For women in sports, there has perhaps never been a year like 2012.
In London women from three Arab countries — Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei — were for the first time included in their national Olympic delegations.
Women led the U.S. to the top of the medal count in this year’s games, winning 58 of Team USA’s 104 medals and 29 of America’s 46 gold medals. Were the U.S. women a country by themselves, they would have been fifth in medals and tied for third with host Great Britain for the most golds.
Back here in “The States,” landmark news broke Monday out of Augusta, Ga., where Augusta National Golf Club announced it has extended invitations to its first two female members: former Secretary of State and current Stanford professor Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina business tycoon Darla Moore.
Whether either will be able to break 80 in their first rounds as official members at the home of The Masters will be all on them. At least Augusta National is finally able to shed the controversial stigma of its own doing that was decades overdue.
“I think it’s wonderful,” said LSU women’s golf coach Karen Bahnsen, LSU’s first signee in that sport back in 1979, three years before the NCAA staged its first women’s championships. “I think it’s good for Augusta and for women to have that opportunity. I hope it opens more doors for us.”
Then finally, locally, former LSU soccer goalkeeper, homecoming queen and all-round inspirational superstar Mo Isom is attempting to kick her way onto the Tigers football team amid a flurry of national headlines.
The important thing to consider when talking about women in sports is that they’ve earned every advancement they’ve made. Certainly, you could call this the culmination of the Title IX decision 40 years ago, a landmark mandate in equality that has led to quality across a multitude of America sports.
Still, Title IX wasn’t a gift. It was, like the Augusta National memberships for Rice and Moore, the righting of a long-standing wrong.
The answer to a question that shouldn’t be a question.
To that end, Isom’s effort to become a member of the LSU football team, to run out of that tunnel to the deafening roar of a Death Valley Saturday night, is commendable. It’s hard to imagine pulling against her.
But if she is to make history, she must make it on her own. If she earns a spot, it shouldn’t be a gift. That would make the achievement not worth having.
“As a woman, you want to earn the right,” Bahnsen said. “We want the real thing – to earn it like anyone else.
“She’s got to earn it. A lot of other guys who kicked in high school would want to be able to go kick for LSU. She shouldn’t get preferential treatment.”
Isom won’t get that. Les Miles has made that clear. And the odds of making the team for her are long.
Still, “It’s great to let her try,” Bahnsen said.
For Isom, and for women in this year of the woman in sports, perhaps that is victory in itself.