Life isn’t fair. Not only is that an adage we’ve all heard countless times throughout our lives, but also has been proven to anyone who’s lived it with their eyes open to its subtle and not-so-subtle inequities. Be it in the workplace, in an athletic arena, on the road, or even at home; good doesn’t always beat evil, nice guys do often finish last, and the best team doesn’t always win.
Shortly following the Seattle Seahawks’ Super Bowl victory, arms went up in the air over various comments regarding the city of Seattle’s “first championship since the 1979 Supersonics.” During the Fox broadcast, which by the way 111 million Americans watched, the announcers referenced the Seahawks’ win as the first championship in a major sport since the Sonics defeated the then Washington Bullets. ESPN later followed with comments echoing a similar sentiment, and various other news outlets ran with the story, playing on the city’s misfortunes regarding past Seahawk history, the Mariners habitual ineptitude, and the aforementioned Sonics fleeing to Oklahoma City while in the infantile stages of a potential NBA dynasty. This isn’t new, outside of cities like Boston, Los Angeles, and New York, most cities are or have been in the midst of a championship drought, and at the culmination of any title, the city’s last “major” championship is one of the first things referenced by broadcasters and writers covering the game. However, in this case there was a problem, and that problem lied with the rightful owners of the “Emerald City’s” last championship: The WNBA’s Seattle Storm.
The Seattle Storm won a WNBA title in both 2004 and 2010. While undeniable, this likely is the first you’ve heard of either of the aforementioned championships. Why, you may ask? Simply – and harshly to an extent – put, the WNBA isn’t among the 4 “major American sports,” nor is it amongst the second-tier competitors the likes of the PGA Tour, MLS, or UFC. That isn’t a shot at women’s sport, a slight to the athletes who participate in it, or disrespectful to a team like the Storm who’ve prevailed twice in the last decade of WNBA competition. It’s merely reality regarding popularity proven out by attendance, ratings, and history…none of which shine favorably on a league subsidized by its male counterpart.
In about the same time it took the national media to point to the 1979 Sonics, the team president and CEO of the Seattle Storm (Karen Bryant) and subsequently a few of her players took to Twitter to pronounce their titles, defend their sport, and denounce the “disrespect” they and their accomplishments were being shown by a “sexist” media, “blatantly disregarding women’s pro sports.” Bryant later went on to say, “…the WNBA is the only successful women’s professional league in America. That makes it major.”
Sigh…where do I start?
First and foremost, the WNBA isn’t a major sport. In the same way, Arena Football isn’t a major sport, lacrosse isn’t a major sport, and in a way the MLS isn’t a major sport. That is neither disrespectful nor sexist to say. As long as I’ve walked this Earth, there have been 4 professional sports commonly known as the “majors:” NFL football, NHL hockey, Major League Baseball, and the NBA. When people refer to the “majors,” that’s what they’re referring to. To omit them from a casual conversation regarding championships isn’t an affront to the omission, but merely exclusion from a conversation for which they have no relevance.
Second, to suggest the WNBA is a success might be a stretch. In the last month, there was talk that the Los Angeles Sparks –arguably one of, if not the most successful WNBA franchise – may fold. If true, that would be the failure of a franchise in a major market, with potentially the most popular player in the league (Candice Parker), and who’s had a significant level of success on the court, owning 2 WNBA championships. It would also mean that 3 of the 4 West Coast franchises would have closed shop (Los Angeles, Sacramento, Portland), leaving Seattle – who themselves are facing possible sponsorship losses - as the league’s only West Coast presence. If that’s a “success,” maybe the USFL should reevaluate.
Lastly, in order to “blatantly disregard” something, said disregard would have to be deliberate. I may be putting words in Fox’s, ESPN’s, and any other “sexist” medium’s mouth when I say this, but I don’t think any of the accused had an agenda against the WNBA and/or women’s athletics, nor was at the forefront of their minds when they were complimenting the city of Seattle on their first major professional sports championship, moments after the clock hit zero.
I understand the frustration of the Storm’s CEO and President Karen Bryant, and to an extent empathize with her and her players’ plight. They are and should be proud of what they accomplished, in addition to how hard they worked to do it. I’m not taking anything from them, but rather trying to suggest they not take something unrelated to them specifically so damn personally.
The WNBA is not a major sport. It just isn’t. To suggest the Seahawks championship was the first major one for Seattle since the 1979 Sonics is accurate based on the context of the conversation in which it occurred. It isn’t sexist, disrespectful, and certainly not a “blatant disregard for women’s pro sports.” Could they have – in an effort to show respect – mentioned the Storm as a footnote to the point they were trying to make? I suppose, but do you really think that was on their mind in that moment, and do you really think they were aware of it to begin with?
If you answered yes, there’s nothing I can really say to you going forward. And if you answered no…I think my point’s been made.