Women’s sports have come a long way in the last 30 years. Where there was once only interest in women’s tennis, golf, gymnastics, track and figure skating we now have professional basketball and soccer leagues and attempts have been made at softball and football. However, women’s sports still fall on the short end compared to others.
The Women’s National Basketball Association is a perfect example of what female’s must face. They have a television contract and the backing of the National Basketball Association. They have star players and are promoted. When the league first began in 1997 it was met with excitement and interest. That excitement and interest has declined through no fault of the women. With names like Diana Taurasi of the Phoenix Mercury, Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks and Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever the league boasts some true stars. It is circumstances which have dictated the decline in interest more than anything.
The WNBA begins their season just when the NBA is finishing their playoffs in June. After most basketball fans have spent October through June watching the NBA and college basketball tournaments for men and women they are ready to move on to something else. Major league baseball is in full swing by now and most fans turn their interest to it. The WNBA also has to compete with pro soccer in America and around the world. So their season gets started with very little publicity and momentum.
As spring turns to summer most sports fans do not turn on their televisions. They attend sporting events, spend time with family and vacation. This makes it hard for the WNBA to attract fans to their games. Most will opt to spend it on a vacation or major league baseball than watch women’s pro basketball.
When the WNBA playoffs start baseball is coming down the home stretch of their season with teams fighting for post season spots and the National Football League has started playing preseason games. College football teams begin practice and many fall youth and high school sports programs do as well. From August through September the WNBA has to compete with the NFL, college football, major league baseball, pro soccer and youth and high school sports.
The WNBA season falls at a bad time of the year which hurts their popularity. There really is no other time that they can play and be successful. If they play in the winter then they have to compete with the NBA, college basketball and the National Hockey League. If they play in the fall then they have to compete with college football and the NFL. So they have to play in the summer where they will get maximum exposure.
Women’s soccer is trying to make a go of it. They have a six team league which plays in the summer just as the WNBA does. Many of their players play for the United States World Cup team including goalie Hope Solo of magicjack, defensemen Becky Sauerbrunn of magicjack and defensemen Heather Mitts of the Atlanta Beat. Every four years they garner the attention of American sports fans when they compete for the World Cup. But like the WNBA their professional league faces many of the same problems.
Women’s professional sports other than tennis face more than competition from men’s sports leagues. They also face competition from youth sports mainly when it comes to television.
The WNBA and women’s professional soccer have to compete with Little League baseball, Cal Ripken League baseball, girl’s softball and youth and high school basketball and football for air time. There was a time when the only youth sporting events which came on television were the Little League World Series and the Soapbox Derby. Now with the glut of television stations devoted to sports programming every youth and high school sport which may be a stepping stone to the pros is telecast. This cuts down on the number of people who may watch women’s professional sports.
Then there is the simple fact that most people feel that women’s sports are inferior to the men. They feel that if they are going to watch an event on television or pay money at the arena then they should see the best. Though they may find women’s sports entertaining in their eyes it is not the best. This may be chauvinistic, but this is their true feeling.
When it comes to men watching women’s sports there had better be a star who transcends or someone with sex appeal. Men can find their own to see talent. But when they watch women’s sports they want to see someone attractive. Whenever a good looking female plays a sport the interest level in men increases. When Venus and Serena Williams play tennis there is a rise in interest in African-American men. When pitcher Jennie Finch played women’s softball viewer interest in men grew. Men do not watch women’s sports for the game. Thus, the Lingerie Football League.
These problems will always exist for women’s sports. The days have finally come where they get recognition for what they do and that’s a start. But the days of any women’s sport breaking into the top four in popularity just off of the talent of those playing are far off. There is too much competition for the sports dollar and media.
Sadly, when it comes to popularity women’s sports will always fall on the short end.