NEW YORK—The Connecticut women’s basketball team had done it. The Huskies won their 88th consecutive game, this one against Ohio State, to tie the UCLA men for the all-time college basketball record. And that meant Geno Auriemma could speak about the streak.
About 12 minutes into his postgame press conference, he looked out to the room of reporters (myself included) and said:
“I just know that there wouldn’t be this many people in the room if we were chasing a women’s record. 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. That’s just the way it is. If we were breaking a women’s record, everybody would go, ‘Aren’t those girls nice? Let’s give them two paragraphs in USA Today, give them one line on the bottom of ESPN, and then let’s send them back where they belong: in the kitchen.’ But because we’re breaking a men’s record, we’ve got a lot of people paying attention.”
This was after Auriemma had already answered the question that was asked, just to be clear that this statement was unprovoked. Auriemma has always spoken his mind. Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden it seemed as if he had some pent up frustrations he could finally let out. I just don’t think he is correct.
Say the Tennessee women had won 89 games in a row 10 years ago. Would people care any less about UConn’s current streak? I certainly don’t think so. Auriemma thinks otherwise.
Perhaps he was just frustrated, but he’s had a lot of time to think about the record, which UConn set last night against Florida State. I think he believes what he said. The sad thing is, the truth may be worse for women’s hoops—the “haters” don’t even care. Apathy is worse than anger, because if people are angry at least they are paying attention.
Neither Auriemma nor I conducted a national survey on the subject. Nobody knows exactly how many people are following UConn’s run. I do have friends and relatives that have no interest in what Connecuticut is doing and that is perfectly acceptable. I’m told Jimmie Johnson is doing amazing things in NASCAR, but I don’t pay attention.
I can say that I know none of the “miserable bastards” Auriemma mentioned. There are probably some that exist, but I can’t imagine too many people watching the Huskies solely to root against them because they want to protect a record set by men.
I don’t think it will matter if, somewhere down the line, a men’s team threatens to break UConn’s record. Or if another women’s dynasty comes along and makes a run at 90+ consecutive wins. It will likely get more media coverage if it’s a men’s team, but that’s because men’s basketball is a more popular game.
Sorry, Coach, but not everybody is having a heart attack. Not everybody is up in arms. Women’s basketball doesn’t provoke that kind of nationwide passion yet. It was wishful thinking on Auriemma’s part. As a fan, I share that hope.