Mychal Springer

It’s Shavuot today. (Actually, just to be clear, I’m writing and submitting this prior to the holiday, since I observe the Jewish holidays in a traditional fashion.)

Yesterday was the deadline for buying WNBA All-Star Game tickets. The energy at Madison Square Garden will be fantastic. Full of women and girls–with men and boys as well–and jubilant celebration. We have season tickets to the Liberty and have had them since the first season of the WNBA. When we got a letter from Madison Square Garden offering us tickets, I immediately said yes. People who knew me thought it was kind of quirky. I was already a Knicks fan, and I thought it would be fun. But I was unprepared for how deeply the women’s games could touch me.

We went to the opening game of the opening season and there was an elaborate ceremony. Secular public ritual doesn’t often move me, but this one did. I surprised myself by crying. I felt like this moment opened up endless possibilities for how girls could see themselves in the future. I looked around me at the girls in the crowd and imagined how this moment might change their understanding of themselves–of their bodies, of their personalities. For a moment I wished I was 10 again–not a wish I often have.

I’ve always been competitive. As a kid, one of my central goals was to beat the fastest boy in the class in a race. After many tries, I did. (I think he still claimed I didn’t, but I was satisfied.) But the language for a kid like me was tomboy, somehow suggesting that the only frame of reference that made sense for my athletic competitiveness was male. What would it have been like for me if I could have watched Theresa Weatherspoon? She leaps around the court with ferocious energy and is unapologetically intense in pursuit of victory. I feel exhilarated and empowered when I see her now. I’d love to see Theresa become an example of what it means to be ladylike.

Another chaplain at Beth Israel who has Liberty season tickets–a man–told me that Theresa Weatherspoon called him to remind him that he hadn’t bought his All-Star tickets yet. Briefly I imagined her picking up the phone and calling the fans. Eventually he told me that it was a recording of her voice. But even so–what a humble act. When’s the last time Patrick Ewing worked to sell tickets to a Knicks game?

Reading back through what I’ve written today, I’m almost amused to see evidence of my unambivalent fandom. Considering that I resisted being a Celtics fan growing up in Boston in the era of Larry Bird, I’ve certainly changed my perspective. Maybe it’s all connected to the issue of embracing my home. I love having shared heroes with the New Yorkers around me, of seeing myself in relation to people who are larger than life. It used to be that my heroes were all Jewish. What would happen if Golda Meir went one on one with Theresa Weatherspoon?