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Monday, September 11, 2006

Shocked -- Detroit Shocked, that is

The Detroit Shock won the WNBA championship on Saturday, September 9th. I got to watch most of the game. It was a good game, and either team could have won up until the last 90 seconds or so, when Katie Smith put in a shot that put her team ahead for good. It was Smith's first championship, as a pro, or in college. She has played all 10 seasons that the WNBA has been in existence, and is one of the ten players selected to the All-Decade team.

Smith certainly wasn't the whole game. It was a team effort by both clubs, and Smith scored less than her co-guard, Deanna Nolan.

It's harder for women to make a career in sport than it is for a man. One reason is that there are fewer opportunities. Major league baseball has 25 players per roster, plus an extensive farm system, and while those down on the farm aren't getting rich, there are a lot of jobs available for men. Then there's pro American football, with even larger rosters. There are minor league men's basketball teams. There's also hockey, with quite a few positions available. There's much less available for women.

One reason for this, of course, is that there is less demand to watch female team sports than male team sports. Why? I'm not sure. Some of it, possibly, is that sport is a form of warfare, and most battles in human history have used young males as cannon fodder, so we do the same in sport. It is true that, generally, male athletes are larger, and can hit, throw, and kick harder, and jump higher, than women. Maybe that's part of the reason. Women in tennis seem to do roughly as well as men, in terms of pay, and in terms of the fame and financial rewards bestowed by society. Women golfers don't do quite as well, but Annika Sorenstam and Michele Wie, at least, are probably better known by far than any WNBA player, and perhaps as well known as their male counterparts, except, of course, for Tiger Woods. (See here for an article on sports attendance.)

Another reason that a career in sports is difficult for women is that they get pregnant, and men don't (duh!). One of the Sacramento Monarchs, DeMya Walker, got hit pretty hard during the game, and the commentator remarked that he didn't think that was as bad as having had a C-section. I don't think so, not to mention the previous pregnancy and the following recovery and care of the little one. Her daughter was born on April 11, less than five months before the final game. It's amazing that she was playing at all, but she was a starter for Sacramento, and played well.

I'd like to mention one other player, Yolanda Griffith of the Monarchs, also a member of the All-Decade team, who is 36 years old, and has a 17-year old daughter. This may have been her last game. The biography furnished by her team says that she supported herself and her daughter, while in college, by repossessing autos. Griffith, and most of the other players in the WNBA, have worked very hard to make it in athletics. They deserve more adulation, and are better role models, than the overpaid spoiled brats who are sometimes found on men's teams.

Thanks for reading.

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