Thursday, April 08, 2004

Saint Paul not wild for Title IX 

I must have missed a doozy of a third hour on the NARN last week (I was sipping James Page in first class returning from California after successfully navigating between Mitch and JB Doubtless in Hour One.) Frater Saint Paul doesn't think much of women's basketball and after tussling with the PowerDudes Saturday, he gets it all off his chest again today.
To restate my conclusion, as a sporting event, women?s basketball is not compelling and on it?s own certainly not deserving of the Pearl Harbor sized headlines, loving editorials, and special sections printed in the local papers.

Which makes one wonder why the general public is subjected to such things. After much deliberation, I?m left with the suspicion that the only reason to get behind women?s basketball this enthusiastically, dare I say fanatically, is for its usefulness as a social statement. It?s a tool for those advocating a certain radical vision of equal rights among the sexes. More bluntly, it?s a advance for the cause of mainstreaming feminism in American culture.

Understand, my conclusion has nothing to do with the simple fact that women are playing sports functionally designed to be played by men or that they?re getting equal opportunities for athletic scholarships.
I agree that the game is not terribly compelling (though I admit to watching the UConn-UM national semi, it was to see how Whalen stacked up to Diana Taurasi, who I think would be a serviceable point guard in the men's college game.) I have several very conservative friends who watch Div. II women's college basketball and speak about their recruiting classes and so on, and most of it is about as interesting as watching a violin recital for your eight-year-old niece.

But let's be clear as to why it is on the air and why it is getting coverage. The NCAA pumps up women's basketball because it's the closest thing to a female revenue-sport, and Title IX is forcing schools to create these programs. SCSU has a women's hockey team not because we're competitive -- so far, we're not -- but so that there are thirty or so more female athletes that can balance against the men. Not all schools can do that. The University of South Dakota, which doesn't have women's hockey, now has to cut its baseball program to allow it to fund women's sports to meet Title IX. And as Sid Hartman pointed out a few days ago, Minnesota has had its ADs fighting to force broadcasters to show women's sports on air as part of a package for men's sports. This is not uncommon.

The NCAA has made Title IX a cause celebre. It instructs its presidents, ADs and coaches to promote women's sports. It should come as little surprise then that it gets coverage beyond the merits of the sport, and even less surprise that some people exposed to it end up embracing it. As to fans here loving the Lady Gophers, it's Hartmanism -- the support of all things Minnesota, the desire for relevance in a world that passes by in silver tubes in the air, particularly for those of us outside the Twin Cities.

And I think Saint Paul has another point to make: Why does the NBA fund the WNBA as a loss-leader? I hope he'll write on that game, which is even more unwatchable than a regular-season NBA game.