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Original Issue

Sheep in Wolves' Clothing

One Minnesotan says good riddance to a sorry excuse for an NBA team

I don't care. Really, I don't. The Minnesota Timberwolves are moving to New Orleans, the Minnesota North Stars have moved to Dallas, and at least one Minnesota columnist now refers to my home state as...East Dakota. But I couldn't care less. Did I mention that? If apathy were teeth, I would be Hannah Storm.

Oh, I'll confess to having felt a short burst of pleasure upon hearing that the Timberwolves were sold to New Orleans interests. But that glow was an accident of geography, the satisfaction that Timberwolf owners had literally sold their team down the river, providing an apt metaphor for the way many fans are feeling. But not me—I don't care. That's life on the Mississippi. If indifference were bean dip, I could throw a party.

I should throw a party, to celebrate the departure of this putrid team. The Timberwolves never won more than 29 games in any of their five seasons. Last season they lost four of five games against the Dallas Mavericks, who won only nine more times against all other opponents. In the unlikely event that the Timberwolves, or whatever they're going to be called, win their next 200 games, their alltime winning percentage will still not exceed .500. In other words these Wolves bite. They left no tracks in the community. I will not miss the club.

For that is all the Wolves were: a club, a cudgel in the hands of hubristic owners Harvey Ratner and Marv Wolfenson. Boyhood friends from Minneapolis, this duo over the years became a kind of single, bicephalic, money-hatching organism known locally as Harv-&-Marv. When the aging Harv-&-Marv was awarded the T-Wolf franchise for $32 million in 1987, it said it would "like to go out on a high note and be remembered forgiving something back to the community," the community that enriched Harv-&-Marv. Minnesotans believed this. They set a single-season NBA attendance record in the Wolves' inaugural season, at the Metrodome, and thereafter blithely continued to fill the new Target Center to 98% capacity year in and year out. The T-Wolves were laughable. The fans were Harv-&-Marvelous.

Predictably, those fans are now feeling the kind of disillusion that former Wolf Felton Spencer surely felt upon arriving in Minnesota. On draft day in 1990 Spencer confessed that he had never been to the state but that he looked forward to seeing "the mountains of Minnesota," of which he had heard so much. Felton, we hardly knew ye, and frankly, that's the way I like it. People shouldn't become attached to their local professional sports franchises. They should be more If dispassion were disgruntled employees, I would be the U.S. Postal Service.

Because some Minnesotans cared so much about the Timberwolves, last February Harv-&-Marv asked all Minnesotans to bail the owners out of a bad Target Center mortgage. Only then would Harv-&-Marv keep the team in Minnesota. After three months of debate the state legislature reluctantly agreed to give the two multimillionaires $42 million of our money, provided that Harv-&-Marv sell the Wolves to local investors. Thousands of Minnesotans were already paying $46 a month to belong to Harv-&-Marv's chain of health clubs, so the additional surcharge of $42 mil seemed a touch gratuitous. But at least the team, Harv-&-Marv assured us, would remain here.

Confoundingly, Harv-&-Marv announced on May 23 that the Wolves had been sold for $152.5 million and would be moving to New Orleans. Harv-&-Marv concluded the press conference ungraciously, telling Minnesotans, "So long, suckers!" They then torched stogies, threw their heads back and cackled diabolically. (In fact, nothing of the sort occurred at the conclusion of the press conference. Pity, isn't it?)

Only one day earlier team president Bob Stein wore a sickly, constipated grimace at the draft lottery. Within 24 hours he would be profiting by a reported $12 million from the sale of the team, which he was qualified to run by virtue of his status as...the son-in-law of Harv. Or is it Marv? I always forget.

With wonderful symmetry the Wolves now relocate to a city that also lost an NBA franchise after only five seasons. In 1979 the New Orleans Jazz moved to Salt Lake City. The nickname Jazz has never fit Utah, where there is plenty of honky but very little tonk. So last week Jazz general manager Tim Howells said he would consider selling the nickname back to New Orleans. Naturally, Harv-&-Marv complete this triangle of vulgarity, having attempted in 1986 to carpetbag the Jazz out of Utah long before ever buying the Timberwolves and shipping them to...New Orleans.

Finally, a note of caution to fans in Louisiana: Your new team is owned in part by fight promoter Bob Arum. (Allow me to provide introductions: "Big Easy, Big Sleazy, Big Sleazy, Big Easy.") Lest you become cuckolds again, do not get too attached to this team. I never did. I never do. Of course, this insouciance has led to a raging fear of commitment in all of my relationships; if I see an old lady mugged on the desolate streets of East Dakota, I will not help for fear of "getting involved." But what do I care?

Do as I say, and nobody gets hurt.