Dan O’Shaughnessy, Boston Globe sports columnist, caused a stir across the sports world, when he tweeted two days ago, “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.”
The reaction was immediate and mainly very negative. Leading the pack was, not surprisingly, Connecticut basketball coach Geno Auriemma.
“Nobody’s putting a gun to your head to watch,” he said. “So don’t watch. And don’t write about it. Spend your time on things that you think are important.”
And others joined the chorus of criticism against O’Shaughnessy. And they all have a point, in fact, many points. The greatest dynasty in college basketball was John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins. His teams won ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period, including a record seven in a row.
But no one took them to task for their dominance. Both Wooden and his players were rightly celebrated. It was a great run.
Similarly, Connecticut women basketball players owe no one any apologies for their dominance. They earned it the hard way – constant repetition, unselfishness, teamwork, skill development, and superb coaching. And they should be celebrated every bit as much as Wooden’s UCLA teams were in their time. What these young women and their coaches have accomplished will likely not happen again for a long time.
That said, O’Shaughnessy has a point. When you are beating teams by as much as 30 and 40 points in game after game and season after season, something is out of whack. Something has to be done – not to cut Connecticut women down to size – but to raise the competitive level of the rest of the teams.
Otherwise interest in a sport that is already struggling for an audience, will wane. And that would be a shame. For women’s basketball has turned into a wonderful game to watch. There is no lack of excitement or skill or artistry. If you doubt me, tune into next weekend’s final four games. See for yourself. You won’t be disappointed – especially by the Connecticut women.
In their own way, their play is like listening to a great symphonic orchestra performing a great classical piece. Different and seemingly dissonant parts blend into a beautiful composition on the court. How they play is as much art form as sport. I won’t miss their bravura performance and I hope you don’t either.