Monday, December 20, 2010
Updated: December 21, 11:51 AM ET
Responding to UConn's Geno Auriemma
As the UConn women's basketball team adds to its win total (88 and counting) and place in history, coach Geno Auriemma's comments have drawn as much attention as the play on the court.
"I just know that there wouldn't be this many people in the room if we were chasing a women's record," Auriemma said Sunday. "The reason there's everybody in this room, the reason everybody's having a heart attack the last four or five days is a bunch of women are threatening to break a men's record. And everybody is all up in arms about it. All the women are happy as hell and they can't wait to come in here and ask questions. All the guys that love women's basketball are all excited. And all the miserable bastards that follow men's basketball and don't want us to break the record are all here because they're pissed."
We polled writers who contribute to ESPN.com for their thoughts on what impact, if any, Auriemma's statements will have.
Mechelle Voepel: Here's the translation
UConn coach Geno Auriemma is very reverential toward John Wooden and the UCLA men's streak. He was just blowing off steam in the postgame news conference Sunday. His team is doing something great; he can't control how the media presents that. Others have sneered at it because they don't like comparisons between men's and women's sports, and he feels that's an unwarranted attack on his team at a time when those players should be celebrated. Auriemma is always hyperbolic and over the top in remarks anyway; that's his personality. His point was: "I'm so proud of my kids. Quit belittling them, critics."
Mark Kreidler: This shot missed rim
For a person who has done so much to reshape the way women's basketball is perceived around the country, Geno Auriemma is one self-destructive guy. It's telling that Auriemma couldn't keep his ego in check long enough to allow his players -- and all those UConn stars who came before them -- to celebrate their collective milestone without a forced controversy. No doubt there are some kernels of truth in Auriemma's words, but, boy, what a ridiculous time for a finger wagging. Airball, Geno.
Roy S. Johnson: Right and wrong
He's wrong about "everybody" having a heart attack and being "all up in arms." Some of us actually put this feat on par with that of John Wooden's UCLA teams (which defeated some teams during its streak that would have probably lost to the Huskies, as well).
But he's right about everything else, and he helped the women's game by showing that it doesn't need to be validated by the "miserable bastards," who are now really pissed! Of course, they're the same miserable bastards who rooted against Billie Jean King (or at least the sons of those same miserable bastards), who snickered at Martina Navratilova and who wagged their finger at Marion Jones while knighting Roger Clemens. Oops.
Jim Caple: Attention grab
I'm sorry, Geno. Has your team done something noteworthy? I've been too busy filling out my bowl bracket to notice.
I apologize for being flip, but I just can't take your obvious attention grab seriously. The room was filled precisely because the media considers your winning streak to be a significant achievement. But no miserable bastards (i.e., straw men) are having a heart attack because no one considers this breaking UCLA's record. UConn holds the women's record and UCLA holds the men's record. Just as UConn won the women's NCAA tournament last year and Duke won the men's.
Graham Hays: Dictating the fight
Too many people are doing the language harm by throwing around the word "rant" with respect to Geno Auriemma's comments. He looked out over a room filled with many media outlets too uninterested to cover the 87 wins that preceded Sunday's rout and had to know what was coming. He had to know because people have been asking him for weeks about UCLA and whether any women's basketball team is worthy of sharing a sentence with the Bruins, let alone surpassing their record. So Auriemma did what he always does, and what his teams do to such effect on the court -- he dictated the terms of the fight. That he did it sarcastically, wittily and less than diplomatically just proves he knows his strengths.
The only thing at stake in all of this is the statistical bookkeeping of which team won more basketball games in a row at the Division I level. And when that becomes the chum in the feeding frenzy of a controversy-hungry news cycle and people looking for some excuse to point out how much better they were at basketball during their high school glory days than is any current Connecticut player, diplomacy was always going to fall on deaf ears.
Elizabeth Merrill: Sir, you are no John Wooden
I used to cover women's volleyball in Nebraska, a state that passionately follows just about any team that wins. Upon hearing that I was being moved to the Cornhusker football beat, the volleyball coach asked, "Is that a demotion?" I think that's sort of the mentality in Geno's world. He knows his team is the very best, and most days, it's not even close. He knows that in Connecticut and every corner of the women's basketball universe, this is a huge deal. What frustrates him is that most people outside of those pockets just don't care. You'd think Auriemma would want all that media in the room, regardless of what they believe. His rant just reinforces the fact that he's miles away from Wooden.
Bomani Jones: Hyperbole won't change indifference
May I start by praising Geno's time management skills? I'm one of those "miserable bastards," and I don't know a single person driven to any visceral response to UConn's 88-game winning streak. Between the practices and games and appearances, how did Geno find the time to seek out people that I've not met or even heard of?
He was using hyperbole, the corkscrew in a coach's Swiss Army knife of rhetoric. What's interesting is that Auriemma's extreme tone totally obscured women's basketball's greatest opponent: indifference. There isn't enough interest in women's basketball to generate the resentment he railed against, and laying into those covering his team at its zenith won't do much to productively change that.
Amanda Rykoff: Speaking truth
I've watched with morbid curiosity as the reactions to Auriemma's comments roll in from around the sports and sports media world. Critics claim Auriemma's comments detract from the game and his team's accomplishment. I was at the postgame news conference at Madison Square Garden on Sunday and my first reaction was, "Geno speaks what's on his mind and he speaks the truth."
We are not having this conversation if the UConn women weren't challenging a men's record. I certainly don't think as many people would be paying attention. Barely anybody blinked when this same team broke the women's record. It's a sad but true commentary on where women's college basketball fits into the sports landscape: It took an extraordinary accomplishment to put it on the agenda. Critics may claim what Geno said detracts from women's sports, but he only said what many of us know to be the truth.
LZ Granderson: What about the people not in the room?
There are an estimated 311 million people in this country, of which 125 million are females over the age of 14. If Geno has a problem with the amount of coverage women's sports receive, may I suggest he start with them?
Yes, there are a lot of "isms" in media, of which sexism is a part. But I don't believe sexism prevents the women of "The View" from talking about female athletes more; I don't believe sexism stops Oprah from flying her audience to the Softball World Series; and I don't believe sexist sportswriters vetoed an episode of "Sex and the City" in which the girls took a train to Hartford to see the women's Big East tournament -- and I've seen every episode. Twice.
Patrick Hruby: Who's up in arms?
What is Geno Auriemma talking about? I'm pretty big on following sports news, and keeping pace with "the conversation," and I haven't heard a derogatory peep about this record. I don't think 99.9999 percent of people are aware of this, or more than barely aware of this, and even those who are DO NOT CARE, because they'd have to care about women's college basketball in the first place.
Wherefore art thou, Geno targets? If you gave me a camera and a mike and had me spend a day at Pauley Pavillion -- maybe the only place in America where this record matters in the first place -- I bet I couldn't find one person having a heart attack or up in arms.
Jemele Hill: Unfiltered and right
Geno Auriemma is the Ozzie Guillen of women's college basketball. I don't mean that in a negative way. Auriemma, like Guillen, is brutally honest and whenever Auriemma speaks his mind, it's guaranteed to create headlines.
His assertion that gender is playing a role in the coverage of his record-breaking Connecticut team is, like many of his observations, ringing with truth. Had his Huskies not equaled the 88-game winning streak set by John Wooden's UCLA teams from 1971-74, it would be largely ignored by the mainstream media.
When female athletes or women's sports teams achieve something significant, it is routinely -- and annoyingly -- characterized by how it compares to men. As if any woman's accomplishment can only be validated by male standards.
Jeff MacGregor: Promote, promote, promote
Mr. Auriemma has a lot of P.T. Barnum in him. He'll need it. This way to the Egress!
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