Whew, thank goodness that week is over, done, kaput. Let us never speak of it again.
If you’re a fan of Minnesota pro sports, the past 10 days were the equivalent of our April weather, a tax audit and blowtorch indigestion wrapped together and tied neatly with a bow. At least that seems to be the mood around town.
To review: The Wild stinks. The Timberwolves stank. The Twins stunk.
Everybody is red-faced angry, and rightfully so. Maybe that collective anger is a good thing, though.
Anger means fans have real expectations. It beats having apathy. That word is a boogeyman in sports. Teams would much rather have an angry fan base than an apathetic fan base.
Well, Minnesota fans are really, really angry right now. If teams thought that getting to the playoffs would satisfy their paying customers, they probably should stay off Twitter for a while.
Wild owner Craig Leipold basically admitted that he felt fan outrage over his team’s latest first-round whimper, which compelled him to cut ties with General Manager Chuck Fletcher in a shakeup of the front office and possibly the roster.
The Wolves made the playoffs for the first time in 14 years, drew the best team in the NBA in the first round and predictably looked overmatched. The reaction? People want Tom Thibodeau and Andrew Wiggins to walk the plank.
Then the Twins returned from a road trip that should have been narrated by Clark Griswold and included their standard misadventures in the Big Apple, causing the panic meter to spike sharply.
Minnesota fans need a group hug.
It’s an interesting time in our sports market. We’ve gone from Loserville to Good But Not Good Enoughville, and that has stirred fan angst even more than normal.
For the first time ever, the Vikings, Twins, Wolves and Wild made the playoffs in the same season. And what do they have to show for it? A parting gift of heartbreak, frustration and a temporary high from one miracle catch.
The Lynx continue to be the one saving grace as a championship operation under Cheryl Reeve’s wise and unrelenting guidance. Lofty expectations feel like a feather on that franchise’s sturdy shoulders.
The Vikings began their offseason program recently with a Super Bowl-or-bust forecast. New quarterback Kirk Cousins was asked about those grand expectations.
“I don’t want to be on a team with low expectations, do I?” he replied.
Perfect answer. Trust us, Kirk. We’ve been down that road plenty of times in the past.
Reaction to the Wolves’ playoff loss to the Houston Rockets has been particularly intense. Fans knew the Wolves had little hope of an upset, but pointed criticism of Thibodeau and his team was revealing in several ways.
One, years of failure didn’t drain the fanbase of its passion. And two, the team has a serious PR issue when it comes to Thibodeau. And yet that didn’t prevent more fans from buying tickets, watching games on TV or investing emotionally in the team. It’s a curious relationship.
Did the Wolves underachieve in the regular season? Yeah, somewhat. And they certainly are maddening to watch at times. But the roster overhaul last summer didn’t instantly make them legitimate championship contenders. The Rockets series showed how wide that gap is in terms of talent and basketball strategy.
The overall tone surrounding all the teams reflects an unmistakable restlessness. Teams have upgraded their rosters with significant moves and tasted the playoffs, and so expectations and patient level change too.
Social media undoubtedly plays a big part in setting the mood. Everyone has a voice and that voice often multiplies into a mob shouting full throat. Twitter during a Wolves playoff game should have come with a Surgeon General warning.
With the exception of the Lynx’s sustained success, championship droughts by the other teams continues to fuel fan frustration. Playoff appearances are nice and a sign of progress but not nearly satisfying. That message came through loud and clear in the reaction to one long, miserable week.
Chip Scoggins firstname.lastname@example.org