The Final Four or the Dinah? Next year, you might not have to choose

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The Dinah Shore weekend is billed as the largest lesbian party on the planet, and centers on the weekend of the LPGA’s Kraft Nabisco Championship. This year, the Dinah overlapped with the women’s basketball Final Four. The Dinah Shore parties ended on April 1, and the women’s final basketball games were held April 1 and 3. Our recruiting numbers were spread thin across multiple states as hard-working lesbians were forced to choose.

(I’m kidding about the “recruiting.” Or am I? Check out the tag line for the Final Four this year: “Women Rock. Join the Team!”)

The NCAA recently announced that the women’s Final Four dates may be later next year. Right now, the 2008 championships are slated for April 6 and 8 in Tampa, Florida. While the Nabisco dates won’t be announced until later in the year, the event (and thus the Dinah) usually falls in the last couple weeks of March.

This year, comedienne Suzanne Westenhoefer performed in Palm Springs with out LPGA player Rosie Jones in the audience, and then hopped on a plane to perform at an event before the basketball games in Cleveland, Ohio. I talked to Suzanne after both events, and she said that when she performed in front of a room of 500 people in Cleveland and asked who was in town for the basketball, all 500 cheered.

When she said, “Hey, when’s that big closet case Pat Summit going to come out?” all the lesbians got the joke about the Tennessee coach.

That’s the big difference between the two events: The Dinah Shore partygoers are pretty clueless about the golf, while the Final Four fans are there for the basketball first, and then the parties. The difficulty with the Final Four is that it changes states every year, while the Dinah is always in Palm Springs.

A story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer covered the party held the night before the basketball events, which started as an “evening of wine and cheese for a small group of women” and now attract thousands of women. According to a representative from the Convention and Visitors Bureau of Greater Cleveland, the numbers are significant:

“Although it is impossible to determine the demographics of the crowd in town this week, national leaders in the lesbian community who attended the games speculated that of the 20,000 sports fans who visited Cleveland — and pumped an estimated $25 million into the local economy — at least half were lesbians.”

That number is close to the 10,000–15,000 estimated at the Dinah Shore parties. I suggest giving out little toaster-oven key chains with each college logo printed on them to help drive up numbers.

Helen Carroll, sports project director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, had more good news about the Final Four:

“Historically, the sports arena has been among the few venues where women could break free of the feminine mold and social edicts, she said. Tournaments like the NCAA Women’s Final Four offer opportunities to honor that history and the athletic achievements of women while drawing attention to issues of inequality and homophobia that still exist in sports.”

Have you ever been to the women’s Final Four? What did you think of the events?

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