As much fun as it was to watch the Lynx dismantle Atlanta in Sunday's Game 1 of the WNBA Finals, the most memorable part of the evening was seeing the mass outpouring of emotion for a women's basketball team. Men wore Maya Moore jerseys and hollered with a full-throated gusto usually reserved for the Vikings or Twins. Ticket scalpers worked the packed sidewalks outside Target Center, and even the dormant Twins gave a nice nod to the neighbors with a good-luck sign outside Target Field.
Game 1 provided women's sports fans one of those all-too-rare moments of affirmation, when the wider sports culture finally acknowledges what the loyalists have seen all along. The one who has made the largest investment sat in his usual courtside seat, soaking up all the craziness with a broad smile on his face.
Owner Glen Taylor has been accused of being a little unbalanced himself for bankrolling a WNBA franchise that made the playoffs only twice before this season. People who have no problem with him pouring money into his other team -- the woeful Timberwolves -- can't understand why Taylor remains committed to the Lynx, because "nobody cares'' about women's basketball. Taylor cares deeply. The Lynx players, staff and faithful long have been grateful for that, and the rest of the Twin Cities ought to be thanking him, too.
The anti-Mark Cuban, Taylor isn't in it for the personal glory. He has endured losses speculated to be as much as $1 million per year because he believes in women's basketball. Sunday, as a steady stream of people stopped by his seat to offer congratulations and appreciation, he looked around in wonder at a nearly full arena and delighted in a night he has anticipated for 13 years.
"This state has been really good to me, and I just think there's a responsibility,'' said Taylor, 70, who attended Sunday's game with his wife, Becky, and 4-year-old granddaughter Olivia. "We wanted to get a women's league going. That's part of giving back.
"Even though it hasn't been financially successful, I think it could be. We just have to stay with it. I just think it's the right thing to do. It's been an exciting year, and I'm really happy for the team and the staff and especially the fans.''
Owning a sports team is supposed to be fun, but the Timberwolves' epic misadventures haven't exactly given Taylor a joyride. Most Lynx seasons hadn't provided much to cheer about, either, until this one made up for it in grand style.
Before he owned the Lynx, Taylor said, his only connection to women's sports was through a brother who coached high school softball. As a lifelong fan of all kinds of athletic events, he found women's basketball easy to embrace. Taylor sits next to assistant coach Jim Petersen at home games, and each year, he invites the entire team to his home for a dinner.
Both of his franchises have proven that winning is not a prerequisite for Taylor to keep writing the checks. Candice Wiggins said the Lynx have learned that Taylor is not only patient, but that his optimism and unflagging support are genuine.
"I know Glen saw this already in his head a few years ago,'' said Wiggins, a guard who has spent her entire four-year WNBA career in Minnesota. "Even in those years we were down, he was confident this was going to happen. And we've been feeling like, 'We've got to do this for Glen.'
"God bless him for always believing in us. I'm so happy we can do this for him, because he deserves this.''
Sunday, Taylor entered the ear-shattering din of Target Center in the company of Gov. Mark Dayton and a host of family and friends. He is not especially demonstrative during games. But after Rebekkah Brunson hit a fadeaway jumper and a layup in the fourth quarter to push the Lynx's lead to 73-62, Taylor leapt to his feet and high-fived the security guard stationed behind his seat.
As an old-school civic booster -- the kind that views sports as community-builders -- it has not been lost on Taylor that the Lynx could be the team to bring Minnesota the championship it craves after so much disappointment and frustration. That, he said, would make him particularly proud and happy.
Some fans were already expressing their gratitude Sunday. Directly across from his seat, two people held up a banner that said "Thank You Glen.''
They might have been referring to this memorable season, or to 13 years of persistence. Either way, it's a sentiment that Taylor has earned, and one that bears repeating through this playoff run and beyond.
Rachel Blount email@example.com