As I type my first draft, the Minnesota Twins are beginning their final series of the 2015 season against the Kansas City Royals, a playoff team again this year. The Twins are a game out of a wild card spot and a chance to compete in the postseason for the first time in five years. And everywhere you’ve gone this summer, wherever there was a baseball fan, there was talk of hope for a franchise that lost over 90 games each of the past four seasons.
There is heavy investment in our Twins again. People really care from game to game. We get mad over one game lost in the vastness of a 162-game season. Three hours of every day during the long baseball season can be spent rising and falling with the team we call our own here in Minnesota. At different times, I’ve declared the team dead in the water or ready to leap up and join the playoff crowd.
And this is what’s fun about being a sports fan: There’s always something to talk about. We’ve spent the last four years complaining about Joe Mauer and Ron Gardenhire and how they’d better spend some money on better pitching and how they need to develop a home run hitter. Now I’ll admit that I questioned hiring Paul Molitor as coach, but will quickly stand up and argue that he deserves consideration for Manager of the Year after quieting us doubters with his winning style. Twins fans will still complain about Mauer but look forward to many years of Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton leading our squad to playoff glory.
Of course, if the team twists into a downward spiral in the next couple of years, we’ll all call for firing Molly and all his coaches and how we need to get rid of whatever overpaid putz is underperforming (still might be Joe Mauer). We sports fans are mercurial in that sense, always flowing whatever way the team is performing. We’d all love to be the New York Yankees or the New England Patriots and make the playoffs every year and stack championship trophies on top of each other, but we’re satisfied to have a team to care about.
When the Twins and Vikings were fighting for new stadiums and threatening to leave our fine state, Sid Hartman used to say we’d become “a cold Omaha” if we lost our sports teams. Many people grumble about paying for stadiums from taxes, but Sid had a point. There are so many people who spend so much money on these teams that our state would face some financial difficulty if not for our sports teams; investment in their homes is worthwhile.
If we didn’t have them, who would sports fans root for? After years of hating the Green Bay Packers and the Milwaukee Brewers, could we really bring ourselves around to cheer for them? Can you imagine a Minnesota Wild fan changing over to the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that has bounced our team from the playoffs the past two years?
And that’s part of it too. So many of us love sports in general. I don’t particularly understand or follow hockey, but I want the Wild to do well because they represent us. I’ll watch a bit if I’m flipping around or if it’s playoff season. Heck, the other night I flipped on ESPN2 and watched the end of a soccer match. They were in a shootout for the win, and that made it pretty exciting. Sports!
We become so invested in our favorite teams too, don’t we? I’ve learned to expect disappointment from the Vikings in the most crucial situations, but it doesn’t temper my anger about it. I still picture Gary Anderson missing that field goal along with Denny Green saying to take a knee in the NFC Championship Game against Atlanta, though that pales to Brad Childress earning a penalty after a timeout and Brett Favre throwing an interception with a shot to win in New Orleans for a chance at the Super Bowl. Those are as painful of memories as I possess; I’m just glad I wasn’t old enough to understand what was happening during the Vikings’ Super Bowl losses.
Many of us do this with our high school teams too, right? There is much grumbling if the local squad isn’t living up to expectations. Trust me, you don’t want to be up in the booth at a football game if things aren’t going our way; there’s a reason my microphone has an on/off switch! And then we remember that it’s kids out there competing and doing the best they can. We can’t win them all, and we won’t get all the calls from the officials. But we continue to cheer.
With that in mind, if you’re reading this on Oct. 8, get over to the football field and cheer on the home team in a big game against Maple River. And then join us on Oct. 14 for a home playoff game; let’s pack the stands and let the boys know we support them!
Oh, and the Twins? As you know, they missed out on a playoff spot. But as Cubs fans always say, “There’s always next year!” Speaking of years, happy anniversary to my lovely wife Michelle, who put up with me for Year 17!
Word of the Week: This week’s word is mot juste, which means the right word, as in, “The columnist searched for the mot juste to describe his feelings about sports.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!