When It Comes To Breaking Records, Context Matters

IOWA CITY, IOWA- MARCH 3: Guard Caitlin Clark #22 of the Iowa Hawkeyes waves to the crowd during senior day festivities after the match-up against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on March 3, 2024 in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)
Matthew Holst/Getty Images

Once again, progressive forces in the media have seized control of the narrative in college athletics.

A while back we were told we must accept that transgender athletes CeCé Telfer and Lia Thomas were female athletes, because they said so. Now we are being told that the University of Iowa’s Caitlin Clark, a phenomenal female basketball player, is the NCAA’s new all-time leading scorer (3,685 points) because she surpassed Pete Maravich’s long-standing scoring record (3,667 points).

When I first read the reports, I kept looking for a qualifier that would correctly label her as the NCAA’s greatest all-time scorer in women’s basketball history. So far, however, every bit of reporting I’ve perused — from ESPN to the alphabet media news outlets along with various social media tributes — all celebrate Caitlin Clark beating Pete Maravich’s record. That’s it. No qualifier.

As the proud father of a former women’s Division 1 NCAA athlete, you will not find a more supportive fan of women’s athletics. Indeed, my issue with the trans movement injecting itself into NCAA sports is that it makes a mockery of the entire concept of women’s athletics and neuters Title IX advancements in the NCAA.

Ms. Clark’s achievement is truly remarkable. And, yes, technically she did surpass “Pistol Pete” as the all-time NCAA basketball scorer. But let us return, once again, to cold, hard reality.

First off, during Maravich’s era, there was no three-point line, no shot clock, and no dunking. It was a different game. Second, Maravich played only three seasons for LSU, since freshmen were ineligible to play on varsity teams in the late 60s. But of course, that’s not the elephant in the room. 

There remains one other unavoidable and seminal fact: Ms. Clark is a woman playing against other women. Maravich played against men and not just any men. During his 1967-1970 career at LSU his collegiate contemporaries included the likes of Kareem Adbul-Jabar (Lew Alcindor) (7’2”) and Elvin Hayes (6’9”) and many others known for their tremendous ability on the court. That alone should be enough to end the argument. As impressive as Ms. Clark’s stats may be, they should be calculated on the women’s side of the basketball ledger.

For the legacy media, however, political correctness drives the headlines, like this one from CBS Sports: “Caitlin Clark Becomes NCAA All-Time Leading Scorer.” UPI’s headline reads: “Alone at the Top: Caitlin Clark sets NCAA all time points record.” Yahoo! News says she broke the women’s and men’s all-time leading scoring record. “Caitlin Clark breaks Pete Maravich’s NCAA all-time scoring record”

Yahoo! News does remind us that there are women’s and men’s sports before pivoting back to “all-time NCAA leader,” which is pretty typical of the dissonance so many journalists must force themselves to overcome when reporting such landmarks.

Yet, this is not a new phenomenon. 

Many years ago, during an interview on NPR, John McEnroe stated Serena Williams was the greatest female tennis player in history. When the female interviewer suggested dropping gender from the equation, McEnroe refused:

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, best tennis player in the world – you know, why say female player?

MCENROE: Well, because if she was – if she played the men’s circuit, she’d be, like, 700 in the world.

When CBS News anchor Nora O’Donnell subsequently asked McEnroe if he wanted to apologize for his remarks, he rightfully refused again. Facts are facts. 

Williams herself has backed McEnroe’s assessment, telling David Letterman:

If I were to play Andy Murray, I would lose, 6-0, 6-0, in five to six minutes, maybe 10 minutes … The men are a lot faster, they serve harder, they hit harder. … It’s a completely different game.

Ms. Williams, who has more grand slam wins (23) than either Roger Federer (20) or Rafael Nadal (22) — but one less than Novak Djokovic (24) —  clearly does not consider herself in the same league. She understands men’s tennis and women’s tennis are far from the same sport. As such, Serena Williams, along with Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, and Margaret Court, deserve their own places as the greatest women tennis players in history.

Ms. Clark’s accomplishments are truly remarkable, but truth and accuracy in journalism still matter. Weren’t we recently told by collegiate presidents themselves that context matters? I should think it applies to men’s versus women’s athletics most of all when making superlative claims based on numbers with no qualifiers added.

So look up to Caitlin Clark for her stunning play, yes. And congratulate her, as I do. If her drive and hard work are reflections of her character as a whole, as I suspect they are, she is a role model America’s kids, girls especially, should emulate. But let’s not try to make her into more than she is. Why? Because truth matters. This is a concept the media seem to have left behind in their relentless mission to create rather than report the narrative to achieve their social engineering goals.

We know that Ms. Clark could not compete head-to-head with the man whose record she has beaten. We know this because there is not a woman who could genuinely compete, let alone be a force, in the NBA against the best players of the world on the same court. Otherwise, the NBA would be filled with women too. Instead, they have their own league.

So, unless Ms. Clark’s record was achieved against male players, her stats should not therefore be held up to those of Maravich. Such a qualifier would not relegate women’s athletics to second-tier status.

As the success of women’s tennis has shown, people will still appreciate and marvel at awesome playing in all forms from both sexes. Why can’t we just leave it at that?

* * *

Brad Schaeffer is a commodities trader, author, columnist, and musician whose eclectic body of writing can be found in the Wall Street Journal, New York Post, New York Daily News, Daily Wire, National Review, The Hill, The Federalist, Zerohedge, and others. His latest book LIFE IN THE PITS: My Time As A Trader On The Rough-And-Tumble Exchange Floors is available on Amazon and soon Audible. 

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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