Sports Round-Up: Angel Reese/Caitlin Clark Controversy Shows Double-Standard, UCONN is College Basketball's Best, MLB Pitch Clock, Golf Feud Hits Masters and Denny Hamlin the Hypocrite
by Julian Spivey
Angel Reese vs. Caitlin Clark Shows Double-Standard
The biggest story after the NCAA women’s basketball championship game yesterday should’ve been the champion LSU Tigers, the Tigers dominated the Iowa Hawkeyes 102-85 to win its first title after all, but we can’t really have nice things now can we. The story immediately became some white folks, mostly white men bitching about LSU star Angel Reese’s trash-talking (some would call it taunting) of Iowa star Caitlin Clark. People were immediately calling Reese, who mind you is not even old enough to legally drink yet, classless (and other much worse stuff). Though Reese’s actions looked exactly like Clark’s in previous games during the tournament in which the Iowa superstar was essentially treated like Basketball Jesus.
So, if the actions by Reese and Clark were similar, what are the differences between the two? Well, the key difference is Reese is black and Clark is white.
And it brings up a double-standard we’ve seen from time to time in sports, particularly college sports – one that a tweet from journalist Brian Krassenstein reminded me of on Monday: “When a white woman from Iowa, Caitlin Clark, taunts the other team during a game it’s ‘funny’ and ‘part of competition.’ When a black woman from Louisiana, Angel Reese, decides to do it back, she’s ‘not showing sportsmanship’ and ‘disgusting.’”
When Clark does the trash-talking or taunting it’s either ignored or seen as celebration. When Reese does it in the title game in response to Clark doing it previously it’s all of a sudden a classless display of unsportsmanlike behavior?
I would love to say: “I’m sorry, but if you believe this then your racism is showing?” But, then I see someone like veteran broadcast journalist Keith Olbermann tweet: “what a fucking idiot” as a response to a SportsCenter video of Reese doing the pointing at her ring finger and “you can’t see me” hand waving in front of face gesture toward Clark (though Clark says she didn’t see it and video evidence seems to confirm). I certainly have never viewed Olbermann as racist. So, maybe it’s also a generational thing? But that still doesn’t really explain how when Reese does it there’s outrage, but when Clark does it’s crickets.
Maybe the second part of that Krassenstein tweet holds the answer: “If you ever needed an example of systemic racism in American culture and why books on such should not be banned from schools, THIS IS IT!”
So, maybe some people are just instinctively bothered by a black person doing it and not a white person because this country for centuries has ingrained in them that white people can get away with stuff and black people taunting white people is bad and so the fragile, pissed off white man will do the only type of lynching they can still do – verbally and behind a computer or phone screen.
UCONN Was Clearly Miss-Seeded, Best College Basketball Program of Last 25 Years
On Monday night (April 3), the University of Connecticut Huskies finished off their run to the NCAA men’s college basketball title with a 76-59 over the San Diego State Aztecs. The championship capped off one of the most dominant NCAA Tournament runs in the history of college basketball – somewhat surprisingly as UCONN was merely a four-seed and it was a wacky and wide-open tournament this year. UCONN won all six of its tournament games by double-digits with the University of Miami Hurricane getting the closest to them in the Final Four matchup on Saturday (April 1) losing by only 13 points. UCONN even beat the higher seeded Gonzaga (3-seed) by 28 points in their Elite Eight matchup.
After UCONN beat St. Mary’s (5-seed) in the second round I began to say I thought the Huskies were miss-seeded by the NCAA selection committee, even if they were 25-8 and 13-7 in conference play during the season and began the year unranked.
When they dominated Arkansas (8-seed), which had just knocked off a 1-seed in Kansas, by 23 points in the Sweet 16 and then that demolishing of Gonzaga I knew they were miss-seeded.
There is simply no way there were 12 better teams in this NCAA tournament than the UCONN Huskies and the Huskies proved that along the way.
Something the Huskies also proved with their net-cutting on Monday night was they’re the most dominant program in college basketball, at least when it comes to winning titles, over the last quarter-century. In 1999, UCONN won its first men’s college basketball title and on Monday they won the school’s fifth. That’s two more titles than the next closest programs in Duke and University of North Carolina during that stretch. Duke and North Carolina are considered college basketball “blue bloods.” As is Kansas, UCLA, Kentucky, but I’ve never really thought of UCONN as one of those high standard college basketball programs. Well, I obviously should have, because the record books show nobody has been better over the last 25 years.
MLB Pitch Clock Immediately Working Wonders
The Major League Baseball season began on Thursday, March 30 and completed its first series of games of the year over the weekend with the high profile rules changes, with the most notable being the addition of a pitch clock to help speed up the often slow sport.
Over the first four days of the 2023 MLB season compared to the 2022 season, the average length of baseball games is down 31 minutes. That’s amazing. That’s the type of thing that can save baseball in the long run. It will hopefully lead to folks, particularly younger people, watching a game they once thought moved too slowly and took too long. How many people have three-plus hours to dedicate to anything in the modern world where some people won’t even watch a half-hour sitcom because it’s easier to watch bite-size TikTok videos? And for those of us who were going to watch baseball no matter how long it took – that’s me – we have so much extra time now for other things!
The action has already noticeably picked up too due to some of the other rules like the bigger bases (there have been 41 more over the first four days of the season than last year) and the average batting average across the league is 15 points higher than at the same time last year, this is probably mostly due to the rules regarding infield shifts.
The season is very young and some of these rules will take some getting used to and opinions are always subject to change, but as of now I’m thrilled with baseball attempting to do something to both build the sport and make it more exciting and interesting – and this is coming from a life-long fan of our national game.
PGA/LIV Feud Changes How I Watch Golf
The great thing about sports is hard-fought competition and the feuds that can come from it. This leads to fans having athletes and teams that they like and dislike. Golf is the one sport I watch where I’ve never really had golfers I disliked, well lately there was Patrick Reed, but for the most part there were golfers I liked and there was hundreds of others who were just there. I think this is mostly to do with golf kind of being a sport where the biggest competition is the course itself and you as a golfer yourself. You can only control what you do.
And, then came LIV Golf. I freakin’ hate LIV Golf. There are numerous reasons. The murders Saudi prince funneling money into the league in a sportswashing effort. The smarminess of Greg Norman (its CEO). But mostly I hate that it has tried and to some extent succeeded in hurting the game of golf. LIV Golf has mostly been a bust in its one-plus years in business, but what it has managed to do is take some of the biggest names and best players from the PGA Tour like Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau and Cameron Smith.
LIV players don’t compete on the PGA Tour anymore. They didn’t really want to anyway, that’s then point of LIV Golf. But golfers from both leagues will meet up at at least some of the major tournaments, including the Masters Tournament in Augusta, Ga. this week.
Now there’s a feud in golf and it’s a big freakin’ feud. There’s trash-talk and there’s general hatred among some of the competitors.
This week at Augusta should be an interesting watch for me. I’ll be rooting hard for a PGA (or any other non-LIV league) golfer to win and I’ll be rooting hardcore against DeChambeau, Koepka, Johnson, Smith, Sergio Garcia, Kevin Na, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Phil Mickelson (something that just two years ago I never thought would be possible).
It should be fun and then if a LIV golfer wins it will suck incredibly.
Denny Hamlin: The Hypocrite
Denny Hamlin is a NASCAR legend. He’s a future Hall of Famer. In February, I ranked him as the 22nd greatest driver in the sport’s history (and it’ll certainly keep climbing). But I’ve also known for years that Hamlin has been the whiniest driver in the sport in the 22 years I’ve been watching it and he’s also a hypocrite.
Almost all season, and for a decent part of the 2022 season, one of the biggest topics of discussion within NASCAR by the drivers themselves has been driver etiquette and who needs to be taught a lesson. Hamlin has been one of the drivers calling out others the most for their aggressiveness on the track. It’s even easier for him to do so now that he hosts a weekly podcast “Actions Detrimental with Denny Hamlin,” which is funny because I believe he’s the only Cup Series driver to actually be penalized for “actions detrimental” this season when he admitted to intentionally “taking out” Ross Chastain at Phoenix Raceway. Yes, one of the drivers talking about how he’s raced admitted to taking out another driver on his own show. And, then came this weekend’s race at Richmond Raceway where Hamlin obviously intentionally dumped the No. 15 Rick Ware Racing Ford driven by J.J. Yeley seemingly out of frustration at being back in the pack with slower cars after being busted for speeding on pit road. Hamlin’s No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was faster than Yeley’s Ford and Hamlin could’ve easily passed him with no contact at all. After the race, Yeley called Hamlin out for his hypocrisy to Frontstretch saying: “From a guy who’s been preaching respect for the last couple weeks [it] seemed really silly on lap 32 knowing it was going to be a short run. And obviously, he had no worries or issues.”
Well, that’s just who Hamlin is and has always been. He wants all your respect, but he’s never going to give you any.