Would Sex Sell The LPGA?

As a lifelong sports fan, I can understand what it is about women’s sports that most fans don’t particulary enjoy.  Let’s face it, the speed, power and physicality of women’s sports are simply no match for the men’s games.  I’m not in any way trying to disrespect what these women do.  They are fantastic athletes; are great at the sports they play; and deserve all the credit and any attention they get because if it.  But in comparison to their male counterparts, outside of tennis, it just doesn’t match up.  That being said…I don’t understand why the LPGA doesn’t get the same recognition as the PGA.

A perfect example is probably the WNBA.  Have you ever watched a WNBA game?  These women are great basketball players and great athletes.  But when compared to the speed and physicality of an NBA game, the women’s game seems to look just a bit dull.  But it’s not just basketball.  The same can be said about women’s softball vs. baseball, women’s hockey, boxing and what seems to be the newest fad…women in UFC or MMA fighting.  Again, outside of tennis, no matter the sport, the women’s version just doesn’t seem to match up.

But lets look at golf for a second.  The game is slow.  It doesn’t much require the player to be a superior athlete.  And the only time any real power is demonstrated is off the tee, and that really only matters if you’re a spectator live at the event witnessing it first-hand.  On TV, you can’t tell.  You can’t judge the power of a golf swing via your flat-screen.  The only reason you know how far a ball went on TV is because the announcer told you.  The women of the LPGA are just as skilled as the men.  They are just as accurate.  They have as firm a grasp on the game as the men do.  They just don’t have the power that the men do.  But if that isn’t translated through TV, then what’s the problem?  What does the PGA have that the LPGA doesn’t?  Just the longer drives as far as I can tell.  So what would make the LPGA more attractive?  Or…did I just give away the answer?  Attractiveness.

It seems to me that, especially in recent years, when you want to promote anything related to female athletes, you sell the women…not the athletes.  Is it shallow?  Absolutely.  Do I like the idea of it?  Not even a little bit.  Does it work?  Well…that can be argued, but lets just say it doesn’t not work.  Look at the previously mentioned tennis.  It’s quite possibly the only sport where fans care just as much about the men as the women.  There are some examples to learn from here.  It started long ago with the battle of the sexes between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King.  It continued when, forgive me as I’m not a tennis fan and don’t remember the year, Wimbledon somehow allowed “commoners” into the stands and the men began hootin’ and hollerin’ for, I believe it was Gabriela Sabitini.  Fast forward to an average player on the tour becoming the most popular player in the world (albeit for the wrong reason)…Anna Kournikova.  And next thing you know, every tennis player promoted is either named Williams or is a blonde-haired beauty.  Convenient, right?

So does the LPGA need to take that route?  Should the powers-that-be in the LPGA come to Natalie Gulbis and say “A little less MasterCard, a little more Maxim.”  Now I know that some female golfers are no strangers to a swimsuit, but maybe that’s just not enough.  Sponsor exemptions are there for what reason?  To get their “hot” property out in front of a few cameras.  Again, I don’t like the idea.  I want to see good athletes compete for their athletic ability, not for their looks.  But if it’s their looks that bring attention to the game, then who am I to say what’s right and what’s wrong?

All I’m saying is that it has worked to bring some attention to other sports.  It most definitely is a shallow way to do so.  But in the end, it could possibly bring the viewership for which the sports are looking.  If it brings in new fans, great!  But if it doesn’t, or if those new fans don’t stick around, does it leave a black eye on the sport?  Well, it sure didn’t seem to for tennis…quite the opposite actually.  But that doesn’t automatically equal success for the LPGA.  Maybe they just wait on another phenom.  Maybe a new star will rise and not decide to take on the men of the PGA before she even has any success on the LPGA Tour.  Or, maybe they just start a lingerie golf league.  Want to talk about shallow?

Swing ’til you’re happy!

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