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Archive for November, 2009

I never met Los Angeles Times writer Mike Penner, but I knew the byline. When you work as an editor at a newspaper, which I did for many years, you read or at least glance at copy from the wire services all day and night. You know names of reporters and columnists, where they work and how they write _ even if you never actually meet the person.

When Mike announced in an LA Times column in 2007 that he was a transsexual and would be transitioning to become Christine Daniels, I read it and, in my mind, wished her an abundance of good luck. When, in 2008, Christine began writing again under the byline “Mike Penner,” I worried about what that meant.
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Sure, we’re into the college season right now, but it’s been hard to push from my mind what happened to the Sacramento Monarchs. The Maloof family pulled the plug on the franchise with, apparently, no thought to letting the players know first.

Basic etiquette rules will tell you that while “breaking up” is almost always hard to do, there are right and wrong ways to do it.

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We got the news yesterday: the Monarchs were done in Sacramento and the WNBA hopes to move them to the Bay area. I’d had a pretty good idea the week before that some other “bad” shoe was likely to drop before long in the WNBA, based on a conversation with a source who knows the inner workings of the league.

So I was disappointed to hear the news, but not shocked. I talked to WNBA president Donna Orender on Friday night; I would say she sounded understandably weary but still ready to tackle the next challenge and cautiously optimistic about her chances in the Bay area.

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I spent Wednesday in San Antonio, where the women’s basketball world will return in April for the Final Four. For those who haven’t been in the Alamo City lately, the Riverwalk has expanded north, up past the San Antonio Museum of Art.

There’s not that much in the way of shops/restaurants yet developed only the newest stretch, which is called the Museum Reach and had its grand opening in May. But I like it this way, actually. It’s pretty with some different artistic touches, such as large, colorful “fish” models that hang from the overpass that crosses the Riverwalk. There is also a lock and dam complex, which is cool to watch.

If you’ve never been to the Women’s Final Four but have always wanted to go, I would highly recommend coming this season. Not everyone likes basketball in a dome – the games will be at the Alamodome  – but thanks to the Riverwalk, the city’s expertise in handling events, and the nice spring weather (much appreciated after a long winter), it’s hard to beat San Antonio as a destination spot.

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Not a good night in San Antonio for the Lone Star State teams. I wrote about the UConn-Tennessee now-phantom rivalry for ESPN.com, a topic that will no doubt irritate some folks.

I’ve written about a million stories that don’t involve UConn or Tennessee over the last 13 seasons for ESPN.com … but some people still insist I don’t write about anything except the Huskies and the Vols. All I can say to that is it’s not my doing that those two programs have combined to win 14 NCAA titles in the last 22 years.

You write a lot about who wins a lot – and they’ve both won a lot.

That said, what about the Raiders, who fell 91-53 to Tennessee, and the Longhorns, who lost 83-58 to UConn? Both programs looked overmatched by their respective opponents.

As for Texas Tech, it’s a program that for many years was one of the elites but has crash-landed and will take a while to get rebuilt. Marsha Sharp left after the 2006 season, and Kristy Curry seemed a pretty good fit coming from Purdue. But Tech has lost its mojo, to say the least.

I think most Tech fans could have lived with the idea of losing some ground in recent years. Especially as new coaches/recruiters moved in to take over programs such as Baylor, Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State.

But what’s driven Tech fans to real despair is the notion that they have lost a lot of ground – and that that process happened much more quickly than the process of getting it back will. Tech has such a great, loyal fan base for women’s basketball, but a lot of them never warmed to Curry and the disappointing results have cooled their enthusiasm for the program even more.

“We’ve got 10 freshman and sophomores,” Curry said. “And we’re trying to get the wheels back on the bus one wheel at a time.”

Which may not be the most comforting analogy, since the bus can’t really go anywhere until it has all its wheels.

It’s an overreaction to judge Tech based on a loss to a team like Tennessee. However, Tech did also lose an exhibition to Lubbock Christian of the NAIA. Sure, it was only an exhibition, and Lubbock Christian is a good team at its level. But Tech simply can’t lose games like that, even if they don’t officially “count.”

Meanwhile, I think Texas fans might have thought that Gail Goestenkors could bring a magic wand to Austin. This is Goestenkors’ third season, and her Longhorns showed a few instances of spark against the Huskies. But the process there also takes time.

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I love this Lucy

images-1 Just a brief respite from the start of basketball season …

On this day 57 years ago, Lucy first pulled the football away from Charlie Brown in the “Peanuts” comic strip. That was Nov. 16, 1952; Lucille van Pelt had been “born” into the strip as a fussy, demanding baby earlier that year, in March. She quickly sprouted into the bossy, sarcastic 8-year-old that we all know and love.

At least … I love her. Lucy has always been my favorite “Peanuts” character. I recognize this may not be, um, the popularly-held opinion.
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Mel Jackson, my editor at ESPN.com, cheerfully pointed out the season is only a day old, yet “Vojo” has already struck once. Friday morning, she posted my story on Michigan State and the Spartans’ hopes to build on the success of last season.

Friday evening, in its season-opener, No. 10 Michigan State lost 77-74 at Dayton.

Vojo is a disturbing supernatural phenomenon in which a team or person I write about has something bad happen soon after the story is published … rendering the story largely lame. Vojo has ended several winning streaks and even caused ACL and Achilles’ tendon injuries.

Unfortunately, I not only can’t stop Vojo, I can’t even hope to contain it. Sorry, Spartans. I’m afraid you are this season’s first victim.

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