The UConn women's basketball team made headlines and history tonight with their 89th consecutive victory. It's one more than the famed John Wooden-led UCLA teams of the 1970s had. This story, of course, brings up all manner of interesting questions about how women's sports are covered. There are questions of whether or not the coverage is adequate for such a milestone. There's the interesting notion that's struck me at just how much women's sports accomplishments are compared to men's. I know, people like the Sports Media Sister and Marie Hardin just slammed their head on their desks at the duh-ness of that statement, but for someone who doesn't really study from a feminist perspective, this has really stuck out to me here. Not just that this is a women's team beating a storied men's record, but also other aspects of this story. There was a segment on ABC News tonight with Christine Brennan, who compared Maya Moore's vertical leap to the average NBA players - as if her 26-inch vertical isn't impressive on its own compared to those of us who can barely jump over the Binghamton phone book.
There are also, no doubt, the idiot neanderthals who are probably shocked that these women are playing sports and are wondering what the big deal is and when can we get back to the real sports.
(* - Simmons' whole argument against women's sports seems to be that he hates the fact that there were a lot of WNBA ads on when the league first started. Which is like me hating singing because Fox advertises "American Idol" a lot. It wouldn't be a big deal except that, with the size of his platform, Simmons is an opinion leader for a segment of sports fans.)
What interests me the most, though, is this question: Should we care about the UConn women?
By we, I mean the media, newspapers. Should we care? Should we cover it?
This speaks to the question of what a newspaper's role is. In a sports sense, the question can be framed like this: Should we cover the stories and teams that people want to read? Or should we cover the stories and teams that we think people should know about? What kind of responsibilities do newspapers have in terms of story selection?
On the face of it, this is an easy question. Of course, newspapers should cover the UConn women in their streak. It's history. The team is pathologically good. There's no reason not to. Also (and this is kind of an important point) if it was a men's team, we'd be all over it.
But there's this counter argument. It's not one I agree with, but it's one I can kind of understand. Do sports pages readers care about the UConn women? Do they care that they've won 89 consecutive games? Are they really interested beyond the passing "Oh wow, that's neat" reaction? And if they're not, why should the paper cover it beyond the "Oh wow, that's neat" kind of brief?
Keep in mind, the news business is dealing in finite qualities. There's an even more limited amount of news hole space available these days. There are fewer writers, fewer columnists. There are fewer resources available across the board. That hurts all sports coverage, but especially women's sports coverage. Is it right to dedicate those resources to a story people might not be interested in in favor of one they would be? At a time when circulation is falling, is it smart to dedicate time and space to a story people might not care about in favor of one we think they should?
Also, the larger issue here isn't the coverage of the UConn women. They're on the front page of ESPN and of sports sections today, and rightfully so. I don't care how little depth there may be in women's hoops. You could be playing games against my late grandmother, two ladies who make perogies at the Broadway Market, my dog and 11-week-old Sports Media Ellie, and winning 89 consecutive games would be damn impressive.
But the larger issue is coverage of other women's sports. The teams that aren't UConn. The teams that aren't, to borrow a phrase from Official Sports Media Thesis Committee Member Pam Shoemaker, deviantly good. What space does day-to-day coverage of women's sports deserve in newspapers?
It all comes down to what kind of role newspapers should play. Should they advocate, or should they reflect?
Should they cover what we want to know about? Or what they think we should know about?
What's everyone else think?