National / Sports / April 15, 2009

Revisiting March Madness

A few columns ago, I examined the monotony of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Unfortunately, the Final Four did not do much to dispel that notion.

Rather unsurprisingly, North Carolina (featuring the annoying, clumsy, and semi-good Tyler Hansbrough) beat the living hell out of Michigan State and Villanova on their way to another National Championship. Although CBS did their best to trump up the hometown Spartans, UNC decided they actually felt like winning and ran Michigan State out of the gym. It was one of the more dominant performances of the twenty-first century, and Hansbrough sealed his legacy with a National Championship.

Of course, this dominated the news (along with the start of baseball season) for the last news cycle. On ESPN, in newspapers, in any sports publication or program, Hansbrough and company were all the rage. They earned it.

But on the periphery, the Connecticut University women’s basketball team walked all over Louisville in the title game and ended their season 39-0 (the thirteenth time a Geno Auriemma coached team has finished with 30 or more wins, the sixth time they’ve won a National Championship, and the third time they’ve gone undefeated). Admittedly, women’s college basketball is much more imbalanced than the men’s game, due in large part to the dominant programs at UCONN and Tennessee. Even still, the accomplishments of the Huskies garnered little attention.

ESPN, the network that carries the Women’s Final Four, devoted little time to the tournament. One would think the flagship network for women’s basketball would make a concerted effort to highlight or promote either a) one of the greatest women’s teams ever (and arguably one of the greatest teams — regardless of sport — ever) or b) a primetime event on their own station.

On SportsCenter especially, the network did little to preview or discuss UCONN or the Women’s Final Four in general. Having been an avid SportsCenter viewer (especially the Sunday morning edition) for many years of my adolescence, I can assure you they’d devote twenty minutes of airtime to promote a NASCAR event (airing elsewhere, mind you) before discussing anything related to women’s sports. And being that ESPN itself is a microcosm of the sports universe (American, that is), it is a sad statement about the divide between men’s sports and women’s sports in the American psyche.

So, in honor of the Huskies, I will recount their accomplishments. The team, as mentioned before, went 39-0. Their smallest margin of victory was ten (against Notre Dame in February). They won the National Championship game by (only) twenty-two points (they’d previously beaten Louisville in the Big East Tournament by 39).

Hopefully, the team will eventually get the credit they deserve (in retrospect, sadly). In the meantime, the Huskies will graduate and head to the WNBA, where they will continue to toil away in obscurity. Someday, to make more money and for more exposure, they will head overseas to play in Europe. It will be America’s loss, and America’s fault.

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