Storm vs. Sparks: here we go again

Coaches, players and fans weigh in on the rivalry.

I had fun writing that story, because my perspective on both teams and this matchup is somewhat unique.

I was there on the Storm’s opening night as a franchise on June 1, 2000. I was a season ticket holder until I moved to Los Angeles. And I hated the Sparks like every Storm fan.

I know what Scott Englehardt means when he speaks of the high horse the Sparks team used to be on with the Storm – they were downright condescending. Or at least, they appeared to be due to one or two players. In fact, Lisa Leslie made a comment before the two teams’ very first playoff matchup in 2002 where she effectively said the Sparks weren’t worried about the Storm at all.

I also remember LA’s style of play, which did seem to be abusive…..I have a couple of VHS tapes of some old games that show this. And I’ll never forget July 12, 2002 when Michelle Marciniak and Latasha Byears got into a fight on the Key Arena floor. The peak of the bad feelings between the two teams and their fans was that night.

My dislike of the Sparks continued until 2008, when they drafted my favorite college player from my favorite college program: Candace Parker of Tennessee. They also grabbed Shannon Bobbitt. So I bought season tickets.

I met all the Sparks players. And though I’ll never necessarily be a Lisa Leslie fan, I could see she had mellowed after the birth of her daughter.

Delisha Milton-Jones is one of the funniest people I’ve met in a long time. She’s a jokester, a prankster and laughs a lot. I finally understood why her other nickname besides “D-Nasty” is “Sunshine.” She really does have a split personality – rough on the court and hilarious off of it. And I can understand how those two can co-exist. After all, I’m a nice person who sometimes has to “go hard” with my high school students to keep them in line.

The Sparks aren’t the bad, swaggering team they were 7-10 years ago. There’s no Tamecka Dixon to taunt opposing fans and no Byears to let her gum hang out of her mouth while shooting free throws (2002 championship game) or throw the ball at Marciniak’s head. LA is just like any other team: a bunch of women juggling multiple responsibilities and giving it their all on the court. I can’t hate them.

I can understand why Storm fans and other opposing teams – who aren’t here to see the Sparks every game or up close and personal – still can, though. I’m a fair person and can see both sides of the “irrational sports hatred” issue.

With the Storm-Sparks rivalry, I take it on a game-by-game basis. Sometimes I want the Sparks to win, and sometimes I’m rooting for the Storm. It just depends on how I feel.

In this series, though, I want Seattle to win as quickly as possible. I want them to take it all this year. They really deserve it, and so do their fans.

I’ll never forget Oct. 12, 2004. As streamers poured from the Key Arena ceiling, the electronic banners read: “SEATTLE STORM – WNBA CHAMPIONS!” Fans were screaming, going crazy. Players were running around on the court hugging each other and kicking off their shoes. That was an experience I’ll never forget, and I hope Seattle fans have that again this year. Their team has worked hard.

If Candace Parker is healthy next year, and Betty Lennox is back, I’ll want the Sparks to win. 🙂