Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Breaking down the Palace's Cat Fight

Is any publicity good publicity?

That seems to be one of the big questions at the center of yet another brawl at The Palace of Auburn Hills in Detroit, (the site of the Pacers/Pistons fight in 2004 that spilled into the crowd and involved players fighting fans.)

The only difference is this time the fighting involved women as the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks and Detroit Shock mixed things up with 4.6 seconds to go in the Sparks' 84-81 win. It involved Sparks rookie star Candace Parker, Detroit assistant coach Rick Mahorn and veteran Lisa Leslie, also of the Sparks, among others.

I was eating dinner and saw the fight live on a TV at the restaurant, and I can honestly say I watched more of the game after the fight (4.6 seconds) than I had seen in all the time leading up to it. Everyone in the restaurant turned toward the TVs, wondering just what the heck happened. (Seemed like dirty playing by Detroit's Plenette Pierson...)

Most sports talk commentators on Wednesday morning said the fight hurt the WNBA's image and was bad news for a league that is already struggling to reach fans. In just 12 years, the WNBA has seen four teams fold, including the Charlotte Sting, and two teams have relocated. Average attendance at league games was just 7,742 last season, and the Chicago Sky attracted only 3,710 fans per game. The minimum salary for veteran players is $42,000 and just $30,000 for rookies, while in the NBA, rookies make a minimum of $385,000.

That's why I think the brawl was actually good news for the WNBA as sad as it is to say. My reason being is that interest in the league is so low that news of the brawl can't hurt it, it can only help. I'm sure my interest mirros that of a number of fans, and this is the first time I've been interested in the WNBA in its 12-year history. While I enjoy women's college basketball to a degree (especially when Ivory Latta played for North Carolina), I have never been able to get into the WNBA.

Now I'm actually interested to see how Parker plays when she comes back, what happens with the Lisa Leslie/Rick Mahorn incident, and most notably -- what happens if and when these two teams meet again, especially if that's in the WNBA Finals.

I can say that's exponentially more interest than I had in the WNBA before last night. That can only be a good thing for the struggling league.

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