Like a Dude

10 08 2009

I was going to reply to a comment regarding my recent “My Game is the Women’s Game” post that called me out for using a poor NFL analogy, but I’ll reply with another post instead.

I think the missing thought had to do with the perception that if a team has problems excelling in a certain area (my NFL analogy spoke to the Indianapolis Colts and their lack of defense) then surely the game itself needs adjustments to accommodate that team, and therefore the league.

Now: The NFL is a poor analogy subject because the league does jerk around with the rules quite a bit. Off the cuff, I can’t think of an instance where the league-wide rules changed due to one team being deficient. But I can think of a few changes that occurred due to a single incident. (The ban on “spearing” comes to mind.)

How this applies to the WNBA in the context of my earlier remarks is that the perception that women either can’t a) dunk or b) rack up 100+ point games with regularity means that the rims should be lowered. Wrong. Here’s why.

1. There are women who have proven that they can dunk, but I will dare say that they don’t seem to have that shot called up as a “go-to” play. Not dunking by choice versus not being physically able to dunk under the current court configuration is a distinction that disinclines me to alter the rule book. I’d like to hear more about the reasons for not dunking from the players, not the armchair critics (like me).

2. It irritates the crap out of me when I see WNBA players on any team miss easy shots. But I miss shots directly below the basket and I’m 6′ 5″ tall. Sometimes, try as you might, the ball just will not cooperate, which brings me to…

3. The ball isn’t “regulation” sized in WNBA basketball. Technically, it is, as the league mandates the use of the “smaller” ball, but I see no reason why WNBA players cannot use “larger” basketballs. If my recall is correct we’re talking a half-inch of circumference difference. I have seen/heard many stories that the smaller ball is actually harder to shoot with consistency. Lower rims aren’t going to alter the physics any, just add a new dimension of irritation for the people wondering why those easy shots aren’t going down.

4. I guess Phoenix doesn’t score 100+ point games with regularity. Pish, and tosh.

The tail end of the comment that partly inspired this post also looks forward to Britney Griner who is hailed as (yet another) “Lady Jordan”. Well, I know Michael Jordan, Michael Jordan is a hero of mine, and you, sir, would do well not to anoint anyone the “next Jordan”. Setting everything else about MJ aside, his tide raised all boats in Lake Bulls. Who on Earth were most of his teammates? Luc Longley? Toni Kukoc? Steve Kerr? Ron Harper?

Not exactly marquee players.

But something about playing with Jordan made those guys (and a host of others) better. Much better. Championship rings better.

And the thing is, Jordan couldn’t have done it without them. The proof is filed under “every year before the first Bulls championship.”

Now, Lady Jordan or Michael Jordan aside, I think what people often do when talking up female athletes is to say, generically, “[player] is really good… she plays like a dude.”

Which dude? Michael Jordan? Steve Kerr? Me? Really, if any player, male or female plays like me, they need to be put on waivers. Now.

I empathize with any women who bristles at the comparison to the generic “dude” rather than specifics as to what it is that people find noteworthy and inspiring. “Diana Taurasi plays like a dude” doesn’t tell me anything. “Diana Taurasi is money from beyond the arc” is more meaty.

Candace Parker doesn’t play like a dude, in my estimation. What she does do, or did, as I haven’t seen many Sparks games this year, is perform in a manner that makes me think “I want her on my team.” It’s not just the physical abilities. The “x factor” for me when I really paid attention to Candace Parker – back in her Tennessee days – was the leadership. She does this all the time, but when she puts her arms around her teammates and gives that laser-focused look around the huddle, you know her team is on the move. When she came to the WNBA and pulled that move with Lisa Leslie in the huddle, I thought, holy crap, LA is going to win everything. They didn’t, but I stand by the pre-war intelligence.

Rather than setting the bar for female athletes at “like a dude”, perhaps we can collectively make more of an effort to point out why we like those players, and what inspired us. Marta is Marta, not “like a dude.” Sue Bird is Sue Bird, not “like a dude.” Hope Solo is Hope Solo, not “like a dude.”

Like, dude.

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