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Women's basketball dominates fan enthusiasm at Oakland sports bar

Fan enthusiasm snowballing for women's sports
Fan enthusiasm snowballing for women's sports 02:56

OAKLAND -- Excitement around women's sports is continuing to grow.

More than 12 million people tuned in to watch the women's college basketball Elite Eight matchup between LSU and Iowa Monday afternoon. That energy is carrying through Final Four weekend.

The Athletic Club Oakland sports bar was full of fans, despite the fact that no Bay Area team made it to the Final Four.

"Enjoy the vibes and cheer on girls' and women's basketball," Laura Alvarez said about why she came to the bar.

Fans started showing up early to make sure they got a seat to watch some of the best basketball players in the NCAA right now. And those players are women.

"Caitlin Clark is obviously in that game. She's the name that people are hearing the most, right?" Masha Ashabi said. "Paige Bueckers is also in that game. I'm pretty excited about that."

Clark has scored the most points in a career by any NCAA basketball player. That includes both women and men. Women stars have brought more attention to the sport.

"It shows that women's sports can have as much of a following as men's sports," Alvarez said. "That we give good performances as well and there's a lot to learn from women's sports and women players and they deserve the recognition."

Alvarez says she has followed women's sports her whole life and grew up playing both basketball and soccer but, because women's sports were not in the spotlight like men's, she didn't think it was a potential career path. She says that, if she was growing up now, things may have been different.

"I think maybe I would have taken it a little more seriously and actually been able to dream bigger in terms of sports and continue with it," Alvarez said.

Ashabi believes it's long overdue that women sports are getting this level of attention and she's hoping the results carry into more longterm changes.

"A few years ago there was a comparison of the men's athletic facilties to the women's and that got a lot of attention," Ashabi said. "I think it's a really good representation because it's not that they're working less hard. Women just don't have the resources. They don't have the people investing in them as much. I think providing that opportunity continuously for women not only helps them but everybody."

According to ESPN's parent company Disney, the average women's NCAA Tournament game ratings are up 127 percent from last year's tournament.

Alvarez says she believes the momentum will continue.

"It's showing that people do show up for women's sports," she said.

The women's NCAA Championship game will be on Sunday.

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