If the name Maya Moore didn't mean anything to you yesterday, welcome to the club. In a world where little girls have role models like Taylor Swift (eye roll), Miley Cyrus (shudder), and Sarah Palin (curls up in corner, weeping), it took Moore leading the UConn women's basketball team to their 89th consecutive win for this all-star's name to finally pop up on our radar.
In a sad commentary on women's role in society, a team that hasn't lost a game since 2008 wasn't good enough to garner national attention. They had to finally beat the boys, last night topping an 88-win record set by the UCLA men's basketball team. Good for them. And good for Moore, the senior forward who carried them along, scoring 41 points against Florida State last night.
But can we give credit where credit is due? These women are not an overnight sensation.
Even on the campus in Storrs, Connecticut, women's basketball has long been the red-headed stepchild. Says one 2010 grad, "We came in and UConn was a men's dominant basketball school. Then the men's team started to suck, and while the woman's team began their winning streak -- we just kind of turned the cold shoulder."
It wasn't enough that Moore is being talked up as the best player in program history at UConn, perhaps the best player in all of women's basketball. It wasn't enough that she helped the Huskies women's team capture its second national championship. It took Coach Geno Auriemma pushing his efforts to fight cancer through "Geno's Cancer Team" to draw the attention to both his cause and his team, says the recent grad. "He kind of double-tackled gaining fans for the woman's team and raising money for a good cause through active student involvement."
Once again, it took a man to make people stand up and notice. A man coaching a women's basketball team, but a man all the same.
But what have men in sports done for us lately? We have Cam Newton, the scandal-plagued Heisman winner from Auburn. We have Jets Assistant Coach Sal Alosi proving you never grow out of your third grade self, tripping a Dolphins player on the sidelines. We have Florida high schooler Mason Holland physically attacking a ref at a basketball game. They've brought shame on themselves and shame on sports.
None of us want to see our daughters aspire to this. None of us want to see our sons aspire to this.
And then there's Maya Moore. No scandals. Just hard work, from becoming the second player in history to win the Naismith National High School Player of the Year award following both junior and senior prep seasons to scoring her 2,000th point as a junior at UConn. She's even had the class to remind the media that it isn't all her, telling reporters after yesterday's game:
The thing I’m most happy about is having my teammates that enjoy seeing me do well, and that I enjoy seeing them do well -- I feel like they genuinely support me and love me and that’s what I take from this game.
She's a role model not just for our daughters but for the sports world in general. It will be a shame if the men don't follow suit. The question is: will anyone remember her tomorrow?
Image via UConn Huskies