It is nearing two months now since I made the decision to quit sports writing and I’ll admit I was nervous how the transition would go. Of course, I was and am excited at the opportunity to more quality time with my children—and we had a wonderful summer—but there was also the part of me which wondered how badly missing covering games would overwhelm me.
Due to the timing of the decision, it was easy to jump right into my newfound fandom by cheering on the USA men’s and women’s basketball teams to gold medals in the 2012 London Olympics. It was rather easy to put aside any personal thoughts I had, both positive and negative, for individual players and root for them to represent our country well. Of course, both teams did exactly that and, if any of the players happen to check out this blog, congratulations on bringing home the gold.
Once the WNBA season tipped off again after the Olympics, I was fortunate enough to land a free ticket to the Minnesota Lynx vs. Washington Mystics from my buddy Don. (Thanks again, Don!) It was wonderful to be inside the Target Center and be a part of the crowd who welcomed home the three Olympians from the home team, Seimone Augustus, Lindsay Whalen and Maya Moore. That is a moment I will always be able to treasure in my sports-watching career.
Without question, there were some odd feelings to look down to the media seating that has been my home for six years, seeing Mike Peden parking his backside in “my” chair. Mike, Jeff Williams and I were the “three amigos” in the Lynx media world, so seeing the two of them chatting it up throughout the game made me wonder what league and world-changing conversation I was no longer a part of, but I pressed on, trying to enjoy the game as a fan.
One of the things I knew would be difficult for me was something that is fundamental to being a fan: cheering. After all, for the last six years I have been conditioned to be a professional and not cheer during games because, of course, as a professional you are not supposed to have a bias towards either team in a given contest. I learned this skill long ago and it is a habit that I believed would be difficult to break, so my apologies to Don if I was a bit of a stick-in-the-mud throughout the game. I did some clapping, stood until the Lynx made their first basket with the majority of the crowd and clapped after a basket, but that was about it.
A couple weeks ago, I happened to check Twitter on my phone right before picking up my kids from their summer program. I caught a tweet from the Lynx promoting a Candice Wiggins appearance at AAA only a few miles from our home that evening, so when I picked up the kids I asked them if they wanted to go. They were quite excited to see Candice, especially my daughter since Wiggins is one of her favorite players. We went home to grab her little basketball for Candice to autograph and a Lynx hat for my son to have her sign as well.
AAA hosted a wonderful event and the kids signed up for a few of their prizes. I did not sign up myself, as I still feel odd about it, but I’m sure I’ll begin soon enough. After putting the kid’s slips with their names and info in the box, we took our place in line to wait for Candice to arrive.
Our time with Candice was brief, but the kids landed the autographs they wanted, as well as coming away with signed photos the team provided. I snapped this pic with my phone of the moment and, of course, Candice was wonderful, especially after she spotted me and I pointed out that these two crazed Lynx fans were my babies.
As we drove home, the kids said they wanted to go to more events like that and begin to collect autographs. Of course, this is fine with me, as I enjoy these events as well and the Lynx do a wonderful job getting their players out into the community to do this type of thing, so I told the kids I would keep an eye out for the next time a player would make an appearance.
It turns out the kids choosing to sign up for a prize was a great idea. I received a phone call from a representative of AAA, telling me BOTH kids won a pair of tickets to the Lynx game last week against the San Antonio Silver Stars. When I told them they won, they were incredibly excited. They “decided” they would treat their Grandma and me to the game. Gee, that was nice of them, huh?
We were treated to a pregame meal in one of the conference rooms on the suite level of Target Center before the game and Chris Wright, the President of the Timberwolves and Lynx, welcomed the guests to the game. We had lovely seats behind the visitor’s bench and all four of us were ready for a fun evening of cheering on the Lynx to victory in an important game since, at that time, the Silver Stars were on quite a run in the Western Conference.
A somewhat sad byproduct of my writing career and difficulty in cheering when there as a fan is the fact that same attitude has been passed on to my kids. They love both the Timberwolves and Lynx, but they kind of sit back and watch, rather than cheering, clapping, screaming, booing and helping to motivate their team on to victory. I was and am bound and determined for this to change, so I stepped out of my own comfort zone and cheered with all my might throughout the game, prompting the kids to do the same.
With that, we had an amazing time! We were able to snap a picture of the kids with the Lynx mascot Prowl, the kids took part in Prowl’s train on the court at halftime of the game and all four of us left the game with sore throats from cheering. We cheered more than expected since the game went into overtime and, in perfect fashion, the Lynx dominated overtime and treated the crowd to a win. It was also wonderful to witness history that evening with Rebekkah Brunson setting the Lynx franchise record for rebounds in a game with 20, as well as Taj McWilliams-Franklin becoming the WNBA’s all-time leader in offensive rebounds.
Our next opportunity to land some autographs from one of the players came this past weekend and it was the one and only Seimone Augustus. Seimone is a player who is absolutely cherished in our household for a variety of reasons (in which I will write another blog post soon). After all, for those who don’t know already, our dog’s name is “Seimone A-ruff-tus!” The Lynx mentioned that the first 15 groups of people in line for Seimone would have the opportunity to get their picture with her, so we decided to get there early enough to do just that and we were.
When it was our time to have Seimone sign Alex’s ball and Ethan hat, Seimone looked up to see me and, as I did with Candice Wiggins, I pointed out that these two little Lynx fans were my kiddos. Seimone asked how I was doing and was wonderful with the kids, bringing huge smiles to their faces. I also apparently broke through into another step in my fandom and brought two special Lynx pieces to me for Seimone to sign and, of course, she was more than happy to do so.
The first item I brought was a picture of Seimone and me on the Target Center court from the end of her rookie season the day after we did an extensive interview at the practice facility on her first year in the WNBA. The second was a copy of the story I wrote for Downtown Journal last season after the Lynx won the championship. Both are now signed and are even more treasured possessions of mine, soon to be framed.
The transition is going well and it is nearing time to lend my voice to the Lynx in the postseason. You know, on their road to repeat. Here’s something I really couldn’t do before, but now I have the freedom: is there really any doubt the Lynx are going to repeat this season? Not from this blog, not from these two little Lynx fans…and not from me.