Thursday, May 7, 2009

Can You Be a Fan of the WNBA and Not of the NBA?

While following the various Twitter feeds, the talk turns to basketball. Many WNBA fans are distracted by the NBA Playoffs, which have finished their first round and are now moving into the conference semi-finals. WNBA fans talk about the amazing Boston-Chicago series which went a full seven games. Players like Chamique Holdsclaw and longtime reporters of women's basketball Twitter away regarding their observations during the NBA playoffs.

This begs the question: "can a person be a fan of the WNBA and not a fan of the NBA?"

The answer: yes. Because I'm one of those people. The real question should be, "how many WNBA fans are not NBA fans?"

As a side note, I read the Got Man Answers blog while looking for WNBA info. (There's no point in visiting, I just wanted to be able to point to a site.) The author "Man Answers" (or "Manswers") wishes to be the arbitrer of All Things Masculine, a Petronius of the frat. Someone asks him if one can still be "manly" (I suppose) and know about the LPGA. The author replies that the only way you can avoid losing manliness points is if:

a) you are a fan of the corresponding male event, or
b) you have a daughter, friend or relative on the team.

The telling quote:

It's ok for a man to love women's sports, but never at a level exceeding his love for the same men's sport, unless a loved one is a participant or social deviant terrorists are involved.

If that's not the definition of chauvinism - "extreme partisanship" - there isn't one. The word "chauvinism" would become officially devoid of meaning, to be replaced with "wiksdgo" or "fnord". The excuse would be that such a "manly man" (I can't help but laugh; the men who seek manliness search to fill an infinite void) would give for watching an WNBA game is that he loves basketball so much that his love even spills out to clearly inferior sports like the WNBA. To such a specimen, all I can say hope he got his cootie shot before the Liberty and Sparks tip off.

Here's the problem: I've tried to watch the NBA, but I'm just not a fan. Everything the haters say about the WNBA - that's it's dull, boring, predictable - applies to the NBA, but for different reasons.

* The season takes friggin forever. The regular season is virtually meaningless - I recently read Phil Jackson's latest book and he pretty much says so. To paraphrase PJ: "the regular season record would be nice for our fans, but we just want to get into the playoffs". With so many games, playoff contenders can build an insurmountable lead, and then phone it in from February onwards. If the players don't care about the outcomes of the games, why should I care? The WNBA's 34 game season is much more thrilling than the 82-going-on-250 game season of the NBA.

* The game takes friggin forever. I just don't have patience for 12-minute quarters. Ten, yes, twelve, no. That extra eight minutes is stretched to at least thirty minutes by fouls, commercials, and various time-out related activities. Why does every NBA game I watch appear to be The Most Boring Thing Ever?

* No one seems to play much defense. Hell, no one seems to even know how the game is played. One guy carries the ball, and stuffs it in with a dunk that looks...well, pretty much like every other dunk I've ever seen. (I have never figured out what is so amazing about dunking. Even supposedly spectacular dunks look pedestrian to me.) Sometimes, it's a one-handed dunk. Sometimes, it's a two-handed dunk. (When they do a three-handed dunk, wake me up.) The team might only have two designated scorers; anyone else touches the ball apparently by accident, shooting only when the 24-second clock is about to expire.

While this is going on, a half-hearted attempt at defense is usually attempted by the opposing team. I think four players - two on offense, two on defense - could walk off the court and no one would notice they were missing.

* Height simply dominates the game. Friend-o, a man who is six feet eight inches tall and can dunk a basketball is not interesting. It would be much more interesting if he was a tall, powerful specimen who couldn't dunk the ball. That would at least make him a character. The WNBA detractors say the rims in the women's game should be lowered; I counter that the men's rims should be raised. It's easy to shoot three percentage points better when you're a friggin foot closer to the basket from height alone.

Oh. But then they couldn't dunk so easily, now could they? Well, never mind then.

* I don't really like any of the players. Most of this is due to the preferential treatment they were given since seventh grade, which has caused some sort of free-standing ego disease.

* Anyone who might be a hero is cleaned up to the point of irrelevance by the NBA marketers. The NBA doesn't have heroes, it has salesmen. Yes, LeBron James is a great athlete, but his athleticism isn't enough to compel me to watch him. I don't know who he is or what he represents in the most existential sense of the term. He's an okay pitch-man. He can move product. He can score large numbers of points on the basketball court. But where does LeBron stand in relevance to me? What is LeBron James besides his athletic skill?

So there it is. My horrible secret. I just don't like the NBA. Maybe someone can enlighten me as to how I can approach the conundrum that is the NBA differently, but there you go. If this means I have to turn in my man-badge, well sheriff, you can find it on my desk. I'm keeping the gun. And as the saying goes, I don't need no stinkin' badges.


Ethan said...

Sure, I'm a poser for saying this, but after the 6-championships Bulls, everything else (NBA-wise) was "not exactly".

I don't care for or about the Lakers.

I used to hate the Knicks *especially* when Jeff Van Gundy was coaching, but he is announcing now and the Knicks just couldn't stay on my radar long enough to warrant any fresh hatin'.

I checked out a Cavs playoff game recently, and yep, it's the LeBron Show. I agree that he is hella talented, but *meh*.

Mavs are the local team, and for all I care they play in North Dakota. They're not interesting. I stopped reading Mark Cuban's blog a year or two ago, and even then it wasn't really about the Mavs anyway.

Women's b-ball is compelling to me on several levels. The talent (I'm much more interested in Candace Parker than Tony Parker), the skill (ball movement 'r us, perimeter shooting), the narrative, the rivalries, and so on.

Yes, WNBA shoots itself in the foot a lot, and I really wish they could get out from under the NBA (fat chance), but between the 2 leagues (not to mention the NCAA) the women's game is where it's at for me. And nope, I'm not giving up my Man Card.

Real Men support the women.

Q said...


You know you two are killing me!! :)

What's funny is that I clicked on this article from my feed thinking to myself, "What a great question! I wonder if anyone like that actually exists."

So I love the NBA...and really, I just love all forms of basketball.

So I have two questions for both of you:

1. Did you grow up in a NBA city? I grew up in Berkeley during the Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, Chris Mullin years (remember the McDonald's Tim and Chris burger) and there was just a buzz that was hard to ignore around that team. I really think it was my connection to basketball in the 80's that just got me caught up...

2. Do you also hate freedom? ;) j/k

Great topic to think on though...

pt said...

Ethan - yes, those 6-championship Bulls were certainly compelling. I have to admit that I caught a few of those games.

Q - You might have put your finger on it. I grew up in Kentucky, where there was no pro basketball at all. The Cincinnati Royals disappeared years earlier, I was too young for the Kentucky Colonels of the ABA and nobody - and I mean nobody - followed the Hawks.

Oddly enough, I liked UK men's college basketball in the days when Joe B. Hall roamed the sidelines and when Kyle Macy roamed the paint. (I think there was a peach basket involved somewhere.) And this was back in the day when men's college bball had neither a 3-point line nor a shot clock.

As for freedom, I have to ask the Central Chair of the Supreme Soviet if I'm allowed to like freedom. I'll get back to you. :D

Q said...

So another question comes to mind -- what were you following pre-WNBA? WCBB? MCBB?

I do know a number of NCAA fans who just don't bother to follow the NBA... but then I don't know how many of them follow the WNBA....

For the sake of national security, I'm much more concerned about your obvious hatred of freedom than your manhood. But I imagine the Truth Police will be taking away your Man Card as they investigate you for hating freedom. ;)

Ethan said...

I grew up in the Chicago area. Read the part about "6-championship Bulls" and "hating the Knicks". :-)

Pre-W, I was following either the Bulls or Michigan State (men).

Women's ball is new to me, but like Helen at the WBB blog said elsewhere, "I arrived late to the party and have been overcompensating ever since."

Mike said...

Woah, there ... talk about some generalizations and stereotypes.

In my opinion, you're a reason why a mere mention of the WNBA draws so much hate from so many people (men and women).

As for me, I'm a longtime supporter of women's sports. Always have, always will be. But I used to be a much, much bigger supporter and fan of women's sports. Not as much anymore, and certainly not a fan anymore. And it's because of opinions like yours. I've run into many people who think likewise during my time as a WNBA beat writer (for a major newspaper previous to my lay-off).

The NBA is, by far, the best basketball on earth. The level of play is so far above that of the WNBA, we're not enough talking about the same hemisphere.

Let's go down your list.

--If you don't like the NBA because of the length of the season and games, that's fine. But saying players "don't care" about the outcome of regular season games doesn't jive with what they're doing on the court.

--No one plays defense? Are you serious? You got 6-foot-8 guys who are dead-eye from 25 feet and beyond, are 10 times quicker and faster than anyone in the WNBA, can jump off one leg from 10 feet out and still finish above the rim and are strong as bulls. How 'bout you try to stop him? There no need to spin outer-world offensive capabilities into non-existant defense. Those same defenders wouldn't even let a WNBA player into the lane, let alone score.

--Height dominates the game? That's true with any sport, men's or women's. Guess what, there are plenty WNBA players taller than plenty of NBA players. And those shorter guys are still dunking, and over taller people. You're ripping on the dunk? It's not necessarily the dunk that's so exciting. It's a mark of power and athleticism, and that power and athleticism makes other parts of the NBA game much more exciting. I guarantee every WNBA player dreams of having such physical traits.

Sheesh. Enjoy the WNBA. Prop it up if you want. Nothing wrong with that. But don't resort to NBA-bashing, especially with non-truths and spins. It reeks of inferiority complex. And it pisses off NBA fans.

Amanda said...

Mike -- just so you know, *your* attitudes as expressed there are a big part of why some of us don't like the NBA.