CONTROVERSY!

This post over at Hardwood Paroxysm seems to have struck a very interesting chord with a variety of readers - both those of the female persuasion and their male counterparts, and I'd like to share a few thoughts.

First, I'm curious about the Rockets' marketing department's demographics. While their advertisements have, in general, seemed no more male-centric than other teams' (and I encourage our female readers to comment on this), it undoubtedly includes all of the elements that Tolcser criticizes.

Second,  the comments on the post are truly astounding, and they address Tolcser's point in a startlingly direct manner. While most are of the approving variety (and many are from like-minded female fans), others are more... interesting. To quote from a few of the "best:"

As she has been told before: she is not that cute to have an opinion.

Wymin will be wymin, I guess

Everywhere you go, there’s a "Women’s Month" here and a feminism thing there. Even in literature, the girls always beat the guys at sports or something by using their smarts. I have nothing against women, I love them, but it IS a matriarchal society. Even though 40% (and probably even less) fans of the NBA are women, the author is right in saying these are "casual" fans.

What is most interesting to me about many of these comments is this: few really question the central assumption of either the chauvinist troll posts or the NBA's marketing department - that the female fan is necessarily more likely to be a "casual" fan than the male fan, or that this fact, were it true, would have any real bearing on the worthiness of NBA marketing strategies.

Even Tolcser accepts this, to a degree. Her argument is not that this is an assumption based on sexist preconceptions, but that "Women can be 'hardcore fans,' too!" That's not really an issue for most, I think (HP's troll comments aside). Her existence is enough to prove that.

Look, this assumption is stupid. In all my years as a sports fan, casual or (now) otherwise, I've noted that it's a simple fact that the vast, vast majority of fans are "casual." Maybe that's just the circles I travel in, but I don't feel that that's the case. If a random fellow student or coworker mentions the Rockets when talking with me, it is not to discuss the intricacies of Adelman's rotations or the sublime nature of Kyle Lowry's game. It's usually a simple, "Pretty tough with Yao out, huh?" or "Not looking too good, right?"

Nine out of the ten people around you at any Rockets game could probably be considered "casual." They might visit NBA.com occasionally, they might come to a game or two every year or so, but their knowledge of the team is likely very sparse. They read the Chronicle or ESPN for coverage every now and then, but, let's be honest here, they don't know very much.

And there's nothing wrong with that. Sports (and the Rockets), believe it or not, are not particularly important things in life. And if the majority of fans are "casual," then I think it's fairly specious to condemn or marginalize "casualness." The NBA certainly doesn't. NBA marketing is designed to bring in new and casual viewers - to attract them to a product that they have either not yet experienced, or that they do not spend very much money on. The NBA's advertising push beginning every February/March is certainly designed to remind casual viewers that the playoffs are around the corner. They're definitely not designed for us: you and I have very little need for reminder.

So if the NBA isn't doing a very good job of incorporating women into its marketing (and, as a corollary to this and obviously a very large part of Tolcser's critique, if blogs and forums like this one aren't doing a very good job of welcoming women into the fold), then the appropriate response from men is not to question whether or not they are deserving of equal treatment - it is to ask what we can do to help change that.

And, as sad as I would be to see the Dance Bracket go (not really), that's a small price to pay for the possibility of greatly enlarging the NBA fan community. Also, pink jerseys are stupid, and I'm very happy that the Rockets, to the best of my knowledge, don't offer such a product.

What's really intriguing to me is to compare the reactions to Tolcser's post to typical comments on the WNBA. Now, I've never watched a WNBA game in my life. I've never had reason to. And it's really strange to hear NBA fans respond with visceral hate if the WNBA is ever mentioned (Bill Simmons is a fantastic example of this, though his fascinating misogyny has been discussed elsewhere).

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