I’m not a sports person. I spent most of my childhood reading about dragons. When I wasn’t being bullied by the cool kids (who were often in sports themselves, which might go far in explaining my reticence) I preferred to be off in my own make-believe world, where I was strong and powerful, a far cry from the chubby and bespectacled visage I encountered each morning.
Competitive group activities made me anxious. The thought of going to a game sounded like straight-up torture. This was tricky, given that I went to Minnetonka High School, where sports were the coin in terms of popularity and social leverage.
I would try to watch my brother play. I would try to watch the occasional Vikings game with my parents. But football was hard for me. I struggled to hold the teensy balls in my vision. I struggled with the crushing pileup of bodies. I struggled with the mad-faced coaches and all their yelling. I think I enjoyed snuggling between my parents more than anything else. Oh, and maybe the snacks. (I have always been very food-motivated, from childhood up to this morning).
Until one fateful day in 2013, when my partner and I met a nice fellow named Tommy Franklin at Soul Friday. He offered us tickets to a Lynx game.
Because this was a person we liked and wanted to connect with, we said yes. Not really at all because we knew about the Lynx or were basketball fans in any way … to me, the game was a secondary, possibly even a tertiary, reason for attending. My actual motivations looked more like this: 1. Bond with a possible new friend. 2. Check out the ladies. After all, the Lynx enjoy a solid fan base in the lesbian community. 3. Sports?
So you can imagine my surprise when our friend led us to courtside seats and these ladies started playing. Not only did I catch a drop of sweat from Simone Augustus (it did not suck, btw). I was watching these strong and talented women crush it on the court. These were the protagonists of my childhood fantasies. And it was so much better than I ever imagined. Skill, strength, beauty, competence: These ladies had it all, and I wanted into their club.
So began my journey into super fandom. It started innocently enough, with one or two games a season and some very committed cheering.
From there, I started buying “just one” Lynx tee to show my support on game day. This had the ancillary benefit of identifying myself to all the other fans I encountered. Suddenly taking the light rail into downtown Minneapolis became a whole new experience, with folks laughing and reminiscing about the games. “Minnesota Nice” was out the door after the big wins. People were laughing and connecting, even spontaneously high-fiving with strangers.
Spontaneous high-fives. In Minnesota. With strangers.
It reminds me of how folks can connect and show up for each other in a really human way, like in the aftermath of a huge snowstorm. How nice to learn it doesn’t take a natural disaster to create this wonderful feeling of community.
And because Lynx fans are predominantly female, I’ve been able to overcome some of my childhood trauma around sports (and the people who played them) in a way that feels safe. Granted, none of this was conscious on my part. It was just a little “a-ha” moment I had while writing this piece.
The 2015 season was a year of firsts for me. I got to be on the Jumbotron. I got to dance to “YMCA” while the camera held on me for 3 or 4 seconds. I got to take a photo with Prowl, the team mascot, and we looked fab in our matching Lynx regalia.
And I went to my first “let’s all get together at a friend’s house and watch the game” viewing party. I know this is not a new thing for most sports fans, but it felt like a turning point for me. In terms of both my fandom and repairing the wounds of my childhood. I wore my game-day shirt (blue for away, natch) and brought smoked wings from my favorite south Minneapolis barbecue joint.
I spent the season cheering for our team with my sweetheart and my new friends. For the first time in my relationship with sports, I felt like one of the cool kids. We didn’t buy season tickets this year, but we will next year.
Like a lot of fans, I found myself wiping away tears with my towel after Game 3 last week (I now own 10 towels — yes, I’m that kind of a fan). Not only because Maya Moore locked in the last shot in the closing 1.7 seconds. It felt more profound than that.
Thank you, Minnesota Lynx, for making me a superfan. And thanks for helping me re-examine my perception of competitive sports. I’ve learned that some jerks may be jocks, but not all jocks are jerks.
Kate Moore is an educator, community builder, classically trained chef, hostess with the mostest and founder of Family Dinner Minneapolis.
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