By Greg Esposito, PhoenixMercury.com
Posted: March 14, 2013
When you say the name Bill Simmons, you usually evoke one of two responses: Extreme love or complete disdain. On most days you can count me squarely in the
extremely love category. He weaves a unique blend of humor and pop culture into sports takes that are usually as well thought of and researched as they
are zany. Along with that, he also does one of the best podcasts on the internet and runs the smartest sports site on the web. With all that said, today is
not one of those days.
For a guy who penned the Book of Basketball he is like, to borrow a Simmons-esque analogy, the Two Face of the pro game. While he lauds the mens game
and provides brilliantly well-thought-out takes and opinions on the NBAs past and how to improve its future, he devolves into a narrow-minded, borderline
chauvinistic male when it comes to the womens game.
Dont take my word for it. Take his own words for it.
Maybe you enjoy watching women playing basketball at the highest possible level -- a level that could roughly be compared to a good intramural game at a
Division 2 college, only if nobody could jump or dunk -- and find the WNBA strangely intoxicating. Who am I to judge? So you have to believe me: I'm not
telling anyone to stop watching the WNBA. Really, I'm not.
Here's all I'm asking
Let's end the ongoing charade that this is a mainstream sport.
Would you have said the same thing in 1996 when the fundamentally sound, but lacking athleticism No. 13 seed Princeton Tigers defeated the superiorly
athletic No. 4 seed UCLA Bruins in what could be described as a score (43-41) and strategy that was Division 2 intramural-esque? Of course not. Because
its about the competition and the fact that the game was entertaining. Thats the same thing that makes the WNBA intersting.
Now, Im not one to chastise someone for their opinion usually, especially someone paid to have one, because I have more than a few of my own and have
been paid to express them in the past. But Simmons disdain for the WNBA is one I have to take issue with faster than a Star Wars fan gets upset with someone confusing their beloved movie with
You might be wondering why Id bring this up now when Simmons hasnt criticized the league in any recent columns. There is a reason. With the Mercury
issuing the Man Up/Cure the Cooties challenge that has gained national attention, I thought it was only appropriate to issue a challenge of my own to one of the sports biggest and most
Mr. Simmons, I too once was a non-believer in the WNBA. I thought the game would be way too slow and the idea of fundamental basketball excited me less
than the thought of Crystal Pepsi and New Coke excited soda fans in the 1990s. That all changed when I got to sit courtside for a Phoenix Mercury game and
saw the physical play up close and the world-class athletic display that Diana Taurasi put on for the amped-up crowd.
You wont see me with a foam finger or rocking a Penny Taylor jersey to a game, but you will see me from time to time enjoying one in the stands with my
wife. Ive developed an appreciation for the players, the hard work they put in and their knowledge of the game. Sure, theyre not the men, but theyve
never pretended to be. They put on their own entertaining brand of ball.
We live in a society that wants to embrace debate and compare anything that has any similar characteristics. Especially in sports. But would you compare
your offspring? Would you truly look at them and decide which was better based on surface traits and assumptions? The NBA and WNBA are both descendants of
the great James Naismith but, like any relatives, they have their own distinct characteristics and personality. Thats the way its supposed to be. Both
just want respect on their own merits.
With this Aprils draft featuring three of the most athletic and talented women to ever play the game (and the Mercury with the No. 1 pick), the team and
the game are about to hit levels never seen before.
So with that in mind, here is my challenge to you. Come to a Mercury game this summer. Ill buy you any seat you want in the building. If you dont walk
away even slightly impressed, write whatever you want about the experience regardless of how harsh you want it to be. Although, I doubt youll want to.
Why not Man up? What do you have to lose? Who knows, maybe youll gain a new respect for the game and I can be fully in your camp. That and maybe youll
find something you and your daughter can have a shared interest in that isnt played on ice.
If you want to accept my offer, feel free to tweet me @Espo or send me an email.