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The Caitlin Clark Effect and What It Reveals About Us


Caitlin Clark is the most scrutinized athlete since LeBron James. 

That's my take. 

And in today's sports landscape, you not only do you need to have a "take", but you having one about Caitlin Clark is trendy - perfect for said sports take. 

But on the real, the current rhetoric around Caitlin Clark and the "Caitlin Clark Effect" as we've seen throughout women's basketball has stirred some of the most ridiculous narratives, conversations, and evaluations we've seen yet since the "take" has become how we measure engagement and profound discourse in sports. 

Only a few games into her professional basketball career, we've heard it all...

She's only popular because she's a straight white female!

If the WNBA were smart, they would ease up and let Clark entertain the way she did at Iowa!

Not sure why the women in the WNBA hate her - they oughta be thanking Clark for private travel!

The WNBA players are jealous of Clark!

Why are only the white women in the WNBA getting signature shoes? 

Where was this attention when black, brown, and gay women carried the WNBA? 

As someone who actually watched the WNBA (Go Liberty!) before Clark's entrance, it's VERY easy to see and experience the so-called, "Caitlin Clark Effect". I don't need to list the changes within the WNBA, the treatment and coverage of the league, the change in venues for Indiana Fever games, and the nationally broadcasted games that have now made its way into television lineups. 

No. That's all fact. It's all very obiovus. All of it. 

Clark is a phenomenon. The likes of LeBron James. Game-changing. High expectations. Superstar. Cultural-shifter. 

LeBron will forever have my respect because he not only surpassed the hype he had coming out of High School in 2003, he did so within the age of the social media boom, and the rise of "take" culture.

In a new world that has taken that immediacy of opinion and feedback from social media and the engagement farming that are daily hot takes intersected with politics, historical oppression (and allyship responsibility), society temperature and expectation, regional vs. national cultural comprehension, simple pop culture relevance, and everything else you can smash it with - Caitlin Clark is embracing a new level of this madness. 

I find so much of it to be tiring. A lot of it is ridiculous. We've learned a lot about ourselves as a society within the Clark coverage and national discourse in her transition from Iowa to the Indiana Fever. 

I'm not naive in the discourse on "marketability" regarding Clark. The comparisons to Sabrina Ionescu, and the notion of being a straight, white female as being advantageous and more marketable and attractive than bodies that are tall, black and brown, and gay are legit. I get it. 

Yet, while that may be true, Clark possesses an on-the-game court that is electric. most importantly, a style that is attractive, entertaining, and undeniable. Something we've never seen in the women's game. And while I will forever bang the door for Maya Moore as the GOAT on the women's side (yeah, there is my hot take!), I can also add layers to this discussion of Moore being part of the UCONN dynasty, whereas Clark led a band of teammates at the lesser powerhouse at Iowa. 

Caitlin will find her way. Most importantly, in a league many didn't realize as much more skilled than the collegiate product (obviously, right?), Caitlin will also take her lumps and earn her way. 

Wouldn't we want that for her? Don't we want that for our journey with her? 

But most importantly, I hope we learned a small lesson from Lebron's career coverage - stop the over-analysis, the daily "legacy temperature", the hot take reactions, and just enjoy the beauty and evolution of possibly one of the greatest of all time. 

Let Caitlin do her thing. And enjoy it. 

When did that not become enough for sports fans? 

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