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Women Bisnow
April 1, 2008


This issue of Washington Women is presented by
Reznick Group:
"Building Business Value"


By Karin Tanabe for Bisnow on Business


As women’s basketball powerhouses wow us in the NCAA tournament, it’s hard to remember a time before Title IX. USA Today’s Christine Brennan, the most widely read female sports columnist in the nation, recalls it well. Growing up under the glow of the University of Toledo football stadium, Brennan was a sports fanatic who never read a woman’s byline in the sports section. “I think Title IX was the most important law in the last 35 years. When I was playing sports, boys had buses and girls didn’t. If our parents couldn’t drive us we forfeited the game. Now we raise our daughters just as our sons.”


Inside tip from Bisnow: for your NCAA brackets, Brennan picks the UConn women and UCLA men.


While Brennan was choosing a career, the only female sports broadcaster was Phyllis George, a former Miss America. Figuring it took a crown to cover sports, she opted to cover politics instead. “Here I was the biggest sports nut on the planet and I didn’t feel like I could go into sports journalism. What does that say?” But Brennan eventually followed her passion and became the first woman to cover the Washington Redskins in 1985, the year NFL locker rooms opened to female reporters. “Was there some whooping, hollering, and teasing? Sure. But I’m a big believer in wearing blinders.”


Brennan, here at the Olympic opening ceremonies in Athens, refuses to get pigeonholed: “You can’t become a caricature—I was probably the most critical person on Tonya Harding and Marion Jones. When I covered the Redskins I didn’t do a women’s sports story for years.  I was just doing my job.”


During her time on the Redskins beat, Joe Gibbs said on TV that he didn’t think women should be allowed in the locker room, but that the Redskins would follow the rules.  Which they did . . . for the most part. “One assistant coach tried to kiss me and I had to interview him the next day,” Brennan recalls. “It was so inappropriate and ridiculous but I was on deadline. That was 1987. I can’t imagine that would happen now.”


Brennan’s many firsts in sports journalism now include her latest book, Best Seat in the House, the first father/daughter memoir by a sports writer.


When Brennan’s mother died in 2002 she started to think about writing a memoir. She was able to show her father the book proposal before he passed away in ’03. “On his deathbed I told him I was going to do this,” says Brennan, who tells us that Best Seat in the House refers to sitting next to her dad at games.


“I’m probably the only person who works at the Olympics and vacations in Toledo,” says Brennan who is six-feet tall even when not standing on a box.


“I’m a journalist first, a sports journalist second and a journalist who happens to be a woman third. I don’t see myself as a crusader or advocate. People say that I am, but I’m just pointing out news stories.” And women on playing fields everywhere keep making more and more news for Brennan to cover.

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