The Mystics will start their season this Friday on the road against the Connecticut Sun. On Saturday, they will host their first game against the New York Liberty. I'm sure that Ted Leonsis will ask to get people to buy tickets and watch the team more than he already has. I don't blame him for doing it because he is the owner, he wants people to buy tickets and he genuinely likes the league.
The Mystics are coming off two consecutive playoff appearances, have likable players, and are generally doing things "the right way" from a conventional sense. However, they still aren't getting people to attend their games in decent numbers. In fact, most of their games are sparsely attended, a far cry from the old days when they were "attendance champions."
There are several reasons why I feel that non-WNBA fans, including most Wizards fans in the D.C. area aren't feeling so hot about the Mystics they include but aren't limited to the following.
The Mystics have never had sustained success before
I feel this is the biggest reason why. The Mystics are the only active WNBA franchise to have never made the Finals. Of their 10 playoff appearances in franchise history, they only advanced once in 2002. And throughout the years, they seem to have had some truly bad seasons when they struggled to win 10 games a season, including a stretch in 2011 and 2012 when they only won 11 combined games.
Furthermore, even though the Mystics made the playoffs two seasons in a row, they only went 33-35 in those two seasons, which is mediocre. Considering the circumstances, the record is outstanding, but casual fans don't really care much about context.
A lack of a franchise superstar to go toe-to-toe with the stars on the other Monumental teams
This is a close second as to why the Mystics aren't able to get many butts into seats.
As you know Alex Ovechkin and John Wall are superstars for the Capitals and the Wizards, and we are also fortunate to see that the national media also takes notice of them. Unfortunately, the Mystics don't have someone who is like them within their league, and the WNBA is a league where nearly every team has a superstar, except this one. Remember that there are only 12 teams in this league as opposed to 30 each in the NBA and NHL.
I'm not saying that the Mystics don't have good players, but there's a difference between good, likable players and superstars. When players like Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore, Candace Parker, Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne, or Skylar Diggins aren't in Mystics uniforms, it's hard to convince groups of people like Wizards fans or really any non-WNBA fan to want to watch, even if the Mystics play at a high level this season.
Other local sports teams are playing in the summer like the Washington Nationals, D.C. United, and the Washington Spirit
The Mystics in the past were only competing against D.C. United for sports fans in the nation's capital early in their history during the summer months. But when the Nationals came to town in 2005, that inevitably took some traffic away from their games, not to mention that they have superstars on their team too, like Bryce Harper. D.C. United and Major League Soccer is also becoming more popular as the sport becomes more popular in the States.
In regards to the Spirit, I'm not exactly sure how much overlap there is between women's soccer and women's basketball fans, but I can't eliminate the Spirit as an entity that takes away some possible attendees of Mystics games. But I will say that they do have a home game this Saturday at 7 p.m. against the Boston Breakers, which is the exact same date and time the Mystics play the Liberty in their home opener.
D.C. area women's college basketball fans aren't necessarily WNBA fans
A significant number of Mystics fans and season ticket holders are also season ticket holders for the Maryland Terrapins women's basketball team -- one of the nation's top teams -- during the winter. But there are also Maryland women's basketball fans who aren't exactly WNBA fans and don't care for watching pro basketball at all unless one of their favorite alumnae is coming to town. For example, former Terps stars like Kristi Toliver and Alyssa Thomas play for the Los Angeles Sparks and Connecticut Sun respectively. Speaking about Maryland...
There are no Maryland alumnae on the active Mystics roster
For most of the past several seasons, former Maryland star Crystal Langhorne was on the Mystics where she blossomed into an All-Star player despite playing on some awful teams. Langhorne was traded to the Seattle Storm last season in exchange for Tianna Hawkins -- who also went to Maryland -- and the rights to Bria Hartley, the seventh pick in the 2014 WNBA Draft.
This season, Hawkins will sit out for at least part of this season due to pregnancy. Therefore, this season's Mystics' team will start the 2015 season without a Maryland alumna for the first time since 2007, the year before Langhorne was drafted. That said, I do think Hawkins can still carve a role for herself in Washington once she returns, but I don't see her being a starter on this team.
I don't care what college any WNBA player is from unless they're from UConn because there's just something about the culture there that translates well into the pros. And I'm no UConn fan either. My dad went to Tennessee for grad school by the way so if anything, I've liked watching the Lady Vols more.
But when a local player is not on a team that isn't elite, there often is a dip in attendance in a niche league like the WNBA. I hope this isn't a reason, but unfortunately, I think that some Mystics fans were a bit too enamored with Langhorne especially. This isn't to say that many or most Mystics fans are all Maryland homers, but it is something I have observed over the years.
WNBA basketball isn't as efficient as NBA basketball is
A good number of NBA fans will say that WNBA basketball isn't as good to watch because "it's too slow" or that "there's (almost) no dunking." Those are a bit simplistic in my opinion. I will say that there is quantitative support that the women's game still has some catching up to do with the men's game.
In the 2014 WNBA season, their teams averaged 101.5 points per 100 possessions, had an eFG% of 47.21 percent, and a TOV% of 15.14 percent, according to Basketball-Reference and my calculations. Meanwhile, in the 2014-15 NBA season, teams averaged 105.6 points per 100 possessions, had an eFG% of 49.6 percent, and a turnover percentage TOV% of 13.3 percent according to Basketball-Reference.
This isn't to say that WNBA basketball is bad or very sloppy, but this is a sign that women's basketball has room to grow in order to be an even better game over time. Fortunately, it is heading in the right direction and things like the "analytic scrimmage" are something that can help the women's game take a step forward.
There are only so many teams that one can be invested in
All people only have so much bandwidth to devote to various things in life, including sports. Sure, I do support almost every D.C. sports team to some degree, but I'm not as big of a Redskins fan as much as I am a Wizards fan. Many of you could be in a similar spot with the Mystics.