Seattle Storm One Win Away From Championships

Only one game stands between the Seattle Storm and the WNBA title.  The Storm will play Atlanta on Thursday, capping off a tremendous season for professional sports in Seattle.

The Storm's outstanding year and contention for the championship makes it all the more puzzling that the media has largely been silent on the topic.  Last weekend, the Seattle Times splashed the Huskies game all over the front page, but the Storm got no love.

Such a fickle media!  The Storm stuck around with Seattle after the Sonics left.  Were in fact rescued from the terrible fate of life in Oklahoma by a group of fans; businesswomen with season tickets and the financial clout to keep the Storm in Seattle.  Formerly connected to the Sonics as a "sister team," the sale allowed the team to stand on its own.

This isn't entirely surprising, given the passion the Storm inspire in their fans.  They have sold out the Key Arena over and over, and Seattle Times reporter Steve Kelley said of the atmosphere in Key Arena during Tuesday's game that "They made this new/old barn shake in a way it hasn't since 2005."

Kelley later echoes the common sentiment that "The game has grown and deserves better exposure than this series is getting."

It's the elephant in the room.  The bummer no one wants to talk about, for fear of being labeled a wet blanket (or worse).  For all too many people, the WNBA is the punch line to a joke.  Like, literally.  Last week I spotted the following gem posted to an online forum:

Q. Wanna hear a feminist joke?

I don't think I've ever heard the WNBA mentioned on television (aside from sports programs) when it wasn't the butt of a joke.  (Obligatory Family Guy reference.)

Naturally, most of the people who mock the WNBA have not, by their own admission, ever seen a game.  Nor do they bother to make a distinction between one team and another.  

Soccer fans are long accustomed to the media and mainstream culture giving their favored sport a big ol' "Meh."   In the case of soccer, a lot of the prejudice has often struck me as being coded racism.  Soccer is, after all, very popular in countries - okay, continents - okay, the entire rest of the planet - where people don't speak English.  (You know; like Scotland.  I don't know what they speak in Scotland, but it isnae English.)

And yet, most of the WNBA critics are self-proclaimed basketball fans.  They should know better.   Imagine the outrage if someone attended a game of (say) the Minnesota Timberwolves, then proceeded to paint the entirety of the NBA with what they saw there.

The WNBA has good teams and bad, exciting games and dull, just like the NBA.  If someone likes basketball, then what's not to like about a Seattle Storm game?  Pardon me for pointing out the obvious, but it is the exact same game.

But you know how it is.  Haters gonna hate.  For the rest of us, Thursday's game starts at 5PM sharp.  Don't miss it!

Photo credit: Aaron Last/Storm Photos



Had no idea that the Storm, and indeed the WNBA, was getting that kind of attendance.
The shot-callers at the Times and TNT are hardly anti-feminist, so if the societal interest is high, it does indeed make me wonder why there isn't more print space allocated.  (Or maybe there is a fair amount; I hardly ever read printed newspapers any more.)
You've heard us mention Bill Russell's mantra that the best place to watch pure basketball is in the WNBA.  If you like X's and O's -- 1970's style college basketball with its gorgeous strategy and execution -- no doubt the WNBA is the place to be.
Good stuff.  :cpoints:

glmuskie's picture

The Storm have owned the WNBA all year.  Undefeated at home, right?  They're dominating their league in a way that most of us sports fans yearn for our other franchises to dominate.
And, Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson are about as compelling, likable, and admirable athletes as this town will ever see.
Great to see a post about em here!  And would love to see more, breakdowns of opponents, how the team has evolved, who the other role players are, etc.

glmuskie's picture

As you point out, many WNBA fans, and Storm fans in particular, wonder why more 'basketball' fans don't follow or support the team.  And wonder why more media attention isn't garnered.
Here's my two cents of why this is, and why I personally have less interest in it than the NBA or men's collegiate basketball.
I'm interested in seeing the heights of human ability.  The best performance period.  Whether it comes from a man or a woman, doesn't matter to me.
So in that contex, the physical ability of women to play basketball is less than men's.  Due to genetics, men are stronger, taller, faster, quicker.  The breathtaking athleticism is, well, more breathtaking with men than with women.
If you put the best 5 female basketball players on the court, against the best 5 male players, would it even be close?  My guess is no. Could any woman basketball player cut it in the NBA?  Maybe.  If they could, that would interest me tremendously.
There are sports where the disparity is less, or even reversed.  Could a male compete with a woman on the uneven bars in gymnastics?  I don't think so.  Tennis and golf are good examples of sports that are closer in parity than basketball.  Some female golfers have competed well against men, and I would guess some female tennis players would hold their own against top male competition.  The sport I'm best at is badminton, and in that sport, women compete at an extremely high level.  The reliance is more on flexibility, accuracy, quickness, and finesse - power and strength, not as much.  If badminton didn't have separate men's and women's competition, I bet there would be women in the top 50 worldwide.
Personally, I'm hoping like heck that the young female knuckleballer from Japan makes it to the big leagues.  THAT would be awesome.
That's it in a nutshell for me....  The WNBA isn't as esteemed as the NBA for the same reason that minor league hockey isn't as popular as the NHL.  It's the same game, sure.  But minor league hockey, and the WNBA, is competition that - almost by definition - does not include the greatest players in that sport on the planet.  It never will.
So let's love and admire the Storm for their remarkable play, and yes try to increase their exposure, media attention, fan base, and revenue (those athletes should make more money IMO).  But let's not fool ourselves in to thinking it is competition at the same level as the men.  It just isn't.


Thanks for taking the time to really go through your thought process, I really appreciate it!
I guess my follow-up question would be, do you follow a specific team?  Or only the team which has the best players, regardless of which team that is?
One question I've been pondering is, which NBA teams could the Seattle Storm destroy?  I mean, I'm pretty sure they could take on the Timberwolves, right?  Storm's at the top of their game, Timberwolves are at the bottom - I gotta think that's not even a fair fight.  (Won't someone think of the poor Timberwolves?)

glmuskie's picture

LOL!  See now, I would LOOOve to see the Storm play the Timberwolves.  That would be a good time.
And nice follow-up question, because while I follow most major sports in general - I know who the marquee players are, which teams are good, etc - I'm only a fan of the local teams.  Which happen to have the absolute best players in the world on occasion - Griffey, Ichiro, Walter Jones, The Glove, etc. 
But that follows for the Storm too, I'm a fan of theirs because they're Seattle's team.  The rest of the league I'm a bit hazy on, only being aware of a few of the other best players in the league.
I guess it's not so much the best players, as it is the level of competition.  I mean, we all love it when the underdog wins, right?  If a less talented team beats a much more talented team on a level playing field, that's inspiring and exciting.
Anyway, looking forward to reading the analysis of how the Storm Dismantles the T-Wolves.  ; )

Taro's picture

I agree with your take glumskie. As an extension of that I have no interest in any type of college competition. I have no interest in highschool baseball either despite its popularity in Japan. I don't watch minor league games or even NPB games unless I'm scouting a player who could have success at the highest level.
I wish our major league teams were as well run as the Storm. Still.. The best WNBA team probably couldn't compete consistently with the worst NBA team.. I don't have interest in the WNBA for the same reason I don't have interest in college or minor league ball. Its not where the game is played at its highest.


I would certainly love to see it, since I enjoy have as much data as I can to be educated about where things stand...but as things stand right now, I believe that the Timberwolves would probably beat the Storm 2 out of 3 times they played.
The WNBA is at about a AA/AAA level compared to the NBA (analogous to MLB)...that is my current working hypothesis, though I would love to be proved wrong, simply because proof of my wrongness would be scientifically fascinating. :D  The best AAA ballclub probably would still get beaten by the Royals or Pirates more often than not.
EDIT TO ADD: That's not to say that I couldn't eventually get into the WNBA...unlike some of the other commenters here...I love minor league baseball, college hockey, NCAA football, etc.  Different strokes for different folks. :)  I don't think the lesser competition of the WNBA would be a reason for me not to follow...I have just never gotten passionate about basketball...I've watched plenty of NBA and college games...I understand the strategies involved and admire the skilled players...I don't really know why I never got super exited about it though.  I never thought I'd like hockey until I went to a college with a very active hockey fanbase.  But they were also big basketball fans there and it didn't stick for me.  I think it may just be that my friends never got into basketball so I never developed emotional attachments.  Well...that and the NBA is friggin' rigged with AWEFUL reffing and full of loud-mouthed thuggish personalities I can't stand. LOL  Perhaps the WNBA would be more my cup of tea...a little less showboating, a little more team play?


I would guess some female tennis players would hold their own against top male competition. 
No, no they wouldn't. 
From 1998:
Venus and Serena Williams proved no match for the man ranked 203 on the ATP Tour when, in an impromptu Battle of the Sexes at the Australian Open yesterday, Karsten Braasch beat Serena 6-1 and Venus 6-2 in one- set challenges.
Her 17-year-old sister at least had the satisfaction of breaking the German's serve once. She said: "I can beat men in the 300s and up. He didn't think we could play. We showed him we could."

Braasch smiled at the claims. "Against anyone in the top 500, no chance, because I was playing like 600 today. I took at least 50 per cent off my serve and only put in a few hard ones, because it was supposed to be fun."

Girls can't play with guys at most sports, even non-strength-oriented ones like billiards.  I'm not sure why that is on the skill-based instead of athletics-based endeavors either.  But knowing a girl can't play with a guy on the tennis court doesn't stop me from enjoying a great women's match.  
I like the WNBA live.  On TV it plays too much like a slow college game for me, and I only watch college basketball during March.  I think it's easier to enjoy most athletic endeavors live where you can enjoy the game without critiquing the presentation or picking flaws in the skill level. 
High school football works fine live.  On TV it looks like something out of America's most embarassing home videos.
But anybody who loves basketball should enjoy a game with the Storm in the arena.  It's a good night out, and the girls can ball - fundamentally sound and played with showmanship by Seattle's team at least. 

benihana's picture

Why do we watch sports?
For me, many, many  factors go into my enjoyment of any given sporting event.  For sure pure athleticism can be jaw-dropping to watch such as Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps in Beijing, or even Nate Robinson and Dwight Howard in the Slam Dunk contest. Individual athletic competitions prominently featured on the Olympic stage are primarily about pure genetic talent maximization, and these are great spectacles to watch.
However, when it comes to the more mainstream competitive individual sports popular in the US (such as Tennis and Golf), I watch because it is much more than just pure athleticism at play.  It's becoming increasingly obvious that Tiger Woods dominated golf, not because he was the best athlete, but because the combination of athletic prowess was met with steal determination and an unparalleled competitive desire to win.  Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are gifted athletes, but they also posses something more than that: a combination of confidence, desire, gamesmanship, intelligence, constitution, fortitude, etc.  What makes a great match of golf or tennis is not when one individual clearly outclasses the other physically, rather, the greatest matches are when two evenly matched players meet and the victor is the one who's fighting spirit allows him to prevail on that day.
With team sports additional factors get tossed in.  it's not just the best collection of athletes, it's the best TEAM.  Watch reruns of old FIBA WBC games to see the USA's collection of talent get thrashed by lesser 'athletes'.  Watch the USA hockey team tie Canada in regulation of Vancouver's Gold Medal match, or beat the USSR in Lake Placid.  Our greatest moments from team sports often come when the Doug Fluties, the Boise States, the Appalachian States, the plucky underdog Davids defeat the superiorly athletic Goliaths.
In addition to the amazement of watching those special underdog victories, there is also the category of dominant teams that win because of their style of play, their teamwork, their 'system' so to speak, rather than just because of their collection of athletes.  Boise State, Utah (under Urban Meyer), the Utah Jazz (under Jerry Sloan), the New England Patriots, anyone who beats the New York Yankees.  These teams win regularly and consistently against teams with more talent because it's not just about the athletes.
The Basketball Part of the Equation
I love March Madness.  The Cinderella stories, the thrilling last second finishes, game after game of win or go-home drama.  Kentucky clearly had the best collection of athletes last year and they went home in second place.  Duke (though less so lately), Gonzaga, Princeton all teams that won year in and year out with lesser athletes.
When it comes down to it, I prefer college basketball to the NBA.  Because most of these athletes will not play in the professional leagues and they know it, so they play because they love the game.  They love the competition.  And it's clear in how they approach the season and the tournament.  Watching the talented 4th year Senior playing what he knows may well be his last meaningful competitive game ever, watching them leave it all out there and just compete.  There's nothing better for me.  Watching LeBron mail it in because he knew he didn't have the talent around him to win, and knew that there was change in store for next year... 'yawn'. 
The NBA has no soul. It lost it a long time ago.  It killed any routing interest I may of had when they allowed OKCity to blatantly steal a franchise with lies and deceit. Sanctioned lies and deceit from the Commish to his buddy.  The players are about the profits.  The owners are about the profits.  The refs are about the profits.  Nobody is about the game.  The lone exceptions, however much it may pain me to say it, may be Kobe and Phil Jackson - they're financially and historically set, but they continue to push for more championships.  That's what Jordan had, that's what is missing from everybody else.  Far to often do you see games devolve into individuals looking to pad their stats.  One on ones, pull up threes, bad shot after bad shot, selfish players, no defense, loose offense, no fundamentals, etc., etc., etc..
So, to sum up, for me I want to watch more than just athletes competing.  I want to watch for the spirit of the competition, the intangibles so to speak. And I hate watching the beautiful game devolve into selfish one on one stat padding exercise in narcissism.  That's why the WNBA is much more watchable to me than the NBA.
Sure they can't jump as high or run as fast.  But these players get paid comparatively peanuts.  They play because they love the game and the competition.  They play with fundamentals and teamwork.  They play with a desire to win.
Watching Sue Bird calmly set-up the offense, feed her teammates pass after pass, and then at the end of the game calmly step-up and drain the game winner? Awesome.  Watching Lauren Jackson hustle on both ends of the court.  Watching all the roll players just get at it.  It's a beautiful thing to watch.  And the sum of these parts is much greater than individual athletic ability.  It's about teamwork, it's about competition, and it's a great thing to watch.
- Ben.

glmuskie's picture

Although were the Williams sisters at 16 & 17 at the top of their game?
I looked up the Bobby Riggs vs. Billie Jean King match, which BJK won, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.  She was about 30 YO, he was 55.  He apparently attacked her with a finesse game, while she tried to wear him out, and succeeded.
Good points on how the sports translate on TV.  I'd bet I'd much more enjoy a WNBA game live than on the tube.


For the first time in a least 120 years, I actually tuned in some WNBA action tonight. The first part of the game, when the Storm stormed to a 10-0 lead...bits of the last part of the second quarter, then the last half of the third quarter when Seattle reversed a widening deficit with an impressive blitz. Didn't get to see how the game turned out, haven't looked yet.
But I have to admit I was really impressed with how far the WNBA game has come. I mean, REALLY impressed. I'm enough of a goofball to admit I probably still won't watch it unless the Storm is in the championship series again. But the achievements of those athletes and that league are worthy of great respect.

Taro's picture

Its definetly worth respect. The management, coaches, and players on the Storm are all among the best at what they do.
I don't watch just due to personal preferences, but I wouldn't want to make it sound like their accomplishments aren't impressive. The Storm deserves tons of respect. They are the only dominant championship team we've had since when? The Sonics 30+ years ago?

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