By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Who cares who attends the games? Much more important, Phoenix is making history: There are eight teams in the WNBA, and we have one of them--a good one with a great coach. This town is famous for rallying support around our sports teams. I think strong fan support sparks the winning passion of a team just as much as high salaries. Was Graham's goal to stereotype the crowds, spark the insecurities of others like himself and, thus, thrust the Mercury into low ticket sales?
I must point out that I am a heterosexual, married woman of color who was extremely distressed by Graham's column. I point this out only for those who, like Graham, probably would dismiss my comments as the sentiments of "just some overly sensitive lesbian." But, believe me, even "straight" people were offended by Graham's irrelevant rhetoric. I still plan to go out to America West Arena and cheer on the Mercury in the same way I cheer for the Suns and the Coyotes. I truly hope that the community of sports fans in Phoenix will not be swayed into nonsupport of the Mercury as a result of Graham's irresponsible "reporting."
Since when has the sexuality of those present at a sporting event become the show, the main event, that to be watched for monitors and clues about the inner desires of its members? Does Barry Graham attend Arizona Rattlers games and wonder, "Hey, why are there so many sweaty, beer-gutted, obscenity-yelling, groin-scratching, wiener-eating men in the audience for this castrated version of gridiron?" I think not!
Graham mistakenly assumes that all attendees of the Phoenix Mercury games believe as he does: that women's basketball is not as interesting as men's basketball, and, thus, we should objectify and sexualize the players as we would any woman. Consider that historically and socially, it is considered unbecoming for a woman to engage in sport. Women are not encouraged to play sport and, thus, it is created and re-created as a male domain. Now that the Mercury has corporate sponsorship and a marketing scheme, women have the opportunity to demonstrate their physical and mental savvy and skill on the court; i.e., very publicly and for cash.
Prior to the WNBA, women's capacity to showcase their athletic skills and get paid for their labor was well-constrained by funding problems, social retardation and reactionary politics. Prior to women's public visibility in professional basketball, for whom was sport a means of making a living? Who was supposed to enjoy sport and its performance?
We always risk subordinating women to male models of the world, furthering the entrenchment of heteropatriarchal social relations, and basically acquiescing to the ignorance and violence of sexism and homophobia. While Graham's piece retrogrades into argumentation that labels the male version of basketball authentic and interesting, and the female version bad mimicry, he fails to recognize the larger sociohistorical context--the reality--which has constrained opportunities for women in professional athletics.
Graham has written of the Mercury as if the players belonged to some second-rate, ill-planned sports endeavor that is perverse because it has attracted the attention of women. Sports-marketing gurus have been trying to attract a larger market of sportsgoers for eons! After much failure, they got wise and realized that if they put women on the court, and not just at halftime, they would attract their target market--WOMEN! Women and men enjoy the Mercury games for various reasons, but most would agree that they came to watch women strut their basketball stuff. Chicks play hoops with flair, panache, strength and intensity. This is obvious to people not blinded by overly large egos and hyperactive yet fragile masculinity. It is certainly obvious to women in the audience. And we don't need men like Graham to discipline us or educate us about how to watch a basketball game.
Graham should get over the heterosexist, patriarchal values and wake up to the reality that women do not applaud his writing. Oh, by the way, if Graham reads anything besides his own column, he would know that "the breeders" are not the only ones capable of reproduction. It's called biotechnology.
I write to advocate for less anxiety about "demasculinized men," misogynist writing and thinking, and heteropatriarchy in the articles of New Times. Disciplining women who derive pleasure and pride from actively supporting female athletes and athletics is outrageous behavior for anyone, particularly those who attempt to communicate with the public!
Barry Graham responds: Did these people bother to read the column? I wonder, because the one they're talking about bears no resemblance to the one I wrote.
The comments Keith Walker attributes to me--the suggestion that if a woman exhibits athletic prowess she is instantly stripped of her sexuality, that fans must be asexual or lesbian--are not in my article and are the product of Walker's imagination. The same goes for his claim that I "attacked" fans for cheering or booing--on the contrary, I praised them for the good-naturedness of their partisanship.
Lisa Todzia's tirade shows the same imaginative flair as Walker's. I did not suggest that the Mercury is second-rate, ill-planned or perverse. I did say that "the Mercury is a good team." I did not offer women advice on how to watch a basketball game (although many now seem to be offering me such advice). I certainly made no reference to "disciplining women." And, for Todzia's information, "breeder" is a mildly derogatory term commonly used by gay people when referring to heterosexuals. I like it. I think it's funny, so I used it.