Banking on Crazy: the WNBA Tries Out Some New Marketing Techniques

by anna on July 24, 2008

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For those of you not familiar with the Sports Analysis Machine, this is a media phenomenon rarely discussed or dissected, but which is capable of harnessing the attention of men everywhere for hours at a time. Whilst they are driving to work, or in the middle of the night when they cannot sleep, or during heated conversations over cheap beer, the Sports Analysis Machine captures men’s imaginations and encourages them to think, feel, act, and buy in ways they never would have otherwise. The Sports Analysis Machine is a mechanism of such awesome power that it is capable of uniting men everywhere, across race and economic boundaries, on both the right and left, from Orange County to Cambridge, even if only temporarily, to work towards a common purpose. If we were smart, we would figure out a way to use this to our advantage.

Most women don’t know that at any time of day or night, men have access any one of a dozen outraged sports commentators who provide insight on a game, portion of a game, a change in players, a change in coaches, or pretty much anything that happens in the world of sports at any time in the past, present, or future. Oh, and they are not limited by the traditional definition of sports here–the need for commentary and analysis on sports is so great that on a slow day, you might hear something about NASCAR, bowling, or fishing. Even, in desperate cases, the WNBA. But of that in its place.

My personal favorite genre of sports analysis is the fantasy oeuvre. This subcategory is not limited by the pedestrian constraints of the space/time continuum in its formations of dream teams and ultimate contests. In a fantasy matchup, you could have a basketball team with Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaq, and Kobe Bryant if you wanted to, and take bets as to how they would fare against Kevin Garnett, Magic Johnson, Scotty Pippen, Larry Bird, and Le Bron James.

Except, Mr. Right-Click would interject here that I am talking nonsense again, because in that lineup I have one team with 3 centers and two guards playing against a team with one center, two point guards, a shooting forward, and a power forward. And also, where is Dr. J? Or Jerry West? Or Elgin Baylor? Or Patrick Ewing? Et cetera. And also, are you talking Shaq now or Shaq at the height of his game?

See there are rules to the fantasy matchup, just as there are rules to the way that women (whether in the WNBA or otherwise) should act. These rules don’t really make sense to us because we are outsiders. We find it difficult to understand why the analysis needs to continue for days, weeks, nay–years!–after the sporting event View definition in a new window in the same way that men don’t understand why women must agonize over the minutiae of dating and relationships and man trouble when it is clear that He’s Just Not That Into You. We all know men tend to be interested in sports, but the Sports Analysis Machine is something you don’t really get a taste of until you are living with one of its denizens and wake up at 3 in the morning to an impassioned verbal thesis on the credibility of Paul Pierce’s knee injury in game 2 of the 2008 NBA Finals.

Oh and when it is football season it is far worse. Everything is Brett Favre this, Brett Favre that. He’s retiring, he’s not retiring. Enough with the Brett Favre already! And why do you say it Far-ve, when it is spelled Fahv-ruh?

So, anyway, in the tradition of having a take and not sucking, I will get to my point. Mr. Right-Click came home from work all scandalized last night. Seems the Sports Analysis Machine is kicking into overdrive over something that happened this week with the WNBA.

“Have you heard?”
“Heard about what?”
“About Lisa Leslie?”
“Sure, we saw Lisa Leslie at the 3D ultrasound place.”
“Yeah, not that.”
“Lisa Leslie went to Morningside High, where the players were so good that, if you believe popular legend, the basketball coach would just roll a ball out onto the court and say, ‘Play.’”
“Yeah, not that.”
“OK, I give, what about Lisa Leslie?”
“There was a HUGE fight in the WNBA. And Rick Mahorn pushed Lisa Leslie down and blah blah Bill Laimbeer’s fault blah interest waning blah blah.”

At first glance, this WNBA fight is really not that interesting to me. Fights don’t do it for me, at least not physical ones. But I know a lot of people like them. And apparently this is a big deal to a lot of people. Fights are old hat in the NBA, but Tuesday was the first one on record for the WNBA, and the mainstream media, the blogosphere, and the Sports Analysis Machine is still all atwitter about it today, two days later. All of the media is abuzz with it, in fact. Mr. Right-Click says that they have gotten more press off of this than any other time in the WNBA’s 11-year history.

The Sports Analysis Machine is not equipped to deal with the concept of women fighting. Physically, that is, I have to assume, since if they had spent any time amongst women they would realize that we fight more viciously than they do, we just rarely resort to the use of fists. Women love to tear each other down, and we are trained from an early age to do so. If there are men around to fight over, then it is that much better. This whole fracas, both titilating and repulsive at the same time, has sent the Sports Analysis Machine into overdrive.

Why? Because, as Perez Hilton–someone whom I cannot imagine within fifty feet of a sporting event View definition in a new window, has pointed out, it is a “bitch fight.” Yes, I am quoting Perez Hilton. What is even stranger is that I have found Perez Hilton’s readers to have provided the most profound insight on the appeal of this topic, e.g.: “Sweet! Now maybe the WNBA will get more fans!,” “LOL that gave the ref an instant woody!” and “whatever . . . . that’s what happens sometimes in sports. To me, no big deal. This will be blown out of proportion because it involves girls.”

Money, sex, gender politics. Isn’t that what the media is all about?

{ 1 comment }

Coasty July 25, 2008 at 11:16 am

Sports in integrally tied to the slow, historical process of society transforming from a religious to a secular world. Over all recorded history, people have and continue to become less reliant on religion, less believing. Science and reason, especially in the last 500 years, has changed the world and everyone’s outlook. In 500 to 1000 years people will look back on the “age of religion” and laugh like so many antitheists laugh and scowl today.
But that is not to say human nature does not have as part of its innate self the need for the individual to invest faith in something. Faith, a belief in something beyond ones own control, is simply part of who we are. That is not going to change in 1000 years.
The rise of sport’s popularity in American society has tracked the decline of religion. As our culture has become more secular sports has become more and more popular. Instead of investing their faith in the hereafter, people are investing it in the Lakers, the Bears, etc. Instead of heaven there is the Super Bowl.
Sports are great that way in that you don’t have to wait until you die to know whether or not your faith has been wasted or not. It’s unscripted drama (nothing preordained), operatic, passionate. There is ballet and dance and “luck” and controversy. And maybe the best thing about Ttitle 9 inclusion of woman in high school and college sports is now they too are crazed members of the sports fan flock. God bless sports and the death of god. Oh, and fuck the Celtics while you are at it!

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