Yesterday was the WNBA draft. The Connecticut Sun took Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike with the first overall pick. It was historic in that Ms. Ogwumike’s sister, Nneka, was also taken number one two years ago. The sisters joined the Manning brothers, Peyton and Eli, as the only siblings to be taken first overall in a sport.
I went to check out the coverage on the ESPN website. I don’t have cable and so I usually catch up on my sports news there. For women’s sports, it, like many mainstream providers, is often lacking. But it’s part of my routine and so it’s the source I use.
I’ve been punished for my laziness in the past. I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t follow the Women’s NCAA Tournament very closely because the games weren't a terrible surprise. Many were blowouts, including the final, even with its vaunted storyline of two undefeated teams facing off. It’s like watching two New York Yankee’s clubs square off; there is no Cinderella, no hook for the casual sports fan.
The Women’s NIT, on the other hand, was awesome this year, but getting updates on the scores of the games was no small feat. Zero reporting on ESPN. Other outlets weren't much better. Reporting was delayed; there was no video content. I had to see the highlights on the local evening news – not my ideal way of consuming sports, since I’m rarely home for that.
Judging by my second dose of punishment, the especially nasty and vitriolic comments following the ESPN article (scroll down for some really enraging crap) on the WNBA draft that feature misogynist epithets and flat out knocks on these women’s skill level, I expect some people to use that ignorant and hateful language to justify the lack of coverage.
It is frankly alarming that such verbal aggression, teeming with violence, is somehow accepted. Yes, some posters rebuff the initial offenders, but yesterday when the story broke, the board was exclusively filled with such swill.
That sustained message of violence sends a chill up my back. It is certainly no joke and that kind of language that should not be ignored and disregarded as incidental. It is that kind of sentiment which underpins a culture of passive aggressive violence that teeters on the brink of being realized at any moment and it cannot be tolerated. Letting it go unchecked is a recipe for authorizing violence against women. I feel for the women in the lives of the nasty commentators on those message boards. Hopefully, though it's unlikely, those women won't be subjected to the same callousness and aggression these jerks feel a need to share with the world.
Well screw those windbags (but ignore them we should not - their hot air has the potential to burn). I’ve had the absolute pleasure of living in El Paso for the past few months. And while the UTEP Miners men’s basketball team had been rocked by scandal and saw itself out of tournament play quickly, the Lady Miners went on one hell of a run. The games were competitive, right up until the end. There were no double-digit blowouts. The final against Rutgers proved to be a game full of excitement. The Miners stormed back to tie after facing a large deficit only to lose the game in the final seconds. An instant classic. And, what’s more, is that Chuco Town supported the hell out of those women; they were, after all, El Paso's own. Each game set new attendance records. You should have seen the lines of fans dressed in bright orange as they streamed out of the basketball stadium. Parking was impossible when the games were on and traffic was unending when the games let out.
Yet some may yet ask why we should care about women’s sports. Here are two reasons. First, they are entertaining. Second, sport brings people together no matter who is competing.
“Entertaining?” you might ask. Hell yes. I remember the Olympics and how Gabby Douglas gripped the story lines. I remember in Winter Olympics past how even ESPN featured the awesome Picabo Street and how I rooted for them when I watched them in the Olympics. I remember watching the snowboard cross and seeing how those women just BEASTED the course, as they got big air and dangerously fast speeds. It was dope – and that’s just talking about the Olympics not to mention the battles of the tennis court featuring the all-American heroes of the Williams sisters for more than a decade now, the charismatic US women’s soccer squad featuring Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach, and Hope Solo just to name a few of the talented players on that squad.
Just because those sports and athletes don’t get the coverage they deserve between big tournaments doesn’t make them any less appealing or entertaining.
Sport also helps bridge gaps. Take me and my mom, a woman who would rarely watch sport. I remember as a kid watching the WNBA finals with our favorite team the (now defunct) Houston Comets led by the original big three of Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes, and Tina Thompson flat out dominate the WNBA in its early years. I remember the US Women’s team led by Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain beat an excellent Chinese team 5-4 in penalty kicks in the 1999 World Cup.
If I ever have a daughter or a niece, or a son or a nephew for that matter, I would hope that we could share that interest over sport, regardless of the athlete who is playing. And for all of the killjoy, hate spewing fools who do nothing but diss women’s sports, you have no idea what you’re missing.