The frustrations and pleasures of covering women’s sports

AnotherViewsquareI recently was in Cleveland on assignment. While walking around the downtown area, a virtual ghost town because it was an hour before Game 2 of the NBA Finals, the few people we did run into wore something with Cavs on them in support for their Cavaliers.

You’d be hard pressed not to miss the team’s season-long rally cry, “All In” everywhere you went from the airport to the bus stops. The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s front page, along with its sports section, was Cavs-intensive, with over eight pages of post-game coverage.

I can’t help but wonder if, had it been Cleveland’s former WNBA team, the Rockers, the paper would have given them the same championship coverage.

The Minnesota Lynx’s half-decade of excellence is unparalleled in local sports in recent memory, matched only perhaps by the multiple titles-winning performances by the Gopher women hockey team. Yet both Twin Cities mainstream newspapers, with very few exceptions, cover both teams like Rodney Dangerfield — with no respect.

Cleveland pride on display
Cleveland pride on display (Photo by Charles Hallman)

Even after a big win, a Lynx post-game story made it to page three of the Minneapolis paper, rudely placed behind front-page stories on the Vikings off-season workouts and another Twins loss. Lynx road post-game stories are typically by-lined by “staff reports,” which means that someone with the team wrote it and sent it to the newspapers. But these same newspapers send at least two writers to cover the Twins, Vikings, Wolves and Wild whether home or away, whether losing or winning.

The blatant sexism isn’t restricted to print, as local radio often treats women’s sports in this town as joke material. And the ones who do cover the women write without imagination, saving their best for the men.

We have covered Minnesota women’s sports since the mid-1980s. We have been present for each and every Lynx season since 1999. I wrote about the WNBA even before Minnesota got a franchise a couple of years after the league began. The 20 years of the league coincide with our 20 consecutive summers of coverage.

I don’t know anyone else in this town who can say this. Anyone.

I have seen the league’s good and the bad, and in Minnesota’s case, the bad then the good. I have seen players in Lynx colors over the years come and go with some successes and too many busts.

I have praised them, scolded them, and at tim

The loyal standby at work on Lynx media row
The loyal standby at work on Lynx media row (Onika Nicole Craven/MSR News)

es became persona non grata with the Lynx brass because of my coverage of the team’s feeble diversity efforts over the years. But like an Elton John song, I’m still standing.

Covering women’s sports in general and the WNBA in particular has been a personal pleasure. This despite sometimes being pushed aside for bandwagon media types.

Media row at Lynx games now is crammed with such folk, many of whom weren’t even around for roll call until 2011, if that soon. And if really pressed when asked, they couldn’t name the Lynx’s first starting lineup, first win, or even their first time in the playoffs.

But I can.

Same for the W, which too many sports doomsayers predicted wouldn’t last five years. I also chastised its marketing schemes and ESPN stepsister scheduling over the years, but I still support it.

Like the main characters in the movie Brown Sugar who truly love hip hop, this reporter loves, appreciates and respects the string music the WNBA regularly provides. It’s basketball the way it should be played.

WNBA President Lisa Borders earlier this year told us that she’s aiming for a centennial-plus existence for her league. Like Smokey Robinson, we second that emotion.

 

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.