As soon as you get that little press pass nametag and step into the press room, it's a whole different world. Sports journalists are relaxed yet professional; they're having fun, but it's still serious work. This is a job for them, like any other their office just happens to be the Target Center. We felt like we didn't quite belong, fans among pros, but that was the trick to it. We had to blend in, like all this was familiar. Self-restraint was the name of the game keep stupid, excited grinning to a minimum when you walk out of the players tunnel, and don't gawk when you run into players and staff in the halls.
Walking around in the halls, we would randomly bump into current and former players and other head-honchos of the NBA. Mark walked by then-injured guard Marco Jaric, while Matt bumped into Fred Hoiberg after he got a drink from the press room. Hoiberg said, Excuse me, and Matt replied, Sorry. A highly memorable conversation if there ever was one.
Walking back to the court after halftime, Mark was en route to his seat but notices a tall, professional-looking man behind him. It was none other than Hall-of-Famer and Vice President of Basketball Operations Kevin McHale! Mark was blocking his path, and McHale started smacking a program in his hand impatiently.
Press members are given their own assigned seats, marked by cool nametag. So there's our names with Manitou Messenger prominently displayed next to bigger, more legitimate press outlets like the Associated Press and Star Tribune. It was all sort of surreal to us, making us feel like strangers in a foreign land.
Being so close to the court provided a better insight on the communication between players and coaches, between players during timeouts, and up-close view of players body language on the floor. Against the Hawks, for instance, Kevin Garnett looked tired and sort of defeated.
Halftime for press guys is also cool. Instead of a line for the bathroom, we have our own private one. Instead of paying through the teeth for snacks, you get free food.
There are some parts of the press experience which were a little awkward though. As a press guy, you're professionally obliged NOT to cheer. This felt so weird for a fans like us half of our enjoyment of watching the NBA is freaking out when something spectacular happens. It was hard for me to control my emotions and look smooth when in reality I wanted to jump up out of my seat.
The best part of the experience came after the game: the coach's press conference was when the press people asked questions, followed by the locker room visit. The press conference gave a good look to the kinds of questions journalists proffer. Some weren't that intellectually deep and didn't really scratch the surface of the Wolves underlying problems, but this was made up for by some of the journalists charisma and conversation skills. All in all, sports journalists impressed us with their laid-back but classy vibe.
The locker room was a revealing peek into the Timberwolves. Most guys were already in the back rooms, showering and getting ready to leave, but Mark Madsen was there, Troy Hudson (and his seemingly endless dreadlocks) paid us a visit, Randy Foye swept in and out to grab something from his locker, and finally KG showed up. Madsen is simply a classy, genuinely great guy ... he is, after all, an Eagle Scout (seriously). He was always up for a quick interview or autograph and seemed to be living in the moment and really appreciating things.
All the little details (Ricky Daviss personal fridge pack, the corner locker of the late Malik Sealy) fade away as The Kid himself walks in. And we're star struck. One of the greatest power forwards of all time, and he's within reaching distance. He gave a quick interview, rose up out of his chair, towering over us all, and left.
This experience was really incredible for both of us. We met some famous players, occupied sweet seats and saw a day in the life of a sports journalist.
But we wouldn't give up the great parts of being a fan to do that every game. What makes being a sports fan so great is going crazy when your team does something incredible, something you can't do as a professional. Being a true sports journalist entails a lot more than being just a fan.