Sunday, September 26, 2010

AZ's Slant on Sunday - Women in Sports

I'll admit, this is a rather tough topic to talk about, especially since: A - I am a woman; B - It's tough to be "fair and balanced" about this area of conversation (Just like FOX News! ...wait.); and C - I don't want to sound like an overzealous sexist about it. Now do you see why this can be such a great topic to talk about? It's edgy, right?

Now let's get started with AZ's Slant on Sunday! Music for this week, please...

"I am woman, hear me roar!"
Since when did we roar? Last time I checked I don't have a furry mane.
But at any rate, women have been striving to make a mark in the world. Although that Helen Reddy song is a very, VERY poor example of what the movement for women's rights is all about, we as women have many more examples as to how far we've made it. Since this is a blog about sports, I'll be talking about the advancements that have been made in the world of sports. Even though many people can't really tell that anything has happened, they're there for you. Depending on when you were born, you might have experienced or have heard about:

The Battle of the Sexes with Billie Jean King

The All American Girls Professional Baseball League from the WWII/Baby Boom Era

And maybe, the FIFA Women's World Cup that began in 1991.
These three events, along with many others along the way, have shaped the face of women's sports around the world. However, appreciation from women's sports come in short bursts, it seems. 

For example, the 1999 Women's World Cup started a huge uprising in girls' soccer organizations around the United States, and even began the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA). However, this was short lived, as the WUSA only existed for three years. However, the 2008 Olympics in Beijing revived the hope of women's professional soccer after a US gold medal win. In 2007, Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) was founded, and began play in 2009. Although there are very few teams in the league, this remains a sport for the preteen girl audience and is very popular among them.
There is another example, albeit a small (very small) one. Because of the popularity of the Women's College World Series and the [now inactive] Olympic sport, the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league has seen much better days. Starting in 2004, college graduates and Olympians would duke it out on the softball field. However, this league is incredibly small and only has four teams. Over the past few years or so, many have folded due to money issues (which we'll talk about very shortly). Due to the IOC cutting softball from the 2012 London games, what will be the future of women's softball nationwide?

An exception to this rule may be this: the rise of popularity of NCAA Women's Basketball in the 1990's was a major contributor to one of the most successful women's sports organizations, the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). Since 1997, young girls and older fans alike attend games in droves to support their favorite teams. With the latest contract extension in play, we'll be seeing these ladies making their jump shots for many years to come.

Why is there a lack of success in the sports organizations?
The main reason why many of the women's sports organizations either fall or fail to see the light of day is because of promotions and revenue. Men's sports may have been around much longer, but very few have folded due to contracts and loss in revenue (the NHL counts here). Women's sports are considered a small fish in the ocean because of the promotional hardships that come from keeping fans and sponsors. This begins a chain reaction, as lack of sponsors means lack of teams, and lack of teams leads to lack of overall interest of the league itself. Have you ever thought about the salaries of the players in these leagues? Many women have to work second jobs because the money earned from each game isn't enough to live on during the offseason. Sponsorship and team revenue is often abysmal depending on the area and the forms of advertisement, and it usually leads to the (not purposely) overpayment of teams and officials and puts a league in massive debt. The WUSA unfortunately suffered that fate.

A question you have to ask about women's professional sports is: "Do the young girls of this generation really care enough about the leagues?" I was nine when the Women's US National Soccer Team won the Cup, and to me it was a pretty big deal, considering that I played soccer and it was an inspiration for me to maybe one day play at that level. Ten years later, I can't say that I have that same interest, but I'm rather glad that women's soccer is holding it's own and attempting to make a name for themselves. I understand fully that it's hard to market a women's sport to a male audience, but where there's a will, there's a way. Maybe the men from Mars are the real key to our success. Eww. I don't know.
You have to admit--we really did come a long way now, didn't we?