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Give Griner a break

Laura Coletti | Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The women’s basketball national championship was over a week ago. I watched with friends, many of them witnessing our own women’s basketball team compete for the first time all year, as two great sides battled in a very intense game. While many of the people I was with shouted at the television, I was a bit more contemplative. This column may be a week too late, but as they say, better late than never. Here are my two cents.

First, I couldn’t have been more proud to be a student at Notre Dame as I watched these incredible people represent our school. The girls are so tough and unbelievably talented, and to make it to back-to-back championship games is a feat not oft accomplished (unless, of course, you’re UConn). Coach McGraw has an amazing program that will continue to be one of the best in the country.

Now, on Baylor: a few points I’d like to make. This team deserved to win a national championship and yes, when I say “team,” I mean the whole team, not just one player.The group of friends I watched the game with spent a lot of time talking about Baylor center Brittany Griner. Most of the comments were rude and inappropriate, regarding her gender, or rather, questioning her gender. At one point, my younger brother texted me, “Nice Adam’s apple, Brittany Griner.” I’ll admit, I joined in, laughing and teasing, for about the first half or so.

Then I got sort of pensive. I try to see both sides of every equation, and so my thoughts became, “Here is this girl using her talent to do something great, and she’s got hundreds of thousands of people across the nation making fun of her for having a deep voice and a flat chest and for being very tall.” I can’t imagine being in that position and I admire Griner for having such strength amid all the negativity and name-calling.

Secondly, I’ve heard a few ignorant people say that this girl is, “just tall,” and that’s all there is to her game. Yes, anyone with eyes can see that she is tall, but if she were “just tall” she would not be a national champion. After playing basketball at a competitive level for the majority of my life, I know how girls who are “just tall” play. The ball bounces off their hands. they completely miss the rim and they are immobile. My AAU coach called them “stiffs.” Griner is tall and talented. She’s got great footwork and constantly has to work through being double and triple teamed. She’s got a good mid-range jumper and court vision and incredible athleticism. She is not “just tall.”

My third and last point: Griner is not the only weapon the Baylor Bears have. She is not the whole team. If she were, wouldn’t they have won the national championship for each year Griner has been on the team? Point guard Odyssey Sims and the rest of the Baylor team were equally as integral to Baylor’s success and the team could not have reached the success that they did without every player. Yes, Griner was a primary force for the Bears, but someone had to get her the ball.

I realize this is old news and that Baylor may even be facing NCAA sanctions at this point for phone call/text message violations. But lay off Griner, because underneath one of the best basketball players in the country is a heart and soul that doesn’t deserve to be the brunt of insults from a nation of watchers.