This month's basketball drought has cost us our most bloggable D.C. athletes, and so I went to Mystics media day hopeful of finding the next straw chewer, the next face-feel-my-facer, the next "Hibachi" shouter. From a few cursory conversations, it quickly became clear that there were only two Mystics capable of filling the Gilbert Gap: Tamara James and Alana Beard. Let's compare their qualifications.
James, in the offseason, got a new tattoo, in an area of the body Nikki Blue euphemistically referred to as the "small of the chest." The tattoo is of a butterfly. Why a butterfly, you ask? "Every time I go through a change, I get a butterfly," James told me. She has butterfly tats on her back, her chest, her thigh (three times) and her foot. That makes six life changes in about five years. That's a lot of change. "I mean, I can't stay still," she said.
On the other hand, Beard apparently once changed all of what we'll euphemistically refer to as her "undergarments" in the locker room after a poor first half. Also her sneakers. Into the trash can. "Because I was playing horrible," she explained.
"I mean, I wish I could be like that," James said. "I don't have more than one pair of shoes."
Beard, of course, also has her own signature shoe, the AB20. James does not. What James does have is a great nickname ("Diva No. 1," to Nikki Blue's "Diva No. 2") and a wardrobe to match.
"When she came to the banquet last night, she had 14 times more colors than I do," Coach Richie Adubato said. "I told her, 'You don't have to worry about getting hit by a car'."
(The coach, naturally, was dressed in various shades of bright yellow and orange during media day. "Let me tell you something, all of his outfits, batteries are included," Blue told me.)
In fact, James has been tutoring teammates on how to be a Diva; "show them your model walk" she urged Crystal Robinson this afternoon. "No," Robinson said. "Show them your model pose," James pleaded. "No," Robinson said. Others were more receptive.
"I was a Diva-In-Training last year, so I have to go through training camp again, and then once the season starts I should get my Diva broach or something," a hopeful DeLisha Milton-Jones told me.
Beard counters all this Diva talk with what the Wizards would call swag; "I said 'I think I have a Sharpie in my purse'," James recalled, "and she was like 'What do you need it for, you're only going to need it when I'm around.' And I was like uh-uh, sweetheart."
Also, Beard has the stature to bring her dog, a two-year old Yorkie named Chloe, to media day. That's swag. (Chloe is scared of basketballs, after Beard once made a shot in Korea that fell through the net and hit Chloe on the head, which is something that would happen to Gilbert, if only he owned a Yorkie.) And Beard owns a Mustang and a Hummer and has her eyes on a Range Rover and a BMW 645. More swag.
"It's not about what you have," she said.
"It is," James disagreed.
"No, it's not. It's about who you are as a person," Beard said.
"So give me all your money and still be you," James offered.
Anyhow, assuming Beard can get over her shoulder injury and turn into this summer's Gilbert, she'll need a name for the campaign. You know how Gilbert's past season--the All-Star start, the Adidas campaign, the video game cover--was called the "The Takeover?" Something like that.
"The Takeover?" James mused. "She's 'The Makeover'. I'm gonna make AB into a Diva."
Sadly, Beard wasn't into it.
"I mean, do I look like I need a makeover?" Beard asked. "I think the team is ready to take over the WNBA. It's about time. We need something to happen here."
"You know what?" Milton-Jones said. "For this whole Washington organization, that should be our theme this year."
"The Makeover," James repeated.
"I don't like The Makeover," Beard insisted.
But still, I think it has a certain ring. And hardcore Mystics fans, don't yell at me for demeaning the game, because I'm sort of joking, and anyhow it wasn't my idea, it was Tamara James's. But seriously, the new-in-2007 uniforms, the heightened expectations, the conviction that they're ready to take the next step? Why can't 2007 be the year of The Makeover?