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posted: 10/22/2010 9:41 PM

Mixed opinions on plan for espnW

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One of your best sources for women's sports news is, of course, right here with Women's Watch.

But soon, ESPN will give you another outlet.

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espnW, an entity devoted entirely to women's sports and women's perspectives on sports, will be the next addition to the ever-multiplying ESPN franchise. The plan is to launch it in the spring as a blog and website and then eventually expand it into a full-fledged television channel.

"We now join the effort to serve female athletes in a more comprehensive way," said Laura Gentile, vice president of espnW.

Sounds like a good idea in theory, but some people believe that an ESPN devoted to women is more insulting and condescending than empowering.

Their point is that women's sports should be shown on ESPN, not on some lesser auxiliary channel. They also say that women who want to watch sports want to watch sports, not a powder puff, glammed-up, hair-sprayed version of the real thing.

To insinuate that women don't enjoy what ESPN already offers is a ridiculous, sexist miscalculation, they say.

All of that may be very true.

Women who are fans of the NFL, for instance, are already watching ESPN for coverage. They probably wouldn't be any better served by an espnW.

And in a perfect world, there would be all kinds of women's sports programming on ESPN. The real ESPN.

But, as we know, this world is far from perfect.

I think the main point here is about the sports that aren't currently on ESPN, not about the ones that are.

Women's sports never get enough coverage on any network, but particularly on a network that claims to be the "Worldwide Leader in Sports." Not just men's sports, mind you, but sports.

In 2010, just 8 percent of ESPN's programming has been related to women's sports.

Of course, part of the disparity is that typically lower ratings for women's sports broadcasts certainly don't persuade network executives to carve out even more time for them.

But it is also true that what women's sports coverage is available is often broadcast so infrequently and irregularly that steady, repeat viewers are difficult to come by.

In the meantime, many women's sporting events, from college to the pros, go uncovered and even unmentioned by ESPN. It's a source of constant disappointment for devoted women's sports fans everywhere.

Many women, and fans of women's sports (yes, there are some men who fit into this category), have given up on ESPN.

Besides that, a lot of women are also turned off in general by the machismo that is ESPN 99 percent of the time.

A sports channel devoted just to women's sports and women's perspectives on sports could be a refreshing option for frustrated diehards. Done tastefully, it could also be a comfortable alternative for those women who aren't the most knowledgeable about sports and are looking for perhaps a more female-friendly presentation than what ESPN offers.

So, I'm not ready to turn my nose up at ESPN's espnW just yet.

While less is often more, I think more is more in this case.

The more women and young girls can see women's sports on TV, the more women's sports grow and resonate. And whether that happens on ESPN or espnW shouldn't really matter at this point.

pbabcock@dailyherald.com

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