WNBA fans were rightfully upset when Game 4 of the WNBA Semifinals between the Washington Mystics and Atlanta Dream wasn’t viewable on television for more than 15 minutes of game action.
ESPN2 had a college football game between Prairie View A&M University and North Carolina Central University scheduled to start at noon Eastern, with the Mystics-Dream game scheduled for 3 p.m. Eastern. A few thoughts on this:
ESPN completely messed up the schedule today for ESPN2. College football games have been going a minimum of 3 hours & 30 minutes for a while now, and ESPN usually gives 3:30 on Saturdays. But today, ESPN chooses to schedule a WNBA game start 3 hours after kickoff? That’s perhaps the most inexcusable part of this, from ESPN’s side.
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But too much of the Twitter backlash to the football game being shown over the WNBA game was about the lack of importance of the game, or even the score/status of the game. HBCU schools deserve this airtime from ESPN, too. They are drastically under-covered in the sports world and ESPN should be praised for covering them in this setting.
If ESPN had left that game early — which many WNBA fans were asking them to do — then ESPN would be taking something away from an underserved fan base. As a WNBA community, what would your reaction been if they had done that to a WNBA game? It’s why I think ESPN did the right thing by staying with the football game until its conclusion.
To me, the real problem here is ESPN has done everything it can to reduce in-studio shows that aren’t their big ones. Stacking live events on top of each other allows for as little non-live sports content as possible. Even if you have analysts in at halftime, ESPN doesn’t seem to want to rely on them to even give 30 minutes of pre/post shows that could instead be live coverage.
The WNBA ran into the same problem Friday night, where the Phoenix/Seattle game started off-air because the DC/Atlanta game went a tad long. In fact, I’m sure that’ll happen again today. It seems like too easy a solution to just put a 30-minute buffer between these two games in case of this, and if it ends up being 30 minutes of studio coverage, so be it.
I don’t envy ESPN in this position because I’m sure the financials indicate as much live sports content as possible and as little of the rest. I actually seem to be in the minority opinion that ESPN is a pretty solid broadcast partner to the WNBA, looking holistically.
But there were relatively easy steps that could’ve been taken to avoid this situation today (including putting these games on ABC) and ESPN didn’t do those. They deserve a fair amount of criticism for that, but that criticism should not need to come with slander of another sport’s coverage.