USA Today's Christine Brennan speaks of sports' role on women's lives

Wednesday, March 7, 2012 | 11:41 p.m. CST; updated 10:40 a.m. CST, Thursday, March 8, 2012

COLUMBIA — Christine Brennan, an award-winning sports columnist for USA Today, said the significance that the passing of Title IX in 1972 had on the lives of women stretches far beyond the playing field.

Brennan, this year's guest speaker at Columbia College's Althea W. and John A. Schiffman Ethics in Society Lecture series, began her speech Wednesday night at the school with how the lessons women learn from sports benefit them in all aspects of their lives.

Brennan takes jab at Cardinal fans

Brennan had a serious tone throughout her speech, but still found time to take some jabs at the St. Louis Cardinals fans in attendance.

"I am a Detroit Tigers fan and I know you guys won the World Series last year, but all I have to say is I still remember 1968, we will always have that," Brennan said, referring to the 1968 World Series, when the Tigers beat the Cardinals in seven games.

Brennan also offered her opinion on the use of steroids in baseball and Mark McGwire being the Cardinals' hitting coach.

"The steroid era was a very bad time for sports and it is sad that happened," Brennan said. "Guys like Mark McGwire do not belong in baseball, much less as a coach on the bench."

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"Whether a woman is a Division I athlete, a doctor or a lawyer, she will be better at what she does because she played sports," Brennan said. "All of a women's toughness and intelligence is because of Title IX."

Brennan pointed out that successful women, such as politician Sarah Palin, attribute much of their own mental toughness to their days as high school athletes.

"Love her, despise her or anything in between, Sarah Palin was able to respond positively to all the criticism she took because she was the point guard at Wasilla High School in Alaska," Brennan said. "The  toughness and intelligence that Palin showed comes from her playing days in high school."

Anthony Alioto, chairman of the Althea W. and John A. Schiffman foundation, said he had a personal interest in Brennan's lecture.

"I have two daughters, one who has signed to play soccer in college next year, and to think that she wouldn't have been able to play sports at all is mind blowing," Alioto said. "I think we take Title IX for granted — 1972 really isn't that far away."

Brennan closed by saying that if women in the future are to take our country foward, it will be due to their participation in athletics.

"Our country is better because our women play sports," Brennan said.

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