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What's Wrong With Coverage of UConn Women's Basketball and Why You Should Care

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Stereotyping isn't my thing, although if given a choice between watching sports and doing, well, pretty much anything else, feel free to picture me on a couch painting my nails and eating bonbons while watching soap operas. This is all to say: I'm not interested in sports. At all, really.

Luckily, though, if I ever feel as if the one thing lacking in my life is an abundance of spectator sports, I can get everything I need by osmosis through my husband's viewing habits. I know, for instance, that this year's Golden State Warriors basketball team is vying for the most wins in a single season, which would beat the record previously set by the Lakers. (Or the Bulls. One of them. I think. Like I said, I get my information through osmosis, not an encyclopedia.)

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At no time during Golden State's astonishing season has my husband ever said, "Man, the Golden State Warriors are so good that it makes watching them boring. Can we please watch 'The Real Housewives' instead?"

There are plenty of people who love to hate the Yankees or Tom Brady because of their winning streaks. Although while they may be hate-watched, the emphasis is still on the fact that they're being watched. And yet the UConn women's basketball team, who will play for its fourth straight title tonight, is being accused of hurting the entire sport of women's college basketball because they're that good.

If only this were the first time in the history of women—sports and otherwise—that it was implied women should have to defend their success. That's a big if.

In an NPR story a few days ago titled, "Is UConn's dominance bad for women's basketball?" it asked if UConn is a "force to be reckoned with ... or one to be dismissed." Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy argues it's the latter.

"It's not because they are female athletes," he wrote. "We love women's sports. It's because they have no competition. It's the margins of these victories."

SB Nation, though, counters that by saying when we talk about a winning team ruining the sport, it's "misogyny disguised as legitimate sports opinion."

"A lot of people have said UConn's dominance is a sign women's college basketball is broken," SB Nation's Rodger Sherman wrote. "But actually examining the sport reveals that's not the case. Women's basketball has parity—well, it has parity everywhere except Connecticut."

UConn (or the Huskies) recruits well, although they don't necessarily recruit the best out there. What they do that's the best is develop the talent they have, which makes them even more remarkable than, say, the Yankees, a team that can afford the very best at the outset. It's an insult to the athletes involved not just to say UConn is too good, but also that the teams they're playing against must not be good enough. When Derek Jeter gets inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, will anyone speak of his competition's weakness, or will he be praised instead for his strength?

And since when has being so good been a bad thing, anyway? Huskies' coach Geno Auriemma responded to whether his team is bad for the sport on Sunday, saying, "When Tiger [Woods] was winning every major, nobody said he was bad for golf. Actually he did a lot for golf. He made everybody have to be a better golfer."

"We don't appreciate people for how good they are and what a good job they do, we always have to compare it to something," he said. "It's only in women's basketball. It's the only sport where that happens.''

Whether or not people want to watch UConn play is another story. Women's sports in general get much lower ratings than men's sports. But that can hardly be blamed on whether it's a blowout or a close game; the TV networks make it easier to watch men's sports, and the ratings are higher when games are on more often and less difficult to access. Male athletes also get paid significantly higher than female athletes, making the fruits of the men's labor that much sexier and more suspenseful.

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No one stopped watching Michael Jordan because he was too good. Ask any sports pundit if watching him kill it each game ever made it less thrilling. Ask any sports journalist if they ever turned down a free press pass to watch him play because they'd been there, done that. Now ask most any sports journalist to name any player on UConn's team besides Breanna Stewart. *Crickets*

Imagine if UConn was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, though. Or featured in prime time not for being too good, but for being that good. There's a lot of spinning going on, and not enough of it is positive for a team that's mopping the floor with their competition. If only this were the first time in the history of women—sports and otherwise—that it was implied women should have to defend their success. That's a big if.

By all means, don't watch UConn—or any women's college basketball—if you're not interested. But saying you're bored because every game is a slam dunk? I'm sure the '72 Miami Dolphins, '46-'50 Toronto Maple Leafs, '75-'76 Cincinnati Reds, and '01-'04 New England Patriots, to name a few, would argue that their winning streaks hardly hurt their their team, never mind the entire sport.

"Stop lying and pretending that greatness bores you," Sherman wrote. "We know you're captivated by greatness in men's sports. The reason you're uninterested in what UConn is doing is not because they're too good, it's because they're women."

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