Last night I went to see my very first Minnesota Lynx match. The Lynx are Minnesota’s franchise in the WNBA (women’s professional basketball). I went with my mom, and it was my first time seeing them. They are presently the defending WNBA champions, and off to the best start of any team in league history. The Timberwolves (Minnesota’s NBA team), on the other hand, are not very good; in fact, they have been woeful for the majority of their 23-year existence. Having been to quite a few Timberwolves games over the past two seasons, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect–or so I thought.
There were a few empty seats as we filtered in, and even once the game began. However, they filled up pretty steadily and as the first quarter drew to a close, the arena was pretty full (for WNBA games, the upper deck is not utilized, which gives the Target Center the impression of being more full than it really is; this helps the atmosphere tremendously). The crowd demographics were a bit different than what I’d come to expect at Timberwolves games. The crowd had far more women and children, and families too. The youthful exuberance of the young kids really did add something to the atmosphere, but it also meant that they were constantly getting up for refreshments, bathroom trips, and whatever else 11-year old girls do.
The Twin Cities is a pretty cool place to be, and although most of the professional (and collegiate) athletic organizations aren’t much to speak of generally, the Lynx are one to buck that trend. They lead the league in wins, points per game, field goal percentage, assists, and winning percentage, among other statistical categories. They also have a home-town player, Lindsey Whalen, who played her high school and college basketball in Minnesota. Much like Joe Mauer with the Twins, that goes over big with the punters. Not only that, but their mascot, Prowl, was energetic without crossing the line to just plain irritating, as the Timberwolves’ deceptively-similar looking mascot, Crunch.
Initially, the game was tight. The Phoenix Mercury (the sister organization to the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, and thus also wearing the same uniform colors as the Suns) played well and hung with the ladies of the league-leading Lynx. The crowd was raucous and enthusiastic in getting behind their team, and the Lynx used decidedly lower-decible noise with which to bombard the fans (much appreciated) and also opted to forego many of the uber-stupid events that the Timberwolves deploy at their home games (also greatly appreciated–though I must admit I do enjoy watching Crunch sled down the cement steps, hoping that he will injure himself in the process).
Eventually, in the fourth quarter, the Lynx blew open the game–at one point leading by 20 points. The Mercury collapsed and did not threaten in the final 5:00, at which point the Lynx brought in the squad players (read: scrubs) for mop-up duty. The fans stayed until the final whistle, and with about 1:30 to go were treated to a rendition of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” and instructed to sing along, to which we (they) happily obliged, and as the tune rang out, the mood was celebratory. Nothing like what we have come to expect from the Minnesota Timberwolves, that’s for sure!
They had won the game, and there was much rejoicing.
At the final whistle, as the Phoenix Mercury shuttled off to the locker room, the Lynx players began dancing and singing at center court. It looked like a celebration generally reserved for playoff success. But rather than flaunting, or self-congratulatory, the mood was festive; it was as if everyone was celebrating together, for the part that each had performed. The players had been on the court, but those in the stands had been there to support the team the whole way.
“Can you imagine,” my mother said to me as we left the arena, “LeBron James dancing and singing with the fans after a game like this? There’s no way. That’s what makes this so fun.”
I had to agree: this was really fun.