Monday, July 2, 2007

Mmm. Women's sports.

On Friday I went to a Washington Mystics game with my mentee. The Mystics are DC's WNBA team, and not very good, although they have a couple of decent players. They play in the same arena as DC's NBA team, the Wizards. I had been to a few Wizards games before, but never a Mystics game. The reason I went this time was that my mentee and I got free box seats through our mentoring program. Those seats are unbelievably fantastic.

Anyway, before I went to the game, my friend and coworker Matt was making comments like, "Oh god, box seats are not going to be enough to keep you awake." And it's definitely true that if I were given the choice between seeing the Wizards and the Mystics, I would choose the Wizards. But the Mystics game turned out to be amazingly fun. At one point, they were behind by sixteen points, and they came back in the last minute to pull out a one-point win, 65-64. It was great. The crowd was really into it and it was as interesting and as exciting as watching a Wizards game.

But I was struck by the disparity between Wizards games and Mystics games. Let's do a quick breakdown:

Wizards: Every Wizards game I've attended has appeared to be sold out or nearly sold out.
Mystics: The upper deck was not even available for seating; there was a big curtain in front of it. Of the available seats, about one third appeared to be occupied.
Winner: Wizards

Wizards: The "Washington Wizards Dance Team" consists of exactly what you would expect--hot girls in various skimpy, sequined outfits performing dance routines before the game, during time outs, at half time, etc. They appear to be professional.
Mystics: The cheerleaders were a bunch of kids who appeared to be part of some regional dance class or team or something. They were wearing jeans and ranged in age from about eight to 15 years old. The act was cute, but much more appropriate for a halftime show than as the only cheerleading squad.
Winner: Wizards

Wizards: The Wizards aren't exactly the greatest team, especially without their star, Gilbert Arenas. And they don't tend to interact much with the fans. But they're still fun to watch.
Mystics: Yes, it's true what everyone says that women aren't quite as strong as men, or quite as tall, and therefore can't perform quite as many crazy athletic tricks like making shots from the other team's free throw line and jumping over eight players to hit a monster slam dunk. But they are strong and talented and make amazing moves. And one of the Mystics players is an astounding 6'7". The other thing that's nice is that the players really seem to love the crowd--they actually take the mic before and after the game to talk to the arena, and when exciting things happen during the game, they run around pumping their arms to energize the crowd, which the jaded-seeming Wizards don't do.
Winner: Mystics

Wizards: When I attend Wizards games, the crowd starts off really into it, and stays that way unless the Wizards start losing by a lot. There is a lot of screaming and jumping up and down and the whole arena feels full of testosterone. It's a big rush.
Mystics: Not having the arena full really made a difference. The crowd was very quiet, especially when the team was losing, but they got really into it at the end, when the game got close. There was a lot of clapping and screaming (at a much higher pitch than the screaming at Wizards games--a much more female-heavy audience). It was fun and there was a lot of adrenaline and excitement. But it still wasn't the same as the entire Verizon Center full of screaming fans.
Winner: Wizards

Wizards: The sidelines at Wizards games are usually packed two or three rows deep with photographers. The sports section of the Washington Post the next day usually carries a front page story about the game and a full page inside about the Wizards in general, with several sports writers throwing in their opinions of why the Wizards aren't reaching their potential this year. As far as I know, every Wizards game is televised on the local sports channels and many are on national channels.
Mystics: There were maybe a dozen photographers at the sidelines of the court. The Washington Post sports section carried one short article on the game the next day (though they did place it on the first page). The games do not ever appear to air on a local channel. One Mystics game will air on ABC between now and the end of the season. For the entire WNBA (which consists of 13 teams), 13 games will air on national television between now and the end of the season, mostly on ESPN but also on ABC. NBATV, which I believe is a subscription cable channel, also carries some WNBA games.
Winner: Wizards

Final score: Wizards 4, Mystics 1

The thing that is interesting here is that the one point on which the Mystics did win was on the actual players. The four points on which the Wizards won are not intrinsic to the game. If media coverage was stepped up for the Mystics, maybe it would improve some of those other things as well. Or maybe there's no media coverage because nobody is interested. And we're back to that whole question of the chicken or the egg.

In the meantime, though, I will try to get to more Mystics games. Even if I don't have free box seats. Anyone want to join me?

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