Jill Pilgrim is an attorney, arbitrator, entrepreneur, international consultant, adjunct professor at Columbia Law School, and a member of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. She was previously general counsel for the LPGA and USA Track & Field. Before participating in the Zócalo/ASU Global Sport Institute event, “How Have Women’s Sports Changed Since Title IX?,” she visited the Zócalo green room and talked about her favorite spectator sports, why she didn’t become a police officer, and how she makes arbitration decisions.
What is your favorite Olympic sport to watch?
Not even a contest: track and field. That’s my sport.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
One that I remember is a police officer. But I don’t like blood, so being a lawyer is better.
Where would we find you at 10 a.m. on a typical Sunday morning?
If it’s my workout day, I’ll be working out or on my way to work out. If it’s not my workout day, I still might be doing some yoga and stretching after sleeping in.
What cheese best describes you?
Brie. One: because I love everything French. And two: because it’s got a nice flavor to it—it’s interesting, it’s not bland.
What’s the last TV show you binge-watched?
That I’m willing to admit to? I am a pretty avid watcher of the channel Investigation Discovery—true crime stories. I think that goes back to having been a fan of Perry Mason when I was young, and all the different law shows, and Law & Order. I really am fascinated by human nature and what drives people to go from the people that you know every day to someone who would kill somebody.
What dessert do you find impossible to resist?
Warm apple pie with vanilla ice cream.
As an arbitrator, how do you know when you’ve made a good decision?
I’m not sure what a good arbitration decision is. You make a decision based on the facts and the evidence. I wouldn’t qualify a decision as good or bad. Any decision is good for somebody and bad for somebody else.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“What’s the worst that can happen? Just ask.” I remember once I wanted something, and I couldn’t even tell you what it was. My father was a high school teacher, and I spent a lot of time with one of his fellow teachers, who was a mentor of mine, and I was agonizing over it—I really wanted to ask my dad for whatever it was. And at the end of the day she said, “Just ask him. What’s the worst that can happen? All that can happen is he can say no.” It sort of hit me in the head, like, oh yeah, why am I so afraid to ask?
How do you decompress?
I love binge-watching tennis when I have the time. Tennis is a very time-intensive sport to watch, but I love it, and I used to play a lot of it until sports injuries caught up with me. The other thing I like to do is listen to public radio storytelling shows. My nirvana is drinking a cup of tea and listening to one of the NPR storytelling shows on a Saturday or Sunday morning with no time pressure.
What was the last live sporting event you attended pre-COVID?
A Knicks basketball game.