There are few people who know the pain of being a Timberwolves fan quite like Joyce Crocker and her husband, Tracy. The longtime season ticket holders will be in attendance when playoff basketball finally returns to the Target Center after a 14-year drought Saturday, April 21 at 6:30 p.m.
By their own estimates, the Crockers have only missed five or six games since the Wolves lost in Western Conference finals to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2004. “Apart from a couple games when my parents were ill in the early 2000s and maybe a couple other games about 10 years ago, we haven’t missed a game,” Joyce says. “We’ve been to every single one of them, even when they were bad.”
Bad might be an understatement. Before besting Denver last week to claim the final spot in the playoffs, the Wolves’ 14-year playoff drought was the longest running in the league.
That doesn’t bother Joyce, who has continued to cheer for the Wolves even though the team has logged more than 700 home and away losses since 2004.
Since 2004, the Wolves haven’t done much besides lose. Joyce continued to cheer despite the disappointment. She was there for every home game in 2009 when the Wolves logged 67 losses (the season is 82 games long). She even showed her support during the Wolves season-ending 15-game losing streak three years ago.
This amount of losing takes a toll on most fans, but not Joyce.
“We’re gluttons for punishment,” she says. And while some people may pack up early when they know a comeback is impossible, Joyce stays until the very end. “I usually stick around. I don’t know why I sit there if I’m telling the truth.”
All that losing hasn’t really affected the entertainment value for Joyce or Tracy—“We just love the game,” she says. But in those air-ball-filled seasons, the Crockers devised small games to keep things interesting. “(In 2009,) we would make bets on how many times Mike Miller would fall in the game,” she says. “It was rough.”
The losing didn’t bother Judy Morneau, either, who has cheered from the nosebleeds for the past 22 years. Like the Crockers, Morneau misses games only under the rarest circumstances. She enjoys being there for the important moments. “I missed a game once because my granddaughter had a concert,” she tells me, estimating she has missed maybe 15 games since 2004.
Despite the long drought of playoff games—or even close attempts at them—Morneau says that being a loyal fan came easy just because it never seemed like work. Mostly, she’s happy to have witnessed so much of the Wolves’ basketball history. “I was there when Dennis Rodman kicked the cameraman,” she says, referring to the sad but noteable moment when Chicago’s legendary bad boy lost his cool at the Target Center in 1997 (the Wolves lost that game, too).
Morneau even went to games after she underwent surgery for lung cancer. “I missed 9 games last year, but I got a wheelchair so my son could push me to the games.”
As a fan, she’s most excited about how young the team is, especially Karl-Anthony Towns. “Towns is such a nice guy. He’s got the right attitude. I just like him.”