Lynx, Fans Alike Grateful On Fan Appreciation Night
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Ed Santurri and his wife, Jolene Barjasteh, haven’t missed a Lynx home game in their first year as season ticket members. The Northfield residents make the drive up Interstate 35, take their seats four rows off the court and cheer on the team each night the Lynx are home at Target Center.
They do it for a number of reasons. They were hooked by the team’s play on while attending numerous games during Minnesota’s championship run in 2011. They admire the role the Lynx play in empowering and acting as role models for women in the state. And on a personal level, the couple simply feel a connection to the team and its players.
As season ticket members, they’ve enjoyed opportunities to sit in on press conferences, watch practices and meet the players on a first-name basis. So as Minnesota celebrated Fan Appreciation Night presented by Best Buy during Monday’s game against Indiana, Santurri and Barjasteh said the sentiment is felt far more often than one night per year.
“Every night is Fan Appreciation Night,” Barjasteh said. “I really am grateful the way they acknowledge the role of the fans in the success they’ve had. They have tremendous athleticism, and tremendous teamwork, but it’s quite obvious they need the fans to really pull things together, especially when it gets tough.”
The Lynx are never shy about discussing the role their fans have in their success. Playing in front of some of the league’s largest crowds each night gives Minnesota a distinct advantage, and the energy level in Target Center rises with each Lynx run.
Monday was no exception. Facing a sharpshooting Fever squad, Minnesota continued to feed off the sellout crowd of 9,523 even when they fell behind by 14 in the first half. The crowd, always vocally showing their support, stayed with the Lynx from start to finish.
There’s a reason for this. The Lynx genuinely feel a connection to their fans—a group that helped them go 30-4 at home in the past two regular seasons and a team record 16-1 this summer.
“It’s been unbelievable. It’s really grown, and the fans have been so supportive,” guard Lindsay Whalen said. “They’ve just given us so much momentum and energy, and we know we have some playoff games after this but tonight is a good way to show an appreciation for what they’ve done for us. And I think it’s been a good relationship, especially the past two years between us and the fans.”
Dawn Van House and her daughter, Toni, are in their first year as season ticket members with the Lynx. Toni, 12, not only enjoys watching her favorite players—Candice Wiggins and Monica Wright—compete each night, but as an aspiring basketball player she also attended the Lynx’s youth camp this summer.
Dawn said the players’ message, particularly Taj McWilliams-Franklin’s speech about following your passion, was influential in her daughter’s life.
Like Santurri and Barjasteh, the Van Houses said they feel a connection to the team well beyond watching them at Target Center. Dawn said when she bought season tickets she thought it would simply be a way to watch games at Target Center. Now, her family feels like they’re part of the team.
“It’s pretty cool because when the players come out on the court they wave back because they know me,” Toni said.
Santurri has similar experiences with these Lynx. He and Wright are both University of Virginia alum, and at one meet-and-greet he yelled the common Cavaliers’ call, “Wa-hoo-wa,” when she passed by. In later meetings, she referred to Santurri and Barjasteh as her “Virginia family.”
“That’s an incidental dimension to the whole thing, but it does attribute quite a lot to your sense of connectedness with the team,” Santurri said.
The Lynx are officially in the postseason and have home court advantage throughout, meaning if the team makes a deep playoff run like a year ago they’ll have as many as seven more opportunities to play in front of their home fans yet this season.
But on Monday, the team got a chance to say thank you to those loyal fans who come out every night. Dawn Van House said she feels similar gratitude.
“In some ways I feel like it should be the opposite,” Dawn said. “I want to express my appreciation to them, so I’m here because I’m so grateful for what they do just kind of pulling us all together as a community. Reaching out into the community the way they do is really remarkable. I just love every single game.”
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