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Deja Vu

October 24, 2012

She Shoots, She Scores!


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2012: The University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team has long been a powerhouse in the sport, but some members of the organization are calling for radical modification of the rules and equipment in order to boost spectator interest. Head coach Geno Auriemma plans to lobby the NCAA to lower the height of baskets for the women’s game, arguing the current height is difficult for many female players to reach. The New York Daily News elaborates:

This doesn't come out of nowhere. Auriemma says he has seen the women's game max out - and revert - to smaller crowds and less excitement over the past 10 years.

"The game hasn't grown as much as it should in the last 10 years and much of the old guard doesn't want to hear it. In 2002, we played the Final Four in front of 30,000 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Now, 10 years later [2011], we [the women's Final Four] can't sell out the Conseco Field House? So how much has the game possibly improved, in terms of how badly people want to see it?"

"What makes fans not want to watch women's basketball is that some of the players can't shoot and they miss layups and that forces the game to slow down... Lower the rim [from 10 feet]."

1892: Basketball, invented by James Naismith in 1891, became wildly popular on Northeastern college campuses—even those that educated only women. Senda Berenson, a physical education instructor at Smith College, is credited with putting together the first women’s basketball team, which she argued was a boon to the physical and mental development of the modern woman:

It develops simultaneous quickness of thought and action. And how valuable a training it is which enables a woman to meet an unexpected situation, perhaps of danger, with alacrity and success. The proverbial hen crossing the road can not be said the characteristic attitude of mind of the basket ball girl. It also develops enthusiasm, love of fun. Many of our young women are well enough in a way yet never know the joy of mere living, are lazy, listless and lack vitality. Let such a person try this game, she will forget herself at the first throw of the ball, will take deep draughts of air with the unaccustomed exercise and tingle and throb with the joy of the game.

Above all does the team work develop that in woman which both training and tradition have kept dormant in her the power for organization. Willingness to surrender the individual to the common good—all this unconsciously to the girl basket ball will bring out in her if she gives her best to it.

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Lewis H. Lapham is Editor of Lapham's Quarterly. He also serves as editor emeritus and national correspondent for Harper's magazine.
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