Lady Cougars.

First of all, let me say this:   I write this for me.  My opinions are mine and mine alone.  They do not reflect the players, coaches, or parents of the Dickson County Lady Cougars State Championship Softball team.  They reflect my thoughts —  and only mine.  That said, it’s time we have a talk,  Dickson County.

My niece and one of my lifelong best friends’ daughter — who I like to refer to as my “godbaby” and my honorary niece — are State Champions.  My niece (and some of her teammates) is a two-time State Champ. So, perhaps, it’s partiality that drives me to compose what I’m about to pen. However,  I don’t feel motivated by nepotism, but instead,  compelled by my ongoing quest for equality.

Every day, on my way home,  I pass DCHS and the not-so-subtle reminder that the Dickson County Cougars were 1988 Clinic Bowl Champs. That’s fabulous.  It was, to quote a social media buddy of mine and the coach’s daughter, “The biggest thing to ever happen to this town.”  It certainly was.  For years, you would still see t-shirts bearing the logo my mother designed for the silkscreen print at the Goal Post.  I carried the battery-operated cow (complete with DC colors and cow bell) that used to sit in the window to show-and-tell at elementary school. It was a hit.  I still remember the sign on the overpass that read: “Last one to leave Dickson turn the lights out.”  It is not an insult to that accomplishment that I write this, however,  it is simply a celebration of the ones that have happened since. 

When I was in high school, I vividly recall the marker by the front door to honor the Clinic Bowl Champ team — it still stands. Just in case you missed the shout-out on the front sign when you turn in, we remind you right by the front door. But what if I want to see the accomplishment of the two-time — now three-time  — TSSAA  Softball State Champs, the Lady Cougars?  Well,  if you squint and look through the trees, down by the softball field — bam, there you’ll see it.

So what’s wrong with that?  This:  It’s another way of subconsciously and selectively only honoring girls where they play. Of saying, it’s only about you where you live. It’s another subtle hint that girls, ladies,  should only be celebrated in their domain.  In their house. We honor girls in their respective place,  but we honor boys all over town. I mean, literally. We honored them all over town. And we still give rising tribute, on several occasions, to that team at the high school. It’s the first and last thing we want you to see when leaving or entering the hill.

Some have shrugged off my “feminist” complaints by saying — Ah, the school sign only bears the football brag because it’s right by the gridiron. Okay, well what about the one by the school’s entrance, and why didn’t our Lady Cougars rank a shout-out there as well? Also, if I’m not mistaken,  I seem to recall a new DCHS sign being put up after a storm damaged the other. (Did I dream that?)  Didn’t we already have a State Championship Softball team from 2002 that deserved recognition there as well?

As a nation, we are on the cusp of potentially electing the first female president. Yet, one doesn’t have to look too hard to see the misogynistic attitude the press and political pundits — and the country as a whole — have trickled onto Secretary Clinton. The only other candidates still left in this presidential race are Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Neither are known for their penchant for being mute. Yet these loud, one volume men are never told to stop “yelling.” They are not asked when they speak with passion why they are so “angry.”  They are not told to smile;   look happy;  cheer up. When they do lower their voice, they aren’t told to be more assertive.  When they speak with authority and enthusiasm, they aren’t told to back off a bit, lest they risk sounding like a nag.  I’ve read comments from my own Democratic well-meaning companions who say, “Bernie reminds you of that cool grandfather you love, and Hillary’s like that mom that stays on you until you clean your room.”

I don’t know how it works in your family,  but in mine —  that nagging Mom is the one who gets stuff done.  And I can certainly say,
as a state, Tennessee is known for having ladies — Lady Vols, that is — that take a backseat to no one.  It’s one of the things I love most about my homestate.  It’s the place where we make “you wish you played like a girl” come to life.

Shouldn’t my hometown, as well?  Because let me not be shy about saying this:  Brooklin Lee pretty much made that a true song we all need to sing.

(Can I get an Amen, sports fans? She is only Gatorade Player of the Year — what, twice?)

Yet, repeatedly, when I find myself shocked that chauvinism and sexism is still so intertwined in the daily fabric that coats our American lives, if I’m honest, I realize that I seep with unacknowledged anger every time I drive by the Dickson County Senior High School. And it’s time I’m publicly honest about why. 

We don’t just have State Champions from 1988.  We have some from 2002, 2014, and 2016. They, the Lady Cougars, also finished as TSSAA AAA State runner-ups in 2013 and 2015.  Why is Dickson County High School sending the unspoken  message to all the females that walk the halls on the hill that, yes, girls matter — but just not as much as those who won the same accomplishment with pigskin. The only outlet I felt honored the Lady Cougars in 2014 in the capacity that I believe they deserved to be honored in, was the Dickson County Herald.  But yet, around that same time, they ran an Anniversary spread on the Clinic Bowl team. Which I loved. But I loved it while wondering if they were going to run one on the 2002 TSSAA State Championship Softball team.  As someone who follows football more than any female I know whose last name isn’t Sullivan, I get that in small towns, particularly in the South,  football is king.  But you’re not just placing football above other sports when you relegate our softball team’s achievements to a second-class accomplishment,  you’re placing girls in the backseat to boys who always ride shotgun.

I’ve been rejecting that concept everyday of my life.  I  vehemently
reject it now.

While I would never assess an entire gender based on the actions of a dozen, I will not hesitate to point out this truth:  While select male students at DCHS were vandalizing county property and defacing our alma mater that we all hold so dear, the females were winning you a State title.

Let that sink in.

My niece — my nieces — and the amazing group of outstanding athletes that have made our town so proud, repeatedly, are every bit as important as our beloved team from 1988.  I think it’s time our school “pride” reflected that truth. Because I was raised hearing this almost everyday from the man I affectionately consider my father:  “Anything a boy can do,  a girl can do — and maybe just better.”

Our Lady Cougars proved that on the ball dirt:  not once;  not twice; but THREE times now. Let’s not diminish their accomplishment just because we value one sport more than the other.  Because I know, as a whole, we would never intentionally send the message that one gender matters more.

Would we?

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