The night the women were more interesting than the men
And so women's basketball is suddenly awash in moral outrage, the residual effect over the musings of a March Monday in San Antone. Outrage over the officiating. Outrage over Baylor coach Kim Mulkey's swan dive into Trumpism. Outrage over the outrage.
Ain't it grand?
It sure is for those of us who want to see the game grow. And oh, it grew Monday night. It grew anecdotally. It grew tangibly. This was the most impactful night of women's basketball in recent memory.
Star power sells.
Quality of play sells.
UConn-Baylor had it all.
And so while general observers of the game have been rightfully outraged recently about the NCAA's overall neglect of the women's tournament, they ought to be singing showtunes today about the way Baylor-UConn moved the needle — perhaps as no other non-Final Four game ever has.
We should rejoice here in Connecticut, if we may so boldly anoint ourselves as the upholders of the game, right from the day Geno beat Pat for the first time. The ratings from Monday night, per Richard Deitsch of The Athletic, show 1,703 million tuned in, making in the most-watched game of this year's tournament.
It sustains Saturday's encouraging numbers from ABC — 1.559 million watched UConn-Iowa and 1.223 million watched Baylor-Michigan.
This is called "trending upward."
Ah, the magic of drama and controversy. First, came the no-call on Aaliyah Edwards, who clearly made contact with the shooting arm of Baylor's DiJonai Carrington. Yes, it was a foul. The decision not to blow the whistle there was consistent with laissez faire officiating most of the game, however. Agree or disagree, but in a game measured by first downs, a stricter approach would mean they're probably still playing.
Besides, it happens. Don Denkinger cost the Cardinals the 1985 World Series. John Clougherty gave Michigan — not Seton Hall — the 1989 national championship. Richie Garcia made Jeffrey Maier famous.
And we move on.
Star power, drama and controversy percolated throughout the game, prompting media types and other notables who normally wouldn't give two spits about women's basketball to weigh in on social media. Perhaps more so than any musings on the competing men's game. That's yooo-ge, as Mike Francesa would say.
Remember: A time-honored path to relevance is "just don't spell my name wrong." All publicity is good, this side of the police logs and obit pages. A few of the more proprietary souls around women's basketball were a bit peeved Tuesday at the varying criticisms. But the natterings of nitwits, numbskulls and nincompoops comes with newfound relevance. Let's try to enjoy it. It really doesn't matter what he said or she said. What matters is that "he" and "she" said it in the first place.
After the game, Baylor coach Kim Mulkey was rightfully perturbed with the officiating. If she's only have stopped there. Later in her news conference, she said:
"After the games (Monday) and (Tuesday), there's four teams left I think on the men's side and the women's side," Mulkey said. "They need to dump the COVID testing. Wouldn't it be a shame to keep COVID testing and you've got kids that end up test positive or something and they don't get to play in a Final Four? So you need to just forget the COVID test and let the four teams that are playing in each Final Four go battle it out."
As you might imagine, this pulled the pin on another grenade. Perhaps most of the women's basketball intelligentsia winced. But it got people talking. It may keep people talking to and through the Final Four.
By now, we should all realize that change is incremental. It rarely happens at the pace we prefer. Face it: Our patience for change mirrors Archie Bunker's during an Emmy-award winning episode of "All In The Family" about Edith's change of life.
"I know all about your women's troubles there, Edith, but when I had the hernia that time I didn't make you wear the truss!" Archie said. "If you're gonna have the change of life, you gotta do it right now! I'm gonna give you just 30 seconds. Now, come on, change!"
Not so fast, friends. That's why we need to acknowledge and enjoy nights like Monday. Star power (Paige Bueckers), drama (call the foul!) and controversy (who needs to test for COVID anyway?) makes for the perfect marinara.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro
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