There is a tendency for Minnesota sports fans to look back on the six-year period from the fall of 1998 through the summer of 2004 with a certain amount of lament.
During that stretch, all four major men’s pro sports teams in this state came within one game or series of playing for a championship: the Vikings in 1998 and 2000; the Twins in 2002; the Wild in 2003; and the Timberwolves in 2004 all played in the championship game or series for their conference/league.
And each time, they lost.
It was an exciting time, but also a time of what-ifs.
But I’m here to say this: When it comes to this generation of Minnesota fans — defined as those who really started paying attention sometime after the Twins’ last World Series title in 1991 — that stretch should be remembered as the good old days.
I arrived at that conclusion after seeing a horrific statistic tweeted out by KARE 11’s Keith Leventhal on Saturday night, shortly after the Wild lost 4-2 to Colorado and fell into a 2-0 hole in its opening-round playoff series.
Since the Wolves made a run to the Western Conference finals almost exactly a decade ago, here are the playoff records for those four aforementioned teams:
Wild: 4-14 (zero series wins); Twins: 1-12 (zero series wins); Vikings: 2-4; Timberwolves: 0-0. Yes, by not making the playoffs in any of those seasons, the Wolves probably actually helped this sad collection avoid an even worse combined record than 7-30.
Seven wins in 37 playoff games. That’s what we’ve seen from these four teams over roughly the past 10 years. It’s no wonder we’ve developed bitter tones on Twitter and in website comments sections.
And no, life — and sports — do not begin and end with those four teams if you live in Minnesota. There have been numerous bright spots during that time, most notably a pair of WNBA titles for the Lynx, back-to-back NCAA titles for the Gophers women’s hockey team and countless other impressive performances from around the state.
But right or not, the relative success or failure of a sports market is still very much judged by the performances of the teams Minnesota has that are deemed to be in the major men’s pro sports leagues.
When we lamented Gary Anderson’s kick … and 41-donut … and the Twins running into the Angels’ Rally Monkey magic … and the Wild losing steam after two improbable series victories … and Sam Cassell’s ill-timed injury … we really had no idea of what was yet to come.
Those were heartbreakers, but those were the glory days compared to what has followed.