Let them play: women's basketball faces double standard

What if I told you that Company B’s CEO’s shareholders suspended her for her performance instead?

By now you’ve realized that Company A and B are 
probably not real companies.

There’s an ongoing controversy in women’s basketball: how much is too much? For whatever reason – be it a talent disparity, disproportionate funding across schools, coaching caliber gaps or a whole host of other factors – there are a lot of blowouts in women’s basketball.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “There are a lot of blowouts in a lot of sports, Will. What about them?” Well, we aren’t talking about them today. We’re talking about women’s basketball, and we’re talking about women’s basketball for three reasons. First, last spring season a California high school coach actually found himself suspended for two games after beating a team 161-2. Secondly, the University of Connecticut women’s basketball has rained down unquenchable destruction on college basketball for the last decade, including a 98-38 victory over Mississippi State in the Sweet 16 en route to an NCAA Championship this season. That’s its fourth national title in a row, tenth since 2000, and eleventh all-time. Thirdly, I don’t want to talk about the other sports right now because this article would be way too long if we did.

Okay, let’s examine the context of the 161-2 rout and go from there, as this is not an isolated incident. Arroyo Valley, the victor, had won their previous four games by at least 70 points, and Bloomington, the defeated, had lost a game earlier in the season by 91 points. In a sense, this was the perfect storm. What did the coach do right? He played zero starters in the second half. What did the coach do wrong? He implemented a full-court press (for all of you who know football better than basketball, think all-out blitz defense) for the entire first half to secure a 104-1 
halftime lead.

Was that aggressive of a defense for that long in the game acceptable? Probably not. But there is a deeper issue at hand here.

In 1990 future WNBA legend Lisa Leslie dropped 101 of Morningside High School’s 102 points in the first half against South Torrence’s 24. The opposing coach would not let his team play the second half, saying, “Our girls have feelings too.” The media dismantles similar performances in high school basketball time and time again, calling these victories “disturbing.”

Yet, at the end of the day, this is high school basketball. Disparity happens. In 1964, a men’s high school basketball score was 211-29. But what about the college level?

UConn finished 38-0 this season and has only lost five games in the last four seasons. Its average margin of 
victory was 39.4 points, it never won by single digits, it won the title game by 31 points without its best three-point shooter and it won 25 of 38 games by 40 points or more. In its 98-38 demolition of MSU, they led 32-4 after the first 10 minutes. This level of performance is nearly indescribable. UConn are juggernauts playing in the sandcastles of 
peasants, building and crushing at will. And this is exactly how the media is portraying it.

Dominant. Dynasty. Unprecedented. Historic. Legendary. These are the words describing 18-year-olds in college winning by 60 point margins.

Unnecessary. In poor taste. Unsportsmanlike. Classless. Unethical. These are the words describing 18-year-olds in high school winning by 100 point margins.

Does a 40 point differential – even with coaches pulling starters, forcing the team to complete a minimum number of passes before shooting, and even in some cases submitting to a running clock – deserve that level of disparity 
in reaction?

Would we complain and call for suspensions if men’s teams lost this badly, or would we tell them to “suck it up, take it like a man and learn from it?” Isn’t it sexist of us to assume that young women cannot handle gut-wrenching, jaw-dropping adversity in a game of basketball without us needing to protect them in some way? Why are we uncomfortable with women asserting physical dominance and other women experiencing loss?

We should all be for sportsmanship. No one wants a good team to rub a team’s nose in the dirt simply because they can. But if the starters are on the sideline and the shot-clock is winding down, how dare we tell a strong young woman to intentionally miss a shot because they might hurt someone else’s feelings?

Let the women play ball.

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