Friday, April 02, 2004

It's like he's saying what I'm thinking...

On Tuesday I was stuck in a computer lab at school, and during one of my internet-surfing breaks (which occur about every ten minutes), plastered on the front page of is a picture of Candace Parker, who in case you didn't know, is the High School senior who won the McDonald's All-American Slam Dunk contest. A real live girl. I actually knew who Candace was beforehand, since she's a prep star in the Chicago area (Naperville Central), but I had never seen her play. So after seeing her picture on the *front page* (like, it took up the whole headline section and everything), I was really intrigued to see how these dunks looked, considering that not only did she dunk, she won the whole contest.

So that night on SportsCenter I saw the highlights, and was dumbfounded. The dunks were barely made, and the last one where she did her Dee Brown imitation was as good as me doing my Dikembe Mutumbo impression. They showed the crowd and judges giving her '10's simply because of the impressiveness of a woman performing a dunk at all (and it IS impressive, I'm not saying otherwise). But even without seeing the other dunkers, I could tell right away she did not objectively deserve to win the whole contest. I considered myself duped by the hype, and was mad at myself for not figuring that would happen. I mean, simply look at the Annika Sorenstam hoopla, which had national media salivating over her finishing about 45 strokes out of the lead.

I wasn't really going to talk about it, although I did comment on Eric McClain's post. And I'm glad I didn't yet, especially since the point was articulated much better by a real live journalist, Jason Whitlock:

No disrespect to Ms. Parker, but she was handed the title. Her dunks were unspectacular. She won because the boys in the contest failed to complete their dunks.

Her participation, in fact, undermined the credibility of the contest. Why take it seriously? The people running the all-star game didn't. Eventually, neither did the judges.

Hey, I don't want to sound as intolerant as Vijay Singh. But this is different than Annika Sorenstam visiting the PGA Tour. Sorenstam has the necessary skill to compete with the men on the PGA Tour. Parker has almost none of the skills it takes to compete with boys her age in a dunk contest. I'd rather see Parker compete in the men's game than the dunk contest. She'd have a better chance competing in a game than a dunk contest.

Seriously, Parker dunked as well as an old Larry Bird -- when he had a bad back.

I realize that Parker was being used to drive interest in the event. I realize that sports -- even high school sports -- are nothing more than a vehicle to drive TV ratings. It's all entertainment. I was just disappointed with the unrealistic news coverage of Parker's victory. It was condescending and patronizing.

Her pedestrian dunks didn't advance equality or women's basketball. The judges and the crowd treated her like she'd performed with a disability. Seven judges gave her a perfect 10 on her final dunk. Had a healthy boy completed the same dunks in an all-star dunk contest, he might've been booed off the court.

Is that the equality we're looking for?

Now, unless you have a short memory you can imagine how I feel about his Annika Sorenstam comment, but besides that this selection is EXACTLY what I was thinking after watching the highlights. "The judges and the crowd treated her like she'd performed with a disability." It's just another example of ESPN trying to go beyond the barriers of even common sense to seem progressive. This is completely unrelated, but  let us not forget when they put Women's Basketball scores on the ticker. who hasn't watched and saw Penn St. beat Duke and get all excited....only to see that it was a women's score. Curse them :)

Back to Whitlock's article. He starts out so well, but then falls into the predictable "men are stupid" trap, just to not seem too chauvinistic by daring to criticize such a defining moment for womankind:

There's a strong, militant and active segment of our population that too often measures women by the same standards as men. And who says that's a good thing? Because of the dunk craze TD's [Tim Duncan] game is often overlooked. Think about it. Men's basketball has overdosed on the slam dunk. American players don't have fundamentals because, among other reasons, they spend too much time working on dunks. There are many people who would argue that the dunk has been slowly killing American basketball.

But we see the dunk as an advance for the women's game. Why? Because some women -- in the name of equality -- are dead set on doing every dumb thing we do. The women's game shouldn't be played above the rim. That's not where women excel. It's not what they do best. Their game is different. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

 Oh, those damned men, always entertaining us with those awful dunks. How dare they practice them. If you want to read on, the article then goes on to question why women would  aspire to do anything men do, since men are nothing to be proud of. It gets quite ridiculous, but anyway....

I don't understand why the dunk is looked down upon like this. I often hear Tyson Chandler get criticized for getting all of his points on dunks. Well if that were actually the case, let him try and dunk all the time! It has nearly 100% chance of going in the basket. That's what I call a high percentage shot. Women should be learning and evolving to play above the rim. *That's* progress. It may not be what old-timey Bob Cousy fans enjoy, but I would say that most basketball fans don't mind a Darius Miles' throwdown or two. But I won't get to carried away,  they would also like to see him learn a jump shot....