Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy tweeted Sunday that UConn was “killing the women’s game” following their 98-38 NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen win over Mississippi State, and that comment has generated some strong pushback. UConn coach Geno Auriemma said “The fact that you have to comment on it, says something about you, doesn’t it?” and compared his team to Tiger Woods, and plenty of media personalities jumped in against Shaughnessy too. ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas had a strong segment Monday morning on SportsCenter that bashed not just Shaughnessy, but all those who find the Huskies’ dominance “boring”:
Here’s a transcription of the key part, via Business Insider:
“So you’re bored with UConn,” Bilas mused. “Let me ask you something. Mozart make you drowsy? The pyramids send you to your pillow? Tom Brady makes you tired? Not crazy about Picasso, does that bore you? If you find it boring to watch prolonged excellence that goes beyond just about any measure of dominance in sports, then you might want to get used to it. Because while you might say you’re tired of watching it, UConn sure doesn’t look tired of doing it.”
ESPN reporter Holly Rowe also had strong words for Shaughnessy on The Dan Patrick Show (Audience/NBCSN/radio affiliates) Monday:
“I think that one, mission accomplished, because he probably was trying to draw attention to himself and he has, so that’s unfortunate that we’re talking about him instead of Breanna Stewart, or Morgan Tuck, or Moriah Jefferson, or these women who have been busting their butts for 70 straight wins,” Rowe said. “Kids this age, you try to get any kid to do anything 70 straight times? Come on. So I’m angry that he wants to take this moment away from those kids who have worked so hard.”
“But is dominance boring?” Patrick interjected.
“No!” Rowe said. “Absolutely not! I thought Geno’s comment was perfect. We never thought Tiger’s dominance was boring. Someone, Jody Conradt, the Texas coach that has retired, told me it’s kind of like that four-minute mile. No one in America, no one in the world thought that you could break the four-minute mile, until someone did it and then everyone could. So people don’t think you can beat UConn, but somebody can and will, and then everything will start to change. Texas lost to UConn last year in the Sweet Sixteen by 51 points. Texas is a better team today because of that loss; they’ve won 31 games this season. It fueled their entire offseason workout; their strength and conditioning coach would be yelling “51 points, 51 points.” People are better because they’re chasing UConn. It’s great for the women’s game because they have set a standard that people are trying to get to.”
“But is there an anti-women’s sports sentiment here?” Patrick asked.
“Yes,” Rowe said. “If this was a men’s team doing this, no way he makes that comment. Nobody says the Warriors are bad for basketball, nobody says the Bulls during their great run were bad for basketball, so I do think it is a sexist comment.”
The comments from Rowe and Bilas have plenty of merit, especially as the NCAA’s women tournament has been drawing impressive ratings (while the men’s side has been slipping, and some of that has been linked to the lack of a dominant team like last year’s Kentucky Wildcats). Dominance has been helpful, not harmful, to the ratings in many sports, and even if UConn doesn’t appeal to Shaughnessy, that doesn’t mean they don’t appeal to the general public. It is weird to see anti-dominance arguments here when so many sportswriters love dominance in men’s sports, too. Credit to Bilas and Rowe for taking on Shaughnessy on this front, and doing so very effectively.
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