We know that for many Mystics fans, this Thursday will be their first time attending a game at the Comcast Center. But for many others (especially the BasketCases), Comcast is a home away from home during the college basketball season. For us, it's a place where we've spent countless exciting and fun-filled hours watching the University of Maryland Women's Basketball Team (Go Terps!). So to have our beloved Mystics -- in the postseason -- playing at the home of our beloved Terps is pure BasketCases nirvana!
Like all fans, we'll be spending most of our visit with our eyes glued to the court during the playoff game. But before and after the game, and during halftime, there's plenty more for fans to see at this great arena. If you're a first-timer to Comcast (unlike President Obama, who will be making his second visit Thursday morning), be sure you don't miss any of the women's basketball history on display around this beautiful facility. (Coincidentally, many of these "historical items" relate to the Terps' 2006 NCAA National Championship.) So for newbies, here's a BasketCases' "must see" checklist:
The Wall Mural. If you're able to take a peek inside the tunnel leading to the locker rooms, you can't miss this subtle reminder to every visiting team that enters and exits the tunnel that they are playing on the home court of a National Champion.
On a Mystics team of only eleven players, astonishingly four of those eleven played in that 2006 National Championship final. (Of course, only two have fond memories of that game.) And interestingly, a total of six of the eleven Mystics have actually played games at Comcast Center. Five are obvious (Lang, Marissa, AB, Mo & Lindsey -- all of whom have had great games on this court) . . . but can you name the sixth? (The answer is here (no peeking unless you need to!)) So while the Mystics won't be playing their first playoff game on their true home court, Comcast Center is as close to a second home as this ACC-rich Mystics team can get!
The Orbitz Trophy. Every year the winner of the National Championship is awarded an impressive cut-glass reminder of their accomplishment -- the Orbitz Trophy. The University of Maryland actually has two huge Championship trophies on display, one belonging to the Gentlemen Terps (near the front entrance), from 2002, and the don't-miss-one commemorating the 2006 Championship in a custom-designed kiosk in the center of the main concourse. The display also includes photos from the game and even a push button recording of one of the most exciting moments from that NCAA final! (Don't forget your camera in case you want to have your picture taken standing next to the trophy.)
For the record, though, as lovely as the Orbitz Trophy is, it's not the official National Championship Trophy. Nope, the actual Natty awarded by the NCAA to the winning team is that large vertical block of wood you see the players holding in all the post-game photos. The Terps have one from 2006, of course (plus a spare). In fact, there's actually a stand for it in the display case just off the main concourse at Comcast, among the displays of many other Maryland sports trophies. But in the 3 years since the Terps won the Natty, the BasketCases have never seen it on display. We have seen it many times in photos taken in Coach Frese's office. (And there's an unconfirmed -- but reliable -- report it's been spotted sticking out of Coach B's diaper bag.)
The Final Floor. We confess, this is the BasketCases' all-time favorite item of basketball memorabilia! So cool! If you enter Comcast Center on the ground floor, or take the elevator down to the lower level, you'll find the center circle of the actual basketball court from the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston (the former Fleet Center) on which the 2006 Final Four (including the National Championship game) was played. (Or, as we like to call it, the Final Floor.) That's right, Maryland bought the hardwood, and had it shipped down to College Park for permanent enshrinement. You can check out Crystal Langhorne's scuff marks. (Or maybe they're Mo Currie's, we aren't exactly sure. And it's probably not a good idea to ask her, just before the tipoff of the Mystics' playoff game.) You can also see the Final Floor by looking over the railing on the main concourse, but there's nothing like going downstairs and actually touching the real thing. (Another photo op, naturally.)
The Banners. Once in the arena itself, be sure to look skyward. There are quite a few banners hanging from the rafters, including a few that Mystics fans won't want to miss:
Crystal Langhorne. Fittingly for a player who broke so many University records, Lang's jersey was honored at the end of her senior season. As you can see, Lang still wears the same number for the Mystics that she wore with so much success for four years playing for the Terps.
Marissa Coleman (and a little-used Chicago Sky rookie). At the end of Marissa's senior season, her jersey was also honored, along with that of her classmate and teammate, Kristi Toliver. Since Mo Currie had already laid claim to the Mystics' #25, Marissa chose to wear #4 for her WNBA career.
Vicky Bullett. Mystics Assistant Coach -- and Maryland legend -- Vicky Bullett never played at Comcast, but her banner found a new home there when the Terps' basketball teams relocated from Cole Fieldhouse to the new arena in 2002. The BasketCases are embarrassed to admit that we couldn't find a photo of Vicky's banner . . . but we assure you her number's hanging there in the rarified air along with the others. (We'll be bringing our camera on Thursday and we promise to rectify this omission ASAP!)
The Championship Banner. And finally, for Terps fans, of course, the banner of all banners, the one that represents the greatest NCAA team achievement of all.
When Angela Taylor was named the Mystics GM last fall, she set about to build a team around players who are winners. It's pretty clear what a great job she's doing. And we hope that, on Thursday, all the winningness on display at Comcast Center will be an inspiration to everyone on the Mystics roster . . . and help lead the team to a BIG win.
The BasketCases plan to do something that day we never thought we'd do at the Comcast Center in our lifetimes . . . cheer loudly and enthusiastically for Dukies! (OMG, was that a pig that just flew past our window?) We will! On Thursday, there will be no Terps, no Dukies, no Wolfpack, no whatever . . . just Mystics! On Thursday, ACC rivalries at Comcast Center will be put on hold. Only one thing will matter . . . a first round win for Washington!
Go Mystics, Beat the Fever!
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Please help the Mystics turn Comcast into Verizon North . . . whatever it takes, don't miss this game! If you haven't gotten your tickets yet, call your ticket rep now or go to Ticketmaster.com. There's plenty of parking at Comcast, and a free shuttle if you are arriving by Metro. No excuses! See you there!
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Parking Update: The BasketCases just received our tickets from the Mystics for Thursday's game, along with a letter stating that "the University of Maryland will be charging $10 for parking." Ugh. But then again, the State of Maryland is in a serious fiscal crisis.
Photo Credits: top: University of Maryland; all others: DC BasketCases