My friend Doug, who used to administer the ABL San Jose Lasers mailing list (he's the father of a boy and a girl), told me, "boys are interested in favorable resolution; girls are interested in a fair one."
Boys and girls seem to handle the end of the game differently, too. Boys need 10 summonses for dinner before coming inside, and they never change. When a professional athlete reaches the end of the line, how easy it for him to admit it to himself? Brett Favre, surely you've seen those films of Willie Mays.
On the other hand, take Houston Comet Dawn Staley, one of the greatest players ever. She knows it's time to stop playing, but will there be second thoughts about retirement during press conferences, and three different farewell tours? Probably not. Will she be as great in her other job, head basketball coach at Temple University, where she's already won the conference coach of the year award twice, and one of her players was a top 10 draft pick?
Houston seems to be the city where great players gather for one last push, even though Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler, and Scottie Pippen looked truly weird in Rockets uniforms. Dawn Staley spent her first seven seasons in Charlotte, while Tamecka Dixon played her nine in Los Angeles. They bring to Houston 490 games played, 1970 assists, and 580 steals. Another seven-year veteran, Dominique Canty, fills out a three-guard rotation (she seems to do a very little bit of everything), but it's impossible to tell which of their two kids -- rookie Anastasia Kostaki and sophomore Roneeka Hodges -- will be around next year, or even at the end of training camp.
Detroit starts five All-Stars, but it's going to be a few years until these Shock reach the level of Houston's old nucleus of forwards Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson plus guard Cynthia Cooper, which led the Comets to championships in the WNBA's first four seasons.
Swoopes might be the best defender in league history, while her scoring and assist averages in her ninth season were equal to or better than her career averages. Thompson might be slowing down -- an injury limited her to 15 games in 2005, with scoring and rebound averages down from 2004 by about half. Rookies Liz Shimek, a prolific scorer, and Tiffany Stansbury, a big rebounder, seem to have ensured their apprentice roles on the roster. Shoud Houston keep a forward with experience between "legend" and "rookie", second-year swingwoman Roneeka Hodges is ahead of fifth-year power player Kayte Christensen.
Rebounder and shotblocker Michelle Snow and Tari Phillips share the center job. Both have won the most improved player award; the Comets will need Snow to continue improving.
NWBL connection: Swoopes won a couple of NWBL titles with the Houston Stealth, but it was the one time I saw her with the Dallas Fury that floored me. The Fury's plan against the San Jose Spiders was to release the backcourt players on a Spider field goal attempt so early that the rebounder had to throw a very long pass to start the break; it had to be a baseball pass almost every time. The trouble is that the baseball pass requires a wide open receiver plus a passer with room to cock and release -- for the first 10 minutes or so, the Spiders kept the score close by interfering with the Fury break, but then Swoopes started class. She grabbed two rebounds, dribbled clear of the pack to give herself some room, and then fired perfect passes downcourt to lead to fast break baskets. After she showed the outlet passers how to do it, she moved outside and got out on the break herself, flying past kids 10 years her junior. The Fury won by 20.
Outlook: The Comets have been in the playoffs eight years out of nine. They'll make it again, but to get as far as, say, the conference finals against Seattle, there are several "ifs". If Swoopes' ankles hold up, if Dixon provides enough of a shooting threat to spread the floor for the All-Decade trio, if Snow keeps improving at center, if the emotional lift provided by Staley's farewell tour is a great one...