This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.
They're touted as a dynasty -- one of the greatest teams of any sport, any era. That's women's basketball out of the University of Connecticut, currently on a tear of 72 consecutive unbeaten games. The Lady Huskies won their 16th Big East title last week, whooping West Virginia in a lop-sided score of 60-32. Also last week, #8 in the country Notre Dame went down to UConnby an embarrassing 25. On Sunday the Huskies crushed Syracuse 77-41. The best anybody's done against UConn this season has been the supposedly supreme squad out of Stanford, but the Cardinal's best only brought them to within 12 points of the dominant Huskies. For a long, long stretch now, women's college basketball has been a revolving repetition of two stories only. The Huskies and the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers. UT and UConn have won 11 of the last 15 National Championships. Compare that to the men's game, where 11 different schools have won the national title over that same span.
I certainly agree that an intense rivalry is the optimum scenario in any sport. We're always drawn to a scrap of an evenly-matched game moreso than a blow-out. Look how television ratings plummet after half-time if one team is overly dominant. And I would bet that the Lady Huskies themselves wish they were pushed to their limits, had to summon nervous adrenaline, felt the elation of a last-second basket, more often.
What I can't understand is the bashing that women's basketball takes, sports reporters and bloggers using UConn's superiority as ammunition to make a case for the lack of depth and dearth of talent across the women's basketball universe. Just spend a few minutes googling UConn's record and you'll see what I mean. The consistent opinion among male sports fans is that there exist some twenty women on the planet with the skills and abilities to actually play an artful game of hoops and most of them go to school in Storrs, Connecticut. The rest of the women playing the game only serve to illustrate that basketball is the wrong sport for the female gender. UConn, according to these opinionaters, is a boring monopoly. The game is utterly void of suspense. All the rest are incapable, flat, slow, and unskilled, in comparison.
But I ask you, when the University of North Carolina men's Tar Heels dominated last year's March Madness, to the point that their average margin above other teams was over 20 points, why wasn't the rest of the field maligned and disrespected as are all the non UConn, non UT women's teams? When John Wooden's famous UCLA men's teams of the ‘60's and ‘70's established an 88-game winning streak and won an astounding ten out of 12 National Championships, fans and the press held Coach Wooden and his teams in awe. They didn't demean the rest of the field as incompetent and less than compelling. Browsing through the annals of the men's game, dominant teams are lauded. But with the UConn women, it doesn't stop with appreciating them. More than their superlative play, they serve as a reflection of how supposedly weak and incapable all their opponents are.
Did you notice that the President of the International Olympic Committee warned in Vancouver that women's ice hockey just might be dropped from the Olympic schedule because Canada and the U.S. are far too dominant over all other countries? Jacques Rogge firmly stated that women's ice hockey must show improvement or the whole sport will be banned from the Games. But it's okay that Norwegian men dominate cross-country skiing and German men are superlative down the bobsled runs. Go figure.
This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.
Banner image: Connecticut's Kalana Green pulls in a loose ball as West Virginia's Liz Repella also tries for it during the the Big East Final between UConn and West Virginia. Photo: AP/Bob Child