In the hilarious and much-circulated YouTube video “Sh*t Nobody Says,” one of the lines goes something like: “I wish there was more WNBA on TV.”
Like pretty much all of the other statements in that particular video, the WNBA quip makes us laugh because it certainly does sound like something that nobody is saying. The professional women’s basketball league suffers from a radically low level of fan support. Sure, the on-court product isn’t always the best, but most of the time the amount of visible empty seats is far more painful to observe.
The issue has, unfortunately, pervaded the college ranks. Unless you’re Connecticut, Duke, Stanford or Tennessee, chances are your women’s basketball program has more of a problem drawing fans than “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.”
UCLA was put in a unique situation this year, when the renovation of Pauley Pavilion forced the women’s basketball team to relocate to Collins Court inside the John Wooden Center. Injuries to key player after key player have somewhat hampered the Bruins’ progress this season, which is already one of transition because of the departure of former coach Nikki Caldwell for LSU.
But the program might have found something in the change of venue. The allure of Collins Court is that its tightly packed bleachers create a much more intimate and potentially intense environment ““ the kind of environment that cultivates a home-court advantage like the one on display on Thursday night, when UCLA pulled a how-did-they-do-that, blink-and-you-missed-it comeback against Washington to tie the game in the final seconds and eventually win it in overtime in front of a raucous crowd at Collins.
I hope you’re reading the next few lines sitting down: Admittedly, I have no say when it comes to determining where UCLA’s sports teams play their home games. But if I’m Gene Block or Dan Guerrero or James Franco or whoever does make those decisions, I have to seriously consider the idea of making the Wooden Center the permanent home of women’s basketball, even after the renovation of Pauley Pavilion is complete.
It’s not a sexist argument to say that, at UCLA and practically every other school outside of maybe the four that I mentioned earlier, women’s basketball is not on the same plane as its male counterpart. It’s an unfortunate fact that exists for a number of reasons, but it’s the nature of the beast and ticket sales tell the sobering story.
What’s a better option? A Pauley Pavilion in which entire brand-spanking-new rows of seats are left empty? Or a Wooden Center where you fill the building admirably for most games and may have to pack things in a little tighter when Stanford and USC come to town?
There would be objections from recruits, I’m sure; Pauley is a storied arena that’s bound to look awfully nice when it reopens next school year. But these players coming out of high school will be used to playing in buildings and atmospheres like that of the Wooden Center. Little to no transition necessary.
Funny thing is, I’m a part of one of the few other groups that should have an objection to this. Pick-up basketball certainly suffers ““ with the women using Collins Court for practices and games, that means less time for folks like me to work off Fat Sal’s with some basketball. Still, it’s a sacrifice for a worthy cause.
Is this a legitimate consideration? Is the administration talking about this? Highly doubtful. There’s too much excitement about the new Pauley. But I believe that there are plenty of reasons why the women’s team should make Wooden its permanent home, and somebody needs to say this sh*t.
If you want to borrow his Nickelback CDs, email Eshoff at [email protected]