Sunday, January 28, 1996
We've come a long way, Jaime

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Way to go, Jaime Walz.

You are looking like the athlete a lot of us baby-boomer women wanted to be. I wish my old gym teacher could have seen you sink the basket that broke a 19-year-old Kentucky record. I hope she would have noticed that you did not expire or get the vapors when you dribbled more than three times.

You'd probably have a good laugh at the ''girls rules'' we played by during the '60s, all designed to protect our delicate selves. Ha.

Actually, of course, you used two spin dribbles and a rather showy behind-the-back move to elude your defender. Then you floated the ball 15 feet where it danced on the rim for a satisfying millisecond or four before dropping in.

For you, this was career point 4,386. For girls athletics, I like to think that it was considerably more.

The game was stopped for an eight-minute ovation. And your Highlands High School teammates came running out to you clutching roses.

Too dramatic? I don't think so.

Just ask the women who used to have to practice whenever the real basketball players - the boys - were not interested in using the gym. This was a long time coming. I hope it is not politically incorrect of me to notice how, well, how awfully nice you seem to be. Your killer instinct must be reserved for the court.

An opposing coach called you a ''finesse player.'' I'm not sure what that means. Maybe your elbows are not as busy as some male players I've noticed. I hear you're going to Western Kentucky University next year. Good move. Kentucky shows the proper attitude toward basketball. That is, they worship it.

You've been on my mind for the past week or so, because I just read a book about a girls basketball team in Amherst, Mass. The author, Madeleine Blais, describes Amherst as a place where parents sit on the bleachers rereading Trollope and ''look up just in time to greet their child's good catch or hard drive to the center with an airy cry of 'Deft!' rather than 'Way to go!' ''

I loved this book, and I'll bet you would too. It's called In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle, and it's about the Amherst Lady Hurricanes, described as a ''finesse'' high school basketball team of nice girls from a nice town. They're exceptional athletes who fall apart in the crunch.

Ms. Blais is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, so she's no slouch in the talent department, either, although she says she grew up ''pretty much a sports virgin'' who was never on a team.

''During the '50s gender division was practiced as a kind of apartheid . . . ,'' she writes.

Teamwork and self-respect

She follows the Amherst team to the state championships, and I don't want to spoil the story for you, but will say that I learned a lot about competition and teamwork and, well, self-respect. And not that you need any more information about any of these, but it happens that Ms. Blais is going to be in town next week and I thought you might want to meet her.

I know she'd like to meet you.

She'll be at Rockdale Temple, 8501 Ridge Road in Amberley Village, on Thursday at noon. It's a lunch and lecture to benefit the Seven Hills School, part of their Books for Lunch series. After you broke the record, some of the girls at this school put the clipping up on the bulletin board.

See, it was important to girls who don't even go to your school. Anyway, that's what this book is about. Seven Hills School is sending a couple of tickets to you. Everybody else has to pay $27.50.

Oh, and may I say just one more time: Way to go, Jaime.