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A response...

Posted by Alex W.C. on 12:50 PM
I really can't be surprised anymore.

I used to get so upset when I read negative content about the WNBA be it editorial or blog post. I mean really, how could these people (both men and women have written condescending content) spew such hateful ideals?

Yes, I used the term hateful.

I use that term because to waste words with an completely invalid argument to paint a negative picture of something (in this case the WNBA) that the author doesn’t particularly care for is hateful. It serves no other purpose.

Today was no different, as I read Jeff Pearlman’s column entitled, Why the WNBA isn’t---and will never be---a Popular League.

Just once, just once I would like to read a valid, sound argument as to why the WNBA is not great, or why it will not succeed. Then, maybe, we could get a dialogue going and engage in a meaningful discussion. But alas, I’ve yet to see it happen.

Let’s not begin on why Mr. Pearlman wrote the article. For whatever reason, he chose today to unleash his animosity toward women’s professional basketball. We’ll get back to that.

I want to first take a look at Mr. Pearlman’s argument as to why the WNBA will never succeed…and I use the term “argument” lightly, as it is quite possibly one of the weakest ones I have ever read.

He begins by making several comparisons to prove things that are impossible, in order to support how impossible it is for the WNBA to experience any type of success. Unfortunately, he goes about it all wrong. He states how inanimate objects as well as animals and even his late grandmother will never have certain characteristics. For example – “I can present 1,000 pounds of the world's most delicious Swiss chocolate to my sofa, and it will never take a bite.”
Correct.

Because couches do not eat. He continues.

“Dogs don't speak fluent Spanish. Penguins don't enjoy Mahjong. My late grandmother can no longer bake cookies and my cell phone refuses to walk to the refrigerator and grab me a Yoo-hoo (Trust me, I've asked).”

Dogs do not have the vocal ability to produce a spoken human language. Penguins do not have the intellectual ability to comprehend a patterned, rule governed game. Dead people do not come back from the dead, and cell phones do not walk.

Here is the problem with his comparisons. It’s not that the characteristics he states can’t happen, they don’t happen, and never will happen. It’s not that those things are impossible; they have never existed. A couch is an inanimate object with no human qualities. It is and never will be possible for it to eat anything. Bottom line: in order for impossible to be proven, there has to be some theory that there is potential for something to happen or not happen. To state something that does not exist to prove it’s impossible invalidates his point.

Strike one.

Then, there is the sweeping generalizations, or as I like to call them, because I put it in print, it has to be true. Example? “Because nobody watches the WNBA. Nobody discusses the WNBA. Nobody seems especially interested in the WNBA.”

Nobody. Really? Nobody is defined as: No person; not anyone. So, a league that has existed for 14 years, has existed on absolutely zero fan support, not one ticket has been sold, and not one person has ever tuned in. There is no place like the Rebkell forums where fans discuss the league at length. Yeah, I’m reaching here, but only to make a point. While it might not compare to the numbers of the NBA, to make the generalization that “Nobody” is interested in the WNBA without a shred of evidence makes the argument to prove that weaker than wet noodles.

Strike two.

Oh, and I was waiting for this last part. The inevitable comparison, between the WNBA and the NBA. Yes, it is quite fair to compare a 60 plus year old, 30 team league with a 14 year, and 12 team league. Well established vs. new and growing.

Nope, sorry, can’t do it.

Comparing these two is like, well, like trying to get a sofa to eat chocolate.

But then Mr. Pearlman gets down to player comparisons.

“Here's no solution to this problem, no magical cure just waiting to be unleashed. Sue Bird will never be Deron Williams and Tamika Catchings will never be Carmelo Anthony.”

First of all, what’s the problem? And what magical cure is needed? Is Mr. Pearlman saying the WNBA not being able to succeed is a problem? To state something is a problem would imply that the person stating that would have a minimal amount of concern invested in that statement.

After reading Mr. Pearlman’s article, he obviously could care less; just look at the closing line to his article.

“Yawn”

And I will say this; with regards to WNBA players being NBA players, he is right. But allow me to clarify – Sue Bird will be Sue Bird. Tamika Catchings will be Tamika Catchings. Not once have I ever head a WNBA fan say, “I wish Diana Taurasi was more like Kobe Bryant.” WNBA athletes have only wanted to be respected for who they are, not who they could be. Their fans wouldn’t have it any other way.

I know, I talked to them in 13 different cities.

Sue Bird and Tamika Catchings are two of the best athletes (no, not just female athletes) in the world. Mr. Pearlman might know that if he cared enough to research some info on those players. However, as it has been shown, Mr. Pearlman lacks in the caring dept.

To compare apples to oranges (WNBA to NBA) is to say that men and women exist in a homogeneous grouping, genetically, physically, and cognitively. We know this not to be true. Does this make one better than the other? Absolutely not. Even though the argument between the genders has raged on for centuries, and I doubt it will stop any time soon. However, for Mr. Pearlman’s point, and his use of it, proves little, and validates less.

Strike three.

To review: The WNBA will not be successful because inanimate objects do not have human characteristics, there is not one person on the planet who has ever heard of the WNBA and women will never be men. An argument, empty, invalid, and void of anything concrete.

Did I miss anything?

So, now the inevitable question. Why? If the WNBA will indeed never succeed, why do professional writers, like Mr. Pearlman, continue to write such things? One would think if they were one of those who doesn’t care about the WNBA, (becasue nobody does) they would not even write about it, because, well, they (should have) no idea it exists.

I have one theory, and it might sound a bit far fetched, but stay with me.

The Answer? Fear. Fear of the unfamiliar.

When a guy like Pearlman sees a female athlete in the same place (i.e. the basketball court) previously occupied by their male counterparts, childhood sports heroes, or person of worship, there is a sense of fear being felt. Fear that a woman could actually compete and possess skills at a level only held by men for so long. What else could possibly motivate a professional writer to write about something that supposedly they care nothing about, and have no interest in? Money? No, there are plenty of sports out there to cover. Fame? Write about something that they admit no one cares about?

Nope.

Only one thing I can think of, knee-jerk fear, leading to irrational thinking, and thus taking the form of negative content in an attempt to disguise their prejudices as legitimate sports writing.

Take a look at how they compare WNBA players to NBA players.

“Sue Bird will never be Deron Williams” In other words, men will never be women. This is something I have found consistently in every hate-laden article and blog post, negatively criticizing the WNBA. It’s a mantra that is written over and over again, as if it is written enough times, they will never have to accept that a woman could ever be a professional athlete. Kind of the equivalent of a 5 year old sticking his fingers in his ears and screaming, “LA LA LA LA LA LA, I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!” It’s comical, and at best, immature for so called professionals to do.

In the end, guys like Pearlman will never go away. Sad really. Even as Pearlman admits he likes the WNBA, he still feels compelled to write such things.

I only have one question; Why would you tear down what you like? Makes no sense. Then again, his entire column didn’t either.

13 Comments


Your point would be stronger if people cared about the WNBA.


I care about the WNBA Mr. John Edgars. Go away please :) Love the blog post Mr. Alex! Need to do more of these!


JOHN EDGARS...YOU COULDN'T BE MORE WRONG!...I. FOR ONE CARE!...THE VERY FIRST YEAR OF THE WNBA GREW ATTENDANCE RECORDS EQUALLING THAT OF THE NBA IN ITS 15TH YEAR!!! THIS IS A QUOTE FROM ROBIN ROBERTS!! ALEX....PERLMAN IS AN IDIOT!
COMPARING APPLES TO APPLES WOULD TAKE US BACK TO 1973 WHEN BILLIE JEAN KING BEAT BOBBY RIGGS 6-4 6-3 6-3!! END OF MY STORY!


Awesome response! And your "WHY"'s answer (Fear of the unfamiliar).. totally agree.
Go WNBA! Go Silver Stars! Go Becky Hammon!
Follower from Spain :)


Hey John, do you feel a sense of accomplishment when you make ridiculous comments about something like the WNBA? Well, it makes you look like a child.

But Alex, great post and great response to Jeff Pearlman's article. People like him are so one dimensional that they can't respect that there are women who work really hard just to get an ounce of respect. These women put 100% effort and 100% hard work to succeed, and I think they're going a great job. There's thousands of us who agree 100% with you.


I think for fans of the WNBA, this part is a little insulting:
"Nobody watches the WNBA. Nobody discusses the WNBA. Nobody seems especially interested in the WNBA. If a basketball league falls in the summer and nobody cares, is it still a basketball league?"

Because that assumes that we're, well, nobody. Just because a sport is not consumed by the masses does not mean that "nobody" cares. It means that it is not a league for the masses. Which is fine by be. I don't hear people passionately decry professional bowling when it's on ESPN, even though it's just as niche and just as "boring" to those who don't enjoy it.

I think what bothers me is the venom behind these articles and those who don't like the WNBA. So you don't enjoy women's basketball--that's fine. Why hate so bad on those who play and those who enjoy watching?

As a Washington DC blogger wrote yesterday:
"So the WNBA is not for you. It doesn’t matter. The WNBA provides an alternative outlet for those passionate about basketball in ways that needn’t matter to everyone."
http://www.truthaboutit.net/2010/06/the-wnba-is-worth-it.html


The irrational comparison that Pearlman forgot to include:

"Sportswriters don't spend over a thousand words on a post regarding a topic that they don't care about, or one they assume their readers don't care about."

I wonder why he forgot it? Editorial oversight? Or some other reason?


I goto games all the time. All i want is a tshirt and no one ever throws one to me. Its not fair.


I am not a fan of ball-related games anyway, so I am not exactly the target market... but I must admit, that the two WNBA games I saw in my town back when we had a team were very enjoyable. I found the lack of showboating and aggrandizement to be very refreshing. I was watching an actual sport being played by two teams of talented athletes.

If the team hadn't been sold, I might have gone to a few more games as well.

What I will never do? Go to an NBA game in my town.


Before my main comment, I wanna point out that I like the mere fact that the WNBA exists and wisb I got more chances to watch it.

That said, I feel compelled to offer a bit of anecdotal evidence that I believe to represent the typical situation, and that the sportswriter was either too callous, too lazy, or too stupid to try and use in his argument:

I attend Southern Utah University, which fields both men's and women's teams in the Summit League, at the lower end of Division I. I go regularly to both teams' home games. The men draw decent crowds most times; but for the women's games, the stadium tends to be nearly empty - EVEN ON DOUBLEHEADER DAYS, WHEN YOU CAN EASILY GET BOTH GAMES FOR THE PRICE OF ONE, THE WOMEN'S GAME IS LUCKY TO HAVE 2/3 THE ATTENDANCE OF THE MEN'S! Frankly, I consider it nothing less than shameful; but if I'm right that this is typical of most areas, the WNBA is unlikely ever to become anywhere near as popular as the men's league, and it may not take much in the way of bad luck to kill it. :/


Another response in Slam Online: http://www.slamonline.com/online/other-ballers/womens/2010/06/the-man-in-the-crosshairs/


Perfectly said: "there is a sense of fear being felt. Fear that a woman could actually compete and possess skills at a level only held by men for so long."

As so often is true in life, sports mirrors our experiences in the business world. I see that fear at work every day. Thanks for being willing to say it out loud.


Excellent takedown of illogical "reason" used to excuse one person's obviously slanted opinion. I'm from the North and my favorite sport is hockey...yet the NHL never seems to catch on, mainly b/c the live game doesn't translate well to TV, IMHO and many find the nonlinear game confusing (my mother still thinks it just looks like a bunch of players wheeling around randomly). Now I live in the South where everyone seems to LOVE them some NASCAR...I just don't get it and I'd rather pull out all my eyelashes than watch cars go around in a circle for HOURS on a Saturday afternoon. But somehow that is considered a "popular sport" by many. NASCAR has its fans, the NHL has its fans, and so does the WNBA...tastes vary.

I'm a lifelong sports fan, former athlete, youth sports coach and the only pro sport I cannot bring myself to watch is NBA basketball...it's bad basketball. Erosion of fundamentals (e.g., 5 steps with the ball isn't traveling), showboating/prima donna attitudes, uninspired individual play, boring to the point where you might as well just watch the last half of the 4th quarter, it's just not interesting to me. However, I enjoy college ball (men/women) and WNBA because I'm a purist...I like the emotion, the spirit, the team play, the strategy. I could care less about SportsCenter highlight dunks and tricks and sulky players like Kobe.

Time will tell where the WNBA and other pro sports will go.

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