Fair Play

I think I watched more basketball over the past week than I have in a couple of decades. It was thrilling and emotional and disappointing and really fun.

Then, following the emotional, and disappointing, loss to LSU in the NCAA championship game, lots of Iowa fans got mad. Mad at LSU star Angel Reese and mad at the mostly anonymous officiating crew.

It was classless, Iowa fans, and shockingly lacking self-unawareness.

Others have done a better job than I can delving into the racial and gender dynamics of calling out a Reese, a young, Black woman in a big moment, for “classlessness,” but watching Iowa fans twist themselves into knots to define where the line between self-assured shit talking in a big moment and taunting lies was sad after celebrating Caitlin Clark for her cockiness all season. Turnabout is fair play in sports, and I’m sorry it hurt your feelings.1

And blaming referees for a loss — a decisive 17-point loss — is, well, not being honest. Unless the officials gave Jasmine Carson 22 points in 22 minutes off the bench. I am the fairest of fair-weather fans, jumping on the bandwagon late in season and quick to move on, so maybe I don’t understand how basketball works.

Instead of celebrating the ride — including beating the defending and undefeated champion — the reaction took away exactly what Iowa fans said they were mad they were being distracted from: a magical season from a scrappy team with a home-grown superstar.

1 | Kudos to Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder for her response when asked Reese’s end-of-game actions: “I’m sure she was really proud of her accomplishment. And I would be really proud of my accomplishment if I made it, won the national championship too. We’re all different people, and we all have different ways to show our emotion. Again, I’ve got to focus on what I can control.”