Sparks unplugged

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

I was watching the WNBA Western Conference Finals the other night when I realized that I was smiling. It was kind of like the smile that crept across my face when my mom called from a cell phone at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro.

“I made it,” she said. It didn’t quite have the lip-quivering factor of that conversation, but it was one of those proud moments when it occurs to you that someone you care about has accomplished something significant.

The WNBA is completing its 10th season, which means that, for a decade, we have been living in a society where girls can aspire to be professional basketball players like Chamique Holdsclaw and Cheryl Ford. There’s something so cool about little girls daydreaming on their driveway, dribbling through their legs, then elevating for a jumper, saying to themselves in high-pitched voices, “Yolanda Griffith scores at the buzzer! The Monarchs win another championship!”

And to think that only a few generations ago, girls were only allowed to play half-court basketball for fear that hustling back on defense might damage their fragile wombs.

As I watched the crowd cheer on the big, strong women as they drove to the hoop or hit rainbow threes, I started to imagine Susan B. Anthony standing on a cloud looking down on us from heaven with a knowing smile on her face. She was wearing a Lisa Leslie jersey over her white robe and was spinning a basketball on her finger.

But then my vision of an athletic utopia faded when it was announced that the L.A. Sparks would not be allowed to play what would turn out to be their only home game in the best-of-three series at the Staples Center because of a scheduling conflict with the “American Idol” concert, which sadly took priority over the Western Conference Finals.

So, instead of moving the game back a day, the L.A. Sparks, who had just spent the entire summer earning home court advantage in the Western Conference Finals, were forced to concede their vital home-court advantage by playing game two at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, the hockey rink where the Mighty Ducks play.

“I don’t think we’d ever see the Lakers play at the Pond in the playoffs. That’s just a slap in the face to me,” Leslie, Sparks veteran and shoo-in for the MVP award, told reporters.

You don’t think they’d never make the Lakers play a home game away from the Staples Center in the playoffs? You don’t think they would jeopardize the Lakers’ precious home-court advantage in the playoffs by having them play on a neutral court? Let’s get real. Can you see them taking Kobe aside and being like, “Listen Kobe, we know you’ve worked all year for this, and it wouldn’t be fair to move you to a neutral court?it’s just that Taylor Hicks is coming!”

It’s the home-team crew’s duty to make sure that everybody seated behind the basket has ample balloons to wave like lunatics during the opposing team’s free-throw attempts and noisemakers that they can bang together during key defensive possessions. You have to get all the mileage out of your home-court advantage that you can. Instead of utilizing the Staples Center to ensure a Sparks-friendly atmosphere, they packed up the baskets and the floor and set it up above a hockey rink.

After losing Game 1 in Sacramento, the Sparks needed to win the second game to keep their championship hopes alive, but lost to the visiting Monarchs 72-58 on a court that was covered with condensation in some spots because of the layer of ice below.

Some people might say that it was just a simple scheduling error that could happen to anyone. That may be true. But depending on who the “anyone” is, the way they would have responded to the problem would have been different. If, say, the anyone in question had been a team in the gentlemen’s NBA?well, there is no way a men’s team in the playoffs is getting bumped for a concert.