More Than Just One Game

Losing a part of your connection to your favorite team is an unfortunate consequence of writing about a sport in the long term. Of course, you’re still a fan deep down, but it’s a different type of fandom. You begin to see the game more objectively and your mind opens up to new ways of thinking that you had never considered before. Most times, it’s great because it helps you as an observer of the game. Other times you do miss it, but I honestly enjoy having the new perspective that I have gained over the passed few years.

It’s odd, because you still care about the team and the success, but it’s just…different. A lot of times things will happen in a game that you don’t get as emotional about either way because your brain has been trained to think of things in a broader sense than before. At times this can put off people who view games in a more traditional fan sense because they have never considered a different angle and your job becomes to shine the light on it. This isn’t to say that I am never wrong, because I am. Quite often, actually. Nor does this make you better in anyway, just different, which is just fine.

This is what has happened to me over the last few years and I really don’t regret it happening. After all, I’m still a fan and wouldn’t have it any other way, but your relationship with your long-time favorite team changes.

Yet, tonight is one of those nights where I feel just like a normal fan. Tonight’s win over the Lakers wasn’t meaningful just because of the final score or the fact that the 22 consecutive game losing streak is now over: it was meaningful because of everything that the streak embodied since 2007.

Think about it. Since that time the franchise has traded it’s greatest player and ushered in the Al Jefferson era. We’ve been through David Kahn, Kurt Rambis, Jonny Flynn and Wes Johnson. We’ve endured being the butt of jokes whether it be having too many point guards, Manna from Heaven and a general reputation for being a laughingstock for many years– too many years. And by beating the Lakers it was like being able to finally move passed all of that, finally.

It’s not as if we hadn’t tried before. For years we tried to talk ourselves into what was ultimately a lot of false hope. Even when we thought that our fortunes had finally turned, last season happened and added to the frustration we all felt. We had the coach, the star player and a supporting cast that was supposed to bring the team back to the playoffs and relevancy. Going into the season, nobody was cracking jokes at the team’s expense anymore and there was a lot of optimism surrounding the team by basketball fans in general for the first time in ages– which was refreshing.

But misfortune strikes every team, believe it or not. We had to be patient and wait, just like we had the nine previous years. In a lot of ways, carry such a streak of futility almost served as a reminder that the past was not yet behind us yet. For a fanbase and organization that was primed and ready to move on from the past, this was a burden we longed to cast away.

Tonight, the Timberwolves record stands at 5-2 and they set the franchise record for points in a quarter on the same night. While the record in itself is a cool thing to have, it drives home the point that this is a different era in some ways or is some way of indicating that the team is officially back to relevancy. Or maybe that’s absolutely ridiculous, what do I know.

I’ve told this story several times, but I’ll tell it again. I remember going to a Timberwolves game back in 2009 for the first time in a long time and remember being shocked by what I saw. I was one of maybe 5,000 people in attendance and there was just one concession stand open in the upper level. As someone who grew up with such fond memories of raucous crowds at Target Center, it was a little saddening to see the way things had gone since I had last attended. That was Kevin Love’s rookie year and things have improved as he has steadily done the same. Now, going to a game is once again a positive experience and seeing kids who were my age in Timberwolves gear and cheering for them reminds me of the memories I had there.

Yeah, it’s just game seven of an 82 game season against a Lakers team that was missing Kobe Bryant and ultimately will not matter come June, but it matters to us. Jim Peterson said it best on the broadcast that he was enjoying the blowout of the Lakers and the streak ending, not only as an employee, but as a fan too. That’s exactly what this was like for those who have endured and continued to follow the team through thick and thin: a chance to connect or reconnect with your inner fan. More than that it was like being able to breathe a sigh of relief no longer having to hear all of those stats about how long it’s been since the Timberwolves had beaten the Lakers.

While my fandom has evolved over the years, the fact that I’ve been able to stick with it through the years by talking myself into certain teams year-to-year and still fist pump on the couch at home when Nikola Pekovic converts a three-point play to put the Lakers away, tells me that it’s still there. Sunday night was about closing the book on a long period of transition for the Timberwolves and for it’s fans. It’s what has been long overdue for us as a community, really.

Think about it: no more false hope, talking yourself into a best case scenario or anything like that. This is — or at least should be — different than previous years. The past was always the past, yes, but now we won’t have to be brought back in to it on a semi-annual basis. This is a team that we can not only hold to a certain expectation, but that we should. It only took us the better part of a decade to get here, but we’re finally here and that’s all that matters.

About Derek James

In addition to writing for Howlin' T-Wolf, Derek James writes about basketball Hardwood Paroxysm in the ESPN TrueHoop Network and covers the Charlotte Bobcats for SB Nation’s Rufus on Fire. Andray Blatche and Isaiah Rider follow him on Twitter.