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Volume 24 No. 156
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Weekend Plans With Sparks Owner Paula Williams Madison: WNBA Playoffs Begin

For WNBA Sparks Majority Owner & CEO PAULA WILLIAMS MADISON, this weekend is off to a so-so start. On the one hand, her star player CANDACE PARKER on Thursday was named the ’13 league MVP. But later that same night, the Sparks fell 86-79 to the Mercury in their Western Conference Semifinal Game 1 at Staples Center. Madison and the team now have to put the loss behind them and regroup for Game 2 in Phoenix on Saturday.

GET THE SHOW ON THE ROAD: My husband (team investor) ROOSEVELT and I will travel on Saturday. We will get to Phoenix I think  at 9:00am (PT), and the game is at 7:00pm so we won’t actually have to be in the arena for some hours. We like to roam around the area of the hotel and we’ll have lunch. We have a couple of restaurants in Phoenix that we like. Within two or three blocks of the hotel there’s a couple of good burger places and there’s a sushi place that’s right around the corner. But Phoenix is really hot. You don’t just go strolling through Phoenix in September aimlessly because it’s likely to be over 100 degrees. You go to where you’re going and have something nice and cool to drink and something to eat and then you go back to where you were from.
STRESS TEST: I probably travel to about a fourth of (the games), while my husband will probably travel to 80% of them. I actually can’t handle the stress of the away games. He says to me how tough it is to sit next to me because I try to keep myself contained. There’s a lot of excitement, anxiety, and so for me I frankly am better at ease on the away games watching them on television. I try to build up my stamina and go to more of them, but right now I actually just was named a Los Angeles Police Department commissioner, which actually is going to curtail some of my travel.

GOOD VIBRATIONS: Our seats (for Saturday) are actually at the control of the opposing team. They set aside a certain number of seats for the owners, manager, et cetera. So we sit where we’re given and typically our seats are within the first six rows and that’s fine. I probably spend a lot of time (during the game) marshaling my mental forces, focusing very strongly, and trying to send out as much hugely positive energy as I can to our team. Sometimes when you’re watching those games you can feel yourself willing them to win. I kind of laugh at myself over the intensity of doing that, but that’s my own little quirk.

COME TOGETHER: In the evening, certainly after the game, we’ve been known to go and find a restaurant in the area and have some dessert and drinks before we head to our hotel room and crash. On occasion, depending upon the circumstance, we sometimes order a spread and invite the players to come over because after the game they’re ravished.

FILM STUDY: When we get home on Sunday my husband and I will sit down and go over how the game went, how the plays went, how the refereing went, how the other team played. Because, especially this being a playoff series, it’s not just this game and then we’re off to looking ahead at the next game with the next team. This is the same team, so you tend more to go over what the matchups were, what the plays were and so forth. It’s more casual than I’m making it sound, but we will talk about that. Then my husband will spend time talking with PENNY TOLER, who’s the Exec VP and GM of the team, and I will be getting debriefed on how the gate was on Thursday night when we were here and in the anticipation of Monday’s gate, the in-arena excitement, that’s a lot of what I pay attention to.

HOME SWEET HOME COURT: On Monday I’ll just try to mellow out and we’ll get to Staples a couple hours early and welcome season-ticket holders and smile at the players. I try not to have conversations with them before the game because I don’t want to distract them from what they’re doing. ... We sit courtside, so I spend time walking around the arena. I will go in and out of the stands sometimes, sometimes people will want to take pictures with me and I’m always honored that they do, especially now they’re bringing T-shirts and want us to sign them and I’m honored and happy to do that. I see myself as a fan, a cheerleader -- certainly owner -- but I understand that the fan experience is very, very important.

A FAMILY THAT PLAYS TOGETHER…: I’m thrilled because I have a good number of family members who live here in L.A., we’re not originally from here, but we have a good number of family members and they’re excited and they come to the games and we catch up with them. I have one daughter and one grandson, he’s six-and-a-half. He has his buddies who he hangs out with at the game -- the assistant coaches’ kids, some of the ballplayers have got kids and they tend to have their own little groove going on during the game. Their crowd ranges in age from about three to six. So there’s a little posse of them and it’s kind of fun watching them enjoy the game. It’s all about screaming and slushies and hot dogs and caramel corn.