Welcome back to The Sports Ace, where “dream teams” never start 1-4.
You might have heard that our Minnesota Lynx are the 2011 WNBA Champions. The Lynx have been a bottom-feeder team for most of their existence, but surged in the last 1-2 years. They won the Maya Moore lottery, and made a series of other sound moves on and off the court, and now they’re on top of the league. But to me, the single-biggest reason for their resurgence is none other than The Lindsay Whalen Factor.
To put it simply, Whalen is already one of the greatest sports figures in Minnesota sports history. No lie. She was a prep star at Hutchinson High, about one hour west of Minneapolis. She was an All-American at the University of Minnesota, leading the Gophers to the 2004 Final Four. And that doesn’t tell half the story…she took a program lucky to win two games a year and draw 200 fans for a conference game and transformed it into one that played in the Final Four and sold out Williams Arena with 15,000 fans on a regular basis. And now, she’s a first-team All-WNBA point guard on a championship team…you guessed it, in Minnesota.
I said all along that the Lynx were stupid not to trade up and draft Whalen when she came out of college, no matter what the cost. Why? Because people here identify as much with her, and see her as themselves, as they do with another native you might have heard of: Joe Mauer. Because she plays (rather glides) in games with a toughness, skill and deft ability that separate her. Because she’s a terrific role model for just about every young girl – and boy – in Minnesota. Because she’s a winner. Because she just has “it.”
And what’s happened to the Lynx since she got here? Oh…just a championship. And 15,000-person crowds for playoff games. And a genuine buzz for the Lynx and the WNBA in a sports city dominated by baseball, football and hockey – and recently, by losing. She is the face of the franchise, and with her as the face all of these great things have happened – just like they did with the Gophers and her high school teams.
Sometimes, in life and in sports, some people just come along and change everything. They are charismatic, and inspire others. They lead by example, and push their organizations to great heights. They are marketable and bankable, but don’t act like it. They give back to the community, and leave those around them better than they found them. When you find these rare and special people, you hitch your wagon to them and ride them until they can’t pull the wagon any more. Same goes in PR and the business world. You just know who they are when they come along. Lindsay Whalen is one of those people.
Granted, they’re not the Twins or the Vikings, but the Lynx are the first pro team here to win a championship in 20 years (since the 1991 Twins). We’re going to enjoy this one for a while…because we can, and because we’re been desperate for a winner.
That’s all for now. I’m out like the first couple weeks of the NBA season.