Minnesota's Twin Cities always aspired to be major-league cities, cities important enough to be mentioned in the same breath as Chicago and New York. The arrival of Major League Sports in 1961 in the form of the Minnesota Twins and the Minnesota Vikings proved to be an event that sparked significant change within the state.
Like the Minnesota politicians who arrived on the national scene in that decade, the 1960s Vikings and the Twins helped to cement our national profile. Both the presidential campaigns of the 60s and the Twins and Vikings games of the same decade forged the image of Minnesota as a place somewhere in flyover land that fielded earnest combatants battling rivals from the coasts through snowstorms, tornados, and mosquitoes.
Like Humphrey, Mondale, and McCarthy, the Vikings and Twins of the 1960s showed that honesty, forthrightness, and work ethic were just enough to secure a second-place finish, whether they found their adversaries on the gridiron, the diamond, or in the voting booth.
The arrival of major-league sports changed Minnesota in a number of other ways: It forged unbreakable bonds between its citizens. It crystallized our budding rivalry with Wisconsin. It created our first professional sports stadiums, leading to the demolition of Memorial Stadium and an endless string of stadium debates. And it launched the modern sports media in Minnesota, complete with beefed-up newspaper sections, well-read opinion columns, talk shows, memorabilia and, most of all, Sid Hartman.
In addition, there is something about the Vikings that speaks deeply to the stoic, fatalistic soul of the true Minnesotan. Perhaps this is why the Twins have never captured the community's imagination like the Vikings, despite three World Series and two championships. Minnesotans know that, as sure as summer turns to fall and fall turns to winter, in each football season Vikings' successes will be followed by stumbles, collapses, and inevitable defeat.
In Bud Grant, the Vikings' seminal 60s and 70s coach, each Minnesotan saw a reflection of themselves--a lone figure stoically braving the frigid tundra, fighting the good fight against man, nature and fate, only to be vanquished by snow emergencies, school closings, and a record four Superbowl losses against teams from sunnier or more important locales. And, just like Grant, after each vanquishing we picked ourselves off, dusted off the snow, and ventured forth again into the bleak, unforgiving tundra, though we knew the inevitable outcome--the winter of our defeat.
Even though the days of the hardy, gloveless Purple People Eaters prowling the heaterless Met Stadium sidelines have gone, the harsh lessons continue. We have seen that even the most vaunted, high-flying offensive juggernauts will inevitably sputter and die like a car engine struggling to turn over in 50-degree-below-zero wind-chill in January. Yet each year we venture forth struggling against our fate, and each year we end up huddled in a snow bank of gridiron defeat, like Per Hansa in Rolvaag's Giants in the Earth, waiting for the inevitable.
~Gary Miller, St. Paul, MN