It appears “yes, you should tweet” won the poll. So I will Twitter. Look for MechelleV if you are interested in following that. Rebecca Lobo is Twittering … she is very funny, and of course she brings the insight of having won a national championship and a gold medal.
Meanwhile, my street cred is not quite in a league with Rebecca’s. However, I did win first place in extemporaneous speaking at the Eastern Missouri Conference speech meet in 1983. At least I think I did. The memory fades on even some of your grandest accomplishments, you know?
Those of us who did extemp were really just poorly dressed geeks who read Newsweek, and thus believed we knew something about the world. I can only guess what the judges really thought about whatever loads of malarky we were regularly dumping on them.
We would have like a half-hour or 45 minutes to practice our speeches, and we could write little “cues” on an index card to remind us what we wanted to say. You were totally not supposed to write the whole speech on the index card. But I found if you wrote in tiny-enough letters, you really could fit it all on there. Then, often as not, you couldn’t actually read it back again. So that approach had its flaws.
Generally, I would practice in the bathroom before giving my speech, pacing back and forth and generally avoiding looking in the mirror, for fear of really being made aware – too late – that whatever hideous velour top I had on didn’t quite match my corduroy high-waters. (Bright green and cranberry don’t go together?)
I’m eternally glad no video exists of any part of my speech-team career … but I did see on Rebecca’s Twitter that video was discovered of Georgeann Wells’ 1984 in-game dunk.
Which brings me to “the dunk.” (I really didn’t plan on getting to this topic via speech-team memories, but sometimes these blogs just have a mind of their own.)
I was having dinner tonight with my friend Annie and two people who I didn’t know, who probably now think I’m at least mildly insane. Annie and I are really good pals, but she isn’t all that into women’s basketball. Which is fine; I have friends who are totally into it, some who watch occasionally and some who really have no idea what I do for a living.
Annie is a true athlete, still loves to play sports whenever possible, but women’s hoops kind of lacks something to her that makes it less appealing. And that thing is the dunk.
So we’ve had this discussion before. She thinks women’s basketball would be better served to lower the rim 6 inches (at least) to make the dunk more accessible to women. That it would make the game more exciting and bring in more fans. I say that the same people who don’t watch now still wouldn’t watch. They would just say, “What a bunch of crap! They lowered the rims!”
We’ve gone back and fourth on this a few times. She points out that the ball is bit smaller for women, and now the 3-point line is different, so why would it be a big deal to lower the rims? I say I wish the ball had stayed the same size. And I wish that they would just move the 3-point line for the women to the same spot as the men have changed it to this season (the women seem to shoot from behind that line anyway much of the time).
And I always say let evolution take its course, and more and more women will dunk on the hoop the way it is. The dunk will always mean something in the women’s game; it will always be special. I never have watched a game and thought, “If only the rims were lower.” Never. But am I wrong? The height was placed at 10 feet, but is that really “sacred?” Am I thinking about this the wrong way?
While I’m not against the dunk in any way, it is interesting that when you think of the greatest shots in NCAA tournament history on the men’s side, very few dunks come to mind. There seems to be near-universal agreement that the “greatest” shot is Christian Laettner’s 17-footer that won the 1992 regional final for Duke.
Then you think of Keith Smart’s jumper in 1987 or Michael Jordan’s in 1982 or Mario Chalmers’ 3-pointer last year. Or maybe Tyus Edney’s run through the Missouri defense for a layup in 1995. Yes, one of the greatest NCAA tournament shots was Lorenzo Charles dunking after a Dereck Whittenberg airball to clinch N.C. State’s 1983 title. But, again, dunks have not tended to be the most memorable shots of any NCAA tournament.
All that said, I get why the dunk is a big deal. I understand why it’s cool. I just don’t know that more dunking – especially with the rims lowered (and I don’t even know how much more that would produce, because hand size has something to do with dunking, too)- would somehow make women’s hoops more popular.
Among certain sections of the population, there is absolutely nothing the women’s game can ever do to win over those fans. I couldn’t care less about ever trying to draw in people like the pathetic jerks who don’t have enough going on in their lives and so have to troll their way around the Internet all day dumping on what they don’t like.
Nor am I talking about some of my colleagues in the media who go to their one women’s game every decade or so and write those breathtakingly original, “Here’s what’s wrong with women’s basketball” columns. Lowering the rims and moving the tournament to some other time than March usually figure into those paint-by-numbers masterpieces.
But people like my friend Annie are not “hostile” to women’s sports at all, nor are they mailing in a lazy column.
She points out that volleyball has a higher net for men than women. Men have the 110 meter high hurdles, women have the 100 meter hurdles, and they aren’t as high. You could find other differences like that throughout sports that make the concession to the average height of a male being greater than that of the average female.
So she says, “Why is it a big deal? I think I would watch it more and find it more exciting if they dunked more.”
This tends to push my buttons – as it did tonight, hence the other guests probably thinking I’m a little nuts – because I believe people say this but it wouldn’t really change their viewing habits about women’s hoops. She swears it would, and says other people she knows agree.
She also thinks maybe players in the women’s game would like it. I’ve never had a player tell me she wished the rims were lower. But I’ve never made it a point to ask, either.
Ultimately, I know why this got me so angry, and it’s because I have a decreasing level of tolerance for defending the women’s game, even to the well-meaning person.
I want to say, “It’s a great sport populated by some of the best kids you’ll ever meet. It’s fun and exciting and full of drama. The people who play it really go to class and get degrees. And, frankly, if you don’t watch much or any women’s basketball, you really don’t know how good it is or isn’t. But … all that said, I don’t CARE if you don’t watch. I don’t want to waste my time or your time trying to convince you. Just ignore it and watch something else.”
This is the time of year that a lot of this stuff will come up. Should we lower the rims? Should the tournament move to another month? How do you improve attendance? Is the predetermined-sites system really the best we can do? Is the game growing as much as we want? Why have UConn and Tennessee been so dominant? How do you get more women fans? How do you get more male fans?
On and on and on … with the undercurrent always being about what’s wrong with women’s basketball.
And the truth is, I get so FREAKING tired of that. I just want to enjoy everything that’s right about it. I want to point out that when men’s college basketball was “growing up” it wasn’t constantly compared to something else and judged as lacking. That UConn and Tennessee have been to the women’s game what UCLA once was to the men’s game. That the women’s college game has been around, realistically, only since the 1970s.
And, again, if you don’t want to watch the women, that’s your choice. Don’t watch.
Still, I wrote this whole long post. And I know that it’s always going to be my lot in life to say, “I’m sick of talking about this stuff!” and then still talk about it all the time. Because, deep down, I do want the sport to appeal to anyone who’s open-minded enough to give it a try. I do want it to maximize its great potential.
So if you are coming to this blog, I can be pretty sure you are already a fan of the game or are at least interested in it. And you may have many thoughts – some more eloquent than mine – on all these things. Share them if you’d like.
By the way, Annie and I are still good friends … and she would still beat me at HORSE no matter what height the rims were.