The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, February 17, 2021
Why we are here — Arella Guirantes talks Rutgers and WNBA future — Must-click women's basketball links
(Hi! Howard Megdal here. The IX helps build the necessary infrastructure for women’s sports media. By connecting these worlds, it gives women’s sports the networking boost men’s sports can take for granted.
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Good morning! I turn 41 today. I plan to celebrate the way I’ve spent most days until the vaccine comes: writing and editing stories on women’s basketball, some baseball as well, and enjoying the company of my immediate family inside and friends via phone and Zoom. Here’s to a year ahead with vaccines for all and a return to press row for me!
In the meantime, I wanted to tackle, briefly, some of what I saw over the past few weeks on the reporting of player movement in the WNBA. It has been overwhelmingly positive, these developments: more players moving, more coverage of those changes and potential changes, and an embracing of it all by many players, teams and the league.
This is true in large-scale ways, like breaking news getting amplified — the way I was always certain would happen, the difference between how the sports media world treats a story broken and a press release is enormous — and even small ways, like Sam Tager at the league sending out email schedules of teams holding Zoom pressers after signings. That teams are holding Zoom pressers after signings is a big step forward! I know, I know, but still. Progress!
I did see, from time to time, some players complaining about how many people were asking them about their potential new destinations, some on the agency side or the team trying to 100 percent dictate how news gets released, and within a general understanding that more is more, a desire to keep things the old way.
And absent all other factors, I get it. You want your privacy. You want to tell your story in your way alone.
Here’s the problem: that’s always going to be the tradeoff. NBA players and teams have no presumption of privacy on player moves, wouldn’t dream of asking for it, and the large, if reduced media who cover that league would laugh if some team or agent tried to get it.
That attention has led, directly, to a massive jump in revenue for the league, as it has become a 12-months-a-year obsession for its fans, in large part because media coverage allows them to do so whether there are games or not. Arguably, the offseason has become an even bigger deal to NBA fans than the campaign itself, especially for those organizations that aren’t in contention for a title.
It is gratifying to see how many people get that around the WNBA. I spoke to Erica McCall about this last week, and she was telling me about all the texts and DMs flying between players about the drama, how much fun everyone was having seeing this. We’re seeing salary data getting reported, too, allowing for real-time updates and evaluations of rosters.
But as one of a growing number of people covering the WNBA, there’s this, too: it has gotten exponentially harder for me to break a particular piece of news. And that’s probably my favorite part of all this, because it means there are more and more folks amplifying these stories.
No, we aren’t here to do the public relations work of the league and its teams. But we are here to tell these stories, and if you talk to people in this particular corner of the world, we do so despite the fact that the paid work in this corner of the world is much smaller than on the men’s side, and because these stories matter to us. (That’s why The IX and The Next are here, too, to create permanent places for people to write about women’s sports and get paid for it.)
When we credit one another, when we lift one another, it helps all of us. It isn’t too small a sandbox if we all work to expand it.
When I first dedicated myself to changing this balance on a regular basis, I’d run into the same moment, again and again: an iconic player or coach, available to talk for as long as I wanted, because few colleagues were with me.
That’s changing more all the time. And if I could have one birthday present (other than you guys telling everyone you know about The IX and The Next so we can get closer to full-time, permanent footing financially), it is that in the year to come, I’m not just vaccinated and in a press box, but more and more of my fellow women’s basketball writers are right there with me.
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This week in women’s basketball
Don’t miss this look at Dawn Staley, Kahleah Copper and a Philadelphia legacy for women’s basketball.
LaChina Robinson talks about New York’s busy offseason and much more.
And Rachel Galligan promotes her top five WNBA expansion markets. (I’d have Portland and Houston in there, though I suppose those are re-expansion markets!)
Tweet of the Week
Five at The IX: Arella Guirantes and Tyia Singleton, Rutgers
Click on the photo to listen to Arella and Tyia, even though the photo is of Arella and Coach Stringer.