Silver lining in the IOC’s decision?
I’ve noticed traffic has been down on the blog a bit this week. Hopefully just a combination of the people who’d be most interested being on vacation this week after concluding their summer seasons and the fact that I’ve been a bit lax on posting lately. This topic, though, ought to stimulate some conversation because it’s somewhat controversial.
First of all, let me add my voice to those who are sorry to see softball pretty much shut out of the 2016 Olympics. I know it’s not quite dead yet, but my guess is the final vote is just a formality. It was fun seeing our sport in the world’s most popular international athletic forum, and I’m sure it was a thrill for those selected to represent their country. That being said…
I can’t help but wonder if this decision will actually help the NPF. Think about it.
First of all, one of the biggest draws the NPF has are the “name” players — the Cats, the Jennies, the Jessicas, etc. During an Olympic year, those top players are absent from their NPF teams, which may hurt attendance. Not amongst the hard-core faithful, perhaps, but from the broader fan base they need to sustain a league. Yes, I know one of the reasons they have that popularity is the Olympics. But as long as ESPN continues to cover the WCWS and events such as the KFC World Cup brought to you by Six Flags, that popularity will still be there. They don’t have to establish now, they just have to sustain.
Secondly, eliminating softball from the Olympics means one less place you can go to see high-level competition among post-college players. That makes the NPF that much more important. If the NPF is smart, they’ll find a way to play up on that fact. Respectfully, of course. But where else can the average fan go to see that level of quality?
Finally, with Olympic squads limited to 15 players (or whatever the actual number is), it’s tough for players to get the opportunity to participate. But with a vibrant and growing NPF, many more girls would have the opportunity to compete at that level. Maybe the teams would get enough money to provide locker rooms at all the parks. Perhaps USA Softball or the major TV networks will give it more attention and invest some promotional money to help it grow and thrive.
So perhaps a door has been shut, but a window has been opened. It remains to be seen if anyone will take advantage of it. And if there isa vibrant and popular NPF, maybe it will convince the IOC to reexamine the issue down the road.