Sports fans are pretty good at ceremony. We can throw a party. We can retire a jersey. We can do pomp under almost any circumstance.
Saturday afternoon at Target Center, the Lynx honored Lindsay Whalen for the last time.
Ah, who are we kidding? They’ll probably honor her every five or 10 years, or months. She’s the greatest winner in Minnesota history and a credit to her state and sport.
Now that her No. 13 jersey has been retired, eventually the Lynx will retire every jersey she ever wore, until the ceiling looks like a triskaidekaphobiac’s worst nightmare. Core Lynx fans can’t get enough of Whalen, and core Gophers basketball fans can’t, either.
We’re at a point, though, where ceremony isn’t enough, nor is having a cadre of core fans. At some point, financial reality should match ceremony.
There is a tangible way to support Whalen, or at least what she represents, and it doesn’t require another speech. It’s this simple: Buy a ticket to a Lynx game, even if that’s not your usual consumer habit. Buy a ticket to a Gophers women’s game. Watch Gophers volleyball, or softball.
The Lynx are the championship franchise Minnesotans wish all of their franchises could be. Whalen has a chance to turn the Gophers into a power. Hugh McCutcheon is a world-class volleyball coach and now, it seems, softball coach Jamie Trachsel can make a similar claim.
In our market, the average male sports fan spends more time complaining about his favorite team than recognizing Minnesota as a bastion of women’s sports success.
I usually refrain from telling people how to spend their money, but this isn’t a plea for people to spend more.
This is a pitch to divert a portion of your entertainment budget to women’s sports.
Maybe instead of watching the 15th update of a comic book movie franchise, you watch Whalen’s successors, or Whalen, live.
Women’s sports matter. They matter for our daughters and our society, for the often-cited and too rarely fulfilled principle of equality.
Before the game, the Lynx played a video tribute to Whalen that was narrated by Maya Moore and included cameos from the likes of Taj McWilliams-Franklin and UConn coach Geno Auriemma, for whom Whalen played in two Olympics.
Auriemma said that basketball existed long before Whalen and will exist long after she’s gone, “but the game was better because you were in it.”
During her retirement ceremony last season, Whalen did what she now calls her “30-minute stand-up routine.” Saturday, she was brief, noting that she liked having her jersey hanging next to memorials for Malik Sealy and Flip Saunders, and the 2017 WNBA championship banner.
“It’s 2017, when we beat LA at Williams, my favorite championship of all four, because it was the last and the hardest,” Whalen said. “And to be up there with Malik Sealy and a coach that I grew up watching, and Malik was on all of those teams, that was pretty cool.”
She called Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve and Auriemma “the two best coaches in women’s basketball” and said, “I want to be that for my players.”
While praising the Lynx’s video as “first class,” she sounded like she’s had enough of being honored. She preferred to talk about Lynx owner (and Star Tribune owner) Glen Taylor, who invested in women’s sports before anyone could have imagined Whalen’s arrival or four league titles.
“I needed an opportunity first, and it wouldn’t have happened if he wouldn’t have bought the team and wouldn’t have believed in women’s basketball and the WNBA,” Whalen said.
“And then you have a great coach who is willing to push you throughout the year and put us into great game plans and lead us. It’s all about the opportunity and what you do with it.”
The Lynx lost 89-85 to LA. Attendance was announced at 8,834. “We couldn’t pull one out for Whay,” Reeve said.
But Minnesota could have shown up in force to celebrate Minnesota’s biggest winners — Whalen and the Lynx.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at TalkNorth.com. Twitter: @SouhanStrib E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org