The Seattle Storm are one of the WNBA’s most popular teams. KeyArea stays loud and populated — you don’t go undefeated at home without a strong home base. I recently had a word with Nate Parham of Swish Appeal and SB Nation Seattle. Everything he says is smart since he’s one of the web’s leading WNBA experts, but one thing really jumped out at me:
ATL: You’ve really done a great job at WNBA coverage throughout the season. I take it women’s hoops is a much bigger deal out there than it is here?
NP: Yeah, Seattle is unquestionably one of the best WNBA cities.
But I’d say right now, [Dream owner] Kathy Betty is one of the best owners even after one year. It will be interesting to see how she helps build that fanbase. She’s got no shortage of enthusiasm.
ATL: Would you say the Storm are filling part of the void left by the Sonics, or has the Storm always been an especially popular women’s team?
NP: The Storm, like the Dream, began with a huge grassroots effort to drum up a fanbase when they were founded. And like many WNBA cities, the majority of that fanbase has been from the LGBT community and families (dads and daughters as well as a generally very kid-friendly atmosphere). So while there might be some overlap, I’d actually suggest that for the most part these fanbases are quite different.
Actually, Jayda Evans of the Seattle Times addressed this issue of why the Storm haven’t “captured the imagination” of Seattle fans on a radio show we were on recently. The franchise was young when they won in 2004 and since then have been eliminated from the first round five straight years. So in a city full of mediocrity, one more disappointment has had a hard time catching on.
I can vouch for the “dads and daughters” thing. My little girl isn’t old enough to follow basketball beyond reciting the name of the sport when she sees it played, but I’m very interested in encouraging her to pursue athletics as she grows up. If that means taking her to WNBA games, then terrific. Let’s make it happen.
But the part that really made me wonder was Nate’s comment about women’s basketball having caught on with the LGBT community — therefore, shouldn’t Atlanta’s team be thriving?
This is the gayest city in America. Plenty of my gay and lesbian friends have been college football or Braves fans, so it’s not like this is a city that produces a particular strain of sport suitable for only heteros. I don’t mean to outpunt my coverage on this topic, so I’ll stop there and leave this for your comments.
Atlanta’s WNBA team has ranked tenth and eleventh in attendance out of fourteen teams the past two years. Why isn’t the Dream more popular?