Atmosphere Matters and Will Help Minnesota In the Long Run

Photo Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve been trying to get my friends to go to Minnesota Timberwolves games with me for years. This obsession started in about 2012 during my senior year of high school. Four buddies and I (one of which was a German exchange student) hopped in my 1998 Dodge Intrepid and drove two and a half hours to watch the Wolves take on the Boston Celtics at the Target Center.

I have vivid memories of this game — perhaps the most prominent of which was the distinct lack of actual Minnesota fans in the crowd. It was a sea of green, littered with the wrong genre of Kevin Garnett jerseys, widely adorned on fans who presumably jumped ship when they traded The Kid to the East Coast. The PA announcer’s voice went down about six octaves every time he announced that Brandon Bass made a basket. Garnett had 24 and 10, sticking it to his former team in another instance of roundabout justice. Boston thoroughly dismantled the Timberwolves, and as the game went on, we were able to inch closer to the court due to the mass exodus of fans that were sick and tired of seeing their team lose.

We were dejected. The most fun we had that night was waiting outside the arena after the game trying to get a word in with Michael Beasley as he left the Target Center in his brand new Dodge. This feeling wasn’t even unique to that day. I personally have shuttled many begrudging friends to Timberwolves games, only to see our hearts get ripped out by Anthony Davis and other star players who showed no mercy when they took the court against the previously hapless Wolves.

Fast-forward ten years and that sea of green looks much different at the Target Center.

Friends of yours and mine no longer need to be wary about having a good time at Timberwolves games. Long gone are the days of showing up to the Target Center just to watch the Wolves get stomped on by teams like the New Orleans Pelicans. With a bit of prodding from D’Angelo Russell, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Anthony Edwards, this team and fanbase are finally turning game days into desirable outings for Wolves fans and opposing teams alike.

The electric atmosphere at these games magnifies the excitement surrounding the team’s success. It took a while, but with the recent run of success, we have seen a sold-out Target Center crowd on a more consistent basis. The feeling of not being dead-last in attendance for this season is palpable, and Minnesota can thank the players and looming owners Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore for instilling hope and injecting excitement at every opportunity.

It is important to remember that keeping up this engaging atmosphere is critical for a mid-market team like the Timberwolves to stay afloat. The effects of having a transcendental in-game experience go far beyond the opinions of mere bystanders and enjoyers like you and me. This increased engagement will have a ripple effect on the fortunes of the franchise for years to come by articulating the sense of value in current and future players, showing opposing fans a good time, and therefore increasing the means of revenue for the club.

It’s no surprise that when Rodriguez and Lore agreed to purchase the Timberwolves, many of the first reports in the national media were speculating whether they would relocate the team. These opines weren’t entirely unfounded. At the time, the Wolves were the losing-est franchise in all of men’s professional sports in America. Die-hards were still paying attention to the team, but attendance was dwindling. Minnesota’s reputation in the NBA was that of a doormat where teams could wipe their feet and get an easy win.

That is no longer the case. It ain’t sweet for teams to play the Timberwolves. As the winning streaks keep piling up and Minnesota inches closer to securing that coveted 6th seed, every game matters, and fans want to be in the arena to watch it all unfold. Increased attendance means more money coming in, which means more cool stuff that the new owners get to do with that money. It’s not exactly rocket science. As the team keeps winning, there will be even more engaging acts and amenities at Wolves games for fans to enjoy.

As the fans continue to grow more ravenous while enjoying these optimized game day experiences, players will surely take notice of the improved atmosphere in Minnesota. What was once an entirely dead arena located within what is, to many people, a flyover state has become an electric and intimate packed house that is rife with support for the home team. These crowds get loud — surely the loudest they’ve been since 2017 — and they have shown no signs of slowing down.

There are still many games where many fans in attendance wear the wrong team’s jerseys. It’s tough to blame these people that grew impatient with the years upon years of losing. It’s far easier to buy a Golden State Warriors jersey to feel good about yourself and call it a day. However, seeing the Timberwolves stomp these teams when they come through should have a ripple effect on those coming to Minnesota to support opposing teams. As fans start to take the Wolves more seriously, those opinions will seep into the media and greater NBA culture. It is a grassroots movement, but this sustained success will go a long way in helping cure Minnesota’s terrible reputation within the league.

When these opinions gradually shift, more free agents will likely take the Timberwolves more seriously as a desirable destination. Minnesota may have gotten lucky when they acquired Patrick Beverley. But his staunch and vocal support of this team will also have a lasting effect on how other players view the situation here. It is no longer a death sentence to come play basketball for the Wolves. As more people notice this, options will open up for the Timberwolves to acquire the exact players they need to maintain this success.

The bottom line is that these recent home games have been fun, make no doubt about it. However, that fun will have a lasting impact beyond the sensationalism of any singular day. As things look up for fans that look to make their way to the Target Center, so too do the prospects of this franchise maintaining this success in the long term. Not a bad revelation to have with new owners in town.

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