Friday, April 9, 2010

Hate Duke. Love UConn?

I suspect that no one wants to hear me dote on 2010 NCAA Men's Basketball Champions the Duke Blue Devils. Duke is tired. They've won enough. No one wants me to write about how awesome it was to be in Lucas Oil Stadium Monday night. Or about how beating the hometown heroes that proceeded to yell "F#&k Duke" at me on the way to have a celebratory cocktail when all I did was smile at them was one of the highlights of my life. So, I won't talk about it. I'll just refer to the mantra I adopted for the weekend in Indy. The only thing that kept me out of a full on street brawl was this—Haters love to hate.

It's also been brought to my attention that I left the women's tournament out of a feminist blog. Even though I'm more traditional and don't watch women's basketball, that is a no-no. So, instead of talking about my intense fervor for Duke Men's basketball or how much I love Coach K & his wife Mickie or how I want to marry Nolan Smith, I'll talk about the dominant force to be reckoned with that is UConn Women's Basketball. I met a Duke B-school student from Connecticut last weekend in Indy and she taught me their unofficial state motto. In Connecticut, "Men are men. Women are Champions." You gotta love that. And that's exactly what those women are—2010 NCAA Women's Basketball Champions. And no one is surprised.

The UConn women now have back-to-back titles. And the analysts are already calling for a 3-peat next year. That's just how dominant these girls are. They are, officially, a dynasty. So, I have the same questions about this that all the sports writers and analysts have. But I wanted to know what you think. Do the UConn ladies, who have won seven national titles since 1995, now run the risk of people getting tired of their "winningness"? Are they in danger of becoming as despised as Duke?

The championship game against Stanford was only won by 6 points, but UConn crushed every opponent for 78 straight games. And I mean crushed them—except for Stanford—it wasn't even close. I, personally, find that boring. I knew UConn was going to win the championship. Most everybody did. Unless Britteny Griner was going to throw another nose-cracking punch, no one else really had a chance against those girls.

So, is it a problem to go undefeated for 2 years? Does your fan base grow complacent? Do they begin to take it for granted? It seems like a silly argument, but this article proposes that some fans may be getting tired of the UConn women winning. I don't know how that's possible. I'll never grow weary of Duke winning. Actually, I'm surrounded by so much hateration that when they don't win it's miserable. On the other hand when they do win, it's apparently because "Duke gets all the calls."

One last thought, since I did mention that I don't watch women's basketball. What do you think the impact of UConn's dominance will be on the sport? Will UConn bring in more fans and greater viewership, or will women's basketball continue to be treated like the red-headed stepchild? There has been a lot of talk this year about how UConn's domination is bad for women's basketball. However, according to ESPN, ratings were up by a lot for Tuesday night's final—29% over last year's women's title game, which sounds promising.

Some argue that dominant competitors are necessary to boost the popularity of the sport, i.e. Wooden's UCLA days, Duke's current overachievement, and even Tennessee's Lady Vols. I tend to agree with this viewpoint. I think people like dominant teams for at least two reasons. People like bandwagons, especially winner-bandwagons. And, people like to watch Goliath fall. They tuned-in in record numbers to Monday's men's final largely to see Duke lose (even though Butler wasn't really a "David" in that scenario).

So, how about you, why will/won't you be watching the lady Huskies compete next season?

{Image credit: AP Photo/Jamie Schwaberow, NCAA Photos, POOL}


  1. I'm a student at UConn and the interest of the student body has been mostly been with the men's team, until they started having such a terrible season and that's when the focus turned to the women who were reaching a record-breaking streak while blowing out almost every team they played. I'll admit I didn't watch the games up until Sunday night's game in which I turned on that TV and saw how amazing they are and obviously being a Husky fan, I made sure that I watched the championship. They are really amazing and talented women, and when people realize that I think their attention will shift and become more supportive, as I have. I watched the WNBA draft yesterday and saw Kalana Greene and Tina Charles, as the number one pick, get drafted and from now on I will be attending the games because they are absolutely incredible to watch.

  2. The thing is, it's not like UConn's dominance is a recent development in the sport. UConn had big win streak in 2001-03 as well. And there have been other years where it was clear from the outset that Tennessee would run the table. Writers in w. basketball have constantly asked, "Are UConn and Tennessee's dominance bad for w. basketball?"

    Re: ratings, I don't think UConn's dominance was the big reason more watched than last year. More watched because UConn actually had a chance to lose that game. That's why I watched (and it was the only women's college game I watched all year). Stanford had been blowing out most of its opponents just like UConn all year (except for their 1 loss to UConn), so they had a legit chance, and they did lead 20-12 at halftime. Most people didn't think Louisville had any chance of beating UConn last year.

    I don't consider women's basketball to be a red-headed stepchild. In the spectrum of women's sports, it's pretty surprisingly popular from my perspective. As I posted in comments earlier, few when Title IX was passed would've imagined that every game of the women's basketball tournament would be on national television. I believe this game gets better ratings than the WNBA finals. Why is that? It's something I don't fully understand.

  3. Congrats, Anonymous!

    @DRDR: Thanks for your insight. I too wonder about the WNBA and other professional women's sports vs. their college counterparts. This is just a thought, but do people feel more of an allegiance to their alma maters and lose interest once these women turn pro? I know I haven't watched JJ Redick play in the NBA, but was practically obsessed with him (poetry and all)while he was breaking records at Duke. The WNBA is at least still up and running, but why did the women's professional soccer league collapse? It's kind of interesting stuff.

  4. Re: college vs. pro, a big part is definitely that women's college teams benefit from the school brand name and fan & alumni networks that already exist. There's no similar allegiance that leads any NBA teams to root for their cities' WNBA team.

    Redick was one of the top two players in college, and he's a decent bench player for Orlando in the NBA, so that's probably more why you don't follow him. Duke players don't have the best NBA reputation (though the NYT last year dubbed Shane Battier the no-stat all-star).

    There are lots of reason why the WUSA 2001-2003 failed and the WNBA has not. Probably the No. 1 reason is the NBA is willing to bail out the WNBA in tough times (though at the recession trough, the WNBA was losing less money than the NBA). The WUSA had no business relationship with the MLS (and even went head-to-head with it on TV!) Other factors (1) soccer is definitely less popular than basketball in the US (2) the WUSA founders burned through money for things like oversea training trips they they'd earned -- these were all gone by year 3 of the league when reality sunk in (3) the fan base (they'd get 4,000 to 8,000 per game) is large enough to support something like minor league baseball where teams are close together in small stadiums, but not a national league with a balanced schedule playing in stadiums like RFK. I think the new league WPS will learn from WUSA's mistakes.

  5. Agreed, Duke's pro reputation isn't so stellar, but I just don't follow professional sports regularly in general (least of all the NBA, which I loathe), so that's actually why I don't watch Redick. He's had some breakout moments and has been off the bench more and more lately. I check in on him from time to time.

    Interesting thoughts on the WUSA.Thanks! I guess it should have made sense to me that the NBA was footing the bill for the WNBA, but I didn't know that (since I don't follow either).


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