May 29, 2002, - 5:51 am
Have you ever fantasized about manly 6-foot-5 women slogging up and down a wooden floor with a striped ball?
Unless you’re the reincarnated Dudley Moore or addicted to bizarre “Big Beautiful Women” sites, probably not.
But whether or not you want to watch, that Waste of National Broadcast Airtime, the WNBA, is baaaack for yet another season, it’s sickest-I mean, sixth.
Not that you noticed that Weird Nuisance Brought on America. After all, the never-ready-for prime-time “league,” as always, began on Memorial Day weekend, when the only thing worth watching is the Indy 500-and not for Sarah Fisher, the female driver who always fails and sometimes manages to crash into others (24th out of 33 drivers, Sunday). Or per chance, the NBA finals, where REAL basketball is played. Other than that, most Americans are at parades and barbecues. That’s why TV sports programmers also picked this past weekend’s afternoons for other throwaway fillers like the NCAA women’s softball championships-also watched by less viewers than Osama bin Laden has camels.
What’s the sound of one-hand clapping? Confucius say: It’s the same sound as no-one watching these-sports’ silly bearded-lady sideshows.
The ratings are so bad that several localities are not airing WNBA match-ups featuring their own home teams. That includes Detroit’s highly-rated NBC affiliate, WDIV-TV, which garnered better ratings from “Perry Mason” reruns, almost a decade old. Last season, on the afternoon of Saturday, July 21, the station opted, instead, to show the 1992 small-screen gem, “Perry Mason: The Case of the Reckless Romeo,” starring not just the late Raymond Burr, but that A-list actor, Geraldo Rivera.
Last season, the WNBA had worse average attendance and ratings than ever-and that’s if you count the WNBA’s official tally, which appears to include all the posthumous voters in Cook County, Illinois, who attended games with equal veracity as their phantom attendance at the polls.
Take the Detroit Shock. Last season, this WNBA “team” announced the crowd was 5,380 in a game against the Los Angeles Sparks. But The Detroit News reported, “as has been the case all season, the number was overblown. Though the Shock’s official home average this season is 5,625, most of their home games are drawing fewer than 3,000.” Perhaps the league learned its accounting practices from Louis Farrakhan’s “Million Man March”-where somehow 100,000 to 300,000 equaled a million in Nation of Islam PR’s strange new math.
And this is the league that gives away its tickets. Rather, they can’t even give them away.
Why is no-one going to or watching the games? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the average person can watch an infinitely more exciting game, featuring better hoops players, in any pick-up game in the neighborhood. These women (I think they’re women) can’t run, can’t shoot, can’t slam-dunk, can’t even semi-dunk or dunk at all. How many slow-motion, instant replays of an overhead lay-up can you watch before you get a headache?
The shot-clock is six seconds longer than the 24-second NBA clock. Boring. The ball is smaller, the hoop lower. Why are these “players” occupying my ESPN screen, when they can’t even beat the aging former male college and high school players against whom they practice? There’s a WNBA “All-Star Game” with no stars, or even semi-stars, in it. If you can name more than one “star” player in that confab, you’re under suspicion. Even the regular season players are most unmemorable, but for their names. First names like LaQuanda, LaNeishea, Shalonda, and Shaunzinski. Shaunzinski? (Must be from the Irish-Polish contingent.)
The league is such a joke that NBA star Shaquille O’Neal once dissed the rival San Antonio Spurs as “WNBA champions” for their dismal performance in the NBA’s playoffs. A movie, “Juwanna Mann,” mocks the WNBA. It’s main character a fired NBA bad-boy dresses in drag to play in a female pro league. “I had to get my legs waxed, my lips waxed,” said actor Miguel Nunez, Jr. More than what some WNBA players do, apparently.
That’s the WNBA’s freak factor. The WNBA has struggled to market its player personnel as glamour queens. But in a league where the average chick is a muscular, butch, giantess over 6 feet tall, it’s hardly glamorous. In its 1999 season, the league featured a 6’7″ woman from Korea. Veteran player Margo Dydek is 7’2″. Sexy. Is this pro basketball or “Ripley’s Believe it or Not”? Hard to tell.
Still the WNBA tries hard to seem girlie and feminine. Real hard. From day one, they’ve been marketing Lisa Leslie, the 6’5″ league MVP and star (if you can call her that) of the LA Sparks, as a model. Ever seen her model in anything other than Sports Illustrated for Women? Me neither. There is no Anna Kournikova in the WNBA. Not even close. The WNBA website mentions as many married and parent players as it can find in the haystack.
Then there’s last year’s Playboy centerfold contest featuring choices of WNBA players. This league–a product of the Gloria Steinem mindset, marketing itself as a consortium of role models for young girls-was basically admitting it couldn’t compete on the court. So they had to take their clothes off to compete.
Even then, they couldn’t compete. WNBA players were so unattractive, Playboy had to resort to using a coach, Carolyn Peck, formerly of the Orlando Miracle, as a choice. (Peck, after announcing she wanted to be an NBA coach, left the WNBA–where she had a whopper of a losing season–to return to coaching Title IX projects in women’s college basketball.)
There’s also the WNBA’s obvious lesbian factor. What do you expect from a league that had as its spokesman/woman/whatever, none other than Rosie O’Donnell? Not only did she and her girlfriend Kelli sit in their appointed box at every game, but so did other non-glamorous celebs like Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, whom Vanity Fair recently tried to annoint as our new “national sex symbol.” Please. The WNBA tried to pretend that most of its players and fans aren’t lesbians, but it couldn’t risk alienating the three lesbians who still watch. It’s now out of the closet and openly featuring lesbian nights. All-Star Game weekend is a major national lesbian gathering. Last year, Sports Illustrated ran a cover story about then-Detroit Shock Coach Nancy Lieberman’s affair with her player, Anna DeForge.
Bill Clinton attended a New York Liberty game, last year. One can only fathom what was running through his mind.
There’s just one thing running through real sports fans’ minds, though: Please, make it stop. People who watch the WNBA also liked watching “Ally McBeal.”
And it was canceled.
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