I love the WNBA!


Well, not really. But Tracy's post on women in journalism made me think of a recent column by USA Today sportswriter Christine Brennan. In the column, Brennan uses a conversation with Billie Jean King as an excuse to ride one of her favorite hobby horses: the media's focus on men's sports relative to women's sports.

Here's her second paragraph:

"The women's final at the U.S. Open tennis tournament made prime time last Saturday night. Women's golf is entering its finest hours. But women's soccer still can't form a new league, women's softball is no longer an Olympic sport and women's professional basketball gets less respect in some outposts in the mainstream sports media than high school girls sports." I have to say that if she's trying to make the point that publicity for women's sports needs a lot of help, she's going to have to do better than that paragraph. "Women's soccer can't form a new league"? Well, I suspect that has less to do with it being women's soccer than the fact that it's soccer, a sport Americans (with good reason, in my opinion, but that's just my opinion) largely ignore on any level above the 10 year old set. I mean, it's not like men's professional soccer is doing any great shakes in America. (Quick! Name a American professional soccer team. Hell, name a American professional soccer league.) Also, I don't get her point that women's softball is no longer an Olympic sport. What does that prove, given that it got axed right along with men's baseball? Sounds like more of a baseball/softball issue than anything having to do with women.

And as for the WNBA, well, she might be right about that, but--let's face it--it's not for lack of trying. As ignored as the WNBA is (Quick! Name three WNBA teams! Hell, name one.), think of how it would be if the NBA and the networks didn't get behind it the way they did from the beginning. It would be a lot like, well, professional women's soccer.

The fact is that the vast majority of sports fans ignore the WNBA no matter how hard people like Brennan want it to be otherwise, mainly because it's just not very entertaining, relative to other offerings. A fair number of decent boy's high school teams, and pretty much any men's college team, will beat even the best WNBA team nine times out of ten. Why watch that when there is better basketball out there?

I've thought (and I've written) that women will make the most progress in sports where physicality is not as relevant to overall success. Auto racing is a prime example (see, for example, Danica Patrick). Golf is another. Those are the places the focus needs to be for those interested in this sort of thing.

UPDATE: I would strongly advise any men who think our sex is superior to that of women to check this out. That should throw some cold water on you. (Note: My picture is last row, fourth from the right with the sunglasses. But you probably already knew that. Looking good huh?)

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