Thursday, April 11, 2013

Reflecting on the Greenberg Award

I got my picture snapped with Tyler Summitt and Holly Warlick. I saw Brittney Griner up close. I chatted with some terrific UConn fans while inhaling a Western omelet at a diner with a line to the door. I wore a glittery dress. I got to meet James Madison assistant Jen Brown and Virginia assistant Ashley Earley. I spotted Delaware coach Tina Martin in a pastel (a lime green blouse).  I sampled the bananas foster at Brennan's.  I ate a beignet, OK, several beignets. I walked the French Quarter, tempted to bring home some of the most distinctive art inspirations I've ever seen up close. I returned with some simpler mementos: a voodoo doll for success, a hand-crafted ring and pendant, and a striking diamond-shaped award from the Women's Basketball Coaches Association.

The 2013 Mel Greenberg Media Award is on my mantel. It's a flattering, humbling and pretty amazing honor considering the unexpected twists during my career writing about women's basketball. Allow me to indulge for just a moment.

I've received all sorts of calls, emails and congratulatory messages since word got out that I was the Greenberg winner. It's been a great couple of weeks, even though it's odd to be the one written about for a change. Truth is, the Greenberg is to me what the Pulitzer would be to others. I love being an ambassador to this sport that I have become so deeply passionate about since the first time I covered a game in 1996. While I enjoy games per se, I've come to realize that I find the greatest joy in the people surrounding the sport and the relationships I've built and continue to invest in over the years.

In truth, I thought I would never write another women's basketball story when I learned via email one night during Old Dominion's Senior Night game that I would no longer be covering the Lady Monarchs as my job. The blow had the pain of an open wound for a long, long time. By that summer of 2009, the idea of a blog was born. I'd love to tell you it was my idea. It never was. The other half of LadySwish -- often the most overlooked half -- is Paul White, my best friend.
With Tyler Summitt and Holly Warlick

"What if we had a blog?" he asked one night, and I unenthusiastically said it wouldn't work. How would we ever got people to read it? But we gave it a try -- I am proud to say I thought up the name -- and here we are four years later. We'd like a wider audience because we think we have good things to say and a perspective often overlooked in what little media do cover the sport. Paul and I don't agree on everything, but largely we share a few fundamentals, including our disdain for the word "mid-major," a sincere interest in growing the game by exploring creative means to do so and a genuine appreciation for the sport's teams and stories, especially the ones in our state.

Our following grows every day, brick by brick. Our reach is international. We'd love to go more places in person and write more posts, but this isn't a money-making endeavor. We try to do as much as we can, telling the stories behind the stories of Virginia's teams and on occasion, we go broader. We hear from folks every day -- coaches, players, fans -- who savor much of what we write. We do our best for them.

The Greenberg Award is given to an ambassador to the game, and what a privilege that I am on that list of worthy recipients that includes one of my dearest friends, Vic Dorr of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

That said, the whirlwind of two days in New Orleans was just that. The award was presented during an actual awards show -- not Oscars, but truly the WBCA tries to give it a televised event feel -- that saw Griner walk away with plenty of hardware, including the Wade Trophy. Muffet won, too, and C. Viv was on hand to be recognized for her 900th win.

As I left the stage holding the award, how touching and sentimentally fitting it was for the first hug to come from Ticha Penicheiro. Those were the days, indeed.

I didn't get to speak on stage, but if I had, I would have said this. Thanks, Vic. Thanks, Paul. Thanks Mel and WBCA. Thanks, Mike. Thanks, Wendy. Thanks Khadijah Whittington for sharing the story of your dad that day. Thanks, Sarah Jones. Thanks to all the coaches, players and friends who have taken the time to answer one question or several that I've asked. Without all of you, there is no Greenberg for me.


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