Thoughts and prayers for the crowd that insists no one cares about women’s sports

If you hear muffled sobs coming from a man cave or unintelligible mumbling from a guy who usually spouts misogyny, do some thinking and praying.

Tuesday was a rough day for “Nobody cares about women’s sports!” the crowd

Within the hour it was announced that the women’s college basketball title game will be shown on ABC and the NWSL championship will be televised in primetime on CBS. This is fair. National showcase for two of the biggest events in women’s sports, without the need for cable or a streaming subscription.

“Historic announcement for our league and our sport,” said NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman.

And one that is long overdue. Not out of charity or pity, but, on the contrary, because female athletes have earned it.

Advocates have long insisted that, contrary to what opponents would have you believe, there is a market for women’s sports. They just needed the right platform.

Assessments in recent years have proven that to be true.

The national championship with South Carolina and UConn was the most-watched college basketball game, men’s or women’s, on ESPN since 2008. The 4.85 million viewers represented an 18% increase over the 2021 championship game and an increase of 30% since 2019.

The Women’s College World Series averaged 1.1 million viewers, the third consecutive year it has topped one million, with the championship series averaging 1.6 million viewers. That’s after the Women’s College World Series and the College Bowl, football’s national championship, set ratings records last season.

The WNBA announced that playoff ratings are up 39% year-to-date, with Sunday’s game between the Dallas Wings and Connecticut Sun the most-watched playoff game in 15 years.

That’s after the league’s ratings across all networks rose 16% during the regular season, building on a 49% increase last year. The regular season finale between the Seattle Storm and Las Vegas Aces, a sneak peek at a playoff semifinal matchup, was the WNBA’s most-watched game in 14 years, peaking at 1.1 million viewers.

Nationally televised games for the NWSL are rare — that’s expected to change when the league’s three-year deal expires next year — but the league has averaged more than 400,000 viewers for its four games on CBS so far this season. That includes 456,000 for a preseason game between the San Diego Wave and Angel City FC, both expansion teams.

Last year’s NWSL title game drew 525,000 viewers despite a midday Eastern kickoff.

Oh, and Fox announced last week that it will air the Oct. 7 U.S. Women’s friendly against England on the main network. This after the Three Lionesses’ victory over Germany in the European Championship final attracted 17 million people, making it the most watched TV show in England so far this year.

“They said, ‘Oh, it’s not appreciated, Carol. It has no eyes.’ And I’d say, ‘It’s not appreciated because no one can see it!’ Carol Stiff, who oversaw women’s sports programming at ESPN before stepping down last summer, told USA TODAY Sports earlier this year.

“I keep using this term, ‘If you build it, they will come,'” Stiff said.

Now, men dedicated to debunking women’s sports — and they are almost exclusively men — will point out that even with improved ratings, audiences for women’s sports still don’t match those for men’s sports. And this is mostly true.

But that’s also like cheering for someone who wins a 100m race after being given a head start in the 60m.

Title IX celebrated its 50th anniversary earlier this summer, and the NCAA held its first women’s basketball tournament 10 years after the landmark legislation was passed. The WNBA is in its 26th season, the NWSL its 10th. They certainly won’t be where the men’s NFL, NBA and NCAA tournaments are now, which have all been around for 75 years or more.

Those leagues weren’t where they are now to begin with. It wasn’t until after the NFL merger that every team had all of its games on TV. It wasn’t until 1968 that the networks showed serious interest in broadcasting the NCAA men’s tournament. NBA games were still being shown on tape delay in the 1980s.

The potential for women’s sport is huge, and Tuesday’s announcements are a reflection of that. If anyone says otherwise, well, that’s a reflection on them.


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