Kansas Jayhawks basketball is one of maybe five things I truly love (possibly four if every retail video rental store is truly gone). Every year, on the first weekend of the NCAA March Madness tournament, my college buddies and I meet in Asheville, North Carolina to play golf in the morning and watch the tourney from lunch to lights out. These reunions take a pretty routine course each year. Jubilant greetings flow naturally into good natured ribbing around stories we’ve told dozens of times. I should mention that most of these guys—myself not included—are hardcore Kentucky Wildcat fans, so usually sometime around dinner, we start fighting about the indefinable morality of how John Calipari runs a college basketball program. I usually start out sensibly, comparing him to Dr. Doom, Stalin and Hitler, because even though Cal is pure evil, there’s no denying he’s been successful. But at some point after the brilliant analogies, objectivity is lost and our individual fanhood warps us all into completely biased propaganda Gatling guns shooting for each other’s heads. The arguments get personal and put a very real wedge of negativity between our friendships for the remainder of the trip.
It’s my favorite weekend of every year.
Still, my friends and I are hitting our thirties now. It’s time to let go of petty allegiances. I recognize that a Jayhawks fan can be a better human being while still respecting that a Wildcats fan is a kind of human being in their own right. It’s time to reach across the aisle at the next level and bond on common ground. That next level is the NBA, that common ground is the Minnesota Timberwolves. That’s where me and my buddies are going to grow up in a more respectable fashion over the next decade. Back-to-back first rounders Karl Towns of UK and Andrew Wiggins of KU are exactly what we need. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship that aligns our friendships with our fanships. The only real problem here is a classic one. How do you make the successful trip into a fan base without everyone saying you arrived via dreaded transport, the bandwagon? Here’s some guidelines.
1. The first rule of bandwaggoning is to not talk about bandwaggoning. – No one was actually a T-Wolves fan prior to 2014. I don’t mean no one in my friend group, I mean no one in America. Until last year, the only traffic on Canis Hoopus was Ricky Rubio’s (probably charming) family. So when current T-Wolves fans talk to each other, we all know that the other person is lying to us about their decades of loyalty, but it’s very important to not acknowledge their lie or they’ll call you out as a bandwagon fibber too. It’s a lot like talking about your sexual conquests when you’re a freshman in high school. Third base? You mean my steady Tuesday night?
2. Have a relevant take on the “bigger than the sport” event surrounding the team. – You know when your significant other gives you a benign task like watering a $3 plant or paying attention to your children? And you let that responsibility slide for, like, maybe a few minutes or days, and suddenly a thirsty flower is a huge indictment about how you’ve given up and don’t love her anymore? The “bigger than the sport” topic is like that. True love goes the extra mile. Each team has something like this. Deflategate and Donald Sterling’s racist comments are some easy ones to recall. If you’re a fan of the Patriots or Clippers, you have to have a take on those topics. For Wolves fans in 2015, you need a relevant opinion on Flip Saunders, which honestly is one of the easiest “bigger than the sport” opinions to have. Guy was a Golden Gopher, coached through the Kevin Garnett years, drafted Karl Towns, and he made that deal for Wiggins. He’s directly tied to almost 90% of the moments that made Wolves’ fans smile. RIP Flip. Were there some horribly laughable moments of executive buffoonery in there too? Shut your mouth, you monster. Flip’s a hero.
3. Know the whole roster. – This seems like a no brainer, but it’s really about capitalizing on the market inefficiencies in Wolves convos. Lots of people will be able to say they knew Towns was special while he was at UK, but far fewer will be talking about how excited they were for Nemanja Bjelica’s stretch-four potential when he looked like “shit-you-not the next Dirk Nowitzki” in FIBA Eurobasket this past summer.
4. Buy some gear. – Sure, you’re pressing a little bit. It’s like buying her jewelry on a third date. Do you really want to make a financial commitment this early in the relationship? But we’re not talking season tickets here. We’re talking about a tasteful level of commitment that says, “I’m serious enough that you don’t need to feel bad about moving things along a little faster than normal because I’m going to be around months from now, even if you go a little crazy and end up missing the playoffs.” You know, something like an Andrew Wiggins t-shirt jersey, just because you were watching his highlights of that that 33-point outburst against the Hawks all day long and wanted to do something nice for him.
5. Finally, repeat after me, “I’ve always liked the Timberwolves.” – The ultimate bandwagon defense. You’ve been on this corner for years. It started when you were six years old and just thought wolves were cool. Worst day of your life was that move in middle school where you lost your Starter jacket. But you owned it. You were mistakenly excited for the Christian Laettner era and happily surprised when it transformed into the Kevin Garnett era. You don’t care what Steph Curry is doing, because the best shooter you’ve ever seen is Wally Szczerbiak, and hell yes you can spell his name without Google ( It starts with four completely insane consonants and is an indomitable trump card, btw. It gives you historical props and infers that your opponent is an illiterate chump).
For good measure, you’ll probably want to keep Tony Campbell and the Metrodome in your back pocket. People respect that year one crap. Here’s to my favorite team. Let’s have a great season!
Pouring one out for Malik Sealy,
Dusty “The Little Ticket” Riedesel