Goals of Women’s Sports No Different Than Men’s
Published: Thursday, October 18, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 18, 2012 23:10
Nick Fedyk’s recent column (“WNBA Fails to Thrill Fans,” Oct. 16, A8) is not a harmless critique of women’s professional basketball. Instead, it demeans women’s forays into the world of sports, especially by arguing that ventures such as the WNBA and espnW were never meant to be successful or taken seriously.
You won’t find me arguing that the WNBA is as popular, or will ever be as popular, as the NBA. But dismissing the livelihoods of 110 dedicated athletes — not to mention the dreams of thousands of young girls — as just a “challenge to the boys” is harsh and incorrect.
These athletes — who just happen to be women — train and play as hard as their male counterparts. They have the same passion for the game as men. Women’s ball-handling skills, footwork, shooting accuracy and knowledge of the game are comparable to those of men.
Sure, there’s a genetic disparity in size and strength that renders women unable to compete with men — but even that barrier seems to be shrinking. Just look at how Baylor star Brittney Griner dunks. NBA Commissioner David Stern has even said that he believes that “it’s a good possibility” that a woman will play in the NBA in the next decade.
Like Fedyk, I prize tradition in sports, so I am skeptical, even wary, of Stern’s prediction. The mere fact that Stern acknowledged this possibility, though, speaks volumes about the progress of women’s basketball.
Other signs of growth in the women’s basketball include five straight years of increased WBNA game attendance, three consecutive years of increased television ratings for regular season games and new sponsorship deals.
In addition to league-wide sponsors such as Boost Mobile, individual teams, including the Washington Mystics, the New York Liberty and the Los Angeles Sparks, have acquired their own sponsors. This consistent progress can hardly be described as “chugging along,” as Fedyk contends.
Though the young WNBA league has struggled financially in the past, Stern told the Los Angeles Times that the “NBA is doing better than breaking even on the WNBA.” I am not an economics major, but that sounds like a solid measure of success.
History does not happen in a season. It is built over time. Likewise, loyalty takes time to develop.
Fedyk sarcastically invites readers to tune in to the WNBA Finals if they want to be lulled to sleep. But it is worth remembering that in the 1980s, people used this same rhetoric in reference to professional soccer in the United States when the North American Soccer League collapsed. Major League Soccer as we know it today did not form until 1996, but soccer is now the fastest-growing sport in the country.
The WNBA may never be the NBA — or even the MLS — but it is only fair to give it time to reach it potential.
That the WNBA cannot compete with the NBA for ratings neither relegates the sport to irrelevance nor reduces women’s basketball to some sort of equality stunt.
Women’s basketball is a real sport filled with many a talented woman — Mitt Romney might even say there are binders full of them — but it is a sport that some consider boring because the physicality and size of men’s sports are missing.
Of course, there are others find the NBA tiresome, with its overgrown divas sprinting around too-small courts and flopping like a bunch of European soccer players just to get a charge called.
Team handball, equestrian sports, water polo and archery are all sports not jam packed with manly displays of human strength like the “exciting” sports of football and basketball, and they all garner even less attention and coverage than the WNBA. Yet no one questions their purpose or casts aspersions on the reasons they exist.
Fedyk also takes a narrow-minded approach when he discusses espnW. Instead of considering that ESPN may simply be exploiting a niche in the market for a growing interest in women’s sports that is fueled by the success of numerous American female athletes, he diminishes the work of the espnW journalists by labeling the site “a revolution against the status quo.”
Sports fans are entitled not only to watch any sport they want but also to have their opinions about these sports. Fedyk is right that the WNBA is less exciting than the NBA. But his tasteless “boys always win” generalization is wrong — and a sad reminder of the sexism that still exists in our society, including in the world of sports.
Laura Wagner is a sophomore in the College. She is a member of The Hoya’s editorial board.