Thursday, April 17, 2003

GOOD WNBA ANALYSIS: In the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, from Art Thiel, who is realistic about women's pro sports without the usual, obnoxious "women's sports just suck" attitude:

Besides the fact that the women's game isn't the above-the-rim spectacle to which the sports public has become accustomed, the NBA has virtually doomed the WNBA to failure by booking it for the summer. The NBA's owners who controlled their arenas needed filler events to enhance the package for overpriced luxury suites, neglecting to consider the fact that in places such as Portland and Seattle, relatively few want to spend glorious summer evenings indoors (see Kingdome baseball).

Part of the reason the WNBA has had modest success in Washington, D.C., and Houston is because summers there are so insufferable that an evening in an air-conditioned building has appeal.

Then again, the winter version of women's hoops didn't work, either. The late American Basketball League, including the Seattle Reign, played a winter schedule and paid its players well -- stars earned more than $100,000. But it lost $10 million in two years, then folded when the NBA machine muscled it out of existence.

The ABL was growing women's hoops organically, playing in smaller arenas and building a constituency somewhat independent of the men's game. The NBA thought it could invent a major league simply through the power of its marketing. Expanding from eight teams in 1997 to 16 in 2002, when the quality of play was already dramatically inferior to the men's game, was as dumb as forcing front-office staffs to handle chores for both teams. The junior varsity feel has never gone away.

The WNBA was always overreaching, from the very beginning. They should have looked backwards to the NHL--the original cult sport, which started with the fabled "Original Six"--and not pretended from the beginning that the WNBA was this huge major sport. I blame Michael Jordan, the NBA though that after his success they could market anything into existence. Sadly, you have to be an actual marketable commodity to have Jordanesque mass appeal.

UPDATE: An actual hypermarketable commodity to have Jordanesque appeal, I should say. Anybody read this book about Jordan and "the rise of global capitalism"? Any good?

No comments: