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Mad in March: Women drowning in the tsunami of men’s coverage

March 27, 2011 – 3:37 PM

 

By Laura Pappano

If coverage of the men’s side of March Madness seems to be playing at every hour on every available screen, it’s not your imagination.

Not only did the number of men’s teams in the tournament increase from 64 to 68, but the NCAA TV deal with CBS and Turner Broadcasting means that for the first time ever, every single men’s game is being broadcast nationally.

That’s great. But amid the saturation of men’s college ball, the women’s game is drowning. Stanford vs. North Carolina at 11:30 p.m. EST? C’mon.

When Christine Brennan argued that the women’s tournament should run during a different set of weeks than the men’s, my first reaction was, “No way!” It felt like women’s sports relegated, yet again, to playing in the off-season.

But with the men not just dominating prime time, but leaving room for little else, it may be time to rethink the timing.

Yes, it used to be a problem that the men had network TV and the women only had cable. But it no longer matters as much who is broadcasting. It does, however, matter when the games are broadcast. With men’s games crowding prime time and prime days – Wed., Thurs., Fri. Sat. – leaving women Sun., Mon. Tues., viewer availability is outrageously lopsided.

That’s a shame. Competition in the Sweet Sixteen is as compelling as it’s ever been.  Commentators on the women’s side have a smart, polished presentation. And – yes – even early and mid-rounds feature screaming fans in the stands.

So here we have one of the best, highest-profile showcases of women’s sports and female athleticism in America — and it seems to hardly exist.

If we understand that airtime, debate, public discussion, workplace debate – buzz – is a form of power (remember press coverage and talk when UConn was making it’s run for UCLA’s unbeaten record?), we ought to think hard about this valuable athletic resource and find a way to get it the airtime and attention it deserves.

 

 

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