Monday, December 20, 2010

U Conn's Winning Streak: are they freaks, frauds, or the best women's basketball team ever?

Geno Auriemma, U Conn's head coach, dared to say out loud what is a given: sports media is only paying attention to their record because the Huskies are about to break a men's record.  The media barely made note of the moment they surpassed the longest winning streak in women's basketball. He ALSO speculated that some fans of the men's game are "pissed off" to see women break a men's record.  This, he implies, is the reason many feel the need to knock down his team's accomplishments.  

ESPN: Jemele Hill and Skip Bayless talk over Auriemma's post-game polemic

The Huskies have a home game against Florida State tomorrow (Tuesday, December 2) at 7:00pm ET (4:00pm Pacific). The game - which is sold out - will be broadcast NATIONALLY, on ESPN2. Imagine that! The BIG game, however, will be at Stanford - one of their stronger rivals.  That show-down is on December 28th, 7:00pm Pacific/10:00pm ET. I can't tell how that game will be broadcast outside of Connecticut (where you can watch it on CPTV).

To the people who piss on their accomplishments: If women's basketball is so lame, how come this team is so awesome? Are they space aliens? Robots? Are all these other women's college basketball programs disasters? There are two labels that get mapped onto female winners - that they are freaks, or that they are frauds. Marta, for example, is a "freak" - a total anomaly - the Huskies are "frauds" - who aren't the best team, but the least worst of teams playing not "real" basketball.  That is not only an insult to the Huskies, but a really profound insult to Baylor, Duke, Xavier, Tennessee, West Virginia, Texas A&M, Stanford, UCLA, UNC, Kentucky, Michigan State, Ohio State... 

Go Huskies - everyone but Florida wants you to take that record and destroy it. And "go!" to every team looking to take them down - because perhaps the only thing as awesome as holding a record like that, is being the team that breaks the streak.

For those of you who want to know more about women's college basketball, I recommend watching This Is a Game, Ladies, about C. Vivian Stringer and the Rutgers University women's basketball team. It's a GREAT documentary and available on netflix!


  1. UConn has to be the best women's bounce-ball team ever. Their dominance comes at a time when the level of competition in women's basketball is higher than it has ever been. And they've clobbered everyone - I can't remember a close game in the bunch.

  2. I think it's a fantastic streak and should be viewed for what it is, a fantastic streak. Anyone who has played sports, or even been around sports, knows that winning three-in-a-row is a fine accomplishment, winning 30 on the trot is nigh on impossible, but 88? Wow. Both UCLA and UConn deserve to be held in the highest of sporting esteems.

    There are still men who quite simply don't want women to do anything other than submit to men, even though the do see the greatness in what Geno's girls have done, they're loathe to admit it.

    What bothers me though is that Penn State's volleyball record didn't get as much attention, now that one is something else! Of course, I dated a volleyball player, and she made sure I knew just how difficult her sport was :)

  3. Hi, Dr. Doyle. It's Keenan. Thought I'd chime in on this. I started watching women's basketball the year Sheryl Swoopes dusted Katie Smith and Ohio State and Swoopes' Texas Tech team won the NCAA championship. Both stars went on to great international and WNBA careers and, rather incredibly, Smith is still going strong.
    Anyway, as I followed the WNBA and other sports over subsequent years, I was surprised to note the vehemence and relentlessness of the vitriol directed at women's basketball by so many sports commentators.
    I think there were a number of factors involved in this unabated anger, among them that basketball is popularly associated with the black urban poor and dudes from war-torn former Soviet bloc countries; and that it is thus seen as rougher/less ladylike than track or tennis or even soccer, which, whatever the reality, is still associated in U.S. with suburbs, minivans, etc. The mainstream sports media seems barely able to stomach the 80% black NBA, constantly criticizes the attitude, work ethic, etc. of the players, so I can't help but think there's more than a little carry-over racism allied to strong chauvinism.
    Anyway, UCONN has been great for a couple decades now and Mya Moore might be the best player that they've had there. She might be the best ever, period.
    But as amazing as their win streak has been, it should be noted that traditional powers such as Tennessee, La Tech and Stanford have been inconsistent or just plain fallen off the last few years, opening the door for this super-dominance. UCONN never lost more than a few games a year anyway, always to the other powers. But over the last few years I've noticed that Tennessee especially hasn't done a good job of skill-development w/ their players, who've tended not to progress during their tenure, whereas UCONN players like Moore or Rene Montgomery or Tina Charles have improved significantly during their 4 years.
    Thanks for the post.

  4. Thanks Keenan - fantastic comments.

    Only thing that comes close to the just plain hate directed at women's basketball is the attitude of guys outside the US to women's soccer.

    Funny thing is, in Europe, at least, some the gender associations w/ basketball and soccer are sort of reversed: girls are directed away from soccer to 'netball,' which is basically the softball of basketball, if that makes any sense.

  5. Almost every single broadcast network picked up Auriemma's comments. He's a rather arrogant boorish fellow and his comments were crass, especially the part about the 'miserable bastards' that follow men's basketball.

    Women's basketball is a lot like Men's when John Wooden took UCLA on it's decade wunder-run in the late 60s/early 70s. An immature sport that a little brains and a lot of recruiting can take you a long way. If you throw a lot of money into women's lacrosse, you're likely to get the same result.

    Full measure to the Huskies though, they obviously left everyone else in their wake. Like UCLA on the men's side, they changed the game.

    I was a big fan of the 2006 Terrapins and think they could give UConn a pretty good game. They played some pretty good ball, but more important they always found a way to rise up and over everything that got thrown at them.

  6. How can a women's basketball team break a men's basketball team record if they played only against women?

  7. spiritofman: It's not a record for men, it's a record for the sport. NOW, 88 is the "longest winning streak in men's basketball" but not in basketball itself. :)

  8. Jennifer, I notice in most of the responses you give you don't answer the questions and always side step them. Do you have trouble confronting the truth?

    It is a record for men because the men's teams played against other men, not women. Playing against men is harder than playing against women so the achievements are not equal.

    To "beat" UConn's record men will have to play against men, which is not equivalent to playing against women. If the women's team had their winning streak against men's teams then it would be a record for "basketball itself". As it stands it's a record for women's basketball only. Women's basketball is not equal to men's. Uconn would not have been able to achieve their winning streak if they played against men, it would be debatable if they would even win a game.

  9. spirit of man,

    I'm sorry, do the Huskies not play basketball? The record they hold is for the longest winning streak in NCAA basketball.

    The UCLA men's basketball team does hold the longest record in men's basketball. I do not dispute this.

    And the UCLA women's team has the longest streak in women's basketball. The women's streak is longer than the men's streak - and here I suspect we have gotten to the kernel of the problem of some readers, who perhaps see in that statement regarding length a statement about something else, entirely.

    A winning streak is not a statement of strength and speed alone. It is a statement about coaching, team organization, team mentality, fan support, and the campus's support of the team.

    And heads up: This is feminist forum, written for feminist, open-minded and curious readers. Inane arguments about how U Conn's streak means less because it was accomplished by women is sexist - I was trying not to make that point so directly. But, there it is. If you have a problem with that, then please read another blog. I am afraid this one will only make you more agitated.


Feedback? Let me know what you think. Just an FYI: all comments posted to this blog are recorded, whether I publish them or not. I do not publish generally hateful comments - whether they be directed at me or at players and teams or other readers. I appreciate reader feedback, especially from those whose contributions add nuance and complexity to the story.

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