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Feb 26, 2007

The Girls are Playing Bas-ket Ball

Above, sportswriter Rob Clough gives a 100-minute Q&A (90 minutes regulation plus 10 minutes OT) on Women's Basketball: How it Works and How to Watch, at the Broad Street Cafe.

I've always been impressed by good teachers and good referees.  So you can imagine how psyched I was to hear Rob talk about college ball referees and how they work.

In other related things, the weekend's seminar and Duke vs. UNC women's ball game gave me an opportunity to watch and think a bit about women's college basketball and sports in general. 

Here are the two biggest things that came to mind:

First, I am now cheering for the Duke women instead of Carolina. In watching the two teams play throughout the season, it seems that the Duke players and coaches a finer sense of joy, sport, and heart.  Of course I could be wrong, but for now I’ll go with my gut.

Second, and sadly, I’ve also come to realize that I have a greater and greater dislike of the way so many fans connect with the game and their teams.  Whenever I see someone cheer against (or otherwise put down or express ill will toward) an opposing team or individual, it just hurts. 

The Quaker in me wants us to think first and always of each other as fellow people to love, even when we're competing.  To my ears, the smallest insult shouted at a player (or anybody else on the TV set) seems to be a symptom of (or first step toward) the absence of that caring and connection.

In fact, one of the other great things about watching Rob's seminar (given that Rob is very much a Duke basketball fan) was how he delivered all his comments with respect for each of the players, coaches, and refs.  In sporting lingo, I think that's called "class".

Call me naïve, but I still hope that athletics pursued with a commitment to that kind of “class” might add up to all of us getting some more playing time in the better part of the world.  Let's hope.  I do hope.

02:25 AM in Misc.Blog 2007, Things I'd Like to See or Do | Permalink


I would usually agree with you about the negativity of cheering against opposing teams, but that all goes out the window when opposing teams' players or fans show a lot of arrogance. Then, my sense of schadenfreude kicks in whenever something bad happens to that team.

Posted by: Ken | Feb 27, 2007 4:46:57 PM

So I take it you went to school out of state? ;)

Posted by: Valerie | Feb 27, 2007 7:32:57 PM

I got to hear way too much of that listening to sports radio call-in shows. There's something about the sports radio dynamic that just brings out the worst in some people. For a while it made me angry but mostly it's just sad that someone has to call up a radio show and insult someone because they play for, or just root for, the "other" team. To paraphrase Rodney Dangerfield, "it shows he cares... about what, I have no idea."

Posted by: georg | Feb 27, 2007 11:15:54 PM

Georg and Ken -- I've got to feel good about a blogpost that elicits comments that mention both schadenfreude and Rodney Dangerfield.

Valerie -- ha! And yes, I did go to school out of state, at Brown. Duke had been an option but I had some familiarity-breeds-contempt plus a need to go to college somewhere other than down the street from mom and dad.

Intercollegiate athletics were a big part of my undergard experience. I fenced for Brown and lived in crew house during spring '88, where I remember yelling at the TV set on two occasions in the spring: once to curse at Harvard hockey players and another time to cheer like crazy for whichever basketball team was playing against Duke in the NCAA tournament. My hyper anti-cheering inspired one of my housemates to add a new Letterman-style Top Ten list to the living room wall, "Ways for Phil to burn up his energy now that fencing season is over." So as you can see, my attitude toward fan-sportsmanship has changed over the years.

Related: at a fencing alumni event in the '90s, the Brown coach told a story about the sportsmanship award that the team gives each year to a fencer from one of Brown's *opponent* schools. (This may sound a little weird, but in league competition, you see a lot of the same schools over and over again -- kind of like ACC basketball -- so you get a chance to know some of the other fencers pretty well.) That year, the sportsmanship winner was from, I think either Princeton or Brandeis. The coach and Brown's captain were going to present the award informally during one of the end-of-year league tournaments, but had to wait for the award-winner to finish his bout against some other school. While the coach and captain were waiting, the awardee managed to lose his bout, scream out a curse, and throw his fencing mask all the way across the gym.

I can't remember how the story went after that. I was too busy laughing. [At the absurdity, I hope.]

Posted by: Phil | Feb 28, 2007 12:36:54 AM