All too often, those of us who write opinion columns tend to dwell on the negative, primarily because it is much easier to complain of real and imagined failures of government, society, neighbors, et al. than to seek the roses nestled among the thorns. So much of editorial commentary, including that in this publication, preaches a brand of doom and gloom so dreary as to make one wonder whether there exists a break in the clouds — let alone a silver lining.
Consequently, I dedicate this commentary to a more positive aspect, especially for those of us fortunate enough to live in Columbia, Mo., or perhaps “Any Town, USA.” Despite the naysayers who are ever the loudest of prophets, we continue to enjoy the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution plus those educational and cultural amenities associated with living in a university town.
Not the least among the many advantages is the opportunity to attend major college sporting events in the Big 12 Conference. While we are in the midst of successful football, soccer and volleyball programs, I will turn my attention to basketball and, deviating from the obvious, to MU women’s basketball.
I will readily admit, having been a player, coach and referee, that for most of my life I preferred watching paint dry to watching women’s basketball. Only after I returned to Columbia in 1993 was my chauvinist attitude shattered by the realization that the women now play the game with virtually the same skills, athleticism and tenacity as the men.
Although I am the prototypical male who finds it almost as difficult to own up to mistakes as to ask directions, I am now in agreement with legendary coach John Wooden that the game as played by women is the superior spectator sport. Women play a disciplined game, one that features give-and-go passing, tenacious defense and teamwork — in short, applying fundamentals as opposed to flair and acrobatics. This is the game most of us learned to play.
The MU women’s basketball team provides all that I have described and more; however, with the exception of about 2,000 hard-core, enthusiastic fans, the team is all but ignored by a community seemingly unaware of the extremely affordable and exciting brand of round ball offered by the Tigers. Coached by Cindy Stein, a dynamic woman with a superior knowledge of the game, an engaging personality, a ready wit and a dry sense of humor, this talented team is well worth the price of a season ticket.
In addition to playing a competitive brand of basketball in a very tough conference, these young women are a delight, both on and off the court. They play the game the way it was meant to be played, they are approachable and friendly, and they sincerely appreciate fan support. And players will rise to the occasion when performing before large, cheering home crowds.
Along with the easy availability of good seats and parking, another plus for MU women’s basketball is the relative stability of the team. Most are here until graduation; the instances of players leaving early to sign professional contracts or for disciplinary or academic infractions are rare indeed.
I will admit to an excess of prejudice; nevertheless, these 15 years of women’s basketball here at MU have been some of life’s most treasured moments. We have not only thoroughly enjoyed the game but also been rewarded by the transformation of these former high school and junior college recruits from tyros to polished team players and refined young women.
The game of basketball as taught by Stein and her assistant coaches and performed by the Tigers won’t include monster slam dunks and acrobatic moves one might associate with the Flying Wallendas, but it is a sound, fundamental and an exciting style of play. To the “purists” who still believe as I once did: The MU women’s basketball fans also include the men’s basketball team.
Women’s basketball games are long on entertainment and easy on the pocketbook. Call 884-PAWS to order tickets or purchase at Mizzou Arena on game days. You will be glad you did.
Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via e-mail at JKarlUSMC@aol.com.