Thursday, March 4, 2010

Them's fightin' words

We're of differing minds on the Punch Heard 'Round The Sport. One of us thinks that, in a twisted sort of way, Brittney's Griner's haymaker is actually good for women's basketball. Another of us cringes every time he sees it and thinks it turns the sport into a sideshow.

Which camp are you in?

She said....

That Brittney Griner packs quite a punch, don't you think? Did you see Griner swinging at a Texas Tech player on Sportscenter? It's in the regular rotation of clips along with Tiger Woods and MLB news. The truth is it takes something like that if you don't have the word Husky on your back, to draw some real attention to women's basketball.

I'm far from condoning Griner's actions. She needs to be punished and surely if the Big 12 has any backbone, she will be. But you've heard the saying about any publicity being good publicity? This isn't a bruise for the sports, it's a boost. At least this sparks some back-and-forth around the water cooler. Women's basketball has a cool niche of fans, but hasn't evolved to the point to be considered mainstream. How many folks could name the No. 2 team in the nation, let alone realize an undefeated Nebraska team is No. 3? Kim Mulkey has won a national title at Baylor -- wonder how much of the mainstream audience could guess that -- and Griner, despite the hype, has largely flown under the radar. Not to lovers of the game, mind you. Rather to the masses, who can't seem to wrap their arms around this wonderful sport with all of its untapped storylines.

Will Griner's jab bring fans to the game? Hard to say. But it brought national attention to a sport that largely toils in its own little world with its regular set of fans.

He said....

Want attention? Beat UConn. Throw down a reverse dunk or two. In short, do something exciting and positive. Leave the fighting to hockey and the WWE.

Ask the NBA about what a few fights can do for your sport. The league had a couple of major fights back in the mid-1970s. It still battles a "thug" image problem to this day. Sure, Griner's punch gave the sport a jolt of publicity. But it's all the wrong kind. Too many people already make fun of women's basketball. A stunt like this is just more fuel for the knuckleheads. The idea is for your sport to be taken seriously, not turned into a sideshow.

So Baylor and the Big 12 need to get out in front of this quickly, and publicly. While Bears coach Kim Mulkey made a lot of strong statements after the incident last night, I was disappointed in her intention to keep Griner's punishment private.

"I will deal with Brittney Griner, and it won't be discussed in the media," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. "You saw the game. Leave it at that."

Wrong answer, coach. Griner's stunt has been witnessed by millions, and it's shaping opinions about the entire sport. It's not enough to simply say you're not going to tolerate it. We need to actually see what you're doing about it.

Think back to last fall's college football season. After one early-season game, Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount reacted to post-game taunting by drilling a right hand to the jaw of Boise State's Byron Hout. Less than 24 hours later, Oregon suspended Blount for the rest of the season.

We're not calling for that kind of sanction against Griner, as Blount committed prior transgressions. But a one-game suspension? C'mon. The Bears only have one regular-season game left. I wouldn't be opposed to sitting Griner out for the rest of the year, NCAA Tournament included. But she needs to be banned at least through the Big 12 Tournament.

And the sooner such a message is delivered, the better. Because while Sports Nation may finally be watching, many of them are laughing at you.

1 comment:

  1. I wish the Big 12 Conference would make public its actions. Rumor has it that the officiating crew from the BU/TTU game has been "fired" and will never work a Big 12 game again. Also, all officials were instructed to start calling technical fouls for bench decorum violations. I hear that the Lady Raiders bench got much, much quieter in later games.