A few more thoughts as the WNBA season hands off to the college season …
With the pro league’s season being done, we once again are in a waiting mode about various franchises. I just accept this is a part of the business, and perhaps will be for the foreseeable future. Economics being what they are, times are tougher even than usual for a niche sport still in the early decades of building its fan base.
Indiana appears secure now, at least for 2010, thanks to the Fever’s success and the spectator response to that. But now eyes are on the viability of franchises in Detroit and Atlanta, while the good news is that investors in Tulsa really want a team.
The best-case scenario is that Tulsa joins the league as a 14th team and no city loses its franchise. But if that’s not the case, the bottom line is that the WNBA will keep persevering. Losing the Houston Comets last year was a tough hit to take, but it didn’t sink the league. The WNBA came back in 2009 and had what few would argue were its best Finals to date.
That doesn’t make it easier for Comets fans to deal with no longer having a team. And I could give them a pass if they needed to take a break from the WNBA in 2009. But if that were the case, I hope they come back.
And I also hope that more and more folks who like women’s basketball start making a greater effort to watch and support the WNBA. It struck me during these Finals – perhaps more than ever before – how much I enjoy covering the professional game.
The players are not just better-skilled and more experienced, they are also – for the most part – real grown-ups. They have had to live overseas – some of them in several different countries – and navigate their way in a foreign society with different customs. They have to manage their time and their finances in ways most of them never thought about while in college. They tend to offer insights that reflect more a feeling of global perspective than you might get from the average person in their age group.
None of this means that covering college is any less enjoyable … to the contrary, it’s more so because I know the best of the people I get to follow in school are going to continue with their basketball journeys.
But I sometimes feel this need to “stick up” for the WNBA in the very community of people who should be most supportive: women’s basketball followers and overall women’s sports followers.
I will hear things from readers such as, “The WNBA doesn’t have enough games on television, and so I just can’t get into it.” To that I say two things.
First, even if it’s one game a week you get on TV, that’s certainly something. Besides, if you really want to watch, the games are available on-line. I know that isn’t appealing to people the same way television is, but the option is still there.
And second … well, it’s a story about my dad. He passed away in April of 1994, just a few weeks into baseball season. I was eating breakfast with him a couple of days before he died – when, of course, I didn’t know it would be one of the last times we would have a long conversation.
We were talking about baseball, which we tended to do a lot and always had. But somehow, I’d never quite put the pieces of the puzzle fully together until that morning. My dad was born in 1915 and grew up on a farm about 40 miles from St. Louis. I knew he’d followed the Cardinals since he was a child, but hadn’t seen them play in person until he was older.
This particular day we were discussing the Cardinals’ game of the night before. And my dad mentioned how, as a little boy, he used to get so excited running out to get the newspaper in the morning to see if the Cards had won the previous day. I said, “You mean when you didn’t hear the games on the radio?”
And he explained that his family hadn’t always had a radio during his childhood. He couldn’t quite recall how old he was when they got one, but a least for a while, their only source of news was the newspaper.
It took me just a little while to process this.
“Wait a minute,” I said. “You loved the Cardinals before you ever saw or heard a game? You were a fan just by what you read in the paper?”
Indeed, that’s how it happened. He knew what baseball was from watching and playing it in his little town. But what the Cardinals and their games looked like … that was all created in his mind from reading about it.
So … I would tell anyone who says there aren’t enough WNBA games televised to pique or maintain your interest, just work at it a little harder. There are a lot of ways to connect to and follow the league. You don’t even have to use your imagination the way my dad once did.