It's what you've been waiting all year for: the opportunity to watch the Sacramento Monarchs defend their title against the Detroit Shock. This is the WNBA Finals, baby...you can have the whole chair, but you're only going to need the edge of you seat for this one!!Can you feel the excitement? Yeah, I didn't think so.I'd be willing to bet no one reading this blog knew who was in the WNBA Finals. In fact, most of you probably didn't even know the WNBA season was still going on. At this point, the WNBA has deteriorated from "unique opportunity for professional sports" to "disappointing nonsuccess" to "abject failure" to "totally depressing mess." I haven't felt this morbid since my family decided to pull the plug on grandma...and she wasn't even on life support at the time.
It's become entirely obvious that women's basketball as a professional sport isn't going to work. Nobody cares about it. ESPN provides more coverage of the National Spelling Bee than the WNBA. And it doesn't get much better locally. The city of Chicago started a new WNBA franchise this season, and I honestly can't even remember what it's called. I read the sports section of the local papers every day, and in the last few months I've seen exactly two articles about the Sky (I just looked the name up): once about them ending an 11-game losing streak, and one about how they plan to improve next season (they finished 5-29...again, I just looked it up). For the sake of comparison, in the same span of time I've seen articles about an International Hot Dog Eating Contest and a competitive Rock/Paper/Scissors tournament.
This year is the WNBA's 10th Anniversary. They released an All-Decade Team and everything. But I would be surprised if your average NBA fan could name more than two or three members of that team, and that's only because David Stern bombards us with WNBA marketing during NBA Playoff telecasts. And let's face it, Stern is the only reason the WNBA still exists. He absolutely will not give up on it. It's like a personal crusade for him. And I understand his reasoning. For him, it's about ethics. Women deserve to have professional sports.
I agree with him to a point. But sports don't exist in a vacuum. They're businesses too. They have to become self-sufficient, and, you know, actually make money. The WNBA has never had a single profitable season. How many businesses can you think of that would survive ten years of losing money? If you were running that business, would you keep it going? Hell no. You'd write it off and start something new. But the WNBA is under the protective umbrella of it's older, more successful brother. As long as the NBA keeps turning a profit, Stern will keep flushing huge piles of money down the toilet on his pet project. Meanwhile, he'll fine the living hell out of Mark Cuban for acting like an idiot. Maybe somebody should fine Stern for his bad business sense. Then again, maybe Cuban's fines are what's actually supporting the WNBA. And if that's the case, he might become a folk hero for women's sports. Sort of.
The problems dooming the WNBA aren't going to change any time soon. The players are slow, at least when compared to their NBA counterparts. They can't dunk. The game isn't aesthetically pleasing. Statbuster outlined a five-point plan to make the WNBA work. It included things like making the hoop shorter (thereby enabling the ladies to play above the rim), using fewer players (4-on-4 or 3-on-3 would increase individual scoring), and changing the uniforms to skin-tight spandex or maybe those little bathing suits that the beach volleyball players wear. Think about that. I've personally watched about 1000 percent more women's volleyball than women's basketball...and I hate volleyball! Those volleyball people understand this. They know how to attract viewers.Finally...a sport I can, ahem, get behind.I suppose you could accuse me of being sexist, but there's no question that many women's sports are blatantly using sex to sell their players. The careers of tennis stars Maria Sharapova and Anna Kournikova are based almost entirely on how sexy they are...and Kournikova isn't even that good at tennis. Even the historically butch LPGA is getting into the act. I mean, have you seen Natalie Gulbis? Or Laura Diaz? Or Michelle Wie? I absolutely despise golf, but I can still name three professional women golfers right off the top of my head. That's the same number of WNBA All-Decade players I could name, by the way. And basketball is my favorite sport.There's no shame in giving your customers what they want. After all, NBA realized its viewers enjoy dunks and athletic drives to the basket, so the Powers That Be made palming the ball and travelling legal. Hockey allows supervised fights to break out in the middle of a game. And the main problem facing the WNBA is that is just doesn't provide what a larger customer base would want. I say: give it to them. Change up the game. Make it interesting and fun to watch. You don't even have to make all the players wear bikinis, although that would be a hoot. But the whole "slower, more boring NBA" thing has failed. Let's try something different.By the way, the WNBA Finals kick off at 7:30 P.M. EST on ESPN2.