Not too long ago, I had only a vague awareness of the WNBA. I played basketball as a kid and young teen, but didn’t stick with it much past my freshman year of high school (topping out around 5′ 5″ had something to do with it). So, in the late 90s, I thought it was very cool that there was a league for women’s professional basketball, but I never followed it closely.
Last year, in the 2020 bubble season, I became a fan, watching just about every game from each team. It was easy to fall back in love with the game, and the level of play. It was also easy to fall for the league itself, with the players dedicating their season to social justice. For the full season, each player wore Breonna Taylor’s name on their jersey. Folks on the teams regularly spoke out, in myriad ways, about their commitment to Black Lives Matter. Liberty coaching staff wore “black trans lives matter” shirts a few times.
Also, hi, hello, there are a lot of incredible out queer women and one amazing out nonbinary player (who was on “my” team, the New York Liberty, until a few weeks ago) and holy shit, these are all things I like! High level athletics! A desire to speak out against injustice! QUEERNESS!
A couple of weeks ago, I attended my first live game! It was the Liberty vs. the Las Vegas Aces, and while my team didn’t win (look, I’m still very salty about a few ref calls that just did not sit right with the fans), I did have an amazing time.
Yes, I bought a jersey to wear. Yes, I did a lot of screaming, shouting, and dancing. And yes, I was amazed at the sheer speed and physicality of play: things that just don’t translate as well to the screen (especially to my iPad, which is how I watch most of the games, as I work). These athletes MOVE. It was exciting, and genuinely tense, when things got close. Most of the live sports I’ve attended in the last few years are of the combat variety, either my own grappling tournaments (best seat in the house? Until you get arm-barred?) or watching teammates compete. To watch the dynamism of high-level team play in person was… kind of magic.
— New York Liberty (@nyliberty) June 4, 2021
Anyway, this was my first live event since lockdown, so, a few things were potentially even more exciting than they would’ve been in “normal life,” but the experience was so fun that I’ve made a decision to catch at least another handful of games this season.
- Watching incredible athletes play at a high level, live, in front of me. Holy shit, I forgot how amazing that can be.
- The energy of the crowd.
- There was one guy sitting right behind me who kept screaming at the top of his lungs, things like “Betty Buckets!” when the effervescent Betnijah Laney scored ridiculous baskets, and “Bullshit!” when the Aces were shooting free throws, and he was just VERY PASSIONATE. It was so very New York sports.
- Ellie the Elephant - Ellie is the mascot, and she has serious moves.
- The Timeless Torches - This is the 40+ dance crew that does *truly fabulous* dancing during halftime and on breaks, and I love every single one of them.
- I enjoy dancing and shouting and making a huge fool of myself at live sporting events! I almost forgot how much fun it is to just *get into it* like that.
- My team lost. Look, I know it’s not “my” team of course. I am not a professional athlete on this team, nor do I work for the New York Liberty in any capacity. Still, you get it, home team, NYC pride, you know.
- That dude who was screaming did get to be a bit much. But it was very, very, VERY funny when a middle aged superfan (who did a LOT of excellent dancing throughout the evening, it must be said) told him to “stop cursing!” then muttered “...shithead.” He apologized and basically shut up. It was all worth it.
- Traffic around Barclay's Center. I want to make a basketball metaphor here, but I think I need a few more seasons of watching the game before I'll nail it.
- I can’t believe my amazing dance moves weren’t captured by the fan camera. I guess I just need to go to more games.