Tuesday, August 12, 2008
With the Houston Comets franchise in danger of either relocating or being folded, even WNBA fans are expressing some doubt about the WNBA's stability. Jock-ish sportswriters and perpetual detractors say that the WNBA can't work and that the financial troubles and franchise relocations are a sign that no one really gives a damn and that WNBA watchers need to turn their attentions to more serious and stable sports.
I think that to drive the point home, the WNBA should look at the following unstable sports franchises. If the names aren't known to you, you can go to Wikipedia or a sports encyclopedia - I don't expect readers to be experts on dead leagues.
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1876: Baseball's National League founded with eight teams.
1877: League loses franchises in New York and Philadelphia. League stumbles forward with six teams.
1878: League loses three franchises. Picks up three expansion franchises. Still a six-team league.
1879: League loses another two franchises. This time, picks up four franchises and is up to an eight-team league.
1880: League loses one franchise, picks up another franchise.
1881: League loses one franchise, picks up one franchise.
1882: For the first time, the league actually continues with the same group of franchises it had last year. However, there's competition from another league called the American Association.
1883: League loses another two franchises, but picks up two.
1884: Amazing! Once again, the league continues with the same franchises it had the year before!
1885: Still unstable. Loses a franchise, but picks another one up.
1886: Loses two more franchises, picks up another two. How can you tell who's in the league and who isn't in the league by this time?
1887: Drops two franchises, picks up two more. When is this crap going to end?
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1920: National Football League starts out with 14 teams. One of them only plays one game. Scheduling left up to individual teams. No championship game.
1921: League blows up to 22 teams - however, five of the teams will fold after this year. Muncie and Cleveland will also fold after the season.
1922: It's going to be 18 teams this year, I think.
1923: League expands to 20 teams.
1924: That didn't work. Back to 18 teams. Chaotic scheduling. no championship game.
1925: Back to 20 teams this year. Championship, however, is a joke. We still can't figure out who the 1925 NFL Champion was.
1926: The NFL had 22 teams playing...well, at least part of an NFL season. Some folded. Some moved to rival leagues. College fans sit around and mock NFL, predict the league will be out of business in three years.
1927: It's time for radical cost-cutting measures. The weak sisters of the league are eliminated. This cuts the league down to 12 teams, its weakest ever. One team plays 13 games, another team plays five games, much laughter abounds.
1928: Down to 10 teams now. Two teams from the year before folded. College sports writer Norman Aloysious Chad predicts that league won't make it to end of year. In a column that showcases Aloysious's literary brilliance, he pens the well-known line "Who watches that crap, anyway?"
1929: Back up to 12 teams. One team decides to play a game under floodlights. Press claims that stunts like that can't save the NFL.
1930: Some teams move. Some teams drop out. League expands. We have 11 teams...I think.
1931: League has to cut down to 10 teams. Due to the Depression, one team folds in mid-season. Writers write 14th column of year on "NFL: An Experiment That Failed".
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1946-47: Basketball Association of America starts out with uneven assortment of teams - six in one league, five in another.
1947-48: Four of the teams from the year before immediately collapse. They have to bring in another team from some other league to even out the teams.
1948-49: Looks promising. Four teams from the National Basketball League join the BAA. It's a twelve-team league!
1949-50: With both basketball leagues in bad shape, they join forces and become the National Basketball Association. They have 17 teams in three divisions.
1950-51: The 17 teams have to be contracted down to 11. Then one of the teams collapses in mid season.
1951-52: At last, some stability. One team relocates.
1952-53: For the first time, the teams from this year are the same teams from last year.
1953-54: So much for hope. The team in Indianapolis folds. That leaves the new NBA with nine teams.
1954-55: The franchise in Baltimore collapses in mid-season. With eight teams, the verdict is in: "pro basketball is a joke!"
1955-56: One of the teams ends up relocating in the tenth year of the league's existence.
1956-57: Thank god. More stability in an eight-team league with Minneapolis the westernmost team.
1957-58: Two relocations this time. It looks like the NBA is doomed to be an afterthought.
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When looking back on these old failed leagues, the WNBA needs to learn some hard lessons. Either that, or they'll be a sports footnote, like those old failed leagues known as the National League, National Football League, and National Basketball Association.