Proud to be a Mercury

By Ben York, PhoenixMercury.com

There’s something that Mercury president/COO, Amber Cox, tweets every Mercury game day that has become something of a tradition.

It usually goes something like this:

“Game day! It’s a great day to be a Phoenix Mercury.”

Couldn’t agree more. And that positivity and genuineness is what the organization is all about.

Every coach and every player in every sport goes through adversity. Furthermore, each has to modify their game and mentality to make effective adjustments at some point during their season.

It’s inevitable.

Some of these adjustments are significant while others go seemingly unnoticed. Still, there is no avoiding them. Ultimately, though, the key to success is viewing these challenges as opportunities to get better – as individuals and as a team.

For the Phoenix Mercury, they’ve certainly had their share of obstacles this season.

As we all know, sometimes the injury bug hits teams harder than others (no Penny, no Diana, yes Diana, no Diana, no Dupree, no Sanford, etc.). In short, four of five starters are out for the Mercury. Of the eight players available, Charde Houston and Alexis Hornbuckle have the most WNBA experience with four seasons each.

Indeed, this season has been fraught with adversity so far.

But this team quickly earned my respect and fandom a while ago, and having the privilege to be around them is a delight. No matter how big the hill, the team continues to go out and play hard every single night, without fail.

That, more than anything, should make the X-Factor extremely proud.

“It’s tough,” said Corey Gaines. “But I can’t ask anything more of them. Each player is playing really hard and that’s what matters to me.”

Exactly.

Nothing about being a professional athlete is easy; it comes with high expectations, hard work and unrivaled dedication. During trying times, inconsistencies and losses become magnified. Or, rather, it’s easy to start pointing fingers and playing the “blame game.”

Conversely, it is also through these times when the proverbial “fight or flight” temperament becomes most prevalent. And as DeWanna Bonner said after the team’s loss to the Lynx Wednesday night, this team isn’t about to lie down.

“We're playing really hard,” Bonner said. “We've been playing really hard right now. That's what we've got to do. We've just got to continue to play hard and stay focused."

The great John Wooden once was quoted as saying, “Basketball doesn’t build character; it reveals it.” For the Mercury, both on and off the court, this season has provided fans an opportunity to truly see the remarkable women the team features.

When Candice Dupree and Nakia Sanford are icing their knees in practice, they’re still actively involved by assisting the younger players with veteran tips and hints (Dupree has been especially helpful to Avery Warley). Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor are amongst the first off the bench to high-five and cheer on the rest of the team each time they come off the court during home games.

These signs of support are invaluable to the rest of the team, and help to unify the organization and fans.

The best part? It’s not something they’re consciously doing; it’s instinctive for each player.

Hard to believe, but this is my fourth year officially covering the Mercury (my first season was in 2009). Growing up with former Mercury player Ann Strother, coupled with having Phoenix Suns in my blood, I had been a fan for many years prior. Obviously, the 2009 season was special for numerous reasons (namely a WNBA Championship).

But in spite of the injuries and difficult start to 2012, there is something equally special about this year and what the team is teaching me about upholding one’s character and integrity.

Long story short – I’m proud to be a Mercury.