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This weekend, as Joe Nathan attempted to coax that last strike, the crowd stood up and started clapping. Most were adorned wearing their favorite team’s colors. When the umpire signaled the last out, a cheer erupted, fans flooded the aisles, and congratulatory high fives were shared between strangers.
Nothing unusual about that, right?
Except that this game was played on the road. The colors that fans were wearing were purple, not blue pinstripes. And this happened in a bar in downtown Minneapolis, not the Metrodome. How could it, when the Vikings had just wrapped up a preseason game there? That game had ended an hour earlier, and now the town belonged to a different team, and if there were any concerns about divided loyalties, they weren’t apparent.
They weren’t apparent the next night, either, when the scene repeated itself in a restaurant in Edina. The patrons’ outfits were different – ties replaced gold beads and suit coats substituted for jerseys. There was a wedding reception elsewhere in the restaurant, which was half empty as fifteen to twenty Twins fans congregated in the bar to see if Willie Eyre could close out the eleventh inning. The explosive cheer that confirmed a game ending double-play wasn’t what diners were accustomed to hearing during their meals.
That’s because the Twin Cities really aren’t baseball towns. Both cities have a long history, but the passion in this area if for football and hockey, not baseball. That only changes, if we’re lucky, a couple of times per year, and we are entering that time right now.
There’s nothing in American sports that compares to baseball’s pennant race. In other sports, there’s inevitably some downtime between games, used to review the last game, prepare for the next game, or even to generate hype to help pass the time. But time isn’t a luxury afforded pennant race participants or their fans. There is not time to digest. The slowest and most genteel of the major professional sports demands that fans surf along from wave to wave.
As a result, there is nightly drama that can be seen on multiple stages. So do yourself a favor when the Twins aren’t in town – go out to catch a game. Stop at one of the bars around the stadium, or eat dinner at a sports restaurant, or invite some buddies over for some tailgating in the backyard. Feed your city’s appetite for baseball.
Because if you’re a baseball fan, this is your time. We may not live in a baseball town eleven months out of the year, but we did this weekend.