Women's Sports This Week: Former WNBA Star Passes Away.. Red Stars Rising, Burke's Law


An update to my previous Token Female offering: From the Associated Press, dated 12:51 AM:

"Former WNBA player Margo Dydek has died after suffering a heart attack a week ago and being placed in a medically induced coma.

Cathy Roberts, the operations manager for the Northside Wizards in the Queensland Basketball League, where Dydek was coach, told The Associated Press that Dydek, 37, died early Friday.

The Poland-born Dydek suffered the heart attack on May 19 and collapsed at her home in Brisbane.

Dydek, who was pregnant with her third child, was the No. 1 pick in the 1998 WNBA draft by the Utah Starzz. She also played for San Antonio, Connecticut and Los Angeles. She is the all-time WNBA leader in total blocks (877) and blocks per game (2.72) and seventh all-time with 2,143 total rebounds.

The 7-foot-2 Dydek once was said to be the tallest professional female basketball player in the world. "

Roberts said there was no other information available immediately on Dydek's death and that she was awaiting a statement from the family."

Hoopfeed.com  also quotes former Chicago Sky team member Chasity Melvin, now a Washington Mystic, who wrote on her blog, "Margo is not just a great basketball player but she is an even better person," There is no one that hasn't come in contact with Margo that doesn't enjoy being around her."

I covered Dydek, now 37, during her years with the Sun. She was easily the tallest woman I've ever interviewed, and my 5'-something self had to jump high to ask questions. That said, Dydek was always a gracious interview, in English and her native Polish, Prayers to her husband, children, and family....she will be remembers as a great athlete and person. 

Red Stars: Rising

The WPS may have lost a great competitor, but the Chicago Red Stars, who developed a ferverent local following in the two years they battled at Toyota Park, will be back and playing this year after all, though in a different league, some different talent, and a new venue. the Women's Premier Soccer League (WPSL) as part of the Midwest - North Division.

The revitalized team includes returning Red Stars players and local products Elise Weber (Elk Grove), Jackie Santacaterina (Geneva, Ill.) and Michele Weissenhofer (Naperville, Ill),Notre Dame alumna Amanda Cinalli (Cleveland, Ohio) joins the Red Stars after playing for WPS sides St. Louis Athletica and the Atlanta Beat.

Other local products currently shining in the collegiate ranks include University of Illinois forward Vanessa DiBernardo (Naperville, Ill.) and University of Louisville goalkeeper Taylor Vancil (South Elgin, Ill.), among many others who will be donning the Red Stars kits this year.

Charlie Corr, the team's publicist, tells me that these games will be a "test drive" for the continuing presence of the Red Stars in the Chicago area, and that the Red Stars hope for an eventual return to the WPS.  

The Red Stars' season includes two public home games on Saturday, July 2 (5:15 p.m., against the Iowa Rush), and Sunday, July 10 (6 p.m., against Minnesota Kings FC) at the Village of Lisle-Benedictine University Sports Complex in Lisle, Ill. The team's final schedule will be announced shortly. Tickets are $10 each.

For more information, go to www.chicagoredstars.com

"Burke's Law=Murphy Law?" A Tough Week for Doris Burke

ESPN basketball analyst Doris Burke has developed a reputation as a smart, knowledgeable hoops expert by thinking fast on her feet, and moving from exclusively WNBA to NBA broadcasts. She is that rare combination--of intelligence and looks--a "hottie" in some basketball circles; the female equivalent of Bob Costas--a "thinking person's" sex symbol.

Yet, not all goes smoothly, even in a thinking person's/sex symbl's world. Somewhere between Dallas and Oklahoma City, during the Western Conference Finals, poor Doris got cuffed--not once, but twice. Including last night.

Last weekend, Burke was doing a segment on loud Oklahoma City Thunder games on the sidelines, discussing loud fans in front of, well, loud fans (are they called "Okies?"). After I viewed the video of the infamous gaffe, she counted down from three in two separate takes, in between takes, she appeared to mouth an unprintable, unmentionable word.

My immediate thought was "Production goofed." 

As USA Today recounted, Burke explained, "At the last minute they decided to tape it (the segment). And like it happens in TV when you're taping, I kept stopping." Eventually, Burke finished her report.

But, she said, the wrong one aired: "It was a simple as someone hitting the wrong button." ESPN spokesman Mike Soltys on Sunday: "We just played the wrong tape."

Burke displayed great poise after the incident, and just said, "everyone is human."  

Burke's Law, Part II

That would have been enough drama for one week in the broadcast world. Lightning struck poor Doris again as the Dallas Mavericks clinched the Western Conference Championship over the Oklahoma City Thunder last night, not the least of which was due to team captain Dirk Nowitzki, who, as presenter Rick Barry said, "raised his game to a higher level," according to Dallas-based WFAA.com 

The trophy presentation became..as Jon Stewart says, "Aah-k-ward!" Just as Bulls fans did here for Derrick Rose, Dallas fans, led by team owner Mark Cuban, (could you see Jerry Reinsdorf doing this?) shouted "M-V-P! M-V-P!" However, Dallas media reported that Dirk seemed somehow uncomfortable with the hype. At the conclusion of the trophy presentation, as WFAA.com explained it, Burke asked Mavs coach Rick Carlisle a quick question. And then came the infamous moment: "Dirk?"

But Dirk was long gone, and his teammates were quick to follow. Burke was left with nothing else to do except toss it back to the play-by-play man, saying, "Mike Breen, they're off to celebrate."

Cameras caught the disappearing and unmistakable backside of Nowitzki, waliking stiffly, his head looking neither right nor left, talking to no one, followed by his teammates. The Dallas media believes it was not so much a slight to the intrepid Ms. Burke that Novitzki essentially blew her off. They believe he was making an emphatic statement: "We are not done yet."

Given that the Mavs hadn't been to the Finals since 2006, and Dirk is now an "aging superstar," who wants a championship ring before he retires, that;s quite a statement to make. Ironically, if the Bulls don't pull off a miracle Thursday night at the United Center, the Mavs will be playing the same team that defeated them the last time they were in the Finals--the Miami Heat. 

But let's give the "Murphy's Law" Award to Burke. She pushed through, not losing poise, handling the moment with grace...(there was no "what, not again!" look on her face.) She deserves every accolade possible for combatting gaffes and awkward moments with exceeding grace.



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