Heel Turn

Kevin Love is not Minnesota’s favorite athlete right now

Heel turn. It’s a professional wrestling phrase that helps explain the abrupt change in attitude and ego in any superstar from fan-pleasing warrior to the mat’s bad-boy. Wrestling storylines use heel turns to keep fans captivated and throw a wrinkle into ever-changing sport. The problem? Well, sometimes even your most adored athletes go through the phase to keep things fresh, leaving you with the decision to go, “Well, do I root for the bad guy intentionally? Or do I ditch his new ego-infused persona for a new, up-and-coming hero style wrestler?”

As a child, I cheered for the likes of Triple H and “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels. Continually whoopin’ ass week after week grabbed my fanhood with a tight grasp. But they too went through the hell turn story, in a different sort of way.

D-Generation X ruled the “Attitude Era” of the WWF — now WWE. A stable of wrestlers that largely worked in tag teams, the most notable was the team of Triple H and  Michaels, worked together in a rebellion effort against the rest of the federation. If you dared, step in their line of work, you were surely to pay the most serious consequence, a brutal beat down of finishers consisting of Pedigrees, Bronco Busters and, of course, a little Sweet Chin Music.

Fueled by the crowd’s passion, D-Generation X gained momentum through the years. And with backup around every corner, it was near impossible to get your shot at the bad boys. Instead, because of they’re support, they were the ones who initiated the conflict. Through various pranks and vicious attacks, both physical and emotional, on fellow wrestlers, management persons and some times the great fans.

But still, the impenetrable stable never lost support. In some sense, they were underdogs in regards to the traditional wrestler. They used Guerilla attacks to go after enemies. They stood by each other’s side as one would lash out in search of a new adversary. They weren’t interested in saving the day or doing the right thing. They wanted to break things and make a mess and you dared not interfere or else.

D-Generation X were feared far and wide, not only by their wrestling peers but the managers above and even WWF owner, Vince McMahon. During their reign, McMahon lost his control of the group on multiple occasions. In 1998, McMahon grew furious with D-X’s gimmicks and rebellious behavior, he formed his own wrestling stable, something that could stand up to D-X like never before. McMahon formed the Nation of Domination around his beauty prize The Rock. Although the others, including D’Lo Brown, Farooq and once Mark Henry, were never up to snuff. Because of that, they’re feud with D-X never flourished and quickly put to rest.

So despite the best efforts from wrestlers, managers and the owner himself, the delinquent stable and their heel turn against the traditional WWF structure was largely successful. The biggest surprise was their following from the WWF Universe, though. Despite being the obvious “bad guys,” the fans still adored and cheered for them. Their gimmicks and blunt style made fans laugh, as well as their captivating attacks.

Love’s comments and slumping ways have fallen out of favor with the fans

Not typically does one root for the legitimate bad boy, which is going to make Kevin Love’s case all the more interesting. If you haven’t read it quite yet, Love made his alleged heel turn on the Minnesota Timberwolves franchise by going public with some very angry, very real things to say. It’s not that they were the wrong things to say or anything like that because I’m sure they are real feelings that Love has going through his mind. But it’s not out of my bounds to go and say that they were ultimately inappropriate and attention-driven.

Love’s not a true D-X bad boy because they ultimately had complete disregard for structure and order but his heel turn resembles that of D-X ways and mentality. The insulting remarks made of management is brash move and certainly worth a double-take — He did what?? A double-take that may even question fans’ loyalty into the face of the franchise and one of the more likable players in the league. The criticism belted from the middle of the ring (Adrian Wojnarowski) so all could hear it, and it came at the brief interruption of another matter (The actual season going on), just like in true D-X form.

The message itself didn’t contain any “Suck it” or any other patented D-X phrase but came at the expense of the President of Basketball Operations, David Kahn, and owner Glen Taylor:

“I don’t know who labels people stars, but even [T'wolves owner] Glen Taylor said: I don’t think Kevin Love is a star, because he hasn’t led us to the playoffs,” Love told Yahoo! Sports. “I mean, it’s not like I had much support out there.

“Even people in my own organization were asking if it was a legitimate injury, people calling my honesty and integrity into question,” Love says. “And that’s what really hurt me.”

“You walk into the locker room every year, and it’s completely turned over,” Love says. “There’s new guys everywhere. And then it happens again and again. You start to wonder: Is there really a plan here? Is there really any kind of a … plan?”

He’s got a point in all three of those comments. Taylor has never been one to label his players worthy of high praise. Only Kevin Garnett got that honor, which makes me think that’s the only superstar Taylor believes is still alive. And the injury, it was disheartening to the entire franchise and fan base because of his standing on the team. For us to not question “knuckle pushups” would be a disservice. Being the center of attention on a team calls for public scrutiny and that’s why the injury was so highly dramatic. Then he talks about the constant turnover, year after year. It has to be sickening to Love to have to develop brand new chemistry with new guys each year but it’s also what you’re getting paid to do.

Love’s comments are all fair, and he brings up great points. But it’s not like the Wolves and the fans don’t know these things, which makes bringing his opinions public that much more scrutinizing. Now, because of his actions, we get to bring him and his words into the light and dissect them for what they are. And he received that criticism last night. Wolves fans spattered throughout Target Center welcomed him with “boos” and even jeered the former All-Star and Olympian with jeers when he was benched with three minutes left to go in the game. His comments were one thing but a 3-17 shooting performance in a big home game is another. Both deserved the reaction of those several wild fans.

The comments agaain, to me, were rude, out-of-line and the timing was greatly inappropriate. Currently, in the midst of a playoff run season, having your star come out and criticize the management and the team that they’ve brought in, it not only creates a complete PR mess but also insults his teammates. You know, the ones management chose to play alongside Love. That’s what I saw last night, an emotional Love going through the game’s highs and lows with little to contribute himself.

But luckily, most heel turns in the WWE come full circle. They reach the very tipping point of losing fans and interest in a character. That’s what happened to Triple H and Michaels. Once their juvenile ways were over, they went right back to the adored single wrestlers that the fans loved. Right back to the superhero type storyline they were destined for. Right back to making wrestling one of the best entertainment options in the country because it was allowed for fans to love them once again.

But somehow the heel always finds the exact right time to retain their original superstar form. That includes adoring the fans once again, bucking your high horse and doing what’s right for the organization as a whole. Love has created enough of a mess to earn himself that heel turn title but there’s always time to turn it around. It doesn’t come easy because he’s certainly lost the respect of some with his words, and performances like last night certainly don’t help any bit. But, as he’s proven before, he’s worth the captivation of our hearts and minds, and once he clears his head and puts up the kind of game he’s typical of, the face turn will begin and we can safely root for him again.

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