Women’s Basketball Brings New Excitement

Women’s Basketball Brings New Excitement

While by now Caitlyn Clark is a household name in many parts of America, I had never heard of her until this year. But setting a new NCAA all-time scoring record for women’s basketball and then breaking Pistol Pete Maravich’s mark brought a new awareness to everyone.

So did sell-out crowds for her Iowa Hawkeyes team this season. When USA Today was chronicling how general admissions tickets for Iowa’s late January game at Northwestern were going for $230 apiece, it made headlines.

So did Northwestern selling all 7,039 seats for the game, well above its average 1,670 attendance. Clark has had that kind of impact; it’s why 18,660 fans packed the arena in Columbus for the Hawkeyes’ Jan. 21 game at Ohio State—the largest attendance at a women’s game this season.

Deserving of Attention

Women’s Basketball Brings New Excitement blog post by Ken Walker Writer. Pictured a basketball sitting on a court with the word March Madness.As we get ready for Selection Sunday this weekend, much of the anticipation for March Madness will fall on the men’s side of the tournament. Frankly, that will occupy most of my focus.

Still, with the eye-popping statistics and crowds that greeted Clark everywhere she went this year, it is time to acknowledge that women’s basketball deserves acclaim as well.

Take last year’s March frenzy, when the women’s championship game drew 9.9 million viewers. While that fell short of the 14.7 million watching the men’s championship, when the women are drawing two-thirds of the men’s audience, it says females are coming up in the world.

Aside from statistics, there is another truth worth noting: these women play some darn good basketball.

I had my first exposure to it in the mid-1990s. That’s when I traveled to southern West Virginia to chronicle a high school girls’ team’s run at its third straight state championship for a Christian sports magazine.

While they succeeded, my real introduction to on-court action came five years ago when our great-granddaughter made her high school team as a freshman. She was the first player off the bench and led the team in scoring a couple times.

What’s more, her squad made the state tournament. Work prevented me from attending the quarter-final game, but I took the day off to drive to the state capital for the semi-finals.

Let the Women Play

Women's Basketball player with the ball held up near her shoullder.

Illustrative purposes only. Not the actual photo.

I was so excited about her making the state championship I started texting family members early to encourage them to consider attending the championship game that Saturday. I never dreamed the team would lose in the semi-finals.

Nevertheless, that touched off my affinity for this brand of basketball, which is just as exciting as the men’s. The women may be shorter and physically weaker. But during the next three years I saw shooting, ball-handling and passing that reminded me of top-flight athletes who garnered far more attention.

Sadly, our great-granddaughter is now playing at a small college a good distance away. They did come to town for an exhibition game against a talented Marshall University team in the fall of 2022, but she wound up redshirting and didn’t play that season.

Logistical problems prevented us from making her few home games that were on a Saturday this season, but I’m hoping we can make a game or two in 2024-25.

The bottom line here is that when Congress passed the Title IX act that guaranteed women’s participation in sports in 1972, I was among the skeptics. The move struck me as a politically correct action, bowing to the almighty feminist movement.

But I have to acknowledge that watching women like our great-granddaughter and Caitlyn Clark showed the wisdom of such a move. To coin an old phrase: let the women play.

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