OK now listen, all you real men in the audience — you know, guys who like to guzzle beer and watch pro wrestling and burrrrrrp, guys who wrote me letters when Lisa Olson got the nudie treatment in the Patriots locker room and said, “Aw, hell, she didn’t belong in there anyhow; men aren’t allowed in women’s locker rooms, are they?” — all you guys, and all you women who said the same thing, listen up: I want you to know I was right there Monday afternoon, two minutes after the women’s professional basketball game ended at the Palace. I was right there, outside the locker room, acting impatient, making noise.

“Aren’t you going to let us in?” I asked the guard, tapping my foot. “We want equal access.”

Actually, I was the only one in line.

“Come on!” I repeated, looking at my watch. “We’ve got deadlines to meet, stories to write!”

Actually, that wasn’t true, either. For one thing, the game was played in early afternoon. Besides, few people really cared who won — the Detroit Dazzlers or the Liberty Basketball Association All-Stars. To be honest, not many people knew the differen–.

Wait a minute.

“Is this the right locker room?” I whispered to a colleague.

He nodded.

“COME ON, WHAT’S THE DELAY HERE?” I yelled at the guard. “OPEN UP!” An answer for you real men

Hey, look: There was a principle at stake, right? Ever since Women In The Locker Room became the biggest issue since Who Killed Laura Palmer, one of the best arguments against equal access was the one that went like this: “If that’s the way it should be, how come men can’t go into women’s locker rooms?” And whenever someone said that, there was always this plop in the conversation, not because people didn’t have an answer, but because people were trying to think of a women’s sport that had both locker rooms and reporters wanting to get in.

Finally, we have one. Women’s basketball, professional style. Detroit has been awarded a franchise next year in the LBA — a new league which features 9-foot-2 baskets, so the women can dunk. Monday’s game was an exhibition to whet the public appetite. Fans turned out in droves! OK, not droves, more like, well, big groups! Actually, they turned out in carpools. And most of them had free tickets.

No matter. We all watched the game. And afterward, there I was, first in line at the locker room. Not because I was so interested in what goes on in a women’s locker room, mind you. (Actually, if it’s anything like what goes on in a men’s locker room I can live without it, especially before dinner.) But because I wanted to have, once and for all, an answer for the real men, next time I stopped in a pool hall.

“Well? Can we go in yet?” I asked the guard, crossing my arms. “It’s been four whole minutes . . .”

I tried to think of the best approach once we got inside. Would they be naked — or would they have towels and robes? Wait a minute. What if they attacked? What if the Detroit Dazzlers surrounded me and removed their towels like the New England Patriots and said, “Is this what you want, baby?”

Somehow I wasn’t worried.

“What’s the deal?” I said again to the guard, trying to sound like Mike Wallace. “Can we go in or not? Can we go in or –“

And the door swung open. And the athletes were ladylike

Now I know some of you would like to hear a juicy story. I know some of you would like to hear that the male reporters began to drool. And then the female athletes grabbed their towels and shrieked. And then it turned into a X-rated movie.

Nothing like that happened at all. Actually, all the players were sitting by their lockers, eager to be interviewed. They were polite, cheerful, and fully clothed in their uniforms; they stayed that way for at least 25 minutes.

“Aren’t you going to take a shower?” I asked Shyra Holden, a forward from

Wichita, Kan.

“I guess, when everyone’s finished,” she said.

“How would you feel about men in your locker room after every game next year?” I asked Cary McGehee, a guard who also works as a lawyer.

“Fine,” she said, “as long as we get a robe or something.”

“Do we bother you?” I asked Brenda Eiseler, a forward from Ypsilanti.

“No,” she said. “You guys have a job to do.”

“Would you be comfortable with us in here next year?” I asked Laurie Byrd, the star of the game.

“Sure. Just knock before you come in.”

And so, ladies and gentlemen, I must report that, hard as I tried, I could not find one female who wanted to dump water on a reporter; not one female who said, “I don’t talk to men unless they’re on top of me or I’m on top of them”; not one female who dropped her towel and made suggestive comments.

I couldn’t even find one in a bad mood.

You know what I think? I think most of them were so delighted to get paid for playing basketball, that talking to reporters seemed like an awfully small price to pay.

Hmmm.

What a radical idea.

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