Charles Petzold

New York Liberty Steps Back from the Abyss

July 31, 2006
Roscoe, NY

In the summer of 1997, the inaugural year of the WNBA, I attended several New York Liberty games at Madison Square Garden and then got a pair of season tickets for the 1998 season and renewed them for the following 7 seasons, rarely missing a home game.

Earlier this year, Deirdre and I had a long and serious talk about the Liberty subscription. We both enjoyed the games immensely, but the previous two summers we had spent at Deirdre's house in the Catskills, and driving into the city for the games (a drive of 1 hour and 57 minutes just to the Jersey side of the Lincoln Tunnel) was beginning to be a bit too much.

So we gave up the season tickets, and this year we've only attended 2 games at the Garden. (We've watched maybe a half dozen more on the MSG Network, which shows every home and away Liberty game, but it's not quite the same.)

This year has been tough for the Liberty. The team lost 4 of its starters, including old-timers Vickie Johnson and Crystal Robinson, and relative newcomers Elena Baranova and Ann Wauters. Only the amazing Becky Hammon was left, and Coach Pat Coyle essentially had to construct a new team from scratch.

It hasn't been pretty. As of last Monday, the Liberty had lost 11 games in a row for a 4-win and 20-loss season, with a serious chance that the team could be dumped into last place in the Eastern Division.

Now a rational person who gave up season tickets this year might say: "Wow, I got out just in time. Imagine how depressing it would be attending all those losing games, and look how much money I saved! I'm smart to dump those losers."

But it doesn't work that way. Instead, I feel just terrible not supporting my team in its time of need, and it's even worse that I'm actually contributing to an attendance slump.

The situation looked particularly bleak recently with both Becky Hammon and Kelly Schumacher sidelined with injuries. But then some magic started happening. Some of the other players — particularly, but not limited to, Shameka Christon, Cathrine Kraayeveld, and Barbara Ferris — began looking like a real team. Last Tuesday the Liberty beat the Chicago Sky 79-72 in an away game, and then Saturday the Charlotte Sting 85-80 with Erin Thorne coming off the bench to score a personal best 25 points, and yesterday back at the Garden defeating the Minnesota Lynx 78-69.

That's three wins in a row. The Liberty is still 14 games out of first place in the Eastern Division, but for now the abyss of last place has been averted.