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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

UConn Women Victims of Realism, Not Sexism

HARTFORD, Conn. -- UConn won its 89th game in a row Tuesday night, and I'd like to write about what a fabulous deal it was.

I'd like to, but it might ruin Geno Auriemma's image of sports fans in general and the media in particular. He thinks most of us were "pissed" that the Huskies were closing in on UCLA's record of 88 straight wins. And having to cover their quest had turned us into "miserable bastards."

I don't presume to speak for everybody, but I wasn't pissed that UConn beat FSU, 93-62, at the XL Center. It was a grand occasion, right down to President Obama calling in his congratulations and Auriemma giving away Nintendo Wiis to two lucky fans after the game.

I'd say Richard Nixon never called John Wooden, and that UCLA's coach probably didn't give away a Pong after the Bruins won No. 88. But the accomplishments of UConn and UCLA should not be compared in any way.

Or should they? 

I say no way, and not because I'm a miserable bastard. I'm happy for the Huskies. It'd be fine by me if they won 8,800 straight games. Given the depth of women's college basketball, they just might.

That's a big reason why their streak should not simply be called "The longest in college basketball history."

It is the longest women's Division I streak. Yet not lumping it with UCLA has become evidence of gender bias. Auriemma essentially turned it into a national referendum when he ranted about the lack of coverage after win No. 88 two days ago.

To be precise, he said women are happy for the Huskies. Most men who have to cover it are miserable and pissed. And as soon as UConn breaks the record, we'll just pat them on their heads and say, "Send them back where they belong in the kitchen."

There's no doubt a lot of people are biased against women's basketball simply because they are women. But Auriemma's attitude has exposed bias isn't limited to the media and fans.

First, he assumes women automatically like women's basketball. I know a lot of women who don't, and it's not because they hate women.

First, (Auriemma) assumes women automatically like women's basketball. I know a lot of women who don't, and it's not because they hate women. He also assumes if men don't care for women's basketball, we must be anti-woman. I'm not anti-woman. I'm anti-boredom.He also assumes if men don't care for women's basketball, we must be anti-woman. I'm not anti-woman. I'm anti-boredom.

There are too many set shots, bounce passes, missed layups and below-the-net rebounds to keep me interested for 190 minutes, or however long a game lasts. I'd feel that way if five Martian eunuchs were playing.

A lot of people also dislike soccer. Does that make them anti-Euro? Why can't we be bored by a sport without being accused of wanting the players to go back to the kitchen?

As for the lack of coverage, the media is market driven. If the public wants it, we'll cover it. Does that mean all the people who click past women's basketball are anti-woman?

Auriemma clarified his rant after Tuesday's game. He said he wasn't demanding more coverage.

"All I said was I was amused that takes this kind of record to get this kind of recognition," he said.

Yeah, and it's too bad he couldn't stay on the high road while the spotlight was on. He should have kept saying both streaks are great. Then we could have spent Tuesday night simply gushing over Maya Moore, who had 41 points and zero turnovers.

We could have said that Lefty Driesell's dream finally came true. There is a UCLA of the East, only it's located in Storrs, Conn.

Instead, Auriemma turned this into a litmus test on gender bias. Though I didn't have a heart attack, I guess I failed. But I wasn't the only one.

Moore was asked if UConn's streak compared to UCLA's.

"It depends on what you value," she said. "We value the intangibles."

She mentioned teamwork, focus, hard work, unselfishness.

"If you value those things," she said, "I really don't see a debate."

So UCLA's men didn't have those intangibles?

What Tuesday called for is a voice of reason. It was found courtside in the form of John Wooden's grandson, Gary.

He shook hands with Auriemma after the game and expressed his admiration for UConn. As for whether the Huskies should be compared to the Bruins, "Everybody can make their own decision on that," he said. "I like to think both can stand on their own."

Wooden said his grandfather would have been pulling for the Huskies. The greatest coach ever was a big admirer of the way women play basketball.

"He never was a fan of the dunk," Gary said.

Now if only Geno could forgive those of us who are.

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