October 10, 2007

So When I Drink A Brew For You I Pour Some On The Block Son, You Might Be Gone But You Damn Sure Ain't Forgotton

Here's what this feels like:

Basketball has been bludgeoned. What was once one of the most exciting times of the year to me is filled with hollow days as I avoid all information. I see news reports of KG in Boston gear, and it sickens me. I see a picture of Telfair in a Wolves jersey and I honestly give up. It burns inside of me, gassing what little enjoyment I got from this sport.

I can't find myself being a fan of the NBA anymore.

I tried, honest to god, I tried. I tried to look at the rosters of who is going to be making noise this year, getting behind the Warriors, checking out Durant, waiting for the inevitable Knicks collapse. These things used to be very very fun for me. Once upon a time I considered myself a student of the NBA and I liked to think that I came at it from a rare approach... I tried to evaluate moves that a franchise made based entirely outside of any media pressure or hack philosophy. I tried to trust my eyes to tell me what was happening in a game and in a season, instead of reading headlines and talking points. And I think for the most part I was successful. I cultivated a love for the game that kept me connected and constantly entertained.

But I had no idea how much I loved KG.

See, I always sang his praises. ALWAYS. You never saw me post anything about the Wolves as a team without mentioning that he is the greatest there ever was. So I don't feel like he slipped by without acknowledgment. On the contrary, we all probably hyped him too much, in the end.

Now he's gone, and there's this huge hole, a gigantic festering sore that keeps consuming my love of the NBA. I hate the Wolves, refuse to acknowledge their existence, want the owner, GM, coach and nearly every player besides Mad Dog and Foye to go away and never ever ever come back. I want the team to leave. I want Target Center to only do concerts and Lynx games. I want basketball to collapse upon itself in this state, memories of Ticket and George Mikan flushed down the toilet.

Look, the bottom line is this trade was unprecedented in sports history. Possibly, the only thing that can come close to it is Gretzky. Moves made for different reasons, sure, but similar in that they both involved a small market who thought that that guy was "their guy" getting traded to a huge city where he would be another in a long line of heroes.

Let me try to explain what KG was to me, and maybe this is true for a lot of Wolves fans:

KG was, for the honest to god first time, a true hero that didn't grow up here, yet was utterly committed to the team, the fans and the city. We haven't had that in this area since Kirby Puckett. Speaking of that comparison, I put KG a tad higher than Kirby in the hero category because Kirby, before the 1993 season, basically had completely committed to signing with Boston before the Twins reeled him back in at the last hour. Also, Kirby was never forced out. The reason he wanted to go to Boston was that they simply had more money and a slightly better-run franchise (remember this was pre-Terry Ryan). It was a choice of home being pretty cool, but the other team being even better. KG is much different.

Back on point, simply put, he was ours. KG was ours. There was only one of him in the entire NBA, the entire world, and he belonged here. He wore the Timberwolves jersey into every stadium in the land, and once said that he "bleeds blue and green". How can you possibly repay that kind of devotion? Well, we as fans gave our screams and yells for everything he ever did. We applauded him unconditionally in times of good and bad. We worshiped him as he deserved. It was so reciprocal it downright felt magical sometimes. In this state, we've been conditioned somewhat to be wary of superstars and successful teams. I think it's rooted somewhere in our upbringing of just being naturally skeptical people. Garrison Keillor could put it a lot better than I could, but I think there's something about the midwest that just says "Easy now, let's see what happens before we make any judgments". Also, the strong religious sense that people have around here contributes to the feeling that eventually, everything is going to go catastrophically wrong, and you better hope you have your sins in order when it does. So no, we don't usually have the opportunity to worship the career of such a great hero, and when we do, in some corner of our mind, we always wait for the other shoe to drop.

But again, I can't say it enough, KG was different.

There was never any question that he wanted to be here. NONE. He never said he wanted to leave, he never hinted that he might be happier playing somewhere else, and even as he was put through the absolute wringer by his incompetent coaches and GM, he still professed his desire to stay here and build back up the house that he had created.

Then, in one swift move of total incompetence, the GM panicked and traded him away for garbage.

It was like he died. In ways, that would've been easier. I would've had a model for what to feel. This feels so wrong, so completely backwards, that I don't know how to act or how to move forward. I'm so confused by it all, that Kevin Fucking McHale would have the power to make me feel like this.

The worst thing, the absolute kicker, is that KG didn't want to go. He didn't cry at the press conference like Gretzky, but he didn't want to go. I know this. I know it like I know that I didn't want him to go. If it was up to him, he would stay here and play until he was 50, building up a great franchise by himself. Oh, I'm sure he was consulted beforehand. He had to, in order to waive his no-trade clause. But that is completely understandable. Hey, I don't want to leave my girlfriend, but if she comes to me and tells me that she doesn't want me around anymore, I'm going to want to at least go somewhere nice. It's not like I'm going to retire, or stay with someone that doesn't want me.

The fire consumes whatever is around it, and soon, not only can I not watch the Wolves, but I can't watch the Celtics, because it hurts too much just to SEE him. And then I can't even see old pictures of him in Wolves garb. And then I can't even watch a basketball game because I am reminded of how he played. And then I can't even look at a fucking roster because I JUST DON'T CARE.

It's a stupid world that exists where this happens. It's a stupid world where I let it affect me so much, where one man who I don't even know can ruin 20-odd years of following a great sport.

I cheered like hell for Michael and Scottie in the 90s, and then we got our own Michael. And I cheered even louder for him.

Epictetus believed, rightly so, I suppose, that all you can ever control is what your reactions to events will be, as you cannot control the events themselves. All you can do is retreat to within yourself and govern your thoughts accordingly. We can't get KG back. He's gone and he's not coming back, besides maybe signing a one day contract in 10 years to retire as a Wolf. And maybe he goes into the hall of fame wearing the green and blue. Probably. And that's great, and I've got great memories, and nothing can take those away. But I have to control what I feel. I have to control how I react. And my reaction is withdrawal. It is not letting this team or this league exert any more influence over me for a long time.

But I can't get back into the game right now. It's dead to me, gone. It flew east and landed at Logan, bringing championship hopes to a town that needs no more media coverage. And I hope Boston wins, honestly I do. I hope KG hoists the trophy, he deserves it. He deserves everything he's ever received, and I hope he continues to dominate well into the late stages of his career. Believe that.

But I don't like the NBA anymore. It smells bad, the whole thing reeks. Maybe I'll come around, maybe seeing him in person with the Celtics jersey on will fix it, maybe I'll accept this as part of rooting for a loser franchise.

But not yet. For now, I'm out.

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