Women and Hoops: An Uneasy Truce ; Women Can Jump, Shoot, and Play. but Fans Still Prefer the Men

Article excerpt

There is no doubt that basketball played by accomplished women athletes is just as exciting as basketball played by accomplished male athletes.

Who could watch college and professional basketball star Diana Taurasi, for example, and not thrill to her athletic prowess?

But, as in many realms outside sports, women generally receive less adulation than men.

One book will not do much to alter that unfortunate situation. That said, anybody who reads "Shattering the Glass: The Remarkable History of Women's Basketball" is quite likely to develop a more equitable sense of appreciation.

Pamela Grundy earned a PhD at the University of North Carolina while deciding to become a sports scholar. Susan Shackelford wrote about sports for the Miami Herald and Charlotte Observer before becoming a freelance journalist.

Their collaboration is successful, building on previous scholarship, most notably that of Susan Cahn, author of the 1994 book "Coming on Strong: Gender and Sexuality in Twentieth-Century Women's Sports."

Grundy and Shackelford have not produced a clip-and-paste job based on the exploits of contemporary stars such as Taurasi. Instead, they have researched a comprehensive history presented chronologically.

The book opens with a section on the origins of women's basketball, from 1892 to 1920. Next comes "Grassroots Rise and Decline," covering the period from 1920 to 1960, in which high school girls began playing more basketball, more black players got into the game, national championships evolved, and the rules moved closer to the men's version of basketball.

The book's third section narrows the focus slightly to college basketball from 1960 to 1993, as federal laws and regulations force universities to treat women's and men's sports more equitably, at least on a strictly numeric basis.

The final section covers 1993 through 2004, as women's basketball at all levels reaches "the big time" - at least, compared to the past - partly through the influence of television.

Along with the recounting of all this history, the book is filled with poignant individual stories that leaven its sometimes academic tone.

The book begins, for example, with Mary Alyce Alexander shooting baskets in the backyard of her Charlotte, N.C., family home circa 1945, thanks to the backboard and hoop put up by her father.

The backyard "became a community center, packed with eager neighbors who played through the day and then, after Mrs. …