Selena Roberts over at Sports on Earth wrote a column called "Getting over the hump: Is there a tipping point in sight for the WNBA?" The lede should win an award:
The sassy camel of GEICO commercial fame approaches his beleaguered co-worker in the cubicle, who finally gives in to his annoying query: "Guess what today is?" She sighs in resignation: "It's hump day."
Quick question: What office is the dromedary standing in? Answer: The WNBA, where it's always hump day.
After pointing out the well-known woes of the Los Angeles Sparks, she has three solutions for getting the WNBA over the "hump".
One solution she offers is to change the color of the orange/oatmeal ball, stating that it lacks "street cred". Another change offered appears to be a focus on the glamorous faces of the WNBA, the Kerry Strugs and Nancy Kerrigans and Lolo Joneses, to focus on personalities rather than the game itself. I don't believe that cosmetic changes are what the WNBA needs right now.
However, her first idea struck right at the heart of a big problem in how the league is presented:
Too often the WNBA stars are marketed as feel-good greeting cards -- and the women are truly decent, uplifting folks -- but they are also complex, funny and struggling to make it. Some have children on the road with husbands; other players have girlfriends and wives; many deal with injuries, coaching clashes and family dynamics.
Roberts proposes the production of a series very much like the NFL's "Hard Knocks" series. The "Hard Knocks" series - for those who haven't seen it - takes you behind the scenes of a NFL training camp, following the drama of the various players who are trying to survive in the league. From Wikipedia:
The series shows the personal and professional lives of the players, coaches and staff, including their family life, position battles, and even inside jokes and pranks. It particularly focuses on rookies' adjustments to playing in the NFL, usually with emphasis on the team's most recent top draft pick. It usually also chooses to focus on undrafted and journeyman players who are attempting to make the team.
One thing about this series - it isn't any sort of "Hallmark Moment" series where everything is glossy. Initially reluctant, the NFL now requires one team a year to participate in "Hard Knocks". Why? Because as Roberts writes: "Because the league knows what America wants -- a way to connect to its players -- and so the NFL will push a show that doesn't always reveal Hallmark moments. "
The WNBA needs less scripted Hallmark moments, and more "realness". Even the mundane life of trying to make the team and learn the plays is better than the cleaned up press releases we get these days. Instead of trying to pretend that everything is great, maybe the struggle of women's athletics should be highlighted as much as its successes.
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