Earlier this week, President Obama submitted his picks for the NCAA Basketball Tournament. He predicted that the overall #1 seed will win it all and it was the right call. His pick is an absolute lock to win it all.
Am I crazy to be making such a definitive statement at the start of sport's most unpredictable playoffs? Not at all, because I'm not talking about anything unpredictable. I'm talking about the women's NCAA Basketball Tournament, and that's more of a coronation than a competition.
UCONN will win. The Lady Huskies haven't lost in something like 13 years, when Tennessee beat them, or maybe North Carolina, or I guess maybe Stanford. I don't know for sure, but I do know that those are just about the only options.
There is no sport that's more top-heavy, lopsided and just plain uncompetitive than women's college basketball. None. Not even Ping Pong. The same ten or so teams have a shot at the title every year, and they are the only teams that do. All the good players, of which there is not an abundance, flock to the same schools (UCONN, Tennessee, UNC, Duke, Rutgers, Stanford, etc) and the rest are left to fill their rosters with the tallest, least uncoordinated, interested-in-sports girls they can find. Throughout the season, every other game is a 30-point blowout and features the most amazing passing and fundamentals and missed dunks you'll ever see!
Then, in March, in a desperate and misguided attempt to copy the men, the Lady NCAA insists on fielding 64 teams for the tournament. Come on now. It's cute that the women's bracket is full of 64 teams, but I doubt there are even 64 good players in the tournament.
I am not in any way saying the women's tournament should be abolished or that women don't have the right to compete just as the men do, but can we at least be serious for a second? (Probably not in a tournament with Demoness Deacons and Lady Blue Devils and...Lady Cardinal?)
Has anyone at your office organized a pool for the women's tourney?
The only reason Obama filled out a women's bracket is because, along with every other person on the planet, he didn't do one last year, and some crazy chick raised a hullabaloo over it. Of course he didn't fill out a women's bracket! He doesn't follow women's basketball! The column reminds me of the "Diff'rent Strokes" episode when Willis entered the school beauty pageant just to make a point. All he succeeded in doing was making a fool of himself. No one fills out a women's bracket, except for the contingent of women who played in college and the odd sprinkling of fans that fill the bleachers. And Matthew Modine, apparently.
Before you sharpen your claws, know this: I am not a chauvinist; I'm a realist. There are plenty of exceptional female athletes. Every girl should have the right to play organized sports, and every athlete should have the opportunity to compete against the best. But just because they play doesn't mean they have to be televised and promoted the same way the men are. Even bowling gets on TV once in a while, but they don't pretend it's the Super Bowl.
The men's tournament is so exciting, and so popular, because there parity, both among the teams themselves and the players that make up those teams, and that parity makes it unpredictable (and that unpredictability makes it fun to bet on). Every single men's team has good players and most teams can hang with each other for a whole game. In women's basketball, the game is usually out of reach by the end of the first half and there is almost nothing unpredictable about it, except for Gino Auriemma. What asshole move will he pull next? CATCH IT LIVE, on ESPN2 (on Men's Tourney off-days)!
Many of the players in the men's tournament are the NBA's future stars (Duke's roster of future Duke assistant coaches notwithstanding) and the men's pro league features many of the best athletes in the world. The best female athletes in the world play tennis.
The women have a pro league to strive for but it's been treading water for years because there is little public interest. David Stern and his cronies insist on putting it on TV and hyping it up, not in solidarity with women, but in an attempt to expand their power and corner every bit of the market they can. I bet they'd cut their losses too, if they could get away with it without being burned at the stake for being sexist, like I will be after this column.
Besides, it's not like women are getting rich playing for the Lady Schick or the Los Angeles Laker Girls (I don't know the team names). The maximum salary barely cracks six figures. In a way, that probably makes the women more admirable than the men; they play for the love of the game and little else, and most of them probably get an actual education while there in college, since in all likelihood they'll have to use it. And I certainly can't remember the last time a WNBA player brought her guns to the locker room. It's a nice, well-played game that happens to be entirely unenjoyable to watch.
Can't we all just accept that while women's basketball is a worthwhile and necessary endeavor, it's just not viable as mass entertainment. The most interesting thing that's happened in the sport over the past decade was when that idiotic bigot Imus referred to the Rutgers players as "nappy-headed hos," and that took place off the court. Remove that incident, the existence of Cheryl Miller and Pat Summitt, UCONN's not-at-all surprising 572 game win streak and a smattering of "okay, let's call that a dunk" highlights, and women's college basketball never cracks the nightly news. If it ever does.
Female athletes have plenty to be proud of. There's no need for them to get into a pissing contest with men, or try to be something they're not. Propping women's basketball up in the name of political correctness and a righteous attempt at "equality" does nothing but embarrass the sport, clear the way for ridicule and showcase arenas full of empty seats.
So lay off the President, please. And while we're on the subject, can we please stop talking about Pat Summitt's win total? The lack of competition in women's basketball is so outrageous, three-quarters of her victories might as well have been against teams comprised of actual female huskies.
Let's get real here. You don't want to know about me. You want to know about "me".
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3.19.10 @ 12:29p
these are actually my co-workers thoughts:
Agreed for the most part. But I could easily see Taurasi folding you up in a game of one on one.
3.19.10 @ 12:32p
Don't they actually play WNBA games at something like noon on Tuesdays?
They'd basically let anyone use MSG at that time!
3.19.10 @ 12:55p
Jim's right. In fact, I am such a poor basketball player that I'm sure I probably would lose to a female dog, of any breed.
The point isn't that many female players aren't good, it's that there aren't THAT many that are, certainly nowhere near as many as the men, and that putting a noncompetitive, boring sport on TV just because it's "fair" is stupid. If we were back in the 80s, with 5 channels to choose from, this wouldn't even be a debate. Women's basketball would be about 100th in line for sports broadcasting, behind speed stacking.
3.20.10 @ 3:33a
I've been trying to tell this to my Connecticut based parents for a long time.
There are small pockets in the world where woman's bball matters. CT, parts of TN, etc. In these places woman's bball matters a little bit. The smattering of good chicks (yes, i said it) gravitate towards these college teams and there is no talent left for the rest of the world.
The woman's game is a microcosm of the power structure of the men's game. The men's game has at least 30 programs with a legit shot to win it all every year, the rest do not. Still, 30 programs that are capable of winning it all makes the contests fun. The woman's game has 3 or 4 teams that win it all every year. Not fun.
Somehow, my parents are amazed every year that UCONN has assembled yet another great woman's team. The reason is, there are only three or four places to go if you are a high school girl that is exceptionally good at bball. There are not enough good chicks to go around.
Even the regular season 'contests' are not contests at all. There is no parity in woman's college bball. It is silly to watch. Why watch a game when there is a 99.4% chance that one team will win? That isn't a contest. There isn't enough talent to go around to make the woman's game interesting.
Did the Boston College women's team rip me and my college buddies during bball pick up games at the BC gym?...Yes. Badly. It was humbling. They are really good. Still, their victories were against a bunch of hung over, over weight male college goons. The girls are talented but there are not enough of them to make the woman's game interesting.
Let's stop pretending it is interesting.
Mike, i'm surprised you didn't take a butch-lesbian angle on WNBA fans (not that there is anything wrong with that). Perhaps that is a bit trite at this point.
3.22.10 @ 12:17p
I'll take the deafening silence from my female readers as unqualified agreement. After all, god knows THEY don't watch women's basketball!