Saturday, October 2, 2010

ESPNW Y?

Something called ESPNW is in the works. It's ESPN's way of attracting more female viewers to sports, and a bunch of the most admired honchos in women's sports are in Southern California this weekend on a retreat to discuss the concept, which is described as starting out as a blog and developing into a TV channel.

Would it mean more women's basketball games on TV? Eventually, it probably would. That's a good thing, right? Depends on the cost to the sport in the long run.

Here's the rub. I have two sons who can rattle off the UConn roster along with the Old Dominion one. They know who Elena Delle Donne and Brittney Griner are. They have a poster of Maya Moore on the closet door. They inherited this love of the game from me, most would say, but here's the deal. It came easy. They are NFL fans, MLB fans, tennis fans, NBA fans, men's college basketball fans, and yes, women's college basketball fans. They are sports fans and women's basketball is sports. They are often befuddled when their friends can't figure out why two boys would watch women's ball. Why? Because they were introduced to it at an early age and it's part of the their sports fabric as much as the Colts and the Cardinals and the Celtics.

 If they felt that women's sports was just reserved for women, they might not be so eager to tune in.

Segregation died a long time ago. Put that W on the end of ESPN and you're bringing it back. If you're talking about women's basketball, you need to grow the audience with male fans and female fans. Starting adding letters instead of numbers to ESPN and you're putting women in their own special category instead of one simple category: They're athletes.

If the game is ever going to grow, it needs to be part of the popular culture, in the mix with the rest of the highlight package, not shuttled to another channel or reserved to the back of the magazine, a dig I wanted to get in for all those preview magazines coming out this time of year that treat women's basketball like Rosa Parks.

How do we make women's basketball more mainstream? For starters, don't give women's sports its own channel.

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