In March of 1989, pre-full-blown March Marketing Madness, I was traveling through the old Denver airport and surprise, surprise was delayed by a weather event of some sort and had hours to kill. I had been hoping to get home in time to watch the Women's NCAA basketball finals with some raucous friends. It didn't look good.
After I resigned myself to a long delay, I found a smoky airport bar, ordered a beverage and thus felt entitled to ask the bartender if he would turn one of their TVs to the women's final game. The what? The women's basketball finals. You sure it's on? After much cajoling, he finally sighed and all put-out, reached up and changed the channel. Although it was a Tennessee rout of Louisiana Tech, it was a pleasure to watch the women athletes.
It was not a pleasure to have to sit and listen to the men and some women in the bar wonder why that game was on instead of hockey, who those Amazons were, and other pre-Imus idiocies. I glared at any complainer, dared the bartender to touch the dial, and marvel to this day that I did not get into a barroom brawl. I was ready.
On this 35th Anniversary of Title IX, an equal opportunity measure which still must be defended from Bush late night signing statement shenanigans, the Women's final was another Tennessee win, this time over the scrappy Rutgers team coached by the eloquent, inspirational C. Vivien Stringer. We in the Northeast, suffering through the insufferable Nicks and Nets season were cheered by the improbable success of our local Rutgers varsity team with all their talented freshmen athletes.
As the Scarlet Knights were settling back into mid-terms and dreams of next year, Don Imus launched the word bombs you've heard a million times and all hell broke lose. For anyone who has chanced on the doubly formatted Imus in the Morning show, this was not new behavior. The I-White-Man show has for years been a clubby, chummy safe place where mostly male correspondents, politicos and celebrities could josh and mix it up with the curmudgeon in the cowboy hat.
Perhaps it's was Obama effect, or the sixtieth anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color line in baseball that tipped Imus' behavior into the last straw category, but enough was finally enough. The 24-7 drama has been about sexism, racism, free speech, the market etc. You've heard it all. I trust Pat Summit has sent a note.
I head off to Pennsylvania this weekend to watch my niece, a freshman on the Gettysburg College Women's Varsity Lacrosse team, a strong contender to win their Division Three and to go onto the finals. Her name is Grace. She's fierce, fast, has great hands. I will be the fan in the stands whooping inordinately with all the pent up fire I didn't get to vent in that Denver airport bar. It will be for Grace and her team, of course, but it will also be for the double unformatting of the I-White-Man and all that it means. I am so ready.