Sunday, July 16, 2017

How to Be a Red Bulls Fan In Minnesota -- 2017 Edition

Minnesota United FC debuted in 2010. In 2017, they made their debut in Major League Soccer. The Red Bulls make their 1st visit next Saturday.

Before You Go. You should consult the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press
websites for their forecasts. They're predicting mid-80s for Saturday afternoon, and mid-60s for evening. So the legendary Minnesota cold won't be an issue.

Minnesota is in the Central Time Zone, 1 hour behind New York. Adjust your timepieces accordingly.

Tickets. The stadium seats 50,805, making it the largest in MLS, but MNUFC (always spelled like that, differentiate themselves from Manchester United) are only averaging 19,960 fans per home game, in spite of the novelty. Then again, this being soccer, you'll be in the away fans' sections anyway: 101 and 103 (there is no 102), in the northwest corner. Tickets in those sections are either $21 or $28.

Getting There. It's 1,199 road miles from Times Square in New York to Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis (the spot where Mary Tyler Moore threw her hat in the air in the opening sequence of her 1970-77 CBS sitcom), and 1,196 miles from Red Bull Arena to TCF Bank Stadium. Knowing this, your first reaction is going to be to fly out there.

If you order early, you could get a round-trip nonstop flight on United Airlines from Newark to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for under $500. When you get there, the Number 55 light rail takes you from the airport to downtown in under an hour, so at least that is convenient.

Bus? Not a good idea. Greyhound runs 3 buses a day between Port Authority and Minneapolis, all with at least one transfer, in Chicago and possibly elsewhere as well. The total time, depending on the number of stops, is between 26 and 31 hours, and costs $372 round-trip, although it could drop to as little as $332 with advanced purchase. The Greyhound terminal is at 950 Hawthorne Avenue, at 9th Street North, just 3 blocks from Nicollet Mall, 2 from the Target Center arena, and from there just across the 7th Street overpass over Interstate 394 from Target Field.

Train? An even worse idea. Amtrak will make you leave Penn Station on the Lake Shore Limited at 3:40 PM Eastern Time, arrive at Union Station in Chicago at 9:45 AM Central Time, and then the Empire Builder, their Chicago-to-Seattle run, will leave at 2:15 PM and arrive at Union Depot in St. Paul (not Minneapolis) at 10:03 PM -- after the game would end, unless there's a lot of overtime. From there, 214 4th Street E., you'd have to take the Light Rail Green Line to downtown Minneapolis. And it's $386 round-trip. And you'd probably have to spent not one but two nights in a hotel.

If you decide to drive, it's far enough that it will help to get someone to go with you and split the duties, and to trade off driving and sleeping. You'll need to get into New Jersey, and take Interstate 80 West. You'll be on I-80 for the vast majority of the trip, through New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In Ohio, in the western suburbs of Cleveland, I-80 will merge with Interstate 90. From this point onward, you won’t need to think about I-80 until you head home; I-90 is now the key, through the rest of Ohio and Indiana.

Just outside Chicago, I-80 will split off from I-90, which you will keep, until it merges with Interstate 94. For the moment, though, you will ignore I-94. Stay on I-90 through Illinois, until reaching Madison, Wisconsin, where you will once again merge with I-94. Now, I-94 is what you want, taking it into Minnesota and the Twin Cities, with Exit 235B being your exit for the University of Minnesota area, and Exit 233A for downtown Minneapolis.

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and a half in New Jersey, 5 hours and 15 minutes in Pennsylvania, 4 hours in Ohio, 2 and a half hours in Indiana, an hour and a half in Illinois, 2 and a half hours in Wisconsin, and half an hour in Minnesota. That’s 17 hours and 45 minutes. Counting rest stops, preferably halfway through Pennsylvania and just after you enter both Ohio and Indiana, outside Chicago and halfway across Wisconsin, and accounting for traffic in New York, the Chicago suburbs and the Twin Cities, it should be no more than 23 hours, which would save you time on both Greyhound and Amtrak, if not on flying.

Once In the City. Like the baseball Twins, who arrived at the same time (1961), and the subsequent NBA Timberwolves (1989) and NHL Wild (2000), and the departed NHL North Stars (1967-1993), the Vikings are called "Minnesota," because they didn't want to slight either one of the "Twin Cities."

Well, these "twins" are not identical: They have different mindsets, and, manifesting in several ways that included both having Triple-A teams until the MLB team arrived, have been known to feud as much as San Francisco and Oakland, Dallas and Fort Worth, Baltimore and Washington, if not as much as Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Minneapolis has about 414,000 people, St. Paul 302,000, and the combined metropolitan area a little under 4.2 million, ranking 16th in the U.S. -- roughly the combined population of Manhattan, The Bronx and Staten Island -- or that of Manhattan and Queens. Denver is the only metropolitan area with teams in all 4 sports (and now, all 5 if you count MLS) that's smaller. The market is 20th in population in MLB, 18th in the NFL, and 17th in the NBA, the NHL and MLS. And, despite being the smaller city, St. Paul is the State capital.
The State House in St. Paul

"Minneapolis" is a combination of the Dakota tribal word for water, and the Greek word for city. It was founded in 1867 with the name St. Anthony Falls, and, of course, St. Paul, founded in 1854, is also named for an early Christian saint. In Minneapolis, Hennepin Avenue separates the numbered Streets from North and South, and the Mississippi River is the "zero point" for the Avenues, many (but not all) of which also have numbers.

Each city once had 2 daily papers, now each is down to 1: Minneapolis had the Star and the Tribune, merged in 1982; St. Paul the Pioneer and the Dispatch, merged into the Pioneer Press and Dispatch
in 1985, with the Dispatch name dropped in 1990. Today, they are nicknamed the Strib and the Pi Press.

The sales tax in the State of Minnesota is 6.875 percent. It's 7.775 percent in Minneapolis' Hennepin County, and 7.625 percent in St. Paul's Ramsey County. Bus and Light Rail service is $2.25 per ride during rush hours, $1.75 otherwise.
ZIP Codes in Minnesota start with the digits 54 and 55; with Minneapolis having 553, 554 or 555; and St. Paul having 550 and 551. The Area Codes are 612 for Minneapolis, 507 for its suburbs, and 651 for St. Paul.

Going In. TCF Bank Stadium, designed to look like the old red-brick horseshoe college football stadiums of the 1920s, is on the campus of the University of Minnesota, across the Mississippi River from most of Minneapolis, 3 miles due east of Nicollet Mall and the homes of the Twins and T-Wolves. The official address is 420 SE 23rd Avenue.

Coming from downtown, you would take the Green Line light rail to Stadium Village stop. If you're going by light rail, you're most likely going to enter via the open west end of the horseshoe. If you're driving, you'll be taking I-94 back across the river, to Exit 235B, and probably parking at the enclosed east end of the stadium. Parking can be had for as low as $5.00. This being Big Ten country, tailgating is encouraged.

The stadium opened in 2009, allowing the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers to play home games on campus as they did at Memorial Stadium from 1924 to 1981. Their alumni were sick of playing in the cold, so when the Metrodome opened for the Twins and Vikings in 1982, they wanted in (figuratively and literally). But, even during winning seasons (which have been few and far between since the 1960s), attendance was lousy. So an on-campus facility was built. Unlike most football stadiums, due to solar and wind patterns, the field is laid out east-to-west, and is made of FieldTurf.
Before moving in for the 2014 and '15 seasons, the Vikings played a home game there in 2010, following a snow-caused collapse of the Metrodome roof. The Vikings lost to the Chicago Bears, and it turned out to be Brett Favre's last NFL game. It's also hosted an outdoor game for UM hockey, and this coming February 21, it will play host to the Wild against the Chicago Blackhawks. It hosted a match between soccer teams Manchester City of England and Olympiacos of Athens, Greece.
Memorial Stadium, a.k.a. "Old Memorial," seated 56,000 people, and was across University Avenue from where the new stadium now stands. The McNamara Alumni Center and the University Aquatic Center are on the site. The Vikings had played a home game at "Old Memorial" in 1969, due to a conflict with a Twins Playoff game at Metropolitan Stadium.

Across Oak Street from the new stadium's west end, on opposite sides of 4th Street, are the University's basketball and hockey homes. The Gophers play their basketball games at Williams Arena, a classic old barn built in 1928. The 1951 NCAA Final Four was held there, with Kentucky beating Kansas State in the Final. The hockey equivalent, the Frozen Four, was held there in 1958 and 1966.

Across 4th Street from Williams is Mariucci Arena, home of the hockey team that has won National Championships in 1974, '76, '79, 2002 and '03. Named for John Mariucci, a member of the Chicago Blackhawks' 1938 Stanley Cup winners who coached the Gophers. The arena was built in 1993, after the team previously played hockey at Williams.

Legend has it that 4th Street is the "Positively 4th Street" used as the title of a song by former UM student Robert Zimmerman, a.k.a. Bob Dylan, although, as is often the case with Dylan songs, there is no mention of the title in the song. Whether the "friend" who's "got a lot of nerve" was a fellow UM student, I don't know. It's also been suggested that the 4th Street in question is the one in New York's Greenwich Village.

Food. Considering that Minnesota is Big Ten Country, you would expect their stadium to have lots of good food, in particular that Midwest staple, the sausage. They don't disappoint.

Named for UM's Gopher mascot, Goldy's Grill stands include hot dogs, bratwurst, burgers, chicken tenders, and... cheese curds. A little touch of Montreal -- poutine in the Land of 10,000 Lakes? I hope not!

The open west end has Jax Cafe, including burgers, hot dogs, bratwurst, cheesesteaks, chili, clam chowder and "Buffalo chips." I hope that means potato chips with Buffalo-chicken-style seasoning! The west end also has Famous Dave's barbecue and Dino's Gyros. The stadium also has Subway, Maui Wowie and ice cream stands.

Team History Displays. They're in their 1st season. As the song about Chelsea FC goes, they ain't got no history.

Stuff. Goldy's Locker Room, named for the University of Minnesota's Gopher mascot, is located under the north stands (the right fork of the horseshoe). The usual team-themed stuff can be found there. There's also a Goldy's outlet at the Mall of America in Bloomington. Whether these stores sell Minnesota United stuff, I don't know.

In their 1st season, there are no books or videos about the team.

During the Game. You're Red Bulls fans. Not fans of any Wisconsin or Chicago team. They're Minnesota fans. They're not going to bother you, as long as you don't bother them. Or make jokes about the cold. Or reference Betty White's Rose character from the fictional town of St. Olaf, Minnesota on The Golden Girls.

The club holds auditions for National Anthem singers. Their mascot is PK, which I'm presuming stands for Penalty Kick. He's a Loon. No, I don't mean he's crazy. The loon is a bird found in the wild in Minnesota. (Not to be confused with the NHL's Minnesota Wild.) It is also widely found in Canada, and is shown on the back of the Canadian $1.00 coin, a.k.a. the loonie. While the phrase "laughing like a loon" is well-known, and a loon's call does rather sound like a laugh, the word "loony" is actually short for "lunatic," and has no connection to the bird.
PK, posing with a pair of ladies before Minn U's debut,
March 12, 2017. So that 6-1 loss in the snow
to fellow debutantes Atlanta United wasn't a total loss.

MNUFC's main supporters' group is called Dark Clouds, sitting in the East End, Sections 123 to 127. There's also True North Elite, a smaller group in Section 126. These groups seem to accept the former closest MLS team, the Chicago Fire, as their arch-rivals, calling them the Chicago Tire Fire. (Dumpster Fire?)
Like Manchester United, they have adapted "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" as "Glory, glory, Minnesota, as the Loons go marching on, on, on!" Like many clubs, they adapted the Depeche Mode song: "When I see the Loons play, I go out of my head, I just can't get enough, I just can't get enough!" And, like many clubs, they adapted "When the Saints Go Marching In," as "When the Loons... "

To the tune of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home":

We come from the cold and frozen North! Go Loons, go Loons!
And for our club our hearts forever true, stay true!
We love our boys in Black & Blue!
One heart, one voice, this song's for you!
Minnesota, boys in Black & Blue!

To the tune of "He's Got the Whole World In His Hands," they sing, "You came a long way just to lose!" The 2nd verse is, "You came a long way to play like crap!"

After the Game. Minneapolis is a relatively safe city, and the UM campus even more so. As long as you don't go out of your way to antagonize anybody, you should be all right.

There are a few fast food joints around the UM athletic complex, including a Buffalo Wild Wings at 2001 University Avenue. Most of them are along Washington Avenue, 2 blocks south of the stadium. The most famous Minnesota sports bar, Stub & Herb's, has been parked at 227 SE Oak Street, on the corner of Washington, since 1939, when UM football was not only good, but great. 

If you want to be around other New Yorkers, I’m sorry to say that listings for where they tend to gather are slim. O'Donovan's Irish Pub, in Minneapolis at 700 1st Avenue North at 7th St., downtown, is said to cater to football Giants fans. Jet fans are said to go to the Lyndale Tap House, at 2937 Lyndale Avenue South, but that's 2 1/2 miles southwest of downtown Minneapolis. Number 4 bus.

Another restaurant that may be of interest to New York baseball fans is Charley's Grill. It was popular among visiting players from other American Association cities when they came to play the Millers and the Saints. Legend has it that, when the Yankees gathered for spring training in 1961, they were trying to figure out which restaurants in the new American League cities were good, and someone who'd recently played for the Denver Bears mentioned Charley's. But Yogi Berra, who'd gone there when the Yanks' top farm team was the Kansas City Blues, said, "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."

(That Yogi said the line is almost certainly true, but the restaurant in question was almost certainly Ruggiero's, a place in his native St. Louis at which he and his neighbor Joe Garagiola waited tables as teenagers.)

Well, someone must still be going there, because it's still open, described as a "warm dining room & patio with Midwestern cuisine at the Depot Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel." Downtown, at 225 3rd Avenue South at 2nd Street.

If you visit Minnesota during the European soccer season, which gets underway about a month from now, you can find fans and games of your favorite club at the following places:

* Arsenal, Everton and Bayern Munich: The Local, 931 Nicollet Mall. Several downtown bus lines.

* Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and Barcelona: Brit's Pub, 1110 Nicollet Mall. Several downtown bus lines. If you don't see your club in this listings, Brit's is probably your best bet.

* Manchester United: Ryan's Pub, 1410 Nicollet Avenue. Bus 11.

* Tottenham and Juventus: Nomad World Pub, which has been voted the State's best "football pub." Be advised that Dark Clouds members gather here before and after MNUFC games, so this might not be the best choice after the Red Bulls (or NYCFC) have played them. 501 Cedar Avenue, in West Bank, about a mile and a half east of downtown. Bus 22 from Nicollet Mall. 

* Newcastle United: Merlin's Rest, 3601 E. Lake Street, about 3 1/2 miles southeast of downtown. Light rail to Lake Street Midtown, then Bus 21 to Lake Street & 36th Avenue.

Sidelights. Minnesota's sports history is long, but very uneven. Teams have been born, moved in, moved around, and even moved out. But there are some local sites worth checking out.

* Minnesota United FC Stadium. This is the working title for the new stadium for MNUFC. Opening in time for the 2019 season (they hope), it will seat 19,916, and be located in St. Paul, at 400 N. Snelling Avenue, at the intersection of St. Anthony Avenue, just off I-94/U.S. 12/U.S. 52, about a mile and a half south of the site of old Midway Stadium. Green Line light rail to Snelling Avenue.
Architect's depiction

Originally NSC Minnesota and then the Minnesota Stars, the team began play in 2010, and, except for the occasional game moved to the Metrodome for more seats, played its home games at a 10,000-seat stadium at the National Sports Center in Blaine, about 15 miles north of downtown Minneapolis, before getting promoted to MLS. 1700 105th Avenue NE at Davenport Street NE. Hard to reach by public transportation: You'll need at least 2 buses, and to then walk a mile and a half.
* U.S. Bank Stadium and site of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. Home of the Twins from 1982 to 2009, the University of Minnesota football team from 1982 to 2008, the NFL's Vikings from 1982 to 2013, and the NBA's Timberwolves in their inaugural season of 1989-90, that infamous blizzard and roof collapse in 2010 brought the desire to get out and build a new stadium for the Vikes to the front burner, and it finally led to action. Until then, there were threats that the Vikes would move, the most-mentioned possible destinations being Los Angeles and San Antonio.

The Twins won the 1987 and 1991 World Series at the Metrodome – going 8-0 in World Series games in the Dome, and 0-6 in Series games outside of it. The Vikings, on the other hand, were just 6-4 in home Playoff games there – including an overtime defeat in the 1998 NFC Championship Game after going 14-2 in the regular season.

From October 19, 1991 to April 6, 1992, the Metrodome hosted 3 major events in less than 6 months: The World Series (Twins over Atlanta Braves), Super Bowl XXVI (Washington Redskins over Buffalo Bills), and the NCAA Final Four (Duke beating Michigan in the Final). It also hosted the Final Four in 2001 (Duke won that one, too, over Arizona).

In May 2012, faced with the serious possibility of the Vikings moving without getting a suitable stadium, the Minnesota State legislature approved funding for a new stadium for the Vikings, to be built on the site of the Metrodome and on adjoining land.

In a piece of poetic justice, just as the damn thing was (with considerable ballyhoo) built and completed ahead of schedule and under budget, so did the demolition take place. The people of Minnesota seemed to be proud of its having been built on the cheap and on time, but it served its purpose, to keep the Twins and Vikings from moving for a generation, and now replacement stadiums are achieving the same purpose.

U.S. Bank Stadium is now open, and the Vikings continued the Minnesota-Wisconsin rivalry by beating the Green Bay Packers in its 1st regular season game. Last August 3, it hosted a preseason tour soccer match in which Chelsea beat AC Milan 3-1. It will host Super Bowl LII in February 2018, and the 2019 NCAA Final Four. 900 South 5th Street at Centennial (Kirby Puckett) Place. Metrodome station on Light Rail.

* Target Field. Home of the Twins since 2010, it gives Minnesota's baseball team its 1st true ballpark after a half-century of waiting, rather than the Bloomington ice tray and the Homerdome. The official address is 1 Twins Way, along 3rd Avenue N., between 5th and 7th Streets. It has its own stop on the light rail system.

* Mall of America and sites of Metropolitan Stadium and the Metropolitan Sports Center. In contrast to their performance at the Metrodome, the Vikings were far more successful at their first home, while the Twins were not (in each case, playing there from 1961 to 1981).

The Vikings reached 4 Super Bowls while playing at The Met, while the Twins won Games 1, 2 and 6 of the 1965 World Series there, but lost Game 7 to the Los Angeles Dodgers on a shutout by Sandy Koufax. (So the Twins are 11-1 all-time in World Series home games, but 0-9 on the road.) The Vikings were far more formidable in their ice tray of a stadium, which had no protection from the sun and nothing to block an Arctic blast of wind.

In fact, the Met had one deck along the 3rd base stands and in the right field bleachers, two decks from 1st base to right field and in the left field bleachers, and three decks behind home plate. Somebody once said the stadium looked like an Erector set that a kid was putting together, before his mother called him away to dinner and he never finished it. At 45,919 seats, it had a capacity that was just fine for baseball; but at 48,446, it was too small for the NFL.

Prior to the 1961 arrivals of the Twins and Vikings, the Met hosted the Minneapolis Millers from 1956 to 1960, and 5 NFL games over the same stretch, including 4 "home games" for the Packers. (Viking fans may be sickened over that, but at least University of Minnesota fans can take heart in the University of Wisconsin never having played there.)

The experiments worked: The Met, built equidistant from the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul, in the southern suburb of Bloomington, was awarded the MLB and NFL teams, and Midway Stadium, built in 1957 as the new home of the St. Paul Saints (at 1000 N. Snelling Avenue in the city of St. Paul, also roughly equidistant from the two downtowns), struck out, and was used as a practice field by the Vikings before being demolished in 1981.

The NHL's Minnesota North Stars played at the adjoining Metropolitan Sports Center (or Met Center) from 1967 to 1993, before they were moved to become the Dallas Stars by owner Norm Green, earning him the nickname Norm Greed. The Stars reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 1981 and 1991, but never won the Cup until 1999 when they were in Dallas.

The Beatles played at Metropolitan Stadium on August 21, 1965 -- making 1 of only 3 facilities to host an All-Star Game, a Finals and a Beatles concert in the same year. (The others were the Boston Garden and Maple Leaf Gardens in 1964.) Elvis Presley sang at the Met Center on November 5, 1971 and October 17, 1976.

8000 Cedar Avenue South, at 80th Street -- near the airport, although legends of planes being an issue, as with Shea Stadium and Citi Field, seem to be absent. A street named Killebrew Drive, and the original location of home plate, have been preserved. A 45-minute ride on the Number 55 light rail (MOA station).

* Site of Nicollet Park. Home of the Millers from 1912 to 1955, it was one of the most historic minor-league parks, home to Ted Williams and Willie Mays before they reached the majors. With the Met nearing completion, its last game was Game 7 of the 1955 Junior World Series, in which the Millers beat the International League Champion Rochester Red Wings. A few early NFL games were played there in the 1920s, including home games by a team a team known as the Minneapolis Marines and the Minneapolis Red Jackets. A bank is now on the site. Nicollet and Blaisdell Avenues, 30th and 31st Streets. Number 465 bus.

* Site of Lexington Park. Home of the Saints from 1897 to 1956, it wasn't nearly as well regarded, although it did close with a Saints win over the arch-rival Millers. The site is now occupied by retail outlets. Lexington Parkway, University Avenue, Fuller & Dunlap Streets.

* Xcel Energy Center and site of the St. Paul Civic Center. Home of the NHL's Minnesota Wild since their debut in 2000, and site of the 2008 Republican Convention that nominated John McCain for President and Sarah Palin for Vice President. (The GOP met in Minneapolis in 1892, renominating President Benjamin Harrison at the Industrial Exposition Building at 101 Central Avenue SE. It was torn down in 1940, and condos are on the site now.)

The place is a veritable home and hall of fame for hockey in Minnesota, the most hockey-mad State in the Union, including the State high school championships that were previously held at the Civic Center.

That building was the home of the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the World Hockey Association from 1973 to 1977. The Fighting Saints had played their first few home games, in late 1972, at the St. Paul Auditorium.

The Civic Center hosted the Frozen Four in 1989, 1991 and 1994. The Xcel has hosted it in 2002 and 2011, and will again in 2018.

Elvis sang at the Civic Center on October 2 and 3, 1974, and April 30, 1977. The Civic Center is also where Bruce Springsteen and Courteney Cox filmed the video for Bruce's song "Dancing In the Dark."

199 Kellogg Blvd. West, at 7th Street, at W. 7th Street, in downtown St. Paul, about 9 miles from downtown Minneapolis. The Number 94 bus goes straight there from downtown Minneapolis, in about 25 minutes. The Green Line light rail goes from Nicollet Mall to St. Paul Central Station. From there, it's a 15-minute walk to the arena. Total travel time: About 40 minutes.

The arena is the westernmost part of the RiverCentre complex, which includes the Roy Wilkins Auditorium, the Saint Paul RiverCentre and the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts. The Wilkins, formerly the St. Paul Auditorium, was built in 1932. On May 13, 1956, early in his career, Elvis Presley sang there in the afternoon, and at the Minneapolis Auditorium in the evening.

* Target Center. Separated from Target Field by I-394 and 2nd Avenue, this arena has been home to the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves since the team debuted shortly after its 1989 opening. The T-Wolves have only made the Western Conference Finals once, and are probably best known as the team Kevin Garnett and GM (and Minnesota native) Kevin McHale couldn't get over the hump, before Garnett went to McHale’s former team, the Boston Celtics.

The Minnesota Lynx also play here, and have become the WNBA's answer to the San Antonio Spurs, winning league titles in odd-numbered years: 2011, 2013 and 2015. 600 N. 1st Avenue at 6th Street.

* Site of Minneapolis Auditorium. Built in 1927, from 1947 to 1960 this was the home of the Minneapolis Lakers – and, as Minnesota is “the Land of 10,000 Lakes” (11,842, to be exact), now you know why a team in Los Angeles is named the Lakers. (The old Utah Jazz coach Frank Layden said his team and the Lakers should switch names, due to L.A.'s "West Coast jazz" scene and the Great Salt Lake: "Los Angeles Jazz" and "Utah Lakers" would both make more sense than their current names.)

The Lakers won the National Basketball League Championship in 1948, then moved into the NBA and won the Championship in 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953 and 1954. In fact, until the Celtics overtook them in 1963, the Minneapolis Lakers were the most successful team in NBA history, and have still won more World Championships than all the other Minnesota major league teams combined: Lakers 5, Twins 2, the rest a total of 0. (Unless you count the Lynx, who make it Lakers 5, everybody else 5.)

They were led by their enormous (for the time, 6-foot-10, 270-pound) center, the bespectacled (that’s right, he wore glasses, not goggles, on the court) Number 99, George Mikan. The arrival of the 24-second shot clock for the 1954-55 season pretty much ended their run, although rookie Elgin Baylor did help them reach the Finals again in 1959.

Elvis sang there early in his career, on May 13, 1956. The Auditorium was demolished in 1989, and the Minneapolis Convention Center was built on the site. 1301 2nd Ave. South, at 12th Street. Within walking distance of Target Field, Target Center and the Metrodome.

* Minneapolis Armory. Built in 1936 for the Minnesota National Guard, the Lakers used it as their home court part-time throughout their Minneapolis tenure, and full-time in their final season in Minneapolis, 1959-60. Ironically, the owner of the Lakers who moved them to Los Angeles was Bob Short – who later moved the "new" Washington Senators, the team established to replace the team that moved to become the Twins.

It was later the video-filming site for Minneapolis native Prince's "1999" and Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing." It's been kept standing as a parking lot. 500 6th Street, downtown.

* Duluth. Minnesota's largest city outside the Twin Cities region is 155 miles to the northeast, at the western edge of Lake Superior. It was home to the State's 1st NFL team. They played the 1923, '24 and '25 team as the Duluth Kelleys, because they were sponsored by the Kelley-Duluth Hardware Store. They played the 1926 and '27 season as the Duluth Eskimos, and featured Hall-of-Famers Ernie Nevers and John "Johnny Blood" McNally.

They played at Athletic Park, which opened in 1903 and served as home of the minor-league Duluth White Sox from 1903 to 1916, and the Duluth Dukes from 1934 to 1940. It seated 6,000, and was replaced by the 4,2000-seat Wade Stadium on the same site in 1941. That was home to the Dukes until 1970, to a new Duluth-Superior Dukes from 1993 to 2002, and to the Duluth Huskies since 2003. In their various leagues, the Dukes/Huskies won Pennants in 1937, 1956, 1961, 1963, 1969, 1970 and 1997. 101 N. 35th Avenue West, about 3 miles southwest of downtown.

The 6,764-seat Duluth Entertainment Center hosted the hockey team at the University of Minnesota at Duluth from 1966 to 2010, one of the better hockey programs (if not as accomplished as their cousins down in Minneapolis). It also hosted the Frozen Four in 1968 and 1981, and Elvis on October 16, 1976 and April 29, 1977. The 6,726-seat Amsoil Arena -- smaller, but much more convenient -- was built next-door in 2010, and UMD moved in. Both are downtown and have an address of 350 Harbor Drive.

* Museums. The Twin Cities are very artsy, and have their share of museums, including one of the five most-visited modern art museums in the country, the Walker Art Center, at 1750 Hennepin Avenue. Number 4, 6, 12 or 25 bus. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is at 2400 3rd Avenue South. Number 17 bus, then walk 2 blocks east on 24th Street. The Science Museum of Minnesota is at 120 W. Kellogg Blvd. in St. Paul, across from the Xcel Center.

Fort Snelling, originally Fort Saint Anthony, was established by the U.S. Army in 1819, where the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers meet, to guard the Upper Midwest. It served as an Army post until World War II. It is now a museum, with historical demonstrations based on its entire history, from the post-War of 1812 period to the Civil War, from the Indian Wars to the World Wars. 101 Lakeview Avenue in St. Paul, across from the airport. An hour's ride on the light rail Blue Line.

Minnesota is famous for Presidential candidates that don’t win. Governor Harold Stassen failed to get the Republican nomination in 1948, and then ran several more times, becoming, pardon the choice of words, a running joke. Senator Eugene McCarthy opposed Lyndon Johnson in the Democratic Primaries in 1968, but lost his momentum when Robert Kennedy got into the race and LBJ got out, then ran in 1976 as a 3rd-party candidate and got 1 percent of the popular vote.

Vice President Walter Mondale was the Democratic nominee in 1984, losing every State but
Minnesota in his loss to Ronald Reagan. In the 2012 election cycle, the moderate former Governor Tim Pawlenty and the completely batty Congresswoman Michele Bachmann ran, and neither got anywhere.

Most notable is Hubert Horatio Humphrey. Elected Mayor of Minneapolis in 1945 and 1947, he became known for fighting organized crime, which put a price on his head, a price it was unable to pay off.  In 1948, while running for the U.S. Senate, he gave a speech at the Democratic Convention, supporting a civil rights plank in the party platform, a movement which culminated in his guiding the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through the Senate as Majority Whip. He ran for the Democratic nomination for President in 1960, but lost to John F. Kennedy, then was elected LBJ's Vice President in 1964.

He won the nomination in 1968, but lost to Richard Nixon by a hair. He returned to the Senate in 1970, and ran for President again in 1972, but lost the nomination to George McGovern. He might have run again in 1976 had his health not failed, as cancer killed him in 1978 at age 66. His wife Muriel briefly held his Senate seat.

Not having been President (he's come closer than any other Minnesotan ever has), he has no Presidential Library, but there is the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, 301 19th Avenue South, only a short walk from the Dome that would be named for him. Hubert and Muriel are laid to rest in Lakewood Cemetery, 3600 Hennepin Avenue. Number 6 bus.

The tallest building in Minnesota is the IDS Center, at 80 South 8th Street at Marquette Avenue, rising 792 feet high. The tallest in the State outside Minneapolis is Wells Fargo Place, at 30 East 7th Street at Cedar Street in St. Paul, 472 feet.

Nicollet Mall is a pedestrians-only shopping center that stretches from 2nd to 13th Streets downtown. At 7th Street, in front of Macy's, in roughly the same location that Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards threw her hat in the air in the opening to The Mary Tyler Moore Show, is a statue of "Mare" doing that. It was the first in a series of statues commissioned by TV Land that now includes Jackie Gleason outside Port Authority, Henry Winkler in Milwaukee, Bob Newhart in Chicago, Andy Griffith and Ron Howard in Raleigh, Elizabeth Montgomery in Salem, Massachusetts and Elvis in Honolulu. However, the show had no location shots in Minneapolis.

The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Little House On the Prairie, and now Orphan Black were set in Minnesota, although not shot there. The sitcom Coach, which aired on ABC from 1989 to 1996, was set at Minnesota State University. At the time, there was not a real college with that name. But in 1999, Mankato State University was renamed Minnesota State University, Mankato; and in 2000, Moorhead State University became Minnesota State University, Moorhead.

The University of Minnesota was originally a model for the school on the show, but withdrew its support: Although some game action clearly shows the maroon and gold of the Golden Gophers, the uniforms shown in most scenes were light purple and gold. In one Season 1 episode, the Gophers are specifically mentioned as one of the Screaming Eagles' opponents, suggesting that Minnesota State might have been in the Big Ten. Show creator Barry Kemp is a graduate of the University of Iowa -- like Wisconsin, a major rival of the Gophers -- and most of the exterior shots you see of the campus were filmed there. In addition, the main character, Hayden Fox, was named after then-Iowa coach Hayden Fry. No scenes were actually shot in Minnesota, not even Hayden's oft-snowy lake house.

Movies filmed in Minnesota include the baseball films Little Big League and Major League: Back to the Minors, the George Clooney 1920s football film LeatherheadsThe Bishop's Wife (1947, later remade as The Preacher's Wife), Airport (the 1970 film that helped inspire the decade's disaster film craze), the Western The Great Northfield, Minnesota Raid, the Grumpy Old Men movies, Kevin Smith's MallratsJuno, and, most memorably due to its use of the Minnesota accent, the Coen Brothers' Fargo (which now has a TV version shot there).

St. Paul is the capital of the State of Minnesota. The Capitol Building is at University Avenue and Capital Blvd. It's a half-hour ride from downtown on the Number 94 bus (named because most of its route is on I-94).


Bob Wood, a native of Kalamazoo, Michigan, and a graduate of Michigan State University, wrote a pair of sports travel guides: Dodger Dogs to Fenway Franks, about his 1985 trip to all 26 stadiums then in MLB; and Big Ten Country, about his 1988 trip to all the Big Ten campuses and stadiums. (Penn State, Nebraska, and soon-to-be members Rutgers and Maryland were not yet in the league).

The Metrodome was the only stadium that featured in both books, although if either were updated to reflect current reality, it would feature in neither. In Big Ten Country, Wood said, "Now, don't get me wrong. It's not that I don't like Minneapolis. How can you not like Minneapolis?... No, Minneapolis is lovely. It's the Metrodome that sucks!"

Thankfully, the Metrodome is gone, the Vikings now play in a new stadium on the site, the Twins also play in a new stadium that actually feels like a ballpark, and the Golden Gophers and Minnesota United play in a proper on-campus stadium, while MUFC awaits the opening of a stadium of their own.

From what I understand, Minneapolis and St. Paul are still terrific cities, including for sports. A Red Bulls fan should definitely take in a game against Minnesota United there.

No comments: