BY DAVID PERRYMAN
The sun rose in the east as domino players from the region and across the country gathered in Carnegie, OK this month for the 70th replaying of the World Championship Domino Tournament.
Competitors began filtering in for coffee hours before the games were to begin. Old friendships were renewed as players like eight-time champs Max Bender of Lawton and Jim Hulsey of Weatherford strolled in. Bender ducked out of college classes in the 1960’s to play in his first tournament and has been present every year since.
Despite subfreezing temperatures, people continued to congregate as the Carnegie Herald’s list of past champions became the focal point of conversation and recollection. Surprisingly, the roster contained several names of people that I have known through the years, two-time champions Robert Farmer from Minco and Randall Jackson from Pocasset.
I was proud as I saw the name of two-time champion Edwin Horton. Uncle Ed was my mom’s brother and Max Bender referred to him as the best domino player he had ever known. That is a pretty heady compliment coming from a man who had won eight of the nearly 50 straight tournaments that he had attended.
Dominoes is a game that represents an indispensable slice of Americana. Non-players often scoff at the “waste of time;” however, players and their families know that those 28 tiles represent more than a game. As surely as there are degrees in the Masonic Lodge and colored belts in martial arts, competence in dominoes is gradual, engrained and respected.
On the simplest level, novices learn that “you don’t score if you can’t make the spots add up to multiples of five.” Shortly after comes the realization that “opponents don’t score if you can keep their spots from adding up to multiples of five.” Many players do not progress further. However, those on the roster of past winners are Masters who attained the intellectual equivalent of a black belt, taking a comprehension of the game to levels that amaze the rest of us.
Yes, the sun came up in the east and set in the west, just like it did when it was first won by a team of Native Americans in 1967 when Sports Illustrated covered the tournament and later when the championship team was African American.
This year, the final match pitted Leisha Barber of Denison, TX, and Tammy Garrett of Calera against C.B. Cox of Anchorage, AK, and Oliver Kern of Cache. When the final points were tallied, the 2014 Champions were the all-female team of Barber and Garrett.
My, how positive change has affected our society, including the oldest continuous World Championship of Dominoes. However, gender based pay inequality still exists across America.
A few years ago, job listings in the newspaper were separated by gender. It was legal to pay women less than men. Banks legally denied married women credit or loans.
We have seen some improvement as we encounter women doctors, lawyers and college professors. Three women are now United States Supreme Court justices and we have had three female Secretaries of State. More recently, a woman, Janet Yellen, now serves as the chairman of the Federal Reserve.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, when the 1963 Equal Pay Act was signed into law by President Kennedy, women were earning an average of 59 cents on the dollar compared to men. While women hold nearly half of today’s jobs and their earnings account for a significant portion of the household income sustaining the financial well-being of their families, they are still experiencing a gap in pay compared to men’s wages for similar work.
The Women’s National Law Center says American women who work full-time, year-round are paid only 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts and, in Oklahoma, a woman makes 76.2 cents for every dollar a man makes.
Unfortunately, African American women earn only 62.9 cents for every dollar a white, non-Hispanic man makes, and Hispanic women earn only 49.3 cents for every dollar a white, non-Hispanic man makes.
We cannot turn our back on the women – widowed, divorced, or single – who can’t draw on a second income from a man. We cannot rest as long as 70% of the nation’s poor are women and children.
This travesty is not about glass ceilings; it is about all the women who are glued to the sticky floor of dead-end jobs that provide no benefits and no health insurance, women who, at the end of each month, have to decide whether to pay the electricity bill or feed their children.
The Domino Tournament is history for another year. Through the years the championship has been claimed by minorities and women. The sun comes up in the east and will continue to do so as we strive to make sure that women receive equal pay for equal work.
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. He is author of HB 2990 that would designate dominoes as the Official State Game. The measure won approval [8-3 vote] in Tuesday’s States Rights Committee meeting.