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ISSUE 121 VOL 13 PUBLISHED 3/7/2008

Inside the Lines: Jeering, jawing on the road

By Eric Monek Anderson
Sports Editor

Friday, March 7, 2008

Most people don't get excited about a basketball game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Seattle SuperSonics. Most people don't get excited about any Timberwolves game. Would you want to go see a 12-win NBA team? Every single player who stepped on the floor for the Wolves against the Sonics was under 25. I suppose that's exciting, in the same way that watching passes sail into the stands is exciting.

But I was excited for the game because of the SuperSonics. My team (at least until their possible move to Oklahoma City) visiting Minnesota. My boys. My city showing its stuff.

You know the Timberwolves have given up on the season when you enter the generally empty Target Center and see their season slogan up on the Jumbotron -- "Let's Build It." Wow. I wonder who gets paid to come up with that.

It's an understandable and admirably truthful slogan, though. The Timberwolves don't have anything built. Their team is terrible. Their general manager, Kevin McHale, once signed the generic-in-so-many-ways Joe Smith to an under-the-table contract that lost the team several draft picks and a lot of respect. So the Timberwolves, who've won two games all season on the road, are ready to build.

They want you, Minnesota fans, to help. You might be a bit busy worshipping Brett Favre, the NFL's career interception leader, who was actually the quarterback for your football team's biggest rival. Maybe his retirement will actually turn into a bid for president as an independent candidate. The man who won one Super Bowl in his career might have a legitimate shot at winning. I love the guy, love his incredible games-played streak, love his bond with the state of Wisconsin, but I'm a little sick of everyone vainly trying to associate themselves with his aura.

The paltry attendance at Sunday's game, which mostly made me wonder why any of the hundred or so fans in the upper deck didn't fill in the also nearly-empty lower bowl, indicates that maybe Minnesota fans aren't willing to help build yet.

Why not? They could help the Timberwolves construct a team around players like New York high school legend Sebastian Telfair and the wonderfully nicknamed "Big" Al Jefferson. Or around Rashad McCants, who grimaces in pain every time he's forced into a pass.

So this is why I walked into the Target Center confidently on Sunday, even though the Sonics' most important current assets are their six first-round draft picks.

As the Sonics fought back and predictably overcame the Timberwolves, I stood up and applauded as loudly as I could, looking around at the ten other fans around me. When Kevin Durant glided to the hoop for a game-tying layup at the end of regulation, I looked around and flashed a thumbs-up to my Timberwolves-fan friend. Booyah.

In the locker room afterward, Sonics point guard and Seattle-area native Luke Ridnour asked a journalist about the Washington state high school basketball championships. Even Luke relishes the chance for a taste of home.

Embrace your chance to be an "opposing" fan and watch your team play in another city. Most importantly, claim just one team in every sport as your own. Preferably from your hometown. It fosters healthy pride.

In high school I loved when the Mariners played the Yankees or Red Sox. We would wear our best M's blue and brainstorm a few decent jeers to use against the teams, but moreso to use against the evil Yankees fans or the bandwagon Red Sox boosters. Who knew Seattle featured so many Boston transplants? For us, the real competition happened in the stands.

Last fall, a few of my friends who go to school on the East Coast went to watch the Seahawks play the Philadelphia Eagles in Philly. The City of Brotherly Love is actually home to some notoriously vicious fans. In the middle of rabid Eagles fans, the motley crew watched the Seahawks came back and won. They taunted Eagles fans and barely made it out unharmed. In a regular season game. Against the mediocre Eagles.

A friend who went to the Super Bowl, the actual game, when the Seahawks played the Steelers, claimed that the experience in Philadelphia was his greatest sporting experience.

I encourage you -- if you ever have a chance, watch your team, the team you grew up with, play in another city. Go to jeer hometown fans. Go to jersey-pop in your rivals' faces. Go believe that your contribution in the stands really matters. Go be blatantly partisan in this political season.

Just don't be a sellout and make an ESPN acronym sign. But go.

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