When I met the man who would become my husband, I was enthralled with his sense of humor... his cute British accent... and the knowledge that he didn't follow American sports. This would be a relationship without endless discussions about football rankings or runs batted in.
And then, many years later, my brother-in-law took my husband to a basketball game.
Now, he's a fan.
Fortunately, he's a Los Angeles type of fan. That means he doesn't really pay much attention to the local teams until they get into the play-offs. I can live with that -- I'm an L.A. fan, too.
It's not just that Angelenos love winners (who doesn't?) I think a lot of it has to do with the scarcity of good seats available (at affordable prices)... and the difficulty of getting around our crowded city. I have been to exactly one Lakers game, thanks to a friend of a friend with season tickets. It was one of the last home games of a season when the team didn't fare so well. If it had been a championship season, there is no way those tickets would have trickled down to my friend and me.
My husband wasn't able to go to that one, and I know he's regretted never seeing one of our home teams play live. So I was excited to tell him that our family had been offered tickets to a pro basketball game at Staples Center.
He knew it wasn't the Lakers.
"The Clippers?" he asked suspiciously. I shook my head no. He had to think a few moments before he remembered that there is one other professional basketball team in Los Angeles.
"Women's basketball?" he groaned.
Yes. The Sparks -- WNBA's team in Los Angeles - have been wowing fans since the league's inception in 1997 and boasts two of its true superstars: Lisa Leslie (who will be retiring at the end of this season) and Candace Parker, who was named the league's 2008 Rookie of the Year AND Most Valuable Player... the first in WNBA history to achieve both honors in the same year. The team is currently ranked #3 in the Western Conference, and we were going to see them play against the #1-ranked Phoenix Mercury.
I promised my skeptical husband a great game. I told him about Lisa Leslie's record ("she's the Kobe Bryant of the WNBA," I said). I marveled at the fact that Candace Parker had her first baby just in May. He showed a bit more interest, especially when I pointed out that this was an activity that we could all enjoy together as a family.
And a great game is what he got: It was physical, aggressive and something of a wild ride (there was nothing "ladylike" about the play). The Sparks amassed a huge lead in the first quarter, which was matched and exceeded by the Mercury by the third... with Sparks almost catching up in the end.
My packet from the WNBA included an all-access media pass, which allowed me to get down on the floor where I could observe the teams warming up before the game. I'm afraid that my first reaction was kind of typical: I was amazed at how TALL some of the women are (Center Lisa Leslie checks in at 6'5"). But then I noticed that both teams included players that could be considered SHORT: Phoenix's Temeka Johnson is only 5'3", and Shannon Bobbitt of the Sparks is an inch shorter than that -- MY height.
Watching these two women interact with their more Amazonian teammates made me feel a little ashamed, as I'd always used my lack of stature as the reason I always sucked at basketball in school (when the truth is, I'm just a lousy athlete). And I realized I had to stop sending my daughter the message that her petite stature was an advantage while she was pursuing gymnastics -- but could be a hindrance in other sports. These women showed me otherwise.
In fact, Johnson proved to be a formidable player, managing to be wherever the ball was to get the rebound and personally scoring 14 points. She and Bobbitt are proof that my kid can succeed at any sport she likes.
I was grateful that the folks at the WNBA were kind enough to give us four tickets, so we could bring my daughter and her best friend. This is so cool, because WNBA basketball is truly a family affair, which I think is less the case when you attend a Lakers game. Cost is one factor: While the $55 list price for our tickets isn't cheap, the same seats would run you about $350 apiece to see the Lakers... that is, if you can arrange to purchase them from a season ticket holder.
The night we saw the Sparks, the arena was full of families: moms, dads, brothers, sisters -- all enjoying the game. It had a kind of small town feel you don't get from the guys' team, which has a reputation for being glitzy. Instead of sexy Laker girls, we got entertainment from the Spark Kids, a troupe of future "So You Think You Can Dance?" stars who really CAN do it... while looking cute as a button. It's not the same experience you get with Jack Nicholson sitting front and center -- but the Sparks audience did include comedian Wanda Sykes (who has a cool factor in her own right).
The hometown team may have lost the game, but they gained a few new fans. "This was really great!" my husband exalted as we left Staples.
|I think we'll be back. The season has a few more games to go before play-offs begin. The WNBA and Ticketmaster have have worked together to offer some really special deals for anyone who would like to attend a WNBA game -- including a 15% off deal for those who want to see the Sparks. See the complete list of deals throughout the country here.|
DISCLOSURE: I received four game tickets (face value $55 each) for my family to attend a WNBA game. There was no monetary compensation, nor any promise that my post would be a positive one. The opinions expressed in this post are my own impressions of what it was like to attend a WNBA game in Los Angeles.