Wednesday, October 21, 2009

12th Precinct, Sgt. Yemana Speaking

One of TigerBlog's all-time favorite TV shows is "Barney Miller." For those who didn't watch primetime television from 1974-82, Barney himself was a New York City police captain who ran the 12th precinct. The show followed the day-to-day lives of Miller and a squad of detectives, whose members – Fish, Harris, Yemana, Chano, Wojo – are among the best characters in TV sitcom history.

As an aside, it is TigerBlog's contention that "Barney Miller" presented the most accurate view of police life of any cop show ever. The detectives left on calls with great uncertainty only to find it was usually nothing serious. They rarely drew their weapons, let alone used them. They didn't find themselves in life-and-death situations every show.

WGN, the channel from Chicago, has been showing reruns of some great old shows as its Sunday night lineup. Among the TB favorites that have been playing are "The Honeymooners," "WKRP in Cincinnati," "The Cosby Show," and "Newhart." As another aside, the last five minutes of the last episode of "Newhart" are as clever as anything TB has ever seen.

Anyway, TigerBlog watched the two episodes on the other night, both of which were from the mid-’70s. They were extraordinarily funny, of course, but there were two other things that stood out to TB as well.

First was watching a ’70s sitcom through modern-day eyes, which is always fascinating. No internet. No cell phones. No texting. No email. No computers. Rotary phones. There was a point in one of the episodes where evil "computer" declares Fish to be dead, so he can't get paid. The extent to which computers were looked upon as faceless, foreign machines was interesting and went along with how people thought back then, when humans were afraid of what computers were going to do every life rather than excited about what the possibilities were.

The second thing that jumped out at TB was the total political incorrectness of the show, which was considered to be a fairly progressive show at the time. There were jokes about pretty much every group imaginable, including gays, blacks, women and Asians that would never come close to flying today.

So what happened in the 30 years or so since Barney Miller was on TV? Societal evolution, that's what.

The advancement of college athletics, and specifically Princeton athletics, in that same time frame is remarkably similar, with one major exception. Much has been made of Title IX and the impact it's had on college athletics and opportunities for women, and there is no doubting that it has.

Still, TigerBlog wonders what Princeton athletics would look like today had Title IX never existed. And, nobody should misinterpret this in any way: TigerBlog is not criticizing Title IX or taking sides on the debate or any of that. TB is simply wondering how the landscape would look had the legislation not happened.

Princeton was new to having women on its campus, let alone women's athletic teams, when "Barney Miller" first aired. As TigerBlog has said before, those early women athletes were true pioneers who had to put up with all kinds of discrimination, just because they were women. It is because of the way that they persevered and showed how athletics could be just as important to women as to men that the ball toward real equality of opportunity began rolling.

At least TigerBlog suspects that's the case. Maybe it isn't. Maybe if it wasn't for Title IX, women's teams here would get the short end of practice times, facilities, schedules, communications, uniforms, everything.

It's probably true that the process would have been slower than it was without Title IX, but TigerBlog can't imagine that it's only because we're required by law to provide equal opportunity to men's and women's teams that we actually do so. TB would hope that those of us here at HQ are motivated by something a little better than "we have to" when it comes to these issues.

Back in the newspaper days, TigerBlog covered nearly as many women's events as men's events and wrote as many features on women as men. Why? Because it seemed like the right course of action.

If you go to or, you'll see Websites that never once consider whether a sport is a men's sport or a women's sport. If you attended the weekly event meetings, you'd see that gender never enters the discussion.

So, again, would we have gotten here were it not for Title IX?

TigerBlog loved watching "Barney Miller" the other night, partly because of how funny it was and partly because it took TB back to another time. It was also obviously a long time ago, in a world that's changed considerably.

TB hopes we here at HQ and throughout college athletics would have changed along with it. But hey, who really knows?


Anonymous said...

Res ipso loquitur:

men's basketball (57)
men's lacrosse (37)
football (26)
baseball (25)
men's hockey (16)
women's basketball (16)
women's soccer (15)
women's lacrosse (11)
field hockey (10)
women's tennis (10)
men's soccer (8)
rowing (6)
women's hockey (6)
women's swimming and diving (6)

Princeton OAC said...

TigerBlog believes that "res ipso loquitur" means basically "it speaks for itself." Is the point that TigerBlog is skewed toward a few sports?

Clay McEldowney said...

Princeton's rapid advancement in women's athletics followed coeducation in 1969. Ken Fairman, athletic director during the first three years of coeducation, jump-started women's athletics with seven women's programs. Royce Flippin '56, athletic director from 1972 to 1979, added another four, bringing Princeton's count to 11 teams in 10 years. Myslik added another five women's teams between 1979 and 1992. It is no coincidence that the expansion of women's sports paralleled the growth of women's population at Princeton. In my view, this expansion was due more to market forces than Title IX. Princeton needed to attract the best and most motivated women students, and athletics had to be offered to attract many of them. Women then were becoming more interested in and involved in competitive sports because of the proliferation of girls' soccer, soccer and other programs which in my generation just weren't available, and high school sports offerings. Title IX had its impact, but not to the extent that many assert it did.

Clay McEldowney '69

Anonymous said...

If you're not already, I suggest you check out Castle on ABC. Not really the most realistic cop show, but coincidentally takes place around the 12th Precinct. And since Nathan Fillion and Ron Glass have worked together in the Firefly 'verse, it would be kinda cool if "Harris" were to pop in one day to compare notes with a fellow author of crime novels.

Hell, I'd like to see all the surviving members of the old 12th make cameos.