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Column - WNBA making a (nick)name

July 21, 2000|By BOB PARASILITI

Column - WNBA making a (nick)name



As a league, the Women's National Basketball Association has it all.

It has Starzz to play and Monarchs to lead. It has natural disasters like Fire and Storm. Phenomenons like Sol, Miracle and Comets that can cause a rise in the Mercury or Sparks. If you're not careful, you might get a Sting or a Shock or catch Fever.

If all that isn't amazing enough, then there are Mystics.

As a league, the WNBA is far from taking its place among the Big Four in the country. After all, how many of its franchise nicknames can you recite from memory ... 13 of the 16 if you have been paying attention.

But when you go to a WNBA game, you get the sense that every woman on the floor is a pioneer. What they do today is a stepping stone to a bigger, greater hold for women's basketball and women's sports in the future.

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Thursday's Mystics game at the giant phone booth known as the MCI Center was an example of WNBA ingenuity.

The afternoon matinee was called Kids Camp Day. For one day, it turned one of the palaces in professional sports into the largest day care facility in the country. Washington packed in a sellout crowd of 19,093 - the largest of the season in the league - including 9,000 tickets which were sold to area camps.

F Street NW and 7th Street, which surround the arena, turned into a used car lot for yellow school buses.

Once inside, the obligatory game action was crisp and exciting, especially in the second half when Washington came from seven points down by using a full-court press to win 85-74 over the expansion Indiana Fever.

During the timeouts, there were games, contests and giveaways to keep the Nintendo generation interested in what was happening on the floor.

There was laughter aimed at one overweight fan stuffed into a Mystics jersey who danced to every song during the breaks.

There was screaming and yelling as the Mystics' mascot, Charm - a nymph that looks like a rabbit that fell into a blueberry patch - used an air bazooka to fire T-shirts into the stands.

The Mystics gave away long, wiggling white wands to all the fans seated in the end zones to wave behind the backboard to disrupt Fever foul shots.

There was even a cheerleading group of boys and girls who performed a dance routine and gymnastic flips during timeouts.

It was all fast-paced, loud and glitzy, everything kids love.

"It was great," said Mystics center Vicky Bullett. "Sorry the kids had to sit so far up at the top. I wish they could have come down to see more."

They saw enough. The WNBA's father, the NBA, is shrewd in its marketing. This was more than just an early game. It was a great ploy aimed at building a fan base for the future.

And for the most part, if you looked at all the young faces leaving after the game, it worked.

Maybe to the point which helps the WNBA becomes part of the Fab Five in U.S. sports with fans who know all the team nicknames.

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