I think it's pretty much common knowledge in sports circles that the WNBA has been in financial trouble since day one. It would have folded years ago, if not for David Stern's dogged determination (and financial backing) to make this thing a success. But more than 10 years in, it's still on shaky ground. So much that teams have resorted to selling their jerseys as ad space like the background of an over-budget action movie.
I'm sure it baffles some people why the WNBA hasn't caught on, because after all, women's basketball in successful in Europe, right? But we can't always compare our tastes to that of the Europeans, because after all, they also like soccer. And they sustain the music careers of our failed stars long after they should have faded all the way into obscurity. Plus, they're socialists.
I could come up with a ton of reason why the WNBA is failing, just like I could come up with a ton of ways to fix it. Unfortunately, 80% of those reasons and ideas revolve around the objectification and lack-of-objectification of women. But I do want to prove that I'm somewhat credible when I'm writing in this blog of mine, so I'll have to do better than saying, "Instead of high-fives, the players should be required to passionately kiss at midcourt."
Yes, the WNBA players are skilled and talented. Truly, 90% of those players could beat the brakes off of me (and anyone watching) in a game of one-on-one. I still believe that I could take the tall stiffs, much like their NBA counterparts.
But it's not always the most exciting thing to watch, and once you get past the inspiration of showing girls that they can also be strong and beautiful, it dawns on you that all you're doing is watching short people jog up and down the court. If I had a daughter, I would watch the games with her, because I'd want her to believe that she can do anything, but in reality, I'd just be counting the days until Oct. 30, when real basketball starts.
Basketball is a game of speed and athleticism, but the WNBA players are slower and not as athletic. And that's not their fault, it's just how we're built. Men are built for running, jumping, and drinking a 12-pack on Sundays during football season. Women are built for other stuff, like generally not being as athletic and walking in heels. Sure, they can run and jump, too, but men do it better. I know this because the Olympics told me so. And if they want, I feel that they should be allowed to compete against men. I just hope their fragile self-esteems don't cause them to cry all over the court.
I kid, women. I kid. But you guys know you can cry at the drop of a dime.
So how does the WNBA overcome this? After all, that's the main appeal of the NBA, watching really tall men do things that the rest of us couldn't imagine doing without it being a dream or an episode of Slamball. We want to see LeBron jump over people, or Dwyane Wade block shots, or Shawn Marion jumping over six other guys to secure a rebound. We love the "above the rim" aspect of the game. We love the idea that a man can be 6'8", 240 lbs. and still be the quickest guy on the court.
The WNBA doesn't show us anything that most of us don't believe we can't do ourselves. They don't jump particularly high or run particularly fast (except the really short players). Everything is below the rim without the "above the rim" stuff to balance it out. So how does the WNBA fix it?
Lower the rim to nine feet.
Really, what does the WNBA have to lose? It's burgeoning fanbase? Hell, it doesn't even want the one it has. It's extremely popular among lesbians, from what I understand, and a percentage of the league is likely carpetmunchers, anyway. Yet, the WNBA won't even acknowledge them. It still desires mainstream acceptance, despite the fact that they run in the summer time, when no one watches TV. It's been 13 years. The revolution isn't happening.
But if you can get these women in the air, you might see something happen. The novelty factor alone would get ratings up, I'm sure. Not only that, dunking at nine feet is an attainable goal for an athletic woman. Follow me on this.
When boys get to be about 14 or 15 years old, they spend hours just trying to reach the rim, inadvertently strengthing the muscles needed to jump higher. By the time they're 17 or 18, they're dunking with two hands. Women don't ever do this unless they're 6'4" or something, because, really....what's the point? If a girl is 5'6", she's never going to reach a ten foot goal, and with girls not being complete dumbasses (until they start dating, anyway), they're not going to blow out a knee trying to get there. But nine feet? She might be out there, trying to dunk for hours, just like the boys do. Her legs will get stronger, until she can dunk with ease, just like the boys do. Only it'll be on a nine foot goal.
Say she goes into the WNBA, where she dunks all over the competition on the regular, making highlight reels on ESPN every night, inspiring girls to go out and do the same thing, an actual female Michael Jordan. Ten years later, girls are throwing down all over the place and All-Star Weekend has a female dunk contest for us to ignore.
You trying to tell me you wouldn't watch that?
It was predicted when the WNBA (and the ABL before it) started play in the mid-90s, that dunking in women's leagues would become more commonplace as time went on. And it hasn't. Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker are about the only two players who can do it, and they're both well over six feet. It's not going to happen. And neither is the mass appeal that the WNBA is looking for. So why not engineer the conditions that would allow it to happen?