Little did my H-town homeboys and girls realize when they walked out of Reliant Arena on September 9 after a 75-68 win over the Connecticut Sun it would be the last game the Houston Comets played in Harris County.
I heard the shocking news today that another one of the Original Eight WNBA franchises bit the dust. Unfortunately it was my hometown team.
The peeps that know me know how much I love WNBA and Comets basketball in general, and in reaction to this news my phone has been blowing up all day.
It was reported that my hometown WNBA team was suspending operations for the 2009 season. The current players, with the exception of unrestricted free agents Latasha Byears, Mwadi Mabika, Hamchetou Maiga-Ba, Michelle Snow and Tina Thompson, would be eligible to be selected in a dispersal draft being conducted on December 8.
Cynthia Cooper-Dyke, who led the Comets to those four titles and is now the women's basketball coach at Prairie View A&M said, "This is disturbing news. This is a team that was an integral part of the WNBA. It is a team that helped establish the league, helped the league grow roots."
"It's a sad, sad, sad day for me," said Van Chancellor, the former Comets coach and GM who now coaches the women's team at LSU. "I just feel bad for everybody. I hate to see the city lose such a great franchise. I have so many memories.
"Houston is losing a big piece of its history. The Houston Comets' four championships will always be a big piece of WNBA history and a big piece of the city's history."
WNBA Commissioner Donna Orender stated, “Multiple investors have come forward and expressed significant interest in purchasing the Comets and having them continue to play in Houston in 2009. However, we made the judgment that we would not be able to complete a transaction with the right ownership group in time for the 2009 season. The WNBA is extremely grateful to the Comets organization, to the city of Houston and to the team’s loyal fans for helping build both the WNBA and the game of women’s basketball.”
Okay Donna. If the league's flagship franchise, first dynasty and a team that has a display at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA dedicated to it just folded due to lack of stable ownership since Les Alexander sold it, what does that say for the rest of the WNBA?
And for the sake of those loyal Houston fans, you and the WNBA leadership should have tried harder, helped and allowed more time for a local ownership group to get put together and purchase the team in time for the 2009 season.
My love for the team goes back to the first season. I was a season ticket holder from 1999 until I moved to Da Ville after the 2001 WNBA season. I was at Compaq for the 1997, 1999, and 2000 WNBA championship games and watched three of the four championships be won on our home floor. Even after I moved to Louisville I'd make the hour drive to Indianapolis to watch my girls play the Indiana Fever.
But my love of the Comets is beyond just the basketball. The Comets dynasty is intertwined with my transition as well. I was three years into transition when the WNBA started, and being that an estimated 10% of the WNBA fan base was GLBT, Comets games were some of the first sporting events I attended post transition.
Watching these and the rest of the women of the WNBA helped me get over my hangup about being a 6'2" sistah and be proud of it.
While transition was a small part of my love for the team and the league, it was also the excitement of watching sports and WNBA history unfold before your eyes and being a part of it. It was the joy of watching the Comets take four straight titles to follow up the ones the Rockets won in 94-95 for a championship starved city.
It was being part of the 'Sea of Red', the noisy, boisterous Compaq rocking home crowds that screamed 'Beat LA' at the top of our lungs during the 1999 and 2000 WNBA Western Conference Finals versus the hated LA Sparks.
It was watching the Big Four of Cooper, Swoopes, Thompson and Arcain take on all comers and swat them aside during the dynasty years. It was also a city wrapping its collective arms around the team and mourning along with them the untimely death from cancer of their feisty point guard Kim Perrot during the 1999 season as they threepeated in her memory.
I'm looking at my Comets sweatshirt, 1998 championship hat and other WNBA memorabilia and I'm feeling mixed emotions right now.
I'm angry because in my opinion male-dominated sports reporting takes a too-dismissive and almost disrespectful approach to women's team sports that has a negative effect in getting male sports fans to open their minds and attend these events. Nowhere is that dismissive attitude of sportswriters more openly on display than when it comes to the WNBA.
I'm sad over the fact that this franchise isn't going to be around to pursue that fifth ring and WNBA Championship trophy. It's also the realization that when the 2009 season starts, it will be the first time in 12 seasons a WNBA campaign will kick off without a Houston team involved in it.
I'm hopeful that the WNBA team drought will be a short lived one because Commissioner Orender didn't rule out another WNBA franchise returning to the Bayou City and civic leadership in Houston is just as determined to have the league there.
To everyone ever associated with the Houston Comets, thanks for the memories and thanks for representing our city with not only consummate skill, but more importantly, with dignity and class.
TransGriot Note: The quotes used in this post come from a Houston Chronicle story by Jenny Dial and the WNBA.com website.