Sparks Watch Day 35: A Sparks fan's take on how he began to follow women's basketball

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Today, Callan McClurg, one of the creators of the Sparks' Fan Petition to keep the team in LA has offered to provide his thoughts on the team and how he became a fan of the WNBA and women's basketball in general. With the WNBA holding a press conference later at 1:00 PM ET/10:00 AM PT regarding the team's ownership, we expect that this will be the last day of the series.

I began following the WNBA about the same time I started following the NBA, during the times of the Los Angeles Lakers three peat from 2000/01-2002/03. It was also the 200/01 season that I watched the Los Angeles Sparks on television, so I figured I’d be a Lakers and Sparks Fan! The first Sparks game I watched on Fox Sports Net West just happened to be the same game Lisa Leslie became the first player to slam dunk in league history. I’ve come to appreciate the women’s game more so than the men’s game, because it seems the women put it in the extra effort during games, rather than going through the motions or playing the game half hearted.

The back-story of my taste in the women’s game can be traced back to when I was back east in Connecticut ten years ago while visiting family in West Hartford. My Uncle managed to get us all tickets to a UConn Huskies women’s game at Gampel Pavilion. My first favorite female basketball player was Diana Taurasi, who I so happened to watch play when I went to that game at UConn. After experiencing the game at UConn, I began to frequently attended women’s games between San Diego State and the University of San Diego, where I watched Jene Morris, Amber Sprague and Amanda Rigo play for four years.

However, after those players’ college careers ended my taste for the game turned sour due to there not being any players that I recognized playing. The sour taste stayed until there was a night when ESPN was set to air a women’s game featuring Tennessee. I was about to flip the channel until I heard the analysts start pumping up the tires on a freshman Forward. That freshman forward was Candace Parker. I put the remote down and from that day forward that I didn’t miss any women’s basketball games at the college or pro level.

I’ve watched Candace’s career from her college dunks, the flyswatter blocks and of course the winning of back-to-back National Championships in 2007 and 2008 and her WNBA draft stock was through the roof, I remember saying to myself "This is the start of something nice". I remember being at home and watching the WNBA draft on ESPN and with the Sparks hold the #1 overall selection after their 10-24 2007 season, you pretty much knew where she would wind up. Naturally, "With the first pick in the 2008 WNBA draft, the Los Angeles Sparks select Candace Parker, Forward from the University of Tennessee." FSN West began televising most of the Sparks’ 34 game season, so I was able to keep up with the team and the beginning of her career.

From 2009-2012, the Sparks began to disappear from the Fox Sports West summer television schedule, due to summer scheduling conflicts with the MLB’s Angels and Dodgers playing on Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket. The games began being show on KDOC-LA or KCAL-9; channels I don’t get down here in San Diego, but thanks to the wonders of technology and the internet I would watch the Game cast on espn.com or read the press releases and game recaps or catch the highlights of the games.

I rejoiced in late 2012 when it was announced that Time Warner Cable and the Lakers struck a deal to create a new network for the Lakers that would include the MLS’ Galaxy AND the Sparks. Time Warner Cable SportsNet became the new TV home for the Lakers, Galaxy and the Sparks in time for the Sparks’ 2013 season, where I missed maybe two or three televised games. If I missed a game, I could watch it on NBATV or with the league’s trusty Center Court mobile app. With the expanded coverage of games on TV, I was able to watch of the GREATEST games I’ve watched at any level of competition, when the Sparks rallied from double digits in the 4th quarter to defeat the Tulsa Shock 90-88 in Double Overtime, best known for Candace’s head butt that cut open teammate Nneka Ogwumike.

My passion and love for women’s basketball and for the Sparks convinced my close friend Chris Woodmansee to become a fan of the game and of the Sparks and he’s become a huge fan of Lindsey Harding, just like how I’ve been a big fan of Candace Parker since her college days. Chris and myself had plans to attend a home game this season, until we heard the news of the ownership leaving and the possibility of the franchise being relocated to the Bay Area, which felt like someone dumping a bucket of water on you from a second story balcony and having it go viral on Instagram.

In closing, 2013 is best remembered for a few particular social media moments. I will admit this, WNBA players are the ONLY athletes that I’ve seen interact with their fans, as far as replying to tweets or retweeting photos people have made of them. There was a time where I had finished hosting my sports show and tweeted to Candace saying that I had talked about the Sparks and brought attention to the WNBA. Her response: "preciate the love."

In late 2013 I went back to blogging about sports, and the first post was about my interest in the game of women’s basketball and I talked about Candace and her accolades at Tennessee and about her first five years of her career with the Los Angeles Sparks. I tweeted to my Twitter followers to go check my blog out, little did I know that the next morning that Candace ACTUALLY read the blog, she also retweeted the blog post, favorited it AND topped it all off with a follow. That has been by far the most rewarding thing that I’ve done so far in my career of sports announcing or writing.

You can check out Callan's blog by clicking here.

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