Dominance is many things. It is impressive, it is significant, it is historic.
What it is not is interesting.
Dominance is a bully, and the antics of a bully grow tedious quickly. That’s why so many people complain about the never-ending success of the Connecticut women, and wonder whether the Huskies are good for the game of basketball. UConn wins again? Yawn. Been there, seen that.
Enter Texas. Even though Kim Mulkey’s Baylor Lady Bears battled back for a rousing 70-67 victory on Monday night in Austin to put themselves in position for a seventh straight Big 12 title, it’s plainly evident that the Longhorns can play with Baylor. They have no fear of the Lady Bears. The temperature on this rivalry is starting to percolate.
And that’s good for everyone.
It’s good for Texas, obviously. It’s deliciously entertaining for the fans. It’s great for the Big 12 and women’s basketball as a whole.
Oddly, it’s even good for Baylor. The Big 12 hasn’t delivered a legitimate women’s basketball rivalry since Texas A&M left the league in 2012, putting an end to a feisty feud between the Aggies and Lady Bears. Such squabbles can spur one to greatness, as they did when A&M won the NCAA title in 2011 or when Baylor responded with a 40-0 national championship season of its own the next year.
The Aggies made Baylor better, and vice versa.
A classic rivalry contains an edge to it, a fire. Honestly, it’s better if the teams don’t like one another. I’m not suggesting that the games should be Laimbeerish (read: dirty) or that the teams should spurn the idea of sportsmanship. But we don’t want our rivals to be lovey-dovey buddies, either.
I’m getting the sense that the Baylor-Texas rivalry is awash in general distaste, like a lima bean smoothie.
Baylor coach Kim Mulkey squirted some lighter fluid on the feud’s flames following the win when she said, “To all the naysayers out there, there’s not a new sheriff in town yet.”
The comment didn’t sit well with Texas coach Karen Aston.
“I’m well aware that we’ve got to talk about sheriffs and all kinds of crap, but I thought we played really hard and we just didn’t win,” Aston said.
Asked again later about the remark, Aston said, “I’m over it. I’m over all that mess, honestly. There should be a lot of appreciation for the way these two teams play the game. Seriously.”
Good stuff all around. Those are the kinds of zingers that make for ideal T-shirt and poster fodder for fired-up fan bases. For if you check the DNA of any classic conflict, you’re going to find plenty of bad blood.
To be fair, both coaches were complimentary of the other team. And all Mulkey was really trying to stress with the “sheriff line” was that her program wasn’t dead yet. The people ready to crown the Longhorns as the new queens of Big 12 women’s hoops may have spoken too soon.
But it’s also apparent that Texas has taken a major jump. The Longhorns are a legit contender, a national-level nuisance to Baylor’s long stretch of conference preminence. Aston has stockpiled a roster of Happy Meals (McDonald’s All-Americans) that isn’t going away anytime soon.
Round 3 seems inevitable at the Big 12 tournament. (Can the league just give those two a bye to the championship game?) Even more enticing would be a fourth meeting in the NCAA tournament. A deep-fried press box buffet wouldn’t be as delicious as that matchup. It would showcase this bubbling, boiling rivalry to the whole country.
Sorry, Dominance, take a hike. Give me Dissension any day.