Saturday, July 19, 2008
Rebkell has a thread called "Why are you a women's basketball fan?" There have been all kinds of stories that are told, each one different than the next. I was about to reply on Rebkell, until I found my response turning into a blog post.
I wasn't even a basketball] fan before this season. Whenever I played, I played it poorly. As a Kentuckian, I of course followed the Wildcats, but that was about it. I found the NBA inherently dull.
The key was that my wife and I have moved about every couple of years. We've lived in Florida, Tennessee, and now Atlanta. And I've always had a rule with my sports fandom, which was baseball fandom: you support the home town team. I didn't want to be one of these guys wearing an "enemy hat". Wherever we went, I supported the hometown team.
When I lived in New York, I was a Mets fan.
When I lived in south Florida, I was a Marlins fan.
When I lived in Nashville, I was a Pirates fan, since the minor league affiliate at the time was a Pittsburgh affiliate.
And when I came to Atlanta, I was a Braves fan.
So why go over to the Dream? Well, they were a brand new franchise in Atlanta. Therefore, I supported them. Furthermore, the league had only been around for ten years, meaning that the learning curve as to WNBA history wouldn't be as steep as say baseball's learning curve (pro baseball has been around since 1871 and before).
What really intrigued me were the new APBRmetric tools, all the new stats crunching stuff. I'm a stathead, I have to admit it, but I always suspected that "points scored" didn't tell the whole story of a team. Now, the numbers in basketball actually mean something.
Of course, this was tenative at first, but when I started watching I was hooked. The WNBA, bluntly, has a better class of fan than baseball. Not to say that baseball fans aren't classy, but WNBA fandom is more intense. Furthermore, there isn't the crowd of drunks in the crowd that you have to deal with (a real problem at Marlins games). It's a real "family atmosphere", as opposed to other sports where the crowds are middle aged men. (And there's no friggin way you'd get me to attend an NFL game, even if you gave me tix on the 50 yard line - every football game I've attended was filled to the rafters with obnoxious drunks.)
The players are fantastic. They don't seem to have the massive ego and entitlement issues that have absolutely infected pro sports and which seem to come with media attention and millions of dollars. I don't know if its something gender related, or if its because of the struggle to get playing time for little money, but the players are more likely to treat fans as participants in the sports experience as opposed to nuisances.
I also love the international aspect. One of the problems with pro sports is that there isn't much of an international following - for a baseball fan, MLB is it. From November to February, one has the "hot stove league" where one talks about the upcoming season. Carribbean baseball, which is commonly called "winter ball"? Doesn't exist in the eyes of the MLB follower. Whereas WNBA fans have women's college b-ball to tide them over, and all the pros go overseas to play on Russian and European teams.
There's a whole friggin' universe of basketball out there, and it seems that I've rarely touched the surface. As George Harrison might have said, "the more you look, the more there is to see".