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Confessions of a Bandwagon Fan: Or, How the Minnesota Lynx Saved my Basketball Soul

The title of this article stretches hyperbolic in both directions. I'm pretty sure that makes it a great headline. Anyway, as you can probably guess, the following words are about the joys of becoming a fan of the Minnesota Lynx.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Far too many Minnesota basketball fans are essentially "leaving money on the table" when they ignore the Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA. I say this not out of judgment but out of understanding. For far too long I to made this mistake and even now I often still do.

There are several reasons for this and I will address them here but first I want to confess to my general status as a bandwagon fan. I'm fine with this status, sports are after all entertainment, and we all have the right to be entertained according to our own desires. Still, I also acknowledge that there is a unique bond between long-time hardcore fans of any team and that I cannot reasonably count myself among this group as it pertains to the Minnesota Lynx.

In fact, anyone who is curious can relive the exact moment in which I became the Lynx fan I am today. Predictably, I managed to ride this initial wave of fandom into a full blown Lynx gear wearing season ticket holder. It is a pretty great bandwagon. So climb aboard while there's still room. Or whenever, it's up to you.

First, I will look at what I see as the three primary reasons Minnesota Basketball fans don't follow the Lynx. The first reason is simple inertia. Many folks are not used to watching professional women's basketball. The league has not been around very long so very few of us, if any, have personal or family history tied into the Lynx or the WNBA. There is also an issue of timing. Once the NBA season has finally ended it can be difficult for many fans, even hardcore basketball fans, to stay focused on the sport. The playoffs, from a fan perspective, are a bit of a grind with games pretty much every night for the better part of a month.

I can't be the only one who felt some level of relief when game seven finally ended giving me a chance to pursue other interests such as music, television, bicycling, and spending time with my family. I think people can be forgiven if they do not immediately turn their attention to yet another professional basketball league.

This also ties into the next reason I believe many Minnesota Basketball fans ignore the Lynx. It's the summer, and summer is a busy time for many Minnesotans. One of the ways we tolerate the cold and dark of winter it seems is to pack our summers with nonstop activities. Weddings, cabins, bike rides, camping trips, golf, fishing, rec softball. It can be difficult to find time to mow the damn lawn, much less find the time to keep up with another sports season. These two reasons, I believe, are legitimate reasons. People do what they do. Personally I found that making some space for the Lynx in my summer life, despite my lack of historical inertia around it, has been worth it, but I understand why many basketball fans around the state have not done so.

The last reason that people ignore the Minnesota Lynx and the WNBA is not a legitimate reason in my opinion. This has to do with the mistaken belief that it is not good basketball. This is wrong, it is very good basketball.  I think the league has gotten better, but it also could be that I simply have opened up my mind some. Either way, the WNBA as it stands now is an excellent basketball product and fortunately for fans from the Great State of Minnesota, the Lynx are one of the best teams and have been for some time now.

I get that there is a difference in athleticism and that dunks are exciting but if you can't enjoy the WNBA for the other aspects of the sport; passing, ball handling, defense, fast breaks, teamwork, big shots, all of it, then we just might watch basketball for different reasons. Maya Moore is not a good woman's basketball player, she is a good basketball player. A very good one. Greatness all around. She is not alone in this. The WNBA is full of women who understand and play my favorite sport at a level that leaves me consistently awestruck when I take the time to watch. It truly is an amazing league. Don't let anyone tell you the WNBA is not good basketball because that's just wrong.

OK, so now that we have addressed the primary reasons people don't watch the Minnesota Lynx and the WNBA let's look closer at some of the reasons people should. But first, a confession of sorts related to the first two reasons listed above: one of the problems I find myself having in my first year fully on the bandwagon is my lack of overall familiarly with the players on the other teams. Because of the sheer amount of time I have spent watching, discussing, and reading about the NBA, I have some knowledge of most of the players in the league, or at least an embarrassingly high percentage of them.

When I go to a Timberwolves game I not only know the Wolves players but generally know what to expect from the players on the other team. When I go to a Lynx game, outside of a handful of star players, this simply is not true for me. Part of this could be solved by my watching more games on TV (see the part above about summer) and some of the gaps will fill in time, but it can be frustrating for me and, I'm sure it is for others. I will say this, however: It's getting better for me and it will for you as well if you stick with it.

So the first and primary reason Minnesota Basketball fans should follow the Lynx is that, as I addressed already in this post, it's excellent basketball. As you should all know by now the Lynx have been to the WNBA finals four of the last five seasons and have come away with three titles. Simply put, the Lynx are one of the very best teams in the league. When the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA championship a few weeks ago some national pundits wanted to make a big deal about how Minneapolis/St. Paul is now one of the major markets with a long sports championship drought. They were wrong about this and Minnesota basketball fans noticed.

Simply put, the players on the Minnesota Lynx are champions. Saying that they are not is like saying the Cavaliers are not champions because they didn't win the Super Bowl. It's preposterous. There is a professional league with a format for selecting a champion and the Lynx have followed that format and come out on top three of the last five years. Now tell me the other city that has that kind of current success rate. Just because there are fewer people paying attention doesn't mean it didn't happen. The Minnesota Lynx are champions.

It is also worth mentioning that the players are very team oriented and genuinely seem like fun thoughtful individuals. Obviously, as with all large-scale spectator sports, the view from the stands (or the couch) has it's limitations but when I watch the Lynx play I see passionate basketball players who are playing team basketball and having a good time doing so. At one recent game, I noticed Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen getting up and dancing on the bench every time newcomer Natasha Howard scored a basket. Now, for anyone who doesn't know, Moore and Whalen are, by any reasonable measure, two of the all-time greats to play the sport. Could they have gotten away with an appreciative head nod and a "veteran" high five at the next break? Absolutely. But that's not the culture of this team.

Speaking of team culture, it's well worth mentioning the Lynx fans and the passion and general basketball knowledge that is going on in the stands. One specific difference I have seen between the Lynx crowd and the Wolves crowd is how few Lynx fans are there by accident. Let me define my terms, obviously people are not tripping on their shoelaces and ending up in section 118 at the Target Center for a Timberwolves game. But there are a lot of people at Timberwolves games, who seem to be there simply because it's something to do or because they were given tickets as part of a corporate perk. There is nothing wrong with this of course, people have the right to be entertained according to their own interests, but it is fun to attend a sporting event and be surrounded by smart and obsessive fans, which is exactly what Lynx fans are.

As a side bar, I feel the need to take a moment to give a quick shout-out to the woman who made herself a Lynx shirt out of the fan towels the team gave out during last seasons finals. Just fantastic.

And if you think having a high level professional women's basketball team here in Minnesota doesn't carry specific meaning to women (you know, just over half of the worlds population) think again. Go to any Lynx game and you will see women and girls of all ages who are proud and pleased to see themselves reflected so highly back to them at the center of the arena. However, let me also be clear on something, this aspect of the WNBA should not be used as an excuse to dismiss the league as a novelty, because it is not. It is a highly competitive league full of hard working and skilled players playing our favorite sport at the highest level. Anything the league gives up in athleticism it more than makes up for in teamwork, passion, and by playing smart basketball - a fact the is reflected by the presence of hardcore basketball nerds, both men and women, at each and every game.

If you love basketball, and I know you do, check out the World Champion Minnesota Lynx. I promise you will not be disappointed. Go Lynx!