Stacey’s Blog #5
Essentially, I’d like to share with you my overall reflections of 2007, which I considered to be a terrific year of growth for our franchise—growth because of our drastic improvement on the court, and because of the wonderful friendships that ensued. Many memories have been etched into the fissures of my mind, and I’d like to briefly share some of them with you.
Lake Michigan Boat Ride:
One of the great things about being a Sky player is the fact that we have caring, devoted ownership. Michael Alter (Owner) and Margaret Stender (President/CEO) are extraordinary business people that also happen to be extraordinary human beings. The Chicago Sky exists in large part because they have poured their lives into something that they fully believe in. I tell you this, because Coach Alter and Marg Stend (as I warmly like to call them ) are forever scheming up ways to bring the team together for some fun bonding time.
The latest team event took place on Lake Michigan back in July. Michael and his friends arranged for all of us to be pampered princesses' on a huge 60’ party boat. Truth be told, I had a hair appointment (must keep the color fresh and ends clean my friends) on the same day as our planned rendezvous, so I had to meet up with the team slightly tardy. Summertime in Chicago has a tendency to be absolutely beautiful—that day was no exception. We boarded the cruiser to be greeted with calm waters and welcome sunshine. There was enough food to feed the State of Illinois, an ample supply of healthy beverages, and of course, the company of my harebrained teammates. We sailed the Chicago River meandering through a forest of skyscrapers for a quaint city tour, sprawled out all the while on the vessels’ front canvass like the apparently sassy sun vixens that we never knew we were. A few of us were particularly mellowed out after some daring exploits on the accompanying Jet Skis. I’ve lived in Chicago for two years, and finally experienced it from a new perspective via the waterways, thanks to Margaret and Michael.
Chicago Sky Travel:
When I recall the summer as a WNBA player, one of the first things that pops into mind is the travel that we routinely experience. Many think that because we play pro hoops in the WNBA we automatically get the red carpet treatment like our male counterparts of the NBA. Allow me to enlighten you if, in fact, you are one of those people—travel in the WNBA is anything but glamorous. Like most business travelers, all WNBA franchises fly commercial. It’s especially difficult on post-game travel mornings, barring a back-to-back schedule, because we’re required to take the earliest flight out of the host city. Picture a band of zombie-like tall women dragging their butts through an airport in the wee hours. That, my friends, is the glamorous WNBA Chicago Sky!
In order to limit some of our air travel this season we decided to bus when possible to or from the likes of Indiana and Detroit, three and five hours respectively. This wasn’t so bad, except for the occasions in which we got cordoned onto a 1960s modeled bus that smelled of out-house, rattled with every pothole, and rode like a white-water raft. In all seriousness, however, our “do-everything” Director of Basketball Operations and Head Athletic Trainer, Georgia Fisher, now in her ninth season with the WNBA, goes beyond the call of duty to ensure that we’re well taken care of throughout the season. But, sometimes you just never know which bus the travel company is going to grace you with. And on a couple of instances this summer, our means of transportation has been anything short of graceful.
On one occasion during a return trip from Indiana to Chicago, I can recall waking abruptly at about 1 A.M., only to find myself clinging to the bus floor after rounding a sharp bend in the road. This body roll and resulting outburst of, “Really??!!...Are we on a freakin’ roller coaster here??!!.”, caught the attention of my comatose teammates, who since haven’t let me forget that moment. It’s hard to enjoy the advantages of a post-game beauty rest when you’re lying on the bus floor.
On another return trip, this time from Detroit to Chicago, we were happy cats because we beat the Shock on their home turf. We were cruising on a relatively nice carrier that played movies and had working lights and air conditioning. On this particular trip, however, we ran into a heavy storm, and worse, a closed-off Interstate. Yea, that’s right, a shut-down freeway—happens all the time! So, we pulled into a mini-mart, our driver brainstormed for a redirection, and we were off again via the detour en route to Chicago some forty five minutes later. I never crawled into bed that morning until about four o’clock, not too conducive to playing back-to-back games that day. But long story short, we got to sleep in our own beds which is always a plus in this league.
Having said all of this, I’m grateful for my job and more grateful for my teammates. Good travel or bad travel, I’m happy to do it with them because it typically spurs lasting comedy that keeps everything in perspective.
Other stuff that I like, or, love:
There are a lot of things that I love about this team, despite not quite making the playoffs. We got along extraordinarily well. There was never a dull moment and our diverse personalities only continued to evolve into a place of comfort within our Sky family.
Despite her innocent façade, Armintie Price continued to show us that she was a character of sorts. One of Armintie’s strong suits was her ability to mimic the idiosyncrasies of some of us on the court. She did a mighty imitation of Claire Coggins falling in the heat of battle, only because she stumbled over her rather large (though delicate) feet—Claire’s toes are actually longer than most peoples fingers. AP also imitated Kayte Christensen’s body language after an apparent tussle with an opponent—arms flailing in complete disbelief, charging down the court. Armintie had every last one of us, including the coaches, red with laughter at the sight of it all. And, I will admit, AP actually mastered a few of my intense mannerisms—I would sometimes catch her staring at me and giggling during practice because I may have done something slightly melodramatic—I’m clearly not bothered being the grunt of laughter, especially when it comes to Price.
On behalf of my teammates, I would like to extend very proud congratulations to Armintie for her WNBA Rookie of the Year honor. It’s rare to see somebody work as hard as AP on an everyday basis, but she figured this league out from the first day of training camp. Her relentless pursuit, passion, and selflessness for the game of basketball and team are admirable qualities that make no-one more deserving.
While Jia Perkins is very quiet and introverted, she is one of the best people I’ve met through my basketball career. As you’re well aware, Jia had a memorable season on the court. But, while this was the case, I was more impressed by Jia because of the quality Mother figure she embodies to her three-year-old daughter Aalirah. Little Aalirah is perhaps the best three-year-old I’ve ever smiled upon. There is no other word to describe Aalirah than precious. She’s a well behaved, intelligent, smiling little doll that sports poofy pigtails and a little #11 jersey that reads, “Mommy.” And, we players especially love sweet Aalirah because she loves us, gives us soft hugs and kisses, mimics things we say like, “How Ur Doin??!!,” (from Eddie Murphy’s portrayal of Restributia in the movie Norbit), and she has never once caused a temper tantrum of any nature—at least not in our presence. Aalirah made many days this season just a little bit better, thanks in large part to Jia—like Mother, like daughter.
From a broad perspective, I loved when Chasity Melvin greeted us before practice with her usual, “Shalom my peoples.” I loved when Brooke Wyckoff would smile and laugh at any moment of the day because her jovial personality is infectious. I loved how Candy Jo Dupree purposely acted too cool despite the fact that she too is a big goof ball. I loved the maturity with which our rookies represented themselves. But then, I loved the way Claire Coggins could make thirteen bellies roar with laughter at any given moment because of her often not-so-mature sense of humor. I loved how wickedly cool Dominique Canty was when we would all go to dinner and she’d treat. I loved Liz Moeggenberg’s tireless optimism for life and the people around her. I loved Kayte Christensen’s sarcastic one liners—there’s nobody better. I loved Georgia Fisher (Head trainer) because she cares about her athletes so much. I loved our Strength and Conditioning Coach Ann Crosby because of the way that she handled players at eight o’clock in the morning for weights. Bottom line, I loved this team more than words can express, and despite missing the playoffs, I was extremely proud to be a part of this year’s Sky roster.
Chas and the Sky versus New York:
In my last segment, I want to share with you why the power of this team is so palpable following a traumatic situation. As many of you are aware, in an encounter with New York on our home court near the end of the season, we experienced a terrifying moment when Chasity Melvin took a sharp, unintentional claw to the left eye from one of the Liberty players. She came very close to losing her eye. Chas is as tough as one comes and a competitor even past the final buzzer of every game. I’ve witnessed some serious injuries in my sports career, but this particular collision was truly heart-dropping.
While the trauma sent Chas into a state of shock, that very shock blasted through our team like nothing I’ve ever felt or seen. That moment was time-stopping. It gripped our senses like a dark cloud falling fast over the sun. I felt weak and shaken. I reflected how dear life is and how much I adored my teammate and friend. I remembered the unique spirit of Armintie Price after she reacted so passionately for Chas. And, I remembered how wonderful sports can be in our lives. Our team pushed through that moment, through that game, for no other reason than for Chasity Melvin. If you were at the game, you’d understand these words—if you weren’t, I hope you feel these words.
While Chas was immediately taken to the emergency barring that frozen moment in time, we learned during the half time intermission that her vision was intact and that she was receiving quality care. We finished that game with a win that reeked of purpose and pride. The moment the game ended, we raced into the tunnel to find Chasity Melvin, awaiting our celebration, standing tall as our Sky slogan states, eye swollen and shut, ice bag attached, and smile reaching from lobe to lobe.
I can tell you now, with complete conviction that the entire night, albeit a struggle, was the best of our season. Playoffs or no playoffs, this is why we are here and this is why we share in sport. Teammates are symbols of connection, amity, and power. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t trade any one of my teammates for another. We are all incredibly grateful that Chasity Melvin is safe, healthy, and will continue to tell us on occasion, “I love this game.”
Well Sky fans, I’d like to thank you for once again taking some time out of your busy schedules to sit and share my thoughts. This season has truly been one of growth for our Chicago franchise, and I know I speak for all of my teammates when I tell you how much we have appreciated your ongoing support in our drive to represent you as one of the WNBA’s best. While I’m off for another ESPN television season, please enjoy your respective journeys and as always, go Sky!
Yours in sport,