Running on Empty

It's WNBA playoff time. Who knew?

In April of 1996 it seemed as if the face of the sports world was changing. The NBA Board of Governors had approved the idea of a Women's National Basketball Association.

The words "We got next" were everywhere.

That summer it seemed as if this women's basketball thing was really going to take off — at least to the 13-year-old girl who would play basketball every hour of the day if possible.

What a great summer. I was beating the boys in the neighborhood at basketball and soon I was going to be able to watch women play on TV. I was going to have someone to look up to.

Before the season began it was announced that the league would partner up with NBC, ESPN and Lifetime Television. During the first season 50 million people tuned in to watch the games on the three networks. Not too shabby. Things were looking good.

It was decided that the season would be during the summer because there are fewer professional sports in play. I watched a few games while flipping through the channels, but soon the lack of a hometown team to cheer for began to take its toll. My interest began to fade. After all, the Bulls were still in their glory years, and Scottie Pippen was still my hero.

Now it is eight years later and it is playoff time. Until the other day I had no idea that we were even in the WNBA season. In fact, the WNBA had been pushed to the back of my mind with those memories of my own basketball heydays. I'm not even sure when the last time I came across a WNBA game on TV was.

The summer may have seemed like a less hectic sports season, which would have been perfect for a new league. Yet, with baseball spanning from March to October, the NBA playing well into June, the NFL preseason starting in August and then the Olympics taking place in August every four years, there is little TV time open for women's basketball.

The WNBA is still around, so things haven't turned out too badly. It is a shame, though, that it didn't totally break into the mainstream or get much media attention. It may not seem like it, but the fan support and money must be there or the WNBA would have suffered the same tragedy as the Women's United Soccer Association.

For now all we can ask, I guess, is, "Who got next?"