Monday, June 23, 2008

Actually Posting about the WNBA...

Okay, fellow sports fans, don't panic -- this post isn't really going to analyze the WNBA. But as I perused an article about the league's second dunker ever, I wanted to attempt something harder than rocket science in the sports world: addressing the male/female divide in a post shorter than 1,000 pages. Before I begin, a few caveats: I'm sticking to basketball; I'm using logic that can in fact be refuted simply because this is a gender issue over just a sports issue; and the jury is still out as to which is less impressive, the WNBA or the NHL. Now then...

I was recently talking to a friend of mine who cheers for Holy Cross, a Division I college in Worcester, MA. Though she lives with a member of the women's basketball team, she says she can't stand cheering at their games because they're slower and more boring than men's games (her words, not mine). Now, this has nothing to do with their gender. It's a matter of preference. I'd prefer to watch a Division I basketball game over a Division III game. Why? I can play with Division III athletes, for the most part. Division I athletes wow me, and they're faster and more athletic than Division III players. I'd also prefer to watch a soccer game over a field hockey game. Why? Because I like the sport of soccer more than field hockey. (And secretly, I believe that field hockey was invented by a few former ice hockey players who went to one too many English pubs, realized they missed their sport, and struck up a game with broken stool legs in the backyard.)

My point is that, when fans select their sport to watch (ignoring allegiances to individual players and teams), they usually do so for two reasons: (1) they enjoy this sport over that sport, and (2) they enjoy this particular matchup over another. Allow me to address each point here:

1) Enjoying one sport over another: Men's and women's sports are, fundamentally, different. There are rule differences in almost every sport, including basketball (e.g. the size of the ball). No one would argue that softball and baseball are the same sport. But where do we draw the line? When does one sport become different? Five rule changes? A different playing field? Either way, because of this view, I can't sit here and say I'm overly impressed with Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker (WNBA Dunkers #1 and #2). Treating the WNBA as simply basketball, thousands of other players have dunked before them. But they've all been male. So should I celebrate the women dunking because it's unique to their sport, then revert to treating the WNBA just like the NBA? Where's the logic?

I dislike the WNBA for the same reason I dislike lacrosse -- it just doesn't do it for me. I treat it as a separate game from the NBA, because that's what it is. It's a different-paced sort of basketball with some different rules. Do I appreciate their skill? Of course. Do I think I can beat Diana Taurasi off the dribble? I can't beat my 10 year old cousin off the dribble. But I can't stomach commercials which broadcast that the WNBA game is the same as the NBA. Why? Because I'm sexist? Because I've had a bad experience (or five) with women? No (maybe). It's because the games are different, Mr. Commercial Maker! And I appreciate different...I just don't want to watch it.

2) Enjoying a particular game over another: No one will get too upset with me if I say that Celtics-Lakers is infinitely more interesting and engaging than Knicks-Bobcats. The level of play in the first game is more intense. There's more talent. There's more intrigue surrounding the players. Now, the same applies when I choose to watch Random NBA Game vs. Random WNBA Game. But I'm not allowed to say that without being called sexist, without being called ignorant of the WNBA. Look, I'm not climbing onto my throne to preach about how unbiased I am. And sure, I'm probably a little bit sexist when I discuss my interest in the NBA over the WNBA. But the fact remains -- people would rather watch Yankees-Red Sox than Royals-Rangers, and Patriots-Colts will get the Sunday night spot on NBC over Jets-Dolphins.

This is not an attempt to settle the debate. Hell, I'd have more respect for a talking head on any major network who comes out and says this without coming to any coherent conclusion. Because he or she would be taking a risk. They would be breaking down a little bit of that Hyper-PC filter. They'd be tackling Title IX. I love that women have an equal shot at playing. That is something I will never, ever have a problem with. I do, however, have a problem with people talking down to me, telling me that the sports are the same.

I have a problem being lied to.


At 3:59 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

So you can't beat your 10 year nephew off the dribble, but you could play with DIII athletes? Sounds fishy, unless, of course, your 10 year old nephew is like 6'7'', 220.

At 4:06 PM , Blogger Jay said...

haha touche...i'm your standard jump shooter with no handle. and my 10 year old cousin once dunked on me. sure it was on a fisher price hoop, but she's still got mad hops.

At 5:07 PM , Anonymous Jay's cousin who played field hockey for 13 years said...

You may want to consider hiring a fact checker for your blog. Field hockey came first (then some drunken guys went to one too many pubs, but in Canada, and in a drunken stupor decided it would be a brilliant idea to strap metal blades to their feet, grab their field hockey sticks and have at it).

At 3:03 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually think that the WNBA should be renamed the MWVBA, which of course stands for the Men With Vagi... you get the picture. They in no way represent the female gender. The very fact that it is called the WOMEN'S NBA outrages me. This is where you should have begun your argument: not that they are both labeled as NBA, but that sneaky little W at the beginning.

Call me sexist if you like, but I feel that I am defending femininity.

At 3:26 PM , Anonymous Concerned / Confused Catch-Meaningless-Inconsistencies-er said... September 24, 2006 - Item 7 - "...So I guess I’m saying I enjoy the WNBA." June 23, 2008 - "I dislike the WNBA..."

You, my friend, lied to us just under two years ago. I cannot read this blog the same way, barring a future brilliantly worded "it was textbook tongue-in-cheek journalism" or "it was just a fad, and my tastes have changed because I am fickle" follow-up retraction of one of the two statements. I expect more than textbook of you, and I certainly expect a level of consistency higher than that of, say, water... more similar to molasses.

Thank you.

At 3:51 PM , Blogger Jay said...

In response to "concerned/confused" person, who I believe to be either Ed or Tim...I actually was being sarcastic, if you read that whole post before "I guess I'm saying I enjoy the WNBA." And by the way, I am VERY fickle. Welcome to the world of sports!


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