Minnesota sports fans know to hang on tight

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Being a professional sports fan in stoic Minnesota isn’t easy. Sure, we’re used to losing. And we’re used to dramatically, impossibly coming from behind … and losing.

So now that the Wolves have found themselves heading to the Western Conference finals (for the first time in 20 years, mind you), fans across the state are in a quandary. Should we — dare we — let our fragile hopes be lifted? What if they’re dashed by Dallas? What if they actually advance and win it all? Could we handle either?

Hardcore fans, already sporting their Naz Reid tats, already are all-in. But what about the rest of us more cautious, burn-me-once fans? We’ve been led down the garden path before, only to end up crying in our hand-me-down Homer Hankies. Here’s some not-so-sage advice about whether to rejoice or restrain yourselves at this critical sports-fan juncture.

Savor the win

Instead of going full-tilt Minnesotan and worrying about the next game, how about some time to celebrate the Wolves taking down a team as formidable as the Nuggets?

Pick up some “Playoffs 2024″ gear, then listen to this upbeat advice from Doug Kleist, treasurer of the Richfield Optimists: “Enjoy the ride. Don’t stop believing.”

Ride the wave

Dan Gaisbauer, a teacher from Inver Grove Heights, is a student of Minnesota sports disappointments. Using the pen name Dan Whenesota, he’s made a mockumentary film about the Minnesota sports letdowns and written a book, “History of Heartbreak: 100 Events that Tortured Minnesota Sports Fans.”

“Right now, you have to enjoy every minute,” Gaisbauer said, because disaster could be just ahead. “You have to enjoy every minute of it, even if it goes south. Maybe I shouldn’t say ‘go south’ because that reminds me of the North Stars.”

The departure of the Minnesota North Stars NHL hockey franchise to Dallas in 1993 is on the “dirty dozen” list in Gaisbauer’s book of the very worst Minnesota sports calamities. A Timberwolves defeat might crack the top 12 worst Minnesota sports moments.

“You’ve got to have a sense of humor about it,” he said. “You’ve got to enjoy the wave and ride it.”

Keep calm and move

Yoga teacher Jennifer Gray admits that Sunday’s high-stakes Timberwolves game sometimes took the om out of her sails.

“None of us want to be disappointed, and we get our hopes up with our Minnesota teams and then it doesn’t always go the way we want it to go,” she said.

Still, the founder/owner of the Yoga Center Retreat in St. Louis Park said there are ways to stay calm and lower stress during intense games. Calm the body with deep breathing. She also recommends taking advantage of halftime breaks. “Moving your body helps, too, because it regulates the nervous system.”

And if that doesn’t work? “I think closing your eyes for a minute, turning away from the TV and starting fresh gives you a chance to regroup,” she said.

Jump into joy

Porsche Gordin, a marriage and family therapist in Little Canada, says the historically heartbroken Minnesota sports fan should shed any hesitancy and jump into the deep end of hope and joy.

“Go all in. Buy all of the apparel. Get the tickets if you can. Watch the game. Jump on the bandwagon, too,” she said.

If you allow yourself to feel deeply despite uncertainty, you might be rewarded with a nice payoff. “When you are victorious, it’s that much sweeter,” she said.

Gayle Sherman Crandell, a Minneapolis-based grief therapist, said the emotions that Wolves fans are immersed in are a “delicious departure from the seriousness of our lives.”

And the Wolves’ wins have proven to be a bright spot: Couples are coming together, and families are putting aside conflict.

“I’m not the greatest sports fan ever,” she said, “but I do appreciate how much it means to so many people.”

Take the lesson

The Buddhist way is to accept the eventual outcome, whether victory or defeat, with “equanimity,” or even-mindedness. Bhante Seewalie, chief monk at the Minnesota Buddhist Vihara in Minneapolis, is not an NBA fan. But he says this teaching applies to life beyond sports. In a verse from the Dhammapada, Buddha told a king who was depressed about his recent losses in battle:

“Victory breeds hatred in the conquered.

The defeated live in sorrow.

Giving up both victory and defeat,

the appeased live in peace.”

In other words, said Seewalie, “Don’t take it personally. Let go of the feeling of loss. Use it as a lesson to improve next time.”

If the Wolves blow the first game against Dallas, don’t beat yourself up. “You always have to have hope,” Seewalie said, whether it’s for the next game — or next season.

Stay optimistic

The Indignant Minnesotan account on X (@IndignantMN) provides color commentary on the quirks of Minnesota culture, including our sports teams’ reputation for hope-dashing playoff runs. One of the anonymous locals who runs the account advises fans to do whatever they need to do to stay optimistic.

“If you need to wear the same clothes or watch the game with the same people because that helps you stay engaged and think it gives them a chance to keep winning: Go for it. You never know when the run might stop, so you might as well enjoy it.”

Seek solace in food

Anxiety level through the roof? Soothe your nerves at Fhima’s, a rare place of serenity in downtown Minneapolis. A bit farther away is the excellent Mara at the Four Seasons, where every detail is built for luxury, from the dining room menu to the bar to the fancy soap in the bathrooms. There’s also the back dining room at Murray’s, where you can’t go wrong with a butterknife steak, the raspberry pie and an unflappable, old-school style of service. Speaking of steaks, Manny’s is among the best in the business and mixes in a slice of history with its Foshay tower location.

To keep the party going after a win, the fun at Sanjusan spills out to the sidewalk patio sheltered by bistro lights. Enjoy the fantastic drinks and lively atmosphere. Neon Tiger is an alley entrance to the sort-of speakeasy spot behind Public Domain with top-shelf blender drinks and an “if you know, you know” vibe — order the whole snack menu. Parlour underneath Borough is packed most nights with a neighborhood bar service from the highly skilled bar staff. Order the famous burger — better here than at any stadium — and grab a corner couch while the bass thumps through your amped-up nervous system.

No game tickets? No problem. Downtown sports stops like the Loon, Glueks and Tom’s Watch Bar will be showing the games, right in the heart of all the downtown activity. Plus, all have great comfort food.

Pick an anthem

“Stand Up and Be Strong” should be made the official fight song for this playoff run. It was written and first recorded by Minnesota alt-rock stars Soul Asylum, but then Prince later rerecorded it as “Stand Up and B Strong.” Because he was a Wolves fan through thick and thin, maybe his is the version to use, since he no doubt could’ve sung it channeling lyrics such as: “Nothing can take away from you / What you take and what you’ve been through … You might have to fight / You might have to cry / Stand up and be strong.”

And when the game score has you stressed out, consider songs from this calming playlist: “Let It Be” by the Beatles, “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong, “Smile” by Michael Jackson, “Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison, “Peaceful Easy Feeling” by the Eagles, “When the Party’s Over” by Billie Eilish and, of course, “You Need to Calm Down” by Taylor Swift.

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