The news last week that Paul Allen was looking to dump the Portland Fire came as no surprise.
I guess you could brand him as a male chauvinist pig if you like Ñ he's willing to lose more than $100 million on his men's basketball team but has no desire to drop a million on his women's pro team.
But the reality is, like a whole lot of Americans, Allen just doesn't have a lot of interest in watching women's basketball.
It's a painful thing for fans of the sport to hear, but it's true by any measuring stick you'd like to use, be it attendance, television ratings or merchandise sales. I think it's especially difficult for fans of this sport, though, because of the artificial expectations created by Title IX.
Title IX is nice. It mandates that in public schools there must be athletic parity. If you have a men's basketball team, you have to have one for the women. It's an equal-opportunity issue that would ring much truer if the government actually supported college athletics as an official part of standard curriculum, rather than relying on donations and gate receipts.
Be that as it may, it's the law of the land and a fair thing to do. A nice thing to do.
Problem, though, is that real life isn't always fair. And in real life Title IX is just one more entitlement that you may expect but aren't going to get.
Yes, I agree that in a perfect world there would be women's pro basketball right alongside men's basketball. And that women even would be paid equally for their play.
Sorry. The reality of our world is that it doesn't work that way and never will. You may not think so, but NBA players actually earn their pay Ñ whatever it is Ñ by negotiating contracts based on performance. They're paid from the gross receipts their play generates.
The NBA is among the fairest of all leagues in that the salary cap and salary structure are based very closely on the money players earn for the league and their team. The league does well; the players do well. Share the wealth.
The WNBA, the Fire's league, has not done well. It's shown no signs of being able to support itself. In fact, interest in the league seems to have decreased. I'm not sure there's anything too complicated about the reasons why, either.
The fact is, for a good portion of the country, it's just not all that popular. It can't pay its bills, and it isn't a major-league product. Moreover, it doesn't show a lot of potential to become one in the near future Ñ at least anyplace but in some small college towns that support major women's basketball programs already.
At least that's what Paul Allen seems to think. And this is one of those rare times when I agree with him.