"Why are you an Arsenal supporter?"
I got tired of this question. Soccer culture is insular: fans want soccer to get big, but not too big. American soccer fans have it tough, because they want to invest their interest in soccer at the highest level -- Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, etc. -- but find themselves having to justify their support of "their club".
If I call myself an Arsenal fan, but have never been to the north side of London, then in the view of some true fans I may as well be a fan of American Idol, because that is all Arsenal is to me, a television series, with much of the same manufactured drama. Manufactured, inorganic support.
So I'll still tune in Saturday for the Premier League opener, but I give up. My new and true rooting interest is focused closer to home.
I am made to feel sheepish about being an Ohio State Buckeye fan, too, sweater-related disasters notwithstanding. I grew up around Columbus, but I did not go to Ohio State; I went to Ohio University, where the true Bobcats shun glory-hunting associate members of the Buckeye Nation. Still, for me being a Buckeye fan taps into the nostalgia of parties on the day of The Game, dreaming of playing (not quarterback!) but baritone horn for The Best Damn Band in the Land.
My current and former employers are two other Big Ten universities. I don't exactly walk around wearing scarlet and gray.
So what team can I really call my own? Involve my kids? Feel good about socially and politically? Enter the Minnesota Lynx.
My twins love basketball. My son in particular is obsessed with schedules and standings and statistics and seating charts. They love going to Timberwolves games, too, but to tell the truth the vibe at the Target Center for Wolves games is a bit sexed up and not exactly family-friendly. Besides, tickets from a good vantage point are not cost-effective, and more than half of their home games last year were on school nights.
Lynx tickets in great locations, on the other hand, are relatively affordable. The games are during the summer, when I don't mind getting home from a game with the kids at 10 p.m. on a weeknight. The vibe at the games is much more family-friendly, and the crowd is much more engaged than I ever experienced at a Wolves game.
Not to mention, the team is spectacular. Lots of story lines: how quickly and completely will Maya Moore emerge as a star? How will Candice Wiggins and Sharde Houston adapt to new roles? How will Taj McW-F weather the brutal schedule running up to the playoffs? Can they all avoid injury? With four all-stars, who becomes Dwyane Wade when we need a basket at the most important moment?
Of course, this too opens me up to accusations of glory hunting. Where was I between 2007, when we moved to the Twin Cities, and the third home game of this season, when we became (literally) invested in this team?
Too bad. With season tickets, we are casting our votes locally: for basketball to survive in Minnesota, for women's basketball to survive, for the NBA to get its act together and remember where its money is coming from. Several months ago, I never thought I would be tuning into a live web stream of a Tuesday night away game of the local WBNA team, but there it is. There are my credentials.
I let my kids stay up for the first quarter. When my son woke up this morning, he asked if the Lynx had won. No, they didn't. Winning streak over at nine games. "Are they still the best team in the WNBA?" Yes, and they're our best team, too.