Man Up/Mercury Challenge a Huge Success

By Ben York,
Posted: June 19, 2013

“It changed our minds about what the WNBA is and what rooting for the home team offers its fans.”

A young woman, maybe 10-years-old, can barely contain her excitement.

“That’s Brittney Griner!” I overheard her say to her father courtside, who was equally captivated. “Thank you for taking me to the game, daddy.”

The interaction totaled no more than a mere few seconds, but its impact could last a lifetime.

It’s exactly what the Man Up/Mercury Challenge – a call to action for those who have previously dismissed the WNBA and/or women’s basketball to give it another shot – is all about.

The girl and her father accepted our challenge (along with over 100 other individuals) on June 14 when the Mercury hosted the Los Angeles Sparks in a convincing 97–81 victory.

Prior to the game, the group watched the Mercury warm-up and was introduced to Head Coach and General Manager Corey Gaines along with Phoenix Mercury players Charde Houston and Krystal Thomas.

“Thank you all so much for coming,” said Mercury forward Charde Houston. “I know everyone is going to have a good time tonight and I sincerely hope you enjoy our brand of basketball.”

Needless to say, with over 13,000 additional people in attendance, the Mercury rallied together and put on a wonderful show in front of their home crowd.

“We had an amazing time at the game,” said one of the attendees. “We really enjoyed watching the Mercury. Not only is the atmosphere entertaining, it is top-notch basketball.

Plus, it’s always great to beat L.A.”

When we first issued the Man Up/Mercury Challenge in February, there was obviously no way to predict what the response (if any) would be. Certainly, we hoped that with the enhanced media coverage there would be those with an open mind who would willingly accept our offer.

But over several hundred emails and phone calls later, to say the reaction and feedback blew us away would be a massive understatement.

“I had a great time,” said one of the X-Factor’s newest members. “The fans were into it and it was fun. Also, the women play very hard and are extremely competitive. I will definitely recommend going [to a game] to my friends and co-workers.”

Perhaps what was most impressive (and encouraging) was the shared diversity of the individuals who accepted the challenge – there were people of multiple ethnicities, dads with their daughters, mothers with their sons, entire families, and men and women of all ages.

“What can I say, the whole experience was lovely,” said one gentleman in an email. “The game was great, but even more was the experience. There was a woman named Patricia who handled customers for our section and was both kind and funny, treating everyone equally with care.”

For the Mercury organization, there’s no catch. No gimmicks. Nothing had to be purchased. Simply, we strongly believe in our product and fully appreciate the WNBA’s impact on young women who have dreams of playing in the league one day.

That said, to see a plethora of minds change in the course of just two hours is both inspiring and hopeful.

Ultimately, in the end, the quality of basketball is what won everyone over.

“People who say women can't ball are obviously mistaken,” said one of the impassioned attendees. “I happened to see a handful of the best of what the WNBA has to offer – Diana Taurasi, DeWanna Bonner, Brittney Griner, Nneka Ogwumike, Kristi Toliver and Candace Parker. All held their own and competed at the highest level. From this experience, I will continue to support the Mercury and watch other great opponents they face. You think you can hoop? Try playing against Diana Taurasi.

“She may teach you something.”