As a child, I remember feeling great pride whenever Minneapolis or Minnesota was mentioned within the national press. By the age of 10, I was savvy enough to realize that New York City and Los Angeles seemed to be getting more than their fair share of ink. So whenever I read an article in national publications that mentioned either our great state or great city, I often experienced a response mildly similar to Sally Fields when she was presented with an Oscar, “You like us! You really like us!” A Midwesterner’s subtle inferiority complex develops at an early age.
And, so, it was with great provincial pride that, as a 13-year-old, I read an extended article on the Minnesota Miracle, a now famous cover story for Time Magazine in which the governor of our state, Wendy Anderson, was shown hoisting a large muskie from a northern state lake. The miracle did not have anything to do with fishing, but rather with our excellent education and quality of life. What was then referred to as a progressive state would now, no doubt, be denigrated as a socialist state.
The next year, Time’s beat reporters were back once again, this time covering the opening of the state-of-the-art Orchestra Hall. An acoustical miracle, they called it. As a young teen, I felt our state was akin to the kid sitting toward the back of an overcrowded classroom — for some reason, the teacher kept calling on us. And, more to the point, we kept nailing the tough questions.
Except when it came to sports. We were excelling in the government and arts categories within our grand board game, but were losing horribly within the sports categories. I came of age when Gopher football, despite the presence of Tony Dungy-quarterbacked teams, only made headlines when they shockingly — and rarely — would upset a nationally ranked team. The Vikings, though always exciting and competitive, became famous for their inability to win the big prize of an NFL championship. And the Twins of the 1970s? Well … yeah. They had their moments, but not their seasons.
So excuse me for my current state of, well, giddiness. Within the sports world during the first week of October, Minneapolis found itself calmly situated in the national epicenter of the pro sports discussion. A storybook ending to the Twins’ stint (sentence?) in the Metrodome, playoffs notwithstanding. Their catching up to the Detroit Tigers, after having been down by seven games at the beginning of September, and then down by three games with just four to play, is the stuff of heady legend. We’ll be talking about it years from now. Or, at least, I will be.
To go from the Twins tie-ensuring divisional game on Sunday, Oct. 4 — which was supposed to have been the final game of the season — to the next night’s Favre-centered Vikings-Packers game, back to the Twins do-or-die single game playoff, was like waving catnip in front of Whiskers. I reveled in it. And, judging by the national press, sports fans throughout the nation were also enjoying our heady drama.
There are those who make a very persuasive argument that professional sports are, at best, a waste of time and, at worst, a waste of taxpayer dollars and resources. I respectfully disagree. It’s hard, however, to refute the value of a venue, which successfully brings, on average, 30,000 people into the downtown core on 81 distinct occasions. Or one that brings 65,000 people into downtown on 10 distinct occasions. Or, perhaps more to my current point, brings the focus of a nation upon our all-too-often overlooked metropolitan region.
These are the things that great memories are made of.
Glenn Miller is the owner of Miller & Associates, a corporate communications and video production firm (www.glennmillerandassociates.com). He shares this column with his wife, Jocelyn Hale.