Published October 09. 2012 4:00AM
OK. Jessica Moore story. An hour or so before the Connecticut Sun's first playoff game late last month. And Moore has just headed off the floor and through the tunnel, en route to the locker room.
She hears a voice.
It's Chubby Checker.
Preparing to sing the national anthem.
Checker happens to be the dad of Sun forward Mistie Mims. And he is singing. Not well, apparently.
"My dad was in the dressing room warming up," Mims was saying Sunday, barely able to harness the laughter that would ensue. "Every singer goes through different things to warm up their vocal cords. He wasn't sounding great."
And so as Moore walks into the locker room, Mims is walking out. They meet.
The voice is still singing.
"Jess walks in and goes, 'He's horrible! Whoever that is!'" Mims said.
Mims grins at the recollection.
"I said, 'uh, that's my dad," Mims said, following that with a shriek, mimicking Moore's reaction from her foot-in-mouth moment. "She's like 'oh my gosh, I'm soooooooo sorry. He's not that bad.' I'm like, really, Jess?"
Mims, for those of you bereft of a sense of humor, loves the story. Just as they love Moore in Neon Uncasville. For her comic relief. As the ultimate teammate. That's why coach Mike Thibault called her upon learning she'd been cut in Atlanta earlier this season for her second stint with the Sun.
Moore is a case study in how what's not immediately obvious to fans nonetheless contributes to the blueprint of a successful team. Sometimes, it's as much about Jessica Moore as it is about star power. It's not the "what" all the time. It's the "who."
And so maybe the Sun have been spurned by some free agents who didn't want to live in our corner of the world for a few months. Too boring. Turns out Thibault has people here willing to see beyond superficiality and accomplish far more important things. Like making connections with the coaches, each other, the people around the team and community.
Maybe that's why Moore is in her eighth WNBA season. There are many more talented players who don't have jobs right now. But they're not Moore, who makes coming to work for fun for everybody.
And who knows? Maybe she'll be part of the scenery here year-round now. Moore's name has been mentioned to fill the vacant color commentator position on the UConn Radio Network. Incumbent Kara Wolters graduated to studio work with SNY, leaving play-by-play voice Bob Joyce without a partner.
Moore has knowledge, lineage and a mouth that roars.
"Jess would be a great fit for that," Mims said. "She's very candid. She really doesn't have a filter. Anything she feels is going to come out of her mouth. Like a kid who doesn't realize they're saying anything wrong and tells the truth."
Put it this way: If her running commentary during UConn games is anything like Jess Moore Unplugged during Sun games, ratings will be healthy.
Moore is a hoot on the bench. She does everything but play-by-play. She cheers on her teammates. She officiates. She critiques the officiating. She might even sing along to the sounds of the arena. She's off the bench cheering. She's off the bench yelling, once having to be pulled back or risk a penetrating stare from a referee.
Not too bad for a kid from Palmer, Alaska. To think some of us in the media met Moore when she was 17 at the Nike Camp. She had trouble making layups in those days. Future UConn teammate Tamika Raymond (the former Tamika Williams) used to call her "J-Walk."
She's all grown up now.
"After I graduated I thought I would play three or four years and then move on to something else. That I've played in the WNBA for eight seasons is crazy," Moore said. "I love the game and I love the competition. As long as I can stay competitive and coach wants me, I'll play.
"The most interesting part of this all, though, isn't the basketball. It's been the people that I've met, different people that I would not have normally had the chance to meet. I've been able to make
long-lasting friends from around the world."
Moore, who turned 30 in July, is taking online courses for her master's degree in
communications from Kent State. The UConn job would give her a practical application for her masters that no course or classroom ever could.
Here's hoping it all works out. The winter would be more fun with her. Just as the summers have been.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.