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Non-existent super-fandom in women's pro sports By: Elliot Kaufman '19

Chicago Bandits, North Carolina Courage, Washington Mystics. Ever heard of them? Now let me ask again. Chicago Cubs, Charlotte Hornets, D.C. United.

I have noticed that I have never been to a women's professional sporting event, and I wanted to think about why. I could only name a few women's teams, and I had to use Google to see if there were women’s leagues for certain sports.

The average WNBA attendance at games is 7,716 people according to the New York Times. The most recent statistics from the NPF website in 2015 say that 1,128 people for National Pro Fastpitch, and 5,061 people catch the National Women’s Soccer League according to The Oregonian. Compare that to the roughly 17,000 fans at NBA games, 68,400 viewers at football games according to ESPN and about 29,906 people going to MLB games according to Baseball Reference. The more people who go to these games and are cheering for the same team, the better the experience is.

This builds onto the idea of community and superfans. With so few people attending women’s professional sports and the almost non-existent ability to follow them on TV, it is very difficult to be a dedicated superfan to a women’s professional sports team. In my opinion, the idea of having a fanbase and other people routing with you for a common cause is an attractive reason to be a superfan, but there is virtually no fanbase for women.

The only example that contradicts the idea that women’s sports are less popular than men’s is international soccer. After asking many kids around staples, most can name more players on the current U.S.A women’s national soccer team. Notable names from the women’s team such as Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, and Megan Rapinoe are more widely known than the men DeAndre Yeldin and Alejandro Bedoya. Also some years when the women’s team is more successful, the women’s attendance average is similar to that of the men’s. This is interesting, because in most situations discussed earlier, the male athletes are paid much higher than the females, because of attendance and fandom, yet in this scenario when the attendance and popularity are similar, the men are still paid much generously.

Lastly, men’s sports leagues such as the NBA, NFL and MLB were founded prior to the women's leagues. People were already fans of men’s teams when women’s leagues were created, and it is relatively difficult to follow two leagues very closely. There are also many roadblocks to being a devoted fan of two teams, including that it is very time consuming, it is expensive and it can take focus off more important things. If one is a huge fan of an MLB team, and then another less popular baseball league is started, there is a slim chance that the fan pays much attention to the newer league.

I think that there is a clear gap of fans for men’s and women’s professional sports leagues, and these are a few clear reasons why that may be.

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