Sports Columns

Column: The Chicago Sky Won Its First WNBA Title. Now What?

Courtesy of Carly BehmThe Chicago Sky won its first WNBA championship Oct. 17 and celebrated with a victory parade in Chicago Oct. 19.

Governor J.B. Pritzker honorarily renamed Chicago “Sky Town” for the day Oct. 19 in the wake of the Chicago Sky making history in the city and in women’s sports.

The team won its first WNBA championship title Oct. 17 after defeating the Phoenix Mercury 80-74 with a 3-1 series record at home in Wintrust Arena.

Celebrities and politicians were spotted at the victory parade, including mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago-native Chance The Rapper, along with thousands of Sky fans who celebrated the team’s victory in Millenium Park despite the fact the parade was in the middle of a workday.

But this sudden uptick in Sky fans raises a question — how long will Chicago be Sky Town? Will the city’s hype for women’s sports go beyond this one day? It should. 

This season marks the first time the Sky made an appearance in the WNBA finals since 2014, where they fell to the Mercury at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) Pavilion in front of 7,365 attendees.

This year, the WNBA reported that over 10,000 fans were there at Wintrust Arena to witness the Sky make history during Game 4 — an increase that echoes the growth of television viewership.

According to ESPN, 417,000 viewers tuned in for the final game of the series. Although the WNBA reported that viewership was up 51% from the 2020 season, it still pales in comparison to viewership for NBA games. More than 12 million people watched Game 6 of the NBA finals when the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Phoenix Suns to win their first championship title in fifty years. 

Both championship wins were historical, but viewership for the WNBA championship game was just 3% that of its NBA counterpart.

There’s never been a bad time to rally behind women’s sports, but I’m hoping this recent victory will encourage fans in Chicago and beyond to tune in to women’s sports on both the professional and collegiate level.

In the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) women’s basketball tip-off press conference Oct. 19, head coach Kate Achter talked about how she brought the team to watch the Sky play because she believes in the importance of supporting the WNBA.

“We as women’s college basketball coaches are sitting here pounding the table that we want support,” Achter said. “But if we don’t support the feeder programs that help us thrive, then I feel like that’s being pretty hypocritical.”

The Loyola women’s basketball team is set to begin its season Nov. 9 when Loyola will face off against the University of Detroit Mercy at home in Gentile Arena. The Ramblers are looking to improve this season, after making their first postseason appearance in program history this March. 

Our support for women’s sports on the professional level should translate to support for our college teams. I know we’re all itching for in-person sporting events again, so why not take this season back as an opportunity to support women’s sports at Loyola?

We’ve seen sports fans rally around the U.S. women’s national soccer team, who currently serves as the pinnacle of success in professional women’s sports with four World Cup wins and Olympic gold medals.

Maybe it’s the Sky’s turn to receive that same energy, but one thing’s for sure — let’s make that hype last.

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