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Starzz superfans are making noise

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"Get your hands up, Margo!"

"Good job, Goody!"

"Protect the ball, Utah!"

There are just some of the words of encouragement and advice yelled out as the Starzz struggle for each win in the Delta Center. But they don't come from the coaches — at least not the ones on the bench.

They come from the closest thing the Starzz have to superfans. Over the years, a few fans have distinguished themselves from the others at Jazz games. They're people who plan their lives around basketball games, collect autographs and memorize player factoids. Wins and losses affect them like its their jobs on the line.

After four years, that's beginning to happen to a few of those people sitting in the seats at Starzz games. There are many regulars, but a few have begun to stand out from the familiar faces.

Like Kristi Smith. She can be seen — and heard — from her seat about 10 rows from center court.

"It's really my life," she said. "I'm available to coach, too." She's been a season ticket-holder since day one (all four years), and she's only missed one game.

"And that was on television," she said. "I listen to every game on the radio."

She devours any information on the players or games and says her obsession has just grown over the years. She even ran around a game with plastic cups collecting money from other fans to pay Margo Dydek's fine she received for slapping a Sacramento player ($200) a few weeks ago. Dydek will donate the money to Primary Children's Hospital on Monday.

She came to the games to support the first professional women's basketball league but has found "her passion."

"I think it's just awesome that this is available to women now," she said. "I've already paid for my playoff tickets."

She has plenty of advice for Starzz coaches — like play Dydek more.

"I think she needs more time," she said. "She could dominate this league . . . If she was coached correctly."

Smith and her entourage call her "the bomb" and chant her name when she's on the bench too long.

"I wanna win," she said. "And now we have the talent. These women can play ball."

Like Smith, Ada Bessinger and Shelie Ingram consider themselves superfans. They just became season ticket-holders this year but have been attending games since the team came to town.

They both said their devotion has increased as the team has improved.

"The improvement brought us back," said Ingram, who wears a Natalie Williams jersey to every game. She has her favorite player, too, but it's forward Adrienne Goodson. She said the team store doesn't sell Goody's jersey yet.

"I've been bugging them about it, though," she smiles. "She needs more recognition."

On Saturday night Goodson had a WNBA career-high 29 points. Ingram said she believes Goodson and the others are good role models for young girls as they watch women succeed in sports.

Ingram and Bessinger also have some advice for the players.

"If they believe in themselves and take care of the ball, they can do it," Ingram said. "They look good now; they could probably put Houston to shame, if they play their game."


E-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com