Hello again, ya’ll! Sorry for falling off the face of the earth for a couple of months… it seems as if my work load (both athletically & academically) at UCLA doesn’t care that I need time to write a blog! But, I AM BACK and I will continue to do the best I can to stay up to date with Athletalk.
88. The number of keys on a piano, Chinese good luck, the number of constellations in the sky, Michael Irvin (or Jeremy Shockey or Dez Bryant), and for 36 years 88 has been the seemingly untouchable, magical record for consecutive basketball games won by a team. From January 1971 to January 1974 the UCLA Bruins won 88 consecutive games under the legendary Coach John Wooden, affectionately known around our campus just as “Coach”. The Fighting Irish of Notre Dame eventually ended that magical streak by making a feverish 10 point run to pull within a point of the invincible UCLA Bruins, who were then the seven-time defending NCAA champions, with a minute left in regulation. And when Dwight Clay’s arching shot went “swish,” the blue and gold mystique was suddenly over with a 71-70 loss. But this streak was, and still is, one of the most enduring and legendary accomplishments in all of sports. Many awe-inspiring athletes and coaches have walked the halls on the UCLA campus that I call home, but none will ever stand as tall or be revered like Coach. The beloved Wizard of Westwood won 10 national championships in 12 years, including 7 consecutively, but he did not discuss winning games with his team, his staff, or the media. Coach never scouted another team. He made sure his staff and his players were solely focused on what they could do to play to the best of their abilities and he knew if the preparation was adequately conducted, the results would take care of themselves. “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail,” is one of my favorite Wooden-isms. He coached his guys to play basketball and live their lives with passion and integrity which, was the key ingredient to his indomitable success, in my opinion. I was lucky enough to spend time with Coach Wooden on several occasions before his passing this past June, and I can say without question that his legacy will not only live on eternally within me and on UCLA’s campus, but in the entirety of the sports world. All of the athletes on UCLA’s campus sport black wristbands that read: “Competitive Greatness. JRW.” With this, I am reminded daily of his tremendous contributions and it pushes me to reach my own pinnacle and achieve “competitive greatness.” 88.On Sunday the UConn women’s basketball team tied the historic 88 game winning streak set by the Bruins in the early 70’s. Cue the debate. Should the UConn women’s record be compared to the UCLA men’s record for consecutive hardwood victories? I have put a lot of thought into this debate because, like many, I can easily see both sides of the argument.
Being an NCAA athlete myself, I think UConn’s women’s basketball team has achieved something incredibly admirable. An 88 game winning streak is an accomplishment that many athletes can only dream of. The camaraderie, the teamwork, the dedication, the journey- they have all been executed perfectly. It isn’t even all about win number 88 or even win number 89. It should about this team and their ability to create a flawless team effort to reach greatness. It is by no accident that this team has reached their own model of competitive greatness. This streak is absolutely something to be celebrated and honored… But, in my opinion, this streak should not be compared the the UCLA men’s basketball streak. The two streaks occurred in different sports, in different eras of collegiate athletics, and in different stages of development with regards to the media and the sport of basketball itself.
When first analyzing my feelings I wasn’t sure if I felt this way because I knew Coach and several of the players (who played during the streak) on a personal level. Were my personal relationships affecting my outlook on UConn’s accomplishments? Was I allowing the intense grief we all felt when Coach passed away in June to cloud my judgment? Was my deep loyalty, love, and passion for UCLA impacting my outlook on these girl’s current winning streak? Maybe. And if so, let that be the case. But women’s and men’s NCAA basketball are two separate entities in my mind. Just as men’s and women’s track and field, men’s and women’s swimming, men’s and women’s water polo, men’s and women’s gymnastics… well, you get the point. Even though the sport being played is the same, the game most definitely is not. Why are we all of the sudden comparing sports across the genders? Don’t get me wrong, I am ALL for gender equity, especially seeing as I am a woman involved in Division 1 NCAA athletics; but that does put me in a perilous position regarding this argument. All of my instincts are telling me that these two monumentous athletic streaks should be celebrated, admired, and revered… but not compared. That is all of my instincts besides the fact that I am a woman athlete and I want myself and other women to be held to the highest regard in their respective sports and be given deserved respect. I wouldn’t expect to be compared to a male gymnast. That is certainly not saying that one gender is more talented, stronger, or faster than the other, they are just two different sports. So, we can sit back and argue about two teams, two sports, two streaks, or we can celebrate the fantastic performances of both.
And let me just say, I have been to a number of UCLA women’s basketball games and those girls are some of the hardest-working, inspiring, and scrappiest athletes on our campus. I mean, those girls kick serious butt. Whether or not UConn wins No. 89 tomorrow night or not, they will ever be remembered for their phenomenal play and dominance of NCAA Division 1 women’s basketball. I wish them all the best.
To compare or not to compare… I’m going to leave that up to you. Good luck figuring out which side of the fence you’re on, because I know I sure haven’t.