Commentary: League television partners drop the ball at the All-Star game

Let me begin by saying hello to everyone from my new home here at I want to thank Cheryl for helping me take the next step, and for bringing Dishin & Swishin to a new, all-inclusive, one-stop shop. You will be able to listen to the radio show here, as well as (hopefully) read my thoughts and highlights like you previously found on Swish Appeal.

This past weekend, the WNBA gathered their best non-injured players in San Antonio, and celebrated their 15 years of existence with the All-Star game and the unveiling of the Best 15 Players in league history. I have written previously that I feel the WNBA All-Star game is, in my opinion, more important for the league than for most any other sport, be it major or niche. When you have a television contract that only displays a few games on national, free television, this is a rare opportunity to showcase your best players all at the same time. The league needed to maximize that exposure, get the names and faces into the public eye, and to make sure those tuning in that are not hardcore fans get some name and team identification so they know when and where they can see these players again.

The players did their part. If you liked defense, you did not get much of that, but the game was close, the shooting was outstanding, and both the skills and the athleticism were apparent. Unfortunately, I think the game’s announcing really shot an air ball, and let the league down.

I didn’t mind the in game interviews with the legends. They deserved the camera time and present a unique perspective on things when they are interviewed. However, it’s the coverage of the actual game I was really disappointed in. I am not going to just criticize Dave Pasch and Carolyn Peck for their work. I do not know if it was network directive or a personal decision to really push the 15 years of the league during the broadcast, but in my opinion they violated the most important rule of covering a sporting event – don’t forget there’s a game going on.

It seemed the overwhelming majority of the broadcast was filled with discussion of the 15 years, the differences, the changes, the improvements, and the growth. The play by play seemed to consist of “Carson makes a three” followed by “Taurasi responds.” Rebounds? Passes? Tempo? You know, the nuts and bolts that make the WNBA game the game of basketball, just like the men’s game. Forget about subs, they didn’t mention one time when the wholesale substitutions changed lineups.

I cannot believe you would hear an NBA All-Star game covered like this one was. Hey, I’m one of the diehards. I know what Courtney Vandersloot and Penny Taylor look like. I knew when they were in. But what about those casual observers and fans the league talks about cultivating and getting to attend games? As Nate Parham of Swish Appeal commented, “I know these events are all fun and games and such… but how often is the WNBA on ABC this year? Three to five times total? If I’m a first time fan and I’m hearing the people who actually follow the game treat it like a creampuff league that allows the women to get some run, I’m going to have a hard time taking it seriously.”

Angel McCoughtry made one of the most athletic plays you’ll see this year. Instead of “what a shot by Angel McCoughtry of the Atlanta Dream, who took her team to the WNBA finals last year and is trying to lead them back to the playoffs” we heard “that was fun.” You can swap in “Swin Cash really wants that MVP” “Liz Cambage is having so much fun” or “Maya Moore is [add superlative]” and that’s about the extent of what was said during the game.

This was a near “perfect storm” handed to the league. NBA on lockout, NFL on lockout, a brutally hot streak throughout the country keeping people in air conditioned homes. A chance to reach those potential fans the league seeks. I’m afraid that the WNBA’s television for the game partners let them down. I hope that they can focus on the game during the remaining ABC and ESPN broadcasts (both are owned by The Walt Disney Company), and showcase the league and the talent for what it is. Not the NBA, simply the best women basketball players in the world playing THEIR game.

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  • I totally agree with you. The annoucers had picked Swin Cash as the next to repeat MVP honors before the game was decided.
    They also keep telling the same stories over and over and over again. We do not need to hear how Becky Hammond was undrafted or how many teams overlooked Danielle Adams. We get it we got it the last time you called a game with them playing.
    I know we want to know the personal side of the players, but can we hear some new stories. Surely they’ve done some other noteworthy things.

  • The announcers are following the league’s lead. For 15 years it’s been more about the “movement” than the sport. I’m hoping President Richie will move us away from that.

  • I can’t tell you how many times my partner (who only occasionally watches games with me) said, “do these announcers know there’s a game happening in the background?”

  • The telecast here was no different from how they televise regular league games. The analysis is completely missing to the point where you never hear a play dissected nor get told what base defense is being run. They focus on the backstory of certain players without then relating it to the nuts and bolts of how they are playing currently. I noticed that Carolyn Peck once again mentioned the secret to Indiana’s success being that they bring Davenport off the bench. This was true when they telecast the game in early June but since then Davenport has started at least half of the games. She clearly had not watched nor checked out an Indiana box score since then to update her knowledge. This is the “expert” that we are listening to.

  • I totally agree! Commentary was not good! Angel had an amazing play and they didn’t even really respond! Also I think it makes the WNBA look bad when they do stuff like give a MVP award to a player on a losing team! WNBA probably the only league that would do something like that which causes people on the outside to not take the league seriously! There’s a lot of stuff WNBA does that other PROFESSIONAL leagues wouldn’t do! WNBA doesn’t measure up to other leagues not because of what happens on the court but what happens of the court and behind the scenes

  • Totally agree! The stage was grand, network tv, time to show off!!!!!! Alas, after 15 years should we really have to put up with lousy play by play/commentary or wanting to mute the sound on a wnba game on abc because IT SUCKS!?!!!

    Such a disservice to the game and the players and the fans. Peck is apparently satisfied to be behind in her game watching prep., mailing it in. Dave Pasche is not a regular game commentator and it showed.

    They both blew the Angel pass to herself off the backboard. It was a helluva play, I wouldn’t call it the most athletic play,what are we back in 1973!?!! We have grown to expect these kind of plays from the wnba!!!

    I think the network (and espn, because abc takes it’s cues from them) need to reward commentary teams that are up to date in their coverage and homework on the league.

    We all know the real real folks that can deliver the knowledge and enthusiasm through their game commentary.

  • Actually, Magic Johnson won all-star game mvp honors in 1990 despite his West team losing the game 130 – 113.

    I think Cash was not the only player on the court that filled the stat sheet, there were several.
    Cappie had a lot to do with the East pulling out the win, and should’ve been awarded the mvp trophy.

    Was it UConn bias? Was it Cash letting it be known that it would be cool to win it again? OR… The panel of judges were so sure the west would win as usual that they submitted their votes before the game was final?!?!!!!!


    • You're right vickster but there were special circumstances as to why Magic won the award. That was the year he announced he had HIV. More of a sentimental award.

  • I agree re the quality of the broadcast. And note that my experience attending the ASG in DC a few years ago was very similar – so many people in the stands more interested in socializing than watching the game. Including a (female) local sports editor and the then-president of the league.

  • David you nailed it. One other point. How can ANYONE take the WNBA serious when NBA-TV barely shows a game or a highlight. They would rather show old NBA games than show the highlights of the WNBA games currenly being played. How pathetic. ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports, doesn't put the scores on the ticker. Yet we can watch snails race, the spelling bee, Poker and any other sport on their five different channels. If I wasn't a fan I would think that only UCONN players are in the WNBA. I realize that they have some very talented young ladies in the league, but there is so much more to the league.

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