You Can't Force the Public to Like Things
Caitlin Clark is more popular than her opponents and nothing can be done
On Friday, I wrote a post about rising interest in women’s college basketball. I didn’t mention that the sport had offered a fun, uncomplicated reprieve from some of the more fraught cultural arguments, in part because what happened over its Final Four weekend seemed so inevitable: A big fight over race and fairness.
The women’s Final Four saw a weekend of handwringing over its newfound popularity, culminating in a controversy: LSU’s victorious Angel Reese (Black) taunting Iowa’s defeated Caitlin Clark (White) with the same gesture Clark had used against a rival. On the one hand, Clark was getting a taste of her own medicine. On the other hand, the championship game was decided and some people were put off by the act of tracking down the loser and rubbing it in. It became a cultural flashpoint at the exact moment women’s college basketball was mainstream enough to produce such a flashpoint.
But it wasn’t just about the highly public moment and the respective census categories. It was also about how Caitlin Clark’s popularity has her sport on tilt, apparently. College women’s basketball has traditionally strived for the attention the men’s game had in abundance. Now that the attention is here, in the form of Clark, prominent voices in that sport are attempting to deprogram however it happened.