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Readers missed the point

It would go, I imagine, something like this:

Me: "Bless me father for I have sinned. It's been too long since my last confession."

Father: "Tell me, my son, what have you done?"

Me: "That rhymes."

Father: "Get on with it."

Me: "Right. Well, aside from the regulars - swearing, coveting, etc. - I fear I've sinned against humanity."

Father: "Come now. It can't be that bad."

Me: "I wrote that the NCAA men's tournament is more popular than the NCAA women's tournament."

Father: "And?"

Me: "That's it."

Father: "Well, then. Two Hail Marys and maybe write a 1,700-word valentine to Geno."

Me: "I did that last week."

Father: "Write another one."

Me: "Will do."

OK. Seriously. This has been an eye-opening week. I never knew how much of a women's basketball hater I was until I opened my e-mail. Good gravy, Marie.

It was just a few days ago that I noted how one New England team made the men's tournament, thereby making the 2010 version of March Madness a perfect 10 on the boring-o-meter. Later, I wrote the following:

"Sure, we have the women's tournament, if women's basketball is your thing. But women's basketball is mostly a Connecticut thing. The rest of New England doesn't care. A cynic would suggest the rest of the nation doesn't either. But even as women's basketball and the women's tournament grows, it'll never have the men's tournament's cachet."

Apparently, that's an indictment of women's basketball. A sampling of an alarming number of bizarre e-mail replies:

Mr. Inzero writes, "the usual 'macho' stigma appointed to women's basketball. Sad! In my opinion, women's basketball is a much better game than the men's game and deserves a non biased coverage."

Ms. Joffray writes, "Well, Mike, it's nice to read the New York Times today and see that a good part of the country appreciates what the UConn women and Geno have accomplished."

Interesting leap. The men's tournament is more popular than the women's tournament, therefore I don't appreciate the UConn women and am biased towards men's basketball.

Aside from the logical absurdity, there is an underlying concern to such thinking.

I don't want women's basketball to become like soccer.

Soccer's problem is that too many of its fans look down on all the infidels who don't appreciate their game. Soccer fans want to make you like their game or they dismiss you as somewhere between a snarling cynic and hopeless dope who just can't appreciate nuance. As one Seattle writer suggests of soccer, "They want you to like their sport. They need you to like their sport. If you don't like their sport, they simply do not like you."

Please, women's basketball fans. Decaf. Green can. Don't alienate potential fans who haven't yet discovered why the women's game is worthwhile by being whiny, proprietary foofs.

Earlier this week, Dan Shaughnessy wrote in, "Most of us don't care about the women's tournament. Sorry. I know this is not the politically correct stance and I know there are young women all over the nation who rightfully look up to the Huskies as role models, but the fact remains that most red-blooded American fans don't give a hoot about women's basketball and the dominant Huskies are a big part of the problem."

Dan's reasoning was a swing and miss. But he raised a point that is hard to argue: That most of the nation doesn't care about the women's tournament. Perhaps that's hard to fathom in Connecticut. Travel with the Huskies, though, and you'll discover he's right.

And yet Shaughnessy has been identified as a misogynist by some in the women's basketball intelligentsia. Their moral outrage is as myopic as Shaughnessy's rationale.

The women's game has grown immeasurably in the past decade. Immeasurably. From ESPN televising every game of the tournament to increased attendance at outposts beyond Storrs and Knoxville. And that is the story. That's the only story. Because women's basketball isn't just a young sport to the nation. It's an infant.

Yet the response to every criticism seems to be a cacophony of whiny bilge that misses the big picture. Bet if Shaughnessy ever spent some time with Geno Auriemma, his opinion about the game would change.

As the game grows, more and more opinion makers will appreciate what the game offers.

I enjoy women's basketball. I write about it almost year round. I see a game that is way, way, way ahead of where it was 20 years ago when I was writing about it in college.

So let's try to enjoy the journey and not act like parochial infants when someone dares say the men's tournament has more cachet. Don't get like soccer.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.


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