Wednesday, March 23, 2011

don't forget: women play the game too.

As I suffered through the heartache of another Gonzaga loss in the NCAA Tourney, my thoughts were comforted by a couple notions:

First of all, the accomplishments of the University of Connecticut's women's basketball team have been well-documented. And they should continue to be so, rolling through all challengers, as they are. UConn accomplished something this season that will probably never be matched (although people probably said that about the UCLA record that the women broke, to be fair) and continue to maul opponent after opponent, on their seemingly inevitable march toward another NCAA Championship.

The women's bracket doesn't get as much attention as the men's, for several reasons. The debate over that lack of attention could span several day's worth of arguments, so let's summarize it by saying it's unfair and it's unfortunate, but it's also an inevitability in this day and age and at this point for the sport. (Women's basketball, as a profession, has been around significantly less time than men's. This is a fact. Sports take time to catch on. These things are true no matter how much the sports are pushed by marketers or feminists. The result will be the same.) But if we move past the lack of attention and the criticism that some level at the game, we have the chance to see some exciting basketball.

There have been exciting games played at the Pit. There have been first-time records for the sport set by exciting contemporary players. (For what it's worth, look at Gonzaga getting to play in Spokane for a great example of how the NCAA should be rewarding certain teams. Dragging UNC and UK all the way out here to the desert made for some good hoops, but might not have been a great reward for those teams.)

The sport is picking up, and the time seems right. For the casual fan, UConn is the perfect team to root for: they're fun, they win all the time, and you can talk to practically anyone about them. In these aspects, they're kind of like the Chicago Bulls of the 90s - super-easy for the casual sports fan to get into, but they'll probably be looked back at as at least a bit of a bully. Meanwhile, Gonzaga gets to continue playing the Cinderella role, albeit in the women's game. All of the women's Tournament games are broadcast on ESPN or ESPN2 - tune in and give the game a chance as its reaching its highest peak. It's hard to be disappointed at people playing the game at this high of a level.

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