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Tossing Aside 'Great' Expectations

By Norman Chad
Monday, May 19, 2008

The WNBA's new slogan is "Expect Great."

(Runner-up slogan: "Good Seats Still Available.")

Perhaps you've seen those bizarre, new commercials in which three WNBA players belittle their own product.

Candace Parker: "I'm sorry, but you couldn't pay me to watch women's basketball."

Cheryl Ford: "I'm afraid of contact, so you could post me up all day long."

Tamika Catchings: "No offense, but women's basketball is a joke."

At the end of each spot, the words "She Wouldn't Say That" come up on the screen, followed by, "Would You?"

There's a backdrop of eerie, ominous music, the kind you hear in "The Shining" just before Jack Nicholson chops through the bathroom door with an axe.

Who dreamt up this ad campaign, Lizzie Borden?

Frankly, I don't think they can shame me or scare me into buying WNBA season tickets.

The commercials are aimed at men who disdain the WNBA. The thing is, men usually love watching women; I've noticed this at the beach, in bars and at board meetings -- well, on those rare occasions there is a female presence at those meetings.*

(*Yes, readers would be correct to question how I might be at a board meeting. Actually, it's a statistical improbability.)

For whatever reason, men don't like watching the WNBA; I'm among them. I, too, love women. I'll work with them and I've worked for them. I've used them as doctors, lawyers and counselors. I'll watch them play tennis. I've even married 'em. But, as Susan B. Anthony is my witness, I'll hardly ever watch women play professional basketball.

I recently viewed several games in the NCAA women's tournament and was pretty riveted. Okay, so it wasn't like taking in the second season of "24" on DVD, but Rutgers-Connecticut, Tennessee-Texas A&M and LSU-Tennessee were scintillating sports drama.

On the other hand, stumbling onto a WNBA telecast is like strolling into Mervyns -- I never expect much and seldom buy anything.

It would help if they made a jump shot once in a while.

(The NBA playoffs, meanwhile, are two parts "Survivor" and one part "The Sopranos." The games are intense, layered and sometimes violent. And, indeed, you expect great every time Kobe Bryant or LeBron James or Chris Paul steps onto the floor. In fact, I'll take 40 days and 40 nights with Ernie Johnson any time over a Final Four weekend with Billy Packer. Heck, March Madness is more myth than magic. It's the NBA playoffs that are full of shining moments, not the least of which is Charles Barkley's fabulous dome.)

(Parenthetical P.S.: We don't watch women play pro ball, but we'll listen to them talk pro ball. Doris Burke was the ESPN analyst on Game 6 of the Celtics-Cavaliers NBA series. Fine by me. Now, if she starts carpooling to work with Hubie Brown, we're in trouble.)

Hey, the American public makes choices. Should I apologize because taped poker on ESPN outdraws live WNBA games? No, I'm not going to apologize; rather, I'm running to the bank with my latest poker paycheck!

To be honest, I'm tired of knocking the WNBA. At least when I bash the NHL or MLS, I'm not called a backward-thinking, closed-minded, myopic, sexist fool.

I gave the WNBA another go Saturday, with its Los Angeles Sparks-Phoenix Mercury season opener on ABC. This wasn't your mother's WNBA: Both teams were burying jumpers in a terrific contest. The only disturbing sight was watching Sparks assistant Marianne Stanley giving her team uninspired instruction at halftime; where was head coach Michael Cooper, playing pinochle with Magic Johnson?

In the Sparks' 99-94 victory, sublime rookie Candace Parker had 34 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists in her WNBA debut. "Expect Great-in-Progress" would not be a bad slogan any time she's on the court.

Alas, I still don't expect great from the WNBA. I expect 0.3 ratings.

Ask The Slouch

Q. If Roger Clemens pitches for his prison baseball team, will he be allowed to wear his Yankees pinstripes, or will he have to wear the prison team's uniforms? (Jeff Ullrich; Conroe, Tex.)

A. Not sure, but I guarantee you he won't travel with the team to road prison games.

Q. Will Barry Bonds go to jail as a Pirate or a Giant? (Matt Muench; San Antonio)

A. It would depend on the size of the jail cell.

Q. If Prince Fielder became a vegetarian to show his concern for the way animals are harvested, does that mean he won't hit a baseball because it's covered with horsehide? (Bob Dustrude; Wausau, Wis.)

A. Apparently so -- what's he got, five homers all season?

Q. Do you feel like you jinxed Mariano Rivera or do you feel like you never get anything right? (Jason Miller; Pittsburgh)

A. Life is a series of right turns; unfortunately, I specialize in left turns.

Q. When O.J. Mayo joins the NBA, do we all have to pitch in to make up the money he will be losing? (Dave Vigil; Seattle)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just e-mail asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!

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