Someday somebody may whisper in your ear, "Hey, buddy, how'd you
like to spend an entire day rubbing bodies with 107 fit,
glistening young women?" Resist! If you don't, you'll end up
like me, a semifunctioning blood clot, a man with more scratch
marks than Ricky Martin, a boy toy used and discarded by
That isn't what I expected when I agreed to be the only man to
compete in last week's WNBA predraft camp in Chicago. What I
expected was a) a good roomie; b) some partial nudity; and c) to
have my way with these girls, basketball-wise.
See, I had never attended, watched or given two bobby pins about
a WNBA game. I figured it was women in comfortable heels
shooting two-hand set shots and running to the bench to check
Right away there were signs that maybe I was wrong. For example,
at the player physicals the day before the camp, Dr. John
Heffrin shook my hand and said, "We're going to have the
defibrillator at the gym, just in case." He wasn't smiling.
Then, in my complimentary WNBA player's bag--which included,
yes, sports bras--some wise gal had slipped in a listing of
Chicago funeral homes. Then I got a look at the schedule for the
next day: 9:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m., half-court games; 2-8 p.m.,
full-court games. And I thought, 8:03, defibrillator.
Now, I may not be Billy Blanks, but I'm not Tyra Banks, either.
I'm 6'1", 180 pounds, sturdy in a 42-year-old kind of way. But
when I went to my power-forward spot and a woman named Frankie
Boyd, 6'4" and 180 pounds, senior, Ole Miss, got the ball in the
post, yo-yoed it, slammed her butt into my intestines and her
elbow into my teeth (sending me skidding back on my shorts), and
laid in the uncontested bunny, I wished very much that I had
stayed home and rotated the tires.
Why must women be so violent? They grabbed me. They shoved me.
They pinched me. They held their ground. They were huge. At one
point I was guarding 6'4", 250-pound UCLA center Janae Hubbard,
a woman who on the court didn't seem to care in the least about
Maybelline. I came out, and my coach, Greg Williams, an
assistant with the Detroit Shock, said, "Son, you couldn't play
dead in a cowboy movie."
I tightened my sports bra. I bruised, pinched and elbowed the
women back. For me, chivalry was dead. In one skirmish with
Boyd, I held her, she slapped my hands away, she hooked her arm
around my back, I grunted, we leaned hard into each other, both
bathed in sweat, thus re-creating most of my high school dates.
I started making shots. A baby hook. A three-pointer. A thumping
putback. I returned to the bench. "I bet you scored 10 points
out there," Williams said, "and gave up 20."
But you don't understand! I had to guard 6'8" Rhonda Smith, who
had fingernails like RuPaul! I had to stay with Michelle
(Spinderella) Marciniak, the 1996 Final Four MVP! I had to stop
women who would humiliate the tall white geeks at the end of
every NBA bench. "Did you play basketball when you were young?"
a well-meaning teammate asked me on the sideline. Uh, ouch. Oh,
yes, I wanted to say. I was in charge of getting the ball out of
the peach basket.
Then came the full-court games. Refs. Stat crews. At one point,
gassed, I looked over to Williams and pulled on my shirt, the
universal sign that a player needs to come out. Williams just
looked blankly at me. I did it the next time down. Nothing. A
third. Zilch. I grew woozy. There was a timeout. "Didn't you
[pant] see me [gulp] tug on my [spit] shirt?" I asked.
"Oh," Williams said. "I thought your jersey was sticky."
God, it was fun. My teammates took me in, slapping me on the
rear and never laughing at my air balls. I love the WNBA now.
There's more teamwork than in the NBA, better fundamentals and
far fewer paternity suits. I have a new definition of
femininity. What I look for now in a beautiful woman is big
hands, scabby knees and a nice box-out butt.
As I was leaving, I saw Nancy Lieberman-Cline, one of the
greatest woman basketball players ever, who's now G.M. and coach
of the Shock. I asked her what she thought of my game. "I
honestly think," she said, "you'd be a very good fifth-round
That soothed my aching pride until that night, in the tub, I
read something that sort of took the glow off: Tuesday's draft
has only four rounds.
teeth. I wished I'd stayed home and rotated the tires.