Wednesday, August 12, 2009

LA Sparks: the moms dribble and the kids cheer them on

I used to be a Lakers fan, and was happy they won the championship (that was this season, right?). Still, I gave up my die-hard status at about the time I became a single mother. Between work, motherhood, and the personal issues that came with the divorce, keeping track of how many points Kobe Bryant had scored at the last game just didn't remain on my priority list.

I remember when the LA Sparks and the entire WNBA franchise launched about a decade ago. While I cheered on the concept of professional women's basketball, I confess I hadn't previously gone to a game. As a mother, I want to give my girls the chance to see as much that the world has to offer as possible. So I was thrilled when I had the opportunity to take them to an LA Sparks game last week.

The LA Sparks have five moms on their team. Candace Parker is the newest member of that particular group, and, like a lot of working moms, went back to work 6 weeks after giving birth. Parker proved her star status at the game we witnessed against Seattle Storm, scoring crucial shots. The game was probably the most exciting I've ever witnessed, with the Sparks winning in overtime!

While the Sparks may not have the type of following their male counterparts enjoy in this town, the Sparks fans are loyal die-hards, to the point where we all stood at the start of the game until the Sparks scored their first basket of the game. For the last 3 minutes of the 4th quarter through overtime, the Staples Center reverberated with the noise, excitement and adrenaline.

My oldest daughter, Sylvia, played on the basketball team at her after-school club last year, so there was no need to explain the rules of the game to her. Sylvia and her 8-year-old sister, Riley, studied their program, learning the players' numbers and by the 2nd quarter, they were cheering on most of the players by name.

They loved, loved loved shouting "Defense" every time the Storm had the ball, and chanting "Let's Go Sparks!" when we were on the offensive. They also loved the SparKids cheerleaders, who not only danced really well (through messy choreography) but took to their role as the leaders of the cheer quite naturally!

From beginning to end, the Sparks team welcomes its fans with appreciation and energy. One of my favorite fan contests at halftime was the girl who had to say, in 30 seconds, why she was a Sparks fan without saying "uh" or "um" (she succeeded; I would've failed miserably). The girls loved jumping up and down for the t-shirts that the SparKids gave away a few times during time-outs. Every minute at the Staples Center that night was one that we'll remember with joy.

My only frustration came from seeing that there are only so many games televised, keeping their fan base limited. We also brought my father, a die-hard Lakers fan his whole life who had also never before seen a Sparks game, on TV or otherwise. He's now following them in the paper, and I'm sure we'll make it to another game soon. (And hopefully, this season, to see Lisa Leslie, the biggest WNBA superstar, one last time.)

My girls probably won't become WNBA players, and my intent in taking them was not to put that aspiration in their heads. As I re-discovered the other night, sometimes it's just fun to scream your head off in public. Some of the plays were as magical as any circus performer's or musician. Some nights, it takes a few hours to peel off that ceiling of adrenaline. And, hey, what in life is better than that?

Originally posted on LA Moms, Aug. 12, 2009.


Jen said...

Had trouble commenting over there, April, but I think it rocks that the girls are growing up seeing Sparks games! Who SAYS girls can't play?? Love it!

dadshouse said...

My teen daughter rocks at sports - soccer and track especially. She's also a great student. I take her to see women's college soccer. Her brother comes too. We all have fun!