I had a notion that I wanted to be inside Target Center on Wednesday for the WNBA Finals Game 5 for a number of reasons. I hadn’t watched every minute of the first four games on TV, but the series between the Lynx and Fever had been compelling whenever I checked in on it. It’s also inevitable that a game of this magnitude will bring out some fantastic emotion, as was evidenced by a couple other such games I’ve been at in the past: Game 7 of the Wolves/Kings series in 2004 and Game 163, Twins vs. Tigers, in 2009. These games are rare in Minnesota, so they need to be appreciated.
I found my way into the building under convenient circumstances, writing a story about it for the Indianapolis Star on veteran Tamika Catchings. They got some extra coverage. I got a little extra cash and the chance to see a game I wanted to see. Win-win. But even as I was very Indiana-focused last night, there were plenty of thoughts rumbling through my head about the Lynx and the game. Here we go:
1) Both teams looked emotionally and physically drained after playing two tough series to get to this point and four intense games leading up to Game 5. In terms of overall play, the finale was probably the sloppiest and least aesthetically pleasing of the entire series. This isn’t altogether uncommon, but it was true in the case of Wednesday’s game. It felt as though the Lynx could have held a much bigger lead at various points … but that they were also lucky to have a lead at all considering how many close-range shots they were missing. Minnesota finally got some offensive consistency in the third quarter to pull away. It was probably the presence of Jiggly Boy that sparked the team.
2) It’s impressive to think Minnesota won by 17 in a game where its unquestioned best player, Maya Moore, had just five points. It speaks to the nature of this particular game and the monster night that Sylvia Fowles put together. It also bodes well for the future, since some of us logically assumed if the Lynx were going to win Wednesday it would take a massive scoring effort from Moore.
3) This victory, giving the Lynx their third WNBA title in five seasons, gives them an unquestioned dynasty. The general logic is that it takes at least three titles in a reasonable span of time to earn that distinction. Until this year’s title, the Lynx were in the midst of a great run. Now they’re a dynasty. Maybe it’s a question of semantics and nothing more … but that’s a pretty heavy word, dynasty, that designates a place in history that should be remembered and revered.
4) One of the most striking things about the Lynx is that they are not the underdogs. They are the best team in the league, they play like they are the best team in the league, and they deliver upon expectations. This runs counter to the fabric of almost every Minnesota pro team throughout history. The Bud Grant Vikings probably had this kind of swagger during their run of greatness (at least until it came time for the Super Bowl). The Twins’ World Series teams were out-of-nowhere groups — an 85-win team that caught fire and a team that went from worst to first. The Lynx, though, are the late 1990s Yankees of the WNBA right now — not in terms of spending, since that’s not a factor in this league, but in terms of the perception that they are the unquestioned team to beat. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt that way about the Wild, Wolves, Twins or Vikings in my lifetime. The closest local parallel is Gophers hockey, both men’s and women’s, at various points in the last 15 years.
5) There are hardcore Lynx fans, plenty of whom were part of the 18,000-plus at Target Center last night. There are casual fans who latch on during the playoffs because they like a winner. And there are still plenty of people who simply do not care about the Lynx or the WNBA.
It’s fine to be in any of those groups, though I would add a caveat to that last one: If you are a sports fan who has watched a handful of WNBA games and decided, “eh, it’s not for me,” then there should be no beef. People are drawn to all sorts of sports for all sorts of reasons, but trying to make someone like something or shame them into liking it is not a way to go about it. If it’s not for you, it’s not for you.
That said, if you are a sports fan who thinks the equivalent of “LOL women’s sports who cares” and dismisses the WNBA outright as a result — a shrinking demographic in 2015 but a demographic nonetheless — then there is a problem. It’s a sexist attitude that reveals far more about you than you would care to admit. There’s a way to respect something even if you choose not to be a fan — a sentiment that goes for all facets of life and all sports, not just women’s basketball.