Malcomb column: MSHSL, girls tournaments still a ‘Bad Romance’
While girls sports have come a long way in the 50 years since the passage of Title IX, the state high school league — and everyone — has a long way to go in recognizing the accomplishments of female athletes.
Back in March, I was at the girls state basketball tournament in Minneapolis and I was dreading what I had to do next.
Minneota had just upset top-seeded Mountain Iron-Buhl 51-48 at Maturi Pavilion and I was heading over to do interviews with Rangers coach Jeff Buffetta and see if any of the players wanted to talk.
At all the other state tournaments I’ve been to that are at a common indoor site, the Minnesota State High School League have arranged college- and pro-style press conferences, but at the girls Class A and AAA tournaments, they opted for scrums just outside the arena.
The end of a season is a hard thing, especially when it ends in an unexpected loss. Emotions are running high and I understand that, as a prep sports writer, I’m dealing primarily with children.
I was prepared for MIB sharpshooter Jordan Zubich to tell me she didn’t want to talk. Jordan hadn’t played badly, but she certainly didn’t play up to her enormous potential.
To her credit, she didn’t hesitate to talk to me. The problem was the MSHSL didn’t provide a private room for the press scrums. Personally, I prefer the scrum to a press conference, if just for the conversational aspect and a little more back-and-forth with the person I’m interviewing.
However, the place provided by the MSHSL was about 30 feet from where the pep band for another team had set up.
As I was talking to Jordan, I could see the tears welling in her eyes, but she was saying all the things a coach wants her to say. She needs to get better; she can’t hang her head because they had another game tomorrow.
Unfortunately, we were screaming at each other because the pep band started playing “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga.
It was a similar situation the day before with Grand Rapids coach Kris Hamling after their loss to St. Paul Como Park.
The next week, I was at the Boys Class A and AA tournaments in the same building and guess what?
The MSHSL provided every team I saw — I covered four games and seven teams over three days — with a press conference in the Gophers’ media room at Williams Arena.
Two weeks ago, I was covering the state softball tournament in North Mankato and there were two teams there from our area: Proctor and Moose Lake/Willow River, competing in the AA and A tournaments, respectively.
Incredibly, both teams made the state championship game, but I had to make a choice about who to cover because the MSHSL chose to play all four title games in overlapping time slots.
I checked the schedule at Target Field for the state baseball championships and guess what?
Not a single overlapping game.
What’s maddening about these situations is all the ads from the MSHSL I had to listen to at every state tournament I’ve been at since March patting itself on the back for how great a job they’ve done with Title IX and expanding access to girls in Minnesota.
Every timeout, period break, inning break or any other break was peppered with a 50th anniversary of Title IX ad.
I’m not accusing the MSHSL of overt, intentional sexism. I’m a 44-year-old white man. I’m not sure there is anyone among my demographic that hasn’t done something intentionally or unintentionally sexist in their lives, myself included.
But I’m trying to do better. Some of the best, most compelling athletes I cover are girls — including Jordan.
Ultimately, when the MSHSL makes choices like it did at the basketball and softball tournaments, it makes it difficult for me to provide an equal level of coverage for these girls as I do the boys.
These slights, and that’s what they are, are damaging and go against everything that Title IX stands for.
I’ve watched these girls play through injuries and I’ve watched boys bawl their eyes out at a season-ending loss.
The MSHSL and everyone still has a long way to go. Title IX kicked in the door, but not all of us walked through at the same time.
There is still a lot of work to be done and the MSHSL — just like me — must do better.
The one thing I’m sure of is every one of these young women deserves it as much as the boys.
Jamey Malcomb is the News Tribune's prep sports writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.