Minnesota sports fandom entails a kind of perpetual anxiety. We worry that the rest of the country will see us as quaint or provincial, not to be taken seriously. We lost the Lakers and the Stars to more temperate climes. Our football and baseball teams, both collegiate and professional, toiled away for decades in a concrete, plastic and teflon model home, a cut-rate interpretation of some Carter-era child’s sci-fi fantasies. Gopher football has been an en-domed joke, prey to decades of charlatans, incompetents and opportunists. The Twins are called the Twins. None of this helps.
The Wolves have been the worst, though, wandering through most of their existence in a state of dorky, benighted ineptitude. Consider: their expansionary brothers, the Orlando Magic, made their first Finals before the Wolves could boast of even one All-Star; the Wolves forfeited years of draft picks in a harebrained scheme to sign Joe Smith; in order to salvage a draft pick they lost in their undying quest for Marko Jaric, they tanked a game in the most horrifically obvious way possible; you don’t really need me to go on do you?
But in the years since the Kevin Garnett trade (oh sorry, there’s another one), this anxiety congealed into something more existentially dreadful. These Wolves’ rosters were so haphazard, their coaching so misguided, their play so callow and inelegant and futile–they were, in short, so embarrassingly bad–that we wondered whether what we were watching was actual NBA basketball at all. The anger that we have all often expressed at Kevin McHale, David Kahn, Glen Taylor and Kurt Rambis is, if you ask me, actually an expression of a deep fear, the fear that we might have invested ourselves in a doomed enterprise.
Rick Adelman and Ricky Rubio’s greatest gift to their fans may have been simply restoring a sense of competitiveness and seriousness, of basic competence, to the proceedings; the fans responded to these gifts with fairly undiluted euphoria. All of which made the team’s catastrophic unraveling at season’s end even more disheartening.