Sports Media Watch’s Paulsen takes an unflinching gander at the treatment of women’s sports, claiming, “From Jennie Finch, to Amanda Beard, to Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic, to Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird, the only aspect of a female athlete that mainstream America cares about is her looks.”

To a much lesser extent than Sharapova, Ivanovic (above) has become the next tennis ‘it’ girl. Her looks have become her biggest draw, to the point where USA and CBS are using glamour photos of her in their promotional graphics.

And none of that is necessarily bad, at least for those two individuals. For the sport of women’s tennis, however, it is a toxic situation. The game itself takes a backseat; Sharapova and Ivanovic are not considered athletes, so much as they are considered pin-up dolls, their ability and talent irrelevant compared to how they look in the new outfit they are wearing. The same can be said of Venus and Serena Williams as well, though to an infinitely lesser extent; for many reasons, not the least of which is their race, they are not considered anywhere nearly as attractive as Sharapova or Ivanovic.

The question becomes what is more important for women’s tennis: play at the highest level, or having the most attractive athletes? Obviously, the powers that be operate under the thought that great play and attractive players are not mutually exclusive. And certainly, that is true. The problem relates to how healthy it is for the biggest draw in the sport to have nothing to do with the sport itself. What happens when Sharapova, Ivanovic and the Williams sisters fail to reach the final? What happens when Justine Henin plays Jelena Jankovic for a Grand Slam title?

I dunno, higher ratings than the MLS or Stanley Cup Playoffs?

Paulsen’s grim conclusion :

When Don Imus made his infamous “nappy-headed whores” comment, many viewed it as a racial, and racist, statement. However, the statement had more to do with the fact that the players on Rutgers were women than the fact that they were black. The message Imus and his crew were sending was that the players were rough and tumble, too masculine — hence the Memphis Grizzlies reference by one of his henchmen — and that made them worthy of ridicule. That is the environment in which female athletes must work. And in that environment, one must be pretty to succeed.

True ’nuff, though if only someone had come to such a shattering conclusion 5 years ago, Warner Brothers might’ve saved themselves the entire production costs of “Juwanna Mann”.