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10/1/04 at Sacramento

Final score: Storm 72 – Monarchs 74 OT (L) (0-1)

Attendance | 10,662

Anthem Watch | It was good. Not memorable, but not bad either.

Fan Psyche | Sit down! Don't you know you're at a sporting event? How could you be so rude as to stand up?

Game Highlight | LJ's MVP-like performance, Sue's All Guts first team performance, Janell rocking Guppy out of her shoes.

Halftime | Dogs.

Flopometer | Maiga pulled one on that "flagrant" foul charged to Adia, but otherwise the Monarchs stayed on their feet. The Storm guards did the flopping to excellent effect.

SF.O Keyword of the Game | Unprintable! (and I waited until we were out of any kids' hearing range before I let it out as loud as I could)

Game Photos | Game Photos (Scott Larson)

There's a lot to cover, but after having a day to let things rattle around and after watching the last part of the game on NBAtv replay today, there are a couple primary things that stick out.

First, directly after the game I made the comment that I didn't think the refs did that bad a job. I gave them a general pass on the game. Yes, there were bad calls, but they went both ways - after all the Storm had Sac in the penalty fairly early in both halves. I also said that I didn't think the refs had an overt impact on the game.

I was wrong.

There three horrible calls late in the game when things were knotted up that definitely had an impact on the end of regulation score. The first was the incredible chain of events that started with Pocahontas throwing Sue to the floor, followed by Yo knocking Janell down going after a loose ball (AP photo shows what would seem to be a foul) and then climbing over Janell with the last piece being Pocahontas once again knocking Sue around and holding her to get at the loose ball - only to have Sue end up getting the foul called on here. There were at least 3 opportunities for the refs to correctly call a foul against Sacramento and all of them went uncalled. The foul on Sue was clearly on Tangela - it was clear to us live at the game and it was clear on the broadcast. The Storm had the Monarchs in the penalty at that point and that should have counted as 2 points for us. Instead, it was 2 points for Sac.

The other highly questionable call came after Smith missed 2 free throws and Janell was called for a foul while she and Yo were going for rebound off the second miss. Again, both from the live view and seeing it on the broadcast, there was no way that the foul should have been called on Janell. If anything there should have been no call since the two players were merely fighting for position. If a foul had to be called, it should have gone against Yo for coming over the back. She started on Janell's left side, came around Janell's back and then tried to push Janell out of position from the right. Through it all, Janell was holding her position and boxing out. Janell did not foul. Instead, because Seattle was in the penalty, Yo got 2 free throws and hit them both. This was with about 3:30 left and allowed the Monarchs to once again close to within 2 of Seattle.

The last bad call was at the end of regulation when Sacramento stole the ball from Lauren and called a timeout with about 20 seconds left. They were allowed to advance the ball to midcourt coming out of the timeout. This was a mistake. Yo dribbled the ball after gaining control of it before the timeout was called. The Monarchs should have had to put the ball in under the basket on that end. A few seconds spent on getting the ball up the court may have made a difference.

In my opinion, these bad calls did have an impact on the end of regulation.

It is also my opinion that Seattle let the game slip away in the last 10 minutes or so and allowed these bad calls to have an impact. If the Storm had been able to maintain their offensive execution — not necessarily shooting 60% for the whole game — but crisp passes, cutting to the basket, solid screens that were forcing the Monarchs' guards to lose the Storm guard, keeping their vision up to see the open player, all the little things the Storm was doing in the first half so effectively. When the Monarchs started to catch up, the Storm started to tighten up more and more. Their offensive sets seemed to loose focus which gave the Monarchs more confidence with their defense. I'm biased, but I don't think the Monarchs' defense was all that tough compared to other teams the Storm have played. The Storm sagged and allowed the Monarchs' slapping style have an effect.

This is one of the reasons why I'm not too worried about the Storm's chances to win game 2 or game 3. Yes, the Monarchs picked up a little momentum, but I don't think the Storm will allow themselves to breakdown again like the did in the second half of game 1. The Storm are the better team and they will prevail.

The other thing that stuck out from this game was Sue Bird. Of all the big time performances we saw from the Storm players, and maybe one of the Monarchs (okay, Pocahontas had a good game, there are you happy? That's all you're getting from me), Sue Bird came out and put her stamp on the definition of what it means to be tough. It can all be summed up with two words: What mask? She wasn't hesitating to drive to the basket. She wasn't resuscitating to fight for loose balls. She wasn't backing off from Monarchs' screens. She took everything the Monarchs' guards gave her and went right back at them with it. I do give the Monarchs credit for resisting the urge to give Sue a little love tap on the mask to give her a reason to pause. They played clean in that regard and they deserve our thanks. LA would have had Sue on the floor in the first five minutes. The only real hit that Sue took was from LJ during a rebound. LJ caught Sue on the right temple/forehead. Sue shook her head and adjusted the mask and gave LJ a "watch the head" look. LJ gave her the "what are you doing in here fighting me for a rebound look" that she usually gives Betty. Later, Sue pulled herself out of the game because her nose started to bleed. I don't think she got popped, I think it might have just been due to exertion. She came out, had the trainer stuff her nose with gauze, and went right back in. Ladies and gentlemen, we saw one of the gutsiest performances we may ever see. LJ said it best when she said, "Sue is one tough little cookie."

There were plenty of solid performances from the Storm and some great individual plays. The ones that leap to mind include the monster block Janell laid down on Kara "Guppy" Lawson that knocked Guppy out of her shoes, literally. Tully and Sue both got offensive fouls called against Ticha. Were they flops? Perhaps, but Ticha was also out of control and bowling her way to the basket (like she normally does). Betty time and time again feinting a shoulder-dropping drive to the basket (and getting the defender backpedalling) only to stop and pop a super clean jumper. Kamila and Janell working together to make Yo a near non-factor. Sheri working her tail off against the taller Monarchs' forwards. The unfortunate thing was that much of this happened in the first 25-30 minutes of the game. The Storm just need to keep it up a little longer.

LJ had one of those "Lisa who?" performances that I think caught the Monarchs off guard. She was simply spectacular. The press keep talking about how Yo came out of the Olympics looking to prove something because of all the attention that The Diva got and didn't deserve. Last night, I got the feeling that LJ was trying to prove something too. A little more help in a couple of spots from her supporting cast and she would have lead the Storm to another road playoff win. Now, she'll have to do the same at home, only this time we'll be there to really propel the team through to the finish. I don't want to guarantee anything except that the Storm and the fans are going to be Bringing It like never before.

Other notes:

The pregame tailgate BBQ was an instant hit and may need to become a new Storm fan institution. Karen Bryant's family and friends supplied the RV, BBQ, food and beverages. The many Storm staff on hand provided t-shirts for anyone not already sporting Storm colors. A couple Monarchs' staffers came by to meet up with their Storm counterparts. A healthy contingent of the Sacramento Sheriff's Office was there to keep us safe. Thanks to KB and her family for getting everyone in the right frame of mind for a tough game. Further thanks to them for coming into Arco and bolstering our efforts to cheer on the Storm.

The Storm staffers who came on the trip were a kick to watch as they were finally able to be fans at a game. They were as wild as any of us and got more screen time, I think. The staffers also did their own version of the Storm's huddle that the players do right after the introductions. I think they might have gotten admonished from an usher for that too.

As I have in the past, I feel the need to once again point out that Arco Arena is an awful place with crappy lighting, wood floors and small, outdoor-style plastic seats. Bleck.

As always when we go into hostile territory, we encounter some good and some bad and it's always up to us whether we let the bad get to us and end up outweighing the good. Tonight, the bad was really making an effort to win the battle.

It didn't start until well into the first half until I stood up to deliver the first "Brick!" of the game during Maiga's free throws for Adia's "flagrant" foul. I stood up and did the first one - she missed. I got the usual dirty and surprised looks from the surrounding crowd. That's too be expected and welcomed. I also got the women behind me bitching at me to sit down. I said no and told them that I was going to stand for every free throw on this end of the court. They promptly started trying to get me thrown out of the game. During the second set of free throws, I stood up for the first one. One of the women asked me to compromise and step aside into the aisle, which I did. They other one started gesturing to the jack booted thugs, excuse me I mean ushers, to come up. He did and started to tell me that there is no standing allowed during the game and if I didn't sit down he would throw me out. Of course I argued - not standing at a sporting event is stupid in the extreme. The only thing that really kept me from getting tossed is that the Monarchs shot so few free throws in the first half. The Storm staff on hand took notice and tried to intervene, but the jack booted thugs, I mean ushers, wouldn't relent. It didn't end there, of course. During half time, I stood up and was talking with other fans as most people do. Another jack booted thug came up and told me to sit down. I couldn't believe it. Their rule is that any time there is any "entertainment" on the court, there is not standing - even if it is dogs running up and down the court. In-freaking-sane. And the best part came at the beginning of the second half. Guess what, the Monarchs' fans stand until their team scores a basket. That was okay, until we continued to stand waiting for the Storm to score their first basket. No, I got another visit from the purple shirted devil who told me there is not standing during the game, ignoring what the Monarchs' fans just did. He told me, "We have rules here." I replied, "Yeah, stupid ones." Of course, now that the Storm were shooting free throws on our end of the court, Monarchs' fans were standing and making noise during the shot like fans at any arena. That too was okay apparently because none of them were threatened with ejection - even the ones standing right next to the ushers. I tell you, I'm a magnet for this kind of crap - but then if I wasn't actively getting their team to miss free throws I doubt they would have cared.

I wasn't the only one getting crap from Monarchs' fans. Lilpost had a woman two rows in front of her turn and tell her to stop yelling so loud and in her ear. That's right - there is no yelling at a basketball game. Shed and NewSocks got bopped with thunderstix by a woman trying to get them to sit down and to shut up. Several other Storm fans were also visited by ushers during the game. I can't figure out what these people - the dumbass Monarchs' fans who were giving us crap - were doing at a sporting event. They obviously don't know the first thing about being a fan. Actually, what was really going on was that they didn't like seeing opposing fans in their arena. So few people actually travel with their teams to away games (on the west coast anyway) in the WNBA that home fans don't know how to act when road fans show up. It's like our presence offended them. Any time I see fans from other cities at the Key, I always go up and thank them for coming - win or lose. I have never treated a visitor rudely or with disrespect, but that is what I get every time I've gone to Arco. Furthermore, the bad/good ratio at Arco is always about even while at every other arena it's been much higher on the good than bad. I won't generalize to say ALL Monarchs' fans are jerks and need to learn how to be fans. I will generalize to say about half of them need a major attitude adjustment, to seriously think about staying home and leave the sports events to the people who know how to act.

That said, there were several good and a couple great Monarchs' fans who did know how to act. The two that stand out were a security guard who started flipping us good natured barbs the second we stepped into the Will Call area and a woman who came down and sat with the Storm staff and bantered back and forth with us the whole game. She was a lot of fun and tried to convince us before the game that the flop was a thing of beauty. There were also couple of older ladies sitting in front of the Storm staff and right across from Angie and I on the aisle who kept telling us to keep it up, that it was fun to have us there. A Monarchs' fan came up to me after the game and told me that most of them hate their ushers too and to not let them get to me. Another fan, who I was trading online barbs with last week, came up and made peace. I tried to explain that I was just trash talking and didn't mean anything, she tried to explain that it meant something to them. This is what it really is all about — meeting new people, having a good time win or lose, talking a little smack and getting a little smack right back at you — being fans. For those who "get it," I hope to see you at the Key. For those who don't, go watch golf or maybe ice skating where your lack of sense and energy will be welcomed.

Enough of that, although my Sacramento bashing is not quite done.

After the game, we eventually decided to get some food (and maybe a couple stiff drinks). There were 4 restaurants right next to our hotel which all closed at 10 or 10:30. Even the McDonalds closed at 10:30. We got roundabout directions from the hotel desk clerk (man, talk about some surly people) and headed out into suburbia. Nothing was open, even the normal restaurants and bars — all closing at 11 or 11:30. By this time we were getting a little irritated, but our resolve only grew and we vowed to find life somewhere. We did, at one of the few places open in Sacramento past 10:30 on a Friday night — TGIFriday's. Ugh, and there was a 30 minute wait because it was one of the few open spots. I commented to Seattlegaucho and Samfan that we needed to make a documentary called "Searching for life unsuccessfully in Sacramento."