Ask me the score of the UCLA vs. USC basketball game that took place this weekend and I’ll tell you. USC lost to our crosstown rivals 83 to 73. I know this because I was there, sitting through every gut-wrenching moment when the Westwood team took the wind out of the Trojans.
On that same day, the USC women’s basketball team played UCLA as well. But I couldn’t tell you the score unless I Googled it beforehand. I couldn’t tell you who won, and I couldn’t describe any highlights. And, it’s not because I’m suffering from sudden amnesia — it’s simply because I did not attend the game. Looking back, I’m disappointed in myself for it.
When I asked one of my friends about the crowd for the women’s game, she said, “There were a good amount of people there but not nearly as much as the men’s game.”
That statement struck a chord with me. It appears no matter how skilled the female athletes might be, and no matter how successful they are, it’s hard for us to rally the troops for their games.
In truth, I can’t critique others for holding back on their ‘SC spirit when I have yet to get out to a single women’s sporting event. But then again, this trend does not stop at the collegiate level. It’s fair to say that the Women’s National Basketball Association does not have nearly as grand of a fanbase as the National Basketball Association. Though NBA games draw millions of viewers, WNBA games remain in the hundreds of thousands. Viewership of WNBA games peaked at 455,000, according to the WNBA website. And WNBA salaries have yet to reach the level of NBA salaries. 2011’s top draft pick, Maya Moore, earned $47,000 for her first season in the WNBA, according to the Star Tribune.
But there’s a bigger issue brewing beneath the numbers — the perception of women’s sports in general.
I had one friend suggest the reason for the WNBA’s poor viewership is because “women aren’t nearly as fast as men.”
Other individuals, such as Sports Illustrated columnist Jeff Pearlman, feel the same. Pearlman unfairly equates the WNBA’s slow takeoff to the skill of female athletes.
“As blessed as women like [Candace] Parker and Lauren Jackson and Diana Taurasi are at basketball, their skills are not in visual demand,” Pearlman wrote in his column. “Basketball fans want to see LeBron James dunk and Josh Smith soar through the air and Ron Artest lock down on an opposing scorer. They want to see Ray Allen launch a three from the middle of nowhere and Dwight Howard hit the rim with his forehead.”
Such commentary further reinforces the notion that a woman will never match a man’s skill level no matter how hard she works and regardless of how much time she devotes to her sport.
Pearlman argues further, “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 Glee to hand out $100 bills to every customer, well, the WNBA is what it is — a fringe entity.”
Such a statement implies that women, regardless of their achievements, will always be inferior to men. This type of mockery is unacceptable and cannot be condoned.
Thankfully, there are those who speak out against such unfairness.
In response to Pearlman’s article, one blogger wrote, “To compare apples to oranges (WNBA to NBA) is to say that men and women exist in a homogeneous grouping, genetically, physically, and cognitively. We know this not to be true. Does this make one better than the other? Absolutely not. Even though the argument between the genders has raged on for centuries, I doubt it will stop any time soon.”
Though I cannot single-handedly silence all the critics of women’s sports, there’s one thing I can do starting today: show up. Maybe I don’t know the difference between a point guard and shooting guard, but I can still cheer and clap. With this new year ahead of me, I’m going to make a promise to myself: Even in the middle of excessive IR211 readings, I’m going to make my way down to the Galen Center to support my Women of Troy.
Rini Sampath is a sophomore majoring in international relations. Her column, “Leaning In,” runs Mondays.