#MNR: Title IX Heroes: The Melanin Edition
“Give it up for the ladies!”
Babs Bunny (Brooklyn Babs)
2 Connecticut 49
1 South Carolina 64
NCAA Tournament – Championship (Women’s)
Target Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Last night, women’s basketball icon Coach Dawn Staley led her prolific South Carolina Gamecocks (35-2) to the NCAA Women’s Basketball National Championship over perennial powerhouse UConn Huskies (30-6), led by Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma, 64-49, in a game they led from wire to wire. SC was clearly the better team, dominating to the point that my sis Jon Jon pondered in our group text whether Stanford, the defending champions who were “upset” by UConn in this year’s national semifinal, would have been the better opponent. Perhaps. But, like I replied, it probably wouldn’t have mattered who stood in SC’s path. They were a team of destiny (pardon the pun, IYKYK), and no team was going to stop the Gamecocks from cutting the nets down in Minneapolis. SC brought a defensive intensity reminiscent of their coach during her storied playing career. Final 4 MOP (Most Outstanding Player) Aaliyah Boston, who came up a putback short in last year’s Final Four, would not be denied this season. Her 2021 tears in defeat were transformed into tears of joy in 2022. Boston, a double-double machine of historic proportions (30 this season), finished with 11 points and 16 rebounds. The point total is misleading, for the Huskies double teamed Boston for basically the entire game. But those double teams led to an offensive rebound fest for SC, as they were +15 (21-6) and +25 on the boards (49-24) overall. Many of the offensive rebounds led to easy putback buckets for SC. The darling of the evening was easily 5’7” point goddess Destanni Henderson, who led the Gamecocks with 26 points, including three trifectas. She also led the team with four assists. The Huskies and Coach Auriemma suffered their first loss in a national final, previously 11-0 in the championship game. Last season’s National Player of the Year Paige Bueckers led the Huskies with 14 points but was stifled most of the night by Henderson’s smothering defense.
The 2021-2022 Gamecocks were a thoroughly dominant team. They went 14-0 against teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. They became the 12th team to go wire to wire as the AP number one and win the whole damn thing. Their dominance was on full display last night, as they scored 13 of the game’s first 15 points and led 30-12 early in the second quarter, never looking back. Their aforementioned advantage on the glass was the second best in the history of the women’s tournament. Coach Staley improved to 2-0 in national championship games.
I never pondered how much Coach Staley’s achievements and influence have meant to Black girls and women until I was in a mini-group chat with my sisters Jon Jon and Dr. Lisa during the game last night. Both ladies are sports junkies. The elation they felt last night brought genuine joy to my heart. It was bigger than the game. Coach Staley is showing Black girls across the country that they don’t have to be a part of a traditional machine to be successful. They don’t have to go to Storrs, CT, Waco, TX, or Stanford/Palo Alto, CA to be validated (I didn’t include Knoxville, TN cuz I’m a Lady Vols fan – RIP Coach Summitt). They can go down to Columbia, South Cackalac and ball for the legend from Iladelph. I love Dawn so much because she, the Burge twins, and their UVA Cavaliers were my introduction to women’s college basketball in the early ‘90s. I loved her gritty, all-out style of play and unrelenting attitude. She kept a straight-faced mug years before Chris Webber (fuck nigga) [dis]graced the floor in Ann Arbor. She’s always been my favorite point goddess, and I’m proud of her. Better, WE are proud of her. Lisa has already copped her national title tee and matching socks to go with a fresh AF pair of ’97 Air Max she recently copped. And, yes, I’m still player hating you a day later sis. Jon Jon always cops the gear/memorabilia, so I know her order prolly went in this morning. I need to cop my national champion tee for the collection. Lord knows my fat ass can’t fit into one.
I’ve recently made forays back into two of my childhood pastimes: sports card collecting and professional wrestling. For today’s blog, the focus is on wrasslin’. No, I didn’t fall out of love with wrestling because I found out the outcomes are predetermined (don’t say fake). I simply developed other interests and didn’t have the time to devote to watching all the diverse leagues (before WWE swallowed damn near every competitor whole) like I did when I was a kid. But I always kept an eye on the sport. From time-to-time, I’ve watched RAW and/or Smackdown. I had the opportunity to watch SummerSlam live on PPV in 2000, but I’d never seen a WrestleMania live until this past weekend (that Peacock subscription decision has aged very well). And I didn’t just watch, I watched BOTH NIGHTS, relegating the Men’s Final Four and Women’s Championship games to my iPhone 13 Pro Max. Mr. McMahon loves extravagance, and WM is truly an event of grandiose proportions. There were plenty of great matches to speak on, but this one is for my sistas, purriot. Check the title of the blog again if you forgot.
In perhaps the match of WrestleMania 38, Bianca Belair defeated Becky Lynch for the Raw Women’s Championship. “The Man” (one of Becky’s nicknames to those who don’t know) pretty much embarrassed Bianca in last year’s SummerSlam, defeating Belair for the Smackdown Championship in a pathetic 26 seconds. It almost seemed as if fate would repeat itself, with Lynch trying to quick pin her several times early in the match. But Bianca kept fighting. She showed her prowess as perhaps the best female athlete in the sport. Her relentlessness wore Lynch down as the match persisted, and eventually Bianca pinned her to win the title belt. I screamed in enjoyment as if the Yankees had just won #28 (smh), knowing what her victory meant to all the Black girls who are aficionados of the sport with dreams of one day following in her path. The WWE hasn’t exactly been on the cutting edge of racial equality (IMO) over the years, so it was refreshing to see one of us back in the driver’s seat. Titles are won and lost at Mr. McMahon’s whim (unless you’re Roman Reigns), so there’s no telling how long she’ll continue to wear the strap this time ‘round. But hey, she stole the spotlight on the sport’s biggest stage. Big ups, Bianca. I – we’re proud of you.
In an action-packed Fatal 4-Way tag team match for the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship, Sasha Banks and Naomi triumphed over Carmella & Queen Zelina (the champs), Rhea Ripley & Liv Morgan, and Shayna Bazler & Natalya. To the best of my drug-distorted memory (residual – I’m still clean), this was my first time ever seeing a Fatal 4-Way, and I was far from disappointed. The action was frenetic for the entire match. But HOLD ON FOR A MINUTE (Piperboy Williams voice)! In a weekend full of amazing ring entrances, Sasha Banks and Naomi stole the show, coming out in a lime green Lamborghini that was fresher than produce in a supermarket in a white neighborhood. But back to the action... like I said, the match was intense from jump, as all eight ladies beat up on each other as only WWE athletes can. It seemed like it could have been anyone’s match until Banks and Naomi seized control late and Sasha pinned Rhea Ripley to win the belts. It was a special night that no one in attendance or who watched from home will ever forget, especially the Black girls who watched. It was a moment in Black excellence. WE got to shine under the brightest lights the sport has to offer. Again, I’m exceedingly proud of the ladies for their achievement.
GIVE IT UP FOR THE LADIES!!!
BLACK POWER (BLACK FIST EMOJI)
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