Episode 87: The Best of Burn it All Down 2018, part 2
This week’s show is part 2 of the best of Burn It All Down 2018!
We feature three of our favorite interviews from this year:
1) Wyomia Tyus, the first person ever to win gold medals in the 100-meter sprint in two consecutive Olympic Games, was interviewed by Amira Rose Davis in episode 53; [21:30]
2)Gaby Gartón, goalkeeper for Argentine national women’s team and sociologist of sport, joined Brenda Elsey in episode 46; [38:33] and
3) Jessica Luther interviewed Mary Carillo, former professional tennis player, tennis commentator, Emmy-winning reporter for HBO Real Sports, and Olympic commentator in episode 74. [51:21]
Then, the gang all talks about what they’re looking forward to in 2019 (WWC 2019!) [1:03:17]
Brenda: Welcome to Burn It All Down. It may not be the feminist sports podcast you want, but it’s the feminist sports podcast you need. I’m Brenda Elsey, Associate Professor of History at Hofstra University, in the Hudson Valley in New York. And I’m organizing the second segment of The Best of 2018, here on the podcast.
We have selected first our three favorite interviews of 2018, and it was a really tough decision. We’ve had amazing guests. If you’re interested, on our website, www.burnitalldown.com, there is a tab under hosts that list the guests that we’ve had, and we are so proud and grateful for people who have taken the time to share with us their experiences and insights.
So these three interviews start with Wyomia Tyus, who was interviewed by Amira Rose Davis on episode 53. In 1968, Tyus became the first person ever to win gold medals in the 100-meter sprint in two consecutive Olympic Games. Then we move on to discuss the state of women’s soccer with Argentine goalkeeper Gabriela Garton. I myself, Brenda Elsey, interviewed her when I was on a Fulbright last year in Argentina. And finally, we have Jessica’s interview with Mary Carillo in episode number 74. Of course, she’s a former professional tennis player, tennis commentator, Emmy award-winning reporter for HBO Real Sports, and also an Olympic commentator.
So those were our three favorite interviews, though, I mean, it was a really tough decision. So to even say that is to be a little bit disingenuous with how much we loved the interviewees we had for this year. And then, you’re going to hear everybody discussing what we’re looking forward to in 2019, so don’t say we’re not optimistic. We would just like to wish all of our flamethrowers a wonderful, wonderful, happy, happy New Year.
Amira: Thank you for joining me today.
Wyomia Tyus: Thanks for having me.
Amira: I’m really excited because your memoir is coming out. It’s called Tigerbelle, and I was wondering if you could let us know what should we expect from your memoir? What is it going to talk about?
Wyomia: It’s pretty much my life a little bit, but mostly it talks about from childhood on and a lot of it is dealing with being a Tigerbelle and it’s being on the Tennessee State at school, they own a track team there. It tells all my great times and my struggles. I think that it is a book that children could have, from age young to old and that it talks about a lot of my struggles and talks about a lot of my non-struggles and just what it takes to live a good life, a happy life and being strong, being a strong black woman, I like to think.
Especially with the time I was trying to be that. That in the ‘60s, living in the South in the Jim Crow era, and just being very, feeling good about who you are as a person and I think as a woman. That’s the key part that we weren’t always not encouraged to feel great about who we are and that it didn’t matter whether you were in sports or whatever you were in, you were not always given that encouragement.
I would like to think my book shows that no matter how hard the struggle, you can win it. I like to say all the time, you always stay in the fight.
Amira: Right. That’s wonderful. I’m very excited to read it. It’s been a long time coming and I think we should amplify the voices of these tremendous athletes. So, at the time that you start getting involved in sports, was it permissible for girls to be running tracks like you were? Did you come up against obstacles?
Wyomia: You have no idea. You absolutely you had to. I know you’re talking about the ‘50s and the ‘60s and young women just were not encouraged to do that. If you play sports, okay go out there and play, don’t sweat seriously. Don’t be good actually. The boys are taught, you fall down, you get up and you try it again. Women, “You got hurt, well you don’t have to do that anymore.”
That was what was going on when I was growing up. I was just, I feel really blessed and happy to have parents like I did. because my dad, he was like, “You can do whatever you want.” He would say, “Baby, you can do whatever you want. All you have to do is try and if it pleases you, if it makes you happy, then that’s great.” He would tell my brothers, I had three older brothers, “Let her play, what do you mean she can’t play because she’s a girl? We’re not having any of that. Not only that, she is good enough to key. You want somebody good on your team.”
Not so much like I played the boys, I could, but it was more that, he made that come home to my brothers that, “She’s good. You want people that are good on your team. You got something you want to do it.” They got that message. You’re thinking in the ‘50s and the ‘60s that was not a message for every young person, especially men and not for women at all, to be good at what you want to do and be proud of it. Go out there and be the best. Some people say, go out there and do your best, but be the best was a different thing.
Amira: Right. ESPN the magazine just put out a list of the dominant, so they’re doing dominant athletes, dominant teams, and I think that Tennessee State is one of the most dominant teams in the college history or overall. You talk about being a Tigerbelle and actually a new documentary just came out of Mr. Temple and the Tigerbelles. I recommend everybody to watch it, you’re talking head in it. But, what do you wish people would know and understand about Tennessee State University and their dominant track team?
Wyomia: I just think for the Tigerbelles, they have been around for years. Being around, we’re talking from the early ‘50s and putting over 40 people on different Olympic teams and bringing home 23 medals and 13 of them gold. Something countries don’t do.And here you have this small school. When I was in school, I think it was maybe 1200 students there and that produces all these great women.
Amira: Black women.
Wyomia: Black women at that. Nobody honors … One thing that really bothers me, that Mr. Temple who was coach, some people called him, but I always call him Mr. Temple. That he really never got his due. He never got his honors. For a person to do as much as he had done for women, black women-and nobody says very much about it, I don’t think I used to have a team.
When you talk about great coaches, I don’t ever hear anybody speaking of how great he was. You hear people about, “This coach was so good at basketball.” Nobody has ever said how great he was. Not only did he put us on Olympic teams, he made sure all his girls graduated. I’d like to know how many people can say that.
Amira: We’re coming up on the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Olympic games, which is your second Olympics. They were in Mexico City. Like I said, you won gold medals there and a lot of people that I have said this to you before, I think it’s one of the best. It’s not the best track teams we’ve ever filled, it’s just the power on that team was remarkable. But, it definitely was overshadowed of course by Thomas Ethan John Carlos medal stand protest, that come after proposed boycott of the games.
One of the things that both Thomas Smith and John Carlos as well as Dr. Harry Edwards has commented on, is that their regret is not reaching out to the black women that year and including them in the pre-planning of the proposal and the boycott. I was wondering if you would talk a little bit about what ‘68 meant to you and what you decided to ultimately do at the game, which was including wearing black shorts and dedicating your medals to Tommy and John after their protest and after there was action taken against them. But, I would love to be able to write black women back into the story of the 1968 moment.
Wyomia: I think they should be, there were two things that happened. One thing especially that bothers me most a lot is the fact that Madeline Manning, Mims now, won the 800 meters, a black woman had never been done before. She won the gold medal. It’s 50 years later and no one in America, I should say, has won a gold medal and no one talks about that. That is an amazing feat.
Amira: It was very important because there was an idea that black women couldn’t run distances.
Amira: That was a big deal, precisely.
Wyomia: It is. She went out there and she did it. Then for me to go and I went back to back 100 meters, nobody has ever heard of that, nobody had thought about it and I guess they didn’t think, we know they didn’t think about it. They still don’t think about it, that I did that. I think if it was a male figure that did that, we would still be talking about it.
I just think that it takes a lot for people to say, I think about being included with the whole boycott, we’re never talking about it, what was happening at San Jose State. To me, how do you leave out a group of people and not only that, these are the people, the group of people you’re going to leave out are the black women that, and black women have always supported all the causes and they would say always right there with them and not so much behind them.
Right there with them sometimes, or in front of that. We were not just even called upon to even make a statement or say what we thought. Whether it was the same thing they were thinking or not. The press also had a lot to do with that. They would call and just talked to Mr. Temple, “What do your girls think about this?” But, it could have been handled another way. Also I just felt that we should have been included. I think that when you have a woman’s point of view, it is more inclusive. I feel that way.
Especially with a project like that. You need everybody included. It’s what you were thinking, who you are on the right track. I just think that’s something that needed to happen, needed to change, and we should have been right there with the change. We were, just that nobody wrote about it, nobody said anything about it. From us wearing black shorts, for us dedicating that, and nobody … Even on the victory stand, there were pictures where we were given the black power salute, but nobody talks about that.
Papers say, “What did you do? Did you do anything?” Guys, 50 years and nobody knows that these things happened and that the women would just, they were there, it’s just that what they had to say or if they were asked, was never printed.
Amira: I think that has a lot of lessons for today as we’re watching this renaissance of athletic activism and we see that the WNBA players being particularly active and I think that there’s a lot of lessons in that and remembering women are athletes too but have something to say.
Wyomia: Yeah, I think so and I think too the other part I’m really loving in this day and time, you have so many women of color being a part of sports that we would never even dream of them being a part of. It never was thought of or they would never allow us to be a part of and we have so many.
It’s just the fact that change had to start somewhere and to me change started in ’68. It’s moving on and it’s just now women are getting more empowered and being listened to a lot more and that, I think that’s great. I think it’s not just on the athletic field, it’s everywhere and that’s what we need in order to make a change.
Change is good and then Title IX Came and that made a whole big difference, but it also made a big difference in black schools too. Colleges and universities and that a lot of the … You were getting, Mr. Temple’s program could never happen in ever because nobody else was doing it when he was doing it and then now all schools they have women sports that you have to be equal in that.
Now our schools are great, recruiting, you can see that all the time. A student is going to say, “I don’t want to be in Tennessee, I prefer being in California,” that thing. That to me, what happened with the women sports, not that it’s a bad thing.
Amira: But it’s definitely a legacy that we don’t, but as much as we have this idea about the cost of integration for black college football for instance, that when they start integrating colleges, black college football started declining. We don’t realize that for women sports, you have that same legacy happening after Title IX and for black programs, especially these programs like Tennessee State and Tuskegee that were vanguards and were the first to get scholarships and do all of these things, this was really the start of the decline for them, because of resources and racism and all of this stuff. I think that’s really important to talk about.
Wyomia: I think so too and I think it should be talked about a lot more, because I don’t think everybody gets the gist of it. I think what we are saying here is just a little, the touch of the iceberg. I think a lot of times people might hear this little snippet and go “Wow, wow, they’re saying that,” It is true. It is true in the sense that, if you look at it, you research it, it will tell you right there.
We all want progress. It’s not that we’re not wanting that and we’re not seeing. You think about … I know people that are really at Tennessee State, I know most of them would say, “I just can’t, my program I can’t compete. I can’t give what these big schools are giving, I can’t.” People want to go to the schools and that’s great, they have the grace to go and that’s the other thing.
You just can’t want to go and go, but you have to have the grades to go and all of that. When it was just Tuskegee and Tennessee State, they had a monopoly on it and things have changed, but that change, we’re losing a lot of what we call history. Our history.
Amira: Great. I just have one last question. You talked about the importance of pay equality, and there has been a lot of conversations in recent years about pay equity in sports for women and then also about amateurism within colleges and we talked about your work aid scholarship, providing $10 a week.
Wyomia: A month.
Amira: A month? Oh that’s right. $10 a month. I think that we are at a moment where a lot of labor issues have come to the forefront and women athletes aren’t paid as much as men. College athletes, particularly black college athletes are caught in this exploitative system, where schools are making billions of dollars off their back. But, a lot of times when people try to defend against this, they say, “Oh, but if we pay men athletes to women sports are going to disappear.”
This week my coworker wrote a piece that said, stop using title nine as a shield and really just pay everybody. I think that I would love to hear your thoughts on issues of pay equality within women sports and if you thought, have we made progress, what work is there to be done, where are we about paying women athletes?
Wyomia: A long way away. I know that, that’s number one. I retired after ’68 and then about five years later I decide to go back because they started a pro-track tour and I thought athletes should be paid, because I know what a struggle it was for so many athletes to … I was okay because I got three meals a day in college, I got all my stuff paid for. But, people that were not in college, it was very difficult for them, for them to have a job, especially if you’re a woman.
To have a job, to be able to work a job and get the person that they’re working for. Because, I had to go to Europe for three weeks and as well, you don’t have a job when you get back. I’ve always felt that athletes should be paid. Why is it that because you run track, or why is it because you want to be in the Olympic games you should not be paid? That means if you’re in an Olympic games, you’re the best in the world. You should be paid for your talent. I’ve always felt that.
Now that’s it’s starting to come around, but when the kids started to come around, of course women were way, way, way on the back burner and it’s like, when are we going to see equal pay when it comes to that? I can think about athletes, I don’t know how it is now but I’m sure it’s like in track and field, I would hope that they get the same amount. But, from what I hear, that doesn’t happen. The same thing, I just think that, why wouldn’t you?
You want the best, you pay the best basketball player, you pay the best baseball player, why is it you can’t pay the best woman if they’re showing you entertainment which you’d want, you’re coming out to see. I can remember when UConn was winning all those games all the time and people started saying, “Oh God, that team always wins. I don’t really want to see basketball because they always win.” They never said that when the cowboys were the ones winning all those championships.
I never, I want to see more of the cowboys. I want the cowboys to be the one. I don’t understand the difference and I think people need to take a bigger, look at the big picture, because as they look at it, and to me it goes back to women are so weak, they’re not on the data. They’re weak, they don’t give us a good show. But, I don’t know why not. If anyone looked at the final four this year.
Amira: Exactly. We had a field day. We were talking about that last week.
Wyomia: Yeah, then I guess the people that were so upset with UConn not wining, they must be very happy now. It’s UConn not winning two years straight now.
Amira: But, they don’t even know and we need to increase coverage for women sports so that people can see this great talent.
Wyomia: Great talent, yeah. I think too that, I do think in these past Olympics and all that and with the emerging of a lot of women in color coming to the forefront, and women in many things you have not seen like in gymnastics and all that. Just the fact that people are looking at that and saying, it used to be of somebody who was like, Simone, that is just too muscular.
They’ve seen now that that’s what, it’s not too muscular, that’s being athletic. But, when men are doing it, it’s “Oh yeah, good show, that’s how you have to be.” Why does it make a difference whether you are a man or woman? You want to, as I go back to … You want to see the best, you want the best to be there. In order for that to happen, we have to encourage our women to do that and we have to insist that the press cover it differently.
Only when women do something and they don’t say. We have to educate the announcers because some of the things they say about women and certain sports, it’s like, and I mentioned this in my book. That’s something I talk about in my book so please go out there and buy that.
Amira: Go pick the book.
Wyomia: Tigerbelle and why we tell you a story. I talk about that and how there’s such a big difference and I don’t understand. When you’re looking at sports, you want to see the best. You want to see who’s doing and if it’s females that are better, that’s all the best. It lets you know what the world is all about. That’s what the world is.
Amira: Exactly. Well thank you so much for taking the time and talking with us today.
Wyomia: Thanks for having me.
Amira: Go get the book.
Wyomia: Oh yes. Please do.
Brenda: I’m so excited to be talking today with Gaby Garton, keeper for the Argentine national women’s team, professional club player here in Argentina, and also an amazing master student and scholar of the game.
Gaby, you’ve been playing in Argentina for five years now, professionally. Before that, you were at Rice University. How was your college career?
Gaby Garton: Let’s just say my time at Rice was a little bit disappointing. Growing up, obviously when you’re playing club soccer basically your main goal is to get to college and play at a Division I level and hopefully get a scholarship to do so. But honestly, my experience wasn’t anything like what I was hoping it was going to be. I thought it was going to be where you get there … and college is a great opportunity to grow as a player, as a person … and that the coaches were going to be capable of leading you through that. Unfortunately, it’s almost like the main goal, which is not so surprising I guess, is winning, right? That’s the bottom line. So a lot of times, coaches would find it easier to maybe recruit new players instead of working on the players that they had with them.
Also, I think a lot of the times I felt like this, and some other girls who probably didn’t get as much playing time as they would have liked felt as well, that their value for the coaching staff is completely based on what they could offer on the field. As a time in your life, when you’re going through college you’re trying to figure out what you’re going to be doing for the rest of your life. And when your whole value at the time is placed entirely upon how much playing time you get or what a coach thinks of you, it’s really difficult to work through that. Honestly, I actually still have nightmares. It was a time when I stopped enjoying soccer, almost. I dreaded going to practices. I still have nightmares, where I wake up sweating and so scared that I showed up late to practice … or dreams where I forget my cleats or my gloves or something at home, and I come back and am late for practice. It’s a strange fear of messing up that I felt was instilled in me during that time.
So honestly when I got the chance to play in Argentina, it was … the passion that I originally had for soccer or football, I guess, was reignited. Learning to enjoy it again and train without so much stress, maybe that fearing … training without the fear of making a mistake, I guess, would be the way I’d put it. Obviously there’s pressure because you’re playing at a club level, on a competitive level. But I felt the pressure was different than when I was at Rice.
Brenda: How did you end up on the Argentine national team?
Gaby: The way I got to the national team was kind of crazy. Honestly, I think if it hadn’t been for Rice, I wouldn’t be in Argentina probably, ironically enough. When I was going into my senior season, my goalkeeper coach at Rice told me that there was an incoming freshman who, her name’s also Gaby, who had had experience training with the U-17 national team in Argentina and had contact information for the coach. He mentioned that they were actually looking for goalkeepers. Through Gaby, I was able to get in touch with Carlos Borrello who’s the coach now, and he was the coach at the time. There was a period between 2013 and 2016 where he wasn’t involved in AFA, but when I was … this was in 2011, when I was originally getting in touch with him. He invited me down for a trial. I went for two weeks. I trained the Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday schedule that they have now.
It was a really eye-opening experience for me. Coming from college, where you have everything in terms of material things, equipment, clothes … everything, you have everything pretty much handed to you and ready, you know? You show up for preseason and you already have four training shirts, shorts, all your game gear. They give you cleats. For goalkeepers, they would give us gloves, everything we really needed. And when I got to Argentina, when I showed up, I think actually it was wearing some Rice gear, the girls all liked the clothes. They were like, “That’s so awesome. Here we don’t get anything.” “What do you mean, you don’t get to keep any of the clothes you train in?” “No, you show up at the locker room. You get dressed in the clothes that they have set out for you. And then when you leave, you have to leave the clothes behind, like any other gear.”
And that was just one thing. It was also the fact that they had to pay for their own cleats. Girls who often, it was difficult to be able to put together enough money to buy a decent pair of cleats, especially since in Argentina any article of clothing and even more so for sports gear, is probably at least 50% more expensive than in the states. And you’re talking salaries that are at least a third of what people make in the U.S. monthly, and for these girls even less, probably. So it was just … [inaudible 00:21:29] was shocked and was curious as to what it was that kept them playing then, because they would also tell me that the league wasn’t that great and that they weren’t every really sure if they were going to get to play on the weekend because games would get suspended and then they’d get passed to the next weekend. A tournament that had 14 teams in it sometimes would last a whole year or more because of a lack of organization, and that they would sometimes get to play.
Things have improved since then. At that time sometimes they’d have four games scheduled in a month, but they’d only end up playing one because of weather. They wouldn’t play in the week, so games would get pushed on. But talking to them, it was clear that just being able to wear the clothes from the Argentine national team and being able to think about representing their country was something that was enough to push them and to continue playing in those conditions. At the time, there were very girls who were playing out of the country, so they were all pretty much in the league in AFA in Buenos Aires.
Something I’ve been thinking about, too, is they wouldn’t receive … They’re completely marginalized in AFA. It’s almost like you feel women’s football is a second thought, or even a third, fourth. A lot of times, people … I think less so now, because they have been receiving more coverage, especially after the letter that they sent. And when they went on strike, luckily the media has been giving them a lot more attention, a lot more coverage than before. But there are people who previously didn’t even know that there was a women’s national team.
This is something that also happens … When I eventually moved to Argentina in 2013, I was initially playing with River. And just getting to talk to people, I would mention that I was playing soccer for the women’s team, and most people didn’t even know they had a women’s team at River Plate. But it’s something that happens frequently. The men’s team gets immense amounts of coverage, and the women’s team is neglected. More so than just in terms of the coverage they receive, I think what shocked me when I first got to Argentina was the fact that you have these huge massive clubs like Boca and River who aren’t even capable of providing their teams with the gear they need.
When I got to River, they were training with clothes that had been used by the men’s team over two years before that or something. It was just all old, and some of it had holes in it. It didn’t really fit right. But I guess that’s something that’s unfortunately very common in most teams. And a lot of teams in AFA don’t even have their own training gear. They just have to train with whatever clothes that they have. I think it’s interesting that despite all this, especially the girls who play at the clubs that they’re huge fans of, especially at Boca, River, San Lorenzo, they’re willing to put up with those conditions to be able to wear the jersey that they’re wearing. But mainly just because of what that means in terms of men’s football, because Boca, River, and San Lorenzo for example, they’re well-known but because of what their men’s teams have accomplished.
The club that I have been playing for over the past two years, UAI Urquiza, is one of the clubs that invests probably the most out of the other clubs in AFA. I’m not saying that it’s perfect by any stretch of the imagination. I will say that I play at UAI Urquiza and most people wouldn’t even know what club I’m talking about. I think for some girls it was a source of pride to be able to say that they were playing at a big club, and for people to be taken in by that.
I don’t know, I think I got tired of that at River and that fact that yes, you’re playing in a big club but at the same time, your already-measly stipend that you’re getting wasn’t even a guarantee. Sometimes we’d get paid … Some months we’d get paid, and other months we wouldn’t. I’m talking about a stipend of about $20, maybe $30 a month. Some girls, if they were lucky, might have gotten up to $50 a month. But even so, there were times where they’d owe us three months of stipends, and there were girls who would have to pay for their own transport and their families couldn’t even hardly afford it and they couldn’t make it to practices. At the same time, they were still happy to be there. I guess it’s a good thing that they enjoy it, but at the same time it’s frustrating that that’s what you get used to in Argentina.
Brenda, you were saying that it makes you so upset to see the conditions that I play in, but the girls try to make the best out of it because it’s what they have. I think, slowly, things are going to change, but it’s going to be a long process. It’s going to take a big fight, from the players side and then also, hopefully, with this new administration in women’s football in AFA, they’ll be able to work alongside the players to improve the conditions and improve the league.
Brenda: Could you tell me about the collective letter that the team sent to the Argentine Football Association a few months ago?
Gaby: I wasn’t actually with the team in that period of time, but I was in contact with quite a few of the players who were involved. Mainly, the letter was, I think, a culmination of frustrations that the girls have been going through over the years. When they started training again after a two year break, they realized that the conditions were worse than when they had left off. They were training on a turf field. They were in a locker room that’s intended for futsal [inaudible 00:27:16]. We still change in a locker room that’s intended for a sport that involves about 12 to 15 players. We’re about, well when you look at the full number, about 20, 25 girls, so it’s kind of uncomfortable when you only have 6 showers and a limited period of time to get ready.
And then also, the fact that they weren’t getting paid their stipends that corresponded to them. A rough trip to Uruguay for a friendly, where they had to travel to Uruguay by boat where they left around 4:00 in the morning, had to wait on a bus before the game for about four to five hours, play the match, and then return by boat that same night, because the federation didn’t want to pay for a hotel. I’m pretty sure they didn’t get any money that was supposed to be paid for them for that day, either. And then in Montevideo, they had to wait on the bus until before match time before they could get into the locker room to warm up and stuff. They were on the bus for about five hours. Then tight after the match, they showered and had to head back to Buenos Aires the same night, and having to play an international match that same day.
So I think the letter was just a culmination of a lot of poor treatment pretty much, and feelings of not being valued at all by the federation, which are not inaccurate feelings. With the change in administration … The president of women’s football now is brand new. The one who had been there before him has been around since the 90s and pretty much just insured that the sport wouldn’t grow at all. I mean, some of the girls have the opinion that it was most convenient for him if the sport didn’t grow, because it would be easier to steal money or skim money off the top from the discipline. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I think it’s probably [inaudible 00:29:11].
With this new administration, there was hopes that their demands are going to be met. The new president is also the vice president of the club I was playing, UAI Urquiza. He’s done some really good stuff at UAI Urquiza, but there are also things, obviously, that could be improved in terms of stipends … and not just stipends, but other things having to do with work schedules and … When a player wants to leave the club, sometimes it’s very difficult for the club to give them permission to go to play at a different club, even if it’s outside the country.
Getting back to the national team, they wrote this letter, pretty much just demanding decent treatment. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. Asking for a stipend that was reasonable to replace the hours of work that they missed in order to be able to go to practice and to cover travel costs, and asking to play on a grass field, asking for a locker room that’s adequate for the amount of players that were present at training. Since that letter, they didn’t actually come to a direct agreement, but the federation decided to come up with 200 pesos a day in terms of the stipend, so about $10 a day. And we’re training on a grass field, but we’re still in the same locker room as before. I think it was good for the federation to know that the team is willing to unite and to fight for things that are basic rights really, I think in sports, nothing out of the ordinary and definitely not even close to the same conditions that the men have. We’ll see what happens.
Brenda: Right now your team’s getting ready to play the Copa América. Copa América Femenina starts in Chile April 4th, and is the only tournament of its kind in the region. It qualifies the countries under Carnival, just for our listeners that might not know, for some really big events. So Gaby, what are your hopes? How’s the Argentine team looking?
Gaby: Despite the fact that we haven’t been training together for that long, I think that Borrello, the head coach, has managed to put together a very talented group of players. In addition to the girls you saw training the other day, there’s about seven or eight who are coming in from leagues around the world. There are some players coming who play in Spain and Brazil, in China. I think those are the three … oh, and one that plays in the United States. She’s definitely a huge part of our chances.
We have a tough first match against Brazil. That’s definitely going to be the biggest challenge. I don’t know, I think very even in terms of the rest of the matches. It’s going to be a tough schedule. We have Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Bolivia in our group. Bolivia is probably the least-developed country in terms of women’s football, but Ecuador and Venezuela have been taking huge strides in terms of bettering women’s football in their countries. I don’t know if it’s necessarily the federation itself or just the fact that it’s becoming more popular among women to play. They’ve definitely been having stronger performances at international tournaments than in the past. It’s going to be a tough group to get through, and then once … hopefully we get through the group stage. We’re going to need to finish in the top three to have a chance at qualifying for the World Cup and then the top two for qualifying for the Olympics. The whole top four qualifies for the Pan American Games.
Brenda: We wish you the best of luck in Chile next month, and we appreciate you sharing this incredible story of struggle and dedication with us at Burn It All Down.
Jessica: How did you originally get into tennis?
Mary: I played tennis at the Douglaston Club. It’s a tiny little town in Queens, New York. I started playing because I had been on the swimming team and my ears were getting terrible, swimmer’s ear, and then one day I saw this beautiful family in cable knit sweaters and creamy white shorts and it looked beautiful and elegant and warm, and so I started playing tennis. That’s a very true story. I’ll never forget the Cerna family. And so my dad was a very good athlete. We joined the tennis part of the Douglaston Club and at the same time that that was happening, the McEnroe family from up the street joined the Douglaston Club. It became a real tennis town. There were only five courts. Two hard courts, three clay courts. In the beginning, they weren’t crowded, and then when John McEnroe started becoming John McEnroe it became very big and we had tournaments and tennis ladders.
Jessica: Oh, wow.
Mary: Yeah. And it became a real tennis town and a real tennis club. It had been a swimming club and it became a tennis club. My parents are 88 and 92 years old. My dad still plays there about four or five times a week with the old guys, he calls them. They’re in their 60s. My father is 92. “Yeah, I’m just playing with the old guys.”
Jessica: I love it.
Mary: So that’s how I started playing and then it became this hotbed. When I was growing up, I would read tennis magazines, anything I could find, and you either had to be in Florida playing on clay courts or in California or Texas was big, too, for hard courts. But then, all of the sudden, New York became a very decent address for tennis.
Jessica: What do you love about tennis?
Mary: I happen to love all racquet sports. I love the geometry. I think a racquet as a tool, whether it’s a badminton racquet or a tennis racquet or a ping pong paddle. I happen to think that’s a beautiful tool. And I like that there’s a net. I like that it’s one-on-one, basically. What I love about tennis and what I deeply resent about on-court coaching and things like that that I feel are trying to ruin the very integrity, the fiber of my sport … I like that you can be … more than any other sport … you can be tall, you can be short, you can be fast or slow, you could have great hands, you could have hands of stone. You can play it with any body type. You can play with any kind of mentality, any kind of mindset. You want to be patient? You’ll win a lot of matches. You want to be aggressive? You’ll win a lot, or you can lose a lot of matches the same way. That is what I genuinely like more about tennis than anything. Any kind of person with any kind of mentality and sensibility can play it and make it their own.
I think that’s really … I don’t know that there are a lot of sports that lend themselves to that kind of creativity and freedom.
Jessica: Yeah, no I agree. What was the transition like for you when you retired? You almost went immediately into commentating.
Mary: I always hung around writers and I was kind of quotable as a player. I would lose a match and the WTA or the Virginia Slims would say, “Can you go in there and …”
Jessica: Okay, so you’ve always been good with sort of turn of phrase or [crosstalk 00:44:36]
Mary: Well, I mean, but I was a wisenheimer because I would always have just lost to somebody, badly. So I would describe the carnage and I’m like, “Why do you want me to go in and talk about it?” And I always like writing. My brother’s a writer so I hung around them and I was always interested in how they were describing something or what they were concentrating on or what match they decided to write about. And then TV came around, which at the time, when I was offered my first TV job, it was only a couple of tournaments a year. USA network was just starting to show women’s tennis so it wasn’t really a job. I mean, it was just something I did. But then they started covering more tennis, and then I was allowed to do men’s tennis, which was a big jump.
Jessica: Of course.
Mary: And then I switched over to ESPN and they had Davis Cup and originally I wasn’t allowed … You’ll love this. I wasn’t allowed to cover Davis Cup, not because ESPN didn’t want me to. The United States Tennis Association didn’t want me to because they came up with some cockamamie rule …
Jessica: Like, they wanted a male commentator, is that what …
Mary: They wanted someone who had been a Davis Cup player.
Jessica: Oh, of course.
Mary: So, of course, I wasn’t among those who played men’s …
Jessica: Yeah, you’re never gonna meet that criteria.
Mary: Right. And I have to say, I’ve had a lot of good luck over the years. This guy named Brian Williams was the producer at ESPN at the time and to his great credit, he said to the USTA, “She can’t cover the Davis Cup, I don’t want to either.” He delivered an ultimatum to the US and they said, “All right, what the hell.” And so I did it, and I love Davis Cup. I love Fed Cup. So I can’t tell you how often a guy thinks he’s giving me a compliment, a viewer, when he says, “I like listening to you because you don’t sound like a girl. Your voice is deep.” You ever get that nonsense?
Jessica: Oh, yeah.
Mary: And they think that …
Jessica: We are five women who run a podcast.
Mary: You know what, I retract my question.
Jessica: We’ve certainly heard about our voices from people.
Mary: Right? So you get judged first and foremost. They’re not even listening to the content. They’re listening to the sound of it.
Jessica: Right. Yes. Do you have … I’m sure you have plenty, but do you have a favorite memory of a match that you called? Like when you think back on it, you get that thrill of thinking about being there and witnessing it and being able to call it.
Mary: Oh, boy. I’m lucky, because I’ve covered Davis Cup, the team competitions when the whole place is just rocking. There was a 1991 Davis Cup tie between the US and France and it was in Leon, France which is a gorgeous city anyway and Yannick Noah was the captain and he brought together all these old guys who weren’t supposed to beat the young Pete Sampras, the young Andre Agassi. We were supposed to have the team. And the place … I can still remember the ground shaking. That was one of the best sporting events I’d ever been to.
I mean, but I’ve covered … I’m elderly. I’ve covered great … There was a Wimbledon between Lindsay Davenport and Venus Williams and Lindsay had match point and lost. Match point in Wimbledon. It was still one of the most unforgettable matches I’ve ever called. And the funny thing is, when the matches are great, I don’t remember anything that I said, necessarily. Because if it’s great, you just let the director cut cameras.
Jessica: I wanted to ask you about your Olympic coverage, in part because whenever … especially friends of mine that aren’t tennis people when I talk about Mary Carillo … the video that I always send them …
Mary: The badminton.
Jessica: … is the badminton video. It’s just such joy.
Mary: That is the most ridiculous video. That was at the Athens Olympics, Jessica.
Mary: That was at the Athens Olympics, and people call it “The Badminton Rant.” It’s really a rant about motherhood.
Jessica: Yes. Which I relate to a lot. I feel like part of it is because your storytelling is so clear. I mean, when you say “Christopher Burr, it’s always Christopher Burr.” Just the detail with which you deliver. But anyway, I …
Mary: It continues to be Christopher Burr, I’m sure of it.
Jessica: Yes. I always say, “Well, she does tennis commentating and she’s great at it,” but then I’m like, “But here’s this video.” That’s the thing I end up showing to people. But you’ve been covering the Olympics for …
Mary: Pyeongchang was my 14th.
Jessica: That’s amazing.
Mary: Pyeongchang was my 14th. The first one I did was Albertville.
Jessica: So one of the things I was wondering about is to cover something like the Olympics, the learning curve, the amount of information that you would have to know versus tennis which you grew up playing, your knowledge base is pretty much set.
Mary: It’s the only sport I’m fluent it.
Jessica: Yeah, so what was that like for you, to go into Olympic coverage?
Mary: I loved it. My attitude has always been … Because I love sports. I love the athletic heart. And I love traveling. I want to see as much of the planet as I can before I’m gone. And so it got to the point where … So CBS, many years ago … I was still pretty much a kid … they asked me if I wanted to cover some skiing. I’m there like, “Absolutely.” There was no question. There wasn’t any moment where I thought to myself, “What the hell do I know about skiing?”
Jessica: Did you know anything about skiing?
Mary: I skied as a kid, but no, I didn’t know anything about skiing. I was the bottom of the hill ski reporter and that allowed me … I say yes to every … My whole attitude-
Jessica: So your job was to interview them after they’ve skied down the hill.
Mary: When they skied down the hill. That was my assignment. “Fine. I can do that.” And my attitude was, “If I’m not any good at it, they’ll tap me on the shoulders and get me gone.” I wasn’t afraid of that. I almost always say, “yes.” These people aren’t geniuses who are doing it around you, and you learn. If you have any kind of intellectual curiosity or any kind of sporting awareness, you will probably catch on. So then that’s how I got my assignment for Albertville, and then they started using me for gymnastics and then they started, all of the sudden, now I’m talking about figure skating. It’s challenging and it’s fun, and if you’re sitting next to somebody like Rowdy Gaines, it’s amazing. And you just smile because that’s what sports can do. It’s amazing stuff. It really is.
Jessica: So one of your other jobs is …
Mary: What else do I do? Oy.
Jessica: Well, you won an Emmy for work on HBO Real Sports.
Mary: That’s a nice show.
Jessica: That’s a great show. I wanted to ask you, as a reporter myself, a journalist, there are certain stories that I’ve reported on that I still think a lot about and I’ll think, “I should check back in, see how that person’s doing.” What is one of those stories for you? That you still-
Mary: The one you’re talking about, the Hoyts … Rick and Dick Hoyt, father son …
Jessica: It’s the father …
Mary: Yes. The kid was born … This is a kid who could have been treated as a vegetable and instead, he graduated from college.
Jessica: The dad famously pushed him in the marathons.
Mary: Marathons, ultramarathons, triathlons. I mean, it’s an incredible bond between father and son. It was a beautiful story, and we actually updated that story twice.
Jessica: Oh, wow.
Mary: Yeah. In fact, a couple of Boston Marathons ago, it was gonna be the father’s, Dick’s, last marathon …
Jessica: I remember that.
Mary: … because he was getting old, his back was bad and all this stuff. And Rick still is pushed by friends of theirs and stuff. Those are the kinds of stories that resonate. The late, great Frank Deford, he, too, was a correspondent for Real Sports from the beginning. I joined the second year and Frank was there from the first year. He did stories like that, too. Real Sports does a lot of good work, investigative journalism, paper trails, all that kinda stuff. My assignments tend to be … and which were kind of what Frank’s were … more profiles, quieter stories that we get to shine a light on, some people you’d never even consider that they could be athletic, let alone be championing some big cause.
So, I’ve had a lot of nice stories like that over the years.
Jessica: One of my final questions. I’ve looked around and it doesn’t seem like you have much social media?
Mary: I have zero presence.
Jessica: Please tell me about how great that is. Have you ever had it?
Jessica: And how …
Mary: Everybody I work for wants me to have …
Jessica: How have you resisted? Why?
Mary: Because it looks terrible to me. It seems like such a time suck, first of all, which I don’t have time for. And I know that I would get very grouchy in a hurry and I would write things that I mean entirely too much. When they say, “Oh, I didn’t mean …” No. I would always mean it. Which, I get myself in enough trouble on national television. Do I really want to have a back and forth argument with some mook who’s just trying to get me lit up? I mean, I’m on it. I follow you. I’m on Twitter secretly, covertly. Jim Courier taught me how to do that.
Jessica: That’s smart.
Mary: That’s smart, because there is so much information out there and I’m very politically aware. So I go from following tennis to following the latest horror in Washington, but I keep my distance because I just know it would be a bad idea. And what we are told is, “Stay out of politics. If you go on social media …” Martina Navratilova has never written a word about tennis. She is a great, dear friend of mine. I happen to agree with her politics, but you don’t follow Martina Navratilova to find out who’s winning over on court 18. She’s not gonna be reporting that, and I happen to love that about her. She swings for the fences and she uses her influence, her power, her voice. But she gets all kinds of crazy hate mail, hate tweets. I don’t feel the pull to be a part of that.
Jessica: Well, thank you so much for all of your time, Mary.
Mary: Oh, my pleasure.
Jessica: Thank you for being on Burn It All Down.
Mary: It’s a very good listen. I’m very happy you wanted me to be a part of it.
Brenda: We cannot leave 2018 without talking about what we’re excited for in 2019. Amira, what are you looking forward to?
Amira: I don’t like odd numbers. But, I’m excited for the women’s World Cup in France, cause, duh. I’m also excited about the Red Socks playing the Yankees in London. I’m not sure why that excites me, but it really does, and they’re happening at the same time. So, I’m trying to finagle a way to somehow be in France and then take that underwater train to London to see the Red Socks and Yankees play in London.
Amira: In late June. Yes. I’ve researched to do in Switzerland. So, I’m envisioning a European epic birthday month tour of … This is what I’m speaking into existence. Okay. So, yes, that is what I’m looking forward to, as I’m sure many of us are. Particularly watching Jamaica’s debut. We’ve talked to Lauren Silver, and all the Jamaican Federation, the Reggae girls. So I’m really kind of looking forward to that, but also World Cup, and the Olympics. They make me randomly Nationalistic in a way I kind of don’t recognize and creeps me out.
But, I’m also kind of leaning into the basic parts of myself, and I’m just like at peace with the fact that as much as I’ll enjoy narratives from other teams, in my heart of hearts I’ll still be rooting for the United States National team, and I’m really excited to go after another World Cup.
Brenda: Okay. That’s Exciting! Jess?
Jessica: Yeah! I’m going to say the same thing, World Cup. I’m also … Then the other part for me my dream that I’m going to speak into existence is that the French Open ends when the World Cup begins. They actually share a weekend in Paris, and I would love to be able to go to both of those things. That feels like a pipe dream, but that is something that I’m looking forward to because something that I always look forward to at the beginning of the year is the tennis season. It is my favorite sport to watch, and of course Serena and Venus what they’re going to do this year. How they’re going to play, but then of course all the young ones, Naomi Osaka. Like how it’s going to be after her U.S. Open win. I’m always interested in Sloane and Madison. I’d like to see what Azarenka is possibly going to do this year. I really want her to have a comeback. I think that would be fun.
And then of course I’m always interested in the old men of tennis. I like Andy Murray and all of his feminism. I hope that he makes it back to the court in a way where he actually can play for some titles. And then of course Federer Nadal Djokovic. Whether or not these old men are gonna be able to play at the same level. But, then I look forward to the young guns coming up, and whether or not someone like Zverev can actually do it. Whether or not he can translate it into winning something like a grand slam. So, that’s what I’m looking forward to.
Brenda: Amazing. Shireen?
Shireen: Like my beautiful co-hosts and brilliant minds that they are, the women’s World Cup. I’m super excited for that. The Reggae Girls, Scotland, Chile. Obviously I want Canada to win and France is in my heart. You know I support Les Bleus totally. I also am looking forward to hopefully Mashallah going to France and hanging out with La Du Gamers, which are a grassroots football team. I hung out with them in Warsaw. I do actually really hope my Raps, my beloved Raptors, Kwahi Leonard is here. They just beat Golden State. I have to say that because it’s really important.
I’m really excited for what happens with the NBA this year, and a really special one to bring out my 2019 to start it in a wonderful way. Because my birthday is January 22nd. I will be going to the CWHL All-Star Game, which will be played at the Air Canada Center. I’m hooking up with a couple of super cool friends, Courtney Szto, we know we’ve had on the show, and my friend Amina Mohamed and Erica Ayala will be here that weekend. So we are going to hang out. I’m super excited. I love women’s hockey. I love the CWHL. I mean Sarah Nurse will be there, Natalie Spooner, Marie-Philip Poulin will be there. It’s just like my faves in women’s hockey. What a wonderful way to start the celebrations of my birthday and have women’s hockey involved. So it’s going to be pretty fabulous.
Brenda: So, wow, that’s a lot of goodness. I mean let’s face it. What I’m looking forward to is, I guess, the NBA season. Of course not, it’s the women’s World Cup. I’m so excited! I bought the tickets in spite of Eva’s crap system where I had to say I was a Mrs. I bought tickets in a fit of optimism to Argentina versus Scotland, and the U.S. versus Chile. And, you know that I spend a good amount of my life covering the history of Chile, Argentina, and Brazil. I’m super excited. For anyone out there who has a job for us to do between June 7th and July 7th, I think that you should hire us, and give us a lot of money to go there. So I have no idea how it’s happening. How I’m getting on a plane and going, but I have tickets. Mrs. Brenda has tickets.
Amira: We’re speaking things into existence.
Shireen: Mrs. Brenda.
Brenda: That’s right. Speaking into existence also involves advertising ourselves as free agents here. So any outlets who want really optimistic feminists, anti-racists, to report from France let us know. Chile has never gone before, so I’m especially excited for all of them.
Lindsay: We hate capitalism, but we are for sale so…
Brenda: It’s a total system. There’s nothing we can do, but you could help us beat it from within.
Lindsay: Right, there we go.
Brenda: By giving us a lot of money. That’s wealth redistribution you know. Right there. Linds.
Lindsay: So, obviously I join my colleagues in being excited about the women’s World Cup. I’ve got some stories. I’m working on that I’m excited about it for the lead op. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to swing a trip into existence. So if we’re speaking things into existence I would like to figure out a way I could get there for the French Open finals, for the beginning of the World Cup, and yet still do all my WNBA season reporting which is pretty impossible because it’s during the WNBA season of reporting, but look this is my Christmas wish. We’re just putting it out there. I just absolutely can’t wait.
Amira: Oh my gosh, in the narrative of your movie the guy will surprise you with tickets so that you can do both, and that’s when you’ll have the merging of your sports world and the love world.
Lindsay: Oh wow. This is a lot.
Brenda: Speak it into existence, Amira.
Lindsay: I’m just going to start writing this screenplay is what I need to do. Because actually one of my personal goals is to finish my screenplay next year so that works out.
Amira: Let me write it instead of create it.
Shireen: Can I be in your movie? I want to be in your movie. Can I have a part in your movie?
Lindsay: I assume that you would nominate yourself, Shireen. So I’ve already written you into it. So that is … I have already anticipated this conversation. But, I have to say on a little bit more serious of a note that the WNBA is in the middle of huge contract negotiations right now. Their current CBA will expire at the end of the 2019 season. I am very excited, a little scared, but also excited for them to see the ways that they fight for better pay and better treatment from the league. I’m excited, and I’m going to speak into existence their shows of solidarity, the power of unions and unity, and hopes that this can be a contract that they can really take the WNBA to the next level.
And, speaking of taking things to the next level, we have done now 87 episodes of Burn It All Down, and I think 2019 is going to be our year. We have not missed a single week of episodes since we started. I am so proud of us. We have such a high percentage of listeners that are patron supporters. It’s absolutely phenomenal, but I think that we can do better, and we can push for bigger things. I think we can exponentially grow our audience. I think we can start actually putting money in our pockets from this podcast this year. Cause in case anyone doesn’t know we used all of our money to make sure we’re not spending money on the podcast. We have not yet made a dime. That’s fine. I will always do it for the love of it, but I want a Burn It All Down tour. There is one event that seems to already be locked down that I’m excited about that will bring us all together.
But, I just want to say first of all thank you for everyone who is listening to us and gotten us this far, and I’m ready to take this thing up to the next level because I think everyone needs this podcast. And, we deserve a lot of money, so that too.
Brenda: This has turned into just outright solicitation. The Best of 2018 is Burn It All Down co-hosts shamelessly asking for your money.
Lindsay: Hey, the confidence of a mediocre white man. We got to do that, alright?
Brenda: That’s right. That’s right and true to form Shireen would like to have an extra. Shireen, what are you looking forward to?
Shireen: Speaking about speaking into existence, I actually haven’t met Lindsay Gibbs in person.
Lindsay: Yes, I know.
Brenda: Oh my god. No!
Shireen: A lot of people … We have not … I love Lindsay. She is one of my closest friends as you all are. It is ridiculous. And Amir was talking about how she has seen everyone and has had selfies with everyone. I’m in Slack chat just sobbing silently into my hijab because I love you all so much. I need to hug Lindsay. So, my wish for Christmas, which I don’t celebrate, but that’s okay is that I want to hug Lindsay Gibbs. I want to have a group hug. I want a selfie. I had Amy Camber do a beautiful one where she drew us in a selfie together, but I want that to be a realization Mashallah God willing I want 2019 to be big for Burn It All Down, but I do want this selfie. I need this selfie to happen, and it’s going to happen. So, that is what I wanted to say.
Brenda: That will take the podcast to the next level right there. So on behalf of all of us at Burn It All Down we wish you a very, very, happy New Year.