Here we are in Connecticut, the home office for the women's sports revolution, and even here, not enough of us comprehend the spirit of Title IX. As in: It makes no specific mention of sports. It requires equal opportunity in education.
It is not Entitled IX, as the less learned may believe. It merely purports to provide women equal opportunity. What the women do with the opportunity is entirely their responsibility.
Let the record show that Judy Deeb, Title IX's embodiment, began coaching here 42 years ago, one year before Title IX became law. How fortunate we've been that Deeb's opportunity came in our corner of the world, in East Lyme, showing so many young women a light for the way.
Deeb's recent accomplishment, becoming the career wins leader (553) in Connecticut high school softball, is noteworthy, sure. But it's window dressing for the bigger, better story: Who she is and what she stands for. And what she's meant to her students, players, peers and women's empowerment for the last 42 years.
The following is from Kathy Teel, now a retired sergeant with the Connecticut State Police, who played basketball — and not softball — for Deeb in the 1970s:
"Judy really connected with all the players. We loved her," Teel said over the weekend, working security for the WNBA at Connecticut Sun games. "She taught you to stick with whatever you decide to do. In my job, a lot of times I'd think about that. The (police) academy was very tough. Some of those lessons she taught, to stick with it if that's really what you want for yourself, stuck with me."
And then in the next breath, Teel broke into a story about how they loved to play practical jokes on her.
"She used to have a house on Crescent Beach," Teel said. "One night, we went all over town and took every 'For Sale' sign we could find and plastered them all over her front lawn. You could do those kinds of things to her."
Teel managed to capture Deeb's charm: You can admire her substance and still share a few laughs. Maybe that's how you last 42 years.
"I would reminisce any day about Judy and my high school softball experience," said Laura Scarpa, a member of the 1994 state championship team and now an operating room nurse at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital. "She's been a coach, mentor and friend. She's shared in so many of my favorite memories."
Most coaches, 42 years later, would have nothing but memories. Yet she endures. Her team is 15-2 this season. She took her kids paintballing before the season began. Pasta dinner tonight.
"Coaches nowadays don't coach this long. This record will probably never be broken," said Lou Milardo, the former softball coach at Hale-Ray, who owned the previous career wins record of 552. "Modern coaches don't provide that much service. Judy is a pioneer. She's given a lot to the kids. That's the most important thing: she's given so much of her time for so long."
Deeb, who truly hates talking about herself, has admitted to being touched by all the e-mails and phone calls, following the record victory over the weekend. She even saw herself on television.
"I'm sitting there watching Channel 3 news and all of a sudden, there I am," Deeb said. "I thought, 'What on earth is Joe Zone doing talking about me? They went from Matt Harvey to me. I had to laugh at that. It's been overwhelming at school. The little kids (Deeb is a physical education teacher at Lillie B. Haynes School) have been coming up to me saying, 'I saw you on TV!'"
All those little kids, especially the little girls, will grow up giving nary a second thought to equal opportunity. It's just there. They should know it's because of Deeb and her willingness to fight the fight.
Not much has changed for her. There she was again Tuesday, coaching the Vikings from the third base coaching box at Veterans Field, maybe her favorite patch of dirt on earth. She's still the rock of her family, the steadfast sister to her two brothers and sister. The coolest aunt ever to her nephew. And favorite friend of many.
It's just that now, she has 554 wins and counting, a record holder, a new TV star.
Deeb is living proof that time may be free, but it is priceless. She's used hers in the most noble way possible for the last 42 years. We're lucky she lives among us.
This is the opinion of Day spots columnist Mike DiMauro.