By: Jeffrey Newholm
The 1985 World Series is most famous for a missed call in game six that abetted the Royal’s comeback against the Cardinals. But what fans often forget is that game six was far from over at the time and the Cards had a chance for redemption in game seven in any case. But St. Louis quickly fell apart after the missed call and then was embarrassed 11-0 in the finale. After last year’s devastating game five loss, I said the Lynx faced a long and dark offseason filled of thoughts of what might have been. But unlike the Cards, who ended up needing 21 years to win another title, Minnesota steamrolled through the regular season again, including two concluding wins to gain a crucial home-court advantage in the playoffs. Wednesday night this finishing effort proved worthwhile as the team played 39 minutes of sound basketball against the equally talented Sparks, and then held off a last-gasp comeback thanks to Maya Moore’s aggressive driving shot with 25 seconds left. For the Lynx, the horizon remains filled with tantalizing possibility. For the Sparks, there seems to be a bit more left to prove, but 2018 offers an immediate chance to begin an ambitious endeavor.
The Lynx won their fourth title, tying the defunct Houston Comets’ record. The Lynx claimed that the Comets were an inspiration to the current generation of players, and reportedly Moore’s first recollection of pro women’s ball was watching Houston win the first WNBA title as a child. But from my perspective it’s healthy from a macro standpoint that a team is now poised to break this mark in the modern era of women’s ball, with the WNBA now an established and well-known institution. Fans tend to care very little of glory won far in the past (imagine a Texas college football fan trying to win a trash-talk debate today). For most fans, it’s “what have you done for me presently” (not even lately at this point). Well for these range-of-the-split-second fanatics, I think the Lynx, consistently dominant every year since Moore’s debut in 2011, provide everything one could ask for regarding a glamorous dynasty. The team emotionlessly obliterates foe after foe and draws a very good crowd for any ballteam. If the team successfully defends their title, something not done since L.A. in 2002, talk of a scintillating threepeat will soon sweep the league. And that’s not bad for a team with an aging nucleolus and in the downswing of its cycle of dominance.
For the Sparks, the loss is disappointing, as it always is for the second place team. Since no one remembers the loser, the team has now lost most of its steam it picked up after winning last year. If the Sparks want to usurp the crown from the Lynx (in a lasting way, not as a perceived one-shot fluke), the team must start from square two. Not all the way from the beginning however, as the hard work to develop strong team chemistry will sustain the franchise as a power for a long time to come. I actually think the Sparks have better long-term prospects than the Lynx, with plenty of young talent and a management willing and able to mix and match players in free agency. The baton of supremacy must be passed eventually, and the Sparks are in the perfect position to be the next to sprint with it. The team should be aware, however, that the window of opportunity will not be open forever. The same sudden breakthrough the squad managed last season will inevitably be duplicated by a third team. Who this could be can only be guessed at this point, meaning L.A. must remain vigilant in its efforts to remain a top-tier power. If the team doesn’t strike next year, the wheel of fate could take the team on a wrong turn.
The 2017 season proved that the regular season now matters quite a bit, with the race for the top seed coming down to the last game. On the other hand, the lack of parity seen in 2016 seemed even worse this year, with many fans wishing away everything leading up to Finals. Well these fans should be informed that the double dynasty domination of a league gets old fast. There are only so many angles of redemption and revenge one can see until the years blend together in a dull blur. So for the Lynx, three cheers. For the Sparks, wait ‘till next year. And most importantly, for the other ten teams: ball’s in your court. It’s time to make a play.