Since the Minnesota Twins won the 1991 World Series, Minnesota’s major league teams have had seven chances to get to another championship game. The Vikings came within a missed field goal of the Super Bowl in 1999, then within a mere six touchdowns in 2001. The Twins lost in the ALCS to Los Angeles of Hollywood of Reseda of Anaheim of California in 2002. In 2003, another Minnesota team lost to another team from Anaheim, as the Wild went down to the Mighty Ducks in the Western Conference Finals. The Timberwolves made their lone playoff run behind Kevin Garnett in 2004, losing to the rapist-led Lakers. And in 2009, the Vikings had yet another chance to make the Super Bowl, only to have a twelve-men-in-the-huddle penalty knock them out of field goal range, and ultimately, the game.
If you’ve been counting, you’ve noted six chances to play for the title, six times when a major league team had a chance to at least get on their sport’s biggest stage. And six times when they failed.
The seventh chance came this last week. The Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA entered a Western Conference Final matchup against the Phoenix Mercury, a team that had won two of the last four WNBA championships. The Lynx, fresh of their first playoff series win in franchise history, could have been forgiven for coming up short against a team loaded with talent and playoff experience. Indeed, they could have been expected to; they play in Minnesota, after all.
Which is why what happened next was both surprising and gratifying for Minnesota sports fans. Far from folding, the Lynx grabbed the best-of-three series by the throat in game one, blowing the Mercury off the court in game one by 28 points. They then went to Phoenix with a chance to sweep, and did so decisively, imposing their will on their way to a 17-point win.
In some ways, the win should not have been surprising. The Lynx were the best team in the WNBA this year, featuring four All-Stars, the coach of the year in Cheryl Reeve, the rookie of the year in Maya Moore, and legitimate MVP candidates in Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen. They finished with the WNBA’s best record at 27-7, six games clear of any other team.
And yet we’ve seen Vikings teams go 15-1 and come up short, seen the Timberwolves roll to the best record in the NBA and come up short. That scarred part of the Minnesota sports fan’s soul had to expect disaster (and still does, in the Finals). But for once, a Minnesota team had a chance to get to the championship, and took it. The Lynx will play for the WNBA title. They’ve given themselves a shot. And for victory-starved Minnesota sports fans, it’s about damn time.