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Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Updated: November 29, 2:48 PM ET
Good grief! What a way we've come

By Mechelle Voepel
Special to ESPN.com

I've always been one of those people who has to watch until the end of the credits for everything on TV to see what year it was made.

Cheryl Miller
By December 1985, when Lucy once more declared real estate her preferred Christmas present, we'd caught a glimpse of USC's Cheryl Miller in a CBS-televised game.

I'm sometimes afflicted by the malady "Roman Numeral Confusion" … or the credits will run too fast … or they'll shrink them to unreadable size to put up something else simultaneously on the screen … or … some other human will have the remote control and flip just before the end of the credits.

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!"

"It's over!"

"I DIDN'T GET TO SEE THE YEAR!"

"Who cares what year a 'Hawaii Five-O' episode was made?"

"I WANTED TO SEE IF IT WAS 1972 OR 1973!"

There is no practical reason to know or care about such things. But … the origin dates of stuff on TV do matter to me, and many stay stuck in my head.

This is, apparently, not such a good thing, according to a recent study by the University of Oregon. Scientists there say, "Filtering out useless information can help people increase their capacity to remember what is really important … awareness, or visual working memory, does not depend on extra storage space in the brain but on an ability to ignore what is irrelevant."

So perhaps I've never been a good judge of what's irrelevant. Very early on in life, for example, I knew that "A Charlie Brown Christmas" was the same age I was, debuting in 1965. So we're both 40 now. And as I was sitting around trying to figure out a column that might have some shelf-life through the Thanksgiving weekend, it hit me that I could try a shamelessly unoriginal reflection piece -- sort of how thankful I am that women's basketball has grown so much in these past 40 years.

I feel partially compelled toward this because it's a little too early to start spouting much "wisdom" on what has gone on so far for 2005-2006.

Connecticut won the Preseason WNIT title, defeating Oklahoma in the title game. This was a coaching matchup of the "two coolest kids in class," UConn's Geno Auriemma and OU's Sherri Coale. If they are feeling generous this holiday season, maybe they can donate some of their unused quotes to less-fortunate (boring) coaches.

Texas and Texas Tech, considered with Baylor and Oklahoma as the top threats in the Big 12 and potential Final Four contenders, both have lost games already. Texas fell at home to New Mexico, while Texas Tech lost at Rice.

UCLA gave Baylor a scare in Waco, Texas, one of those "moral" victories. But then the Bruins were demoralized by BYU at home, getting an embarrassing lesson in the importance of rebounding. Wyoming beat Colorado in a game where one Buffaloes player went 0-for-13 from the field and another went 1-for-12. They probably couldn't duplicate that combined "performance" again if they were blindfolded.

Speaking of missing, Stanford felt the absence of the backcourt experience it lost to graduation and fell at Minnesota. Then again, opponents can have all kinds of experience and still lose at the home of the Gophers.

And, of course, we've had a few of those revolting scores, such as this trifecta from Tuesday: Duke/LSU/Vanderbilt beat Fairfield/Southern/Alabama A&M 297-112.

But what does all of this tell us? Well, not a lot just yet. When does any UCLA result -- win or loss -- really surprise anyone? Texas and Texas Tech are adjusting to injuries and/or youth. The Mountain West Conference has good teams. Some matchups are really gross. And as far as UConn … surely no one was waiting for the Huskies to win the Preseason WNIT title to proclaim that they might be good this year. Still, it was pleasing validation for UConn fans, who somehow had to endure not going to the Final Four last season.

But it's still too soon to say much about this season. The next few days, many teams are celebrating the Thanksgiving extended weekend on basketball trips. There are probably going to be some "upsets" come out of all that action. Sometimes those results end up being harbingers of things to come, and sometimes they're just hiccups.

And, considering all that, it occurred to me that it really was worthy of some reflection. We expect a lot now, and that's nice -- that we can expect it. Big matchups. Games on television every week. Scores and radio broadcasts and even "video-streaming" on the Internet.

Sometimes, I have to laugh when talking to today's players who refer to having an inkling of what women's basketball "used to be." They mean, like, back in 1997 or so.

But when Charlie Brown first "said" on TV in December 1965, "I know nobody likes me. Why do we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it?" … collegiate women's basketball as we know it didn't exist.

In December 1975, when Sally was emphasizing once again that her message to Santa was, "All I want is my fair share," most colleges had accepted this Title IX thing was for real, and had begun women's hoops programs.

Of course, nobody was playing in the Junkanoo Jam in the Bahamas or anything like that then. Mostly, teams were staying in their own regions, driving vans and cars to games. But the records were starting to be kept. It had become something that was fleshing out a history, something that was just beginning to resemble what we have now.

In December 1985, when Lucy was once more explaining her preferred Christmas present would be real estate, the NCAA had taken over governance of women's hoops. By then, we'd had four CBS-televised NCAA Tournament title games, where fans at least got a brief look at stars such as Janice Lawrence of Louisiana Tech and Cheryl Miller of Southern California and Teresa Edwards of Georgia.

In December 1995, when an irritated Schroeder again tapped out "Jingle Bells" on his piano, the UConn phenomenon had fully launched with a national championship. The Huskies' elevation and the fans' response had a major impact on the entire sport, including on the way it was covered by the media.

Now, we've reached the season in which the women's NCAA Tournament will celebrate its 25th anniversary. Next summer will be the WNBA's 10th anniversary.

And pretty soon, Linus will once more console Charlie Brown on his tree, saying, "Maybe all it needs is a little love."

Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at mvoepel@kcstar.com.