Don’t Hate The Players Or Game;
Hate The Haters
And they're right. I really do.
On a daily basis, I get to work with, talk to and even hang out with some of the best athletes in the world. They know me by name. We email, instant message and have cool, complex handshakes. (Boom Chah!) I've played with their children, been to their birthday parties and I may even invite a few to my wedding. Isn't this every kid's dream (at least those kids who wasn't good at sports).
They are humble ambassadors of their sport. They respect their peers, their coaches, their predecessors and their fans. They take their jobs seriously and understand the opportunities they have been given. They return calls, talk to the media are always working in the community. They sign autographs and prefer to just blend in rather than make spectacles of themselves. You would never know that you're dealing with the elite of sports just from talking to them.
Yup, one of the best perks of working for the NBA is getting to work with WNBA players (along with the free ice cream sundaes on Employee Appreciation Day).
Now I read the articles and columns that knock the WNBA (I tape them to my wall as bulletin board fodder). They call the game boring and unwatchable and will take any chance they can get to criticize the league. But really… at this point, don't they realize that the immature shots at the league just demonstrate their lack of creativity and close-mindedness? (If I can come up with something new to write each week, it cannot be that hard.) They've been saying the same thing for a decade and have no idea just how good the game is.
Critics call the game boring and sloppy. But just because most players cannot play above the rim (though more and more can) doesn't mean that the game is boring. Last season, the Phoenix Mercury scored 87.1 points per game. That's in a 40-minute game. If you (big word alert!) extrapolate that out over 48 minutes, the Mercury would average nearly 105 points per game. Only three NBA teams scored more than that. The leading scorer in the WNBA last season, Diana Taurasi, averaged 25.3 ppg which is the equivalent of 30.4 in a longer game (just one point less than Kobe Bryant).
And sloppy? The same Mercury team averaged 13 turnovers in 40 minutes last year, which translates to 15.6 over 48 minutes. Again, that would place them right in the middle of some elite NBA teams (sandwiched right between Golden State and Utah). What else should we compare because I'll bet (not that I bet) that the numbers will be comparable? Free throw percentage? (Same.) Three-point field goal percentage? (Same.) You name the statistical category and we can discuss (Critics don't cite stats because they don't support their arguments).
But it's not really about the comparisons. Both the NBA and WNBA are unique and great to watch. But over the past decade, the WNBA has evolved into its own brand of basketball, a different (and enjoyable) viewing experience compared to the NBA (and this is coming from a 20-something unmarried guy). And the biggest reason for this continued positive development that the players are constantly getting better (both on the court and off). If everyone could have the same experiences I've hadto have with WNBA players, there would be a lot fewer critics. Of course, most people don't have those personal, individual relationships, but it's not even necessary (you can just take my word for it that they're fun to be around).
What it boils down to is ignorance. I guarantee you that 99 percent of those who put the league down and are quick to use the WNBA as a punchline have never been to a game. (Consider this your open invitation. I'll even send you a ticket.) They have never seen the athleticism and speed of the players up close and in person. They have no idea that the in-arena experience is as good, if not better, than other professional sports. And once they go, the transformation is quick and conversion complete. I cannot tell you how many reformed critics I have met over the past few years who are glad they gave the game a chance and are now fans (And I've forgiven them, which shows that I am capable of change, too).
So don't knock it until you actually try it.
Look, I know the WNBA is not for everyone. (If you don't like basketball played at the highest level by world-class athletes, delivered in an affordable, fun, family-oriented and fan-friendly atmosphere, the WNBA is definitely not for you.)
But here's who it is great for... men who love basketball, especially fathers who want to spend time with their daughters (and sons) and experience something they both can relate to. Like the guys who went to every Celtics or Knicks game with their dads growing up and still talk about it as one of the great experiences of their lives. Now, with daughters of their own, why would they deny them that same experience?
The league is ideal for kids, girls and boys alike, who aspire to compete in sports and live a healthy, active lifestyle. And more people than ever are playing basketball. Since 1997, organized basketball participation has increased 38 percent among females in AAU basketball and 22 percent in girls' high school varsity basketball.
The WNBA sets a great example for anyone who believes in and supports women. The players are inspirational role models for fans and the league recognizes individuals who inspire others through their commitment, passion and dedication to work, family and community.
The WNBA is great for anyone, young and old, who believe in teaching good values like confidence, self-esteem, health and well-being, teamwork, sportsmanship and diversity.
So to sum up, if you are a woman, support a woman, love a woman, know a woman or have ever met a woman, there is a good chance you'll be a fan of the WNBA.
OK, maybe the WNBA really is for everyone.
Now if everyone would just give it a chance.