Sally Ann Shurmur: Sports Meets History As Final Eight Begins

Columnist Sally Ann Shurmur writes, "When Caitlin Clark plays, it’s not just girls’ basketball, it’s history. It’s not just what she does by herself, but that she makes everyone around her better."

Sally Ann Shurmur

April 04, 20243 min read

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She’s writing about sports — again.

It seems like a year ago that we watched Wagner beat Howard 71-68 in the First Four on March 19.

We learned that Wagner is on Staten Island, N.Y., and their nickname is the Seahawks.

Over the next 24 hours, we would watch CSU beat Virginia by 26 and CU beat Boi-zee State.

All of this mania comes to an end over the next four days.

The women’s Final Four is Friday starting at 5 p.m. with N.C. State and undefeated South Carolina, followed 30 minutes later by Iowa and UConn. Both games are on ESPN.

The women’s championship game is Sunday at 1 p.m. on ABC.

The men’s Final Four is Saturday on TBS and TNT with N.C. State and Purdue at 2:09 p.m., and Alabama-UConn at 4:49 p.m.

The men’s championship game is Monday evening at 7 p.m. on TBS and TNT.

On Monday night, 12.3 MILLION people watched Caitlin Clark, Kate Martin, Gabbie Marshall and the rest of the Iowa Hawkeyes dismantle the defending national champion LSU Tigers.

I still don’t know how people get into my house to see what we’re watching, but both of us plus the dog watched every minute of that game.

When Caitlin Clark plays, it’s not just girls’ basketball, it’s history. It’s not just what she does by herself, but that she makes everyone around her better. Much better.

I admit that I found girls’ basketball tough to watch once upon a time. Those little girls from little schools had a hard time in their first game at the Casper Events Center every March, shooting into the vast abyss of openness that was so unlike their cozy gyms back home.

Eventually, they’d get the hang of it, but sometimes those first eight minutes were brutal.

The difference between the men’s and women’s games today are more about perception than skill level.

Just down the road, Cowgirl head coach Heather Ezell said this after the final game of their season, the final 8 of the WNIT.

“Thank you to everyone that came out and supported this team, not just tonight but at any point this season. You make Cowgirl Basketball so special and why players love playing here.”

Carrying on a tradition started by Cowgirl coach Joe Legerski, players take to the microphone every game, win or lose, and thank the fans for coming.

Contrast that response with this, February 12 in Laramie.

“If you want good players to stay here … then you know what, when they walk into that gym, there better be people in there supporting them through thick and thin and not just when you’re winning,” Cowboy coach Jeff Linder said.

Times have changed. Girls play basketball now outside of a smelly old gym class.

Girls have changed not just basketball, but sports forever.

You might want to get on the train, because even after Caitlin takes her millions and goes to the WNBA in a couple weeks, there will be other girls right behind her, who play their guts out for the joy of the game.

As she says at the end of her Gatorade ad, “If I can do it, you can too.”

Sally Ann Shurmur can be reached at:

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Sally Ann Shurmur