Thursday, June 2, 2011

When Political Correctness trumps reality

The Minnesota Lynx (that's a professional women's basketball team, in case you didn't know) begin their season this week, and like about four million other Minnesotans, I don't care.

The only reason I bring this up is because it highlights just one more reason why you shouldn't trust the mainstream media.

The Lynx play in something called the WNBA, which has been around for about 15 years and has never turned a nickel of profit. Let me stipulate right up front that the women of the WNBA are great athletes. They are among the best in the world at what they do, and I admire any athlete that puts in the work needed to reach the pinnacle of their sport.

What I do NOT admire, however, is the way the media tries to shove the WNBA down our throat by publicizing something that clearly has not earned publicity. And there is hardly a worse offender than Minnesota's own Star-Tribune newspaper.

In order to make my point, consider another sport I don't really care about: Indoor lacrosse. I don't care about outdoor lacrosse either, but the comparison is relevant here because indoor lacrosse - like women's basketball - is also played professionally, in a league that spans North America like the WNBA does, and Minnesota has a franchise, known as the Minnesota Swarm.

The Swarm plays its home games at the Xcel Energy Center, home of the Minnesota Wild. They have been around for six seasons, and over those six seasons they have had an average attendance of 10,232 fans.

During those same six seasons, the Lynx - playing in the Target Center in Minneapolis - have had average attendance of 7,050.

I'm no math whiz, but I'm pretty sure that computes to the Swarm having an average crowd that is 45% larger than the average Lynx crowd.

Now, again, I'm not trying to sell you on the idea that you should all be spending Saturday nights watching indoor lacrosse. Again, the players are amazing athletes, and they play a brutal, physical game, but I don't find the sport particularly interesting. I attended one game, and didn't care for it. I waited two years, and went to another one, thinking I should give it a fair shake. I left before it was over, and I've pretty much written it off as unwatchable, at least by me.

The point of this little rant is to consider how the Star-Tribune treats each sport. If you go to the Strib's web site you will find about a dozen articles and blog posts about the Lynx from that past week or so. The Lynx even have their own "tab" on the sports page, alongside the Twins, Vikings, Wild, Timberwolves and Gophers. "Lynx: Opener only two days away" is one headline, "Lynx tabbed most improved team" reads another. Throughout the season, you'll see headlines on the front page of the Strib web site that say things like, "Lynx lose again," or "Lynx edge Los Angeles," given the sort of placement that would lead you to believe someone cared about the results.

By contrast, you could read the Star-Tribune all year and not know the Swarm existed. On April 2 of this year, the Swarm won a home game in front of more than 10,000 fans to clinch a playoff berth. The next days Star-Tribune covered the event with a 42-word summary that was buried at the bottom of an "area round-up" story, BELOW longer blurbs about Gopher women's track and softball.

The point: Newspapers love to tell us that they cover things based on their importance to the community, or their newsworthiness. Over the years I've seen tons of news conferences that aren't covered because "nobody cares about this story," or some such reason. If the Star-Tribune was really making coverage decisions based on what their readers care about, it seems they should be devoting about 50% more coverage to the Swarm than the Lynx.

So why don't they? Oh, that's right, the players on the Lynx are WOMEN. And according to the kinds of folks that run the Strib, women are oppressed in American society. Oh, maybe not as oppressed as in, say, Iran or Saudi Arabia, but oppressed nonetheless. They are victims, and as such, they've earned preferential treatment and coddling by the media. Because of their victimhood, they can't be judged by the same standards as everyone else, and so institutions like the Star-Tribune have to change the rules to help them out.

In truth, it's condescending and it belittles women athletes. It's telling them, "You're not good enough to earn your spot in the sports marketplace, so we'll give you extra help based on your gender." To treat them differently, rather than letting them compete in the marketplace along with everyone else, is the most destructive kind of discrimination, and we'll see it practiced regularly in the Star-Tribune from now until whenever the WNBA season fades away.

1 comment:

  1. The only mainstream voice I've seen speaking out on this is Bill Simmons of ESPN and you know he must catch a ration of shite from his bosses for bagging on the wnba. I don't think a person has to be a sexist to simply admit that men are the primary consumers of sports entertainment and we frankly wouldn't spend our money to watch an inferior product played by inferior players. I don't remember if it was Simmons or someone else who said it but basically men watch sports because we like to imagine ourselves as the stars. We see Tom Brady play and some part of us says "if only I'd had a few breaks that could be me out there". This obviously can't happen when watching women play.