Nykesha Sales didn't set the all-time UConn women's scoring record.
Soupy Sales did.
Geno Auriemma and his old Philly pal, Harry Perretta, connived to put Sales in the history books. But all they did was succeed in putting themselves -- and their schools -- in the comic books.
It was a sad, contrived joke. The kind of sophomoric hucksterism that gives women's basketball a pie in the face and gives the legion of backward thinkers who refuse to endorse women's sports more license to drive a wedge between the sexes.
In case you missed it: Sales, who is sidelined for the rest of her college career with a ruptured Achilles' tendon, was allowed to stand alone under the basket as UConn and Villanova lined up for the opening jump. Perretta had his Wildcats purposely step aside to allow a crippled Sales to accept the ball from Rita Williams and lay in her 2,177th and 2,178th career points.
The basket allegedly broke Kerry Bascom's school record. It is a UConn record we refuse to recognize. There shouldn't be an asterisk next to it. There should be a big clown face.
Who's coaching at UConn these days? White Fang?
Who's the athletic director? Bill Veeck? Maybe Big Lew Perkins can dress up as a midget next game.
After Sales' phony-baloney basket, the UConn players surrounded her, hugged her, squeezed her, teased her. If all the love was to say thank you to Sales for a magnificent career, they were hugs and kisses well spent. But if they were to congratulate her on breaking a legitimate record, that zany Svetlana Abrosimova would have been better served by spritzing Nykesha with seltzer water.
You honor athletes in pregame ceremonies with flowers and retired numbers. You honor athletes at banquets with trophies and medals. You dishonor athletics by rigging events. Forget all that namby-pamby innocent stuff so many try to peddle about women's sports. The women must understand rigging events is inherently dishonest. This event does not trivialize Sales' career, but it does trivialize the scoring record.
In a second bizarre twist, Auriemma said he was reciprocating by allowing Villanova to score a basket to tie it at 2. While it did re- establish statistical integrity to the game, it gave no legitimacy to the pathetic joke forever to be known as The Soupy Sales Basket.
Leah Secondo, the Huskies' radio analyst, and Rich Coppola, Channel 61 sportscaster, celebrated it as a great idea. We expected better from them.
The carnival barker on CPTV who begs people to call in and pledge hundreds of dollars for Husky Beanie Babies and UConn sweatshirts also thought it was ``a special moment.'' We expected no better.
Sales' basket holds all the credibility of the World Wrestling Federation's announcement that Pete Rose will join Mike Tyson at WrestleMania on March 29.
If the Big East is serious about maintaining the integrity of its records and games -- evidently it is not -- the first two baskets of the game must be nullified.
And since Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese played the role of Bozo and signed off on the idea, a more careful reconsideration by the NCAA is the only hope for statistical integrity.
Bascom still holds the UConn scoring record.
But regardless of what happens, Nykesha Sales accomplished something we never thought possible. She stopped being a tragic hero. With this syrupy, noxiously sweet moment of hucksterism, she agreed to be part of the ruse.
We were wrong when we wrote she was never about the points and only about the wins.
This is sad. We thought Auriemma and Chris Dailey were wiser than this. We thought Sales was humbler than this.
A certain naivete, a lack of perspective, still hounds women's sports. When the U.S. Olympic team beat co-favorite Canada in women's hockey for the gold medal last week, it was celebrated in some quarters -- including the editorial page of this newspaper -- as the Miracle On Ice II. This is such an absurd notion, it merits no rebuttal.
But it does speak to the debate over how the legion of Huskies women's fans love the players unconditionally. They stand and cheer the bench warmers when they score a free throw with 10 seconds left in a 45-point rout. They laugh and hug along with the players as they roll to 60-point blowouts.
To our eye -- trained by decades of various sports -- this is a form of humiliation. Rubbing it in, if you will. But in speaking to these folks who stay and cheer these routsfrom start to finish, we are told there is no evil intent. They are simply enjoying the event as a concert or play. Yes, they know how it will end, but they savor each act. Undoubtedly, they will see nothing wrong with Sales' phony-baloney basket.
This, of course, will be mocked by the legion of more-hardened sports fans who say the UConn women's phenomenon is nothing more than uncontrolled adulation for a product that is clearly inferior to the men.
Our response always has been the same to those who hate UConn's women's basketball and refuse to watch it.
The blowouts are worse than you think. But the good games are much better than you think.
Women's basketball is a great sport.
Rigged events like pro wrestling and The Soupy SalesBasket are pathetic.
Feb. 25, 1998: What A Farce. This Does Not Trivialize Sales' Career, But It Does Trivialize The Record
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