I won't pretend I've ever been a fan of beauty pageants. I was probably about 7 years old when my dad told me to never even think about asking if I could be a cheerleader. My parents told me early on that I would be an athlete, and since I've always loved sports, it worked out great.
While in my ideal world, wherein a guy might think the sexiest possible manner in which a girl could derobe would involve the spontaneous unsnapping of warm-up sweats followed by an all-out charge onto a basketball court, I recognize that this is not necessarily...erm, reality. But-- particularly as a 22-year old woman-- it's more than a little disturbing and insulting when the focus of a nationally-attended sporting event becomes the girlfriend of one of the players. And while there may be some levity or irony to be found in this situation due to the rather lop-sided outcome, it really sheds no positive or appropriate light on any party involved. A lecherous lack of professionalism on one side, a woman who has garnered attention for accomplishing absolutely nothing but looking pretty on the other, against the unfortunate backdrop of young men who have been mistakenly led to believe that this night is about them and the work they've put in for who even knows how long to get there? Is this a national championship in football or a shallow cliché in tacky television programming?
I can only imagine that playing, coaching, announcing-- participating in any capacity-- in the workings of a national championship game is one of the greatest honors of a career. The unprofessional--at best-- broadcasting decisions and commentaries made throughout the duration of the game (and the ripple of media attention that ensued) did nothing less than appropriate this honor from relevant, involved parties. But creating this situation in a way which heavily enforces traditionally-constructed gender dynamics (that date back to classical times) wherein women are subservient, vapid, and objectified, to name a few defining aspects, takes it to a disturbingly invasive level. When the lines between Twitter/gossip-worthy and newsworthy blur so extremely as they did during the BCS game, the integrity, intellect, work ethics, and capabilities of both women and men are severely compromised.
It's also kind of disheartening and disconcerting to see that having long wavy hair and wearing your boyfriend's jersey at his game is the kind of thing that attracts national attention if you're a young woman. And not to take anything away from wearing the jersey of a significant other (we'll forgive the red color, I suppose- other than that, it seems normal, unremarkable, and cute) or having long wavy hair (I love long wavy hair, don't get me wrong!), but I'm pretty sure there are plenty of young women out there doing pretty extraordinary things. Considering the endless list of causes and recipients that would have been even slightly more relevant or deserving of the attention afforded to a player's pretty girlfriend is rather dizzying.
But when I got to watch the Cal vs Stanford women's basketball game, I was completely reinvigorated. Okay, let's get the bad news out of the way first; we lost. Our field goal percentage in the second half was kind of dismal. We couldn't make a free throw to save our lives. And even as Stanford's defense set up in a 2-3 zone, we kept forcing inside shots. We have so much talent in post players like Gray, Brandon, and Caldwell, who really battle it out on the boards. But the cohesion that has been pretty consistent this season in inside-out play was disrupted by Stanford-- I kind of felt like passing it into the post was like the ball getting sucked into a black hole-- they were rarely able to dish it back outside, and our posts were facing double and triple teams. Our guards were thrown off, clearly; they were having trouble shooting, and Stanford exploited that with their 2-3 by inviting those outside shots and cutting off passing and driving lanes down low.
But our women's team was still unbelievably impressive, even in a tough loss. Brittany Boyd is probably my favorite guard I've ever seen play basketball. Her sense of timing is unmatched, coupled with lethal quickness, strength, and unfaltering determination. She's probably the last person you want to show the ball within closing seconds of a half, unless you're intentionally extending an invitation for her to strip you and score. Layshia Clarendon and Eliza Pierre consistently show their wonderful dualities of scrappiness and finesse play.
And the team as a whole operates in a commendably seamless fashion (most of the time)-- they are all leaders, they are smart, they are beautifully cohesive and unselfish. They exude the sentiment of a refusal to be intimidated. They are graceful; they are thoughtful; rather than ever attempting to be individually showy, they operate with a sort of consciousness of their own skill which speaks for itself. They embody qualities and qualities and qualities, which cross over into aesthetic, intellectual, social, and athletic spheres, and they deserve extensive commendation for that unique and well-earned dynamic.
I know these women (even, as much as it pains me to admit, the Stanford women) are out on the court and in the weight room every day, for hours upon hours. I know they've been doing that for probably as long as they can remember. And on top of that, they have talent, drive, and impressive unity as a group. So, thanks, to the Cal women's basketball team. Their work ethic, athleticism, and passion make me proud to be a woman, and proud to own and love my many pairs of basketball sweats.