Guys challenging a WNBA player to a one-on-one game miss the point

If you happen to be a member of the Y chromosome club and are a fan of basketball, have you ever seen one of the WNBA players and thought to yourself, “you know, I could probably take her one-on-one?” If you have, we can draw two immediate conclusions. First, unless your full-time job is playing point guard for the Celtics she’s probably going to kick your butt. And second, you’re kind of a jerk.

Do men really do that, though? I wouldn’t have thought so, but according to Washington Mystics power forward Devereaux Peters, it happens more often than you might imagine. And what does Ms. Peters do when guys try to pull that on her? She just ignores them. (Washington Post)

A few weeks ago, as I was walking down the street to my car, a man stopped me to begin a conversation about my height. Here we go, I thought. He asked the usual questions, prodding me about my basketball career, and then there it was: “Let’s play one-on-one. I bet I could beat you.”

It was far from the first time. I’m a tall woman, at 6-foot-2, and almost everywhere I go, people notice me. The first question is: Do you play basketball? When they find out I’m a professional player, some are just impressed and want to know more about the life of a pro athlete. Most of the men I talk to, though, ask me to play one-on-one.

If you’ve ever had that impulse, let me stop you here. I’m not going to play you one-on-one. I’m never going to play you one-on-one. I have been playing basketball my entire life, and for just as long I have been challenged by men who think they are better than me. I had to prove my skill in middle school against the boys who thought girls don’t play basketball. I had to prove my skill in high school when the guys’ egos were hurt because the girls basketball team was more successful and more popular than theirs. I had to prove it in college when grown men started challenging me to one-on-one games because there was no way this college woman was better than they were. Time and time again, I have trounced men — far too many to count. Now I have nothing to prove.

This is only the latest in a series of stories we’ve covered here about fundamental differences between the genders and how these unique traits manifest themselves in the world of professional sports. Most recently we looked at LPGA all-star Brittany Lincicome and her attempt at playing against the men in one of the PGA tour stops a couple of weeks ago. Lincicome has won nearly all of the big tournaments and accolades available in the LPGA and is a world-class athlete. But even on a week when nearly every single male golfer you’ve ever heard of was across the ocean playing in the British Open, she not only failed to make the cut to play over the weekend, but only managed a better score than three of the roughly 160 men who finished the first two rounds.

What does that have to do with the essay written by Devereaux Peters? It’s almost an exact parallel, but it approaches the question from the opposite direction. As a man, you might be the hottest baller in your after-work muni league and keep yourself in good shape. But odds are that if you walked out on the court with Devereaux Peters she would smoke you like a salmon fillet. Similarly, if you play golf in your local club’s men’s golf league, shooting from the blue tees, you might put up a fairly low score on a regular basis. But Brittany Lincicome could probably mop up the clubhouse with you.

But if we put Devereaux Peters out on the court one-on-one against LeBron James or Anthony Davis, what would happen? Pretty much the same result which befell Brittany Lincicome at the Barbasol Championship. I’d wager that pretty much every NBA starter (and probably a few of the college seniors who are headed for the pros) could beat her. The fact is that the world’s best female athletes in virtually any physical competition we’ve looked at would be able to beat 99.99% of the men in the country. Most of you just aren’t professional athletes no matter how good you think you are. But when we put the very best women up against the very best men, the men do better.

That doesn’t mean that men are “superior” or women are “inferior.” The two genders are simply different, with one having built-in genetic advantages, making them, on average, taller, heavier, faster and stronger. And that’s why it’s wrong to allow men to compete against women in professional or Olympic venues. And it’s also why you’re a jerk if you’re a man that’s running around trying to compete against women.

But if you’re a guy who plays in your local sports bar league and you really want to take on one of the WNBA starters, I almost hope you get your chance as long as I get to come and watch. I’ll bring the popcorn and the beer to assuage your hurt feelings after she dunks on you like a cop in a donut shop.

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