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Top 10 Reasons to Watch New York Liberty in Newark

There’s an added hype as the 2011 WNBA season gets ready to tip off, particularly extra excitement in Liberty camp. The New York franchise, one of the league’s original teams, is celebrating its 15th year in existence and its first-ever season with Newark as its home city.

As the Liberty prepare for their first of three seasons away from the friendly confines of Madison Square Garden, which is undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation project, the burning question remains: will the team’s faithful show up? I think so.

If you need some convincing, here are 10 good reasons why everyone should show up and support the Liberty.

1. These ladies can play. For far too long, women’s basketball has been the step child to the men’s game – at all levels. The WNBA movement has helped promote female sports, specifically hoops, and that has positively impacted the competition in the NCAA as well as high school and AAU. The result is better basketball. Or in the case of the WNBA, hoops at its best.

2. Cappie Pondexter. Whoa, baby! If you think LeBron and Derrick Rose are fast, you haven’t seen Pondexter move up and down the court. With lightning quick moves, Pondexter can drive fearlessly to the hoop or create her own jump shot from anywhere on the court. She’s one of the league’s top scorers and one of the faces of the WNBA. Need more proof of how good she is – ask Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

The Liberty will play their home games at the Prudential Center in Newark this season.

3. Newark, New Jersey. Throughout the decades, Newark has been much maligned in the media because of its crime rates. But Mayor Booker has worked tirelessly to erase the city’s old reputation, and he’s succeeding. The rate of violent crimes has decreased in recent years, and the Brick City is now a booming metropolis. The Downtown and Ironbound districts are revitalized with businesses and new residents.

4. The Rock. Comparing Newark’s Prudential Center to Madison Square Garden is like day and night. The Rock is the center of downtown, the symbol of the city’s strength, promise and resurgence. The state-of-the-art facility is still brand new, the lights are bright, the halls are spacious and the setting is opening and welcoming.

5. You can actually catch a T-shirt. The most disheartening thing to see for a fan sitting in the nose bleed section is watching team cheerleaders throw free T-shirts into the stands. No one in the upper deck is catching one of those. At Liberty games, however, the arena is an intimate setting and the fans are seated as close to the action as possible. Not only can someone see Leilani Mitchell and Nicole Powell smile, the possibility of catching a T-shirt via toss or rocket launcher (it’s safe, non-military issued and WNBA approved) also increases.

6. Cheap parking. I drove into New York for a Knicks game from my suburban home this winter and parked in a lot several blocks from Madison Square Garden. Satisfied with the Knicks win over the Cavaliers, I went back to the parking lot to fetch my car. I drove home unsatisfied after paying $40. Last month, I went to the Liberty preseason game against the Mystics. The total parking fee for the lot across Mulberry Street from Prudential Center was so cheap that I had plenty of cash to buy gas for my car.

7. No NBA. OK, technically this isn’t entirely true – the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks have proved me wrong. But once Dirk and DWade are through, the only professional basketball league still offering a regular season is the WNBA. And this isn’t a case of “there’s nothing else happening.” Since there’s really no drop off in the level of play, consider it a continuation of great basketball.

8. Greenhorns. There’s nothing more exciting than watching a rookie play her sport. For the Liberty, three rookies will bring new life and energy to a team laden with stars hoping to improve on last season’s remarkable 22-12 campaign. They’ll also be counted on heavily to contribute, especially on the boards.

New York Liberty mascot, Maddie

9. Maddie. I have never been a fan of team mascots; only a select few have made such a positive impression with me. Maddie, the Liberty’s lovable pooch, is slowly making her way to the top of my list. I’m not sure if it’s the curls of the fur, the uneven gestures or the numerous costume changes that I enjoy. One thing’s for sure – Maddie is a diva and she loves her Liberty.

10. Fan and family friendly. When formed 15 years ago, the WNBA promised to deliver a high-quality product that catered to its fans and their families. Thus far, the formula is working and there’s no thought to change. WNBA games are affordable – browse any ticketing agency’s website and you’ll find that taking a family of four to the game won’t cost an arm and a leg. Parking around the Prudential Center is very reasonable, and food and drink inside the arena is fair. You’ll probably have an extra buck or two to purchase a foam finger, too.

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