Women's Hoops Blog

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better

Sunday, April 04, 2004

The best of times...

In women's college basketball (if not yet the pros), everything seems to be headed in the right direction. We have a confluence of favorable trends pushing the game to new heights.

This year we saw the best senior class ever. We saw more upsets, more good teams, and more parity.

All of that led us to a perfect Final Four. We have two famous dynastic programs joined by two exciting newcomers. We have Taurasi, whose name often appears next to the phrase "best ever." We have LSU generating tons of local interest in New Orleans. We have Minnesota as a highlight-reel Cindarella. We have Candace Parker on the way.

The storylines abound. 1991 Huskies compared to 2004 Gophers. The Call. Diana's three-peat. McCarville's mom. Littlejohn, Frese, and Borton. Geno and Pat. Sue and Pokey.

Fan interest is at an all-time high. TV ratings are way up. Tickets for the games are going for hundreds of dollars.

Media coverage is improving. ESPN has done an excellent job with the event, both in terms of coverage and promotion. Papers in Minnesota and New Orleans are now filled with article after article on women's basketball, just like papers in Connecticut and Tennessee.

The coverage, moreover, has come with an overwhelmingly positive slant. Around the country, we see headlines like "Women's basketball comes into its own," "Parity paying off," and "Women's basketball gets bigger and better." The AP's Mary Foster has written two glowing stories in the last two days about the growth in the game, and both have been run by dozens of papers nationwide.

Against this giddy background, Harvey Araton strikes a cautionary note in the Times today. He wonders if the success will eventually afflict women's ball with the same pathologies that have at times sullied the men's game.

Araton's point is worth keeping in mind. Much as the attention and accolades attention are nice, we need to remember that it's not all about hype, ratings, and dollars. Success will bring us those trappings, but we can't let the trappings take over.

We need to keep the real treasures in mind. Fairness and equality. Strong female role models for boys and girls. Sportsmanship and comraderie among fans, built both around specific team loyalty and a more generalized love for the game. And above all, good basketball.

Enjoy the games, folks... this is a wonderful time to be a women's basketball fan.