Is a little competition too much to ask for?
This is a period of self-loathing, Dear Diary. I'm betraying all the people who taught me I should appreciate the opportunity to watch excellence. Not just watch it, but absorb it, learn from it, revel in it. The privilege of watching somebody or somebodies at their craft, doing it better than everyone else in the world.
That's the opportunity I have here, Dear Diary. The rest of the world, during a rare women's basketball discussion, might think, "who?" But following the UConn women is like following The Who. The game's rock stars. Nobody does it better. Makes me feel sad for the rest.
And yet I honestly can't stand it at the moment.
It probably starts here: I watch sports for the great unwritten script. Drama. Last shot wins. Eli to Tyree. Al Michaels and believing in miracles, yes. The only miracle Tuesday night at Gampel Pavilion was that UConn's lunchmeat du jour, the University of Houston, hit double digits.
Meet the new win, same as the old win.
I know what that sounds like. Believe me. If they ever went 17-17 here one year, I'd be the first guy pining for the old days when they'd drill Houston by 75 and everybody went home happy.
But I have a feeling, Dear Diary, that I'm not alone here suggesting that UConn is being hijacked by its own excellence. I've never written that line before. It's rarely suggested in any sport, anywhere, anytime. Swiftus in History Of The World would say that's N-V-T-S, Nuts.
So is this: I wish they were more human. So that we could come to the gym every night and not know. It's why I enjoy watching the Connecticut Sun. Every game is five points either way with five minutes left. Plays must be made under duress.
The Huskies have no duress. They could win in a dress (That's what Dr. Seuss would sound like if he ever wrote women's basketball).
I spent Sunday afternoon watching other women's teams play. Jealous. Because there was competition. Not at UConn's level. But competition. Enjoyed Maryland-North Carolina. Baylor-Kansas. Virginia Tech-BC. Love the young Carolina kids, Alyssa Thomas, cocksure Odyssey Sims, old friend Dennis Wolff resuscitating Virginia Tech and the gutty, gritty BC Eagles.
Great stories to tell, all.
Then I come to Gampel and watch the Globetrotters against the Washington Generals. Or what feels like the Generals JV.
Some of you will hate this. Hate me by extension. I hate myself on this issue. I shouldn't feel this way. But I can't help it. I thought I'd developed a tolerance for the drone of the regular season, feigning interest until the Final Four, where some of the games have been exquisite.
And that's the point: When the women's game is good, it's great. High skill level. Little or no self-indulgence. What a novelty.
(We pause here to write that there is 12:26 left in Tuesday's first half and UConn leads Houston, 30-5.)
It makes me not want to come here, Dear Diary. I hate that. Maybe my greatest journalistic experience has been the chance to spend time around Geno Auriemma, whose lines I repeat religiously. But when I see the Huskies get critiqued after their recent 67-34 victory over Cincinnati - they weren't sharp enough, apparently - it's time to channel my inner Popeye: That's all I can stands, I can't stands no more.
I mean, if holding the other team to 34 and winning by 33 points is insufficient …
(UConn now leads Houston, 78-31, by the way.)
I realize many of you would trade places with me and this job in a heartbeat. Go watch sports for a living and spout off everyday with rants that are informed and otherwise. It's just that watching the UConn women isn't watching sports right now. It's like watching a plate of nachos every night against Charles Barkley. We all know what's going to happen. And it's complete and total.
I asked Auriemma after the game, the 90-40 game, whether he yearns for a close one now and again. He was magnificent, as usual.
"Believe me it's something we talk about a lot, how if we're not careful, you kind of get lulled into just playing and thinking that everything's always going to be hunky dory and we never have to worry about executing something exactly right," he said.
"There's certainly nothing like doing it in a game. I remember probably my first 15 years here every game seemed to be decided in the last minute or two. There is something to be said for that. You do get a kick out of those games."
More from Geno: "We certainly made our (nonleague) schedule with intention of having a lot of (close) games. It just hasn't panned out that way this year. I'm confident when that time comes we'll be ready for it. It's something I think the players want, too. … But sometimes, you've got to go with what's going on out there."
We survived another one Tuesday, Dear Diary. One step closer to a shot at the Final Four. Keep churning, calendar. Keep churning.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro
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