Negative comments can follow statements where a writer who initiates them has been judged to overglorify his subject.  Nevertheless, this writer risks the negative reactions to write about a sports phenomenon that did not come to his attention through the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The matter shines a spotlight on women in college basketball, competing throughout their various college regional conferences as well as seeking national title fame.

The writer could have—but did not—get more interested in college women’s play until the 2017-2018 season mainly because the two Oregon basketball men’s teams previously followed most closely, Oregon State and University of Oregon, have not done as well as in some years past. So, while competition-level successes wax and wane from one year to the next and, as the basketball bounced in courts at OSU and UO this year, it’s the women who’ve far and away done better than the guys.

Several generally apparent conditions of play with the women in their games make them quite appealing.  Play is almost exclusively conducted without dunks and, from this observer’s vantage, also without trash talk, the first, a show-off practice that breeds arrogance and disgust, while the second simply fosters anger, resentment and a focus on retaliatory language rather than playing a skill-based game.  Mostly, college women play basketball with a grace and style reminiscent of how it was played back when there were regular displays of sportsmanship (now “sportswomanship”) and Good Samaritan-like caring for each other.

Meanwhile, one of America’s items of unfinished business is race relations.  Young Americans are our future and—as certain as certain can be—it is the young people of our nation who will finally take us to that place of inter-racial relationships where we can declare indisputable greatness. What’s seen with these college women playing together as teammates and in competition with other college team players is a mix of all our races, creeds and sub-cultures.  Across the U.S. there are players from many an overseas origin, affording international flavors for everyone involved. These young women—and the young men—who play in competition break all the old barriers and will ultimately form a more perfect union.

There’s another angle to college basketball and all sports: the corruption due to excessive profit-hungry business entities that have crept into college men’s sports at present, most poignantly displayed in the ranks of college basketball teams.  Big money thrown around by the nation’s major sport shoe and clothing makers is being used to recruit individuals down into high school levels with huge payoffs to agents, coaches, and the youth and their family members. Articles in the press throughout the country reveal and decry these highly illegal, corrupt practices. Such activities must cease.  Although Adidas, Nike and Under Armor do not appear interested in cleaning up and too often deny their unlawful business dealings, the NCAA is purportedly on the job while it’s hoped that the NCAA will continue to work aggressively to return basketball and all college sports to true amateur status.

We need to recapture our integrity, our honesty and our very souls in the world of amateur sports for their worth in building character and constitution.  As things therein stand now amateur sports are under attack not only by sports leaders and the sports industry but also by the bad examples of far too many American leaders at the federal level. It is sincerely hoped that what’s underway by nefarious conduct in men’s basketball will not infect women’s basketball, although will if walls are not built to prevent it.  Such downgrades in conduct place the U.S. in ever lower esteem at home and abroad and introduce foul play and making money as the only important value and consideration.

A final thought has to do with guiding our children and youth to find things to do with their spare hours that lead to healthy developmental outcomes.  The example best known to this writer was a couple of sisters, who, from their earliest ages, were involved in competitive swimming and singing/piano music programs. It was by and through these activities that their focus was on doing well in extracurricular activities while that attention in turn positively influenced efforts for higher grades efforts in their school studies.  They’re grown now: One is an industrial/manufacturing engineer with a Fortune 500 company while the other is a high school teacher who instructs in business courses and career-building school-learning functions.  Sustained parental guidance and support for them paid off in life successes that can serve as a template for other families.

(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)