By Shawn Annarelli
15,000 people lined up on Minneapolis’ sidewalks for eight blocks during Minnesota’s celebratory WNBA Championship parade Tuesday, though it is not clear if those in attendance knew what they were there for.
If you didn’t know, the WNBA is the women’s version of the NBA, and they are actively operating. You definitely wouldn’t know that by watching ESPN’s SportsCenter over the last week despite the league just playing its biggest game of the year, and you wouldn’t have seen the news on ESPN’s or Sports Illustrated’s front website pages either. In fact, no one outside of Minnesota knows their WNBA team is the Mecca of women’s basketball. It is doubtful all of Minnesota knows it actually has a WNBA team.
So why don’t sport fans care about the WNBA and female athletes?
Sure, a woman might not run as fast, jump as high or shout as many expletives as the average male athlete, but that is no reason to be ignorant of female athletes. And, really, the only time the sports world pays great attention to a female athlete is if they are exceptionally attractive.
Where do I start?
Anna Kournikova became a successful athlete at the age of 18, but she became a paparazzi sensation for her hourglass figure and increasingly skimpy tennis outfits. Brandi Chastain scored the winning goal in the 1999 Women’s World Cup, but she gained fame for stripping off her shirt seconds later in front of an international audience. Danica Patrick didn’t become a household name for being professional racing’s first female driver. Several other women burned rubber before her. No, she became popular for having a pretty face. Maybe those before her weren’t as attractive, which is why the female driver is often mistaken as the first ever lady behind a race car wheel.
If only the Minnesota Lynx had a pretty face they would also get some attention, but it’d be for all the wrong reasons.
NBA’s players turned entrepreneurs
New York’s Amare Stoudemire explicitly showed his hand on Wednesday to the owners who locked out basketball’s players and canceled the first two weeks of the season due to start in November. Stoudemire announced the NBA’s players not already signed to play in European basketball leagues are seriously discussing the possibility of starting a player’s league in the United States.
59 NBA players have already permanently fled the NBA for European basketball leagues, and eight more have signed with leagues outside of North America and Europe. Those 67 players would make up four to five NBA teams.
Most notably, San Antonio’s Toni Parker has left for France where he will be paid $1,995 a month. He would have made $12.5 million with the Spurs if the NBA’s 2011 season starts. If players are taking such egregious pay cuts they must not feel well about the short-term future of the NBA.
Even Kobe Bryant is set to cross the sea for a new team. At the very least, Bryant could play at least one game for an Italian basketball team for $2 million for one game, so not every locked out player is looking at a substantial pay cut. In fact, Bryant $335,365 per game earnings mean he would receive a significant pay raise for his one off in Italy.
NBA’s stars and its supporting cast of players have already played across the United States in amateur basketball leagues to stay in contact with fans.
Now, they’ll create their own league if the NBA owners won’t play ball at the negotiating table.
Cardinals going nuts
Turmoil within St. Louis’ baseball club usually means manager Tony LaRussa said or did something to rub someone else the wrong way, but there is a new sideshow inside Busch Stadium.
Well, there was when a rogue St. Louis squirrel ran from Busch Stadium’s first baseline bleachers, through home plate and back onto the stadium’s bleachers and main concourse where it was caught. The squirrel was set free just outside the stadium following its capture.
However, the rodent left a legacy that Cardinals fans are nuts for. 40,000 free squirrel t-shirts were handed out in Game 3 of the NLCS, and more squirrel t-shirts, hats and towels were sold within the stadium’s stores.
It’s not the first time a wild animal broke into a stadium’s confines and crashed the party. Although it is allowed, Detroit fans bring octopuses to Red Wings’ playoff games to hurl onto the ice when their team scores. The tradition began in 1952 and has endured for 59 years. In 2001, a dove met Randy Johnson’s 99 mph fastball, and the results weren’t as a festive as St. Louis’ squirrel frenzy. Former Yankees pitcher Dave Winfield was arrested for hitting a bird with his final warm-up pitch in the bullpen, a once in a lifetime occurrence in sports.
The Cardinals should hope their rally squirrel doesn’t become their version of the Chicago Cubs’ 1945 goat and 1969 black cat, each of which were ejected from Wrigley Field while the Cubs were one of the hottest ball clubs. Subsequently, the Cubs’ seasons fell apart.
Luckily, the Cardinals are 3-1 since the squirrel’s break-in and release.
Sweet Play of the Week
Difficult receptions in sports are often referred to as circus catches for their extreme difficulty and improbability of being executed. On Sunday, Kansas City’s Dwayne Bowe caught a pass that went above and beyond what constitutes a circus catch.
The Chiefs were at the four-yard line in Indianapolis and the called play was a fade to Bowe in the right corner of the end zone. Colts defensive back David Caldwell began tackling before the ball was thrown. Bowe shed the defender’s dive at his knees and hopped off balance on his right foot two times at the edge of the goal line while tipping the ball three times with his right hand.
As Bowe finally lost to gravity, the ball did the same. Somehow, the ball seemed to follow Bowe’s hands, and the miraculous catch was made as he collided with the earth below.
Sour Play of the Week
Milwaukee had just defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks in the fifth and deciding game of the NLDS to advance to the National League’s pennant series. Nyjer Morgan, who had the game-winning hit in the bottom of the tenth inning, and his teammates poured over each other between home plate and first base.
Then, the nationally broadcasted interview with Morgan came. Dugout reporter Sam Ryan called Morgan over for the interview, put her hand on the elated player’s shoulder and inaudibly asked him a question.
Morgan, meanwhile, screamed expletives directed toward the crowd. Instead of pulling the microphone away, Ryan followed the cursing ball player and put her microphone closer and closer toward Morgan’s potty mouth. After a few seconds of this the producers finally cut Ryan’s microphone off just as she drew it back toward herself.
Did You Know?
- The Boston Bruins’ pre-game Championship celebration lasted 35 minutes, one minute longer than the entire first period.
- 23 scientists from around the world pushed the NFL and the Player’s Association closer toward HGH testing when they agreed the medical procedure was safe and reliable, a claim the Player’s Association has argued against for years.
- Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng’s face is now on new English currency. He is worth five pounds or $7.87.
- The Detroit Lions have won nine games in a row dating back to the 2010 regular season.
- Philadelphia’s “Dream Team” Eagles have lost seven of their last eight games dating back to the 2010 playoffs.
Like it, Love it, Hate it? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any comments or topic ideas for next week’s Weekly Sports Replay. Have a good one, Shawn.