We get it. You don’t care about the WNBA. But you should at least be aware that the season just ended and the Minnesota Lynx, lead by UCONN legend Maya Moore, are champs for the second time in three years, beating the Atlanta Dream in three games (best of 5 series). That’s good right? Ya, of course it is. A star winning a title. A dynasty being built. Why not?
Because no one cares.
Despite reports that the league is getting better TV ratings every year, rumors are circling that the WNBA might also be on it’s way out.
Why? Well, for starters, it’s not nearly as exciting as the NBA — and the two will always be compared — but you already knew that. More specifically, it’s because people don’t have any real connection to the teams. In college, you root for your schools’ women’s basketball team because you root for your school. Every WNBA team is an expansion team. They’re all Tampa Bay Rays. No one has anything at stake.
We think we know how to fix it:
1) Play the games in smaller, more interesting venues.
Nothing says “this isn’t worth watching” more than a sparsely attended arena. Instead, use venues that aren’t meant for NBA crowds, and fill them to capacity. Hell, use interesting spaces (like the time they played the WNBA All-Star game on the stage at Radio City Music Hall). Put it on an aircraft carrier. Play in an old factory. On top of a building. Where ever. Just make it more exciting than a stadium with 30,000 fewer people than it’s capacity. That’s a turn off for most casual sports fans.
2) Give the teams NBA team names and link them with the NBA franchises.
English premier clubs do it that way, why not borrow the idea for professional basketball?) That way, if you’re an Atlanta Hawks fan, you might, just might, find yourself tuning in to the see the other Hawks compete for a ring (because you’re probably never going to see the current roster win any meaningful games for the foreseeable future). Obviously, this puts you in direct competition with your NBA counterpart, but that’s an issue the WNBA needs to own. You both play basketball, and the NBA is more fun to watch. Embrace it, then piggy back off the NBA’s popularity.
3) Schedule more overlap with the NBA season — when people are actually thinking about basketball.
Sure, you don’t want to go head-to-head with the NBA during the regular season, but at least have the playoffs overlap a bit, so you can cross promote during NBA broadcasts. Also, during the summer months (when the WNBA season spans May to early October), people are preoccupied with watching outdoor sports, like baseball and golf and tennis and, eventually, football. The lead up to football season is a HUGE distraction. Avoid that, and run the WNBA season concurrent with the NBA season for a prolonged stretch.
4) Introduce gambling.
Ya, I get it: This one is a bit ridiculous. But hear us out. The WNBA could integrate betting lines into it’s coverage. Show interesting infographics and cut aways about what Vegas expects the outcomes of games to be. Over/unders for individual player performance. Sure, I don’t give a shit that Maya Moore ended up with 23 points last night, but that’s because I didn’t have money riding on it. Make the WNBA the first American professional sport to incorporate gambling into the game (in a legal manner) and you’d definitely get some serious attention.
5) Get rid of the charge and blocking calls.
Make the game more physical. The biggest problem with the NBA is the charge/blocking dichotomy. It encourages players to weasel there way into another player’s path in order to take advantage of a rule that exists to prevent someone from just running through a defense. Newsflash: That wouldn’t happen if Brandon Jacobs was on the court — no one can run through five grown men. If the WNBA allowed players to crash into each other — like playground ball — the games would be more interesting and there’d be more highlights circling the internet. Vicious, yes, but it’d make you watch.
6) Incorporate technology and ditch referees all together.
You could referee a game from your couch. Why pay three officials to fly to games just to have worse views of the action. Simply play a whistle over the loud speaker when a someone breaks a rule, and let the players work it out on their own. It’s going to happen in the other sports eventually. Why not lead the charge? I’d tune in to see what it looks like.
Photo via Getty