WNBA: Choices

27 10 2009

Thanks to the magic of my Regular Reading Rotation (RRR), I got tipped off to an article by Ben York called “The WNBA Doesn’t Need Fixing“. Excerpt:

I’ve now come to the unfortunate realization that there is a consistent and conscious effort by some individuals to bring “down” the WNBA whenever there is any remote sign of positive momentum or success. For some reason, in spite of an undeniably progressive season, there are those that still choose (don’t kid yourself, it is a choice) to focus on how far behind the WNBA is in related to other professional leagues rather than highlight any inkling of advancement.

I have been bouncing this article (and related tangents) around in my head all day, and will do my best to remain focused and direct.

First, my ego wants me to reprint this, from here:

There has been talk about the WNBA changing the rules/basket height/whatever else to make the league more fan-friendly. Nyet! Winning is fan-friendly. Actually being fan-friendly helps too.

And this, from here:

There are women who have proven that they can dunk, but I will dare say that they don’t seem to have that shot called up as a “go-to” play. Not dunking by choice versus not being physically able to dunk under the current court configuration is a distinction that disinclines me to alter the rule book. I’d like to hear more about the reasons for not dunking from the players, not the armchair critics (like me).

Ego: Stroked.

Next, the article that I linked to at the top is a retort to another article, that claims in part that a “fix” for the WNBA is to ignore men altogether and focus on female, gays (sic) and lesbians. Because, uh, gays aren’t men. Apparently.

The retort sayeth:

If fact, here’s a shocker for you — the WNBA doesn’t need male fans to survive! Rather, it simply needs true basketball fans. I’m not sure where the belief came from that the WNBA is so desperate and starving over attaining traditional male followers, but it’s simply not true. They’ve never had a marketing strategy that is focused on that. It’s always been focused on the quality of play, the competition being ferocious, and that these ladies are damn good.

I once pissed my Dad off by quoting some some lyrics of mine that state, in part, “believe in me/’cause without belief/even God/ain’t worth nothing.” He turned red and growled, “God doesn’t need your belief to exist.”

Not to equate the WNBA with dieties, but what my Dad missed was the nuance: If people lose all hope in everything, real or imagined, then what is it worth to them? Nothing.

Now: I say all of this because the WNBA may not need male fans to exist so long as it needs any fans. And those fans need to show their support with cash, pure and simple. I could talk circles about being “so happy” for Tulsa and the WNBA, but if I don’t actually infuse any of my cash into the league, the talk, while well-intentioned, ain’t worth nothing.

Next, while you were waiting for the NBA regular season to begin, NBA TV showed some FIBA games this weekend, that I happened to catch. What is often lost in translation in the US sports market is that the WNBA by and large conforms to FIBA rules, with the notable exception that the “paint” is rectangular rather than trapezoidal.

Now here’s what you missed by not watching FIBA games this past weekend: Men play it almost identically to the WNBA. Yes, they dunk. But unlike the NBA the FIBA players I saw were more into designed plays like the alley-oop, which YES, I wish a WNBA team would execute. Like Phoenix. C’mon, Taurasi to [whoever] on the alley-oop jam? You’d watch that.

I disagree with Ben York’s irrational exuberance about the WNBA’s marketing efforts, but I’ll let that pass for now.

Finally, the punchline.

This is an undeveloped thought, but as I was typing this, I had a flash about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. As it applies to regular folk, Maslow postulates that certain conditions must be met before the pyramid can reach its apex: Self-actualization.

The WNBA cannot self-actualize until its basic needs are met as well. (And ohhhh baby, is that going to be a future article, like, soon.)

One of the big ones is “financial support”.

While the WNBA may need to find its voice even if only in purely marketing terms, we, the fans, help provide it.

Will that voice be spent in the pursuit of rebutting every last critical or apathetic voice?

Or will that voice encourage, inspire, and invite a new generation of WNBA supporters?

Choose.

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