Why the Minnesota Lynx Are More Than Just a Winning Team

I was born and raised in Packers country. I grew up a mile away from where the Milwaukee Brewers play their home games. and I graduated from the University of Wisconsin, where cheering for the Badgers is a way of life. So, as you might guess, I was trained to have disdain for any team with the word “Minnesota” in front of its name.

That changed when I discovered the Minnesota Lynx.

It happened in 2011, when the Lynx chose UConn superstar Maya Moore as the top pick in that year’s WNBA draft. I followed women’s college basketball closely enough to know that their pick was a big deal. I became more of a Lynx fan after I started dating my current partner in 2015—the team reminded me of the place that would become my new home, and, more importantly, they were a group of women doing amazing things.

The court at the Xcel

The Minnesota Lynx open the 2017 season against the Chicago Sky on May 14, 2017, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Caissa Casarez

Now, two years later, you could call me a Lynx superfan, and it’s a label I’m proud to have. Here’s why.

The WNBA is small but mighty. It only has 12 teams in its league, but it’s still one of the most diverse leagues in pro sports today. For example, four out of the five members of Minnesota’s starting lineup this season—Maya Moore, Sylvia Fowles, Seimone Augustus, and Rebekah Brunson—were women of color. The fifth was hometown hero Lindsay Whalen, who got extra cheers at the games I went to when the in-arena announcer noted that “she’s a Goooolden Gopher!” Whalen unfortunately suffered a hand injury that made her miss the last few weeks of the regular season in early July, and she was replaced in the starting lineup by either Jia Perkins or Renee Montgomery. No matter who was on the court, seeing a bunch of women, primarily women of color, play top-notch basketball made me feel more welcome as a sports fan.

The Lynx are also inclusive and accepting enough to have at least two out queer women of color on the team. I stumbled across Seimone Augustus’s 2015 Players’ Tribune essay about her coming-out story, and I’m so glad I did. I got just as excited—emotional?—when I saw Rebekkah Brunson mentioning her wife on her Instagram feed. These players give me hope that I can continue to strive as a queer woman of color, and I imagine younger fans might feel the same. It was also great to see the team host a Pride Night this past June.

The Xcel jumbotron

The Minnesota Lynx hosted Pride Night at their home game against the Connecticut Sun on June 17, 2017. Caissa Casarez

The team also gives back to the community and makes its presence known, sometimes in controversial ways. Members of the Lynx were some of the first people in the WNBA to publicly speak out against a string of police shootings, including the death of Philando Castile in 2016. Some responded negatively to their actions, but many more thanked them.

And let’s not even get started about head coach Cheryl Reeve. My respect for her skyrocketed this season—she’s not afraid to call people out (usually online), and she’s not afraid to get angry at her team when it’s needed. Despite that, she loves her team, and they love her right back. Coach Reeve is also a big advocate for more coverage of the WNBA, especially from the local media, but she also thanks reporters for what they do cover.

Of course, I would be remiss if I wrote about the Minnesota Lynx without mentioning, well, how good they are. They won their fourth WNBA title in seven years earlier this month when they beat Los Angeles in front of a raucous crowd at the Barn. That capped off another stellar season for the Lynx, who had the league’s regular-season and finals MVP (birthday buddy Fowles), the All-Star Game MVP (Moore), and four players in the All-Star Game. The coaching staff took part in it too.

Game 5 gave me all kinds of anxiety, even though I had no plans to watch it. It’s a superstitious thing; I had watched and listened to game 1 and they’d lost, after all. However, the team put on a Jr. NBA clinic for local kids the next day! Talk about selfless. My nervousness soon turned into feelings of joy, however, when I saw that the Lynx had won. There may have also been tears. I’ve lived through three Packers Super Bowl wins, a couple of Brewers playoff berths, and two UW women’s hockey titles, but nothing in the sports world has ever made me happier than seeing the Lynx win it all.

Although their recent success has made it a great time to be a Lynx fan, I would still support the team regardless of their record because they deserve it. So thank you, Minnesota Lynx, for helping me feel seen in this crazy world. We’re lucky to have you here—dynasty or not—and I hope others realize that soon.

The banners earned by the Minnesota Lynx in place ahead of the season opener against the Chicago Sky on May 14, 2017. Caissa Casarez

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