Friday, October 31, 2008

Regarding Mechelle Voepel

When I began checking my weblinks this morning, the Women's Hoops Blog alerted me to some shocking news: Mechelle Voepel is no longer at the Kansas City Star.

Cutbacks, so they say.

Hopefully, Voepel will still be at ESPN. ESPN still supports Voepel's columns on women's basketball. It would be a shame for Voepel not to have the bigger platform that she deserves.

I hate to change the subject, but I have to write a few things about myself. I've not been following women's basketball for very long. Oh, I was certainly interested in reading about it now and then but I didn't so much follow it as pay attention to it. I knew that Tennessee won lots of championships and that some teams were very good and others not so good.

I began following the sport when the Atlanta Dream came to town. I've always been a big believer in supporting the hometown team. I felt that the WNBA was a worthwhile enterprise and deserved some support, and I dipped my toe into the big blogging pool and began looking for information and reading the papers for information about my beloved Dream and all matters women's basketball.

This process of discovery was illuminating. It didn't exactly transform me into an acolyte of Andrea Dworkin, but it taught me a lot of unpleasant truths.

One of the truths I was taught is that a lot of men have a passionate hatred of women's sports. Despite their protestations to the contrary, it seems that their anger is based on gender. Their hatred of women's sports has a lot to do with their hatred of women, period.

I began reading the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Sports Illustrated with a critical eye. I began to play a game whenever I crossed a copy of the AJC - "guess the percentage". This cruel game involved picking out how much space on the AJC's sports page would be devoted to women's sports. I could win that game by guessing a number in the low single digits - some days, in the very low single digits. I think one day the percentage was actually 0.1 percent.

(The arguments go that women's sports aren't popular, therefore they don't deserve space. Why aren't they popular? Because they go unnoticed. Why do they go unnoticed? Because no print space is devoted to them.)

Sports Illustrated? Not much better. You can still win with that single-digit percentage guess. Except, of course, with the swimsuit issue.

In short, women's sports is invisible in a lot of quarters. The words "toil under obscurity" come to mind. And there are a lot of forces that want to keep it that way.

Writers like Mechelle Voepel are a light in the darkness. Intelligent sports commentary about a sport I like. And now, the Kansas City Star just put out the light.

"Cutbacks". Like a knife.

Women's Hoops Blog argues that we should e-mail the Kansas City Star to let them know our displeasure. I always felt a little hypocritical in doing that. Not only did I never read the KC Star, I never had the opportunity to read it. Writing a very prim and proper "you suck" missive doesn't make sense to me. What am I going to do, threaten to stop buying a paper I never read in the first place?

Think about it this way, though. Maybe the reason the Kansas City Star doesn't make any money is because they report about the same old boring garbage that other sports papers report about. Some pieces on the big three pro sports. College sports. Guy sports. A few columns of bloviating. And some advertisements.

And now, one less reason for women (and men) to read the sports page. One less reason to pick up a copy of the Kansas City Star.

(I ran out of reasons to buy an Atlanta Journal-Constitution.)

Maybe you should let the Kansas City Star know about the consequences of their decision. I just did. As for me, I have a new blog to read.


Ethan said...

Wow. I do declare this is your best post ever (since I have been following your blog). Excellent.

Since Dallas doesn't have a WNBA team, the DaMN usually relegates any such news to a single sentence titled "elsewhere". Really diminishes things like, oh, the playoffs.

As for astroturfing the KC paper, I agree, there's not much point. Better to support the outlets you do have access to and as the Womens Hoops Blog said, make sure they know they have your support.

pt said...

Yeah, there's not much point in writing. However, after reading the Women's Hoops Blog, I did send a letter to the editor in chief of the Star suggesting (politely, of course) that maybe the reason for the cutbacks was the same old type of coverage in the sports department and nothing new and interesting there. I truthfully disclosed that I didn't read the Star, and also added that if I ever visited KC, there would be little reason to read it.