Posted by Casey on August 5, 2007
The Seattle Storm played the Monarchs on Friday night in Sacramento. My friends sometimes go to the games early to eat in the fancy smancy restaurant in Arco Arena. They say the food is really, really good. I’ll just have to take their word for it, since it seems to be mostly meat stuff, although the fruit and vegetable salads also get a thumbs up.
When they’re chowing down I take the opportunity to go out on the court a hour and a half before tip-off. When only the die-hard fans and the autograph seekers are in the house. When the teams are doing their pre-shoot-around warmups and the radio and tv people are getting set up. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere and it’s fun to watch everyone just be themselves.
They were expecting a lot more media than usual (because of Lauren Jackson, top candidate for MVP) and we regulars were pushed to what we call the kids table — the table behind the visitors’ bench. We call the scorers table the adults table. Of course, we still switched around the name plates so everyone can sit next to who they want, even at the kids table.
So I’m sitting there arranging my workspace, I put all the stats and the info, such as names and numbers of the visiting team where I can just glance at them while I take notes during the game. Most of the time I just jot down the player’s name or nickname but sometimes a new player is on the other team and I have to use jersey numbers.
I look up and LJ walks onto the court. She shoots three’s from different places on the court. Her knee doesn’t seem to be bothering her. Little girls with LJ for MVP posters and one with a WNBA ball wait quietly on the sidelines for her autograph. But it’s the group in the official autograph area on the other side of the court that catches my attention. Quite a crowd gathered there.
Eventually Sue Bird comes out for warmups and then she and LJ hang out under the basket just chatting and talking to the occasional Monarchs fan who walks by. Then Bird goes over to the crowd gathered on the sidelines and signs autographs, poses for photographs, and accepts little gifts. Then she trots across the court to the tunnel and has to sign more autographs for the people hanging over the barriers. I’ve never seen such a gathering of fans for a member of the opposite team.
I had observed this hero worship of Sue Bird while watching the Storm during their 2004 run for the WNBA Championship and wrote a book about it.
I captured some of these autograph seekers two years ago when the Storm came to Arco Arena and I was just a fan in the stands with a camera. They’re lined up at the bottom of the photograph and Bird is behind LJ chatting with a fan.