Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Rick Cleveland: The ladies lead the way.

We are nearing the halfway point of 2017. Interesting to note, in Mississippi sports these first five months, women have provided the most meaningful and poignant success stories, the most lasting memories.


First, we had the Mississippi State basketball women, shooting, rebounding and guarding their way to the national championship game at Dallas. En route, the Lady Bulldogs beat the nation's best player, the nation's most talented team and the most dominant program in the history of women's basketball. They captured the hearts of Mississippians, no matter school loyalty.



And now the Ole Miss softball women have come out of virtually nowhere to win the SEC Tournament championship and an NCAA regional, winning seven straight games against some of the best competition in the land.

Before this season, Ole Miss softball was played in a virtually empty facility even though there was no charge for tickets. This past weekend, the Lady Rebels won three straight games in a sold out stadium with hundreds more clamoring for tickets.

Everyone loves a winner, no matter the sport or the gender. It helps when the players play hard, do the little things right, smile a lot and seem to be having a ball while they vanquish yet another opponent.

This brings to mind the fact that when my sports writing career began, women didn't have the opportunity to do what they are doing now. The NCAA didn't sponsor women's basketball, much less women's softball. There was scant opportunity for women athletes at all.

The two biggest changes in Mississippi sports during my half century of sports reporting: One, widespread integration, and, two, the growth of women's sports.

Just a half century ago, in Mississippi, high school girls basketball was played mostly at small-town schools and certainly not all of those. Girls softball, when played much at all, was played in recreation leagues. There was no chance, at all, for a girl to earn a college scholarship playing sports in Mississippi.

Young people should know this history. These opportunities for women athletes are relatively new.

It all changed, of course, with Title IX of the Education Amendments act of 1972. Before that, in virtually every area of athletics, women faced discrimination.

Quick story: I was working as a sports writer for the Hattiesburg American when, shortly after the amendment passed, the Department of Health Education and Welfare dispatched someone to the University of Southern Mississippi to speak on what Title IX would mean. The woman from HEW told those in attendance that it simply meant that, where education was concerned, women would have the same opportunities as men. That Hattiesburg High and USM, as well as public schools across Mississippi and the country, would have to offer female students the same opportunities as males.

It'll never happen, I said under my breath.

The guy sitting next to me said, “Why not?”

And I said that athletic departments were barely making budget as it was, and could never afford to sponsor so many more sports teams, much less scholarships.

“Obviously,” the guy said, “You've never had a daughter.”

He had four. One of them became Hattiesburg High's first female point guard – and a good one.

I think back to that day every time I watch women playing sports, even when they don't play as well – or win as much – as these 2017 Mississippi State basketball women or the Ole Miss softball Lady Rebels.

That said, those two teams, especially, have been such a joy to watch.

Rick Cleveland is a Jackson-based syndicated columnist. His email address is rcleveland@mississippitoday.org.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Title IX is well and good, but it's the $35 million annual checks from the SEC that are driving this train.

The law requires equal scholarships and decent facilities for women, but it doesn't require, for example, that MSU build a new world-class softball field. Or write a check to the women's basketball coach for what will likely be $750K per season.

If you have the money sitting around, though, why not? It's good PR and a nice hedge if the men's teams aren't doing so well at any given time.

Anonymous said...

"Poignant"?

"...evoking a keen sense of sadness or regret.
"a poignant reminder of the passing of time"
synonyms: sad, affecting, pitiful, piteous, pathetic, sorrowful, mournful, wretched, miserable, distressing, heart-rending, tearjerking, plaintive, tragic..."

Cleveland has gone 'All Salter' on us with the 'fifty cent words'.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).


Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.


In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.


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Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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