Word came down this week that Diana Taurasi will not play during the 2015 WNBA season. Her Russian team has requested that she take the time off to rest for her upcoming season playing for them when the overseas season starts in the fall. As a huge incentive, they are paying her (a lot) not to play for the WNBA this year. Diana has taken their offer. For eleven seasons, Diana has played basketball year-round, full time with little or no time off. She deserves this time off, not only for her physical rejuvenation, but for her personally*.
This sent huge shock waves through the fans of the Phoenix Mercury, causing anxiety and despair. Since Diana is considered the backbone of the team, some fans seem to be worried that this situation diminishes the team's ability to defend their 2014 championship season. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Mercury has an extraordinary group of athletes whose only mission is to get another championship. That said, I wrote the following on Facebook to a large group of Mercury fans with the hope that my words will assuage the anxiety, give us all incentive to become even bigger cheerleaders of our incredible team and, when the season is over, look forward to welcoming back to the team the absolute best women's basketball player in history!
"Mercury fans: You may know that I come from New England (MA & CT) and I am a rabid New England sports fan (Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics & Bruins.) It's in my blood. That includes the UCONN women' and men's basketball teams. And when we lived in CT, we were fans of the CT Sun. Living here in AZ almost 7 years, the Mercury has become a passion with us, not just because of Diana (although she is a BIG reason) but because we absolutely LOVE the game of basketball, especially the women's game. Team members change for a myriad of reasons. Sometimes those changes cause us anxiety. But, remember, Diana has promised to come back. She needs, desperately, the rest she'll take this summer. We have extraordinary personnel on "our" team and the Mercury will give us a season to remember. Understand, we are Phoenix Mercury fans, first and foremost. If you look forward to an extraordinary season, you'll get it. We love all our players no matter who they are because they give us their best and provide an extraordinarily fabulous experience. We are, indeed, the best fans in the WNBA. We are X-Factor! So, don't panic and come along for the ride and let the team know we are behind them 100% GO MERCURY!"
There is a prestige factor working here. To actually make the roster of a WNBA team is many a young woman's dream. Besides the love of the game, to make that dream worth working for, monetary recognition has to be part of the equation. *One glaring issue is the money paid to the team members. It's just not enough. Perhaps this is a wake-up call for the league to figure out a way to make the WNBA a more lucrative entity. All the young women coming up behind the Taurasis, Griners, Bonners, Duprees and Taylors should not have to rely on overseas play to make a decent living in a profession that has a finite number of active years built in.