Not surprisingly, many male commentators have already been quick to dismiss this accomplishment, calling it an inauthentic record because it was achieved by a woman's team which, being composed of women, is therefore supposedly comprised of less-skilled players than a men's team.
Minimizing female athletes' accomplishments is a standard reflex of many male sportsfans and writers. Whether Jenny Finch is striking out Albert Pujols, a woman is beating a male bowling champion, or a woman is beating men in an extreme long-distance run, the but but buts of insecure masculinity and manhood come out in full force. But, they scream, baseball players aren't used to pitching delivery in softball. But, bowling and running aren't even real sports, they yell. But, any sport in which a woman can beat a man isn't really a real sport at all!
How quick men are to define women's athletic accomplishments out of their sportsdom when it is revealed that men aren't actually automatically better than women at everything.
And so we come to minimizers of UConn's latest achievement. Mark Potash beats his chest and bleats "sorry folks":
"Here’s a news flash for [UConn coach] Auriemma: You’re not chasing UCLA’s record of 88 consecutive victories under John Wooden. You didn’t tie it and you’re not going to break it. That’s a men’s basketball record. You coach a women’s team. A women’s team can’t break a men’s record any more than a men’s team can break a women’s record."
But here's the thing.
In NCAA basketball, it is by far the norm for men's teams, scores, and records to be presented in the sports media as the default. The NCAA tournament, for instance, refers to the men's touranment. That is a given. If anyone's talking about the women's tournament, it's almost always qualified as the NCAA women's tournament. Indeed, this NCAA record book (PDF) deigns to present "Division I Records," but actually only lists Division I men's records. This "About" NCAA Division I Record Book site including lists of the winningest coaches, the top coaches, the winningest teams, the scoring leaders, and a myriad of other basketball statistics, but is really only about men's NCAA basketball records.
In this way, is men's basketball presented as general NCAA basketball, the more important and authentic division, the division whose records and statistics therefore both encompass and trump all women's records.
But folks like Potash always seem to want it both ways.
When the sports media presents the NCAA as though it only consists of male athletes, these folks' explanations and "news flashes" about the existence of women's teams are nowhere to be found. Yet, for purposes of making male sporting superiority explicit, whenever a woman or a women's team breaks a men's record, men like Potash dare to chime in to tell us, as if we don't already fucking know, that the NCAA has both a men's division and a women's division, each with their own separate record books.
The real pisser, of course, is that these guys aren't making this observation because they see anything wrong with men's sports being the default or with men's records being widely viewed as being better than women's records, but because they really really want everyone to know that women's records are different, and by different they mean crappier, than men's. They either ignore or highlight difference whenever doing one or the other serves the interest of perpetuating male supremacy.
Potash continues, stroking the manly sports ego:
"[UConn coach] Auriemma should be happy that established media are buying the idea that UConn is breaking UCLA’s record and giving him a soapbox to whine about the lack of respect women’s basketball receives in the sporting world.
Women’s basketball gets what it deserves. Probably more than it deserves if you include a professional league that is attached to the NBA like an oxygen machine.
It’s not as popular as men’s basketball because it’s neither as good nor as entertaining. All you have to do is watch five minutes of a women’s game to know that."
Really, Potash? It hardly falls into the Inspirational Sportswriting Bucket of Rare and Incredibly Brave Feats to rip on women's sports. When such paragons of sporting obectivity known as "male sports fans who bash female athletes" aren't ignoring us, they're readily and easily found sexifying us or trying to take us down a few notches just to make sure we know our rightful place in the big scheme of things.
Aptly, he ends with some high-fives to his buds in the super -duper boys' club:
"But if Geno wants to continue the charade of breaking the men’s record, he’s going to have to start playing some men’s teams. I think he knows how ugly that would get. There are probably 10 high school teams in the city that could beat the Connecticut women.
The UConn women vs. the Simeon boys, now that’s a game people of all genders would pay to see. If Geno Auriemma thinks there were a lot of reporters to watch his team win No. 88, there would be twice as many or more to see him play the Simeon boys. It’s all about entertainment."
Bring it. That cocksure sentiment worked out really well for Bobby Riggs.