What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
As regular readers of this blog know, the series Tales of Depression and Sorrow is all about long-suffering fans of various sports teams. Since the NBA finals are upon us, we thought this would be a great time to explore the not-so-successful end of the league. This installment is brought to us by a Timberwolves’ fan who has been suffering this misfortunes of this franchise since the initial jump in franchise history in 1989. @Arianbove not only is a original Timberwolves fan, he’s also one of the original Dubsists. Don’t hold that against him as he takes us on a journey of being a fan of a franchise which has found a way to extend the expectations of an expansion team for over a quarter-century.
J-Dub: How long have you been a fan of the Timberwolves?
AB: I have been a fan of the Minnesota Timberwolves since 1989. I was a 6’3″, 14 year-old, aspiring center/forward during their inaugural season and even got to attend a game that first season that they played in the now-deflated Metrodome.
J-Dub: I was in college in Grand Forks in that first year, and I remember driving down to Minneapolis to see a game in the Humpty-dome. Do you remember that goofy curtain they hung from the roof to try to make you think you weren’t watching hoops in an awful football stadium?
AB: I do, but I used to work at the Dome when I was in high school at the academy. So I’ve seen the inside of the Dome in just about every configuration possible. I’ve seen baseball, basketball, truck rallies, concerts you name it and I’ve sold someone something ridiculously overpriced at it. What’s the best concert you saw at the dome?
J-Dub: Oddly enough, I never saw a concert at the Baggy-Dome. I remember Rush playing the Dome in the 90’s, but I wasn’t about to drop two and half Franklins for it. Don’t get me wrong, Minneapolis is a great music town, and I saw my fair share of shows there, but somehow I never made one at the Humpty-Hump-Dome. My biggest moment in person at the Metrodome was probably being there for Cecil Fielder’s single career stolen base. But I really want to know what made you become a fan of the Timberwolves?
AB: The NBA as spectacle, arguably, peaked in the late 80’s/early to mid-90’s. This was the era in which the NBA transitioned from the dominating teams of the 80’s ( Lakers, Pistons, Celtics) to the dominating players who’s posters would plaster fans’ bedroom walls. The NBA had become must see TV, it dominated weekend viewing in a time when you didn’t have to pay for most of the shows that you wanted to watch and now I had a team from my state that had a chip and a chair for this game.
J-Dub: You’re sooooo preaching to the choir on that point. I grew up on the “Showtime” Lakers; my dad had season tickets at the old Forum in Inglewood. Granted, we weren’t down on the floor sharing popcorn with Jack Nicholson, but I still got to be there more than my fair share. When I wasn’t at games, I got to listen to one of the great play-by-play of all-time in Chick Hearn. If he were still doing the NBA today, he’d hardly get to use one of his great catch-phrases “He got caught strolling through the pea patch” since there’s more leprechauns playing center in the NBA now than there are traveling calls. As an homage to my team which came from your home state, one of my prized possessions is my old Minneapolis Lakers t-shirt.
Oh, and we can’t forget about the “Dr. J” 76ers if we’re talking about great teams from that 80’s era. But I’m supposed to be asking the questions here; did you have a favorite player on the original roster?
AB: At the time I was most excited about Pooh Richardson; first round pick, All-Rookie first team as a 6th-man. To be honest, there wasn’t a lot to get excited about in a season with 22 wins.
J-Dub: There’s two things I remember about that time. First, if you recall, back in the day there was a locally-produced sports-comedy show called Sports Friday With Stretch and Z. These were the same guys who depicted a 90’s senate race between Rudy Boschwitz and Paul Wellstone as a pro wrestling match officiated by none other than Jess “The Body” Ventura. They did also did a poll concerning how Richardson should be introduced by public address announcer. You could pick between a sharp staccato burst on POOH, followed by a long slide through RIIIICHAAAAARDSOOOONNNN or the opposite featuring a long drawn out POOOOOOOOOOOOOOH!
Second, I’m actually related to an early Timberwolf. Granted, it’s by marriage and is the shirt-tailiest of shirt-tail relations, but my Uncle Robert back in Philadelphia used to keep tabs on the Timberwolves because he was distant cousins with Doug West. Who is your all-time favorite Timberwolf?
AB: I am just going to get this out of the way; I was elated when the Wolves drafted Christian Laettner. While everyone else was hanging on Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, and Greg Anthony and the rest of the Runnin’ Rebels, I was a Duke fan and that was primarily because of Laettner. He was the straw that stirred the drink. So, Laettner is my all-time favorite player to play for the Minnesota Timberwolves, but my all-time favorite Timberwolf is, of course, Kevin Garnett. Really nothing to be said about KG that hasn’t already been said. Arguably one of the top 5 NBA payers to come straight out of high school. He could play and defend any position on the court, brought an unbridled enthusiasm (h/t Seinfeld) and competitiveness not previously (or since) seen at Target Center. Led the Wolves to 8 consecutive play-off appearances, including a Western Conference Finals appearance (with a bunch of names that were injured and past theirprimes).
J-Dub: My first free-lance sports writing gig in the Twin Cties was covering Kevin Garnett in his rookie year. Little did I know I was accorded such an honor because no self-respecting “real” sports writer wanted to get stuck following the 18-year-old rookie to his girlfriend’s senior prom at Minnetonka high school. But when it comes to “leading a bunch of names who were injured and/or past their primes,” is the fact KG won a ring in Boston a sore spot for you?
AB: No way. As a player, aside from rings, you can’t really ask for more than what KG gave on the court. Now, he certainly didn’t help the team when he tried to test his front office influence.
J-Dub: Who is your “brother-in-law” player (meaning guy you hated, but you tolerated him because he was on your team) and why did you pick them?
TA: This was the one that really made me think. I started thinking about front office personnel in fact, but then verified that the question is asking me to name a player. Isaiah “J.R.” Rider is my “brother-in-law” player for the Wolves. He is arguably the biggest waste of talent (not just potential) to ever wear a Wolves’ uniform. Drafted with the 5th overall pick, while getting limited exposure at UNLV due to sanctions, Rider was 2nd on the team in scoring during his rookie season, won the Dunk Contest that year and was named to the All-Rookie First Team. He also brought a brashness that he was able to back up. Then he started kicking and spitting on fans, basically asking to get booted out of Minnesota.
J-Dub: I’d be willing to bet amongst T-Wolves fans of sufficient age to remember the 90’s, he’d run neck-in-neck with Laettner, but I agree with you. Any thoughts on who else might show some big numbers in a “most hated Timberwolf” poll?
AB: I know the popular name is going to be Laettner, but I remember being pretty pissed at Stephon Marbury when he whined his way away from KG and out of Minnesota. I really felt that in the late 90’s KG, Tom Gugliotta, and Steph were going to be something to reckon with for the next ten years.
J-Dub: I’m glad you mentioned “Googs.” I always thought he didn’t get enough credit for how much he meant to that team. Who is your “bad, but hot girlfriend” player (meaning guy who you loved but you knew was bad for your team) and why did you pick them?
AB: I’m glad I didn’t use Christian Laettner earlier. I know I am in a very small group of people who actually liked Christian Laettner in college as well as during his pro career, but to paraphrase someone: you’ve got to be pretty damn good for the entire state of Kentucky to think you suck.
J-Dub: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I almost took a job in Buffalo. This just happened to be during Laettner’s rookie season in Minnesota. Long story short is that on an interview trip I end up as the only guy on the hotel shuttle bus from the airport (Who would think Buffalo in February isn’t exactly a tourist Mecca?), and once the driver found out I was coming from Minneapolis, he made it a point to show me Laettner’s high school and childhood home. Thank God I didn’t tell him I’m a Philadelphia Eagles’ fan or I might still be parked in front Ron Jaworski’s parent’s house. But I digress…What is your personal highlight moment for being a fan of the Timberwolves?
AB: My personal highlight as a fan was when they reached the Western Conference Finals in 2004 because what else is there, really? No greater team achievement before that or since.
J-Dub: Flip-side of that coin…What is your personal lowlight moment for being a fan of the Wolves?
AB: My personal low-light was the under-the-table deal that Glen Taylor made for Joe Fucking Smith during the late ’90’s and early 2000’s. If screwed the team so badly, that they are just now, in the 2016-17 season, starting to recover even if the bleakest of scenarios would have played out with the team being able to retain the first round picks they were penalized.
J-Dub: I was never a Wolves fan, but as you know, I lived in Minnesota for quite some time, and now just like with the Pacers, you get to know the local team you see every night. I’ve always wondered that the death of Malik Sealy and the decline from those conference finals days may not have been a coincidence. What do you think?
AB: In some ways I think this was worse that the Joe Smith fiasco in terms of lasting impact. In the latter they fucked up, got caught, and were penalized. It sucks and it will take years to recover, It all makes sense though. It impacted the fan base, so that’s how I know it affected the team. You might never get over something like that until everybody from that team moves on for good.
J-Dub: Was there ever a moment when you considered changing teams? If so what caused that moment? If not, why?
AB: This question leads to a greater discussion regarding the perception of Minnesota fans in general, regardless of the sport. Hell no, I am from Minnesota and there is a certain amount of pride and hope that goes along with that. I cannot understand why someone would choose to root for a team of a state that they don’t live in, unless they don’t have state representation for that sport. Firstly, I believe we are something like the 3rd youngest franchise currently playing in the NBA and, but for the massive screw-up of the Joe Fucking Smith debacle, the franchise arguably would’ve had much more success than they do at present. Secondly, the future for the Wolves is bright with young talent making us an attractive destination for veteran stars.
J-Dub: Especially in an era when more and more Eastern European and Russian players are coming to the NBA, and those guys won’t be scared off by a city where the weather can freeze your nostril hair. Given that level of “home state” pride, if the Wolves re-located to another city (like they almost did before Glen Taylor bought them from “Harv and Marv”), would you remain a fan? Why or why not?
AB: Again, no way. If I don’t jump ship during the years when they are irrelevant, why would I look for another team when they leave? I would probably just quit following the NBA to any great extent.
J-Dub: If there was one personnel decision you think could have changed your team’s fortunes, what was it and what would you have done differently?
AB: I pretty much addressed this earlier with the Joe F. Smith catastrophe, but I also should probably mention drafting Ray Allen and trading his rights for Stephon Marbury. Shortly after the deal was made, it looked like a great move as the 3-headed monster of Marbury, Garnett and Tom Gugliotta seemed primed to ascend the ranks of the NBA elite. But then Allen went on to win multiple championships and Marbury might make the Hall of Fame for the Chinese League.
J-Dub: I’m eating it hard right now as a Lakers fan who dates back to Elgin Baylor and Jerry “The Logo” West, but I have to admit I’ve been spoiled in a lot of ways, not the least of which is I’ve never had to live through “Jesus Shuttlesworth for StarBury.” My trade history is a lot of Kwame Brown for Pau Gasol, Vlade Divac for Kobe Bryant, and half the bench for co-pilot Roger Murdock.
Again, this isn’t about me. What was your toughest off-field moment being a Wolves fan?
AB: Eddie Griffin…ouch. The now deceased Griffin got into a car accident because he was 1) allegedly drunk while 2) watching porn in his car and 3) “polishing his parquet.” Quite the triple threat.
J-Dub: If you could wave a “magic wand,” what is one thing about the Timberwolves’ past you would change?
AB: Not to beat a dead horse, but Joe Fucking Smith. You can regret drafting certain players that don’t pan out, but that happens to every team. You can lament the team changing front office personnel, but it happens to a lot of teams. But there is just no getting over missing out on 4 consecutive first round picks.
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