_The sports world — or maybe just uninformed men — are all atwitter over the Los Angeles Sparks’ Candace Parker and the Detroit Shock’s_Plenette touching off a brawl in a WNBA game.

Television replayed video over and over of Parker and Plenette fighting for position for under the basket and then going after each other like_— well, like men are used to seeing men go after each other in such situations.

It was one of those events that triggers and electronic trip wire, with the media members stumbling over each other to show video, talk about it or write about it. The presence of television cameras tends to do that. In reality, though, it was much ado about nothing. Women athletes have been getting into tussles for years. Women, after all, are competitive and tempers flare. Just like men. If you don’t know that, you haven’t watched many women’s sports events. And it’s not just the archaic stereotype of the woman athlete “who plays like a man.”

One of the Sparks players suspended for the brawl was Lisa Leslie, a_36-year-old mom that has dabbled in modeling — for obvious reasons.

Leslie apologized for setting a bad example, especially as a_ mother._The comment was disingenuous, though, if you ask me.

I remember covering a USC-San Diego State women’s basketball game when_the 6-foot-5 Leslie and the Aztecs’ Michelle Suman went after each other with the same ferocity you’d see from a couple of NBA thugs battling under the boards._

Suman, you might recall, was a 6-3 center on Beth Burns’ NCAA_Tournament teams who was absolutely gorgeous. SDSU male students used to hoist banners with marriage proposals at games. The referees let Leslie and Suman go at it the whole game, which should tell you something else about how accepted such physical play was in women’s basketball.

After the game, I told Suman it looked like she and Leslie didn’t like each other.

“You could tell, huh,” she said sardonically. She declined to go into detail, but acknowledged their dislike for each other dated back to previous games, including summer travel ball leagues in their high school years. That should tell you something, too, that’s it’s not unusual for women athletes to play rough.

You can see girls in high school games playing aggressively, too. I was_at a Horizon-La Jolla Country Day game last winter when LJCD’s star point guard, Ariana Elegado, got roughed up on a scramble for a loose ball by a couple of Horizon players, Elegado jumped up and confronted one of the Horizon players but the refs quickly stepped in.

Coincidentally, Elegado sat near me in the stands later that night_during the LJCD-Horizon boys game, and I asked what happened.

I told her she needed to remember that someone watching her play for the first time would remember only that incident and not how good of a player she is.

She thought about for a moment, said I was right and said she would remember to control her emotions the next time.

And that, perhaps, is the real difference between men and women in sports.

— TOM SHANAHAN

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