I finally make it out to Minnesota, thanks to the generosity of the Timberwolves.
I'll never forget the past few days as long as I live. The Minnesota Timberwolves flew my roomate, Jeff, and myself to Minneapolis so that we could watch "Can You Feel It?" be played on the scoreboard of the Target Center as well as catch the Wolves' first game of the 2004 playoffs. And as amazing as it was to get to see some of the players up close, tour the bowels of the Target Center, and quadruple my amount of T-Wolves memorabilia, there was something so much more special about this past weekend.
I can't stand New York sports. To me, it's nothing more than an endless cycle of overpaying for a revolving door of big names to give the media something to hype and fill the stadium seats, instead of putting together a team that will actually win something. So being from New Jersey, I've been forced to seek out my professional sports in other cities. And although I've managed to enjoy two Super Bowls with the Patriots, while their AFC East rivals endure a 35-year drought twenty minutes down the road from me, there is one aspect that I've really missed out on - comradery.
I had been to eight T-Wolves games before Sunday, all of them in either New York City, East Rutherford, or Washington D.C. As much as I enjoyed being the loudest fan in the building and cheering on the Wolves in the midst of all the dirty looks from the home team fans, words can't describe the feeling of finally sitting in the Target Center and being simply one of the thousands of the Timberwolves faithful. I was home. And as the worn out cliché goes, "there's no place like home".
As the lights dimmed, the familiar music began to play, and the players stepped out into the tunnel, I felt an overwhelming swelling of pride in this Minnesota Timberwolves team. After taking a moment to think back to where they had been and all the heartache and frustrations of the past, I stood in awe as they ran out onto the floor, seeing what they had become: Midwest Division Champions and the Western Conference's top seed. I had always been a believer. From the day we traded for Sam Cassell, I have given no other prediction other than the Wolves winning the championship. I know that many have disagreed with that sentiment. But as the Wolves, in what was the most euphoric moment of my life, went on a monster tear in the first quarter, I think it's safe to say that every person in the Target Center and every member of the Timberwolves nation was "Feel'n It!"
I had the time of my life watching Sam Cassel drop forty and KG blow my mind with his 30 and 20. And if you don't believe me, I have my hoarse voice over 48 hours later to prove it. But as amazing as it was to be there in the building and watch my favorite team win their first Game 1 after seven years of failing, it was just as great to meet the wonderful people who work behind the scenes. I can't thank enough, Jason, who I've worked with for the past two years and set the whole trip up. And I've also got to give some props to Melissa and Tura, the Dance Team coaches who went the extra mile for Jeff and I. Using their "inside access" they gave me the opportunity to meet Three-Time NBA Champion and Hall-of-Famer, Kevin McHale, his right hand man, Ed Prohofsky, and coaches Greg Ballard and Don Zierden. And I have to mention that they have built the best dance team in the NBA. (See, I told you I'd say good things about you!)
Up until this past weekend, I had always thought of the Minnesota Timberwolves as the tall guys with the jerseys on who put the ball in the basket and the short guys with the suits on who hold the clipboards. But that's all changed. After seeing experiencing those hours in the Target Center, I've realized that the Minnesota Timberwolves are so much more. It's all of us, as one collective entity, that make up this organization. Sure, it's KG and his crew who determine the outcome of it all. But I believe - and I think they'd agree - that they couldn't do it without us, and that even if they did, it wouldn't be worth it. You see, the Minnesota Timberwolves are not the Los Angeles Lakers. They aren't the San Antonio Spurs. They aren't the Sacramento Kings, nor are they the Indiana Pacers. Those teams are just about basketball. The Wolves, on the other hand, are about so much more. They're about trust. The Timberwolves are a group of people who have believed in themselves and in each other, even when the future seemed hopeless. They're about perseverance. We have endured every hardship and fought through every struggle. They're about character. Following our MVP's lead, T-Wolves fans have refused to abandon their team in favor of an easier road. And in a few weeks, they'll be about triumph, as the Timberwolves finally break out of the first round and head towards the championship.
We are all the Minnesota Timberwolves. Some of us suit up and play. Some of us coach. Some of us work in the team office, post on a message board, dance, or make Playoff Presentations. Some cheer in the stands, others while watching on television, or in front of the computer screen in a different country. But no matter who we are or what we do, we're all working together for one goal. We're a tribe. We're a team. We're a family.
As one lone wolf who had been away from the pack for far too long, it was so nice to finally be somewhere I belonged.