I went to my first Minnesota Lynx game on August 30 when they smacked the Washington Mystics at the Target Center, 73-56. I was worried; I’ve gone to one professional basketball game in my life…about eight years ago. I didn’t know how to go to a basketball game. “Smacked?” Is that the right word for trouncing the opponent in such a fashion? At one time, they were up by 20 points…the first half was a little iffy, but by the end it was clear: Our WNBA team is on their way to the playoffs and I fully expect a smackdown the whole way to the Championship. Big talk from someone who just went to her first Lynx game, but if there’s one thing I know about beginners and sports, we don’t take chances. This sounds like a sure thing.
What’s also a sure thing is that you should be at the games.
Never been to a game, either? Don’t psych yourself out about it. Let me be of assistance.
Don’t sweat the venue. The Target Center is just like any other big building in downtown Minneapolis that people go to for an event. If you’re accustomed to going to Orchestra Hall or the Walker Art Center for concerts or exhibits, it’s the same thing to be going to the Target Center for basketball. You find a place to park, you go to the box office, you find your seat, and you settle in to give yourself up to the Lynx for couple of hours. The space may appear surprisingly small and intimate to a first-timer. I was impressed that the seats are so close to the floor–like going to a show at First Avenue over the Xcel Center. The action is right there in front of us–smackdown central.
Look around and catch the energy. Be prepared to know people. Minnesota is lucky to have one of only 12 Women’s National Basketball Association teams in the United States and, of course, it’s no surprise that a large percentage of the Lynx fan base is from the GLBT community. If not in the community, itself, the seats are full of enlightened people who have caught on to the fact that we’ve got a stellar women’s basketball team. The fans are loyal and growing in number, as well they should be. And, chances are good that you know some of the other enlightened individuals in the seats. It’s an energetic, feel-good group of people.
Mastery of the game of basketball is not required. I was worried that I wouldn’t know what was happening on the boards, that someone would out me and I’d be asked to leave. Not at all. People are extremely willing to give the rookie some pointers and though I may not have understood why the whistle blew at particular times, I got the gist of it. Turns out, the back-to-back years that I watched Duke win the NCAA Championship with my older brother 20 years ago came in very handy for understanding which players were in what roles for the Lynx (as players, not as attitudes).
Get to know our players and coaches. There are 11 players. It’s catchy when the crowd croons “MAYAHHH” whenever Maya Moore makes a basket. Former Gopher Lindsay Whalen was the top scorer against the Mystics and Candice Wiggins gave an inspirational speech after the game about HIV/AIDS Awareness. The players are real and they’re worth getting to know. All of the players got time against the Mystics and each one of them scored. Cheryl Reeves is the Head Coach; Shelley Patterson and Jim Peterson are the Assistant Coaches. Watch the coaches–they can be as fascinating as the players and the game. Like any other organized sport, they use a body language and signals. And, they use them to win.
Appreciation is easy. You’re there to be involved so get caught up in the excitement of the game. These women are phenomenal athletes. Not to be conflated with the euphemistic “physical fitness” aspect of a beauty pageant, any athletic event is a time to appreciate the abilities of the human body. The strategies of the human mind. The chemistry of a team. And, the crisp air of a victory. Okay…and if that’s a bit too flowery for you, they’re wiping the boards with their opponents. That’s stinking awesome.
*To those of you who are die-hard fans, thank you for indulging me and reading this Beginner’s Guide to your Lynx games. Be prepared to see more of us newbies in the seats in this next month and your patience and assistance is appreciated. I promise, though, that a real sports writer will be covering the playoff games in our upcoming issues. I know when it’s my place to just watch and learn.