When Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s mark for consecutive baseball games played, millions of people turned on their televisions just to see an infielder jog to his position. When the Colts decided rest was more important than going after a 19-0 season, fans and critics reacted as if the team had blasphemed against the game.
People get excited when history’s on the line. They turn on the TV and watch. And then some of them keep on watching.
So what is it with women’s basketball?
Connecticut won its record 71st straight game on Monday. On Tuesday, the Huskies extended it to 72. No women’s team has ever won more consecutive games. Only UCLA’s 88-game winning streak that ran from 1971-74 is longer in D-I hoops.
And America greeted this extraordinary achievement by erupting into a coast-to-coast yawn.
The sports shows and Web sites did not ignore the achievement. It led sites, was on the front page in newspapers and the top-of-the-broadcast story on SportsCenter.
It didn’t matter. True sports fans knew what was going on, but these are people whose televisions are permanently tuned to ESPN. To everybody else, news of another UConn win was like hearing that it might rain in Seattle.
None of my friends mentioned it today, and I’m sure none hunkered down in front of the television to watch the Huskies extend the streak to 72 with a Tuesday night win over West Virginia and another Big East Championship. And you can bet ESPN didn’t break any ratings records with the broadcast.
On the UConn campus, the Huskies are heroes and their games are a tough ticket. But the fame doesn’t extend much beyond that. Go ahead and spend tomorrow asking people who Tina Charles is. Not one in 10 will know she’s the best player on the best women’s team in the nation.
Compare this to the only team to ever win more consecutive games than the UConn women: the legendary UCLA Bruins men’s teams led by Bill Walton.
Even casual sports fans have heard of the Bruins and know who Walton was. And in his day, Walton was as famous an athlete as any in the nation, and his coach, John Wooden, was celebrated as a genius.
Opinion expressed by Mike Celizic
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