(April 2, 2010) Hear the audio version

The NCAA women’s basketball Final Four is set. Here are the teams: Stanford Cardinal, Oklahoma Sooners, Connecticut Huskies, Baylor Bears. Pardon me – make that the Baylor Lady Bears.

Baylor is the one “Lady” team left in this year’s tournament. Despite what you may have heard, Stanford has never been the Lady Cardinal. Connecticut’s women are Huskies, not Lady Huskies, as they are inexplicably referred to by some sportscasters. And that’s the problem with having a few throwbacks from a bygone era in sports. Universities that continue to use “Lady” in their team names – all Southern schools, I might add – are devaluing the athleticism and equality of not only their own female student-athletes, but of all women’s teams. If I start hearing or reading about the Baylor Gentlemen Bears or Tennessee Lord Volunteers, I promise to rethink my case.

I played basketball before Title IX, so I know we’ve come a long way. Forty years ago, Greenwich High School had a boys gym on one floor of the 1925 brick school building and a girls gym on the other. Yet in 1969, the girls teams were not allowed to practice in our own gym after school; the boys varsity and junior varsity squads laid claim to both. So we girls ran across town through the snow to an elementary school for our practices.

We wore ridiculous red jumpers over white blouses for uniforms. It was the last year of six girls on a court: two forwards, two guards and two “rovers.” Only rovers were allowed to cross the center line. Apparently we were athletic enough to run a mile to our practice arena, but not to the other end of the court in a game.

Spend five minutes this weekend watching women’s teams in the Final Four, and terms such as aggressive, athletic, strong, intense, fast, powerful and physical come to mind. Ladylike? Probably not. These young women are serious, competitive athletes, and deserve to be treated – and referred to – as such.

So how about a chorus of “Good Night, Ladies?”

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