The XX Factor

Why Are Sports Fans Grumbling About UConn’s Winning Streak?

The Huskies did win last night, thumping Florida State 93-62 and extending their winning streak to 89 games.

The University of Connecticut women’s basketball team has not lost since April of 2008. Their unbeaten streak extended to 88 straight games on Sunday and tied the existing record for consecutive wins held by the John Wooden-coached UCLA men’s basketball teams of 1971-1974. Tonight the UConn Huskies host Florida State with a chance to win game 89. When they do, and they will, cue more grumbling from certain sports fans and columnists-the types who guard nostalgia and statistics like jealous hoarders and can’t bear to contemplate any link between UConn and UCLA.

For starters, the streak isn’t even “a real record,” Albany Times Union ‘s Pete Dougherty complains. (He gives permission to call it an “impressive accomplishment.”) The Wichita Eagle ‘s Bob Lutz also downplays the Huskies’ run , arguing that “while UConn’s accomplishment is an incredible one, it hasn’t captured our attention the way the UCLA men’s streak did.” And Jamie Samuelsen of the Detroit Free Press called for a “separation in the record book,” a line that made me think of squabbling children dividing their bedroom down the middle with masking tape.

Speaking of squabbling children, UConn coach Geno Auriemma took the opportunity to fan the flames of dissent after the team’s 88 th win on Sunday. “The reason everybody is having a heart attack the last four or five days is a bunch of women are threatening to break a men’s record, and everybody is all up in arms about it,” he said bluntly, and continued:

“Because we’re breaking a men’s record, we’ve got a lot of people paying attention,” Auriemma said. “If we were breaking a women’s record, everybody would go, ‘Aren’t those girls nice, let’s give them two paragraphs in USA Today, you know, give them one line on the bottom of ESPN and then let’s send them back where they belong, in the kitchen.’”

Auriemma’s comments were actually a savvy media move, drawing out even more fervent attention to tonight’s already circus-like game and distracting us from what might be the biggest problem with this streak: It’s not that, as women, they’re inferior. It’s that compared to all the other women, they’re almost too superior. This season the Huskies have won all their games by an average margin of 37.8 points. (That the team hasn’t faced its historical rival, Pat Summitt’s Tennessee Vols, in almost four years doesn’t much help.) CBS Sports’ Gregg Doyel called the ongoing streak “the death of competition.” The streak has brought UConn deserved attention, but it’s hard to imagine new viewers sticking around to watch game after lopsided game.

Tonight’s matchup is likely to be the Huskies’$2 89th straight win, more than any other NCAA basketball team. But it really ought to be little more than a resting spot en route to an even loftier record. That’s the one held by the Wayland Baptist University Flying Queens , who won 131 straight games between 1953 and 1958. The women “traveled in a fleet of Beechcraft Bonanzas, stayed at upscale hotels, ate at the best restaurants, wore identical blouses and skirts on the road and had their hair styled courtesy of [team benefactor Claude] Hutcherson, who also provided the satiny blue-and-gold uniforms.” Even UCLA can’t compete with that.

Photograph of Maya Moore (23) of the Connecticut Huskies and Melissa Lechlitner (23) of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish courtesy of ESPN.