Commentary: Really, it’s okay to go to Maya’s Connecticut return

Recently there was a column by a Connecticut writer that called out women’s basketball fans in the Nutmeg State for the fact that tonight’s Connecticut Sun vs. Minnesota Lynx game is a sellout (or will be by game time), while the average attendance for Sun games is in the 6,000-7,000 range.  This game, of course, is the first visit to Connecticut by Lynx rookie and former UConn All-American “do everything” Maya Moore.

In the piece, the fact that there was a low turnout for Moore’s final collegiate game, an NCAA tournament appearance with lower than normal attendance, was emphasized as well as the fact that the Sun also features some UConn’s finest — Tina Charles, Renee Montgomery, Asjha Jones, and Kalana Greene.

I will be the first to admit that I wish the Sun played to a sellout arena every night.  Mohegan Sun Arena is a great facility, with free parking, the games are exciting and also fun to watch. Plus, the team is fighting for Eastern Conference supremacy.

I also will not complain that the “excess” crowd for tonight’s game is largely there to pay respects to Miss Moore.   Being in Connecticut and having covered the Huskies this past season, I know that Maya Moore is considered a state treasure.  She did great things on the court, while off the court she conducted herself in a manner that was always above reproach.  She was friendly and gregarious, with a competitive fire during her four years at UConn rivaled perhaps only by Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi before her (who by the way drew sellout crowds for their first appearances in Connecticut).

Here’s the crux of my disagreement with the other article.  While yes, the Big East and/or NCAA tournament games are technically the “last” home game, it is senior night that matters.  It is on that night that the fans go and show their love and honor their departing.  It was that night that attendance at Gampel Pavilion, capacity 10,027 was 10,167.   Again, let me emphasize, that it exceeded capacity when it mattered the most.

This game tonight, Moore returns as a visitor for the first time.  I think it is wonderful that her fans want to show up in large amounts to say “hey, we know you are a pro, we know you play for an opponent, but we want you to know you will always be one of our own.”  They will cheer and go wild when she’s introduced.  Then, if form holds, they will cheer for the Sun, and root against the Lynx.  Oh, as an aside, expect to hear a similarly good amount of applause for former Sun stalwarts Lindsay Whalen and Taj McWilliams-Franklin, both also loved in Connecticut.

Are UConn fans spoiled by success?  Absolutely.  Would a better crowd at the tournament games been nice?  Absolutely.  Is it an economic point of fact that the games were on television, cost a good amount of money, occurred at odd times, and were played when there was still two feet of snow on the ground?  Absolutely.  Is it an excuse?  No, I merely offer it up as a partial explanation.  I am not going to defend the fans of UConn basketball.  They don’t need me to do that.

The way I see it, though, this is a WNBA game, not a UConn game.  If you want to plunk down your money at the Mohegan Sun box office because of Maya Moore, great.  While you are there, you will see the number one team in the league in Minnesota, and the number two team in the East in Connecticut.  You will see 2011 All-Star Charles, an MVP candidate,  and Montgomery, a MIP candidate.  Minnesota will have their own All-Stars and MVP candidates in Moore, Whalen, Rebekkah Brunson and Seimone Augustus.  You will see two of the very best teams the league has to offer.  And hopefully, after the game, you will walk over to the box office and spend your money for another game or two.  Because the WNBA is great form of women’s basketball.  It doesn’t have the sense of homey-ness that UConn does, but it is a great game unto itself.  One I love, and you will too if you give it the chance.

And the only way you can give it that chance, is by attending.  Whether it is because you love Maya Moore, you love UConn, or you love the Sun.  That part does not matter, as long as you are there.

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