A New York Liberty Blog

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Klein League

(Just for your info: This is more about the league rather than the people supporting it.)

Does anyone here know what a Klein bottle is? No? For those who do not keep up with abstract mathematical concepts, it is an object that has neither an outside nor an inside. It is similar to a mobius strip, in that when a line is traced on the “outside”, it will eventually run into the “inside,” except that it is a 3-D form (a bottle shape, and due to a translation error, from whence it got its name). For a depiction, and more of an explanation, check out here. In essence, however, and for my intents here, it means that normal constructs of thought on orientation are rendered meaningless. Interesting, yes. But what does this have to do with the WNBA, you may ask?

Well, a lot of people like to think of the WNBA as a Klein bottle (Klein surface is more correct, but bear with me), in that the old rules of sporting (be it on the court or in the front office) don’t need to apply. The WNBA is NOT your everyday league, they say. These are women playing professionally, and people need to stop being morons and come to our side. The old paradigms don’t exist anymore. One or two readers out there who have seen my blog have emailed such (or similar) comments to me. All of this is true, and I’m not disputing these facts.

However, it is important to remember that the Klein bottle is, at least in our universe, a theoretical thought-experiment. Figures of Klein bottles have been made, but in the same way that a true four-dimensional construct can only be simulated, so too can a true Klein surface only be simulated. These constructions are not perfect, and they still must constrain themselves to the physical rules of this universe.

The WNBA suffers from the same conundrum. In an ideal universe, the WNBA would be able to exist and evolve based on its own merits and conditions, rather than those set out before it. However, it exists in a world run by men who are much more likely to insult it than ignore it. It must sell tickets in a market in which sex-appeal and sports are intertwined. The rules can be twisted and even broken, but they can’t be ignored. This is the way it is in the current climate of the American Sporting.

This may sound a bit odd coming from me, considering my own essay about women’s rights and liberations can, but there is a key difference. Women and men cannot compete to exist: as two parts of the same species, there must be cooperation and understanding to survive. While the league is nice, at the end of the day, it is merely a water-mark to show how high the tide of public opinion has turned; it is not a necessity. The WNBA is a business, and businesses come and go. It is noble that so many people are trying to promote the women’s game, but it is still an enterprise to make money. And because it makes money, it must abide by the law of supply-and-demand. People must want to see the WNBA to survive.

That’s a kind of obvious conclusion to make, but it is true. If this league is to survive, it will be the middling/on-the-fence fan who will decide the fate of this league. It may be kind of depressing to think that Joe Six-pack is deciding the fate of the league, but there it is. The game itself is good. The interest is out there (as evidenced by 2001’s attendance record). The talent level is arguably higher than it has ever been. There are teams in thirteen major cities (including one in the third most populous metro-area in the world, and each of the top three cities in the United States). Television coverage is increasing. And yet attendance is down. People simply aren’t coming. If all of the previous statements are true, then something must be wrong with the way that the league presents itself.

Just supporting the fact that the league exists is not enough, and it is not nearly the same thing. Outside is not inside. The WNBA does not have to promote itself as a Sex/Sporting Event like every other league out there, but it must come to the realization that if they don’t, the teams and players won’t get nearly as much recognition. This isn’t bad; it just “Is”. If they want to win over the public and maintain a strong presence in the minds and pocketbooks of Americans, then it needs to find some OTHER way to appeal to the masses. The WNBA can’t have it both ways; Donna Orender can’t write a letter saying “we’re not going to be like the other leagues” and wait for the people to come to her. That is not how a business works. There needs to be constant and progressive marketing that will get people off their couches and into the seats.

The WNBA is a lot of fun and I have learned a lot since starting this blog. However, I am hardly representative of a normal population. I smoke cigars while I watch cartoons. I perform in a sketch comedy troupe and brew my own beer. I have a penis and I update a blog about a women’s sport while arguing about how sex, while being fantastic, has overrun our culture. I am clearly not in the majority. I want the WNBA to succeed, and I try to get people interested, but I’m only one person. I’m not a multi-million dollar corporation with the ability to advertise and push its product. If only there was such a business out there that COULD redefine what traditional market roles can be…

Oh, wait. There is.

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