Tomorrow night, a divisive former Timberwolf returns to the Target Center as a visiting player – and not just Mike Miller, the guy whose curious aversion to pulling the trigger on threes during his lone season in Minnesota vexed many observers (including, famously, Steve Aschburner). It’s that other dude – what’s his name? He sometimes has a beard, sometimes not, used to be a duff but now he’s buff? The All Star? The white guy?
Oh, right. Kevin Love.
The topic du jour around the Twin Cities this week, at least among many pundits and sports radio types, has been the question of whether or not Kevin Love will or should be booed when he takes the floor with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night. Ever since the news broke that he and his agent were pushing for a summertime trade from the Timberwolves to a contender, there have been plenty of excellent, well-reasoned explorations of what Kevin Love both meant and did not mean to the Wolves (this from our own Steve McPherson for TrueHoop is one of my favorites on the matter). As difficult as it was and as vehemently as we defended him while he was one of our own, most fans were finally able to admit his shortcomings as a franchise cornerstone. A decade of rebuilding made the fan base jaded, the development of Love gave us hope, and the failure of the team to reach the playoffs with him in the fold left us wanting more.
By May of 2014, Love wanted more, too – but didn’t want it here. Not anymore. Not after failing to receive a five year max offer, not after the bungled drafts, not after the lack of development by other young players, not if that meant starting fresh with another new head coach. It’d be hard to hold onto the idea that Love is some kind of narcissistic jackass who “just didn’t like us” without acknowledging how badly the franchise has been run over the past… well, ever.
Of course, the acquisition of Andrew Wiggins in the inevitable deal (which was finally completed in mid-August) softened the blow of losing an All Star player. For the price of sending away a star, Timberwolves fans had obtained a potential superstar. Instead of keeping his mouth shut, playing out his final season prior to his early termination option and leaving the Wolves in the lurch, Love had been up front about his intentions. So while the Wolves have the worst record in the league on the eve of Love’s return, and the Cavs (winners of eight straight) appear to be coalescing into the juggernaut we all thought they’d be, most rational fans know it all worked out for the best, given the circumstances. Love’s time with the Wolves had run its course, and re-setting with someone like Andrew Wiggins in the fold is a damn good consolation prize.
But here’s the thing: plenty of fans who will be attending the game on Saturday will agree with pretty much everything above…
And they’ll boo anyway.
Perhaps, then, all boos aren’t created equal. Booing is the practice of showing vocal disapproval to someone who has done one of two things: either they’ve a) severely wronged or injured a group of people by espousing certain unsavory sentiments or taking unjust action, or b) annoyed a group of people by their words, actions or mere presence. I’d argue that the distinction is important; the first type of booing is deeply held and authentic. The second type is superficial and goofy.
Let’s make one thing clear: Kevin Love is going to get booed on Saturday night. Even he knows it’s coming. And surely there are people out there who will be expressing the first kind of boo, having worked themselves into a lather believing that Love has somehow personally injured them by wanting to be employed by someone other than the Minnesota Timberwolves. But I’d be willing to bet the majority will be booing the second kind of boo, the one that occurs because that’s just sort of what sports fans do. Some guy who used to play here is coming back, and he’s wearing different colors – time to boo! I might be wrong, and it might be silent when Love is introduced and when he hits shots, but I doubt it.
Should he be booed? I don’t know. There are pretty low standards for people to boo things; hell, Santa’s been booed before. Personally, I don’t think I’d boo if I were in the crowd as a fan, but I’m a humorless fuddy duddy. Will he be booed? I have little doubt in my mind.
If you’re going to the game, I’m curious to know… will you boo Kevin Love, and why or why not?