Why don’t we see the women?

The University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team rewrote the record books on International Women’s Day Monday night, winning its 71st straight game, which they played against Notre Dame.

Seventy-one games? That’s almost the length of an entire NBA season.

The Lady Huskies deserve some praise for their accomplishment. They broke their own consecutive-win record of 70 games they set from 2001 to 2003. During this streak, they’ve beaten all 71 opponents by double digits, with an average margin of victory of 32.5 points.

Those numbers are astounding.

But if this were a men’s team, sports fans both passionate and casual would be checking the papers (or, in these days, the Internet) like they did when Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio was racking up his 56-game hitting streak.

For the most part, this is a streak most won’t be put next to DiMaggio’s, Cal Ripken’s or Oklahoma football’s on the list of great sports streaks. In the minds of most guys, anyway.

A few years ago, when the men’s team at Memphis got a whiff of going undefeated for one season, it dominated ESPN’s news cycle. This UConn team has been treated more like a small blip.

Here in the Valley, we love our Phoenix Suns. Steve Nash could decide to run for governor tomorrow and, considering the weak crowd of gubernatorial candidates, probably be the odds-on favorite by the time spring break’s over.

Yet we neglect our WNBA franchise, despite the fact the Mercury have won two of the last three championships and play in the same high-quality arena as the Suns.

I was at a Suns game last week and a marketing director for the Mercury approached me. She asked if I wanted a free hot dog, a question also printed on her yellow highlighter shirt. Attention captured. To get my voucher, I had to answer some questions. (The old bait and hook still works, at least when food is involved.)

The marketing director asked me a series of questions about the Mercury. She asked if I had ever been to a women’s basketball game. I sheepishly replied no. She asked if I knew tickets to Mercury games were only $10 for the lower bowl. I said yes. She asked why I hadn’t ever been to a game, and I couldn’t muster up a dignified answer.

Later, I ate my free hot dog with a small pang of guilt.

There’s a tendency among us to not care about something unless we think it’s the very best. Women’s basketball on the collegiate or professional level is almost an afterthought for many male sports fans because of this notion, sexist or not, that the girls simply can’t compete in the same way as the guys. They aren’t as athletic or fast, and therefore not as entertaining — and certainly not as good.

This popped up in my Twitter feed after the Lady Huskies made history Monday: “I was almost impressed with the UConn women’s record, but then I remembered its [sic] women’s basketball.” A follow-up tweet declared that James Naismith, who invented basketball in 1891, never intended for women to play basketball.

Intended or not, women do play basketball. They’ve been doing so since 1892.

We just haven’t been paying close attention.

Dustin enjoys free food. Discuss this and more at dustin.volz@asu.edu