The Sky had just won their first WNBA title Sunday afternoon, the confetti was flying at Wintrust Arena and the TV interviewer was giddy with excitement.
“Give me that married couple!’’ ESPN’s Holly Rowe hollered cheerily into her microphone. ‘‘Where is my married couple?’’
She was speaking, of course, of the Sky’s dynamic backcourt duo of Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot. They were married in Seattle almost two years ago and own a house in Deerfield, with two dogs and a pool. Teammates come over to grill and chill; Vandersloot maintains the yard, life is quiet, normal.
In so many ways, they are old-fashioned American suburbanites, married, working hard, trying to avoid stress, succeeding at their jobs, taking advantage of all the freedoms and opportunities this country professes to believe in.
But the simple fact of being pro athletes married to each other, with all the societal, political and work issues it can bring up, is an elephant in the room that will sit there silently until it drifts away with understanding and, finally, irrelevance.
Rowe looked to Quigley.
“You’re getting passes from your wife! And it’s such a beautiful thing,’’ she shouted.
So true. Quigley scored 26 points in the Sky’s 80-74 victory in Game 4, and Vandersloot had 15 assists. Often they worked in sync, with the elusive Vandersloot setting up Quigley and other teammates for threes by penetrating and drawing two or more defenders for just an instant. Her basketball IQ is genius level.
Deadeye shooter Quigley led the Sky in scoring in the Finals, averaging 18 points. Vandersloot had the most assists in WNBA history for the postseason (102) and the Finals (50). She is the first person to have double-digit assists in four consecutive Finals games. She was directly involved in 46.4% of the Sky’s scoring in the Finals.
Why she — or possibly Quigley — wasn’t named Finals MVP is a mystery to this observer.
No matter. In fractured America, where personal choice and freedom in relationships and lifestyles are nominally saluted, there is also the sentiment that such freedom should be abridged by fundamentalism and hard-wired, old-school morality: ‘‘Freedom, yes. But we don’t mean that.’’
It’s a fact that the starting guard combo on the best women’s basketball team in the USA is gay, out and married. A generation or so ago, this would have been scandalous, if not impossible. It very likely would have been unthinkable.
Now? If you draw the line on progressive sexual and gender norms, then you can’t, for instance, be a fan of the WNBA.
The league is full of lesbian players, many of them superstars.
The Mercury’s Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi, who is perhaps the greatest statistical player in women’s history, are gay and married to women. Griner was briefly married to fellow player Glory Johnson and now is wed to Cherelle Watson.
Taurasi is married to former teammate and current Mercury director of player personnel Penny Taylor. Taylor gave birth to the couple’s second child, a girl, just as the Finals were starting. They already have a 3-year-old son, Leo Taurasi-Taylor.
The Mercury’s DeWanna Bonner was married to former teammate Candice Dupree. They had twin daughters. And then there is the TV game analyst who handled this series, the great and still-active Sue Bird, who is engaged to soccer star Megan Rapinoe. Between them, they have won seven Olympic gold medals.
So this is the new world. A generation ago, a politician could not get elected supporting same-sex marriage. Now it’s pretty much demanded of a candidate.
And yet, the evolving issue of sexual and gender freedom is loaded with booby traps. For instance, edgy comedian Dave Chappelle, a Black man who has been able to hilariously skewer just about everything and everybody, may have met his match when he went after the transgender community in his recent Netflix special, ‘‘The Closer.’’ Protests have arisen from LGBTQ activists and the media watchdog group GLAAD.
People comment on gender and sexual orientation at their own peril. It was very good that Rowe, who is living with cancer and is a single mother with an adult son, asked about the wedded Sky duo. She has the credentials to ask what, quite frankly, a random male sportswriter maybe could not.
The equation is simple, really: You love the Sky, you love the players. You love change.
After all, it’s the dancers who make the lovely dance.