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It is compulsory, when writing about Minnesota, to name-drop natives Prince, Bob Dylan and F. Scott Fitzgerald, none of whom I've ever seen at a SuperAmerica convenience store, writing a check for milk and lottery tickets, which makes me wonder how authentically Minnesotan they really are.� Minnesotans write checks for the smallest purchases and call the state's largest university "the U" and are still incensed that the Cowboys' Drew Pearson pushed off, with impunity, against the Vikings' Nate Wright in a 1975 NFC playoff game.� Minnesotans—and I'm one of them—know their Bombo (ex-Twin Bombo Rivera) from their Lombo (ex-Twin Steve Lombardozzi) from their Mongo (ex-Twin Craig Kusick).� We know that "ski-u-mah" rhymes with "rah-rah-rah" in the U's fight song, though we haven't any idea what the phrase means. But we're confident that if we call The Sports Huddle on 'CCO radio on Sunday morning, host Sid Hartman will tell us the answer or tell us off, by sarcastically calling us a "genius." Either way, we'll be entertained.
When you grow up in Minnesota, you learn certain eternal verities that bind the citizens of the state: that the Vikes have been soft since moving indoors; that you never take the "crosstown" freeway, if you can avoid it, after 4 p.m.; and that visiting Packers fans are to be pitied, not persecuted, for staring in wide-eyed wonderment at our escalators and electric lights.
Most of all, as a Minnesotan, you learn how to shoot a hockey puck—or a tennis ball; a rolled-up wad of tape; or anything else that can be slapped, wristed, backhanded, stocking-stuffered, top-shelved or five-holed—at a hockey net or a garage door or between two parkas, whose shivering owners are usually in goal.
When I was growing up in Bloomington, our driveway (in which we played hockey) led to the street (in which we played hockey), which led to the Bloomington Ice Garden (in which we played hockey), which led to the state tournament (where my brothers played hockey and I played hooky, skipping school for the afternoon games).
Minnesotans, after all, have as many varieties of hockey as the Inuit do of snow. There's ice hockey, street hockey (played without ice), boot hockey (played on ice without skates), air hockey (played on a table), table hockey (sometimes played on the floor), box hockey (played on the floor, in a box, with a real puck) and tonsil hockey (played in the past by baseball-owner bedfellows Carl Pohlad and Bud Selig, who tried to contract the Twins but instead contracted mono, metaphorically speaking. Not that we're still angry about it).
My four-year-old nephew, Charlie, who lives in Minneapolis, recently played his first game of floor hockey-street hockey on a gym floor—but spent the entirety of his shifts at the YMCA riding his hockey stick like a witch's broom. Which only means he'll prefer broomball, which is a lot like boot hockey—played on ice but with brooms and a rubber ball.
Not playing some form of hockey is simply unthinkable. And so the Bard of Hibbing (not Bob Dylan but Kevin McHale, who played at the U and then for the Celtics) only took up basketball when he outgrew his skates.
It was 12 Minnesotans (and eight other guys) who beat the Soviets in the 1980 Olympic hockey tournament, giving America the greatest moment in its sports history, as well as the current movie Miracle, in which Team USA's practice rink is inexplicably identified as the Bloomington Sports Arena rather than by its actual name, the Bloomington Ice Garden.
That acronym BIG aptly describes the goose bumps I'm getting now just thinking about the blessings bestowed on me as a Minnesota sports fan. We really are lucky, even if our biggest stadium is a dump. The Metrodome's roof, under which the Twins and the Vikings play, is held up by air, which escapes with near-gale force when you open the doors after games, so that the stadium is in essence an oversized whoopee cushion, saluting fans with its flatulence every time we exit.
Of course, there's another way of looking at it: Sports fans in Minnesota are—every time we leave a game-walking on air.