As I'm sure is obvious by now, I am an enormous sports fan. Some of the earliest memories that I can remember are of watching Timberwolves games in Section 129, Row D, Seats 13 and 14 at the Target Center. When I was 10 years old, I began actually "working" for the team on game nights.
I have had several "jobs" now over more than a decade. From the outset, I was invited to work with Mr. Robert Grace as a "Hoopman Helper." In addition to being a high school varsity basketball coach in Minneapolis, Mr. Grace has been "Hoopman" for the Timberwolves since 1996. So, what exactly is a "Hoopman?'" The simple answer is that a Hoopman is a person who walks around the arena with a miniature basketball hoop mounted on a backpack rig. During timeouts, commercial breaks, quarter breaks, and halftime, we go throughout the arena and give fans a shot with small foam basketballs. If the fans make the shot they are rewarded with a prize. Prizes have ranged from Timberwolves t-shirts to Best Buy gift cards to an Oster microwave (yes, we gave out microwaves at one point in time). My job as a Hoopman Helper is to rebound the basketball when Mr. Grace can't reach it. Additionally, I give out the prizes that fans win. Finally, on the off chance that an errant shot hits a fan, I also replace whatever food items are displaced and then clean off the ball. Several of my t-shirts have been ruined due to excessive nacho cheese stains! While working as a Hoopman Helper, I have learned a great deal about interpersonal interaction. In the last few seasons, I have also begun to fill in for Mr. Grace whenever he is unavailable to be Hoopman for the evening. Additionally, I recently applied to and joined a volunteer Social Media Advisory Committee with the team. The advisory committee is administered by the team's digital director and social media staff.
My other job with the team, one which I started in my junior year of high school, related to the blimp. The Timberwolves had a small, remote-controlled blimp which flew around the arena on game nights and dropped prizes. Intially, Target Center's seating arrangement allowed the blimp to be docked in one of the four cutouts surrounding the arena floor. However, when Target Center began renovating in the early 2000s, it was no longer possible to store the blimp near the court. Its dock was moved to the rafters of the arena. However, the blimp itself had to be controlled much closer to the court, meaning a "catcher" was required each game night. My job was essentially to perch myself in the arena's rafters to catch or release the blimp for each flight. My time blimp catching afforded me what I consider to be the most fantastic view of any sporting event that I have ever had.
In addition to all of the lessons that working for the Timberwolves has taught me, I cannot ignore the great joy I have in working for the organization. Having been a basketball fan almost since birth, the chance to attend the games with great regularity is wonderful. I was present for some of the team's best years and had an incredible time. I was at Game 7 of the 2003-04 Playoffs when Sam Cassell took over the game and Kevin Garnett leapt up onto the scorer's table with joy. I have also been present for some of the most trying times in the team's history. Staying with the team and still working in the midst of a difficult stretch has also taught me much about loyalty. Seeing the devotion that thousands of Timberwolves fans have had through disappointing seasons has served as a great lesson.