In the wake of the LSU vs. Iowa women’s basketball championship game, where LSU bested a strong Iowa team, the media, and its many pundits crowded out the fanfare for a conversation.
The conversation, as I’m sure the reader knows, centered around hand gestures and “sportsmanship.”
On second thought, that’s not accurate. It centered on race and double standards for women and/or people of color as a whole.
And the entire time, all I could think was, “Jesus, please don’t let one of my friends ask for my opinion…”.
Cut to me volunteering for this assignment. Humans are very complex creatures.
I feared giving my opinion because…I’m just not interested in the trench warfare of today. And that is exactly what the conversation surrounding Angel Reese and Caitlin Clark devolved into immediately. There wasn’t a second to breathe before pundits, politicians, and OG blue checkmark Twitter pages jumped in to draw lines of demarcations.
To give some brief backstory (and you’ll see why this is important soon enough): At the women’s basketball championship game, as LSU cruised into a stunning win past Iowa, LSU’s Angel Reese affected the “you can’t see me” hand gesture, made popular by WWE pro wrestler John Cena, to Iowa guard, Caitlin Clark. Reese went on to explain that this gesture was in response to previous occurrences within the tournament, in which Caitlin Clark did the gesture to other players (which actually got a positive nod from John Cena via Twitter). Clark also engaged in copious amounts of trash talk, apparently insulting one of Reese’s friends on another team. Reese did not apologize and even doubled down on her decision to do what she did. She also accused the media and “haters” of calling her ghetto and doubting her and and and and…
Whenever someone mentions having haters and “proving them wrong”, I start to tune out immediately, and my mind latches onto the nearest small business commercial jingle to loop over the noise of someone’s “Started from the Bottom” made for Showtime sob story. I just…can’t…do it straight to DVD.
Anyway, let me ask the reader: Did you find yourself tempted to react OR react on one side or the other when this story erupted on social media? If so, did you know that entire story?
I’m going to make some assumptions here but…this is an opinion piece, so allow me to flex my incredibly flawed humanity.
If you found yourself saying something adjacent to some sports analysts and twitter loud mouths (“Classless,” “Disgusting behavior,” “LSU has zero sportsmanship,” etc.), you probably weren’t aware that Caitlin Clark had exhibited that behavior and more through the tournament. This included a comment that actually made me chuckle: During an elite eight game between Iowa and Louisville, Caitlin Clark was captured saying to an opponent, “You’re down 15 points. Shut up.”
Now, if you were on the other side of the conversation, defending Angel Reese, you may have reminded your followers that Caitlin Clark had a penchant for similar action. Maybe you said something along the lines of, “If you weren’t mad when Caitlin did it, don’t get mad when Angel did it!”. And, while this is a valid point, you also assumed people knew this before their harsh take on Reese’s actions.
I’d actually be willing to bet that both sides may have been large, unaware of what is par for the course in women’s college basketball (and really, all sports save maybe…Tennis). 4 months ago; eight players were ejected from a TCU – George Washington game after getting into an all-out brawl in response to a technical foul call. Two weeks ago, a Memphis player struck a Bowling Green player at the end of the game during the handshake line. Another eight players were ejected following a brawl between Kentucky and Florida.
This isn’t to say that any of this is excusable or unique to women’s basketball. It’s not.
I won’t even argue for a higher standard of sportsmanship. I gave up those hopes when MMA went from the quiet, analytical crowds of Pride Japan; to the boisterous, drunken yelling of UFC.
I certainly won’t bother chastising media pundits and social media figures. They only mirror the crass and cancerous politics of the day.
What may be more telling is that we are all so…predictable. The lines were seemingly drawn in the sand within an hour of the Reese/Clark scenario: Either you’re a closet racist or an apologist for bad behavior via the debate tactics du jour – “whatabouttisms.” Viewership of the women’s side of March Madness had stalled in the low to mid 100,000s before this year, peaking at 10 million.
How many people actually knew what they were talking about before they chimed in? Even with this year’s applaudable numbers, that’s still 10 million people out of America’s 353 million person population. And yet, any and everyone could start a fire on the internet with their almost boring takes.
I mean it when I call these take “boring.” If you gave me the raw materials of the Reese/Clark scandal and asked me to predict the reaction, I’m pretty sure I could get you to think I’m a cousin to Nostradamus…or just observant.
And what a horrible thing it is to be right about what humans will preoccupy themselves with; whilst completely overshadowing one of the most pivotal moments in these young female’s lives.