Women's pro sports are about more than the money
Amy Bergstrom grew up in Woodinville and has worked for four years at The Seattle Times, the past two as an associate sports producer for seattletimes.com.
I’m not a fan of women’s professional sports. By “fan,” I mean a person who buys tickets for games, wears team apparel or follows in detail the progress of a team. I just haven’t had a team capture my attention.
But I am a fan of women playing sports professionally. And I don’t think that has to be a contradiction. Some people argue about women’s pro leagues, saying women aren’t as exciting to watch as men and the leagues can never be financially successful. I might argue about the excitement (depending on the team and sport – I am a big Husky softball fan), but as for finances, I think that’s OK. In fact, I agree with a GOOD Magazine article that suggests women’s leagues should be run more like non-profit organizations.
I say all this because I love sports. I grew up playing softball, soccer and basketball and dreaming of being an Olympic and then a professional softball player. That wasn’t because I wanted to be rich and famous. It’s because I never wanted to stop playing softball.
So I’m glad there’s a women’s league for professional basketball, softball and, now again, soccer, with Seattle getting an inaugural team in the National Women’s Soccer League. I’m glad there will be more female athletes who get a chance to play the sport they love for a living, or at least part of a living. I want the leagues to stay afloat to provide these opportunities and provide something for young girls to aspire to.
If they are never commercial successes or as popular as men’s teams, that’s acceptable to me, at least theoretically. In practice, of course, popularity and money play a big role.
But between sponsorships, TV deals (ESPN is broadcasting high-school basketball games?!), jersey sales, etc., sports now are too much about business. It’s hypocritical of me to say, since that business provides a reason for me to have a job. However, I started loving sports because of the joy they gave me. I love professional baseball, but even more so, I love sandlot baseball, kids playing the sport out of passion. Women’s leagues have the chance to sell opportunities without selling their souls.
Yes, in an ideal world, women’s sports wouldn’t be considered inferior to men’s. In the meantime, though, I wish success for the Seattle Reign FC and the entire NWSL, not in dollars and cents but where it really counts.
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