Out of the mouths of sons. It was five-year-old Kevin Grentz who gave his mother, Theresa, a cute albeit harsh perspective on her role as coach of the women's basketball team that will represent the U.S. in Barcelona. "I'm excited about going to the Olympics with you, Mom," said Kevin. "I'm really hoping you can get me Michael Jordan's autograph."
Is it any wonder that, having been left to follow in the considerable wake of the country's male basketball players, alias the Dream Team, America's female players are doomed to short shrift even in their own homes? Though the women are merely the D-Team's Shadow Crew, only the Shadow seems to know about the strange workings of international basketball. After all, it's not the U.S. men who have earned gold medals in two consecutive Olympics and have won 45 of their last 47 games in international competition while saving Uncle Sam's reputation on the court.
The fact is, the U.S. women have no nifty team moniker and not much individual identity. Any reader who can rattle off the names of the two most famous active women pro basketball players—Paula Abdul and Larry Johnson's Grandmama don't count—gets an all-expenses-paid trip to the women's Olympic trials in Colorado Springs.
Whoops. Too late. The first round is over.
The problem is, of course, that hardly anybody knew such trials were going on last week, what with all the anticipation over the alleged excitement we'll all feel while watching Messrs. Jordan, Ewing, Malone, Johnson and Barkley massacre some poor, suspecting nation in the men's competition this summer in Spain. Has it been ever thus, that women's hoops has labored under that signature song written by the immortal Travis Tritt: Here's a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares)?
"I'm quite used to it (the disparity in interest between the men's and women's games]," says Teresa Edwards, a former All-America at Georgia and a two-time Olympian. "I feel I won't be involved in this game when we get to the point when women finally get their due. We've worked so hard for women's basketball, and we've done all we can. I can't let it upset me. But at the same time, if you get used to things, you can't change them. I believe we have been much stronger than them mentally."
"Them" means the U.S. men's international teams, which since being embarrassed by Brazil in the Pan American Games in 1987 have had some rather pathetic finishes: third in the '88 Olympics, second in the '90 Goodwill Games, third in the '90 Worlds and third in the '91 Pan Ams. The women's lament is that even when there was no Dream Team but just a nightmare (yeah, you, John Thompson), nobody noticed the terrific things the women's team was up to.
"The resentment doesn't start with the Dream Team," said Sonja Henning, Stanford '91, Pan Am squad '91, last week in Colorado Springs. "It goes way beyond that. What upsets me is the exposure that team has gotten. The U.S. had a Dream Team in 1984 and 1988—a Dream Team of women who won the gold medal. Those female athletes were not given the same type of recognition. Maybe someday women will be treated as equals. Obviously, that's not going to happen this summer."
But wait. If basketball aficionados can turn their attention away from men's hoops for a moment, they might notice such U.S. international stars as Venus Lacy and Bridgette Gordon, who are professionals in their own right—if not in their own country.
Lacy, 6'4", the former roughhouse rebounder from Louisiana Tech, has played for two years in Japan with a smile on her face, a gold VL on her front teeth and brutality in her heart. She's Charles Barkley with class, and last week she was positively Barkleyian concerning the women's trials, which she said "aren't fair. The men already have their team picked, and we've got to bust our tail to get on the team. People have never treated us equal and don't look at us as being professionals. But we're all playing for the same team—the U.S.—so everyone should be equal. What makes them better than us?"