This is not about women competing with men on the basketball court; they can’t. It’s not about how the UConn women would fare against the North Carolina men; they’d lose by 70. And it’s certainly not about the NCAA women’s tournament being more exciting than the worst men’s tournament in 25 years; it clearly wasn’t.
This is about how the Lady Huskies’ accomplishments this season rate with some of the greatest teams in the history of sports, how unbeaten UConn in ’09 measures up with the best of the best.
And of course, there is no comparison.
Geno Auriemma’s squad dwarfs them all. Every single one.
Now you think I’m out of my mind. I must have some weird women’s basketball fetish, filling my bedroom with Diana Taurasi and Lisa Leslie posters and placing two life-sized cardboard cutouts of Auriemma and Pat Summit at the foot of my bed. That or this is actually a guest post written by some hippy feminist, of which I know many.
None of that is actually true. I honestly find women’s basketball to be about as entertaining as power walking, with a slightly faster pace. I covered Phyllis Mangina’s (that’s the coach’s name, not a dirty joke) Seton Hall Pirates my freshman year of college and quickly learned that while men’s basketball is played above the rim, the women play somewhere below the net. It’s also slower, less-athletic and generally played about as well as an average high school boy’s game.
But all that proves is that women have more physical limitations than men. And we didn’t need sports to figure out then men and women are different. It shouldn’t invalidate UConn’s perfect season, a season where they didn’t just win every game; they won every game by double digits.
The truth is the ’09 Huskies are the greatest team in the history of sports because their accomplishments came on a playing field that is far more even than virtually every other team that appears on the “best of all-time” list. Here’s what I mean: The best women’s basketball players in the country, and probably the world, all play college basketball. It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, Asian, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, gay or straight; if you can play, you play.
The same cannot be said for the ’27 Yankees who never played against African-Americans. In fact, any great team that played before the color barriers were broken, even those that played when there were still limits on how many black players were allowed on each team, should fall below the Lady Huskies on the list. How can a team be called the “best ever” when some of the best players weren’t even allowed to play the sport?
Another argument is that women’s basketball isn’t exactly even. After all, Connecticut and Tennessee get almost all of the attention. But doesn’t that happen in men’s basketball as well? Isn’t North Carolina or UCLA in a better position to recruit the best players than everyone else? The fact is women’s basketball isn’t really lacking in parity anymore than the men are. In the last five years, 12 different programs have reached the final four. Only two more have reached the men’s final four.
So let’s get this straight: UConn dominated its opponents unlike any team in history in a time where the playing field in sports was as fair as it has ever been in this country.
To me, that qualifies the Huskies as the greatest team ever.
As long as you look past the fact that they’re, you know, girls.