Women's Hoops Blog

Inane commentary on a game that deserves far better

Friday, April 17, 2009

Dave Zirin wrote an piece for Bleacher Report "Geno and Gender: Lady Huskies and the Perils of Perfection." I resisted the impulse to comment on it, but since it was republished by The Nation (or vice versa), where it was retitled: "Lady Huskies' Glory Stolen By Coach," I could't resist.

(actually, now the "Lady" has been removed from the headline at the Nation but it still is sprinkled through the piece as in: "The University of Connecticut Lady Huskies just won the NCAA women's basketball title.")

It would appear that Mr. Zirin thinks the reason no one covers women's basketball and, in particular, honors the UConn Huskies as they should be for this year's accomplishments, is because Geno is a big ole selfish egotistical blowhard and (it would seem) dared to address stereotypes in women's basketball..

I'm sure that Mr. Zirin would find plenty to agree with that assessment of Auriemma. And equal numbers who'd say, "You just don't get him, and that's too bad for you."

That being said, you might posit that the media attention that Auriemma garners detracts from the attention given his team. (Just don't tell the infamous Connecticut Horde that) But if you do want to make that argument, you damn well better do a better job than Mr. Zirin has done.

Point One: Mr. Zirin, get your basic facts right: There ain't no such thing as a Lady Husky. That you don't know that really undermines my willingness to give much weight to what you're complaining about.

Point Two: Mr. Zirin writes:
But now that he has a team even grander than his ego, Auriemma should--for the good of his players and the women's game--take a step back and cede the spotlight. This should be a moment to praise a team that for my money is the best NCAA women's team ever and in the conversation as the most dominant college team, men's or women's in history. The fact that their exploits haven't received more attention is just another instance of the way women's sports get the fuzzy end of the lollipop. Auriemma isn't helping.
Gosh, Mr. Zirin must have missed all the "Really want this for Renee" stories.

And, to be honest, I'm not quite ready to believe Mr. Zirin knows that Auriemma has had THREE undefeated teams. Were those other two not so grand?

Or if he does know about '95 and '02, did he actually watch the 2002 team in action? (And if he did, does he know about those other perfect teams: Texas and the amazing Lady Vols? But I digress)

Getting back to the point -- whether this is the bestest team ever has been argued ad nauseum all season and, now that the season has concluded, most knowledgeable fans and observer's money, say that 2009 ain't #1.... But, hey, he's entitled to his opinion about which "Lady" team was the best. (Though I find it confusing that he mocks Aureimma for outlining the accomplishments that might make the team numero uno.)

Point Three: Here's what Mr. Zirin means by this spotlight hogging.
There was a prime example of this right before the Lady Huskies Final Four matchup with Stanford. At a packed press conference, Coach Geno "stood up" for Stanford, saying: (insert the quote that everyone knows about "soft" players)

The statement was bizarre but it was also pure Auriemma. First it made no sense. No one had made any such statement about Stanford. Also, if there is a tired stereotype about white players, from baseball's David Eckstein to basketball's Kevin Love to football's Wes Welker, it's that they are "scrappy, hard-nosed" and "would go through a wall to win.
Makes me wonder if Mr. Zirin was at the Final Four or simply reading about Coach Tara and Coach Geno and Coach Jeff and Coach Sherri from afar. 'Cause this is what Mechelle Voepel, a sports writer who knows a bit about women's basketball, media coverage and stereotypes, said about the same moment:
It's quite funny to hear him say this, because Auriemma as "cautious" is still bolder and more forthright than just about anybody else at wide-open throttle. Auriemma is a born entertainer, but he was not meant to be taken in small-clip sound bites. If you only heard or saw, "So, yeah, they are a bunch of pansies," in regard to folks from the West Coast, you totally would misinterpret what Auriemma was actually saying Saturday.

In four paragraphs, he tackled some of the stereotypes that all of us know even the most well-meaning people succumb to. When someone asked about Stanford being "soft," Auriemma wasn't afraid to cut right through the euphemisms.

He could have so very easily ducked or dodged it, pretended he didn't know that the unspoken question was pretty specifically about whether Jayne Appel and Kayla Pedersen really were all that "tough" because they are white.
Point Four: Mr. Zirin writes:
Tina Charles in the past has defended these tactics by saying, "the pressure's off us and on him." Whether Auriemma was trying to take the pressure off his team or just has no internal censor, this moment should be about giving all the credit in the world to the team, not him.
To be honest, it reads like he believes Charles is a self-deluded little girl who doesn't know better. Charming.

It also sounds like Mr. Zirin doesn't know the difference between "this moment" (which, I'm taking to be the moment after the Championship was claimed) and "interviews before the Final Four where reporters ask questions about the upcoming match ups," which is when Auriemma made his comments.

Did the Auriemma comments really take focus from the teams that were playing in the Final Four? Gosh, and here I thought it was Bubba and the $64,000 question.

After said "moment," what exactly did Aureimma do to draw attention to himsefl and not say, his team that Mr. Zirin wanted to hear?

Finally: Mr. Zirin concludes:
Gender should be irrelevant when we reckon with perfection. But perhaps we should accentuate it even more and recognize that the Lady Huskies right now are as good as it gets.
I wish I knew enough about psychiatry to know if I can call the use of "Lady" a Freudian slip. Or I could get away with saying it was "ironic," except I worry my high school English teacher will come back to correct me.

Instead, I'll end with a request:Mr. Zirin, if you're truly concerned about the women's game and how it's covered, next time please take the time to wipe the fuzz off your lollipop.