Minnesota sports in the 2010s: Let’s start at the beginning

If you wanted to know how the past decade of Minnesota sports was going to go, it turns out all you really had to do was pay attention for the first few months of 2010 and project forward 10 years.

The 2010s were defined by three major things: incredible highs, devastating lows and new facilities opening up seemingly every day. If you wanted to sum up the entire decade of Minnesota sports in just one sentiment, it is this: You didn’t always like it, dear fan, but you got what you paid for.

It started Jan. 12, 2010, when the Lynx announced they had traded for Lindsay Whalen. That move was one of the catalysts for the most successful run any major pro team in this market since the NBA’s Lakers were in Minneapolis. Whalen and the Lynx won four WNBA championships in the 2010s and redefined women’s sports in this market.

Less than two weeks after that trade, though, came one of the ultimate symbols of the near-miss lows that would also define the decade: Saints 31, Vikings 28 in overtime of the NFC title game on Jan 24, 2010. You can argue otherwise, but I maintain that loss hurts more than Falcons 30, Vikings 27 in overtime.

The Twins helped wash away those memories a couple of months later when they returned outdoors and opened Target Field with the first regular-season game on April 12 vs. Boston. It was a near-perfect year of weather and baseball, with the ballpark playing to rave reviews and the Twins winning 94 games plus their sixth AL Central title in nine years.

And away we went with the 2010s.

The highs were spread across multiple teams but let’s be honest: At least on the Minnesota pro sports scene, the ultimate highs — playoff success, even championships — were hoarded by the Lynx.

It doesn’t require dragging everyone else down to prop one team up, but the numbers are pretty stark: In this decade, the Wild, Wolves, Twins, Vikings and Minnesota United (in MLS) all had losing records in the playoffs and a combined postseason record of 18-45.

The Lynx went a combined 40-17 in the postseason, winning WNBA titles in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017, and punctuating their last one with an epic five-game series triumph over the archrival Los Angeles Sparks.

The Vikings gave us the Minneapolis Miracle. The Wild gave us Nino Niederreiter’s Game 7 overtime goal against Colorado. The Twins gave us the Bomba Squad. The Gophers football team made fans storm the field and believe in the Rose Bowl. The Loons brought us a whole new major league team, a reason to sing “Wonderwall” and a brilliant new stadium.

But all of those teams fizzled when the spotlight became brighter, with the Vikings coming up one game short of hosting a Super Bowl one week after Stefon Diggs’ miracle catch serving as perhaps the biggest mood swing in a decade full of them.

Oh yeah, that’s right. We hosted the Super Bowl. And the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four, the Ryder Cup, the MLB All-Star Game, the WNBA All-Star Game and other major events. Almost all of those events happened in a stadium or arena that was either new or revamped.

Target Field. CHS Field. U.S. Bank Stadium. A substantially renovated Target Center. Allianz Field. And major new training facilities for the Vikings, Wolves/Lynx, Wild and Gophers. All of them opened this decade, which started just a few months after TCF Bank Stadium debuted.

Remember when it seemed as if everyone played in the Metrodome? Not anymore. We said goodbye to that multipurpose stadium after the 2013 Vikings season.

It feels like we’re about at capacity now in terms of major teams and new facilities, so the narrative for the next decade is going to have to play out between the lines.

Does your 2020 vision involve a Gophers football New Year’s Day bowl victory or a Vikings Super Bowl run?

Guess we’ll find out soon enough how the story of the next 10 years starts.


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