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Thursday, May 16, 2002
Scrimmages with Lynx make believers of men

By Dave Campbell
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Lynx have a target market, and guys aren't in it.

They'd just as soon hang out at JC Penney's perfume counterwhile sipping on raspberry lattes than be interested in women's professional basketball.

The Macho Male's typical reaction? "Dude, I could play in the WNBA."

Ah, if only He knew.

At the Northwest Athletic Club in the Target Center basement, the Lynx this month are preparing for their fourth season with another gut-busting training camp run by one of the league's most-demanding coaches, Brian Agler.

On the days when the Lynx practice twice, a group of twentysomething men shows up for a scrimmage.

"You get tired of going up against the same people every day," Agler said. "It gives us a chance to play against somebody else bigger and stronger."

Scores are kept. Fouls are called (sometimes). Bruises are given. Perceptions are changed.

Listen, guys: Unless you played basketball at a major college or a level higher than that, you cannot play in the WNBA. You are not good enough.

Bryan Munsell, who played three seasons at NCAA Division III St. John's University in Collegeville, is a ticket sales executive for the Lynx.

He's got an obvious agenda, because of his job. Still, his bloodshot right eye is convincing enough: guard Shaunzinski Gortman got him with an elbow.

Geoff Morgan, another St. John's grad who played hoops in high school for Dassel-Cokato, was drenched in sweat during a break Wednesday night.

"I'm used to pickup games," Morgan said. "It's a hard thing for guys like me to adjust to."

The women like the competition.

"It's good for us to go up against them," said second-year forward Svetlana Abrosimova. "They know what their role is. They don't dunk on us. Sometimes, they block our shots."

Rarely do they win.

"We're up 8-nothing, and they go on a run and all of a sudden it's 8-7," Morgan said. "They usually end up beating us."

A typical final score might read like this: Lynx 42, Guys 34, Guys' Egos 0.

"I played against girls some in high school," Munsell said, "and I thought they weren't as physical as guys. Here, I did a complete 180. It's as physical and intense of competition as I've ever played against. I have so much more respect for what they do."

Morgan, Munsell and the rest of the gang have the same wish -- if other men could play here for just two minutes, a lot of eyes would be opened.

Maybe the eyes should be open in the first place. To suggest that women's players don't know the game as well as the men would be blatantly sexist and untrue.

And it's degrading to express even a little surprise that WNBA players can run and jump and pass and shoot and, well, play. After all, this is the highest level of women's basketball in the world.

But the thing is, shooting percentages are often poor, turnovers are prevalent, and dunks are a novelty. Sports fans, especially men, crave action. Spin it any way you want, but the WNBA provides little of that.

Males are blessed with more athletic ability than females, but this bit of science -- not cynicism -- does nothing to detract from our original point.

Listen, guys: Unless you played basketball at a major college or a level higher than that, you cannot play in the WNBA. You are not good enough.

That goes for all the weekend warriors and wannabes at the health club in downtown Minneapolis who'll watch parts of the scrimmages before, between and after their own pickup games.

"People peek in all the time and watch," Munsell said. "They're always like, 'Did you take it to them?' And we're like, 'Obviously, you didn't see the score.' They go, 'Oh, come on, tell me.' But honestly, you gotta believe us."

Morgan still has skeptics.

"Then you just show 'em your bruises."