Tough questions on sports, genderAll things being equal, physical power is probably the only area in which the female gender is at a disadvantage over males. Women have been fighting alongside men throughout the ages, and in wars most of the tears during combat do not come from them but from male comrades who cannot bear the sight of a blood-drenched wounded female.
Yes, women are capable and there is no area of society where they have not shown themselves to be on par with or superior to men. Yet in sports there are limitations. The obvious reason is that to a great extent, superiority in athletics depends on not only mental but also physical strength. No conspiracy here, only God’s work.
The top male athlete in any field will defeat the top female star. So separate leagues have been established. But there is not much of a following for most female events. The only time women’s sports lands in the spotlight is at international competitions, such as the Olympics, one-time events where people are simply keeping a running tally of their country’s medal count.
So why bother to groom professional female athletes in sports where male athletes provide the exhilarating entertainment?
We all know the answer: business. On average, women spend more time shopping than men. If someone thinks there is a niche out there, that market segment will be attacked.
For those potential viewers interested in watching sporting events geared toward them slipping in an ad at halftime for, let’s say, the latest Gap denims would seem like a good idea. Yet to my knowledge there is not a single professional women’s league that has surpassed its comparable male league in terms of profits. And the reason here, again, is simple: Why watch a game if you can see the same sport between competitors who are likely to create a heck of a lot more “thrilling moments”?
Where can you see the likes of a David Beckham shot going in from 35 meters out, not once in a while but as often as a trip to the convenience store?
Just in case you have not noticed, the 2003 Women’s World Cup of soccer has gotten under way. How empty those American players must be feeling, for their money-losing professional league was discontinued while they were competing on the global stage. They had the only women’s league with any sort of potential to succeed, but even it fell through.
In sports such as golf that are not tinted 100 percent by men, the profitability gap and likelihood of failure is less obvious because there is a healthy following, and eye-popping moments tend to look the same. Here too, occasional flashes of effort to breach the gender gap occur, such as when Annika Sorenstam made a go against the boys. Well, she failed. Pak Sae-ri tried the same move in Korea but was simply told she could not do it.
In tennis, Wimbledon and the French Open still give different payouts based on gender. But at least we know that women’s tennis will be around for a long time. The fan base is there.
Female league officials should not be aiming to overtake male leagues. Instead they should focus on how to stay profitable in a small market.
Achieving gender parity is not the issue here, whether in prize money or in audience size. Aiming to operate above the break-even point is.
by Brian Lee