Shocking news this morning -- the Houston Comets are no more.
First reactions were predictable. "The Houston Comets were still around? Do tell." But then reality began to sink in.
The Comets won the first four WNBA championships at a time when no Houston team was winning anything. They brought joy to the dozens of hard-core fans who avidly followed them.
Seven things we'll miss about the Comets:
1. Their steady progression down the attendance scale. First they tried to sell out the Compaq Center; they quickly learned to block off upper areas to preserve the look of big crowds. Then they pretty much limited themselves to the lower bowl at Toyota Center. Then they moved to Reliant Arena. Another season or two, and they would have been playing at the Fonde Rec Center.
2. The lesbian vibe, and how to live with it. From its beginnings, the WNBA dealt gingerly with the whole gay thing. The league once put out a release for reporters covering the games that listed all the league's married players. Then, when they discovered that lesbians were the ones spending the money and buying tickets, they became a bit more open-minded. Heck, Comets star Cynthia Cooper even married a guy named Dyke! (Ha ha! Gay humor!) Comets officials always talked about the "family atmosphere" at games; they never specified too often that the family in question was proudly flying the rainbow flag.
3. Comets games resulted in one of the great disgruntled-employee quotes of recent times. We once wrote about how sports-talk king KILT was no longer having guests who talked about spreads and betting odds on football games. One of the hosts wasn't too happy about the decision, which the boss had based on the fact that he found such segments boring. As we wrote:
"Come on, we're the station that broadcasts Comets games," he says, in a tone that equates the WNBA audience with that of radio backgammon. "Not to mention the Comets postgame show."
4. The festive parades held downtown after each Comets championship. Held at lunchtime, to preserve the idea that the people on the sidewalks going to lunch and looking oddly at the women on firetrucks were actually there to cheer on those gritty ballplayers.
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5. The Sheryl Swoopes soap opera. Swoopes, the WNBA's Michael Jordan at the league's inception, was perpetually the subject of "is she or isn't she?" rumors. She married her high-school sweetheart and had a kid, which seemed to settle matters. Until they got divorced, when the talk began again (It helps, rumorwise, that in addition to being a star Swoopes is a very good-looking woman). Finally, in 2005, she announced she was a lesbian and was living with former Comet Alisa Scott. She's now 37 years old, so guys -- there's still time for another switch.
6. The fact that Hilton Koch, the poor man's Mattress Mac, bought the team for two million dollars from Rockets owner Les Alexander two years ago. We like to think of Alexander struggling mightily to keep a straight face as he pretends to ponder the offer for more than one nano-second before grabbing the check.
7. That mascot, pictured above. Haley was its name, according to the WNBA media page. A black-faced, goggle-eyed, oddly haired female who looks like she just received the money shot in a porno film -- what's not to like?
-- Richard Connelly