Sports has increasingly become my refuge from politics, but sometimes sports are just as maddening.
Yesterday I was deluged with tweets from fans of a couple of teams who were upset that I didn’t mention their beloved athletes on a random tweet about undefeated teams. What was really concerning, though, was a small thread of thought that UCLA’s upset of Baylor Saturday was diminished because of the absence of coach Kim Mulkey and second-best scorer Lauren Cox from the Bear contingent.
We heard this kind of talk earlier in the year, when some maintained that South Carolina’s Championship didn’t mean as much because they hadn’t had to face UConn to get it. While on paper it might seem like a legitimate beef, in the true spirit of competition, such a line of thinking is nothing but sour grapes.
Sports fans take the biological human tendency of comparison to obscene extremes. They compare athletes and teams from different eras, the same eras, and invent hypothetical situations. They crunch unlikely statistics, make imaginary trades at the pro level, and project results and outcomes far, far in advance.
Obviously, the ideal situation is when all on two competing teams are healthy and able to perform at their peak. But reality is not always ideal.
If UCLA beats Connecticut tonight, there will be a contingent of naysayers who will say it was because Husky guard Katie Lou Samuelson was injured and unable to play. They will more than likely neglect to mention that the Bruins are missing injured guard Lindsey Corsaro, Ashley Hearn and transfer Japreece Dean, who is waiting to be activated. It will be the same people who discounted that Mulkey’s right hand, associate head coach Bill Brock, coached Baylor well over the weekend, and that Kalani Brown doubled her scoring average in the game.
Sports, like life, isn’t fair. Houses burn down in wildfires, but people still have to go to work. Injuries happen, but teams still have to play. You have to take what you have and make it work.
Plenty of teams in sports history have made bad situations work for them. Perhaps most notoriously in recent memory was the 2012 Indiana Fever, who were missing key players in their Championship run, but still hoisted the trophy at the end. Truly, there are no excuses. True champions step up in the face of adversity and perform. Connecticut fans are famous for saying, “don’t hate, just be more like us.” The same is true in reverse.
Don’t discount an upset just because conditions weren’t “ideal.” A win is a win. No ifs, and’s or buts about it.