Why the WNBA isn't -- and will never be -- a popular league
I can present 1,000 pounds of the world's most delicious Swiss chocolate to my sofa, and it will never take a bite.
I can hook up
Dogs don't speak fluent Spanish. Penguins don't enjoy Mahjong. My late grandmother can no longer bake cookies and my cell phone refuses to walk to the refrigerator and grab me a Yoo-hoo (Trust me, I've asked).
In other words, some things are simply impossible.
They have not happened.
They will not happen.
They cannot happen.
Enter the WNBA.
America's lone professional women's basketball league is in its 14th season of existence. Actually, I think it's in its 14th seasons of existence. But I'm not sure. Because nobody watches the WNBA. Nobody discusses the WNBA. Nobody seems especially interested in the WNBA. If a basketball league falls in the summer and nobody cares, is it still a basketball league?
During the past 1 ½ decades, absolutely, positively everything under the sun has been tried in the name of WNBA popularity. There have been creative ad campaigns and admirable player outreach efforts. There has been expansion and relocation and contraction; blockbuster trades and highly touted No. 1 picks. In 2007, the WNBA and ESPN reached an eight-year television agreement, thus assuring high-impact exposure. WNBA players take part in the NBA's All-Star weekend and, at the conclusion of all games, sign autographs until their fingers bleed. When
Despite all this, however, the league continues to dwell in anonymity. The action is all but ignored by the media, reduced to a tiny standings box on the bottom of the local newspaper's agate section. When the 2009 five-game championship series between Phoenix and Indiana averaged a puny .4 rating on ESPN2 (That's 548,000 viewers. By comparison -- and it's admittedly not a fair one --Game 5 of the NBA Finals drew 18.2 million viewers), the league celebrated the 73 percent rise from the previous season as if it had discovered a new planet.
In other words, the WNBA's emergence is a mathematical, sociological impossibility.
It has not happened.
It will not happen.
It cannot happen.
No matter how many women dunk, no matter how incredible the playoff action might seem, no matter if the league expands to Las Vegas and Cancun and hires the cast members of
"I couldn't tell you most of the teams in the league," says
For the past 14 years, league employees have been trying to figure out why. Surveys have been conducted, marketing experts have tossed out every possible slogan (This year's: EXPECT GREAT!). The answer, however, is simple and, at this point, obvious: The majority of sports fans simply don't crave women's professional basketball.
They just don't. As blessed as women like Parker and
There's no solution to this problem, no magical cure just waiting to be unleashed.