Wednesday, August 8, 2012

women's dominant win streak overshadowed.

While the biggest story out of this year's rendition of Team USA men's basketball has been the blowout win over Nigeria and the relentless stream of questions about whether this team could beat the 1992 Dream Team, there's been a steady storm of wins accumulating on the women's side that very few people have talked about.

On Tuesday, the women put up nearly twice as many points as their opponent, Team Canada. Team USA slaughtered Canada so effectively that only two players - Chelsea Aubry at Nebraska and Kim Smith at Utah were both D1 talents during their college days in America - scored in double figures.

Aside from demolishing one opponent on any given day, though, Team USA has now won 39 straight Olympic games. The last time the women's basketball team has lost, in fact, was in 1992, when that storied men's Dream Team was unveiled to the world.

Since '92, however, the men's game has teetered back and forth between nonchalant dominance and embarrassingly lackadaisical effort, resulting in a disappointing bronze medal in the 2004 Olympics in Athens. While the men's team has recommitted after those Athens games, the women's team never needed to; they never stopped winning. They haven't lost a game in the preliminary rounds of the Olympics since 1976 - the very first time women's basketball was even a sport in the Olympics.

Team USA faces a tough challenge on Thursday, going up against an Australian team that made waves of its own in the publicity field, and has played some mean games of basketball, to boot. The Opals will challenge the Americans inside with strong post play, but might have trouble with the way Team USA likes to get out and run on the break.

More importantly, the mainstream press is doing its quadrennial look at women's basketball: seemingly impressed, ESPN even featured a story about how the US women are the real Dream Team. That being said, it's troubling, as with so many other professions and occupations, what kind of disparity the women will come back home to, regardless of whether they medal or not, gold or otherwise.

While the league minimum in the NBA - where every player on the men's team has a job after the Olympics are done - is at least 473,604 dollars, depending on whether it's a rookie contract, women in the WNBA cannot earn more than a 103,500 dollars. Anthony Davis has trademarked his unibrow, just in case he needs to supplement his income, but if you asked our female athletes who Candace Parker, Maya Moore or Diana Taurasi are, it's likely they might not know their names.

It'd be wonderful if the Olympics rewarded the best play with the most money or the most fame, or whatever it is that society decides is the way to reward these people who dedicate their lives to excellence. Unfortunately, it seems the thing we value most is a good story.

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