On Tuesday, Sept. 22, ESPN began airing a promo entitled “Watch Me” launched by the WNBA. This campaign hopes to not only encourage viewership for their 19th annual post season, but to galvanize a progressive image. The first words heard are: “I know what you are thinking. You think I can’t.”
The clip shows highlights of WNBA stars Brittney Griner, Candace Parker and Maya Moore excelling at their craft while a potent voice continues to describe all of the activities that society thinks these women cannot do by using the same clause starter of “you think I can’t.”
This anaphoric monologue first describes diverse actions that are skills in basketball (for example, “cross you up going coast-to-coast”). But, alas, this potent voice begins to intertwine those basketball-driven images with statements of what is expected of a woman in society. Images are then flashed of Becky Hammon coaching the Spurs Summer League paired with the words “you think I can’t open doors,” along with depictions of WNBA parents “getting their kids to school on time” and WNBA women doing community service.
After all the images of impressive basketball, motherhood and livelihood, the spot ended by painting the picture that WNBA women aren’t able to juggle all that is expected of them “while chasing [their] dream[s].” The last words heard were an attempt to accept that challenge: “Watch Me.”
That is all that the league and their brother league, the NBA, want people around the world to do: watch. In other words, give these women a chance. This TV spot was created after NBA commissioner Adam Silver was displeased with the progress of the women’s league.
“We thought we would have broken through by now,” Silver said in a television interview, expecting higher ratings and attendance.
I decided to skim some blogs in an attempt to understand why the WNBA hasn’t “broken through.” Besides a lack of marketing and sponsorship deals for the league, why don’t people watch?
After loads of frustration and a magnitude of sighing, I realized that the relatively lethargic pace and diverse playing style presented in the WNBA is what is holding the league back. Unfortunately, basketball fans anticipate accelerated play with a lot of dunking. Fans complain that since women cannot execute all of the skills so heavily portrayed in the NBA, it clearly isn’t worthy of watching.
Although I find those reasons incredibly ridiculous, I do happen to understand them. But my job now is to explain why the WNBA playoffs are worth watching for those very reasons.
One can make the argument that the reason for the moderate speed in the WNBA is due to the precision executed in their style of play. These women are incredible ball handlers. It only takes 30 seconds of watching Candace Parker control the ball and transform herself from a point guard into a center to know that WNBA players have just as much fundamental training and skill as their male counterparts.
Additionally, because of their smaller size and body mass, there are a lot of jumpers and 3-pointers taken in a standard game. This forces almost every player to be a master shooter.
In the NBA, athletes are able to rely on size, rather than solely basketball ability. WNBA players are also forced to play defense and execute zone strategies, which can lend a hand in slowing down playing time.
When watching WNBA basketball, I often don’t witness the sloppiness that is sometimes portrayed on an NBA court. It is also clear that WNBA players realize the importance of team-driven basketball. So, all of the explanations of why the sport is relatively dawdling are actually reasons why the sport has so much worth.
If you are a fan of the fundamentals of basketball, I see no reason to not watch the playoffs, and even the WNBA in general. Rather than watching women in lingerie play football, watch women this fall who are chasing their dreams, demonstrating athletic prowess and won’t take the anaphoric “you think I can’t” for an answer.
Powell is a member of the class of 2018.