Why do we root?
More specifically, why do we root for a team that has brought us such frustration for so long?
The Timberwolves open another season tonight, and it will almost certainly be another season in which they lose a lot more than they win. Meanwhile, the pall of the death of Flip Saunders hangs over this season and this franchise, a palpable sadness among both the organization and the fanbase that, frankly, has surprised me in it's depth.
So the question of why has been rattling around in my brain for the last couple of days. Certainly there are other ways one could spend one's time, so what is it that not only brings us, but keeps us, to this sport and this team?
I've come up with three reasons, and for me, they all get satisfied on this blog.
First, it's the human desire to share an emotional connection with others. I watch almost all the games by myself, on my couch. Living in Madison as I do, most of the sports fans I know are tied up with the Badgers and/or the Packers, two things I care little about, and of course they care even less about the Timberwolves. Unfortunately, I failed to turn my daughter into a sports fan. But, through Canis and elsewhere, I know that my passion for the Wolves is shared by others, and that we can commune together in that fandom.
Sharing something like this builds bonds and makes us feel more connected and less alone in the world. This is something I am keenly aware of having struggled off and on with mental health issues that have often made it difficult for me to maintain connections with others. And this is largely why I agreed to take over management of this blog; I needed it to continue. It was largely a selfish decision. I knew I lacked some of Nate's flair for this but I had come to rely on Canis for that connection to others, and without it I wasn't sure what I would do. Things have been somewhat better for me recently, but maintaining that connection to others with a shared passion remains central to my concept of fandom and why it matters.
Second, it's a fun intellectual exercise. I love the game, and I love thinking about its myriad aspects. From learning about statistics and projections from vjl110, Madison Dan, and others, to contemplating the sociological issues in the game, to thinking about tactics on the court and team building strategies off it, it's fun to use one's brain in the service of something I enjoy. From arguing with Voodoo about, well, almost anything, to making a comment I think is uncontroversial only to have Suspicious Sal or Michelobius respond with an idea that hadn't occurred to me, reading feral's always intelligent takes or sharing snappy jokes with average jer and others, exercising my brain is one of the pleasures of being a basketball fan, and in some ways being a fan of a bad team is even more intellectually challenging. Why isn't this working? How could it work better? What's the right path for this franchise? And the perennial When do we start talking about the draft?
And as lousy as the Wolves have been over the past 12 years, it's a funner way to use my brain than thinking about, say, American politics. Shudder.
Third and last, it's hope.
Hope, I think, is what keeps us going, whether it be in our own lives--hope that things get better, that we meet the right person, that our kids find happiness, or when we root for a sports team. When things aren't going well, what else but hope keeps us paying attention? And as so much of sports fandom, the hope we feel as fans is often a stand in for the hopes we have for our own futures and those of the people we love.
Over the past 12 years in the desert of failure that has been the Timberwolves, finding those oases of hope has sometimes been very difficult, but as cynical and frustrated as I have been at times over those years, there has always been and will always be some reason to hope. An oasis not completely dry. Often those hopes don't come to fruition, as we've seen time and time again, but we can always find some reason to hope.
Now, as we enter the 2015-16 season, we have renewed hope in the shape of talented young players like Ricky Rubio, Andrew Wiggins, and Karl-Anthony Towns. We've had what we thought was young talent before, and it never quite got us where we wanted to go, but we continue to hope that this time it's different. And I truly believe it is different. Other than Kevin Love, we haven't seen talent the quality of Wiggins and Towns since the days of a young Kevin Garnett, who is back to pass on some lessons, and hopefully, you know, play some defense.
So I have hope. This probably isn't the year that it all comes together on the court, but it will be a year, with any luck at all, that we see tremendous growth in our young talent, and a year that puts us in position to see it come together in future seasons.
And once again, much of that hope is fueled here, at Canis Hoopus. When I poo-poo the idea that Karl-Anthony Towns could be the next Hakeem Olajuwon, it isn't because I don't want that, it's a defense mechanism because we've been burned so many times. (I don't really think he's the next Hakeem Olajuwon). But it's here that I find arguments against my worst tendencies toward pessimism. It's here that hope is renewed year after year; yes we are, by and large, a cynical lot, but the wildest imaginings of our hope still creep in to our comment threads, and remind us that yes, if everything goes right, we could finally have something here...
All of this is my long-winded way of saying thank you. Thank you for reading, thank you for commenting, thank you for being a part of this blog, and most of all, thank you for being the people I think of as my friends.
Connection, intellect, and hope. Those are the reasons I continue to be a Wolves fan, and I find an outlet for all of those reasons in the Wolves blogosphere, but most especially here at Canis Hoopus, a place that has become something like a home for me. It's a place of comfort and friendship, where I find the satisfaction of having those needs met with a group of people that, like family, are sometimes irritating beyond reason, but mostly are challenging, endearing, and central to my happiness.
So once again, thank you for everything.
And let's have a great season.
Beat the Lakers.