It's one of the more obligatory moves in American newspapers.
The Big Game is coming. In this case, the Twins were about to perform ritual sacrifice at the altar of the Yankees, while the Giants played the Vikings. But the New York Post had exhausted everything that could possibly be said about games yet to be played. So it resorted to option D: the artificial taunting of the opposing fans.
Last week, New York Post writer Kristen Fleming was dispatched to Minneapolis to report on “the most fearsome, unhinged fanbase known to man. We’re talking about Minnesotans—the same folks who brought us Betty Crocker, the Nordic Track, MyPillow and Zubaz.”
As far as condescension, her opening salvo brings a touch of heat. But she was soon foiled by an enemy unwilling—or perhaps unable—to play the heel.
“I, a lifelong Yanks and Giants fan, flew to Minnesota to let them know we’re about to eat their lunch. Turns out, they’re more than happy to share their lunch. And they’ll offer you plenty of suggestions on what to eat. 'Make sure you try the walleye while you’re here, ooookay.'”
As you may have guessed, the setup here is that the brash New Yorker, accustomed to a frothing rivalry with Boston, helicopters into Flyover Country to uncloak its quaint inhabitants. So Fleming, dressed in pinstripe jersey and Giants hat, headed to Target Field, where she began “a one-woman 'Let’s go Yankees!' chant.”
As an in-your-face move, it leaves something to be desired. True brashness would have meant going to Joe Senser's at midnight to taunt the guy who bet the under on the Winnipeg-Rangers game, and has spent the subsequent hours consoling himself with Jager bombs. Target Field is largely deserted on non-game days. Fleming is surprised that the smattering of people she encounters do not accord her a middle-finger salute.
“If this was Boston, where it’s customary to yell 'Yankees suck' at most events, including funerals, I would have returned with missing teeth. But in Minnesota, they offer a hearty 'well, bless you.'”
So she heads to the Twins team store, which is like entering Fallujah in 2004, only the enemy is heavily marked-up merchandise. There she is greeted by an elder clerk. “You’re not the enemy, are ya?” he asks.
“When I confirmed that I was indeed the enemy, he employed the same take-no-prisoners tactics of an ISIS operative. 'That’s OK,' he said. 'Everyone is welcome here. It’s the Minnesota Nice.'”
She makes mention of attempting to torment downtown workers at nearby bars. But they were likely too busy staring at their phones. So Fleming heads to Minnesota's greatest temple, by which we are known in the outside world: the Mall of America.
There will be no confrontation, unless she wants to fight over the last Diamond Jacquard seasonless cardigan at Ann Taylor. Yes, we do talk funny. And, yes, we do like to passive-aggressively complain about how everyone else is so passive-aggressive. But it's not our nature to throw down with a middle-aged woman whose fighting words include “eat their lunch.” Especially over something as trivial—or anguishing; take your pick—as sport.
Minnesota's four biggest sporting enterprises—the Vikes, Twins, Wild, and Wolves—have won exactly two titles in 165 collective years. This doesn't breed a spirit of combat. This breeds the spirit of resignation.
As mall denizen Jerry Westgor explains to our visitor: “It’s not so much hatred toward the Yankees. Because at some point I think you gotta beat them to create some kind of mean. Especially here in Minneapolis. We always come in second or don’t come in at all.”
So welcome to Minnesota, Ms. Fleming. Would you like the other half of my sandwich?