Wednesday, February 5

A Perfect Storm

With the Seahawks' Super Bowl victory parade set for today, most Sonic fans of a certain age are spending the day cheering on their new heroes while simultaneously playing back the memories of their old heroes, the 1979 Seattle Sonics.

One group left out in that reminiscence are the members of the Seattle Storm, and some of them are, well, less than enthusiastic about their neglected place in Seattle's sports history. Both Lauren Jackson and Karen Bryant took to social media to decry their removal from the city's championship pedigree. After all, they argue, the WNBA has been around for more than a decade, the Storm won two titles, and they are professionals - do they not count as much as the Sonics and the Seahawks?

It's a difficult debate to deal with, simply because both sides have persuasive arguments.

On the one hand, the WNBA checks many of the boxes that indicate that it is a "major" sport. It is televised nationally, players are paid enough money that they don't have to work in the offseason in other lines of work, and the top stars - while not celebrities like LeBron or A-Rod - are at least somewhat in the cultural sports lexicon.

On the other, the WNBA is continually surrounded by "how long will it be able to exist financially" articles, the extent to which the NBA is propping up the league is always in the background, and, quite frankly, the ratings for the WNBA are not in the same universe as the NBA, MLB, NFL and NHL.

The biggest problem is that, by definition, "major" is an ambiguous term. To a WNBA fan, the WNBA is a major professional sport, and much more important than the NHL. To a non-WNBA fan, the WNBA is like pro bowling or NASCAR or anything else he or she is uninterested in.

Is it sexist? Perhaps, although it is also true that many of the same people who ignore the WNBA also ignore the MLS. And, to be honest, the MLS' TV ratings are even worse than the WNBA's, meaning that anyone who claims the MLS is a "major" sport had sure better include the WNBA on that same list.

Thankfully, the decision as to whether the WNBA and the Storm have the right to place their championship trophy alongside those of the Sonics and Seahawks won't be decided today, or even next year. It will come if and when the WNBA continues to exist for another decade. If, in 2030, Lauren Jackson is part of a trophy presentation at Starbucks Arena to the Microsoft 17.XL Storm, I don't think anyone would begrudge her argument that her former team is a member of Seattle's proud professional sporting history.

3 comments:

Paul Merrill said...

I love the Storm but they shouldn't feel too bad about being slighted-- most people didn't think the NBA was a major league either when the Sonics first came to town in '67. Hopefully this perception for the WNBA and other women's sport will evolve over the years as well.

Anonymous said...

"On the one hand, the WNBA checks many of the boxes that indicate that it is a "major" sport."

The main box that goes unchecked though is "Best athletes in the world", being that it's exclusive to women. Women are welcome to try out for the real major sports but when they've tried, they've failed. Why? Because they aren't the best. So i'd say the WNBA is more like the D-League. Even Pro Bowling & NASCSAR are all about the best against the best.

CDR said...

As soon as I saw the Supersonics design, I immediately thought of Kemp and Payton. Man, those were the days when they used to go man for man against the Bulls.