Wednesday, March 24, 2010

UConn women vs. a top high school boys team: Who would win?

My former colleagues in Pittsburgh are at it again. The “question of the week” on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Varsity Blog is this: If the top-ranked and undefeated Connecticut women’s basketball team played the Mt. Lebanon High School boys’ team, which has been ranked in the top 10 nationally this season, who would win?

They had a similar debate in the mid-1990s. When the Penn State women’s team was ranked No. 1, the sports staffers debated whether the Lady Lions could beat the boys’ team at Shaler High School. Among the Shaler players was eventual NBA first-round draft pick Danny Fortson.

I always made the case for the women—superior teamwork, pinpoint passing, less ego involved, etc. Did I think they would win? Honestly, I didn’t know and I didn’t care.

But the question bothers me; it always has. I know such debates are part of sports, and it’s fun to compare teams from different eras, argue over which players are best. This debate, however, seems silly at best, sexist at worst. Check out the poster who noted that "men have no time of the month" and added, "that can lead to a real 'off' day."

Does anyone expect that a top-ranked welterweight boxer could beat a top-ranked heavyweight boxer? Even if that welterweight is Oscar de la Hoya? No. But fight fans don’t think that way. They rank the all-time greats “pound for pound,” virtually leveling the playing field.

Perhaps that explains the poll results as of Wednesday evening. Sports writer Mike White writes, “There are over 500 people who already have voted on this subject. It's shocking to me that 75 percent say the Connecticut women would win. Wow. Hard to believe. Maybe it's just me but when the other team is a lot bigger, stronger, quicker, faster and shoots just as well as the other team, who do you think will win?”

On the court? If the Mt. Lebanon boys are bigger, faster and well-coached, they'll probably win. But does that matter? Is that the way to determine who’s best? “Pound for pound,” I’ll take the UConn women any day.

-- Lori Shontz

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