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The Inside Track | T.J. Simers

There Was a Lot to See, Unless You Were Here

September 09, 2003|T.J. Simers

The Dodgers were playing on TV in a game with playoff implications, the World Series champion Angels had a TV date with Oakland, while the Buccaneers, Eagles and Lisa Guerrero were on "Monday Night Football" -- and the wife wasn't going to be home.

In sports, this is known as the perfect evening.

And here I was sitting in Row 3, Seat 4 in the media section in Staples Center watching the Sparks. (I had no idea they'd have three rows of media at a Sparks game.)

I know this has some kind of "Touched by an Angel" feel to it, one week becoming a Trojan fan, and the next willingly attending a women's basketball game rather than remain on the couch in peace and quiet with remote control in hand while monitoring Guerrero and the games that really count.

But I heard the Sparks were on the brink of elimination, and I never thought women's professional basketball would catch on here, so I wanted to be here for the final game.

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APPARENTLY I misunderstood. The Sparks were only in danger of elimination from the playoffs, and if they won, they'd keep on playing for their third straight WNBA championship. I guess I missed the first two championship runs.

But you can imagine the excitement in Staples Center. A reporter, sitting besides a Sparks employee in Row 1, Seats 1 & 2 in the media section -- and I guess the Sparks want to make it appear like there's a lot of media here -- had the TV, provided them to follow the Sparks, tuned to the Bucs and Eagles.

One more win and the Sparks are in the WNBA finals. One more loss and the season is over, and I'm not sure of the exact count, but I think something like 13 million people in Greater Los Angeles stayed home.

There was no one sitting in the upper deck here, the premium seats were more than half empty and there were a fair number of empty seats on the lower level. They announced a crowd of less than 7,000. Tickets for this critical contest ranged from $10 to $45 with the priceless opportunity to spot Penny Marshall and the mother from "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids," as well as Matt Craven, sitting in the crowd. As soon as Staples officials tell me who Craven is, I'll pass it on.

Someone said they also spotted Devean George -- be still my beating heart.

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IT'S HARD to explain why this doesn't work, and I say that after being scolded by ESPN2 broadcaster Ann Meyers, who let me know that it does work, and it's working well elsewhere and the only problem here is the members of the media who won't accept it.

But how do you explain less than 7,000 fans for the two-time defending champs, who are about to celebrate or be eliminated? OK, so those who were here were loud, many of them wearing $55 Spark jerseys and $20 purple monkeys tied around their necks, and of course it has to be a pretty special event to draw someone of the stature of Matt Craven.

OK, so as long as I was here, I noticed the score was tied at 52 with 8:37 to play, and I know that because I remember looking up at the clock when some noise from the crowd woke me up. Or maybe that was just Penny Marshall's voice.

No overtime, please. The Sparks are up by one, Lisa Leslie at the line for two free throws with six seconds to play. Two years ago she made 49 in a row before I went to the dressing room, told her, "Jinx," and she missed her next attempt.

I kept my mouth shut. She made both.

And I won -- because I got to go home.

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TODAY, AFTER spending last night at the Sparks' game, I will be playing in the Mighty Ducks' golf tournament. Too bad there isn't a women's tennis tournament to attend tomorrow. Or a soccer game.

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I CHECKED the basketball Hall of Fame site and noted it says Meyers was enshrined: as a player May 10, 1993; Born: March 26, 1955 in San Diego; Height: 5-9; Weight: Not available.

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IT MAY have slipped by unnoticed, but producer Shaquille O'Neal won an Emmy along with five others, including Ian Levitt, the director of game operations at Staples, for "Shaquille, The Return." From toe surgery. The Fox Sports Net and Lakers' TV production won in the "Best Sports Tease" category, presumably beating out Guerrero.

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YOU THINK Page Two can be tough: Rocky Mountain News columnist Bernie Lincicome quoted Bronco quarterback Jake Plummer as saying, "I'm here to lead these guys," after Denver's 20-point win in his first start, and then Lincicome added, "The vision that comes to mind is the marching band in Animal House, led into a brick wall where it, still playing, piles upon itself."

You think Page Two can be tough, Part II: San Diego Union Tribune columnist Nick Canepa wrote after the Charger debut, "The Chargers think tank spent the off-season thinking fast. The football men wanted a faster team.... These Chargers can fall behind faster, drop passes faster, miss blocks and tackles faster and get to 0-1 faster than you can say Marty Schottenheimer."

His fellow UT columnist Tim Sullivan wrote: "On the stinker scale, the Chargers started their season somewhere between a dead skunk and a fertilizer factory."

We don't have any crummy pro football teams in L.A., but we have UCLA.

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EVERY TIME the Raiders tried to move, they were penalized. I think the NFL was trying to tell them something.

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TODAY'S LAST word comes in an e-mail from James Taylor:

"Tell the truth. Did you pay for that USC shirt out of your own pocket?"

Trojan fans will love this. I intend to submit it on my expense account, and have the Notre Dame sports editor sign off on it.

T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com

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