If you have not yet filed your 2018 US Income Tax Return, stop reading this immediately and go finish your filing.
If you have already completed that task, I feel your pain.
They say that death and taxes are the only two certainties in life. If so, at least the IRS is willing to grant you an extension.
I had lunch yesterday with an old friend who is a college basketball junkie to an even greater extent than I am. The reason I say that is that he follows rather closely women’s college basketball and I do not. I check out some of the top matchups during the season; he is on top of what goes on there. Naturally, college basketball involving both genders was a central part of our conversation over lunch.
His excitement extended beyond Villanova’s national championship. Let me be clear; he watched and followed the men’s tournament as closely as anyone you will meet on the streets. In addition to that, he paid close attention to the women’s tournament to a degree that surpasses anyone that I know. What he wanted to discuss were his ideas about how to make the NCAA women’s tournament a much bigger deal than it is today. He wants to see the women’s tournament grow in interest/following such that it might rival March Madness one of these days.
As I go through the concept(s) here, I want to be sure everyone understands the point from which I depart in this matter:
- I find women’s basketball interesting to watch but not exciting to watch
- I find women’s college basketball has a paucity of talent which is concentrated in about a half-dozen schools making for lots of uninteresting blow-out games.
I mention those biases of mine so that you can factor them into my commentary on my friend’s ideas and our discussion of them. His premises boil down to these three things:
- Women’s college basketball is at a stage of development equivalent to men’s college basketball in the 1970s.
- Women’s college basketball is not the same game as men’s college basketball.
- Rather than emulating men’s college basketball, women’s college basketball would be better off defining itself as a different animal.
I might quibble with #1 above but only on the margins. Like men’s basketball in the 60s and 70s, there was a concentration of talent in a small number of schools and the levels of competition were severely restricted. That is not the case today.
I totally agree with #2 above. Women’s college basketball – – and WNBA basketball – – is not the same game that men play. Simplistically, men play above the rim and women play a more fundamental game below the rim.
I agree with #3 above – – but I had not thought about it sufficiently to suggest how the women’s tournament might differentiate itself from the men’s tournament until my friend offered up his ideas. Here is the general idea:
- Just as there were not 64 – – or 68 – – men’s teams worthy of being in a tournament in the 70s, there are not that many women’s teams worthy of it today. So, the first order of business is to cut that number to 32 teams at most and probably to 16 teams if you want a quality product from start to finish.
- Do not overlap the women’s tournament with March Madness; it is not now – – and is not going to be – – ready to survive that competition for at least a decade or so. That is not a prejudicial statement; that is reality.
My friend’s idea is for the women’s tournament to consist of 16 teams and to take only 2 weeks to accomplish. He would start the tournament on the Thursday after the men’s tournament final game so that there is no overlap/competition for attention among college basketball fans. [Aside: We part company on how much of a benefit that would be. He thinks fans of March Madness will be drawn to a women’s tournament with the “best teams only” in the field after March Madness “sets the table”; I think the start of the MLB season and the final days of the NBA season will be stiff competition in that calendar slot. You can take your own side here…]
My friend’s version of the women’s tournament would end sometime around mid-April – – right about now if his idea had been implemented for the 2017/2018 women’s college basketball season. While I may disagree with his premise that there is a hole in the sports calendar in early April, I do have to admit that it would be a better time for a women’s tournament than the current schedule that has the women competing for attention with the men in March.
He said that UConn’s loss for the second year in a row in the Women’s Final Four would have been a much bigger deal – – and a greater boost to women’s college basketball – – if it had not happened while the men’s tournament was drawing to its close. He is probably right on that point; in women’s basketball now, UConn occupies the same stature that UCLA did back in the late 60s and early 70s. When UCLA lost, it was a BIG deal. [Aside: If I have counted correctly, UConn is 0-2 in the last two Final Four games and is 147-2 in its last 149 games. Those two losses should indeed have been a bigger deal than they were.]
I asked my friend if his idea could possibly survive what I called a “Title IX Challenge”. If colleges must have equity between men’s athletics and women’s athletics, wouldn’t his smaller tournament and different scheduling be considered a form of inequality. His answer was short and simple – – and would not be acceptable in polite company. Let’s just say that he thinks anyone who would promulgate such a challenge should do something to himself/herself that is anatomically impossible.
I don’t know if his “abbreviated women’s tournament” would succeed in bringing more attention to women’s college basketball – – but I doubt that it would hurt the game. The early rounds of the women’s tournament are dominated by blowout games – – glorified scrimmages if you call them what they are. No one wants to see them, and no one cares about them. Losing the games that cut the field from 64 to 16 will not kill off interest in the tournament – – except for the fact that it will diminish interest in every Ivy League and Patriot League women’s basketball game during the regular season because if the field in only 16 teams, neither of the champs there is going to participate in the “abbreviated tournament”.
There is food for thought here. This idea is not half-baked – – but I am not sure it is ready to serve either.
Finally, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:
“Mattel, saying it wants to provide better role models to inspire young girls, is launching 17 new Barbie dolls, including aviator Amelia Earhart, gymnast Gabby Douglas and snowboarder Chole Kim.
“What, no Tonya Harding action set complete with a lead-pipe Ken?”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………