here is a Washington Post story about the inability of the WNBA to attract large crowds. I think the story fails to notice the extent to which feminist ideology has hurt the the WNBA. When the league started up, it was promoted in three ways that can be linked to feminism — let’s call them pride, celebration, and entitlement. Pride that women players could (allegedly) play the game the way men do; celebration that, at long last, women had a professional league of their own; and entitlement in the sense that women deserved the league irrespective of its quality (recall the WNBA’s advertising theme, “we’ve got next”).
Each of these attitudes probably hurt the league. First and foremost, the desire to play the game the way it’s played in the NBA made the games virtually unwatchable to many true fans of the sport. I like women’s college basketball a good deal. I like it because women at the collegiate level play the game the way it was played before the era of dunking, no-look passes, and constant one-on-one or two-man sets. The emphasis is on team play and ball movement, the objective being to create clean shots (ones that don’t involve contortions), which, unlike the other kind, women can make as often as men. There is also very little taunting and trash talking. If the WNBA had promoted these strengths (or competiive advantages) of the women’s game, instead of relying on the “anything men can do, we can do as well” dogma, I think the league would have enjoyed more success.
Second, I think some were turned off by the league’s celebratory tone. In its first year, the Washington team had one of the worst records n the history of any sport. Yet the fans were always celebrating. It seemed to me that the games weren’t about winning or losing (which is the essence of all real sports), they were about “you’ve come a long way baby.” They were “be-ins,” not sporting events, and many true sports fans were probably alienated by this atmosphere. Similary, the league’s sense of entitlement was off-putting. I also think it contribued to a lack of focus on the quality of the product, which relates to my first point.
The Post’s article suggests to me that the league is clueless about how to turn its fortunes around. It notes that league attendance is 75 percent female, while the television audience is half male. The implication is that there is a vast untapped reservoir of male sports fans who can be lured to games. But, regrettably, men as a class don’t have to like a sports product all that much to watch it on television. Yes, some of the male viewers can be lured to the games, but only if the product they see on television improves.
The article also frets about how the league can appeal to all of its “constituencies” — “young girls, middle aged lesbians, families, and single men” — without alienating any. Again, I think the answer lies in shedding the feminist dogma and creating a product that plays to the strengths of the women’s game. The middle aged lesbians will still show up.
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