Pre-Garnett, there was already a strange pattern of outstanding pro athletes migrating from Minnesota to Boston: the Red Sox signed David Ortiz in 2003 after the Twins released him; and the Patriots recently traded for former Vikings superstar Randy Moss, who had a brief sojurn in Oakland. But Ortiz’s excellence didn’t really become clear until he established himself with the Red Sox. And while Moss’s massive talent once made the Vikings the NFL’s most entertaining team, it’s long been overshadowed by his reputation as a fan-fake-mooning, meter-maid-vehicular-bumping, referee-squirting, half-assed-efforting, “play when I want to play” douche.
Garnett is different: he’s a perennial All Star, a stellar defender, a former MVP, the only player other than Larry Bird to average 20 points, 10 boards, and five assists a game for five straight years. Of course, that alone doesn’t justify my absurdly melodramatic reaction to his arrival in Boston — a reaction that should be familiar to anyone who still laments the Dodgers’ move to LA or the Colts’ midnight move to Baltimore or the poor bastards in Winnipeg — Winnipeg! — who lost their hockey team to some rectangular- or square-shaped Southwestern state (it doesn’t even matter which one). My Garnett meltdown is really a bigger cautionary tale, a case study in why we overidentify with an athlete or a team, and what happens when that overidentification runs amok.
Unfortunately, it took another Minnesota-based event to open my eyes: the Minneapolis bridge collapse that killed at least nine people and crippled the Twin Cities. Try as I might — and I did try — I simply couldn’t get too worked up by this hometown tragedy. I was preoccupied by other, more pressing matters.
Garnett was traded on July 30. Over the course of that day, I’d estimate (with apologies to my employer) that I spent four or five hours online reading about the blockbuster deal. This was in addition to hundreds of hours spent, in the run-up to this year’s NBA draft, reading about prospective Wolves picks and possible Garnett trade scenarios (again, apologies to my employer).
The bridge collapsed during the rush-hour commute on August 1. I read about it online around 7 pm, then called my parents, who live in St. Paul and almost never use the bridge in question. They weren’t home. A few hours later, my sister called from New York and left a message asking if I’d heard; I called her back on my cell, told her I had, and then — approximately 30 seconds into our conversation — announced I was going to bed. At precisely that moment, my parents called back to say they were fine. I let them speak their piece on the answering machine. Then I hit the sack and slept like I’d just popped some Xanax.
Allow me to state the obvious: this is fucked up.
Here are some possible excuses for my apathy: I didn’t realize just how bad the collapse was. I couldn’t bring myself to think that anyone I know might actually have been killed. I quickly mapped the location of the bridge with the homes of my friends still in the state and realized they were all in the clear. I’d had a few drinks, which dulled my emotional faculties.