Lady Raider basketball player Ebony Rowe celebrates with a teammate after winning the Sun Belt Conference title in Little Rock, Ark. (Photo courtesy of MTSU/B. Lambert)
With two women’s basketball championships won last week, Rutherford County has become the place to watch quality action on the hardwood.
The MTSU women’s basketball team won the Sun Belt Conference title on Monday, while a couple of days earlier, the Riverdale High Lady Warriors gained another TSSAA state title.
These are both tremendous accomplishments for area athletics, but the women still have to fight for respect around town, especially from some male sports fans.
For example, a couple of days ago, a few of my coworkers here at The Murfreesboro Post and I had lunch at Jefferson’s Restaurant.
As we were waiting for our food, I asked the manager if he could please turn the television to ESPNU because the MTSU game against Arkansas-Little Rock for the Sun Belt title was about to tip off.
A few minutes later, a trio of men who looked like college students walked in and commented to his buddy, “Why do they have on women’s basketball?”
At first, I played it off as not a big deal, but it stuck with me throughout the rest of the day and made me upset, especially after the Lady Raiders won another conference title and earned another trip to the NCAA tournament.
It was not the fact that the patron made the comment because he is entitled to his opinion. It was the attitude he showed toward everyone else, including the group of us who were enjoying our meal and watching the game.
Like I said earlier, I was not too sure if they were college students, but either way, they should be because it was our local university playing for a chance to advanced to another NCAA tournament for the 10th time in the past 11 seasons.
Although I was not in Hot Springs, Ark., for the tournament, our sports editor Jeff Jordan was in attendance. However, I did watch the entire game on Tuesday.
I think everyone here in Rutherford County should be proud of the Lady Raiders for their accomplishments this season and also the Lady Warriors dominating performance over the past weekend.
The players and coaches on both teams carry themselves like champions on and off the court. But they, along with the rest of women’s basketball around the country, still face an uphill battle from disrespectful people who think just because the players are female that they can not play basketball.
I’m here to tell them and the rest of those uneducated people this: Just because some these players don't get played on “Sports Center” the next day, it does not mean women cannot play basketball.
This is not just a local problem, but a nationwide issue.
Too many times this week, I would flip on the television to watch some of these women’s conference tournaments to see who would qualify for the NCAA tournament and the stands were almost empty, even for the bigger conferences like the SEC, Big 10, Big 12, etc.
It gets really bad once the actual NCAA tournament starts because the arenas are mostly empty even if a local team is playing at that site. It's really sad for these players, coaches and officials who put their time and energy into making their programs competitive across the nation.
Murfreesboro should be proud of the Lady Raiders this season and every season. The program, while not as storied as the Lady Volunteers, has quite a history with 16 NCAA tournament appearances in its 38 years (comparatively the men have only been invited six times).
But this isn't just the story for MTSU.
It seems some fans, except for Tennessee, the University of Connecticut and a few others, will spend their life savings to watch a football team play, but will not do the same for a competitive women’s basketball team.
It is really a sad state of affairs, but no one around the sport seems to have an answer to fix these problems.
My wish is for sports fans to wake up and notice that women athletes can like play sports as well as the guys.