- Bird at the Buzzer: UConn, Notre Dame, and a Women’s Basketball Classic
In his book Bird at the Buzzer, Goldberg pulls from his time covering the UConn women’s basketball team as a journalist for the Hartford Courant and his extensive connection with other journalists to provide a vivid description of the Big East championship game between UConn and Notre Dame and events leading up to it. As such, this book is sure to appeal to college basketball fans, UConn or Notre Dame supporters, and/or those following the rise of women’s sports in the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Leading up to his first chapter, Goldberg provided the purpose for this book: “This book seeks to shed light on the past, to acknowledge and expand on a seminal moment in the game’s proud progression” (p. xviii). Goldberg achieves in this attempt although the book does not offer a critical reflection of said events that may be of more interest to those teaching within the history or sociology of sport disciplines. Towards the end of the book, Goldberg seems to introduce the issue of race as a critical concept when he writes, “Auriemma brought so many high-profile African American players to his team at the same time, something totally new to the overwhelmingly white UConn fan base” (p. 250). Yet his recollection of an incident when emcee Scott Gray referred to Cash, Jones, and Williams as “the Gold Dust Triplets,” a label with connections to “an early twentieth-century ad campaign that featured racially insensitive caricatures of two black children” (p. 251), draws remarkably short in any attempt at critical analysis when Goldberg states, “The incident was quickly forgotten and focus on the three returned strictly, and appropriately, to their basketball” (p. 251). Even so the author’s introduction of the largely white UConn fan base together with the lack of a deeper analysis of this and events such as Gray’s comments at the campus rally could provide the more critical sport historian with the opportunity to speak to students about the concept of “colorblindness,” racism, and white privilege.
Goldberg organized the book into four chapters. The first chapter, which ends on page 100, leads the reader up to the Big East Championship game in 2001 by introducing some of the key players and providing some possible insight into how they developed the characteristics that helped lead their teams to this event. For instance, the reader is informed that “some of Bird’s intensity could be traced to her early relationship with her sister, Jen, five years Sue’s senior” (p. 8). The next two chapters are constructed around the game itself with chapter two dedicated to the first half and chapter three to the second half. Each of these chapters provides a good detail of play-by-play information from the game. The final chapter, titled “Overtime,” takes a brief glimpse at the end of the 2000–01 season for each of the teams. As a reader, I found the organization of the book frustrating at times as the writer jumped from one time frame to another while the text itself was formatted with headings and subheadings that suggested some type of chronological progression. [End Page 505]
Furthermore, although one of the stated purposes of the book was to “shed light on the past,” throughout the book one finds evidence that the attempt is in some ways limited or at worse skewed. This was most noticeable in the author’s positioning of UConn’s Auriemma as women’s basketball’s “Pied Piper” (p. 45) who Goldberg credits with helping to form the WNBA (p. 46) and seemingly single-handedly transforming women’s basketball (p. 42). Somewhat ironically, the author spends several pages (pp. 112–114) condemning Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins for a seemingly similar offense—writing from a position that favors a particular team with which one has connections. Goldberg’s proclamation regarding Jenkins had to do with a...