Happy New Year...and a delightful, healthy and prosperous 2012 to all of you!
As this new year dawns, I am more excited than ever to cover women's sports and sports in general. From the 40th Anniversary of Title IX to the Women's NCAA Finals in Denver, Colorado to the London Olympics, in September, this year is going to be special....
It certainly started out with a bang. On New Year's Day, reporters were tipped off by the Chicago Sky's Media Director, Matt Robbie, that a "major announcement" was happening at 10:00 am January 2 . And it was. Swin Cash , the 10-year WNBA veteran and three-time All-Star who won titles with the former Detroit Shock and 2010 champion Seattle Storm, was aquired from the Storm along with Le'Coe Willingham. Last year, Cash averaged 13.2 ppg and 6.9 rebounds. Eight-year veteran Willingham, who has won titles with the Phoenix Mercury as well as the Storm, averaged 6.4 ppg and 4.2 rebounds. The Sky also acquires one of the two second-round picks of the Seattle in the 2012 WNBA draft.
In return, Seattle receives the Sky's #2 overall pick in the 2012 WNBA draft.
I like this deal. After last year's sixth failure to make the playoffs, with a 14-20 record, I believed the Sky needed to acquire veterans who knew how to win, and help create an environment among the talented roster of current Sky players--none of whom have won a WNBA championship. Cash has led her teams to the playoffs nine times. She's very aggressive on the boards. Most important, Cash knows how to dominate during crunch times. She learned that at the hands of her old coach, former Detroit Shock coach and Piston Bill Laimbeer.
Seattle benefits as well, because they have a team deep in talent, including veterans Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson. The move provides the Storm the ability to acquire younger talent, such as Stanford forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike (considered the probable No. 1 pick), or Tennesee's Glory Johnson.
More about the Sky later. In the meantime, let's recap 2011 on the Women's Sports Scene:
Quick, who was the last team to win a championship for Chicago?
- Aided by a four-team league and led by newly acquired pitcher Monica Abbott, the new "face" of the Chicago Bandits following Jennie Finch's retirement in 2010, delivered a second World Championship to the city with a 10-3 victory over the USSSA Florida Pride in the decisive game two victory of the NPF Championship Series.
- The Bandits also opened the 1,600-seat Rosemont Stadium, on 27 Jennie Finch Drive (Bryn Mawr and Pearl Streets) drawing a reported 1,000 fans per game.
- In 2012, Rosemont Stadium will host the NPF Championship Series.
Chicago Sky: Improving the Odds and Attendance:
- Expectations were as high as the Sky improved their chances of making the playoffs by hiring a proven, no-nonsense talent in 2010 European Champion Team Spartak and former LSU coach Pokey Chatman, who drafted Gonzaga's Courtney Vandersloot (who averaged 30 ppg in the Zag's improbable run as a #11 seed to the Elite Eight) and reunited with 6'6 LSU center Sylvia Fowles.
- The Sky posted the largest attendance increase in the WNBA, drawing 29% more to the Allstate Arena.
- As a reflection of their increased attendance, the Sky had three players in the WNBA's All-Star Game--more than any other team in either conference, including Fowles making her third appearance, sophomore sensation Epiphanny Prince, and Vandersloot.
- Despite these improvements, the Sky's record was the same as the previous year, 14-20 and failed to make the playoffs.
- The Sky may need to take a lesson from the Minnesota Lynx, who finally won a championship in 2011 with a roster of #1 and #2 draft picks. The Lynx suffered years of underperfoming teams before the combination of Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore provided enough firepower to beat two-time bridesmaid Atlanta Dream and take the crown.
The Changing of the Guard in NCAA Women's Basketball:
- For the first time in a long time, UConn, Tennessee, and Stanford were all eliminated before the Championship game .
- The 2011 Final, a nail-biter at a capacity-seating Conseco Fieldhouse from the home state Notre Dame Lady Irish (who had eliminated UConn) and the Texas A&M Lady Aggies (who defeated Stanford), seesawed, providing 10 times the entertainment received from the Men's Final featuring fellow Hoosier Butler University and UConn the night before.
- Aided by 30 points from future WNBA star Danielle Adams, Texas A&M prevailed and came from behind to put away Notre Dame, 76-70.
- This year's final is in Denver, Colorado. It's almost anyone's game, folks. Look for Baylor to advance to the championship round, on the strength of 6'8 center Brittany Greiner.
Women's World Cup and the Future of Women's Professional Soccer:
- There were no better game highlights this year than "headbanger" Abby Wambach's last-minute goals to lead the US Women's National Team to the WWC Finals, before losing in an electrifying final with Japan, who some argued needed the win more because of the country's recent devastation.
- However, the highly rated Cup series could not adequately boost attendance for the three-year-old WPS. The league was also embarassed by the financial improprieties and later revoked the license of the magicJack, the former Washington Freedom franchise.
- That said, the WPS isn't dead yet. Several proposals by longtime soccer proponents are being considered to keep the league going.
Resolution; 'Like" The Weekend Sports Report on Facebook and Join Us!
Finally, I'd like to invite everyone to join Les Grobstein, Steve Leventhal and me for the Weekend Sports Report every Saturday morning from 7-8 am on WKRS-AM 1220/WKRS.com. I speak the truth when I say there is no other show like this in the Chicago area. Three passionate individuals, one encyclopaedic mind, one sports technician...and one redheaded spitfire! We have a lot of fun...join our party! We also podcast our show every week, so you can find us at www.yoursportsfan.com if you sleep in!
For example, last week, we talked about Week 17 of the NFL regular season, and perhaps the last week of Mike Martz as Bears offensive coordinator. On the other hand, the Packers will be playing more games in January, on their way to the Super Bowl? Plus some NBA, NHL, and college football news.
Happy New Year everyone!