Friday, September 21, 2007
Thoughts on a First Season
So, my first WNBA season has come to a close, and what can I say? I enjoyed it thoroughly. The games were exciting, the tickets were cheap, and good times were had by all. I scored major brownie points with my girlfriend, watched a high level of sport, and got a blog out of the deal. Not bad. But largely, it was mostly fun connecting with a team in the New York area that didn't make me feel like I'd sold my soul to Lucifer.
While I’ve lived in New York for the past five years, nothing before the Liberty that I have encountered made me want to root for any other major sports team in the immediate Tri-State area. It wasn’t fun, and while I met tons of nice fans, they were greatly outweighed by the dicks who called my girlfriend a cunt for wearing a Phillies cap and generally hyper-machismo that pervades much of the New York sporting scene.
I love reveling in my masculinity as much as the next guy, but I don’t feel the desire that so many men do to reaffirm their choices by degrading other people’s. Why is it that rooting for the Boston Red Sox makes one less of a man? What does it say about a person who calls a person a “fag” for rooting for the Braves, even when that person doesn’t claim to be homophobic? What does it say about the current sexual hierarchy when degrading the feminine and pumping the masculine full of steroids is de rigueur?
The Liberty were a pleasant surprise, then. For all of the talk of sports radio Neanderthals and late-night comedians, the quality of play was high and a good time was had by all in attendance. Maybe it was just that I had never really watched basketball avidly before, or maybe it was that without all of the chest-thumping bullshit that goes on in the higher echelons of the male sport, I actually found something that I could enjoy. In any case, there was something that brought me there and kept me in my seat for the whole 34-game season and through to the playoffs.
I’m not afraid to admit that there was a part of me that is sexually attracted to female athleticism, nor am I ashamed that it was a bit evident in my early excursions into the sport. Some men are afraid of women in traditionally male roles; I am not. Some women believe that any sexual attraction by a man to a female in a position renders that relationship tainted; I do not. If a man is secure with who he is, than any person (male or female) shouldn’t be able to shift that alignment unless there is truly something wrong with that man’s world-view. And, like it or not, men are attracted to women, and women are attracted to men. Simply saying that we shouldn’t view women in a sexually objectifying way isn’t going to stop it; however, that doesn’t mean that men need to go around exploiting themselves and women for a dollar or a bit of titillating pleasure. That being said, I find certain women in this league attractive. This was not the main reason why I liked the league, but I would be lying if there wasn’t something there.
Once I got there, though, the basketball and camaraderie is what kept me there. It was like joining an exclusive club, and the benefits were almost tangible. I was in on the secret; everybody else was demeaning this sport, but we lucky ones got to see it for cheap and cheer on people without qualms of guilt. We were enjoying ourselves, sure, but there was something else to it; we were a part of something bigger and better than most other sports. We weren’t bashing our heads against a break will or drowning our sorrows in cheap swill. It was fun, but it wasn’t degrading, and it was something that actually mattered.
And, of course, there was the basketball. I love sports of all kinds and levels. I am equally comfortable discussing minor-league hockey as I am Canadian football, and everything else (box lacrosse, curling, even a little bit of golf) in between. Basketball, however, was never near the top of my list. Growing up in Pittsburgh in the 80s and 90s meant that there wasn’t a lot of action (pro or college hoops) for me to dig. It took me a long time to get interested, and to an extent, I still don’t care too much about the NBA. But the WNBA proved to be intriguing. It featured all of the intrigue and passion of other sports, and there was something that I could get behind.
In the process, I discovered what I liked about basketball. It was fast. It was structured. It had the flow of hockey with the strategy of football, with individual contests of skill married to an overarching sense of teamwork. It was what originally attracted me to hockey and baseball in my youth, and I found it anew once again in the games that I say at the Garden.
The season itself was thrilling and heart-breaking, with the ups and downs of a roller coaster. I’m not sure that I could follow the team every year if they featured a five game win, followed by a 2-7 skid, followed by a 3-1 run, followed by a 7 game losing streak, followed by another 3-1 mark to close the season, but it was certainly exciting at the time. When I discovered that I was upset that I was going to be out of town when the Libs played their most important games of the year, I realized that I was hooked.
I am upset that the WNBA and the Liberty didn’t try to court me earlier. I literally had to go out of my way to find out information. Mostly, it was for my girlfriend and for a bit . But my interest grew, and so did I as a person. I’m not by any means perfect or free from hypocrisy, but I would like to think that the Liberty, at least in directly, made me think about sexual paradigms and societal hierarchies in an entirely different light. Along the way, I decided against going to Law School, performed in a comedy troupe, and started really writing again. The blog both kept me focused on the team and writing on a regular basis. Without it (and the league) I am not sure where I would be right now.
This is all becoming highly over-dramatic, but I did find something great this summer. It was a lot of fun, and for you who have read from the beginning, or joined late, or left comments, or sent me emails, or anything else, I truly appreciate it. I started this off hoping to maybe find a small niche of fans and keep writing. Instead, by the end of the season, I was attracting two thousand unique visitors a day for game reviews and at least fourteen-hundred during the off-peak areas. That has fallen somewhat now that the season is over, but it is still high.
So, lastly, I would like to thank you, the faithful few, those who have read my blog and kept me going. Every time I decided not to write that day, I thought of all the people who actually liked reading what I wrote and brought myself back from the brink. Really, it’s all about you at the end of the day. The Liberty and this blog wouldn’t exist without that, and I’m a better person for it. Thank you, and I hope to meet up with you all again next season.
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