more thoughts on the women’s game

Last Friday the LA Times published in its online edition the response I wrote to a poorly-written column the week before, slamming the WNBA. (It was written by a young woman, no less, which was one of the things that most offended the offended). I researched for it and wrote the piece, after which I edited it about four times. It turned out pretty good, I think:

I’ve been writing since I was 4, which is why I’m a perfectionist about the art form. If I’d had a little extra time the column could have been better, which is why I responded to my own work on the site. I had to outline a few story ideas I’ve had for the WNBA for a long time, in light of the original columnist’s jab. The women of the league have to go through so much to play the sport they love and make a living. Wouldn’t it be nice to read about their lives in other countries? Wouldn’t it be interesting to find out a bit more about the new Sparks owners?

Even at my age, there are times when I marvel at what a cruel and unforgiving world this is. It took Title 9 to get a level playing field for women in sport. Women’s basketball has been an Olympic sport only since 1976, and the sport wasn’t seriously practiced collegiately until the early 1970’s. The WNBA is all of 12 years old, and some people criticize its players and teams for not playing like the 62-year-old NBA. It’s like so many other things in life: that’s the breaks, kid.

Last summer I got into an email argument with one of the Times’ female sports staffers. This was her closing paragraph in her first reply to me:

As for your assertion, “If you would write something uplifting about women’s basketball, it might help the sport rather than tear it down. You are contributing to the problem by writing columns such as yesterday’s,” it is not my job to be the public relations person for the WNBA. It is not my responsibility, because I’m female, to praise a female-dominated enterprise that I know to be flawed and that I find less than compelling. As a columnist, it’s my job to voice an opinion based on my experience and knowledge. I’t’s my opinion that the WNBA is at a crossroads and may need to alter its business plan to survive.

She’s right in that it’s not her job to be a public relations agent for the WNBA. But the other comments are illuminating. It’s obvious she doesn’t like the WNBA, and neither does the rest of the sports staff. And it’s easy to attack it in this Kobe and Lakers-obsessed town.

I used to be a newspaper reporter, and when an editor and/or a reporter like something, they’ll write about it; they’ll push it. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Did anyone see the column following the Olympics that praised Kobe Bryant for his behavior at the games, i.e. giving him props for acting like he should have been acting all along? I hope no one did, because it was vomit-inducing. It’s obvious the Times has its collective head too far up Kobe’s rear to care about other types of basketball. High school games barely get any play in that paper, either.

But I have to give the Times sports editor credit for letting me speak out, and take a few jabs at the paper in the process. I hope someday the Times will give women’s hoops a fair shake on their pages. In the meantime, I’ll fill in the blanks as best I can for all the great things they’re missing.