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New "Final Four Fling" seeks to attract lesbian basketball fans

SAN DIEGO - There is one thing that few will deny: Lesbians love sports. One local San Diegan woman is in that very same category and has plans to capitalize on that fact.

Entrepeneur aficionado and ever-enthusiastic SDSU women's basketball "cheer ambassador," Jody Sims, has just announced yet another new endeavor on her already busy plate.

This April, on the eve of the NCAA Women's Final Four Championship semifinal games, Sims will host the first event in what she hopes will become the annual Dinah Shore weekend of women's basketball - The Final Four Fling.

This inaugural event launches on Saturday, April 3, in this year's NCAA host city of San Antonio. The festivities will take place on the top floor of the Rio Rio Cantina, along San Antonio's famous Riverwalk.

Admission to the Fling - sponsored by another recent Sims endeavor, HerSportsFan.com (a social networking site for women fans of women's sports) and Curve Magazine - will include a combination of food, drink, and entertainment, as well as provide a social atmosphere for sports-minded lesbians and their friends.

The event will be TexMex catered, include a hosted bar (aka open), DJ-hosted dancing and music by recording artist (and out lesbian) Michelle Mangione. Michelle recently opened for Shawn Colvin and also collaborated with rock legend Grace Slick on the title track of her own CD, "What Is a Saint." Note: Sims also hinted at other "surprise" guests attending.

Always the entrepeneur, Sims has amassed an amazing group of women to serve on the Final Four Fling's honorary committee. They come from various backgrounds - the sports, business and entertainment worlds - but what they all have in common is women's sports. The names are impressive and you can read all about the honorary committee here.

The honorary chair of the inaugural event is the head coach at Portland State, Sherri Murrell, who is the only "out" coach in the NCAA.

"Ambassador Jody," as she is known to the staff, players and fans of the SDSU women's basketball team, has been going to the Final Four Championships for several years. Last year, after noticing the sheer number of lesbians attending the event, it dawned on her that there was no place or event venue where they could all to come together, mingle, and share in the experience of the NCAA Championship weekend.

Because the men and women's NCAA games are played on opposite days, there is a lot of time on attendees hands. Sims wants to fill that gap for her lesbian bretheren.

Much like what the LPGA Championship has done for the Dinah Shore Weekend in Palm Springs (ironically, held the same weekend as this event this year), she would like to see the Fling take place every year at each NCAA host city. Next year's NCAA Championship will be held in Indianapolis.

Aside from establishing a new and exciting social environment for women who love sports, there are two things that Sims hopes to help combat with her annual event: homophobia in women's sports, and the overall decline in the support of women's sports. She hopes this event will be a springboard for creating change in both.

Sims also hopes to find the means to support a charity in each host city.

Her contributions to charity and fundraising for girls in sports go way back. Just one of her many earlier enterprise projects was the Pacific Women's Sports Foundation. The PWSF was a nonprofit that raised money to offer scholarships to girls who stood out in sports but needed financial help to pursue their passions.

It took three years to get off the ground, but the PWSF gave their first award to a national champion wrestler - who was a girl on a boy's high school team - and awarded the $1,000 check "Publisher's Clearing House style." Sims says she and her colleagues were thrilled to present that first check, and were finally able to experience the fruits of their labors. The foundation lasted 11 years.

For the last 12 years, Sims has taught basketball and been the sports consultant for the Girl Scouts San Diego-Imperial Council. She wanted to emphasize that although the Boy Scouts get a lot of negative press due to their anti-gay stance, the Girl Scouts couldn't be further from that truth. In fact, she says, they have a "do not discriminate" clause in their policy handbook, something that has allowed her to always be completely out on the job.

Two of the very popular projects she's launched for the Girl Scouts are near and dear to her heart; Girls Empowered to Make Movies (GEMM) and Revolt Against Negative Talk (RANT). Both GEMM and RANT are made accessible to the 30,000 Girl Scouts in the greater San Diego-Imperial Council area. Her impact is clearly being felt by these young girls on so many levels, and she is mindful that they are our future.

Sims' philandropic endeavors have thus far remained local to San Diego, but The Final Four Fling will now allow her to spread that giving spirit to charities across the country. If you love NCAA women's basketball and you love women, consider joining Sims in San Antonio.

Tickets for the Fling are only $55 ($60 at the door) and are on sale now. Sponsorship opportunities are also available, so contact Jody at jodysims@cox.net or visit her Web site below.

Morgan M. Hurley is the Copy Editor for SDGLN. She can be reached at (877) 727-5446 x710 or at morgan@sdgln.com.