The Mystics are off to a rotten start. A player retirement, a major trade, a coaching change and an 0-6 record is not how you diagram the first month of the season. But yesterday was the First Annual Washington Mystics Foundation Gala, a fund-raising bash featuring Sheila Johnson, Cedric the Entertainer and "an enchanted evening of Motown music, exciting cuisine and dancing," and so WNBA fans were quite literally dancing in the streets, or at least in the basement of the Fairmont Hotel.
Some might wonder about the propriety of holding a formal evening event featuring Peking Duck and Mini Beef Shepherd's Pie appetizers in the midst of such basketball misery, but as Diana Ross taught us, You can't hurry WNBA success, no, you just have to wait, blah blah blah, game of give and take, etc. And in the meantime, why not nosh on some chicken samosas while wearing authentic Motown garb and, what's this, massive Afro wigs purchased for $23.99 from a beauty shop near Howard University?
"I see our two divas dressed the part," observed interim coach Tree Rollins, as Nikki Blue and Tamara James posed for pictures in their ridiculous get-ups. "They're looking good and strange."
They were, but the official photographers were loving it. Soon, Alana Beard showed up, with a massive wig of her own, and also great quantities of make-up. There was some talk that the three Mystics were attempting to portray The Supremes; James said the name of their group was actually "US: Undeniably Sexy."
"They see us one way on the court," Beard said of the fans who were lining up for photos. "This is the lighthearted side of us, the fun side of us, and sometimes they don't see it."
I asked others in attendance why they were not similarly coiffed; " I need time to grow one out, man," Redskins DL Renaldo Wynn said, speaking loudly so I could hear him over the strains of "Love Train" emanating from the ballroom. "I can't perpetrate, man. You know how that is."
I never figured out exactly what the connection was between the Mystics and Motown, although I asked many people the question. "Sheila was born in the '60s probably?" suggested newly acquired forward Monique Currie, clearly angling for a pay raise from her boss.
Nor was it immediately obvious to me what connection Cedric the Entertainer had to the WNBA, although he attempted to explain.
"In high school I played on the girls' team," he told me. "I was realllly, really, good because I was a boy. They couldn't really handle me. But then some of them started to outgrow me, and it's not a cool thing when the girls are really taller than you. And so somewhere around junior high I stopped playing altogether and went to the field hockey team and I flourished there. But you know, field hockey doesn't have a pro league."
Which is how you came to know him as a comedian and not a field-hockey star, I guess. Cedric also said he roots for the L.A. Sparks, but that he supports individual players around the league, including the Mystics' James, who responded by saying "it's just that chemistry man, when you see somebody and you just know they have it." And Cedric said he would have dressed the Motown part had he known; "I could have been all five Temptations," he said.
But back to the point, was this whole event a distraction? Should the Mystics have been out on the court practicing the pick-and-roll instead of wearing strikingly tall boots and fake afro wigs and drinking what one player insisted was pineapple juice?
"On the court is on the court, and off the court is off the court," James said. "We'll get it down eventually."
"I think a couple of our players--probably all of our players--are really feeling the stress," Rollins told me. "Most of them have never been in this position, where they're off to such a lousy start. We come out and beat Indiana Friday, and maybe we'll look back on this and say maybe that had a lot to do with it."
"We need a distraction right now," GM Linda Hargrove agreed. "This group's all about having fun, and they enjoy being around each other all the time, on the road, in practice, out of practice. This gives them a chance to show their crazy side. And believe me, they have a crazy side. It's just usually not on display for everyone."
[Other notes: Monique Currie was excited to learn that frequent Bog commenter Unsilent Majority has his own blog. She promised to look it up.
Tree Rollins was dressed quite conservatively in black and white. I asked whether he wasn't modeling himself after colorful ex-coach Richie Adubato. "I probably couldn't afford his ties, really," Rollins said. "I can't drop $300, $400 on just a tie."]