As part of the initiative to both broaden and deepen the pool of voices here at A Wolf Among Wolves that had us introducing you to Lucas Seehafer last week, we’d now like to introduce Andy Grimsrud and Patrick Johnston — the minds behind one of our favorite blogs, Punch-Drunk Wolves — as contributors to AWAW.
Here’s what I — Steve McPherson — can personally say I’ve always loved about PD Wolves: their heart-on-sleeve approach to writing about this team. When I began my own blog, Feelings About Numbers, I had no idea what I was doing, and so I fumbled about in the dark looking for under-explored angles on basketball. That was fun, but as I’ve done more paid writing, I think I’ve narrowed my scope, both for good and bad. As the Zen saying goes, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
Now, I’m no expert — far from it — but reading Punch-Drunk Wolves has always been a good reminder to be open to everything about this game, to care deeply about it and pursue what you care about most. Andy and Patrick have always been true to their own compasses and knowledge of the game. I love that they have a glossary of their own terms. I love that they engage in spirited back-and-forths over email. It’s one of the things I’m most excited for them to bring to AWAW this season. They are by no means beginners, but they keep that beginner’s mind, and that’s both difficult and valuable to cultivate.
I’ll let them take it from here.
Both of us grew up as hoops junkies in southeastern Minnesota, and have been Wolves fans since the team’s inception. Our fandom somehow survived the Rider-Laettner heydays of our youth, before Kevin Garnett arrived to show Minnesota fans what winning looks like. Since the KG trade, well … we’ve had a string of lean years and so we named our blog “Punch-Drunk Wolves.” This is part homage to the Paul Thomas Anderson film, and part reference to the perma-state of the Wolves. I mean, the Google definition for “punch-drunk” is “stupefied by or as if by a series of heavy blows to the head.” These were your Wittman- and Rambis-era Wolves.
When your team has been perpetually bad for most of your viewing life — the Wolves have yet to make the playoffs without Garnett — you find enjoyment in some of the less-appreciated novelties of NBA basketball, imperfect as they may be. And we’ve been watching the whole time — Andy in Minneapolis, usually at the home games, Patrick from afar, currently in Pittsburgh — and even when the Wolves were bad, they were rarely boring. (See Beasley, Michael; McCants, Rashad.)
We started Punch-Drunk at the beginning of the 2011-12 season, which happened to coincide with Ricky Rubio’s fun rookie year. We began the blog to have our own voice amid the growing din of Wolves talk online. The Wolves have lots and lots of great writers in the #MSM and online writers, commenters, and tweeters, but we wanted to have a site where we could ruminate on whatever it was we were discussing at any given time. Thus spake Punch-Drunk Wolves. Starting out, we weren’t sure anyone would listen, but that wasn’t really the point. Now, we’ve got some readers and followers who are great to engage with and who keep us on-point. And given that we’ve always followed many outstanding Wolves writers, it’s really exciting to join up with a bunch of them here at A Wolf Among Wolves.
What will we bring to AWAW? We tend to write more than our fair share of back-and-forth provocations via what we called INBOX posts on our old site. Betraying our age, we’ve been hoops buddies since the late ‘90s, played high school varsity ball together. Law school kept Andy in the Twin Cities and doctoral studies took Patrick to Chicago, the Bay Area, and Cambridge, Mass., but they kept sparring on both Timberwolves and NBA issues via email. This was really the genesis of Punch-Drunk Wolves, the
blog, and you’re likely to see some of it here on AWAW. More recently, we’ve also gotten the podcast bug, and we hope to do more of them this season than we did last year, although they’ll probably still appear on an occasional schedule.
Readers familiar with our work know that we sometimes value what’s fun or seems cool in basketball more than what is most effective. We’d rather watch a killer crossover than a corner three. Surfing League Pass, we’d often rather watch an unusual player and personality like Boogie Cousins than a top-level team lacking a unique identity. We tend to enjoy forbidden things like “volume scorers,” and struggle to understand how terms which refer to these things have become pejoratives. We like and use advanced statistics, but don’t believe they are (even close to) an adequate substitute for watching the games. We like basketball movies from the ‘90s and frequently quote from or cite them. Especially Above the Rim. We have some, *erm*, “specific” ways of describing certain things, most of which are explained by the Glossary on Punch-Drunk Wolves.
This preference for aesthetics over substance is probably — okay, definitely — less true, however, when it comes to the Timberwolves, the team for which we’re both partisans. Objectivity is a goal when analyzing this team, but it’s a goal that isn’t always met or necessarily intended to be met. That’s part of what makes basketball fun. At the end of the day, we’re fans, too. Yes, we care if the Timberwolves win. Fandom will come through in our writing. This might be frustration in a losing streak or excitement after a big win, much more so than would be evident in our league-wide viewing.
Everything is lined up for this to be an exciting Timberwolves season. They have talent, potential, personality, and leadership. We’re excited to cover this team here at A Wolf Among Wolves.