“Who’s Caitlin Clark?” (Part One)

“Who’s Caitlin Clark?” asked the friendly enough cashier and she scanned the magazine I’d bought for a sickly BCole.  BCole had ordered some food that disagreed with her so I thought a freshly printed, commemorative Caitlin Clark magazine might lift her spirits.  BCole was, after all, the first on her block to order an Indiana Fever jersey.

Oblivious to both Clark’s college scoring barrage and my girl’s stomach bug, which were equally heinous, the cashier waited for me to answer as she thumbed through the magazine.  She’d honestly never heard of her, odd considering Clark remains all anyone can talk about.

I politely explained to the cashier, who probably didn’t know who Luca Doncic was either, what Clark had recently accomplished, how she’d led the Iowa women’s basketball team to back-to-back national championship games, how she’d set or shattered multiple Division I records in both the men’s and women’s game, and perhaps most importantly, how she single-handedly outdrew not only men’s college basketball games but also NBA games in television viewership.

“Really!” replied the cashier, now even more surprised that she’d never heard of her after I’d rattled off her rather impressive resume.

“And she was just drafted number one overall in the WNBA.”  I caught myself adding superfluous information, figuring there was no way she also knew there’s a professional basketball league for women but heavy is SportsChump’s burden of keeping the blissfully uninformed in the know.

“I guess it’s good that we have people like that.”  There was no one behind me in line for Clark’s newest fangirl to cash out so she carried on.  “My dad gets defensive when we talk about women’s sports and men’s.”  I’m paraphrasing but that was the gist of what she said.  “He’s not the only one,” I replied, guessing he didn’t have a trusty copy of Title IX by his bedside.

It seemed that we were all fine talking about Clark’s accomplishments, but feathers became ruffled once we mentioned her in the same breath as Pete Maravich, as if any one of us coming to his defense saw Maravich play live. 

BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA – FEBRUARY 21: Pete Maravich #23 of the LSU Tigers drives to the basket against the Kentucky Wildcats on February 21, 1970 at the John Parker Memorial Coliseum in Baton Rouge, LA. (Photo by Rich Clarkson/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

To be clear, no one ever said Caitlin Clark was better than Maravich.  Maravich’s all-time career-scoring record was once thought untouchable.  And before anyone retorts, allow me to clarify that I am aware that Maravich scored his 3,667 points in three seasons, because college freshmen couldn’t play back then, while it took four seasons for Clark to score her 3,685 points.  There was no three-point line back then either.  I get that too.

Now that we have that out of the way, one could easily make the case that Clark was more impactful to her sport than Maravich, and he has a building in Baton Rouge named after him.  Rest assured, when it’s all said and done, Clark probably will too, or at minimum a statue. 

Nobody watches Caitlin Clark’s new employer, the WNBA, although that’s rapidly changing.  The league has long been subsidized by its older brother.  WNBA television ratings once ranked slightly higher than Columbo reruns but, the league has experienced its highest television ratings and attendance ever and with Clark now a fixture, they look to expand upon that.  Clark is a draw.  She also brings a built-in rivalry with the second-drafted LSU’s Angel Reese and third drafted South Carolina’s Kamilla Cardoso, not to mention all those in the WNBA that have already provided her with a warm and competitive welcome.

While far-reaching, Clark’s cult of personality had not yet made it to the Publix cashiers of Plant City, at least not until I checked out in Lane 3.  The odds have been stacked against her but if she’s proven anything so far, she’s perfectly capable of handling a burden and performs well under pressure, including her cameo on Saturday Night Live.

I don’t expect everyone to know Caitlin Clark.  I don’t even expect everyone to not be intimidated by her skill set.  But her career stat line at Iowa should at least get you to raise an eyebrow.

28.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 8.2 apg, 46.2 FG%, 37.7 3PG%, 85.8 FT%.  Any way you slice, that’s impressive.

I love Pete Maravich.  I’ve read Pistol.  I vividly remember reading stories about how his dad would make him practice dribbling a basketball outside the car window as he drove at increasing speeds down the street.  It’s not contradictory to also respect Clark’s contributions to the sport.  They can peacefully coexist and not warrant guff to protect some long-standing record broken by someone of a different gender.  If we’ve learned anything from Major League Baseball, it’s that some records count, and others do not.

In the mid-1970s, Hank Aaron was chasing Babe Ruth’s home run record.  His chase represented change.  He received bundles of hate mail.  Many of them included death threats.  Of course, this was because a Black man was chasing a white man’s record.  The outright resentment surrounding Cailin breaking a man’s record nearly fifty years after Aaron’s historic home run chase might not have brought the vitriol and death threats but its comparable.  As we get older and more set in our ways, as the records we’ve revered for so long become more entrenched in our hearts, it becomes more difficult for us to accept when they’re broken. 

I say, embrace the change as there appears more harm in not doing so.  In the end, the resentment is just wasted breath and not worth the paper it’s printed on.

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4 Replies to ““Who’s Caitlin Clark?” (Part One)”

  1. Does anyone need to even open this article, without responding “do you know what HBO Max is?” Or does the first sentence of your article indicate that it was asked by someone who is living in the olden days? If that person had already joined the life in which nobody needs a television set, that person would have already come across Caitlin Clark on ESPNPlus and HBO Max.

  2. Great read. SC. Loving Women’s basketball. Back in my day… we were relegated to being cheerleaders for the guys basketball team ( I was… sorry can’t find photos). So wonderful to see women like Catlin on the court now! Love it & terrific post.

  3. I saw Pistol Pete play and I’ve seen Caitlin as well. Both impressed me greatly. Why can’t we enjoy the beauty without the whining.

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