WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association), Eastern Conference
Washington Mystics v New York Liberty
Saturday, 16th August 2014, 7.05pm
Verizon Center
Entrance $19, Programme $none
Distance 3670 miles, Attendance 9432
When the basketball season was upon us, there was this game we had at school. If one got changed quick enough – whilst the PE staff would still be holed up in their office, reading the paper, drinking tea or, just working out how best they could torture us on that particular day – one could seriously piss about in the gym. Balls, trampolines, ropes, wall bars; you name it, in our six years at the school, we abused it.
Though there weren’t “A teams” or medals or even rules, like any sporting activity even our “anarchyball” demanded practice to gain flawless standards of imaginary professionals. Just once in a while, if one was fortunate, sporting excellence of a kind could be achieved by even mere mortals such as I; if one was less fortunate, one could also be caught.
Hoofed from the paws of an unlucky peer; as the ball sailed the length of the gym, from the toe of my worn brandless trainer, clean through the hoop at the far end without rippling the net, Mr McAteer strode through the door. “Hmm, not bad I suppose…” he muttered, adding sardonically “Shame you can’t do that with your hands.” before launching seamlessly into a full tirade, “NOW, DON’T DO IT AGAIN. DON’T KICK THE [enter expletive here] BASKETBALLS!”
In that one brief moment, my basketball career both peaked and instantly plummeted back to reality.
140816 WNBA Washington Mystics v NY Liberty (3)wNever once making the house team – a woeful assortment held together by a smattering of jocks – basketball was a game I rarely got to grips with. Forget the distinct possibility that my trademark agility didn’t match the recreational demands of such a sport, I’ve always wondered why is was so easy to score. In most other team pursuits that entered my realm – football, hockey (both on grass and on ice), rugby (both codes, though back then I couldn’t tell them apart), and even the way I played cricket – scoring was a rare gold standard; a mark of brilliance for the few.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, regardless of how they are apportioned one doesn’t need 150+ pts to illustrate virtuosity; a niggly 2-1 on an uneven pitch should suffice.
Despite this – maybe to find out what I was missing – I’ve since been to a few games. Granted I didn’t take up the offer of school trips to watch Hemel Ovaltine however, in my afterlife, both the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers (who didn’t scrape that many points) have been graced by my/our presence. Both were very entertaining evenings, and needless to say, the wheelchair basketball at London 2012 was even better feat of athletic endeavour.
140816 WNBA Washington Mystics v NY Liberty (20)w
Fast forward to this week; when lovely wife hinted – as we strolled past the Verizon Center for the umpteenth time during a second DC day – that a similar (now “family”) evening out would be nice, my sincere love of live sport and music leapt on the bandwagon.
Situated up 7th Street, a few blocks from all things Smithsonian, the Verizon was promoting anything diversion, from sport to Cher and back again. Only the Mystics (they no doubt saw us coming) however could offer what we required.
140816 WNBA Washington Mystics v NY Liberty (6)wWith their play-off berth already secured, Washington were going into their final game of the season almost as a warm-up for the upcoming postseason. In such circumstances, normally one would countenance against any casual approach – we see it too often in English football play-offs where team become complacent and instantly drop out of the running – but demand for tickets was apparently so high that optimism for a high octane encounter seemed just.
Five hours before tip-off we purchased the only available four tickets together and, we weren’t the only one’s “lucky” to get seats apparently. When tip-off came in an only partially filled arena however, it was clear many of the local/loyal season ticket holders had stayed away – or gone away – safe in the knowledge that “their team” didn’t need urging on into the knock-out stages; they’d already made it.

140816 WNBA Washington Mystics v NY Liberty (21)

Somewhat predictably, this laissez-faire support was also the catalyst for the unraveling of “their team’s” game and evening. When the Mystics should have been going full tilt – building up the momentum – for the postseason, they looked laboured.
Naturally there were a few notable performances from the home side. Number 12, Guard (I mention that like I have some expert knowledge on the positions… I don’t) Ivory Latta demonstrated a never-say-die attitude throughout. It was also s total mystery why, the exciting Number 31, Centre Stefanie Dolson wasn’t one of the starters. Sadly – despite some theatrical complaints of the referee’s decision making by coach, Mike Thibault – two players just does not make a team.
140816 WNBA Washington Mystics v NY Liberty (35)Second best from the/their first basket, Washington hardly got into second gear. Within minutes the Mystics were 2-4 down. This Liberty lead would remain to the end of the first quarter (17-19), before growing liberally thereafter. Led by the incredibly impressive Plenette Pierson (33), the Liberty opposition were just too strong. Other New Yorkers of note included Swin Cash and Tina Charles (no, not the Love To Love disco queen) however, it was as a team they were stronger. At half time Washington were down 29-45 and, by the third quarter 46-60. The second period had killed their game, and no amount of time-outs could rectify this. When the final buzzer sounded, the 61-73 score line even looked kind on the home side.
140816 WNBA Washington Mystics v NY Liberty (42)wTheir shooting had been below par, their Adidas kit reminded me of Marlboro red and, every second was brought to us by some dour company named by a grinning inanely voice. Looking for the positives when it was all over, all the home support had to celebrate was coach, Marianne Stanley’s entry into her High School’s Hall Of Fame, and Damon Terrell’s community award.
Of course I still had little idea of the game; my daughter now understands the rules better. I did however spend some game time wondering of the lack of female head coaches, female referees, or even – if going to go full out for real equality – male cheerleaders.
From a family point of view the evening was however a huge success. Looking for some good women’s sport to inspire our daughter and to keep my son from immature playground comments, this night at the Verizon Center worked a treat.
We weren’t the “lucky fan” in the mystic mayhem (brought to us by Herb’s Subarus or some such) but – as the last game of the regular season – we were the recipients of a multitude of wonderful giveaways; t-shirts, cups, sunglasses, face painting and talk of all-action heroes. On top of that – whilst I was carded for a beer by a evidently blind bar tender – the children worked it extensively to get on camera, delighted at the DC Tricky trickster dunkers, the trike races, throwing balls at the basketman on stilts and, finished up gleefully jeering the opposition’s free throws (which have somehow become “penalties”) for the hope of free chicken sandwiches.
Whether intentionally or in jest, sadly no-one hoofed the ball the length of the court but, whatever was happening or not on the end-to-end court and in the stands, the organisation – in conjunction with the world’s best donuts/car/insurance/soft drink – were clearly pulling out all the stops to ensure the evening went with a bang. One now hopes their postseason doesn’t disappear with a whimper.

140816 WNBA Washington Mystics v NY Liberty (73)

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