Sunday, December 19, 2010

I "streak" better than you

Ah, you can almost hear it. In fact, you can read about it at this point: My streak is better than your streak!

If Connecticut's women's basketball team beats Ohio State today, it will have won 88 consecutive games. That's a hallowed mark in college basketball because it represents the number of consecutive wins UCLA's men's team enjoyed between 1971 and 1974.  

Inevitably, and as college basketball writers, the media in general, sports fans and others are wont to do, there is a comparison between what the "men" did and what the "women" are doing. And UConn's women's coach Geno Auriemma, as part of this TIME magazine story, knows what is coming next:
Auriemma pictures a guy dismissing the UConn women — an exercise that requires no leaps of imagination. "So what, this doesn't mean anything now?" asks Auriemma rhetorically, looking at the pen in his left hand. "What, so these guys" — his girls — "over here should feel s____y because they didn't do this? It gets to the sexism of it. Why is it acceptable?"
It's not. Plain and simple, Mr. Auriemma, profiled in this newspaper story, is absolutely correct. 
 
Now, I know what some of you are thinking -- you CAN'T compare men's and women's sports. The talent level isn't as strong, the playing ability isn't as good. Uh, as politely as I can say this, shut up. 

The point is this -- what UConn's women's team is doing in this era is as special and as worthy of recognition as UCLA's was in the 1970s. Also consider what at least one sports columnist is correct to point out -- UCLA's dominance happened in an era in which the talent of the men's game was not as evenly divided as it is today. David Mayo notes:
College basketball had not exploded with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Games had tepid television ratings and there were no cable networks to dissect every move.

The one clear similarity between UCLA and Connecticut is that every other team in the country was, and is, out to get them, and the biggest news they possibly can make is losing.
And no other women's team has been able to do that for more than two seasons. So, today and in this era, we have an opportunity to savor greatness -- 88 times over -- or we can pick away at it in an attempt to diminish its significance. Which would you rather do?

It's a shame that Mr. Wooden passed away a few months ago. I didn't know him personally, but something tells me that he'd have nothing but positive things to say about the Connecticut women's program and what it could accomplish today. Why shouldn't you?

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