I grew up a UConn hater. My parents went to the University of Tennessee (Go Lady Vols! Go Pat Summit!), and then I ended up becoming a North Carolina Tar Heel myself (not that I played on the Varsity team, but I am a fan… and I loved intramurals…)
Anyway, last night I watched the UConn women’s team make history. They’ve won 89 straight games, taking the record for longest winning streak (previously held by the UCLA men’s team). This level of excellence took a lot of talent, practice, and determination. They deserve huge congratulations (and they got congratulated by President Obama himself). This team has brought a lot of attention to women’s college sports, and their success brings attention to the national dialogue about Title IX.
CBS Sports Columnist Gregg Doyel said he isn’t celebrating the UConn streak. He’s mourning it:
The UConn women’s basketball team is about to set an NCAA record with its 89th consecutive victory. Somewhere else, people can celebrate the achievement. Here, I’ll mourn it for what it is:
The death of competition.
And then he goes on to cite several examples of how UConn has crushed other teams. Just take my word for it. There are plenty of examples. Doyel continues:
None of this is good for women’s basketball, which I admit to not caring a whole lot about. Even with Title IX paving the way for women athletes since 1972 — and costing this country more than 100 collegiate wrestling and baseball programs along the way — the talent pool for women’s basketball remains shallow. Check out the scores on any given day, and you’ll see grotesque, high school-level blowouts. It’s not just UConn blowing out the No. 11 Buckeyes. It’s Duke blowing out undefeated Oklahoma State 73-45. And Stanford blowing out two-loss Fresno State 77-40. And Iowa State blowing out Columbia 73-27. And that was just one day last week.
I’m a free-market person, so I love competition. I love a close game. But Doyel says women’s basketball is not very competitive because of a shallow talent pool. Why aren’t there more girls like Maya Moore and Bria Hartley playing women’s ball?
When the confetti fell on the team last night, and the music in the background played, “I’m a winnah, winnah, winnah, can’t miss, can’t lose… etc.,” I felt a tinge of jealousy. Wouldn’t it be cool to be on a team like that? Certainly, it would be, on a night like last night, a night of celebration.
But there were a lot of other nights, I’m sure, when I wouldn’t have liked being on the UConn team, or any varsity team for that matter. If I had played a varsity sport in college, I would have had to miss out on other choices I made. For example, I liked doing theatre, dancing in dance groups, singing in choirs, going to social functions with my sorority, etc. Those were my personal preferences.
I don’t mean to imply that all college women are like me, and that they all like to sing and dance. That would be silly. But it would be also be silly to assume that women have the same interests as men, and that lower participation in sports is due to rampant sexism.
I extend my heartfelt congratulations to the UConn women’s team. On their roster, there’s a high concentration of women who made the choice to dedicate themselves to the game of basketball. But the fact that other schools don’t have the same number of all-star players shouldn’t be evidence of a need for Title IX. It might just mean that different women have made different choices.