Comes around

The buzzer sounded at the end of the third quarter as Helen looked up at the scoreboard in the big Jefferson High School gym to see Jefferson tied with Springfield Edison at 45.  It was really a pretty good game between two evenly matched schools which looked like they might meet again in the district finals.  Helen watched as her grandson, Michael, came off the floor to sit and rest as the coach diagramed plays for the fourth quarter.  She was very proud of Michael and wished that Tom had lived to see his athletic grandchildren play for the school where they met all those years ago.

Looking around the gym she was amazed at how different the new gym was from the old one in which she had watched Tom play.  In the old cramped gym players making a layup at the far end were in danger of running into the front edge of the stage and there had even been questions on whether the court in the old gym was really regulation size.  Nobody at Jefferson thought that it was a big deal back then, you just had the gym that was attached to the school and it worked fine.  There was no pressure to build a new gym since there were really no girls athletic events to cause scheduling conflicts.

As the fourth quarter started she thought about how good Tom was in high school and how important athletics were to him.  It was probably Helen’s interest in the school’s teams and her love of sports in general that first attracted Tom to her.  Helen could always run faster than most of the other girls and play harder in phys ed and that was why she was so disappointed that true athletic teams were never available to girls.  She had to settle for square dance club and sitting in the stands doing something called synchronized cheering.

When Tom and Helen’s oldest girl started high school it was at the start of the explosion in girls athletics and Mary Ellen was right there to help lead the Jefferson Tigers girls basketball team to a regional championship.  Girls were excited to play and receive the attention that had been reserved for the boys and the school soon got used to hearing about the wins and loses of the girls teams.  Most fans found that they were thrilled when they heard about a girl in California who was able to win a spot on the boys wrestling team because there was no girls team.  After the wrestling team story there were other stories about a girl in Georgia who made the football team as a placekicker and then about a girl in Pennsylvania who tried out for goalie on the boys hockey team.  Walls were coming down and ceilings were being shattered.  If girls wanted to go for it the nation seemed to get behind them.

Then a boy in Ohio said that he liked to play volleyball and since there was no boys volleyball team at his school he was able to join the girls.  Some of the strongest  and most vocal supporters of girls athletics complained but there really was no way to stop him and he played and that was that until the next year when a boys high school baseball team decided that playing volleyball in the fall would be a good conditioning program before starting preseason baseball training.  The boys started with minimal volleyball skills but the tall ones, playing on the court with the lower girls net, soon dominated the game and other schools found that they had to recruit boys in order for their girls teams to be competitive.

The girls who were cut from the volleyball team to make room for the boys were bitterly upset but there was nothing they could do.  The basketball girls felt bad for the volleyball girls and were just thankful that having a boys basketball team meant that no boy could join their team by making the claim that he didn’t have the opportunity to participate in the sport because of his sex. That was until a boy in California declared himself to be a girl, said that he wanted to play girls softball and the state ruled that nothing determines the sex of an individual other than the declaration of that individual. 

The following year the alumni athletic backers at a California high school with powerful boys and girls basketball programs pushed hard and demanded an immediate state basketball championship .  The boys coach said that his team was rebuilding and that part of the rebuilding would be bringing up the JVs to get more varsity experience.  In an interview about the rebuilding year the boys coach said that was concerned that a number of deserving kids would not get basketball scholarships and would not be able to go to college. The alumni sports backers saw this as an opportunity which would free up varsity players who could then be sent over to replace some of the weaker players on the girls team if a few of the 6’5” boys were willing to declare themselves as being transgendered.  A chance for a girls state basketball championship, possible basketball scholarships for some deserving boys (or, as some of the boys thought, money for college from settlements for possible sexual discrimination lawsuits) and the JVs becoming a boys varsity powerhouse the next year?  Win, win, win—it was just too much to resist.

All of these thoughts and news stories went through Helen’s head as she watched her grandson’s game deep into the fourth quarter.  Finally Jefferson ran off eight unanswered points and won without going into overtime which was great for Jefferson High and Michael.  It was also great for Helen because she had been worried that if the game did go into overtime she would be late picking up her granddaughter, Megan, who was a freshman at Jefferson.   Helen sure didn’t want Megan to be late for the Jefferson High School Synchronized Cheer Club tryouts.  

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