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March WOMAN Madness: Where My Ladies At?

It is March Madness. And I’m mad.

This is the season of bracket pools taking over the office talk, CBS Sports and ESPN dominance of the  Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament. Many of my guy friends speak of nothing but spectacular shots, buzzer beaters and inappropriate calls by the referees.

Yet did you know the Women’s NCAA Basketball tournament is going on simultaneously with the Men’s? Well if you don’t, I can’t blame you. The college women athletes are dribbling and matching the same passion and intensity as the Men’s, but not on a main network or powerful cable channel. This leaves it difficult for Lady Vols (or any college girls) to get equal headlines. Or if they do, it is because they are sporting nude for Playboy.

“Women athletes are more likely to be marketed as sexy than as competent,” says Mary Joe Kane of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota. “And many women go for it. These athletes are smart. They know what sponsors want.”

Grrrr.

I am a sports fan—no gender associated with it. I was always encouraged to play and watch sports as a child, teen and even today. My mother was a top athlete in high school and in college, lettering in both basketball and track, while my father is a fútbol fanatic born in South America and playing goalie for many community leagues as a parent and would always watch Spanish soccer on Gól TV. Raised in Minnesota, I attended many of our local teams games at a young age, (Vikings, Timberwolves, Twins, Gophers) and I met my dream man as a teen and he happened to be a sports athlete, Wally Sczcerbiak. My passion for sports, have molded into my career of writing and my day to day activities, wardrobe, conversations with friends.

 But it is rarely acknowledged that women are not only audience members, but fans of hosts of college and professional-based sports in general. Will advertising ever try to gear towards a women’s audience?! Despite the unequal coverage and injustice against women in sports, ESPN magazine (espn.go.com/magazine/) seems to be taking a stance on behalf of ALL women by putting Candice Parker on the cover of their March 23, 2009 issues. Parker is a Forward for the WNBA’s LA Sparks, and averages 15.0 Points per Game [PPG] (taken from www.wnba.com). She also holds 9.80 rebounds Per Game (RPG), as well as 3.8 Assist per Game (APG)—all of which are wonderful averages to have in the basketball profession. In this sense, ESPN decided to give her cover girl status in a male dominated, network and magazine-based world—all in honor of Women’s History Month.

Allison Glock, author of the profile story “The Selling of Candace Parker” describes Parker as, “…the total package: Your Sister’s Pal, your Brother’s prom date, supermom-to-be. She is also an MVP –of League Few Watch. So can Candace Parker be the Female Jordan? Lots of folks are banking on it.” (27).

I gladly purchased the $4.99 edition and gave props and smiles to ESPN, who unlike their competitor Sports Illustrated, chose to feature females in March (MAN) Madness Although they only dedicated 16 of the 88 pages to women’s coverage, I delightfully read each character and memorized the pictures on their 11 ½” X 9 ½” page. In fact, the magazine was my date for the evening.

Sometimes, I try to ignore the madness. However, this year I will embrace Natalie’s March Madness because maybe, just maybe, it will lead to change and acknowledgement of women in sports.

Please pick up ESPN’s March Issue and celebrate Women’s History Month! You go girl!

Some Random Facts to keep you ladies to keep playing the FIELD!

*High School Sports have increased more than a thousand fold since the 1970s and 1980s, mostly in part to Title IX, the 1972 legislation that banned sex discrimination in public schools. Girls Water Polo (+ 74, 029 %) and Soccer (+48, 133%) have the biggest percentage increase in participation.

*Of the 1,400 or so individuals and groups who’ve graced the Wheaties boxes since 1993, just 6% have represented the fairer sex

*In the WNBA’s 12 years , six players have had their numbers retired. That’s .5 per year, compared with 2.52 per year for the NBA (156 retired jerseys since 1946)