Monday, September 29, 2008

The WNBA: Finals are here, critics appear

For all the hype around the team, it was pretty disappointing for me to watch the Seattle Storm die a slow, painful, early death in the WNBA playoffs this year. And as if that weren't enough, Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker couldn't even carry the LA Sparks through the series against San Antonio. Now the Stars are headed into the finals against the winner of the tied series between New York and Detroit in the East.

So how many of you consider yourselves sports fans? And how many of you have actually watched a WNBA game this season? And out of curiosity, how many of plopped down to watch an NBA game during their season? I have to admit that I've been slightly shocked that the WNBA is still around after 12 years. Professional women's sports teams are notoriously impossible to sustain in the US, and elite female athletes have often fled to Europe in hopes of pursuing an actual career. But the WNBA is still here. And it's stronger than ever.

I came across an opinion piece from the LA times by a woman named Melissa Rohlin. You should read her piece first before you go any further. If you don't want to take the time, here's her basic point: the WNBA is boring and professional women's basketball sucks.

Ms. Rohlin claims that she played basketball her whole life. She had dreams of playing professionally someday herself. She was "the first to get to the gym and the last one to leave," and she worshipped local role models like Kobe Bryant.

Rohlin doesn't seem to have continued playing ball in college, but she's still an avid NBA fan. An an avid WNBA hater. She thinks the women are just plain un-athletic. I mean, men are jumping 4 feet in the air, throwing down dunks like nobody's business, and sprinting down the court at the speed of light, dishing no-looks passes to their teammates and working the crowd into a frenzy. It's exciting!

And the WNBA is just plain boring.

Candace Parker--I don't care if you won the McDonald's All-American dunk competition when you were in high school (over 5 male competitors). So what? Kobe would school you any day. And Sue Bird? Are you even related to Larry? Because his passes were so much more crisp and accurate.

Wait, wait, wait. Is Rohlin actually claiming to be a FAN of basketball? Or here's the bigger question. Is she actually claiming that the WNBA is boring because women just aren't good athletes?

There's a fundamental issue underlying Rohlin's claims that makes me sick to my stomach. She's saying that the WNBA is boring because women are inferior athletes. She's chomping into an apple, then sucking on an orange, and complaining that the orange just isn't crisp and crunchy enough for her taste. And the apple just doesn't have enough citrus.

Ms. Rohlin--I, too, was that kid in high school showing up early to practice and leaving late. I, too, had the dream of playing hoops in college. I didn't end up following that path, but good LORD do I love the WNBA.

In fact, I'm going to say that any legit female basketball player with an appreciation for the game should love watching the WNBA. I even argue that those of us who were the true gym rats in high school and college are the ones who can appreciate the women's professional game the most.

Should we really be embarrassed that it was such a big deal to see Candace Parker dunk in a game, when it would be "laughable" to make such a hoopla around an NBA player doing the same? Ms. Rohlin, you are an idiot.

I doubt you ever threw down a dunk. In fact, I doubt you were ever much of an athlete at all. I dare you to body up against Tina Thompson in the post, or try to drive past Sue Bird. Just try to stop one of Lisa Leslie's bank shots. Maybe you'll only be impressed if Candace Parker actually jumps over you to slam the basketball. Is that what it would take?

I watch the NBA and I grew up with posters of Michael Jordan on my walls. And yet I knew that I wasn't going to grow up to BE him. When the WNBA came along, I couldn't imagine anything better for every girl growing up in America who needed to have their own role models to look up to in their sport. How can you, as a self-proclaimed athlete, claim that the WNBA is boring? Answer: you never learned how to appreciate the game, and that's why you have to hate on it.

There's my scathing review of your article. If you want an amazing perspective from one of the best women's basketball players in the world, check out Diana Taurasi's response here.

And let's play a little 1 on 1 sometime. I'll kick your ass.

1 comment:

Nikki said...

Thanks for making me aware of this ridiculous article. By the time I finished reading it, I was ready to throw down with Melissa Rohlin, too.

Sadly, watching the first game of the WNBA final series today, I noticed that the WNBA (the organization itself) isn't doing much to help itself... there were three totally empty rows right behind the Detroit bench, right where the camera spent a good portion of the night focusing. Mistakes like not ensuring those prime seats are full cost the WNBA serious PR opportunities. Fill those rows and you make the game look sold out, fill every other seat and leave those empty and people assume there's no one there.

In other news, the SA Spurs surprised everyone by showing up to support their female counterparts, the Silver Stars. Nice show of solidarity. Stew on that, Melissa Rohlin!