ryne Sandberg....Jonathon Toews...Jennie Finch....Greg Maddox...Monica Abbott...Ozzie Guillen....Candace Parker....Abby Wambach...and the list goes on and on.
And I'm not the only one who benefited, clearly.
Without Title IX, there would be:
*No athletic scholarships for women
*No opportunities beyond the college level, if that
*No WNBA/Chicago Sky
*No National Professional Fastpitch Softball League/Chicago Bandits (and consequently, no 2011 Championship)
*No 1,600-seat Rosemont Stadium, the state-of-the-art National Fastpitch Softball stadium that opened in 2011, and will host the NPF Championships this year
*No equal access to athletic facilities
*No Women's World Cup
*No NCAA Women's Championships
*No glory for Chicago native Cammie Granato, the first woman elected into the NHL Hall of Fame, after leading the US Women's Hockey Team to a gold medal in 1998.
*No medals for Jennie Finch and the members of the US Olympic Women's Softball Team
*No head-butting drama of the 2011 Women's World Cup
*No Nike sports bra moment for Brandi Chastain in the 1999 Women's World Cup
*No ESPN The Body issue, featuring men and women athletes.
And the list goes on and on.
The only women's sports I remember clearly growing up were individual pursuits-swimming, tennis, gymnastics, equestrian events, and track and field. Speed skating, because of gold medalist Bonnie Blair in the late 80's and 90's, and earlier, medalists Anne Henning, and Dianne Holum, who trained in the Chicago area. Only gymnastics and swimming had team components.
I also remember the time that women were also considered too weak to run a marathon. That was shattered when Joan Benoit Samuelson, who won Olympic gold in 1984, also won the first Chicago marathon.
In the documentary "In the Game," (which everyone should see) Chicago Sky coach Pokey Chatman remembered when she first went to college, in 1987, "Title IX was just kicking in," she said. "I didn't hear anyone saying 'I want to coach women's basketball.' Today, I get to see the residuals at every single level."
I attended the Chicago Sky's kickoff of a yearlong celebration for Title IX at the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School in Chicago to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Title IX.
There, girls are training to be leaders. I was very pleased to talk with them about their own experiences. I asked them if women were the "weaker sex," as my broadcast partners stated from time to time. I treasure the answer given by Keyana Gage, a 12th grader at the school, who spoke for them all when she proudly stated:
"We can do everything a man can do."
Heck, kid, you can do more. Just believe.