Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Very funny reading the hater blogs regarding the Candace Parker dunk. Most of these blogs are peppered with references to "chicks" and "broads". (That's one step up from "suffer ye not the witches to live." I'm always looking for the silver lining, you see.)
Anyway, I've been mulling around this 11 percent number in terms of the coverage between men's sports and women's sports. This means that for every column of women's sports coverage, there are about eight columns of men's sports coverage. I wondered if this could account for the disparity in attendance figures between men's pro ball and women's pro ball.
Take the NBA. According to the fine monkeys at Wikipedia, the NBA's total attendance for 2006-07 was 21,841,480. I don't know if this includes the playoffs or not.
The WNBA had 1,702,948 attendance in 2007. That does not include the playoffs.
Now, let's adjust for a universe where the WNBA plays 82 games and has 30 teams, just like the NBA.
WNBA attendance baseline: 1,702,948
WNBA attendance as NBA attendance: 9,475,441
That's pretty damn good. Games played goes up from 34 to 82, and the number of teams goes from 13 to 30.
Compare 21,841,480 to 9,475,441. That's only a 2.3 to 1 advantage the NBA has in warm seats compared to the WNBA. And compared to the 8 to 1 advantage in media coverage the NBA has over the WNBA in media exposure...well, that's freaking fantastic! No wonder they want to expand the W to 16 teams!
Of course, this doesn't account for the fact that the WNBA plays at a time of year where the only competition is baseball and the NBA finals. But the attendance would have to fall to below 2.7 million to say, "hey, the NBA is inherently more popular even accounting how much more media coverage the NBA gets." Like it or, the WNBA is suprisingly popular given both the short season and small number of games. And for the short shrift it gets in the media, the fans must be really seeking out WNBA games.
Now, let's look at television coverage. Your average, typical, run of the mill NBA season game will get an average Nielsen rating of 2.2 on ABC. The WNBA will get an average of 0.2 tucked away on ESPN2. Accounting for media exposure -- remember the 8 to 1 ratio -- that's the equivalent of a 1.6 Nielsen rating if the WNBA were as heavily promoted by the media as the NBA.
That's not very far away. An overwhelming advantage of NBA coverage and beat writers doesn't give much better ratings for the NBA than for the W.
I shudder to think what the numbers would be if the NBA had a 34 game season, only 13 teams, and if 88 percent of the sports page were devoted to women's sports. I can see the headlines:
ODD FORM OF 'DUNKING' BASKETBALL STRANGELY POPULAR AMONG SOME
("Dammit, when are they going to get this @#$# off the air? That time could be used to review the Big South Conference! Rachel Vitale said that Megan Frazee is gonna be AWWWW-E-SOMME, BABBBBBYYYY!!!")