HSRN: Gray Matters: 2012 Olympics: USA Women Mission Greater Than Gold
By MARK F. GRAY, HSRN
(WASHINGTON - July 31, 2012) - There is a rite of passage every four years that we all have taken for granted during the Olympics. The United States sends a basketball team to the floor and they simply do not lose. They haven’t been given a catchy nickname and there have never been comparisons to their predecessors. Yet for the last 20 years they have been as certain as death and taxes.
The U.S. women’s basketball team wins gold…period.
Team USA’s women’s program is the most dominant force in the history of international team competition. Since 1976, four years after Title IX, when the US Women lost two games in the first Olympic tournament, the “honey ballers” have won 48 of 49 on the world’s biggest athletic stage. They enter this year’s games on a 33 game win streak dating back to 1992 and are a gaudy 72-1 over the last 16 years in international competition. Still they are a less heralded prohibitive favorite than their male counterparts.
Players and coaches have come and gone yet the commitment to excellence has remained. The dominance began with teams who featured Teresa Edwards and Cheryl Miller. They passed the torch to teams led by Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes. This year’s roster is comprised of a seasoned group of veterans who know who have won back to back gold medals and will be considered for hall of fame reverence such as Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, and Tamika Catchings when their career is done. Swin Cash, Sylvia Fowles, Seimone Augustus, and Candace Parker are looking to repeat.
Coaches like Pat Summitt, Anne Donovan, and currently Geno Auriemma have understood that while success on the court is paramount there is a greater mission to their program. While high profile men’s players have been reluctant to be role models or embrace their roles as ambassadors, they have become personification of basketball. They play a beautiful game defined by teamwork, making the extra pass, helping on defense, and cleaning the glass with tenacity.
“Everytime USA Basketball steps on the floor we represent the best in women’s basketball,” Auiremma says. “The fact that we’ve won four straight gold medals only puts added pressure on us.”
Their dominance has been so overwhelming that you could make an argument that its not healthy for the growth of the game around the world. In Beijing Team USA won by an average of 35 points en route to their gold medal. Between Title IX, the improvement in women’s college basketball, and the WNBA, the American women’s game is light years ahead of the rest of the world. There will not, nor should there be, any apologizes for the potential drubbings that this team will put on the world during this Olympic fortnight.
“Just winning for the sake of winning is one thing,” says Auriemma. “Not every nation is as committed to women’s basketball as we are and we’ve got a great opportunity to do what the Dream Team did in 1992 for [men’s basketball]”.
Thursday the USA Women’s basketball team was introduced as the most successful Olympic team of all time. However, history will define them in 20 years by the influence they have on bringing international gender equity to the hardwood.