In honor of Title IX, the landmark education amendment enacted on June 23, 1972, that provided equal opportunities to women and girls in sports, I wanted to pay tribute to the coolest girls around — the tomboys, athletes and sports fanatics who have been bending gender stereotypes for decades.

I have read dozens of guidebooks and advice columns over the years, preaching proper etiquette and how to be a respectable lady, but how does one truly master the fine line between feminine and sports lover?

I'll admit that I am an expert on few things, but being a recovering tomboy, this is one realm I'm very knowledgeable about. I finally learned how to brush my hair, put on eye-liner and walk around in four-inch heels, but that doesn't mean I can't be a sports nut too.

So here are nine guidelines — fittingly — for how to gain respect and hold your own in the world of sports.

1. Never, ever, wear pink sports apparel. Rose, magenta, blush, or any other variation of the shade is not one of the Red Sox' official colors. Nor is it the color of any legitimate professional sports team, although the Arizona Diamondbacks came dangerously close a few years back with their purple and teal. You ruin all your credibility when you don the pink hat or jersey, especially when the name on the back is "Brady." Don't waste your money. It's only cute when you're in a onesie.

2. Know how to spiral a football. And maybe even throw a curveball or knuckleball. Why, you ask? Well, why not?

3. Be able to name more than the three most popular players on each of the local sports teams. If Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia are the only two players on the Red Sox you know, you're in trouble.

4. Your glam wardrobe should equal your sporty attire. There is nothing wrong with a pair (or several pairs) of fabulous stilettos, just as there is nothing wrong with a sexy little dress. But in my closet, I have just as many pairs of sneakers as I do heels and as many jerseys as I do dresses. You never know when you'll have to attend a fancy gala or if you'll get last minute Sox tickets, so you have to be prepared.

5. Have one major sports issue that really fires you up. Be knowledgeable about it, then be relentless. Argue your cause until you're blue in the face. It doesn't matter how serious or inconsequential it is. You are automatically as dedicated as any male super fan, and they'll respect you for it. That, or they'll find you terrifying, but it's well worth the risk. Some suggestions: The designated hitter. Astro Turf. Pete Rose. Fox Sports. The NBA. The WNBA. Discuss, discuss.

6. Learn to handle a manual transmission. This one is a must-have for one reason: Danica Patrick, the first woman to ever win an Indy Car race.

7. Wear your team colors proudly all year, not just during play-off time. Granted, it may not be appropriate all the time, and you do want to show more pride when the team needs you, but you shouldn't be whipping out your Patriots gear only on Super Bowl Sunday. It makes you look a little bandwagon-y.

8. Have a war story from a competition. Even better if you have a cool scar to back it up. Perhaps you got knocked out by a softball in Little League, or you sliced your hand open while diving for a game point in tennis. Like the adage says, scars are tattoos with better stories.

9. Don't be afraid to beat a boy. It doesn't make you less of a woman if you can sink several free throws in a row or kick butt at air hockey. It's a good way to weed out the guys that can't handle you. On a recent first date, I wowed a guy with my feelings on European vs. North American hockey. But on the second date, we hit the batting cages and the tune changed. I slapped line drive after line drive right up the middle, but when he stepped into the box, he had a little trouble making contact. "Let's not tell anyone about this," he said, laughing nervously. Surprisingly, things didn't work out.

 

Cara Spilsbury is a staff writer for The Haverhill Gazette. You can reach her to share war stories at cspilsbury@hgazette.com.

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