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updated: 7/1/2011 6:47 PM

Could women's sports use some bad girls?

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  • Are women athletes too nice? Seattle Storm's Katie Smith (14) shares a recent laugh with Phoenix Mercury's Diana Taurasi, one of the more competitive stars in the league, during a game last month as a free throw was being shot. Patricia Babcock McGraw wants to know if you think women's teams would draw more attention and grow their sport if more athletes were edgier, nasty or polarizing, like some male athletes today.

      Are women athletes too nice? Seattle Storm's Katie Smith (14) shares a recent laugh with Phoenix Mercury's Diana Taurasi, one of the more competitive stars in the league, during a game last month as a free throw was being shot. Patricia Babcock McGraw wants to know if you think women's teams would draw more attention and grow their sport if more athletes were edgier, nasty or polarizing, like some male athletes today.
    Associated Press

 
 

"We're soft."

That's what Chicago Sky coach Pokey Chatman said recently about her team, which entered Friday's game in Phoenix with a 4-5 record.

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She has repeatedly questioned her players' competitive composition.

She says they need to get tougher, even meaner, to play up to her expectations and close out games.

According to Chatman, most of her players are just too darn nice, not only off the court, but on it.

I agree with her about the nice part. The roster is filled with nice, well-mannered and kind young women.

Then again, take a look at every women's sport. You're going to find far more good girls than bad.

Tennis superstar Serena Williams can be annoyingly diva-ish at times, but she's still fairly benign. And Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi, perhaps the best trash talker in the WNBA and a bit of a magnet for controversy with a DUI and a drug-testing fiasco (she was later cleared) in her history, isn't going to fire up the masses all that much.

Men's sports, however, are full of polarizing figures who attract all kinds of attention: crazy dudes such as Ron Artest and Dennis Rodman, arrogant narcissists like LeBron James and Tiger Woods, outspoken foot-in-the-mouth types like Ozzie Guillen, and downright jerks such as Terrell Owens.

It all makes me wonder: Would women's sports get more of a following if the athletes were edgier, more outspoken, more brash?

That's what people seem to like now in our reality TV-driven world, right?

I'm not necessarily advocating it. Personally, I like that our female athletes are such great role models for little kids.

And I like kindness and humility in everyone, including athletes.

But maybe, in this case, being too good is bad for business.

Thoughts?

Lockout concerns:

On Tuesday, WNBA president Laurel Richie will be at Allstate Arena when the Sky hosts the Washington Mystics.

The visit will be part of her 12-stop "listening tour" in which she appears in every league city to meet with fans, players and team personnel.

So far, Richie has been hearing significant concern about the viability of the current season in light of the NBA lockout, which got under way on Friday morning.

The WNBA is closely tied to the NBA, both at the league level and at the team level.

Seven of the league's 12 teams, including the Sky, are independently owned. But five WNBA teams are owned by NBA teams that have just frozen relationships with their players and aren't operating normally.

The WNBA's New York Liberty, Indiana Fever, Phoenix Mercury, San Antonio Silver Stars and Minnesota Lynx are all owned by the NBA teams in their respective cities.

The worry is that those WNBA teams could take a hit in terms of staff support and funding if the NBA lockout lasts long enough.

But Richie remains optimistic, telling reporters in Washington earlier in the week that the WNBA will "absolutely" continue to operate normally.

"I'm hoping that all the issues (with the NBA lockout) get resolved in a way that's good for all," Richie said.

The NBA has been extremely good for the WNBA, providing financial support during its early years and throughout the current recession.

But some WNBA teams are starting to make some strides on their own.

Five teams have negotiated significant deals with corporations for naming rights. For instance, Phoenix sports the Lifelock logo prominently on its jerseys fronts in exchange for financial backing.

In 2010, the Connecticut Sun, which boasts some of the best crowds in the WNBA, became the first team to record a profit for a season.

Yet, despite the forward progress, the WNBA still needs the NBA on many levels. A nasty, long-running lockout does no one at the W any favors.

pbabcock@dailyherald.com

• Patricia Babcock McGraw, who covers the WNBA for the Daily Herald, also provides color analysis for Chicago Sky broadcasts.

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