EXCUSE ME, I hate to interrupt the love-in, but did anyone notice that the Starzz - how shall we say this diplomatically? - stink?

With all the warm fuzzies flying around out there, everybody seems to have missed this fact or opted to ignore it. Perhaps they failed to pick up on some of the subtle clues, such as:- When the playoffs begin, the Starzz are always on vacation.

- They fired their coach.

- They've won 15 games - in two years.

- They have problems with the little things. Like dribbling.

- They're always talking about next year.

- They have a tendency to look on the bright side in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, as in, "We had 38 turnovers and lost by 20, but how 'bout that rebounding!?"

The Starzz lost by 20 points the other night to end their second losing season, although they didn't seem to realize it at the time. The players waved to their fans, signed posters and tossed their shoes into the crowd. They gushed about how much improvement they had made this season and about all the "energy" the new coach brought to the team.

The Starzz were 8-22 this season. They were 7-21 last season. That's an improvement of approximately one game, according to my calculations. At this rate, the Starzz will make the playoffs in the year 2010 at the earliest.

The new coach, Frank Layden, was 2-9. The woman he replaced was 6-13, which, if my math is correct, is better than 2-9. If Layden goes 2-9 with the Jazz, they're showing him the door. But everyone's relieved he's coming back to coach the Starzz.

"He did more to energize and improve the team than one predicted," one reporter wrote after the finale.

"He brought new energy to us," said center Margo Dydek.

Apparently, the Starzz were legally dead when Layden found them.

Maybe you've noticed. The honeymoon is still on where the Starzz and the WNBA are concerned. The women still aren't treated like the men; they're treated better. They're getting the kid-glove treatment. If a men's pro team had a 15-43 record over two seasons, the stands would be empty and media and fans would be barking at their door. The fans would be throwing the shoes, not the players.

Everybody's jumped on the Starzz/WNBA bandwagon, and all because the NBA/Jazz gave them their blessing (anybody heard from that other women's league lately?). Local businesses, with encouragement from the Jazz, possibly involving arm twisting, sign up for Starzz tickets to maintain good relations with the Jazz. The media seem reluctant to treat the Starzz the way they treat the Jazz because they have to live with the Jazz the rest of the year and fans and media seem to want to give the women a break. Hey, they're the Jazz's sisters; let's be nice to them.

Result: The stands are relatively full, the media wink and play along, everybody's happy.

Nobody criticizes the Starzz much as they do their male counterparts. How many times have you heard one of those TV or radio jockeys say, "Boy, if you haven't gone out to see these ladies play, you're missing a treat."

An 8-22 treat.

It's a case of the emperor's new clothes. Nobody dares to tell them the bad news. The Starzz are a bad basketball team. Not only did they get the first pick of the draft, they got the 7-foot-2 Dydek. They also got the 11th pick. After all this, they improved one game - in an expansion year. They have the worst record in the WNBA during the past two years combined, but you wouldn't know it to listen to them. Everyone's happy.

The Starzz are living in a pro sports dream world. When has a team and league ever been cut such slack or treated with such benevolence and patience? Even the midseason firing turned into a love fest. Everybody was happy about it. Taylor herself showed up with a smile on her face and gave it her blessing.

It's not that this whole situation is wrong (the men should be treated so well); it's just so, well, strange.

This is how strange things are. People are actually going to the games. The Starzz averaged about 8,000 fans per game the past two years, according to the front office. For the season finale, 13,000 fans showed up at the Delta Center. Many of them got in free - all they had to do was go to a Phillips 66 station and get free tickets to the upper bowl - but the point is they showed up at the Delta Center to support the team. Earlier this month, the Starzz lured 15,000 people to a game by offering upper-bowl tickets for a buck.

Fifteen thousand people to see a bad basketball team indoors in August? Strange.

The honeymoon goes on. Go figure.