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Mad Seasons

Karra Porter's account of the short-lived W.B.L. is business-like. There is an academic flavor to her presentation, which relies on interviews with the former players, coaches, and executives who made up this curious league.

Porter finds that most of the former players look back on their adventure with fondness, even if their teams didn't pay them on time, and that they consider themselves pioneers. Maybe they were, though the league itself could hardly be considered the beginning of anything serious. It was underfinanced from the start, in part because Bill Byrne, the man who thought up the W.B.L. in 1977, apparently welcomed into his ownership club almost anybody who wanted to join. As a result, seven of the seventeen teams bobbing around in the mercurial league lasted only one season, some quitting before they had played a full schedule of games, and only three went the distance from 1978 to 1981.

Still, the league lasted long enough to generate some fine images and anecdotes, many of which Porter collects in a chapter titled "Snapshots of the W.B.L." Here we learn that the Milwaukee Does employed five different head coaches in their first season. The first of them, Candace Klinzing, was fired after her team lost the W.B.L.'s inaugural game. While the Does were losing eight of their next nine, Klinzing kept calling the team, offering to return. "Snapshots of the W.B.L." also provides evidence that the women's league was not averse to trying to capitalize on the popularity of the N.B.A. How else to explain why Pearl Moore of the New York Stars was nicknamed "Pearl the Earl?"

The W.B.L. was not without excellent players, Nancy Lieberman, Ann Meyers, and Carol Blazejowski among them. But it was, almost always, without adequate financing. In that regard it was a forerunner of the American Basketball League, which began on a jump shot and a prayer in 1996 and crashed into bankruptcy early in its third season, and the Women's United Soccer Association, which, despite the presence of the best female soccer players in the world, suspended operations after three summers in 2003. Almost three decades after the W.B.L. launched, it's sad that the only women's pro league that has endured is the W.N.B.A, which is bankrolled by the N.B.A.

This program aired on July 7, 2006. The audio for this program is not available.

Bill Littlefield Twitter Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield has been the host of Only A Game since the program began in 1993.

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