WNBA

Fever Grab Pride Lifeline in Rough Waters

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In the 2006 film adaptation of the excellent book Flags Of Our Fathers, a U.S. sailor tumbles overboard long before the Navy reaches Iwo Jima. Cruelly, the ships had to arrive on time, so the unfortunate hero drowned. If our brave servicemen do not get lifelines, what help remains for the last-place team in the WNBA?

Saturday afternoon, the 1-10 Indiana Fever entered yet another new era. The franchise moved from Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the beautiful home of the Pacers, to dinky Indiana Farmers Coliseum. Candace Parker and her Chicago Sky had their sails pointed towards the playoffs. Would Indiana keep up in the race for the top eight?

Where The Decibels At?

Home fans rarely like the refs, so one could expect the small but rowdy Indianapolis fanbase to be quick with the barbs. (The Fever did not announce an official attendance, but it was probably about 200 fans.) The PA announcer tried to coax every decibel possible, but the super-loud sound effects echoed with uncomfortably few interruptions from cheers and jeers.

Someone, however, forgot to tell the Fever they were out of the playoff race. Indiana battled evenly with the Sky, and Teaira McCowan used savvy scouting to foil Courtney Vandersloot‘s trademark snaking to the basket.

Woo-hoo! The Sky blazed to 55% shooting at halftime, but both defenses built and forced bricks after the break. Chicago clung to a four-point lead with the shot clock nearly dark.

Then, the game concluded curiously.

50-50

The Fever entered the last sequence with no fouls to give and three timeouts. No problem: foul and use timeouts to stop the clock. But as the Sky continued to pass the ball, the Fever ballers stood still. Had this been a playoff game, coach Marianne Stanley would have used every lifeline available (and five years is too dang long for GM Tamika Catchings‘s franchise to not be in the playoffs!).

But while everyone takes one game at a time, as Sky coach James Wade insisted postgame, one game is 1/32nd of the picture. As any baseball fan knows, one can’t manage every game like it’s game five of the WNBA Finals. Chicago embraced for a modest celebration while an exhausted and not-quite-victorious Indiana rediscovered the comforts of their new locker room.

After the game, coach Stanley had numerous kind words for the effort.

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She spoke somberly, however, and rightfully so. A win is a win, and a loss is a loss. True, an opponent sailed away from Indianapolis for the fourth time with a 2021 victory.

As seen by the stout competitiveness of both teams, though, the Fever accept no one’s patronizing sympathy. And still, the teams kindly exchanged hand-slaps and words before the tip, a refreshing contrast from bad blood on the court and stands of the current NBA playoffs.

True, the Fever does not have the biggest audience, and free agents rarely call. But two answers remain: does the country’s proudest basketball state offer its women’s pro team an inherent dignity, or does it not?

Here’s a tip: when in doubt, always select the first option.

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About Jeffrey Newholm

"Jammin Jeff" Newholm had been a basketball fanatic since his high school days, and remained a casual fan as a student in Whitewater. Wishing to check in as an active participant, he also completed a writing certificate program at UWM. He loves seeing Bucks games more than any other activity in hometown Milwaukee and especially screaming really really loudly to get someone to miss a free throw. Twitter: @JeffreyNewholm

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