Leave it to the knee-jerk and overly sensitive vanguard of women’s basketball defenders to miss a good opportunity this past week to have an honest discussion about how to grow their game.
I guess it feels better to righteously beat up on a single male sportswriter, than it is to start asking some hard questions. Like: “Should there be more restrictions on programs loading up on McDonalds’ All-Americans?” Or: “If UConn only losing once in 3 years is an undeniably GOOD thing, then if they don’t lose for the next FIVE years, is that a GREAT thing?”
About the only thing the critics of Dan Shaunessy’s tweet were correct about, is that these blowouts are NOT “killing” the sport of women’s basketball. Because the sport is already dead as a televised product.
It’s a version of basketball that is demonstrably, and undeniably un-worthy of being pushed on TV. It’s awful. And everybody with two eyes knows this. Just because it DOES get broadcast time, is a function of feel-good gender equity cram down from socially conscious networks like ESPN, and the NCAA itself.
This is not my opinion. This is a fact. The WNBA draws between a 0.2 and 0.4 rating for their finals. Last year’s Warriors-Cavs finals drew an 11.3. The women’s Final Four TV ratings are similarly non-existent to the WNBA’s despite heavy (and often badgering) promotion from ESPN, company-wide on every platform at its disposal.
The TV market has spoken. Fans of “basketball” have little appetite for slower players, who are less explosive than men, and play exclusively below the rim. This is not because they hate women. It’s because they prefer a better tasting flavor of basketball ice cream, that is every bit as available to them while sitting on the couch, for no extra cost.
It’s incredible that somebody has to re-write these basic truths all over again, but last week proved it’s necessary. It’s also incredible to find that so many people don’t understand you can be very PRO women PLAYING the game, and yet ANTI watching the sport on TV.
Of course girls should play, and of course D1 programs should field teams, and of course friends and family and fans should root like hell for them. Even though women’s D1 teams LOSE gobs and gobs of money (travel, coaching salaries, etc.) its worth the expense to provide these young women athletic opportunities that are incredibly valuable in life.
But that’s not the issue.
The arguments in favor of UConn’s dominance being a benefit to the sport – if you could call them arguments – came off as mostly hysterical, point-missing, tantrums. Things like “did they say this about UCLA back when Wooden was dominating?” (Sexism). Or “did they say this when Pat Summitt was at Tennessee?” (What about them-ism?)
Or they just defaulted to how Auriemma and UConn is doing it “clean” and the “right way” with outstanding young women, who all graduate with honors and walk little old ladies across the street.
Again: Point, missed.
The only question is, and remains: is THIS amount of dominance, growing the game? And aside from an insignificant 46% hiccup in the ratings since this non-troversy broke out, I haven’t heard anyone list how this is doing the sport overall, any favors.
UConn and Auriemma have built a veritable monster. Kudos to them. As long as he’s there, it’ll probably never end. But let’s not kid ourselves. He’s not 10-times the coach that his nearest women’s rival is. He doesn’t have a proprietary offense that cannot be reverse-engineered, or stopped by equally savvy basketball tactics.
He gets the best players. THE. BEST. Over, and over and over again. And he stacks them up like firewood, because they will gladly wait 2 years to see significant playing time, because even riding the pine at UConn is more fun than going 27-4 at Texas.
Their fans are the best, because they fill the building every night. Geno lets these gals tear opponents to shreds on a nightly basis, to hell with the score. The most powerful TV entity in sports is situated right there in the same Connecticut woods, and many of their ex-players end up on ESPN as analysts once they stop playing.
It’s a perfect storm.
But just because they’ve done it all on the up-and-up doesn’t mean it’s smart to let it continue un-interrupted forever. When UCLA was dominant, a large part of it was because a) their games were always on TV, when nobody else was and b) they were PAYING players under-the-table!
That all changed, when the NCAA decided to start enforcing some recruiting rules, and other teams and leagues found their cable TV glory in the 1980’s.
Not a damn person cried a tear about UCLA losing it’s dominance.
Making things even worse for the “big boys” in the men’s game, was the widespread adoption of the 3-point shot. It gave every school, no matter how small, a puncher’s chance in a one game situation with a larger, more talented opponent.
Again, nobody got their panties in a wad, worrying about if this was somehow unfair, or insulting.
So the only thing that might get an evil male basketball fan – with plenty of options – to accept watching the inferior women’s product on TV, is the very thing the “experts” indignantly say doesn’t matter: and that’s any semblance of an unpredicted outcome.
Enjoy UConn’s romp to the title on Tuesday. An incredible, amazing, awe-inspiring undefeated season.
Just the SIXTH one of those UConn has authored since 1995. Can’t you just feel the magic?