People bug me all the time to write about the Storm. Not a lot of people. Just enough people to get under my skin a bit. I always tell them they don’t want me to write about the Storm, because I’ll tell it like it is, and not like they want it to be. And yet they persist. So I figure it’s time.
First of all, I figure most of you care so little about the Storm that you won’t even read this post. I understand that. Hence, I can reveal even my deepest, darkest secrets here and it won’t matter. You’ll never find out. Maybe at some point farther down this page, that will happen. I don’t know yet. We’ll just have to wait and see.
But enough stalling. Let’s talk about the Seattle Storm.
As it turns out, they’re the best team in basketball right now. Not just women’s basketball. All basketball. No one else happens to be playing, hence they have earned the title kind of by default. Even still, that’s no small feat.
The Storm have a 21-2 record and have clinched the Western Division title with 11 games left in the season. They have a shot at the best record in WNBA history (28-6, by the 2001 Los Angeles Sparks) and have to be considered the frontrunner to win this year’s championship.
All of which means nothing to you, I’d imagine. And frankly, I don’t have a convincing argument as to why it should mean something. For some reason, there has always been this disconnect between women’s professional basketball and the majority of sports fans. Maybe it has something to do with most sports fans being male. Maybe it has to do with the league not marketing itself well enough. Maybe the product sucks. You be the judge. The why, at this point, matters very little. The fact is, there is no change on the horizon and no potential of the WNBA blowing up to be anything more than fodder for ESPN2 on a slow night. That’s just the way it is. I’m pretty sure I’m not telling you things you don’t already know.
But here’s the thing. I really don’t like it when people just dismiss the WNBA as this complete joke of a league. It’s foolish. There is some value in the WNBA, and on a more local level, the Storm. I’d wager that that value is relegated to kids and lesbians. But still, value is value.
When I was a kid, my dad took my brother and I to watch the Seattle Reign play. You might not remember the Reign. They were a women’s pro basketball team that preceded the Storm, and played in the American Basketball League (ABL), which overlapped the early beginnings of the WNBA. The Reign played their home games in the dusky mess that is Mercer Arena. The team was lucky to get more than a few hundred people in attendance each night. They also played their games during the winter, alongside the neighboring Sonics, making it that much harder to sell anyone on the idea of women’s basketball.
I distinctly remember going to those games and learning something, however. The Reign had a power forward named Tari Phillips who banged around in the paint and threw elbows like a more violent, less restrained Jon Brockman. There was Kate Starbird, a shooting guard from Tacoma, who had a silky smooth jumper. And you had Kate Paye, a point guard who was the team’s unquestioned floor general with the ball in her hands.
Let me say this. I really hate it when I go to the playground or the gym and some cocky-ass teenager is shooting airball after airball, trying to make all these fancy plays, carrying the ball with every dribble, then bragging about how he models his game after Rajon Rondo or Chris Paul. If you’re on any playground or in any gym, you don’t model your game after any NBA player. There’s a reason they’re earning millions of dollars and you’re not. So don’t tell me you model your game after them. They’re a lot better than you, and while you might be able to occasionally pull off a stutter-hesitation dribble (Paul) or a “show-me” ball fake (Rondo), that doesn’t mean you model sh*t after those guys.
I’ve yet to hear anyone say they model their game after a women’s pro basketball player, even though it’s the WNBA players you’re more likely to emulate for any number of reasons. Let’s look at the comparisons between your Average Joe and a women’s pro baller. A women’s pro baller can’t dunk; you also can’t dunk. A women’s pro baller works much harder on defense than most NBA players; you should also be working this hard on defense. A women’s pro baller doesn’t make much money; you don’t make much money. The correlation between a women’s pro baller and you is much greater than any perceived relationship between an NBA player and you. It’s not hard to see, and you shouldn’t be afraid to admit that.
Personally, I feel like I became a better ballplayer by going to Reign games as a kid. Tari Phillips taught me to box out. Kate Starbird taught me a decent jumper. Kate Paye taught me how to run point. Those women played fundamental basketball, and watching them play gave me the foundation to continue to go to playgrounds nowadays and school kids who think they have a little Chris Paul in them. Which is why I continue to see value in the Storm.
Assuming the Storm are still around when I have a kid, boy or girl, I will be sure to take him or her to watch them play. Will I get much enjoyment out of the game? Who knows. But I will make sure they know what fundamentals are, and we all know the NBA can’t teach that.
All that said, for an adult, the WNBA can be absolutely mind-numbingly boring. Part of watching sports as you get older is to see things you’ve never seen before. We still watch the NBA to witness a guy throw down a dunk that boggles the mind. We watch Major League Baseball for the web gems and moonshot dingers. We watch football for the jack-you-up, skull-crushing hits and feats of athleticism. By the time you’re a grown-up, you’ve seen enough sh*t go down in the world of sports to be immune to most of the plays you’ll pay homage to.
And that’s the problem with women’s basketball. Aside from Candace Parker throwing down a relatively ugly one-handed dunk, you will rarely see something you’ve never seen before, which does nothing to stimulate the brain. The WNBA is white bread, it’s cardboard, and most of us won’t waste our time watching stale averageness. By the time we’re adults, we’ve mastered the fundamentals (perhaps “mastered” is too strong a word, but whatever) and have seen countless jumpers knocked down and lay-ups laid up to care about seeing it done again by anyone, male or female. The reason I don’t really care about the Storm isn’t because women are playing, per se, it’s because the product bores me. If that’s a function of women playing the game, then so be it. But I wouldn’t go out of my way to watch a high school team full of six-foot tall white boys who just shot threes play either. So it has very little to do with sex.
(That last sentence was kind of funny, even though I didn’t intend for it to be.)
If the Storm win the WNBA championship this year, few Seattleites will give a damn. It will rank right up there with whoever won the respective high school state basketball titles this past year. We’ll pay notice for like five minutes, then move on with our lives. I apologize to the hardcore fans of the team. But this is reality.
That doesn’t mean that you should let anyone rain on your parade if you do care for this team. I’m just giving you my take, which in the grand scheme of things doesn’t matter all that much. You don’t need me or anyone else to endorse your fandom of the Storm for it to be legitimate. I know people who like to jerk off to German porn. They don’t need anyone to endorse their German porn masturbation to make their love of what they do legitimate. And that’s where we’ll end this bitch. Because if you can’t go out on a high note, then why go out at all?