HATING THE HUSKIES: WHY IT’S NEVER BEEN ABOUT HOOPS – BY ANTHONY McCLEAN

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Updated: April 3, 2016
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BASN’S EDITOR’S SERIES: HATING THE HUSKIES

By Tony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus

BASN

 

 

NEW HAVEN, CT (BASN) – A few weeks before the Women’s NCAA basketball tournament began, Raymond Moore, the tournament director of the BNP Paribas Open, would make some inflammatory remarks about the current state of women’s tennis.

 

 

“I think the WTA – you know, in my next life when I come back I want to be someone in the WTA, [laughs] because they ride on the coat-tails of the men,” Moore said. “They don’t make any decisions and they are lucky. They are very, very lucky. If I was a lady player, I’d go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport. They really have.”

 

 

Moore would later apologize for his statements after the media backlash.

 

 

Fast forward to last weekend. Following the University of Connecticut’s 98-38 shellacking of Mississippi State in the women’s regional semifinal in Bridgeport, Boston Globe writer Dan Shaughnessy offered his opinion of the game and of the Lady Huskies.

 

 

“UConn women beat Miss. State 98-38 in NCAA Tourney. Hate to punish them for being great, but they’re killing the women’s game,” he tweeted. “Watch? No thanks”.

 

 

Predictably, UConn head coach Geno Auriemma when informed of the tweet responded quickly to defend his players and the critics of women’s basketball. “When Tiger [Woods] was winning every major, nobody said he was bad for golf,’’ said the coach.

 

 

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“Actually he did a lot for golf. He made everybody have to be a better golfer. We don’t appreciate people for how good they are and what a good job they do, we always have to compare it to something. It’s only in women’s basketball.

 

 

“It’s the only sport where that happens.’’

 

 

What the UConn program has done over the years under Auriemma has been well documented. Heading into Sunday’s national semifinal against Oregon State, the Huskies have a chance to do what no college basketball program — men’s or women’s — have ever done.

 

 

They’re two wins away from being the first school to win four straight National Championships in Division I hoops. John Wooden never did it. Adolph Rupp never did it. Even Pat Summit never did it.

 

 

If this were a prominent men’s program (i.e., Duke or Kansas), we’d be seeing historical comparisons and asking questions about whether if this was “the greatest team ever”.

 

 

Despite the fact that they’re set to carve their own niche in college hoops history, the Lady Huskies literally have to defend their very existence this weekend. And sadly, in my opinion, it’s got nothing to do with basketball.

 

 

The prevailing attitudes of Moore, Shaughnessy, and other critics speaks to a different set of rules that women’s sports have to deal with in this country. The elephant in the room is an overwhelming sexist double standard when reporting on and or working for women’s sports as a whole.

 

 

This is something that the UConn program has had to deal with for years. But I’ve always felt that much of the criticism of Auriemma’s teams have been more about a prejudice in regards to male sportswriters covering women’s sports.

 

 

Shaughnessy tried to back away from his statements earlier this week with a column stating “They seem to win all their games by 40 points. This is not UConn’s fault, but it’s also not good for the promotion of women’s basketball as part of our national sports landscape.”

 

 

But even that statement is somewhat of a contradiction. In a male-dominated field, many women’s sports — either on a local or national level — are largely ignored and or ridiculed compared to male sports.

 

 

Back in 1998, then UConn star Nykesha Sales was a point away from becoming the school’s all-time leading scorer when she ruptured her Achilles’ tendon during the Huskies’ final home game that season.

 

 

The Huskies were set to play Villanova on the road for their next game. After consulting with Wildcat head coach Harry Perretta and then Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese, Auriemma had a plan for Sales to break the record.

 

 

Let Sales score an uncontested basket to start the game to give her the record, then allow Villanova to do the same to tie the score and then start the game in earnest from there.

 

 

Instead of looking at it as a decent gesture, Auriemma and the Huskies were ridiculed by many non women’s basketball fans and the national media for cheapening the accomplishment.

 

 

If UConn were to lose Sunday night in their Final Four game, the same media that would semi rejoice over that loss would more than likely not watch Tuesday’s final.

 

 

Their reasoning? Well, UConn’s not playing in the title game. This kind of ass backwards logic hasn’t been just confined for women’s basketball.

 

 

While Sports Illustrated honored future Hall of Famer Serena Williams as their Sports Person of the Year in 2015, there’s has always been a underlying resentment and ridicule that Williams and her sister Venus have received over the years.

 

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Back in 2009 when Serena was disqualified from the U.S. Open because of an angry exchange with a lines person, then announcer Dick Enberg was aghast at Williams’ behavior. “I’ve never seen anything like this on a tennis court, let alone a Grand Slam tournament”, he stated.

 

 

Enberg’s comments were hollow and incredibly naive. Especially when you consider that on this night his color commentator was the man the tennis world dubbed McBrat — the always loud and obnoxious John McEnroe.

 

 

A man with a history of arguing over the most inane line calls was incredibly quiet as a church mouse the night of Serena’s “meltdown”. But again according to Enberg, Williams’ tirade was way above the top.

 

 

Maybe I’m biased because I previously covered the Lady Huskies before they became a national power. However. I truly feel that much of the over the top criticism they’ve received has had a large dose of sexism in it.

 

 

Whether they accomplish the unprecedented “four peat” or not, one can’t deny the fact that Auriemma and the Lady Huskies have not only been the dominant women’s program in the country — they are one of the dominant programs in all of college sports.

 

 

Tony McClean can be reached via email at anthonymcclean1962@gmail.com.

 

 

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