Sunday, November 23, 2008
Note: The following is a work of fiction, and hopefully not a premonition.
In the later months of 2008, the WNBA realized that it had a problem with the Houston Comets - there were no takers. A planned relocation to Dallas had unfortunately fallen through, and it looked like the Comets would be forced to disappear as a franchise, its players scattered in a dispersal draft.
WNBA President Donna Orender had been told by NBA Commissioner David Stern that given the choice between only 13 teams and the Houston Comets existing in some manner, he wanted the Comets to exist. Many of the WNBA's hardcore fans - who posted at the Rebkell Message Board - were of the opinion that if the Houston Comets disappeared, it would be a disaster. The Comets had won the first four WNBA championships. Some posters marked that it would be "the end of the league".
With a declining economy, however, it looked to Orender that saving the Comets was impossible until a football playing friend suggested a radical solution. The Comets would not be dissolved. Rather, they would be merged with an existing franchise until the nation's recession/depression faded and some new owner arose. At that point, the merged team would be "demerged", and the Houston Comets part of the team would go off to Houston, or wherever. The Comets would still exist - maybe not in Houston, but somewhere.
He pointed to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who, to help the NFL survive during World War II, merged first with the Philadelphia Eagles (becoming the "Steagles").
Granted, Houston would only exist in the sense of a technicality - the team would be only theoretically alive - but it was better than nothing. Donna Orender proposed the solution in December after the deal with the new Dallas owner fell through (he was facing serious insider trading charges).
The first problem was which team would have to merge with Houston. Everyone turned to Atlanta, since a) Atlanta's fans were very supportive of the Dream despite its poor record, and b) Atlanta had the least clout, having only been in the WNBA for one year.
The matter went to a league vote, which voted in favor of the idea - 7 to 6. Furthermore, the league would only allow the merger to exist for one year. Teams were afraid that the new Atlanta-Houston team would be a juggernaut, combining the best of the Dream and the Comets.
Since Ron Terwilliger was paying the money, he had a large say in how the team would operate. The new team would be called the Atlanta Dream, much to the dismay of Houston fans. The Comets-Dream combination was called "Come-D" (pronounced "comedy") by the fans of the WNBA on Rebkell.
It would wear the powder blue, red, white combination associated with the Dream, and there would be no addition of either Houston insignia or colors. Houston fans were very unhappy and turned their anger towards the Dream organization.
The team would play 10 of its scheduled home games at Philips Arena in Atlanta, and seven games would be played at the Reliant Center in Houston. Houston, still sore over the absorption of their team, would only cheer Houston players and boos could be heard from the rooftops at Reliant whenever Betty Lennox or Ivory Latta were announced in the lineup. Fans of neither the Dream nor the Comets liked the new schedule. Furthermore, the teams that were the best draws in the Western Conference - San Antonio, Los Angeles, Seattle - would all have their home games in Atlanta and not Houston. Houston was particularly unhappy about not playing San Antonio at home and viewed the Dream organization as a bunch of poachers.
The team would have co-head coaches for the only time. It might have worked in theory but not in practice. Marynell Meadors and Karleen Thompson did not see eye to eye and clashed. Meadors would have control over the offense with Thompson given the defensive duties.
Players from Houston felt no loyalty to Meadors, and the Atlanta clique saw no need to obey Thompson. There were also clashes between players. Tina Thompson and Betty Lennox did not get along. Michelle Snow and Kasha Terry got into a fight during practice that brought players from the merged teams to blows. It ended with Terry being traded to the Sky for virtually nothing. The Houston press fueled fan anger and the Atlanta press viewed the proceedings as proof that the WNBA was a joke league.
Oddly enough, attendance went up in both Atlanta and Houston. Scarcity drove up the need to attend games - there were only so many home games in either Atlanta or Houston. The "Atlanta Comedy" finished at 18-16, good enough to send the Dream to the playoffs for the first time...where they were swept by the Connecticut Sun.
Houston would find a new buyer, and the next year the Comets would move back to Houston, taking their coaching staff and their players with them. Of course, in 2010 the Chicago Sky was in trouble. Once again, the league turned to the Dream....