On Friday night, my first season as president of the WNBA came to an end as we crowned the Minnesota Lynx with their first league title. As exciting as it was to present the championship and MVP awards, it was what happened the next day, Saturday, that confirmed for me that this is, indeed, my dream job.
But more on that in a moment. The experiences I have had during my first five months -- attending games, meeting fans, visiting with partners, getting to know our players -- have been nothing short of thrilling.
I love the game. It is fast, it is competitive, and it is exciting.
I love our players. They are talented athletes and model citizens who are committed to giving their all both on and off the court. They respect those who have come before them, and they willingly embrace opportunities to be role models for the next generation of young girls.
I love being part of an organization that does more than pay lip service to its mission of giving back to the community.
Everything I love about the WNBA was wrapped up in the events of this past weekend. The Atlanta Dream reached the Finals for the second time in four years. Friday night's series-ending game went down to the wire. With 1:27 left in the game, Atlanta came within one point, only to have Minnesota pull away and win the game... and the championship.
Now I have never played team sports, but I have a pretty strong competitive streak and I know how it feels to dream big and then lose something that is important to you and that you have worked hard to achieve.
So as I presented the championship trophy to the Minnesota Lynx on Atlanta's home court, my heart went out to the Dream team -- players, coaches, owners -- who found themselves on the losing end of a tough series (tougher, in my opinion, than the three-game sweep would suggest).
But back to Saturday. Heading back to my hotel after Friday night's celebration, my thoughts wandered to the following afternoon. The Atlanta Dream was scheduled to put on a WNBA FIT Clinic for Cool Girls, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to the self-empowerment of girls. I wondered how the players would feel returning to the court fewer than 24 hours after the heart-breaking end to their 2011 season.
My worries were for naught.
At 1:45 on Saturday afternoon, the players -- Lindsey Harding, Alison Bales, Izzy Castro Marques, Armintie Price, and Erika de Souza -- arrived at the arena. Sore, yes. Tired, maybe. Sad? Not that I could tell.
As they walked onto the court, the Cool Girls cheered. The arena was shaken to the rafters with the sound of squealing young girls who were downright giddy at the sight of the WNBA stars.
The FIT Clinic was a terrific success. The girls got to work out with professional athletes. Along the way, they learned the importance of being fit. And the players were able to end their season relaxing and enjoying the respect and adoration of their young fans as they stayed late to sign autographs.
Saturday afternoon on center court was a very poignant and powerful reminder of everything I love about the WNBA. The Dream gave Atlanta fans a great season and gave WNBA fans across the country a compelling Finals. And though the players may have fallen short of their dream of winning a championship, they made dreams come true for 100 Cool Girls.
Competing with heart, honoring commitments, and giving back to the community -- to me, that's the stuff dreams are made of.