It was somebody I didn’t know but who knew me — only because, that night, I basked in reflected glow.
“Your sister’s cool,” he said.
All I could say was, “Isn’t she?”
The event was the Hall of Fame induction ceremony for the high school I call my alma mater. It wasn’t me being inducted — it would be a poor hall of fame that would let me in.
But they got it right, on a recent Friday night, when they inducted Monta Potter into the R. A. Long High School Hall. She is eminently qualified, but they couldn’t base it on what she actually did in high school sports. Not that she wasn’t good enough. Nowadays, they call her era “pre-Title IX.” It’s better called “pre-enlightenment” or “pre-having a clue.”
All I know is that my siblings and I took it as an article of faith — because it was so obvious — that she was the best player in town, first in the smallish city where we grew up and later in a much bigger city on what should have been a much bigger stage. But it was “pre-Title IX.”
She got into the R. A. Long Hall of Fame with a Lifetime Achievement Award, and they got that right, too. She was a four-year starter in basketball for the University of Washington, and she would have been an All-American if anybody had paid attention. Basketball was a “club sport” then — pre-varsity. How good was she? Good enough for the WNBA, if there’d been one, which my brother who nominated her for the hall pointed out. He got it right.
She played volleyball and fastpitch, too, for the Huskies, and later was the assistant basketball coach. She should be in the Husky Hall of Fame.
To its credit, the UW recognized Monta and other pre-Title IX women athletes a decade or so ago with a slick banquet at Hec Edmundson Pavilion, complete with TV sportscaster Angie Mentink as MC. The women were awarded varsity letters and given other tokens of recognition. The university, belatedly, got it right.
After Monta graduated from the U, she did a few other things with her life. She was head women’s basketball coach at the University of Puget Sound. She was an assistant athletic director at the University of Oregon. She was a longtime Girl Scout executive. She’s now the executive director for the Chamber of Commerce in Carmel, Calif. She married well — she lives in Monterey with her wife, Cynthia Vernon.
In her acceptance speech at R. A. Long, she was wise, funny and gracious, which is a lot like the sister I know. She chose forgiveness and humor over bitterness and anger at the indignities she endured as a woman trying to be an athlete — which I won’t list here, because it’s embarrassing for a male who lacked great skill at sports but never the opportunity to play them.
The world, it seems, is trying — way late, of course — to get it right.