How Basketball Briefly Saved Me From Politics

Andrew Wiggins of the Minnesota Timberwolves (left) during game one of the first round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs in Houston, Texas, on April 15th, 2018.

The last time the Minnesota Timberwolves reached the NBA postseason it was 2004 and I was preparing to be done with my teens, sprinting into what I imagined would be my promising 20s. It was the height of the Kevin Garnett era, during his MVP season. The team made a run to the Western Conference Finals, where they eventually lost to the Los Angeles Lakers. Still, it was a more promising time for me, a Timberwolves fan since their early days in the league. Just three short years later, the Kevin Garnett era ended, its doom accelerated by a series of poor trades and draft picks by the franchise. The Timberwolves would go on to miss the playoffs for the next 13 straight seasons, often never even coming close.

The moment when a luxury becomes a desperately needed escape can be scary. I grew up loving and watching all manner of sports, deeply investing myself in them, timing my schedule around them and then building a schedule around the emotional space I would need to occupy if my team won or lost. Despite how much time and thought I put into it, this devotion was an enjoyable and comforting luxury. The performance of being a sports fan was an identity that made watching the event more thrilling. It was still an escape, of course, but one that I could do without, if I needed. Despite building a life around it, I didn’t see my life outside of sports fandom as so difficult to navigate that I needed the sport to tether me to the blessed escape at all times.

Perhaps I am simply getting older. I have less time now to do the things I did when I was in my early 20s, and thankfully so. It could also be that, in my getting older, I have had to take on more responsibilities, and in doing so, I’ve become more aware of the world and how, globally, it feels like we’re often on the brink of some collective disaster. Though the American political landscape is treacherous now in a very particular way, the landscape in the early 2000s wasn’t always much better, or necessarily less terrifying. Still, as I’ve aged I’ve gotten more aware, and allowed myself to care more—an always shifting kind of care that seems to be more urgent by the day.

I miss sports games now, even when my favorite teams are playing. I watch religiously at times, and other times I will clock out at halftime…

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