Apologies for putting words in the mouth of The Nation’s Dave Zirin, while not responsible for the above headline, does advance the argument — with the ratings success of the US Women’s National Team’s World Cup triumph as a backdrop — that there’s been a major shift in the way women’s sports are watched, including but not limited to the WWE’s development arm, NXT :
While ESPN Radio self-parody Colin Cowherd says that men are stronger and better athletes and we appreciate greatness in America and that’s why men’s sports is more fun to watch, his radio contract appears in peril because fewer and fewer people care what he has to say. While academic reports are issued that show only 2 percent of SportsCenter’s coverageis devoted to women’s sports, which is discussed there by anchors with the joy and flair of kids forced to “eat their vegetables,” more and more people are choosing to get their news from different sources if the current ones don’t meet their needs.
I was recently asked to name the five individual jocks who comprise my must-see television and, without thinking about it and without trying to make any kind of grand point or bow to the winds of political correctness, three of my five choices were women: joining Steph Curry and Bryce Harper were Serena Williams, ultimate fighter Ronda Rousey, and NXT pro wrestler Sasha Banks (seriously). Shockingly, pro wrestling, which for most of its existence has treated women like the industry was just an extension of Hugh Hefner’s grotto, is writing a script—literally—that says far more about where we are than the two-minutes-a-night broccoli serving of women’s sports delivered on SportsCenter. NXT is delivering a crew of empowering, genius women athletes like Banks, Charlotte Flair, and Becky Lynch who are winning over crowds and changing the expectations of what comprises greatness in the ring. It’s almost unreal to write, but the ways that crowds respond to Banks, Flair, and Lynch speaks with greater clarity about where consciousness is among sports fans than the tired highlight shows that treat athletics like a “man cave.”