Commentary

Here's hoping UConn keeps on winning

A vote for the underappreciated Huskies to go where few sports teams have ventured

Originally Published: March 18, 2010
By Jemele Hill | ESPN.com

I hope the Connecticut women's basketball team keeps winning until my grandkids are old enough to be great-grandparents.

Forget their 72-game streak. I hope the Huskies don't lose for another 300 games.

I'm being (somewhat) facetious. I don't have kids, and we'll probably be reserving apartments on the moon before the Huskies' winning streak ever stretches into the hundreds.

The wild hyperbole is just my way of saying I hope the UConn women continue to beat teams senseless for as long as possible, even as some people argue that these continual beatdowns are bad for women's basketball.

[+] EnlargeGeno Auriemma
Elsa/Getty ImagesGeno Auriemma is familiar with the cutting-down-the-net tradition.

Bad to be really good?

Since when?

Even in the age of a 24-hour news cycle, the excellence of the Connecticut women's team remains an underappreciated story.

There is so much parity in sports across the board that the kind of dominance the Huskies have shown is a rarity. Even in the women's college basketball tournament, which has existed for 28 years, a No. 16 seed has beaten a No. 1 seed (Harvard over Stanford in 1998). We've never seen that on the men's side.

Connecticut is special. The Huskies are 33-0 and have destroyed their opponents by an average of 35 points. It's a moral victory to lose to this team by fewer than 20.

What Connecticut has done is extraordinary, but you might not know it by the way some of the media have responded. They're calling this year's women's NCAA tournament a snore. Even those with limited knowledge of the women's game have all but handed the Huskies the scissors to cut down the nets.

If you think watching the UConn women pound their competitors is boring, you must have been comatose when the New York Islanders won four straight championships or when Michael Jordan's Bulls rattled off two three-peats.

When men dominate, it's not always considered bad for the sport. If the UConn women were a men's program, I doubt someone would write a column wondering whether they should be disbanded. But someone wrote that about the Connecticut women.

Why is it that when women dominate their sport, it's considered unfair to everyone else? The International Olympic Committee voted to remove women's softball from the 2012 and 2016 Summer Games, partly because the Americans have all but monopolized the medals -- three golds and a silver in the past four Olympics. Women's Olympic hockey could be next on the chopping block because the U.S. and Canada outscored their opponents 88-4 at the Winter Games in Vancouver.

Yet the IOC didn't complain when the U.S. started sending men's pro basketball players to the Olympics and they outscored teams by 412 points in every game. The rest of world just had to get better.

Rather than expend energy pointing out what's wrong with UConn's 72-game winning streak, we should be glorifying this team for its achievements.

Certainly, there have been a number of fantastic teams and programs throughout the history of college hoops -- the Duke and Kentucky men's basketball teams that ruled the 1990s, for example -- but no one expects a men's program now to win 10 titles in 12 seasons the way UCLA did in the 1960s and 1970s.

Connecticut women's basketball has come pretty close to duplicating that. The Huskies are going for their seventh title in 15 years, and Tennessee is running a close second with five in that span. (The Lady Vols have eight titles overall.) Every sports fan who doesn't root for another women's team should hope UConn reaches that UCLA level.

I understand that fans love the element of surprise, but they also love superiority.

[+] EnlargeMaya Moore
AP Photo/Jessica HillThis year's team added the Big East regular-season championship hardware, held here by Maya Moore, to the school's trophy case.

The reason Tiger Woods became a worldwide icon is because he is so much greater at golf than everyone else. Until Tiger, it was a pipe dream to think that anyone could eclipse or even equal Jack Nicklaus' 18 major tournament victories. And I'm willing to bet no one thinks golf is boring or less compelling because Tiger needs only four majors to reach Nicklaus' record.

Tiger isn't just the face of golf; he is the entire sport. When he's in contention on Sundays, ratings soar. When he isn't, golf might as well be an "Everybody Loves Raymond" rerun. And everyone seems perfectly happy with that arrangement.

The pundits who complain about the lack of mystery in the women's tournament are the same ones who won't watch if the men's tournament produces a Cornell-UTEP final.

As much as we like to champion the underdog, the presence of big names and superstar teams makes sports more interesting. If the Huskies somehow lose in the early rounds, I won't watch the rest of the women's tournament, even though Nebraska, Tennessee and Stanford are all excellent teams. And if Connecticut loses in the title game, I'll feel cheated.

I'm not a New England Patriots fan, but I was disappointed when they lost to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII because, as a sports fan, I wanted to see New England become the first team since the '72 Dolphins to have an undefeated season. I like to see records broken. I like seeing sports constantly trying to outdo itself.

I don't care how UConn's dominance affects the rest of the college game because, to be frank, that's something the competing programs must figure out.

All I care about is the Huskies' becoming the first women's team to win back-to-back championships with undefeated records. There's nothing bad about that.

Jemele Hill can be reached at jemeleespn@gmail.com.

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