Any criticism of Connecticut’s winning streak says more about the folks griping than it does the Huskies.
UConn won its 100th game in a row Monday night. Let that sink in for a minute. For more than two years now, the Huskies have walked off the court winners of every game they’ve played. Every. Single. Game. Non-conference, No. 1 vs. No. 2, the NCAA tournament – didn’t matter. The Huskies took on all comers and won, usually decisively, 100 times in a row.
It’s an almost unfathomable achievement, a milestone that belongs right alongside UCLA’s 88-game streak and the New England Patriots winning 18 in a row in 2007. Or Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak and Byron Nelson’s 11 consecutive PGA Tour wins.
Yet in some corners, UConn’s accomplishment merited a yawn. Or worse.
“It’s women’s basketball,” was a frequent reaction, as if that’s an adequate reason for not giving credit where credit is due. Others likened the Huskies to the Harlem Globetrotters. A few even tried to dismiss UConn’s success by saying Geno Auriemma gets his pick of the country’s best players.
Funny, I haven’t heard anyone using that logic to diss Nick Saban’s achievements at Alabama.
Imagine if a men’s team, be it Kentucky or perennial Division III powerhouse Wisconsin-Stevens Point, had won 100 games in a row. No one would be questioning the level of competition or looking for reasons to devalue the achievement.
The reaction would be, rightfully, pure awe and admiration, and UConn deserves no less.
“It’s something every female athlete grapples with. The same accomplishments are not regarded or appreciated in the same way,” said Nancy Hogshead-Makar, an Olympic champion swimmer and founder of Champion Women, which advocates for girls and women in sports.
It’s been more than 40 years since Title IX opened gymnasiums and playing fields to girls and women of this country, and much progress has been made. But whether it is Serena Williams having to make a case for being the greatest in history or the U.S. women’s soccer team having to fight for equal pay, there remains a “Yes, but” qualifier to the achievements of female athletes that is both unnecessary and infuriating.
To win 100 games in a row is staggering, regardless of the sport or who is playing it.
Whether it be physical barriers (injury and general health) or psychological ones (pressure and competitive spirit), sports and streaks are not naturally compatible. Think about it. To win one game, you either need a decisive advantage on talent or a massive stroke of luck.
Now extend that out for weeks, months, years and the idea of it all coming together night after night is, simply, mind-boggling.
“It’s one thing to, at end of the day, be the best. It’s quite another to be consistently the best throughout the season,” Hogshead-Makar said. “And you’ve got to remember that when you’re the best, people are coming after you. They bring their A game every time they play you.
“To win consistently throughout that, it’s beyond laudable.”
It’s easy to minimize UConn’s accomplishments by saying it’s a championship factory. But it’s lazy, too. Their dominance didn’t lessen anything Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls did. The same goes for the star-studded Golden State Warriors.
Besides, this isn’t even a “great” UConn team in the traditional sense. It lost three starters from last year’s NCAA championship team – women who went 1, 2 and 3 in the WNBA draft, mind you. While it was No. 1 in the preseason USA TODAY coaches poll, UConn dropped behind Notre Dame in Week 2 and didn’t return to No. 1 until early December.
Yet UConn has already beaten six of the top eight teams in this week’s rankings.
That doesn’t mean the other teams are cupcakes. It means UConn is just that much better.
Greatness remains a rare thing. Don’t diminish UConn’s accomplishment. Appreciate it.
By Nancy Armour
This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.