Mondays with Mike: Some things get better

February 24, 2014 • Posted in Beth Finke, guest blog, Mike Knezovich, Uncategorized by

This past weekend—a very full one—included a trip to Elmhurst College to root on the North Central College women’s basketball team (the Cardinals) against the evil Elmhurst College Blue Jays. OK, Elmhurst College isn’t evil. And really, we were there more specifically to root on Beth’s great niece, who, as a freshman, gets significant playing time on North Central’s team.


Anita follows through on a jump shot during Saturday’s game.

When we entered the gym I was ready with my $12 — $6.00 each for Beth and me, per the information online. The young woman at the ticket table said, “That’ll be $3.00 each.” I left the ticket table  feeling like we’d gotten lucky. Then Beth whispered, as we walked away, “I think she thought we were seniors.” As in senior citizens. Well now.

I guess I could’ve been miffed. But just walking into the court area reminded me that I have indeed been around for a good while. Because every time I go to one of Anita’s games, or a friend’s daughter’s soccer game, I am reminded that for the growing segment of the population that is younger than I am, these women’s games are no big deal. Commonplace.

But I still marvel at them. Because women competing athletically—hustling, clawing, grunting, and even fighting (did you see the USA-Canada women’s hockey game?)—wasn’t the norm,  wasn’t cool, and for most women wasn’t possible—when I was growing up. That’s all different now. That’s a wonderful thing, and it didn’t happen by accident.

Reasonable people can disagree about the role and the size of government—and that should always be at issue in our democracy. But I gotta say this: Title IX changed things for the better. Period.

By Title IX, I mean Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 (there is also a Title IX of the 1964 Civil Rights Act). Birch Bayh, U.S. Senator from Indiana, co-authored and introduced the legislation that is summarized here:

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… 

The law was renamed in 2002. It’s formal name is now the Patsy Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act—Mink was the Congresswoman from Hawaii who co-authored the bill, and who introduced it to the House of Representatives.

The law was not focused on athletics—it was intended to ensure equal opportunity in employment and enrollment and educational opportunities at colleges and universities that received support from the federal government.  Here’s what Senator Bayh had to say about it back then:

“We are all familiar with the stereotype of women as pretty things who go to college to find a husband, go on to graduate school because they want a more interesting husband, and finally marry, have children, and never work again. The desire of many schools not to waste a ‘man’s place’ on a woman stems from such stereotyped notions. But the facts absolutely contradict these myths about the ‘weaker sex’ and it is time to change our operating assumptions.”

Title IX has made a huge difference overall, but its impact has been the most visible in athletics. When I was in high school lo these many decades ago, girls playing sports was broadly considered weird (at best, and characterizations of female athletes were often much less charitable than “weird”).

Not so anymore.  Saturday I sat in the bleachers with Beth, Anita’s family, Beth’s sister Cheryl, their mother Flo, and we cheered some really good players as they went at it hard in a very entertaining game. I heard the coaches get on the players, mothers and fathers yelling at the refs, and it was all…normal. I was pleased that it seemed so commonplace. But I will never cease to marvel at it, and I feel privileged to have witnessed this change in my lifetime.

Mary Rigdon On February 24, 2014 at 8:23 am

But who won?

Sent from my iPhone


mknezo2014 On February 24, 2014 at 10:27 am

Unfortunately, Elmhurst College won…but North Central put a good rally on in the second half before coming up short.

srshoemaker On February 24, 2014 at 8:38 am

Nicely said, Mike!

Steve Shoemaker 1148 County Road 1500 E Urbana, IL 61802 217-621-3796


mknezo2014 On February 25, 2014 at 3:47 pm

Appreciate that Steve. Hope you’re weathering this winter well down there.

Janet On February 24, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Thanks Mike! Anita, and all of us, were really glad you came out for the game. I, too, just love seeing the girls be so competitive, and it really has changed even when I (who is so much younger than you) played. The amount of girls in sports is so great!

Gail Davenport On February 24, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Today’s women’s athletes are awesome and rightly deserve every opportunity to compete with comparable equipment/facilities/scholarships. As a member of the U of I women’s softball team in the early 1970s (then still called part of the Women’s Extramural Sports Assn), we didn’t have a formal uniform (just a navy windbreaker from the school and the rest we patched together ourselves) and we played on a field that never had the grass mowed. Thanks for the post, MIke!

Cheryl On February 24, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Back in high school we didn’t have girls basketball teams. Our only choice was GAA (Girls Athletic Association) and it was kind of looked down on because girls were expected to be cheerleaders or Pom Pom girls, not athletes. Thank goodness for change. Now I can watch ALL my grandchildren play in various sports.

Monna Ray On February 25, 2014 at 10:52 am

Dear Mike and Beth,

I read with interest Mike’s blog. I also laughed at the thought of your being considered seniors. How very funny! I want equal opportunity but I have some reservations too. Both my great nieces were soccer players. Both received injuries that required surgery. Suzy received a full undergrad scholarship to play soccer. I feel her education suffered while her parents pocketbook did not. Now she is in law school she has again hit her stride. I guess as my therapist told me, “everything has its price”.

Also I want to point out the article, New Land, New Tongue,New Fame, about the author, Yiyum Li. One of the last paragraphs especially intrigued me, saying that when we learn a language may influence the way we use it, You may not have the intimacy with it on the other hand you may not have all those ready made cliches. Fascinating.

I’m forwarding the opening date for Jon Wood’s gallery in Seattle. I know you have an agenda in Seattle but on the chance you might be near the gallery I wanted you to have the information. The artist, Doris Chase made beautiful sculpture but also worked in other mediums.

Take Care, Monna

glivingston On February 25, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Great post Mike–very nice to see support for female athletes coming from men. Take a minute to check out this amazing documentary in development from Kartemquin (of Hoop Dreams) on how young women overcome a variety of obstacles to play soccer in high school in the Chicago. The trailer is great: I confess that I am a big fan of the filmmaker, Maria Finitzo, who also made the wonderful stem cell documentary film a while back. You might want to support her effort on this new film.

mknezo2014 On February 25, 2014 at 3:47 pm

Thanks Gretchen, I’ll check it out.

Cam On February 27, 2014 at 2:31 pm

Thanks, Mike!

I grew up with the ability (as in there were already available teams) to participate in sports. My parents fully supported me…no questions about whether I could or should. I always felt it was a given and never understood my mom’s stories of having to fight to swim.

Sometimes I forget that what I take for granted hasn’t always been this way.

Go Cards!

20 years ago | Safe & Sound blog On July 19, 2015 at 1:47 am

[…] turns 20 today, and you can read more about her basketball success on this post her great Uncle Mike wrote about Title IX last year. Janet raised Anita on her own before marrying hardworking fun-loving Mike […]

Leave a Response