CHICAGO (CBS) — Former Chicago Tribune writer Melissa Isaacson covered the Bulls championship runs and the Cubs for over two decades. She is well-known voice on the Chicago sports scene. Now she is telling another story – a more personal one! She has a new book out called “State: A Team, A Triumph, A Transformation.” It’s about being part of a girls basketball team at Niles West High School that made history 40 years ago.
“What happened to us really, truly made us the women we became, made us the people we are,” said Isaacson.
Isaacson and her teammates didn’t quite realize at the time the magnitude of what was happening. They were successful high school athletes coming of age shortly after Title IX expanded opportunities for girls in sports.
“We saw this evolution in girls sports, but more than that, it was what happened to us” said Isaacson. “We had no access to the clichés and lessons boys had, and our sisters didn’t have them. They had to be cheerleaders, and suddenly this whole world opened up to us and we learned about toughness and competiveness, setting goals.”
Isaacson was on the first girls basketball team ever at Niles West. They were good but didn’t get a lot of attention. But then her senior year, they reached the 1979 State Championship game in Champaign and beat East St. Louis and their star athlete Jackie Joyner.
“We enter high school and we weren’t allowed to play or practice in the big gym, and they called it the boys’ gym” said Isaacson. “Four years later we are the toast of the town, playing before standing room only crowds beating Jackie Joyner’s team and winning the state championship.”
Even legendary CBS 2 sportscaster Johnny Morris took notice of the team at the time.
The book comes at a time when women are still fighting for equal pay in sports. The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team’s dispute is at the forefront. The high schooler in Isaacson would have been surprised with the slow progress of women in the sports landscape.
“If you tell me 40 years later, yes, these women soccer players are playing to wonderful crowds and idols to millions, that’s wonderful and I would expect that,” said Isaacson. “But if you would say they are chanting for equal pay still in 2019, I would have been devastated in 1979 to hear that that we are still fighting many of the same battles.”
You can find details on where to buy the book here: www.melissaisaacson.com/preorder-state/