So far, this trip to Tampa is proving much more satisfactory than the previous visit in 2008, when it rained the entire time and we lost and it was terrible and we will not speak of it again.
So far, I’ve had one of the most relaxing and fun Final Fours in recent memory. As you may remember, last year I spent most of the Final Four under a storm cloud of my own making, crippled by paralyzing anxiety. Now, thanks to a lot of hard work (and some help from medication), I’ve been having a blast. Plus, it’s easy to relax when your biggest task all day is to go to the gym and then spend a ton of time in the pool with some of your best friends, and then watch men’s and women’s championship games.
Notice how I said “men’s and women’s games” above. Including those pronouns makes a world of difference. As a gender scholar and overall loudmouth, I’d like to take this time to talk about those types of small things that can lead to micoaggressions.
The gender pronoun clarifies which game and which sport I’m talking about. The difference between men’s and women’s basketball is significant, and not in a bad way. They’re just different games. The point is, language can be used as either a sign of erasure or of recognition.
Last night, Duke won the tournament thanks to defense, the implosion of Wisconsin’s offense, and some bad refereeing. I quite like Coach K (He’s a friend of the family) so I wasn’t too bummed out like the rest of my friends. But then I was reading Twitter after the game and all of the major networks kept saying the same thing. They said Coach K is the most prolific basketball champion after John Wooden. Coach K’s the only one who comes close to Wooden’s record of 10 national championships. The way Sportscenter and ESPN were phrasing their tweets, and the way the media creates the narrative they do about sports, it was as if the women’s game and my father’s accomplishments were ‘less-than.’
It’s worse online and on the shows, too. On ESPN’s website, you have to click through to “Other Sports” tabs to get to the “Women’s BB” link.Today on the Today Show, Willie Geist pronounced March Madness as “officially over”. Grantland barely even mentions the women’s game; once, Bill Simmons wrote an article stating that he’d rather see Sue Bird in a cocktail dress at the ESPYs than driving the lane in the WNBA. (Just to be clear – Sue’s got three gold medals. What do you have, Bill?)
This is the kind of stuff that keeps me up at night because it frustrates me to no end that these outlets continually erase the accomplishments of women. This is an example of the removal of pronouns creating gender erasure, and basic ignorance leading to an entire sport getting diminished in the public eye because we’re taught not to care about it. Because we are women, we are used to being quietly, but definitely, erased. It’s as if we aren’t there at all. It’s so easy to quiet us down because they just pretend we aren’t here. You can’t be what you don’t see. That’s why so many people see us as irrelevant. It’s because the mass media (with its tendency to shove the wrong thing down our throats) creates a narrative of erasure, even if they don’t necessarily mean to do so.
Tonight, my father’s team plays Notre Dame (an incredible basketball team with a storied history of its own) for the right to win his 10th national title in twenty years. That is an astounding record. Granted, ESPN has a lot of great things on its record for how it respects my Dad and the women’s game when we play. But when my Dad comes out and says some necessary, needed criticism of the men’s game (I mean, come on…last night’s game was just ugly) the response is akin to “Your sport doesn’t count.”
We’ve been told for so long that we don’t count, that we don’t matter, that we need to go away. I’m sick of it.
I’d like to see one of these Tweeters, with ten followers and a loud mouth, come into our practice and try to play with these ladies. Stewie would kill them. Morgan would out-maneuver them. Mo would break their ankles. Kia would steal the ball from under their nose. And Kiah would block their shot into the nosebleeds. And Dad would make them cry. It would be great.
We make it look easy because we have to. What we do is nearly impossible, yet we make it look effortless. You will miss us when we are gone, because nothing lasts forever.
Honestly? The main reason I get so angry about all of these morons dismissing our game aggressively or passively is simple: These kids are fantastic. They’re one of the most tight-knit groups we’ve ever had and they genuinely love to play together and to have fun with each other off the court.
Also? He comes off as a douche, but Dad is an amazing person. When we go out to dinner, he makes friends with the entire wait staff. He is an aggressively good tipper. He wants to know everything about you. He makes you feel like you’re the only person on the planet, which is why he’s always late to everything – time doesn’t matter when he’s with someone he likes and he’s got a great story that he absolutely must share. He’s a workhorse, one who never stops pushing the players that he knows can take it.
I can’t think of many coaches on the men’s or women’s side that deserve every inch of success like he does. And he’s the last person to compare himself to John Wooden, but I think it’s a good comparison. And that’s not just because he’s my Dad. It’s because I am a fan of a beautifully played game. I grew up watching old footage of UCLA and it left me in awe. Dad’s team inspires the same feeling.
Women’s basketball will be taken seriously in this country when the media stops treating it like an afterthought.
I encourage all of you, even if you’re not a women’s basketball fan or you think it’s irrelevant, to tune in tonight at 9PM when we play Notre Dame. Who knows? Maybe you’ll see the beauty in it, too.