June 19, 2024

Caitlin Clark

Caitlin Clark

Source: Wikimedia Commons

When thuggishness damaged the appeal of the National Basketball Association around the turn of the century, the executive leadership eventually took successful steps to rein it in. Why haven’t NBA executives intervened in their Women’s NBA vanity project to protect their most valuable asset, rookie Caitlin Clark, from racist, heterophobic violence at the hands of their black lesbian-dominated players, who have managed for almost three decades to keep the WNBA unpopular and unprofitable?

After all, sports league executives have considerable power to change their rules (and how the referees interpret them) to improve their product.

Normally torpid baseball, for example, sped up its play by 15 percent in 2023 by imposing a pitch clock to cut down on dawdling. The game still has problems, notably, excessive velocity on pitches leading to too many injuries and strikeouts. For instance, here’s Dodgers slugging shortstop Mookie Betts on Sunday getting his hand broken by a 98-mph fastball. Betts is amazingly quick, so the usual argument that it’s his own fault he didn’t get out of the way is silly.

“Surprisingly, NBA executives haven’t come to their meal ticket’s aid.”

But the success of baseball’s pitch clock reform is at least getting people to talk about other possible changes to reduce pitch velocity, such as requiring starters to work five innings or miss their next start. Or why not call all pitches hitting 100 miles per hour or faster on the radar gun an automatic ball?

Similarly, during the 1990–91 basketball season, to keep the two-time defending champion Detroit Pistons (the Bad Boys of Dennis Rodman and Bill Laimbeer) from continuing to pound boringly on Chicago Bulls superstar Michael Jordan, the NBA increased the penalty for flagrant fouls. This liberated Jordan to win six titles, launching the league to immense global popularity.

After Jordan retired in 1998, the NBA’s brutalism trend worsened. In 1999, the NBA’s overall free throw shooting percentage, a figure that should, if anything, go up over time (as field goal kicking accuracy tends to go up in the NFL), dropped to its lowest point since the 1960s. Players who were impressionable adolescents during the Bloods vs. Crips crack wars of a decade earlier tended to dress like gang members off the court.

The NBA reached a nadir in 2004, when the American Dream Team lost games at the Athens Olympics to Argentina, Lithuania, and even Puerto Rico.

Darryl Dawkins, “Chocolate Thunder” on the famously black Philadelphia 76ers team that lost the 1977 NBA Finals to the late Bill Walton’s whiter Portland Trail Blazers, remarked that year:

The black game by itself is too chaotic and much too selfish…. White culture places more of a premium on winning, and less on self-indulgent preening and chest-beating…. In basketball and in civilian life, freedom without structure winds up being chaotic and destructive.

That fall, during the notorious Malice at the Palace brawl in suburban Detroit, a massive fight between the Pistons and the Indiana Pacers spilled into the stands.

The NBA then decided to insist that their players behave like serious professionals rather than rap stars. One change was a dress code banning gang gear. The players responded by mocking the rule by dressing like bourgeois Carlton on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

But then something unexpected happened: Many of the NBA athletes realized that they liked their new uncool image. After all, to get as far as they had in life, they had to have a touch of earnest Carlton about them.

The idea of asking blacks to do better seems unthinkably racist today, but two decades ago in the NBA, it actually worked.

Other rules were changed to advantage more skilled shooters over defensive goons. Referees were said to have been encouraged by the NBA home office to protect the otherworldly ectomorph Kevin Durant from the beating he no doubt would have endured a decade previously. (This year, a healthy Durant made the All-NBA 2nd Team at age 35.)

NBA franchises started to follow baseball’s front office trend by hiring quantitative geniuses out of MIT to Moneyball basketball. The nerds then kept pointing out that since 1979 the NBA had awarded 50 percent more points on a shot from beyond 23’9″. So, gingerly, teams started trying more three-pointers.

Then, boyish-looking Stephen Curry introduced a conceptual breakthrough reminiscent of baseball slugger Babe Ruth’s nearly a century before. Just as Ruth became the first hitter to routinely swing for the fences in 1918–1920, Curry realized that there was all the room in the world on the basketball court to get off undefended three-pointers if he was willing to back up to 30 feet or farther. Just as Ruth willingly traded off more strikeouts for more home runs, Curry accepted longer shots to get more open ones.

The three-point revolution proved so successful that the NBA developed a nice problem, at least as viewed from the dreary perspective of 1999: The players got so good at shooting from long distances that scoring reached silly heights during the season just ended, such as in the last NBA All-Star Game, with its absurd final score of 211–186. Commissioner Adam Silver is widely rumored to have then sent a secret directive mid-season to his refs telling them to let defenders play a little rougher without calling so many fouls against them. As noted, sports leagues adapt to changing conditions.

Caitlin Clark became the highest-scoring woman player in NCAA history by introducing the Curry Era to the women’s game. For example, she broke the women’s scoring record last February on a 35-footer. (It’s not clear at this point whether Clark’s range will become normal among women basketball players like home-run hitting did after Ruth showed it was possible, or whether Clark’s records will remain outliers like Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 points in an NBA game.) This made her the most popular female college player of all time as she led under-talented (i.e., mostly white) U. of Iowa teams to consecutive NCAA final games in front of remarkably numerous TV audiences.

Women’s sports tend to be small but upscale because most women athletes tend to be the product of two-parent homes who have strong relationships with their jockish fathers. The daughters of single moms tend to obsess over how to catch a man, while the daughters of wealthy dads who stay married to their moms want to please their fathers by excelling at his interest, sports. As Chris Rock said:

As a father, you have only one job to do: Keep your daughter off the pole!

For example, women pole vaulters tend to be exceptionally beautiful; they tend to be girls who would normally be cheerleaders (the acrobatic demands are similar), except that their dads make so much money that they can afford sizable pole vaulting runways in their backyards.

The WNBA, however, is the small time. It brings in only 2 percent as much revenue as the NBA, and rookies like Clark are capped at a salary of under $77,000 per year. (Don’t worry about her lifestyle, though: She signed huge endorsement deals.)

A striking exception to this pattern is the WNBA, which has a downscale athletic base that tends to be macho black women who like sports for its own sake, not because they want to please their dads (whom they usually haven’t seen much of).

In contrast, Clark is a typical upper-middle-class white woman athlete with a 6’6″ boyfriend of the type that predominate at the Winter Olympics: Her father is a corporate executive, as was her mother before she became a stay-at-home mom because her husband was making enough for the whole family.

Not surprisingly, other WNBA players tend to hate Clark and try to brutalize her.

More surprisingly, NBA executives haven’t come to their meal ticket’s aid.

Granted, WNBA players tend to have more diversity Pokémon points, being women, black, and lesbian.

Still, sports lately have typically been getting gamed by brilliant MIT grads. So the sight of lowbrow players being allowed to wreck the WNBA’s big chance to finally cash in is particularly curious.


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