Let the record show that the story on the greatest women’s basketball team in the history of the game this morning ended up on page C4 of the Star Tribune. It didn’t rate a mention on the Pioneer Press’ sports website.
The University of Connecticut Huskies won their 11th national championship, dismantling Syracuse last night 82-to-51, completing a 38-0 season.
The lack of attention can’t be anything but intentional, especially following assertions by some in the media that the team is hurting its sport by being too good.
UConn Women beat Miss St. 98-38 in NCAA tourney. Hate to punish them for being great, but they are killing women's game. Watch? No thanks
— Dan Shaughnessy (@Dan_Shaughnessy) March 26, 2016
“Don’t watch. Nobody’s putting a gun to your head to watch,” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said in response to the absurd perspective. “So don’t watch, and don’t write about it. Spend your time on things you think are important. If you don’t think this is important, don’t pay any attention to it.”
And that’s just what the nation’s sports departments did this morning.
USA Today’s For The Win points out — correctly — that this isn’t a complaint one hears about men’s sports.
The difference here is that not only did people linger on the negative side of that question, many never made it to the eventual conclusion that almost always follows: That dynasties should be celebrated because they offer casual fans an avenue into the sport that didn’t exist before.
Not a golf fan? That’s fine, but I bet you know who Tiger Woods is. You may not follow horse racing but I’d be shocked if you didn’t know what American Pharoah accomplished last year. You don’t have to be a UFC follower to know who Ronda Rousey is, or a boxing fan to understand that Mayweather-Pacquiao was a very big deal.
At the Boston Globe, sports columnist Shira Springer called her colleague — sports knucklehead Dan Shaughnessy (see above tweet) — to see if he was watching the game. He was, but his opinion was unchanged. Bad for the sport. The nerve.
Springer writes today that women’s sports is sending a loud and clear message. And it’s not the women’s fault that men refuse to hear it.
For too long, gratefulness has marked women’s sports. Female athletes are conditioned to be grateful for opportunities to compete at the highest level, to be grateful for earning money as professional athletes, to be grateful for receiving coverage for what they do. It happens on the women’s side of every sport. And it’s part of what motivates the US women’s national soccer team in its fight for equal pay.
Appearing on NBC’s Today Show to discuss wage disparities between the men’s and women’s national soccer teams, goalie Hope Solo said, “We continue to be told that we should be grateful just to have the opportunity to play professional soccer and to get paid for doing it. And in this day and age, it’s about equality.”
“Things are far better than they used to be, but when the men’s and women’s tournaments are going on at the same time, the men block out the sun,” USA Today columnist Christine Brennan in March, predicting that UConn would get exactly the sort of treatment that Shaughnessy and his ilk gave the team.
“When you feel the most satisfied, when you’ve done all that you can do,” Breanna Stewart, probably the greatest female basketball player of all time, said, “when you’re working this hard and performing at that level, there’s nothing else that can be asked of you. No matter, win or lose or anything, you’re putting it all out there. That’s what you want.”
She’s right. There is something that can be asked of the rest of the sports world, though: Show a little respect.