The Politically Correct Crowd here in Minnesota are walking on Cloud 9 these days, the Minnesota Lynx are the Women’s basketball champions OF THE WORLD. Minnesota is once again on the sports map with a world champion professional sports team. Now, these Lynx fans have their work cut out for them, now they have to try to get the rest of us to believe that this is a big deal, on par with say uh, a Twins World Series or the elusive Super Bowl Championship the Vikings have never won.
The media around here has been wall to wall coverage about the Lynx championship run, there’s a danged parade and celebration today over at the Target center to celebrate the teams magnificent achievement. Get on board, this is the big time.
Really? I’m gonna say it.. not many folks care.
I get it, not many folks care about Major League Soccer or, at least in Minnesota NASCAR, but I like them, but I’m not going to proselytize for them, and if you don’t like them so be it. They’re minor sports, I get it. I’ll watch and you go do something else.
But hang on here Sank, if you don’t like the WNBA you’re a sexist! Get on the bus you say you like basketball, (I do, love me the NBA) if you like the Wolves and don’t like the Lynx you’re nuth’n but a double barreled sexist, border line misogynist.
Aw hell, “lighten up Francis”, This is the WNBA we’re talking about, a poor distant cousin to the NBA. This is not the equivalent of a Twins title; it’s not even as big a deal as Timberwolves regular season victory over the Lakers. Sorry, just isn’t.
The WNBA is the NBA’s side show. It’s a way for the NBA to show that it’s egalitarian side, that it cares about our daughters and sisters and supports Women’s Athletics, and along the way to put a few butts in the seats in the summer when their arenas are empty.. The problem they can’t attract the high paying luxury box buying season ticket holding targeted sports fans who fund the men’s game so richly. WNBA is a losing proposition.The league wouldn’t survive with out serious subsidies from the NBA.
This is a “your baby is ugly” situation, and simmer down, I’m going to explain myself.
To begin with, the woman’s game boring. STOP SCREAMING AT THE MONITOR, won’t do any good. The baby is ugly and that’s just how it is. The fan base for the WNBA is not your hardcore NBA fans looking to satisfy their “hoop” fix during the summer. Those fans are watching “hardwood classics” on the NBA Network or ESPN XII or where ever. Even I found myself watching the 1991 Warriors/Spurs Playoffs last week, never caught a minute of the Lynx. Or, they’re following the LA Summer League where the best of the NBA play in informal pickup games. What they’re not doing is tuning into the Lynx.
Who are the WNBA Fans? Lots of women in the audience at the regular season game I saw. The women who where there, in my opinion, because they were fans of women being empowered and not because they were fans basketball, that came second. These folks would no more go to a Timberwolves game and admit it was fun than I would go to a Lynx game that I had to pay for. (Disclaimer, I got a free ticket, and figured what the hell). The other group of fans who were there, families enjoying $5.00 courtside seats, seats that would cost $300.00 at a Timberwolves game. At the game I saw, against the Sparks, the local arena was at about 18% capacity. The upstairs was closed off, the downstairs was sparse and crowd was pretty quiet.
The Lynx fans have been on the news and in my office telling me how great this game is and how I’m missing out. I’m not sure who they’re convincing, but I’ve seen the same behaviors and arguments from folks who watch Soccer. “You’d love it if you only understood it and gave it a try..” Not really.
But, we hold women’s sports to a different standard in this country. We inflate interest while we downplay achievement. Take this year’s hot story regarding the UCONN Women’s Basketball Team. This year they passed the John Wooden coached UCLA Bruins 88 game winning streak, the longest winning streak in College Hoops. If you’re counting, thats about 3 undefeated years in a row. This accomplishment was widely reported, usually in the context that college basketball now has a new standard of excellence, that somehow the UCONN Women’s achievement is on par with UCLA. And, what’s more, UCONN Coach Geno Auriemma is somehow better, or at least as good as the Wizard of Westwood, John Wooden.
Again folks, this baby is ugly. It is hideous in fact.
You can’t compare the landscape that UCLA played in during Wooden’s run to UCONN’s winning streak.
- In NCAA Women’s hoops there’s really only two places in the country that give a shit about the game, the University of Connecticut and the University of Tennessee. That’s it gang. Every great woman’s player in the country is recruited by those two schools, and that’s where many wind up. Not Stanford, not Auburn, not Illinois. It’s UCONN and Tennessee.
- These two teams have dominated the women’s game since the first NCAA Women’s tournament in 1982. Their typical margin of victory against opponents in regular season games is huge. This wasn’t the case for Wooden’s teams. Uh.. most games.
- Why bring this up? To point out the talent pool in Women’s basketball is nowhere near as deep as it is in the Men’s Game. UCON and TN have their pick of a dozen or so elite players in the country. The rest are fill ins, good but not great. I’m suggesting that neither team has any competition, and winning 88 games in this league is more a testament to the competition. They’re good and this is a nice accomplishment, but its not on par with the Men’s game. Ugly assessment, you bet. Sexist, hardly. Give the ladies another 20 years and maybe we’ll see more college programs get to that elite status, assuming all the rec programs and high schools start incubating top talent, but for right now, the talent just isn’t there.
- How dominant? Since 1982 Tennessee has been in the Women’s Final Four 18 times, that out of a total of30 NCAA Women’s Tournaments. They’ve been in the championship game 13 times and won the whole thing 8 times. That means, you math folks, that Tennessee has been NCAA champs in almost 30% of all the Final Fours.
UCONN? They’ve been in 12 Final Fours, and won it all 7 times. Matter of fact, they’ve never lost a championship game. These two teams together own half of all the Championships in NCAA Women’s Hoops. That’s domination. Is UCONN good? Yes, is Coach Auriemma another Wooden? Hardly. Although he’ll tell you he is, when he’s not rooting against the UCONN mens’s basketball team.
Wooden had to win, and win he did, winning 10 straight championships, against much stronger competition than Auriemma’s. Just a fact. UCONN’s margin of victory during the 88 game streak? North of 30 points. And yet, the fans of the Women’s game will tell me, straight up, that the two accomplishments are equal and if you say anything otherwise you’re a sexist.
Honestly you just can’t compare the women’s game and the men’s game in terms of skill, athleticism or frankly fan interest. The two games aren’t even played the same. Put the pride of the WNBA, the Lynx on the court against their parent club Timberwolves, among the worst of the NBA and I’d have to give the ‘Wolves a 40 point advantage.
The Lynx are the champions of their little 12 team league, a struggling minor league that regularly plays to empty arenas. The arenas aren’t empty because of sexism or misunderstanding; they’re empty because the game just isn’t that interesting. In the free market of sports tickets, sexism doesn’t come in to play, the product does. Why is it you can’t get a seat for the US Open’s Women’s Final in Queens every summer, because the competition is excellent and product is great.
Women’s hoops, we’re being told to like it because it’s the “right” thing to do. It will never attract the passions of the main stream American sports fan simply because of the product. The game is too slow and lacks the in your face one on one style of play NBA fans like. Right or wrong, most of us aren’t interested in lots of passing, slow set plays and fast breaks that end in layups. What brings NBA fans to their feet are big jams, soaring allyoops, clutch 3’s, ankle breaking blocks, physical bumping and pushing in the key and high speed no look passes that result in an Amar’e Stoudemire dunk on top of Kevin Love’s head. and an IN YO FACE moment that shows up on ESPN’s 10 best of the day. And we’ll watch it over and over and call friends and drag a totally uninterested wife to the TV and make her watch, and every time exclaim “OHHH MAN” like we’ve never seen it before. In a Lynx highlight we got nuthn. Caveman like? You bet, but we are the demographic that lays out the money for the games, the beer, and the jersey.
With the exception of the 3’s and the occasional nifty pass, the Women’s game has none of that attraction.
It’s a niche sport with a dedicated following of folks who probably have as much interest in NBA as we sports fans have in the WNBA. Let the games go on, just don’t take up too much of my sports page with it or try to guilt me into watching it. Yes you have yourself an ugly baby over there, you may like it, but really, it’s not that great.