Game Time: Brittney Griner's Punch, One Small Step For Women's Basketball

I'm all about change for the better. If we're not constantly evaluating ourselves, those with whom we surround ourselves, and our day-to-day activities, then we are stagnating. Sometimes change works, sometimes it doesn't.

In the last 48 hours, we've seen both ends of the spectrum. Change for the worse came in the form of the return of The Office from its Olympic-induced hiatus. We were "treated" to a one-hour episode that centered around the delivery of Jim's and Pam's baby girl.

I'll leave the multi-hundred-word review to those who do them much better than I here on Hair Balls, but suffice to say as a longtime fan of and cheerleader for The Office, I am starting to border on anger for what the writers have done to the show. If you want to make Pam and Jim and their hourly hijinx with their new baby and their sappy marriage the focal points of the show, spin them off so they can die a slow ten-episode death buried on Tuesday nights somewhere.

"Coming up next, Jim makes a mix tape for Pam, but when their new baby vomits on it, Jim is left scrambling for a last-minute fifteen-month anniversary present for his downtrodden wife. It's THE HALPERTS!! Only on NBC!!"

Please, Office writers, either make them interesting again or move on to something else. Basically, stop being a slightly funnier version of Mad About You. Be The Office again. That's all I ask.

On the flip side, unlike The Office taking something that was once great and willingly turning it into a pile of turds, we have women's basketball, a sport that (and I'm sorry if I offend anyone) I think you could use to make witnesses crack in interrogation if you played it on an endless loop.


By now, you've probably all seen Houston's own Brittney Griner (all 6-foot-8 of her), Baylor Bear women's center, go gangsta on Jordan Barncastle of Texas Tech after Barncastle sort of flung Griner a few feet during a Big XII women's basketball game. In case, you missed it, here it is...

For her troubles, Barncastle caught what appeared to be a bloody nose. She had to change jerseys but did come back into the game to shoot free throws. My first thought after this punch...WOW, Barncastle was really lucky. We all know Griner is the first woman's player to truly throw down on the rim like anything close to one of her male counterparts....

...but thankfully for Barncastle, Griner's handywork with the fisticuffs is still lacking a bit. In other words, at 6-foot-8, with some serious torque on her punches, if Griner had caught Barncastle flush, we would have been subjected to something resembling this....

...and that would have been over the top. We don't need John Feinstein writing a book thirty years from now documenting how Barncastle could taste her own spinal fluid seeping into her throat. That's not necessary.

That said, sadly, it is only when things like this happen that I become even slightly interested in women's basketball. Years of hearing from women's hoops purists about how "fundamentally sound" the women's game is have worn me down to where I actually have a palpable dislike for the game.

(Clarification on "fundamentally sound": just because you CAN'T dunk, CAN'T jump, and CAN'T run doesn't mean that by default you are exceptional at the finer, non-power athletic portions of the game like shooting, dribbling, and passing. The third-best player on any decent Houston-area boys high school team would lead the WNBA in scoring. Period. End of story. Sorry.)

Griner was suspended two games for her part in this incident, and I'm not sure how to feel about it. On the one hand, if this were an NBA or even a major men's college player, you're talking four or five times that, no doubt.

That said, part of me lauds Griner for actually getting me to care about her sport. So while I don't really condone violence, maybe for the sake of change...change for a sport that is the worst kind of unwatchable (i.e., it's unwatchable but everyone associated with it inundates you with hype about how awesome it is), maybe Brittney Griner can supplement her legitimate (yet pedestrian by actual REAL basketball standards) dunks with some more elbow and fisticuff chicanery. A little less LeBron James, a little more "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, so to speak.

So Brittney Griner, I am here to help you. I don't want you to be The Office. I don't need more slightly-below-average dunks. That would be change for the worse. If I want to watch spindly, 6-foot-8 players barely get the ball over the rim, I'll watch New York Knicks games the rest of the season. No, instead let's embrace this bad-girl image. Keep me interested in your game. When you return from your two-game suspension, let's mix in some new moves, like the Raja Bell Clothesline...

Let's try and do what Trevor Ariza couldn't do....let's actually LAND an elbow when you throw it....

If you want to turn total heel, let's start a melee with a hard foul and instead of standing toe to toe and exchanging blows, do what Carmelo Anthony does -- reach around another player to land a bitchslap punch and then skulk away like a little wussy. People will HATE'll be awesome....

And the coup de gras -- if everything plays out just right, and you become the monster heel we all think you can be, then maybe...just maybe...

Dare to change, Brittney. Change can be good.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on the
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast