For many years now, I have been completely apathetic toward the WNBA. Now I have no objection to the notion of women playing basketball or any sport for that matter, in fact I believe it should be encouraged just as sports should be encouraged (and generally are) for men. But I have not been supportive of the WNBA. Why? Because they've been going about it all wrong.
Since its inception, the WNBA has been marketed as the NBA with no dudes. It's been marketed as "Hey, we're just as good as the boys! Sometimes we're better!" The thing is: they aren't.
Through no fault of their own, these women aren't men. Men are inherently bigger, faster, and stronger. This is not a condemnation, simply a statement of fact. Of course this means that the level of athletic prowess for men's games is higher than that of women's games (which, for me and most who appreciate achievement, makes for a better game). Yet the WNBA has sold itself by saying that it could compete with the guys, a statement of complete and utter falsehood. Were it not for the wishes of Don David Stern and his deep pockets, the WNBA would have folded a while ago because of this approach.
What the WNBA should have done is market to its niche audience. Those who have watched the WNBA and call themselves fans are made up of a few groups: those espousing girl-power (fair enough); young girls who see the players as role models (makes sense); and those who have found the WNBA to be a nice respite from the sloppy, me-first superstars of the NBA.
Well sadly, this final claim is starting to slip away. The NBA put forth one of the best professional sports seasons in recent memory with tons of competitive teams (the Golden State Warriors missed the playoffs), and basketball being revived in some cities (Boston, Atlanta), and team-first groups showing themselves to be successful (San Antonio, Detroit, New Orleans).
Still, the WNBA could claim that they were superior to the NBA because their players played sound, fundamental basketball, and their players stayed out of trouble and were cleanly competitive.
The only problem with this is that neither of those are true. Have you watched a WNBA game? (I have) The games are sloppy...really, really sloppy. Now I'm not claiming I could do better, because anyone who has played basketball with me knows I couldn't (though I think I'd be a nasty low-post defender, like Dikembe Motumbo but with less talent and more ability to speak English). Women's basketball is actually moderately to greatly entertaining...in college. Because these are professionals, they are and should be held to the highest standards, but when you're making the same mistakes that an 17 year old with not much prior training does on a regular basis, it is very difficult to take you seriously as professional.
But the first of the nails in the coffin for the WNBA happened last night (see below). This is the first in what I predict will be many instances of human emotion coming through. And I'm not surprised taht Candice Parker was involved. While she is clearly one of the best female players on the planet, ever since she burst on to the scene and won (unfairly) a McDonald's All-American high school dunk contest, she has closed the gap between how women and men play. The WNBA is becoming more like the NBA. However, with the inherent differences in physical abilities, this is not a good thing. Would you want to watch a league full of thugs and complainers who can't deliver the wow factor? I know I wouldn't. This is a make-or-break moment for the WNBA, I don't think they will respond well. And after a while, David Stern (or whoever is running the books for the NBA) won't want to prop up the league.
(siderbar: The WNBA doesn't even fight as well as the NBA...if you're going to do something, do it right)