The world of sports abounds with magical records that no-one-believed-would-ever-be-broken. Consider New York Yankee Lou Gehrig’s grueling mark of 2,130 consecutive baseball games played, which stood tall for 56 years: Cal Ripken, Jr. smashed it by playing in 2,632. Or Hank Aaron’s 1976 career home run record of 755. Insurmountable! Until Barry Bonds passed it in 2007. Leonidas of Rhodes’ 2,168-year-old mark of twelve individual Olympic titles? Unbeatable! Until Michael Phelps churned right by to capture his 13th individual gold medal last year in Rio.
One such unsurpassable mark was John Wooden’s UCLA men’s college basketball team's 88-game winning streak, set between 1971 and 1974. None of us imagined that any other team—especially in the topsy-turvy sport of basketball—could ever win 89. Yet along came the UCONN women’s basketball team, and pushed right past UCLA to win 90 straight games and set a new record in December of 2010.
What I remember most clearly about those post-record-shattering December days, was the collective uproar about the validity and integrity of the Huskies’ phenomenal achievement. Pundits and pedants alike cried foul: You can’t compare the women’s game to the men’s, they claimed. The competition UCONN faced was not stiff enough, they argued setting the consecutive-wins record was a much easier feat for head coach Geno Auriemma than it was for the inimitable Wooden, they insisted.