by Ben York / @bjyork
I’ve put this off for far too long now; not because I didn’t want to talk about it, but because I didn’t think it needed to be talked about.
Boy was I wrong…
If I’m honest, I thought this debate would have been put to rest by now, but I’ve seen several articles in the past week that keep insisting or insinuating the UConn women’s basketball streak is detrimental not just to women’s basketball, but women’s sports in general.
Interesting. So if 72 wins in a row is “bad,” then what in the name of all that is holy is good for women’s sports?
To be blunt, it’s absolutely ludicrous that I (or anyone for that matter) would be in a rightful position to defend UConn’s incredible feat — 72 wins in a row and a mere six victories away from being the first women’s collegiate basketball team to win back-to-back national championships without losing. Yet, somehow, there are individuals who have found a way to diminish and undermine this streak of brilliance.
Was the Chicago Bulls dominance in the 90’s bad for the NBA? How about Tiger Woods supremacy of the PGA Tour (before his fall from grace)? On the contrary, that type of supremacy actually makes their sport better and helps avoid stagnancy.
So what’s different about the UConn women’s team?
The fact that this is even a vaguely acceptable debate (and that I’m writing an article about it) shows how ignorant society can still be in regards to women’s sports. Perhaps even more poignant, it highlights an unmistakable bias and prejudice toward women excelling as a whole.
Multiple media outlets even had the audacity to not only diminish the UConn women but to question the overall growth and talent of the rest of the women’s collegiate game because of UConn’s domination. They compare women’s basketball to women’s golf stating that women golfers are getting better ‘all the time’; so why isn’t the same happening for women’s basketball? This is like comparing apples to oranges; it’s not even a credible or remotely accurate contrast.
By that thinking, one assumes that since the UConn women are so good they should be punished for their excellence. Or, because they are so dominant, it means the rest of the women’s game isn’t on the rise. How do you think that makes Stanford and Jayne Appel feel? Or Kelsey Griffin and Nebraska? Elena Delle Donne? Andrea Riley?
A blanket statement showing a “concern” as to why growth isn’t happening exhibits the typical correlation without causation approach society has with women’s athletics. Instead of praising the UConn women’s team for their dedication, their hard work, and their commitment (don’t kid yourself, it’s unrivaled in the game today) the focus is on the negative aspect of their accomplishment and how disadvantageous they’re being to the sport and women’s athletics in general. This is unfortunate because what UConn is doing is quite remarkable.
Did anyone question the quality of opponents when the Chicago Bulls won 72 games? No way. The Bulls’ 72 wins merely demonstrated how phenomenal they were and how perfect they fit together as a team. No one questioned the quality of play; Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal, and David Robinson were certainly not criticized for failing to get over the hump. They each had amazing seasons and were part of incredibly talented teams. Instead, the focus by the public was simply to appreciate how exceptional that Bulls team was.
This type of no-win scenario for women’s basketball is, quite frankly, getting old.
Still, the unfortunate thing is this is nothing new to women’s sports, and more specifically, to women’s basketball. Rather than praising the quality of play, somehow it has become acceptable to make fun of them or diminish their abilities and accomplishments. Don’t believe me? Scroll down and read some of the comments on any article about the WNBA. It’s sickening.
It should have nothing to do with gender and everything to do with respect for the game of basketball. Therefore, instead of perpetuating this negativity, I’ll take a different approach – I choose to publicly commend and thank the UConn women’s team.
So, to all the ladies of the UConn women’s team – I thank you. Thank you for bringing an unprecedented awareness to the women’s game. Thank you for not listening to your detractors and having the mental fortitude to play every game with such ferocity. Thank you for showcasing such excellence on a nightly basis. Thank you for continuing to set such a high bar for women to follow in your footsteps. Thank you for not settling or being content with just one perfect season. Thank you for your hard work, for your investment to the sport, and for your integrity on the court. But most of all, I thank you for exemplifying what pure, amazing basketball truly is.
In the end, whether you think UConn’s streak is good or bad for women’s basketball, there is little doubt it should (at the very least) be respected and valued.