Twenty-five years ago, I was among the throng of Seattle SuperSonics
fans who jammed Pioneer Square to celebrate after our city's beloved
basketball team -- led by the likes of Jack Sikma, Gus Williams and
Dennis Johnson -- won the NBA Championship. Driving down First Avenue
with a fellow fan from my Seattle University dormitory, I honked my
horn, screamed at the top of my lungs and took in the sights of
beer-drinking revelers sharing swigs with motorists as they slowly
paraded through the city.
Fast forward to October 2004. I am standing in the middle of screaming
fans at Key Arena as another Seattle team brings home a national
basketball championship. This time, however, the players are sporting
pony tails and names like Betty, Lauren and Sue. And while there are
some beer drinkers in the crowd, there are many, many children --
little girls with big dreams of being the next WNBA star and little
boys looking for their chance to hug or high-five Doppler, the Seattle
Storm's loveable furry mascot.
Next to me is my 12-year-old daughter, who has been playing basketball
since she was 6 years old and has been attending Seattle Storm women's
basketball games since she was 7. For her, the thrill of the evening is
watching her team bring home a national championship. But for me, it's
much more than that.
As a season ticket holder since the birth of the Storm franchise, I am
continually impressed by what the Seattle Storm organization has
brought to families and kids who have turned out for games during the
past five years. You won't see scantily dressed cheerleaders; instead,
a dance troupe of energetic, talented boys and girls pump up the crowd
with their hip-hop routines. Young fans are selected to appear on the
court to greet players during team introductions, and kids in tennis
shoes get to shoot free throws after each game.
Each July, the Storm schedules a child-focused daytime game that
celebrates Doppler's birthday -- and includes a visit by mascots from
all the other WNBA teams. Your kids will delight in seeing Doppler play
a spirited half-time game of musical chairs with the likes of Maddie
the Dog from the New York Liberty and Scorch the Dragon from the
Then there's the issue of role models. Let's face it, they are tough to
come by in sports these days and, unfortunately, most men's teams --
NBA or otherwise -- are not often the place to seek positive examples
for your kids. When you go to a Storm game, though, you immediately
know you are in a different place. There are no dunks or alley oops in
women's basketball, so the players are required to exhibit fundamental
basketball skills and play as a team instead of showing off their
individual flash. They don't display the excessive behavior that often
comes with excessive salaries (the average WNBA player makes $50,000
annually, while rookies start out at $30,000). Name the last time you
saw a story about a WNBA player caught with illegal drugs or arrested
in a bar fight.
Of course, for girls, there is no more amazing place to be than a Storm
game. I've always enjoyed basketball as a spectator sport but, despite
being a nearly 6-foot-tall woman, never learned to play. My daughter
has difficulty grasping the concept that when I was a child, girls
didn't routinely play sports and there were few female role models to
encourage sports participation. She also doesn't understand the big
deal behind Storm head coach Anne Donovan becoming the first woman
coach to win a WNBA championship.
And that, really, is what the Seattle Storm has done for girls, women
and families: They have created a place where girls can routinely see
young women achieve success in professional athletics. Where families
can bring their children for an evening of low-cost entertainment.
Where players still compete for the love of the game and the thrill of
a championship ring, and often hold down a second job to pay the bills.
Next year, the Storm is expected to once again contend for a WNBA
championship. Their core group of players is young (Lauren Jackson,
considered the best women's player in the world, is only 23) and ready
for another exciting season.
All of us at ParentMap wish them well, and we encourage our readers to
experience the magic of family friendly Storm basketball in 2005.
Teresa Wippel is the managing editor of ParentMap.