Simons Says...




Thursday, February 3, 2011

It doesn’t matter what sport, a professional ballplayer’s season is long. Having covered them all, the one constant between the pro athletes is their respect for all other athletes and the understanding they have about their game.

What I mean is that fans and players see the same game very differently. In most cases for a Wolves fan, they see basketball games in purely a win and loss fashion. Players do as well but there’s so much more involved. It’s a job, a hard job, and it’s a career that is complicated, often fleeting and carries great pressures at a young age.

Watching that tough night at the office against Memphis on Wednesday night and then listening to a few positive and negative fan rants got me thinking. Often, I hear players talk about wins and losses, from their perspective, and it gets intense. You hear it all the time and it’s not just from hoopaholics venting after the Grizzlies game. I remember hearing venom from hard core rubes all season long during the Vikings run and especially after a loss to the Miami Dolphins, last summer there were times that facebook chums of mine would turn fire engine red after a Twins loss. Wild fans have been grumbling all season, nervous about playoff hopes, lack of offense and a laundry list of other complaints. It is what it is, fans fume over losses and, while players do as well, they all get very introspective about their role and how they played. That is the constant in this proud fraternity of professional athletes.

Recently, I spoke to some Wolves players who were commenting on fan chatter and criticism after losses. A player who I won’t identify told me, “They (fans) forget that these games mean a lot to us too. We like each other (teammates), we enjoy each others company and we really want to win every night we walk on the floor. It just doesn’t always work out. They (fans) forget that we were all winners in college and on most nights, we won nearly every night out. One guy was screaming at me as I was walking off like we wanted to lose. It happens but they have to know that losing sucks and we’re working hard to get wins.”

On most nights, you have to look pretty hard to find fans just venting on the home team. If they had the view and the access to the players that would give them a deeper understanding, that would change. You have to see players in practice, after losses and while they are at work to grasp and understand it from their point of view. It’s a tough gig and even though these Wolves had an off night against Memphis (after an impressive outing at home against Toronto), they’ll get right back at it as we head to the all star break and a few days rest for most of the players.

Bottom line, fans hate to lose. Players, coaches and Wolves staff hate it even more. The challenge is to stay connected and remain together while getting it fixed. Hang tough. It’s turning.

SimonsSays 1 on 1 and MAILBAG:
(from Target Center)
Bryan from Brooklyn Center:
“Great to see Sebastian Telfair back in the lineup. What’s the deal”?

Rod: I too am glad to see #3 get some run and back in the lineup. Telfair has battled injuries and a bit of a numbers game this season but has been a class act the whole way. He can help this team and all I know is that Coach Rambis is looking for some spark and line-ups to stand out. Telfair is a veteran and, over the course of the NBA season, players are going to go in and out of lineups. The Wolves needed help and Telfair was there.

BUILDING FOR THE FUTURE:
Next week, I’ll be writing about good news. I was delighted to see that Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and City Council President Barbara Johnson joined with the Timberwolves (as well as other business leaders and Target Center officials) in unveiling a “sensible Minnesota solution” for Arena improvements and upgrades. You also have to see Wolves web specialist Jonah Ballow’s one on one with Mayor Rybak. Good stuff.

Having had the good fortune of seeing and working in many of the new state-of-the-art NBA arenas, the proposed upgrades would be welcomed here and put to good use. The Wolves organization is committed to putting a great team on the floor and building for the future. Honestly, I was caught off guard by some of the realities of today’s arenas. Target Center is fourth oldest NBA arena. Target Center is 21 years old.

To remain competitive, an economic foundation for Minneapolis and a center piece to the energy that is downtown, this needs to happen. There are plenty of success stories around the NBA too, Portland, San Antonio, Charlotte, Miami and Oklahoma City to name just a few.

You can learn about all the details and see the renderings of the $155 million proposed renovation at new website, targetcenterrenovation.org. Drop me some of your thoughts at rod@gameontvmn.com. Pro or con, let’s kick it around. And thanks for taking the time to write.

BLACK HISTORY MONTH:
I have to give a shout out to the T’wolves FastBreak Foundation for all its work and it’s year round dedication to community but in particular, it’s support of Black History Month initiatives. That includes generous $5,000 grant presentations, a Reading Time-Out, a visit to the Minnesota Historical Society and in-arena recognition of "Heroes in the Making" and Black heroes at all February home games. Next up is scheduled for February 5 when the FastBreak Foundation will award a $5,000 grant to Southside Family Charter School in South Minneapolis. The grant supports its "Keep the Dream Alive" Civil Rights Tour and Media Program. Black History Month will be visible at all February Wolves games at Target Center and at each home game, a public service announcement will showcase the work that a Black leader has accomplished to improve the lives of everyone today. Learn more at timberwolves.com.

AND WATCH FOR:
Thanks for the e-mails and the uptick in communication from you out there. I very much enjoy getting those and next week, we’ll share some more of your FAN thoughts in our SimonsSays mailbag. Until then, keep your chin up and see you Sunday on GameON! I’d love to have you out to one of our live GameON! Tapings this next Tuesday at Courtside Bar and Grill in Anoka on Jackson Street. More details and guest listings on our redesigned show website (www.GameOnTvMn.com)