Lady Bears Best Team Ever?

Host Michel Martin continues the conversation with the Beauty Shop ladies by taking a look at the Baylor Lady Bears' big win in Tuesday night's NCAA women's basketball championship. Martin speaks with blogger Viviana Hurtado, reporter Mary Spicuzza, sports commentator Tandaleya Wilder, and policy analyst Michelle Bernard.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Coming up, we'll hear some poetry from you in tweet form. It's our Muses and Metaphor series in celebration of National Poetry Month. That's a little later in the program.

But, first, back to the Beauty Shop. That's where we check in with our savvy women commentators to get their perspective on the week's news. And still with us, Viviana Hurtado, blogger-in-chief at The Wise Latina Club, the website, Tandaleya Wilder, founder of She Got Game Media, Michelle Bernard, president and CEO of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics and Public Policy, an independent conservative think tank, and Mary Spicuzza, state government reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.

And, Michelle, before the break, you were telling us that you don't appreciate the smack-down, the Sarah Palin/Katie Couric smack-down analogy.

MICHELLE BERNARD: Yeah. I don't - I mean, I don't know why.

MARTIN: You think it's mud wrestling ick?

BERNARD: Yeah. It just...

MARTIN: OK. Well...

BERNARD: But...

MARTIN: But, just on the basic thing, what do you think about it? I mean, do you think it's sort of appropriate for her...

BERNARD: I actually...

MARTIN: ...to be in this role as a journalist?

BERNARD: I don't think - I don't...

MARTIN: She is not one.

BERNARD: She's not a journalist. I don't think that it's appropriate that she be held out as a journalist, but I have to say I was fascinated and I turned on the television to watch all of the networks because I wanted to see, you know - I'm thinking about the book "Game Change," and I'm thinking about the documentary that was on HBO recently and I wanted to see Sarah Palin reintroduced to the American public and figure out: Is she intelligent? Is she any more qualified to talk about anything relating to policy, politics and economics than she was in 2008? And we got our answer.

MARTIN: Which is...

BERNARD: In my humble opinion, no.

MARTIN: OK. Well, there it is. I always thought she was headed for a talk show, seriously. I think that she's magnetic.

BERNARD: And she might be.

MARTIN: She's magnetic and also, you know, Katie Couric is, I think, you know, still at the top of her game, so that's my take on that.

MARY SPICUZZA: Absolutely.

VIVIANA HURTADO: I agree.

MARTIN: So, anyway, Tandy, sports talk of the morning. The Baylor University Lady Bears women's basketball team became the first squad in NCAA history - men's or women's - to go 40 and 0 for the season. They wrapped up the perfect campaign with the national championship last night. I'll just play a short clip. Here it is.

(SOUNDBITE OF BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP BROADCAST)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: And the celebration is on here in Denver on State Street in Waco, Texas, down by the Brazos. The Baylor Lady Bears capping off the first 40 and 0 season in NCAA history.

MARTIN: So, Tandy, is this the best team in women's history? Is this the best team in college basketball, period, in your view?

TANDALEYA WILDER: Wow. That's tough to say, but certainly, I mean, with the accomplishment that they had last night, you know, it'd be hard to argue that they aren't. I mean, 40 and 0. And this isn't a situation where the women are sitting in the shadows of male athletes, either. They made their mark in history and, you know, their motto all year long was unfinished business, but not any more. It's a done deal, a perfect season. That's quite an accomplishment.

MARTIN: Now, of course, Brittney's 6'8". It's a huge advantage for her. You know, a tremendous, you know, arm span and so forth, but what are her other skills? You can't do it on height alone, right?

WILDER: Oh, well, no. But she's - I mean, she's a tremendous shot blocker. You know, last night, I mean, she just completely dominated, just scoring, rebounds. You know, she had, like, six rebounds, five blocked shots. She's just amazing and just her presence there is very intimidating. At one point, three people tried to defend her. She was triple teamed on a number of occasions.

But you know, the one thing I wanted to mention is that I'm actually most impressed, not just about this win - I mean, it's obviously huge and historic - but with the character of Brittney Griner. I mean, there have been some really unkind things that have been said about her on the Internet. She's been the victim of social media taunts, but she's made...

MARTIN: Why? Because she's so tall? I don't understand. Because she's so tall?

WILDER: Oh, no, no.

MARTIN: What?

WILDER: It's not just that. I mean, just her appearance. You know, femininity, etc. I mean, there's been some really ugly things that have been said about her on the Internet, but she's managed to deflect all of that. You know, all year long, she's held her head up high and she's stayed focused. I mean, even the coach, Kim Mulkey - I mean, she was quoted as saying she has been absolutely disgusted by a lot of the comments about Griner, but Griner pushed them - you know, brushed them all aside, didn't let them bother her and, really, it's her character that's truly impressive and she really is a true champion.

MARTIN: And, also, she says she's going back to Baylor for her senior year, which is - I think - I don't what your opinion of that is, but I think that's kind of a powerful statement that she...

WILDER: Oh, yeah.

MARTIN: If she were - a male in her position - let's just assume - would be going pro at this point and she said she's going back to Baylor for her senior year, which I think is going to be exciting.

WILDER: Yeah.

MARTIN: OK. One more sporting event that folks are buzzing about - it's the Masters. It's this - you know, it's one of the four majors. Round one begins tomorrow at Augusta National in Georgia.

You know, for years, though, this is controversial because Augusta does not permit women to join. They are allowed to play there, but they are not allowed to join as members. And there was a big effort to change this a couple of years ago.

The storyline's getting a new twist this year because one of the major sponsors of the tournament is IBM. It is the custom for the CEO of IBM to get membership to Augusta. The new CEO is a woman and so now is the question. What happens? Now, Michelle, you wrote a piece about this for the Post and you are a golfer.

BERNARD: I come from a golfing family. I would not call myself a golfer, but...

WILDER: A golf fan?

BERNARD: But I'm a golf fan. My father and my brother are the golf addicts of the family and play really well. I...

MARTIN: What's your take on it?

BERNARD: You know, I wrote the piece because I think it's fascinating. I mean, they're a private club. They can invite anyone for membership that they want. I don't dispute that, but now that - you know, it's interesting because I would assume that, when they set up these rules, that it never dawned on anyone that a woman would be a CEO of a major Fortune 500 company that would be sponsoring the Masters.

And I'm looking forward to seeing: Is the idea of a female member so absolutely disgusting and unappealing to the people at the country club that they decide not to offer her a membership? But, also, this is a moral question for IBM. Will IBM continue to sponsor the Masters, given that women are not allowed to be members of this country club?

MARTIN: What's your argument? What do you think? Should they or should they not?

BERNARD: Should IBM continue to sponsor it?

MARTIN: Yeah.

BERNARD: I mean, I think they probably will continue to sponsor it. I honestly don't know what I would do. From my perspective, I probably would no longer sponsor the golf tournament. It's their business who they offer memberships to and it's IBM's business who they give their money to.

MARTIN: Tandy, what do you think about this? It's interesting that the sports reporters are all over the place on this question. I mean, when this issue surfaced a couple of years ago, they - oh, sports and politics has no place and blah, blah, blah. On the other hand, you know...

WILDER: That's where business is done.

MARTIN: So business is done there.

WILDER: Yeah, exactly.

MARTIN: So, Tandy, what's your take on it?

WILDER: Well, I mean, I think it's time for Augusta to come out of the dark ages. Do the right thing. I mean, it would be a really good PR move if they went ahead and offered the CEO a membership and, if they don't, I just think, you know, there's no way IBM should sponsor that tournament if their own CEO isn't invited to play there. It's just - it would be, to me, like she's become complicit in keeping her own gender down, you know?

So I just think that, you know, for years and years, they've had this policy. They talk about tradition. Well, five years ago, Wimbledon broke with tradition and offered men and women the same salary for playing and it's just time to do the right thing. And they can be proactive now with this and it'll look good. So, you know, hopefully, they'll do that.

MARTIN: We don't know what's going on behind the scenes, so we'll leave it there for now. We'll call you all back if something amazing happens. Sorry. The other two ladies - we don't have time to get to you on this.

Viviana Hurtado is the blogger-in-chief of the website, The Wise Latina Club. Michelle Bernard is the president and CEO of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics and Public Policy. That's an independent conservative think tank. They were both here with us in Washington, D.C. Tandaleya Wilder is the founder of She Got Game Media. That's a PR and radio sports production company. She was with us from Miami. And Mary Spicuzza is a state government reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal. She was with us from member station WHA. That's Wisconsin Public Radio in Madison, Wisconsin.

Ladies, thank you all so much for joining us.

WILDER: Thank you.

HURTADO: Thank you.

SPICUZZA: Thanks for having us.

MARTIN: And, you know, you all got game.

BERNARD: You do, too.

SPICUZZA: We certainly do.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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