Geno Auriemma: Leader of UConn, Defender of Women
If ESPN’s headquarters were not located in Bristol, Connecticut, do you think the story of UConn’s women’s basketball team would be as prominent as it is now? Neither do I. But apparently all the coverage they receive on a regular basis and throughout their impressive 88-game winning streak has not been enough for Geno Auriemma. The coach of the women’s team, who’s already talked about his personal struggles, has taken the publicity of his team’s streak to turn matters into a gender issue.
Auriemma spoke out to the media after his team won its 88th straight game on Sunday. “I just know there wouldn’t be this many people in the room if we were chasing a woman’s record,” Auriemma said. “The reason everybody is 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 loved 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,” Auriemma continued. “That’s just the way it is.”
First off, like I said, ESPN devotes a tremendous amount of coverage to the UConn women’s team no matter what, so he’s offbase with his perception. But you know what? He is right. There are many people angered and upset that UConn is being mentioned in the same sentence as UCLA’s men’s basketball team, and most of them are men.
Even as a UCLA alum, I don’t have a problem with it. We all know there’s a huge gap in terms of competition between men’s and women’s basketball and that knowledge is good enough for me. It’s extremely difficult to win 88 straight games at any level in any sport. UConn deserves praise and accolades for performing at a consistently high level for several years in a row, and a lot of that credit goes to Auriemma for building the teams, preparing his players, and maintaining their focus.
While many critics want Geno to go away because he’s opening his mouth, Auriemma has earned the moment and he and his players deserve the praise. I don’t have any problem with him using the spotlight to point out what we already know — most men don’t care about women’s sports and marginalize the accomplishment because of the gender. He’s right, but matters are unlikely to change.