Kathy Goodman: I am generally not a superstitious person
I was sitting in traffic on the 101 thinking, "I always like going to Staples Center." I was thinking about this blog, and the only headlines I could think of were "Home Sweet Home" or "There's No Place Like Home." We won our first two home games by 20 points each, and I know we lost to this same Seattle team two days ago, but I just couldn't imagine losing at home. It is a well-known rule of the universe that saying out loud the good thing you're hoping for will jinx it, but I am generally not a superstitious person. The night before the draft lottery in 2008 -- when we were hoping we would come out with the first pick, so we could draft Candace Parker -- I signed an e-mail to someone: "Owner of the first pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft." I got back the reply, "I can't believe you wrote that! You know you just blew your chance." I wasn't worried -- I knew the ping-pong balls were far away on the East Coast and couldn't read. But I really wanted to win the game on Sunday, so, just to be safe, I started thinking of what I would title this post if we lost. Then I remembered the universal fan rule that you must never acknowledge the possibility that your team could lose. So, I turned up "All Things Considered" on NPR and stopped trying to predict the outcome of the game.
Here is what I knew going into the game: If we picked up on Sunday night where we left off on Friday night, we would win. If we could figure out a way to slow down Lauren Jackson (not stop her because that's just not possible), we would win. Betty Lennox had told me after the game on Friday night at the hotel in Seattle that we absolutely, no question would win. There have been a lot of these "home and home" series this season in the WNBA. We have two more later in the season where we play Sacramento and San Antonio in L.A. and then two days later play them at their home arenas. I haven't decided yet if I like them. It can, however, take on the intensity of a playoff series. After we crushed Detroit during our home opener on national television, they had no mercy against us two days later in Detroit. We smelled blood in the water in the fourth quarter on Friday against Seattle, and I knew our players were looking for revenge.
But I also knew that it was only two days later, and we were both the same teams. Sure, we had done some good things in our losses, but I was tired of looking for the silver lining. I wanted streamers to rain down from the ceiling and "I Love L.A." to play on the sound system at Staples. I wanted to win.
I was looking around the arena waiting for the game to start. We were expecting Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) to join us shortly because Carla knows everyone in North Dakota, so naturally, he accepted Carla's invitation to the game. But I was looking for a "sign," something that would let me know we would win. Even though I am generally not a superstitious person. About 10 minutes later, I got it. I e-mailed my mother, "Garry Marshall just walked in and sat down in the seats next to me. I think we're going to win." I grew up on "Happy Days" and "Laverne and Shirley." There are few funnier moments in any movie than the scene in "Lost in America" where Garry Marshall, playing a Vegas casino boss, patiently explains to Albert Brooks that he will never give back the money Brooks' wife lost playing Keno the night before. (If you haven't seen it, get it on Netflix.) I just couldn't imagine that the Sparks could disappoint Garry Marshall. My mother e-mailed back that she thought we were going to win too but then asked if she had just jinxed it by writing that. I now had someone to blame if we didn't win. Thanks, Mom.
Carla and I started a tradition at Staples Center that you stay standing until the Sparks score. It's a tradition at a lot of basketball arenas, and we think it shows solidarity between the players and the fans. We really like the idea, but we always hope for a really quick score because we're worried if the scoring drought lasts too long at the beginning of the game, people will sort of give up on the tradition. Marie Ferdinand-Harris helped us out by scoring within the first few seconds of the game. I thought, "This is a good sign." We were definitely playing hard and strong in the first quarter, but with Vanessa Hayden picking up two quick fouls and Seattle at one point leading by five, I started thinking more seriously about what I might call this blog entry if we lost. We ended the quarter down by two and behind Seattle on virtually every other stat line.
Everything began to look better in the second quarter. The Sparks team we had assembled in the off-season showed up and we starting playing great basketball. By halftime, we were up by 11 points, had 13 assists, and every player on our team had scored except Shannon Bobbitt. She had merely racked up three assists and no turnovers in her eight minutes on the court. I recaptured the feeling I had driving to the arena earlier in the day -- we were going to win. But I didn't say it.
To be honest, the game was pretty much over at the half. We had limited Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird to a combined 10 points in the first half. Lauren had dropped 20 on us in the first half on Friday's game. We had dominated the paint -- 22 points to their 4. We had scored 19 points off their turnovers and had only given up six. I usually don't drink at home games -- we have to do too much business in the arena -- but I didn't think I'd need a beer for this second half. Maybe some Champagne.
By the end of the third quarter, Seattle knew the game was over too. We were winning by 22 points, and Lauren Jackson had lost her chance to set a league record by scoring 20 or more points in nine consecutive games. (She ended the game with just nine points.) We had 19 assists and nine turnovers to their eight assists and 17 turnovers. Seattle pulled their starters for the fourth quarter and we brought it home. The streamers rained down from the ceiling and "I Love L.A." played on the Staples Center sound system.
My thoughts on the way to the game didn't jinx us. My mother's agreeing with me that we would win didn't jinx us. I am generally not a superstitious person. But I am trying to figure out how I can get Garry Marshall to travel with the team in July.
-- Kathy Goodman, Sparks co-owner
Photo: Katherine Goodman, left, co-owner of the the Los Angeles Sparks, sits with Sparks play-by-play announcer Larry Burnett. Credit: Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times