UConn’s Winning Streak: Another Perspective
It’s not a men’s record. It’s not a women’s record. It’s a NCAA Division I record.
By Stephen Litel / @stephenlitel
In the past few weeks, seemingly everyone is commenting on the University of Connecticut’s winning streak, as many expect they will surpass the NCAA Division I record for consecutive wins currently held by the UCLA men. Admirers are admiring, haters are hating and many who have never taken the time to watch—or cover—a women’s basketball game are writing articles with their comments on the streak. Of course, since a remarkable streak is about to become historic, ESPN discusses women’s basketball daily lately, which is something rare.
Kara Lawson is correct when she stated that when people discuss the streak, there is always a “but” involved. ‘Yeah, UConn is good, but…’ or ‘They’re breaking a record, but…’ The fact of the matter is simple and that is the UConn women are about to break the Division I basketball record. While the current holder of that record is a men’s team, they are not breaking a men’s record. UCLA’s streak will stand as the greatest winning streak in men’s college basketball history, just as UConn’s streak will stand as the greatest winning streak in women’s college basketball history. UConn set the record last year when they won their 71st game and are continuing to set the benchmark for future women’s college basketball teams.
If this opportunity brings about the conversation regarding parity in women’s college basketball, then that is something valuable. Whether someone who doesn’t support the streak uses parity as a reason why their streak shouldn’t be looked upon as remarkable or someone who is a diehard supporter uses this time to figure out how to better the sport they love, then it’s valuable to use this time to have that discussion to better the sport. The amazing things about UCLA’s and UConn’s respective streaks are a matter of defeating the teams placed in front of them as competition, no matter if the competition was of a high level each night or not. UCLA did not have an amazing amount of teams who actually were capable of competing with them, as they were just that dominant. Do you think they cared? They had a basketball court, they had an opponent and they got their wins. The UConn women are the same way.
As someone who covers women’s basketball, many of my friends, acquaintances, Facebook and Twitter friends who also support the sport believe that you should not compare the men’s and women’s games. I definitely agree with keeping the two separate because it will always lead to the inevitable conversation regarding ‘suiting up a men’s team against a women’s team and who will win.’ In my opinion, those are conversations that don’t need to take place because that is a conversation that attempts to take something away from what the UConn women accomplished in the past, what they are about to accomplish and what they will accomplish in the future.
Personally, I celebrated UConn’s achievements when they won their 47th game to pass Tennessee run in 1996-98, then I celebrated again when they won their 55th game to move past Louisiana Tech’s run in 1980-82. When they hit their 71st win to claim the top spot in women’s college basketball by passing the UConn team from 2001-02, yet another celebration. Why did I do so each time? Because they were great accomplishments in the game of women’s basketball…and had nothing to do with men’s basketball.
Personally, as someone who was a fan of women’s college basketball and the WNBA and now has the opportunity to write about the sports, I get quite annoyed by the comparisons between the men’s game and women’s game. Within the comparison is where the negative conversations occur, which is the last thing that needs to happen for the sport of women’s basketball to grow. Accepting that men’s basketball is men’s basketball, while women’s basketball is women’s basketball is where growth can occur. It doesn’t do a disservice to the women’s game to have the distinction. Each game is distinct and has both positive and negative aspects to them.
The only times when the comparisons come around are by someone who is attempting to degrade the women’s game or by ESPN when a women’s team accomplishes something remarkable. While ESPN does not intend to insult, it does so by continuing to compare the sports. It insults the fans of the men’s game by making the insinuation that a women’s team could possibly be better than a men’s team and they insult the fans of women’s basketball by the insinuation that women’s basketball needs to compare to their male counterparts.
In the end, those who will celebrate UConn’s achievement will celebrate and those who believe it isn’t valid will believe it isn’t valid. Two things are for sure though: with a win tonight, UConn Women’s Basketball will stand alone in the number one spot for most consecutive wins in NCAA Division I College Basketball history. Secondly, ESPN would do both sports, as well as themselves, a service by upgrading their coverage of women’s sports on a consistent basis. By doing so, they wouldn’t have to stir up controversy nearly every time they deign to discuss women’s sports and would actually further the separation and acceptance of the two distinct sports. Properly reporting what may occur tonight would go like this, ESPN…
The UCLA Men’s Basketball record stands. The UConn Women’s Basketball record stands. The NCAA Division I Basketball record for consecutive wins may be—and probably will be—broken tonight.