First Person Singular

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

I GOT TO UNDERSTAND BASKETBALL AND FOOTBALL through my cheerleading years. Before Title IX, that was about all women could really participate in, other than PE classes. I have always gone to the games and just loved going. Then, one day, Abe Pollin called me and asked me if I would be interested in buying the Washington Mystics. I have to tell you, I can't even explain how that felt, to just out and out buy a sports team. Then you go back to your advisers, and they're going: "Are you nuts? Why would you want to own a sports team?" And your advisers are men, and I said to them, "Well, if the opportunity were brought to you, would you do it?" And they go, "Well, yeah {lcub}hellip{rcub}"

It's a business, running a team. We are constantly fighting this uphill battle of trying to fill seats and get corporate sponsorship so that we can meet budget. You'd be surprised; [sponsors] sit there with their jaws open. They go: "We had no idea that the girls only get an average of $37,000 a year. That they have to play overseas to make ends meet." We have to market these young women for people to see that they're extraordinary. So, I have to get out there and be the rah-rah cheerleader and say, "Come on, support us." I've been known to be up in the owner's box dancing and cheering for every basket. I've gotten to know a lot of my fan base, and it's important that we feel this connection. I have a core base of about 4,800 people that just love these girls. No matter what. And what I have to do is convince another 6,000 to 7,000 to come into that stadium. Many times, I will have the owner's box filled with 30 and 35 people. And many of them -- I would say 50 percent -- once they get there, they keep coming back. It's just getting them there.

I had no idea it would be this tough. This is the hardest job I've ever done, but it's also the most exciting.

-- Interview by KK Ottesen

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