Column: WNBA could use an annual ‘holiday’

Photo Credit: Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports

As aficionados of the WNBA, we are all constantly thinking of ways to further broaden the W’s reach.

Lots of initiatives were taken with this purpose during the Lisa Borders tenure – including live-streaming of games via Twitter, the FanDuel deal, and inclusion of the W in NBA Live 19.

For sports fans, one of the things that defines every Christmas week is the annual slate of five NBA games that airs across ABC and ESPN. Those games typically include either teams in marquee markets such as the New York Knicks or marquee teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors, Milwaukee Bucks, Houston Rockets, and Boston Celtics.

Christmas Day is typically referred to by NBA fans as the day that the season “unofficially” starts. It serves – in large part – as the countdown to All-Star weekend.

The NBA has Christmas Day just as the NFL has Thanksgiving. Opening Day in MLB is practically a “holiday” in itself as is the Daytona 500 in NASCAR.

This led us as WNBA aficionados to think if the W could develop something similar for its season. With only 12 teams, there is only so much (for now) the WNBA could do, but a possible “holiday” could be something that it could explore in the future.

It tried this at the start of last season with its #WNBAAllDay initiative. This year, it opted for each team to play one game on the start of opening weekend. The 2019 season will tip off with the Dream’s return to State Farm Arena as they take on the Wings and the Liberty starting things off against the Fever at the Westchester County Center.

The weekend tip-off concludes that Sunday in a nationally televised contest between the Phoenix Mercury and defending champion Seattle Storm at Everett’s Angel of the Winds Arena. These, of course, were the two teams that met in the semifinals that a plethora of onlookers consider to be the “real” WNBA Finals.

With the season taking place during the summer, the Fourth of July would be the most logical option should the WNBA consider pursuing this option in the future.

Just as the NFL has the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys play every Thanksgiving afternoon, the logical route for the WNBA would be for the Mystics and Liberty to take the court every Fourth of July. The Mystics because they play in the Nation’s Capital and a team named after the Statue of Liberty playing on Independence Day is rather self-explanatory. If the WNBA were to add a Philadelphia team, throw them into the mix possibly as well. Atlanta may also be an option given its civil rights history.

These games could even take place every Fourth of July afternoon meaning those heading to Washington or New York for the hoops could head on the WMATA or MTA subway to catch fireworks at the Washington Monument or the Macy’s fireworks.

Perhaps, every few years, New York and Washington could play each other at a larger site – such as back at Capital One Arena or at the Barclays Center. Or – have both games run back-to-back in Philly.

In addition, both games could be nationally televised as not only would it drive more traffic to the WNBA, but it could also be a good way to promote the All-Star Game as well, which occurs in the latter part of the month.

The All-Star Game no longer adheres to the East vs. West format, instead opting for the top two vote-getters to draft teams. A televised All-Star selection draft could take place in between both games. That way, fans of all teams will closely tune in to see which of their favorite players will be playing on which team. The three-point contest participants may even be announced as well.

And, of course, the W can put its own spin on the Fourth of July by linking the celebration of the holiday with its explicit embracing of its feminist message it took on to the nth degree during the Borders era. The games can be used to highlight the strides that have been made in the advancement of civil rights and women’s rights and what still has to be done, such as – equal pay for women.

When one thinks about – it is an idea that has potential. Basketball during the day with a possibly sizable promotion vehicle for the All-Star Game and by spreading a Fourth of July message that is both patriotic and progressive.

How about painting Independence Day red, white, blue…black and statue green?

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