Melissa Isaacson, Author
There's crispy and then there's crispy try our new and improved Tyson crispy chicken strips crispy just got crispy this sporting life on ESPN radio and and the ESPN APP. Here's Jeremy Shop for the last thirty years. Melissa Isaacson has been one of the best sports writers in America Erica for two decades in Chicago covering the Chicago Bulls of Michael Jordan covering the Chicago bears. She's now teaching journalism at the Middle School at northwestern Western University but before she was a sports reporter and before she was a journalism teacher Melissa Isaac Sin was an athlete herself herself and her new book is about that time in her life. It's titled State a team a Triumph A- transformation and it's a a pleasure to welcome to the sporting life for old friend. Melissa is Melissa. Thank you for being with us. Thanks so much Jeremy for having me really appreciate it this book. It's not just what about your athletic career as a high school basketball player in the Chicago. Suburbs it is about the way in which women's mm in sports began to transform us. Transformation in your title transform in the years following the implementation of title nine in Nineteen Eighteen. Seventy two. What was it like being a girl in the nineteen seventies who loves sports but didn't have the outlet you wanted in which compete? Yeah it was it was painful. It was frustrating. Because you know you're you're labelled a tomboy which was not necessarily complementary as is a little girl It kind of you were an outcast. You want really a girl you weren't really boy or somewhere in between you know when all that was was fine if you could good play and you chase a long after your brothers or the boys in the neighborhood. And then they'd go off and put on their uniforms and go play in real unreal teams and in real elites and we were left to you know watch to kind of press our noses up against the fence or to go home and wait for them to come home and then let us tag along again so it got frustrating and For me anyway you know until junior high there. There just wasn't that outlet and there wasn't you know the opportunity community to to compete to learn all the cool things that boys were learning in t ball when we were little about team play and pushing yourself and being tough and and strategizing and all that cool stuff that really serves you well in life For me all I wanted was a uniform. It's like a cool uniform fairly simple simple and you know it took a little while I was lucky. 'cause 'cause obviously are older sisters and cousins Many generations of girls didn't have it. It all your your book. State your new book. It goes back to this period in your life and to this time in which Change had had been mandated for girls and women in sports public. Funding is going to be dedicated for the first time by law to to give women to women and girls on a par with men in terms of opportunities in sports will was your awareness of all that going gone when you were a freshman at what is it Nile when else went aisles West High School in suburban Chicago in one thousand nine hundred seventy five. We didn't now. I mean we title nine was kind of vague thing. We knew that we're going to have a chance to play actually on versity team and then in seventy seven and no one for girls basketball to play for a state championship. But you know there weren't First of all it took a couple of years for the whole rest of the country to realize the title nine after Nineteen Nineteen. Seventy two was about sports at all I had the honour to interview Dr Christine Grant. Who is one of the pioneers and longtime advocates of title nine and Gender Equality At the University of Iowa and this week and I talked to her and she talked about how all hell broke loose a couple of years after her when even even senators didn't really fully realize that this man sports you know that this meant girls were going to bump you know God forbid bumps. Boys go to the gym and and you know God knows what else and so you know I. There weren't like title nine police running around the country enforcing it. So there's still stuff we've been. Nineteen seventy five. We weren't allowed in the quote Unquote Boys Jim. That are large suburban high school. which is not in in any way unusual? That's what it was we. We couldn't practice their place so We may have been aware. And we're certainly grateful. We had a team and we had uniforms but we shared the uniforms. You Know Mung every other girls team And so you know it was like a little. It was a little bit of a tease but I think more than anything. We are grateful and We watched the four year period documentaries incredible period of growth for for girls in the country and for us we we enter in high school in seventy five not allowed in that Jim and four years later point to standing room only crowds in that. Jim and beating Jackie Jackie Joyner And her Saint Louis Stevenson state championship so for us. We thought anything was possible. Speaking of Melissa is accent about her new book look State a team triumph. A transformation and They're they're you know when you when you set out on a project and you've written books before were and you're going to spend a lotta time doing it and you've got to really be in love with the top baked there's How long were you thinking about writing writing this? And what finally convinced you to do it into delve into auto biography which is an entirely different. John requires a different way of thinking taking any. It certainly did not start out to be a memoir I was at the unofficial team. Documentarian if you will like writing little poems to our coach and and things like that On the occasion of the twenty fifth anniversary you're sober their fortieth fifteen years ago. I wrote a column for the Chicago. Kogo Tribune in which I talked about all the things we didn't know at the time our our coach was a young woman. Who No one else really want a job? She had played played a little six girls basketball but certainly didn't know how to coach it and hit secretly sought the counsel of the legendary boys coach at our school at the time and they sort of hidden the corners with Teachers Lounge and he would scribble on Napkins and literally teach her how to teach us Our principal was going down state eight and fighting with men that he called the crew cuts. He would come back to school until his friends and colleagues. Of course we didn't know this that They're afraid basketball. Ask Him too dangerous for girls that over their dead bodies they allow girls to take gym. Time that boy's had so he was strategizing trying to get certain sports that what he thought with more genteel like badminton and You know volleyball they might allow So so all these cool things that you know as kids you just don't know made for column fifteen years ago That turned into what was originally going to be a young adult book book. And maybe a screen play but it never got off the ground. I became frustrated I didn't know what a young adult book even was to be honest. I didn't know how to really write narrative nonfiction so it sat around. I would I would kind of play with it and tinker with it and then I started a written. A magazine story. Read about like parents battle with Alzheimer's which began when I was in high school and I finally realized what the Hell of Scott Price who you know as so price. When the great writers of sports illustrated he encouraged me to tell my story and In for some reason it just clicked when you said did that. You know it's your story. Just tell it and so I finally kind of rewrote the whole thing. And that's why it took so long and But I think I think somehow the the time is right you know it felt right to have it coincidentally come out on our fortieth anniversary and certainly during time right now when You know women's issues are at the forefront we're speaking Melissa's accent about her new book state team triumph a transformation and looking back now was forty a years later after what you experienced. What that team achieved? What did it mean in to the rest of? What is it meant you all these years? How is it inform the way you have approached life and your job and raising a family? Oh my gosh. It absolutely changed the people we were. And and when I had the chance to interview Birch by A couple years ago and I and I sort of babbled And told them that you know that it changed the people that we were it. It made me have the courage you to become a sports writer to walk into mental locker rooms to you know. Raise our children the way we did too Because we're in a typical of every other group in society. You know we had women who had terrible Hardships happen to them along the way and and as adults and they absolutely talk about What they learned is athletes giving them the courage to fight through They're very adult issues. In later years you know and and they're women who are very successful. It's no coincidence. And when you look at the most successful women in the Fortune Coaching five hundred lists and so forth that Almost eighty plus percent. I think it's eighty four percent. Were athletes at one time team on team sports most of them now. They're still a teeny percentage of fortune. Five hundred executives who are women. That's another thing but of the women. It's it's no coincidence that they all played sports so it it completely changed changed my life and changed too I was. I think I certainly like sports. There were certain things I would like to think I would have accomplished. But but B B being able to play and compete and then Wednesday championship. was hugely instrumental great story and of course expertly told by Melissa Isaacs and longtime sportswriter her new book State State a team a triumph transformation. Melissa it's always a pleasure. Thanks so much for coming on the show. Thank you so much. Jeremy really appreciate it. I'm Jeremy Shop and you can listen to new editions of the sporting life every Saturday and Sunday morning on e._S._p._N.. Radio and E._S._p._N. APP beginning at six A._M. Eastern time.