Across ESPN’s TrueHoop and a few other sites, there has been a back-and-forth about female basketball fans that I find fascinating. The initial highly intelligent post on Hardwood Paroxysm was written by Sarah Tolcser, co-author of HornetsHype, and who’s Twitter nom de plume is ticktock6 (yes, that was just my shameless excuse to write “nom de plume” and attempt to sound smart-like). Unfortunately, a lot of the conversation has gotten caught up in whether the current usage of cheerleaders is an evil, sexist thing, but I find that to be limiting. The question of how (and perhaps even “whether”) to appeal to female NBA fans is a much larger, more intriguing question to me.
Tolcser cites a stat that 40% of NBA fans are female, a number which shocked me. I mean I’d always thought instead of the slogan “Where amazing happens” that the league could’ve always used “Where sausage fest happens.” After all, most sports reporters and writers (and by writers I mean even going all the way down to the people who choose to write comments on blogs like this) tend to be people of the testicular-persuasion. And honestly, I tend to view males as more the type to get obsessive when they follow ANYTHING, be it sports, Lord Of The Rings, indie-rock bands, whatever. That’s not to say that there aren’t hard-core female indie-rock followers, but when I picture the over-the-top fan who brags that he only listens to vinyl and has a collection of 6,000 vintage small-label original recordings, I can only see that dork being a guy. The point being I shouldn’t have rushed to conclusions about the make-up of the average NBA fan. We might’ve only just had the first woman ever win the Academy Award for best director (and sadly only the fourth to get nominated), but that don’t mean the ladies don’t go to the cinema. Clearly us guys should throw on a towel rather than walking around naked in our NBA fandom, ‘cuz there are tons of women here.
So what can we do to make their stay here more enjoyable? I think a lot of guys view that as an “us” or “them” question, which is why the cheerleading debate has become such a hot button topic. But Tolcser brings up other, more basic things, like that most (or all?) teams don’t offer official team gear in women’s sizes. That’s a pretty big oversight, and an easy one to fix at that. Yeah, some gals may be happy with cutesy pink team clothing, but if you’re a true fan like me, I don’t even wanna buy a white home Knicks’ jersey, I want the unique blue-and-orange colors to truly represent, yo.
Tolscer obviously loves the game, so she ain’t looking for whole-scale changes, just tweaks here and there:
As a Hornets season ticketholder, I’ve taken surveys as a member of many different demographic classes– including ticketholder, event attender, arena food and drink buyer, merchandise purchaser, web content consumer, and New Orleans resident. You know what I realize they’ve never once asked me? What more they could be doing for me as a female fan. And you know, NBA, I would really like to be asked that question. Because I have some things to say that might surprise you, things like, “The answer is not more pink jerseys.” Things like, as a member of a growing class of unmarried women ages 25-44,”family friendly” promotions and cute distractions on court during the game entice me no more than they entice male fans. Things like, some of the advertising spots from your own sponsors have sexist overtones that make me uncomfortable. Things like, when I go to your official website and see scantily-clad girls on the front page, I can’t help feeling that the NBA is not meant to be “for me.”
That’s kinda sad. Some obnoxious commentators on blogs have said that then she should stop going to games & buying tickets. A kind of “love it or leave it” attitude. But why should she have to suck it up? What if this was about race instead of gender? In the new Larry Bird/Magic Johnson book there are tons of stories about how racist some of the Boston fans were. Reading it now, one can’t help but feel sorry for Bill Russell and others who played their hearts out for their team, yet didn’t feel comfortable going into certain neighborhoods in their own adopted city. We watch and play sports ‘cuz we love ‘em, and nothing has the right to make us feel like they’re “not for me.”
I’m not advocating obsessive PC-ness and eliminating anything that could possibly offend anyone, ‘cuz ya can’t please everyone and honestly, that’d be a damn boring world. So we obviously ain’t gonna get rid of cheerleaders (sorry, Red Auerbach), but perhaps their dances don’t need to be so lascivious? Like we know we’ve gone too far ‘cuz even high school cheers are waaay too sexualized. I’m not saying dress the ladies in parkas where we can only see their ear lobes, but c’mon, there’s gotta be a middle ground. Like if the bball players themselves had to dress as scantily as the cheerleaders, with shorts tightly sculpted to show precisely how big their packages are, I probably wouldn’t love that. Sure, a ton of ladies just screamed “hells yeah” at that suggestion, but we’re talking about what can make everyone happy without weirding anyone out. ———————
Yet another bizarre Jersey tale. For those who haven’t heard, a Nets executive got into a furious argument with a fan who was wearing a bag over his head. The fan basically said he was doing it ‘cuz there wasn’t much to watch. The exec, frustrated by the team’s play that night (& the whole season), kinda lost it. However, the next day he regretted it, and enjoyably decided to use it to tweak himself while providing a promotion for Wednesday’s game:
Any fan who put a paper bag on his head would be offered a nylon Nets’ bag containing a poster, a pack of player trading cards and a printed note from Yormark that said:
“Thanks for letting us see your face. We hope to see it more often at Nets’ games.”
According to a Nets’ spokesman, by halftime of the game, only two people had accepted the exchange offer. According to my analysis: that probably accounted for half the fans in attendance.
The summer of 2010′s Big Free, or the Big Three of Free Agency, aka LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, have sorta combined their power base. As CBSSports.com reports, their agents have all joined CAA (the Creative Artists Agency).
What does all of this mean? Simply put, the top three NBA free agents are all under the same representation umbrella — an advantage that will allow them to freely share information about what will be a dizzying, unpredictable free-agent signing period. [...] It is a nexus of power [...] The domino effect could result in what one rival agent described as “sweeping changes” in the NBA landscape by the time it’s over.
“I think the process is going to entail three individual circumstances, but the knowledge is centralized on all three,” one NBA team executive said. “It gives them absolute control of the market, for one. You have the three most sought-after clients.”
[...] Now, they’re more than merely friends and Olympic teammates. They’re business partners, with power and leverage that are united with the agency that will dictate the tempo and terms of the 2010 free-agent market.
[...] Wade downplayed CAA’s 2010 monopoly, saying, “I don’t think it changes anything.” But he’s forgetting about one extraordinarily valuable commodity come July 1: information. While team executives and rival agents will be expending countless man hours trying to predict what the Big Three will do, their options and strategies will be centralized under one roof.
That said, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing for teams hoping to recruit/retain their services. For instance, the Knicks clearly want LeBron as Choice A. While he’s “debating” where to go, we won’t need to worry about Bosh’s people trying to force us to make a decision on whether to give Bosh an offer ‘cuz Bosh’s people will be LBJ’s people and they’ll want both to be happy. If we were to make Bosh an offer while the King’s still mulling our deal, LeBron wouldn’t be very pleased with the reps. In other words, the reps can’t really play us against each other. Versus, say, since they don’t rep Joe Johnson, if we were to be contemplating making an offer to JJ or Bosh, Bosh’s people can say that they hear “rumors” JJ might sign with another team or can say we’ve got 24 hours to give Bosh an offer, trying to force us into going for Bosh ‘cuz they don’t care if they screw JJ over and leave him hanging.
Then again, your smart agents, if they “forced” the Knicks into taking Bosh before LeBron had made a decision, well them smart agents they can also then convince LeBron that NY wasn’t the right place for him and he’ll be a much better fit in Miami…
Topics: Bill Russell, Boston Celtics, Cheerleaders, Chris Bosh, Creative Artists Agency, Dwyane Wade, Hardwood Paroxysm, HornetsHype, Joe Johnson, Larry Bird, LeBron James, Lord Of The Rings, Magic Johnson, New Jersey Nets, Red Auerbach, Sarah Tolcser, Ticktock6, TrueHoop