Column – What if the Lakers-Rockets brawl occurred in the WNBA?

Photo Credit: Carlos Gonzalez/Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Sports have become too soft.

Sports have become less about winning and more about money.

Sports are boring when everybody is friends with everybody, on and off the court…or field…or ice…or pitch.

So say lots of onlookers.

In basketball terms, a plethora of fans say that they have become less enamored with the more genteel tone today’s NBA has taken on. They long for the years where one bad word said on the court would lead to a flurry of fisticuffs being exchanged between on-court foes.

Basketball fans got a throwback to the 80s and 90s days of Charles Oakley when the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets turned what was supposed to be nothing more than a well-hyped regular season contest between two elite Western Conference teams into WWE SummerSlam.

Or would it be AutumnSlam given the precipitous drop temperatures have taken on the East Coast?

James Harden, Brandon Ingram, Chris Paul, and Rajon Rondo were the focal points of the on-court fracas that was only missing the sounds of Jim Ross on play-by-play. Ingram, CP3, and Rondo all received suspensions from the NBA for the extracurricular activities.

The way that the Los Angeles Times framed it was ‘Brawl Classic’ – obviously a term of endearment combining the greatness of the game and how memorable the brawl was.

But the question is what if something happened similar this past season – or any season – in the WNBA…as it did a decade ago. More on that to come.

Given how most media, but slowly but surely changing, still seems afraid of the thought of covering the W as if women don’t play basketball – let us invent this scenario.

At the outset of the 2018 season, one of the storylines everyone was talking about was the budding rivalry between the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks, the participants in the previous two WNBA Finals – both classics. The on-court battle for W supremacy had become a full-on rivalry that produced animosity between the players for both teams and even both teams’ fanbases.

If any scenario were to have produced something similar to what occurred at Staples Center – the Sparks’ home court – it would be something pertaining to that rivalry.

And if something did emanate, our guess is that the coverage would not be anywhere near as endearing as it what when the Lakers and Rockets threw hands in Tinseltown.

Firstly, the only times the WNBA is a lead story in the mainstream is when it involves something that had nothing do with what happened in a game. Whether it was WNBA players protesting police brutality in 2016, or the messy divorce between Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson, the W is constantly treated with a TMZ approach in the mainstream media.

The facts are that most media that continuously utilize this [name of supermarket tabloid edited out for its ties to He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Mentioned] approach to the W could not name 15 WNBA players without Googling.

Ask them to name the MVPs of the last two WNBA Finals and one will not be able to help but stare at the confused looks in some of these people’s faces.

Secondly, there is simply something in the minds of these same people – mostly males – in the media where men brawling on the basketball court, or the baseball field, or the hockey ice looks…right.

It looks manly.

It looks macho.

It looks masculine.

It looks….sexy.

It definitely looks sexy in the minds of ratings-obsessed television showrunners, who know that occurrences such as what took place in Hollywood will certainly draw ratings.

Let Seimone Augustus get into it with Chelsea Gray or Candace Parker exchange words – and fists – with Rebekkah Brunson and we know what words and language would be used.

It would not look right.

It would not look macho.

It would not look…feminine.

It would not look…wait for it….wait for it…

Ladylike.

But that eagerness to get into it on the court with someone all stems from competition. So when men are competitive, it is a good thing – which it is. But let the same thing occur in the WNBA and our guess is the way the proceedings get framed would be extremely different.

Whether it is players wanting higher wages or women being asked by men to always smile – it all comes down to this idea that women are supposed to adhere to societal norms put in place by – spoiler alert – their male counterparts.

As we all know by now, these societal norms only served one purpose in terms of women – to keep women down, which can grow into a conversation of where men see women as people in society. We see it all the time – when a strong woman decides to make her presence or her voice known, man-splainers will always try to downplay said presence or words solely on the basis of her choosing to not stay in the box men such as those have tried to keep her in.

But in this era of #MeToo and #TimesUp [we see you, Lisa Borders], women are no longer allowing themselves to be held back by gender norms. The WNBA itself flies in the face of male-induced gender norms, which is the central reason why it gets so many trolls and haters on social media.

A sports league full of strong women – mostly women of color who have become well-known cultural figures primarily because of their athletic talent instead of their bodies or their sex appeal, even though the women of the WNBA are every bit as fashionable as they are athletically gifted and intelligent. That alone will scare the you-know-whats off men who are simply sorry for themselves for not even making their local rec league teams.

We have written extensively about how these trolls will want to be the W’s biggest fans when [not if] it reaches its fullest potential. But for now, the conversation pertains to how a similar incident as what happened with the Lakers and Rockets would be covered if it were some of the W’s best getting into it.

As what happened once upon a time towards the end of a game between the Sparks and Detroit Shock at the Palace at Auburn Hills when Candace Parker and Plenette Pierson were not exactly discussing where they would hang out at after the game.

Of course, no one wants anyone to get seriously hurt at these things, but one simply cannot help it when in the heat of battle and doing everything one can to come away with the win.

One person I talked to as the proceedings unfolded in LA mentioned the tired argument about how they are supposed to be professionals because they are making a lot of money in the NBA. It has been alleged that Rondo spat on Chris Paul. Whether one is making $20 million a year or $20 in a day, spit on most people and one is asking for fists to start flying.

It is simply when the fists fly in the NBA, MLB, NHL, Nascar, or another male-dominant sport that it is embraced and seen as an offshoot of how competitive its players are.

If it happens again in the WNBA, just keep that same energy.

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