Minnesota Thunder Soccer – Best Pro Ticket In Town

Tara Last month–Friday, July 15th, to be exact–I took two of my nieces to a Minnesota Thunder game at James Griffin Stadium and, I gotta tell you, I had a blast.

My two nieces are soccer fans, so I decided to treat them to a game. Me, I’m not much of a fan. I used to play goalie when I was a kid and used to follow the Minnesota Kicks–even got my picture taken with one of the Kicks’ stars, Alan Merrick. I’ve always thought the game was much more fun to play than to watch. But my nieces love it, so I’m game.

I’ve got a very strong aversion to nosebleed seats–probably because I’m used to going to sporting events at the H.H.H. Metrodome, a venue that is good only for truck-pulls and rollerblades (not that I’d really know, I just know it ain’t no good for sports or concerts)–so I decided to get the best seats I could for the kids…and myself.

The Thunder’s ticket prices top out at $20, for which you get on-the-field, 10-yards-from-the-sideline seats. And they are, without a doubt, the best value for your pro sports money in town. No other professional sports team offers you seats as close to the action for the price as these tickets do–even the St. Paul Saints. And, by the way, any seat at James Griffin Stadium will be better than any seat at the Metrodome.

Mn_thunder1 The game we went to was on a night with beautiful weather and against the Montreal Impact, who, at that point in the season, had not lost a game. The Thunder gave up an early goal on a ball that bounced off the hands of goalkeeper Joe Warren but kept up with an opponent who, as my niece remarked, was far more aware of where their players were on the field than the home team. It’s true, and it showed in the Impact’s passing game because the visitors just seemed much more crisp. Nevertheless, the Thunder kept the Impact from scoring the rest of the game and, toward the end, turned up the heat and created several scoring opportunities for themselves that, utlimately, they just didn’t cash in on.

Mn_thunder3 But, damn. It was exciting. It was exciting to be so close to the action and be able to see so clearly how the teams were playing. My nieces absolutely loved it. It did not hurt at all that before the game began they were each given–given–a free leather, regulation-sized soccer ball.

Since I’m not a huge soccer fan, I really thought the most enjoyment I’d get out of it was that my nieces were having a good time. But it was a blast.

It’s a great way to spend a summer evening.

Touch Football

Every Saturday, year-round, rain, slush, snow, or shine, for about three years now, I’ve been playing a pickup game of touch football with a core group of guys at a park in Northeast Minneapolis. We play one to three, sometimes four games, for two to sometimes four hours, depending on the weather and the number of people who show up.

I was first invited to play by The Veteran and I’ve been coming ever since. I was extraordinarily out of shape and I smoked at the time and so I definitely felt it the first few times out. But since then, I’ve gotten into shape, stopped smoking, and now I can hang with the kids.

Considering how much I love football, it should come as little surprise that I rarely miss a Saturday. The great thing about it is that the guys we play with all come from different walks of life, different backgrounds, levels of education, race, color, creed, et cetera, and all that matters is for those few hours is our game of football.

It’s the great leveller.

Grand Devotion

It is fitting that I take today, Mother’s Day, to tell you about something that has been on my mind for some time. This is a story of devotion–in this case to the memory of a mother–that is manifested in tangible form as a small shrine on the corner of Grotto and Grand Avenue, in St. Paul, Minnesota.

For more than a year, passers-by to that intersection might notice flowers affixed to a stop sign opposite Highgrove Community Credit Union on Grand. The only hint of the object of this touching public declaration of emotion is, the last time I looked, a flower display at the foot of the stop sign reading simply "Mom."

The sign tells passers-by the Who and Where but not the How, When and Why of this act of devotion.

I can fill in two-thirds of the story only because my office used to be located very near that corner. I was at work the day that gave rise to this grand devotion. I don’t recall the date but I believe it was during the Spring and I believe it was a little more than a year ago that an elderly woman was run over by a dump truck at the intersection of Grotto and Grand.

She apparently was crossing the street at the same time as the dump truck, got caught in the truck’s blind spot so the driver couldn’t see her, and was not quick enough to save herself once she realized her danger. Our office windows look out over the intersection and though I did not see the accident, I did see the aftermath.

The flowers appeared on the stop sign shortly thereafter. Though I no longer work near Grotto and Grand, I have occassion to regularly visit that intersection and during every visit, I glance at the stop sign and during every visit, I see flowers, and it never fails to move me. Had I not known the story behind the flowers, they would probably simply be an odd and unexpected detail of city life.

But, armed as I am with this knowledge, those flowers become not merely objects that have arrested my attention, but leave me, even today, amazed at the depth and power of human emotions, of sorrow, loss, and devotion.

For the record: I took my own mother out to lunch today.

Is The Mall Of America Heated?

I noticed today while doing keyword research that during the past 60 days, 5 people have used the search engines to answer the question "is the Mall of America heated"? I immediately assumed, of course, that that was a silly question. Located in Bloomington, Minnesota, how could the Mall of America not be heated.

But a search using that question at all-knowing Google yeilded no useful results. A search at Yahoo! gave me a link to a Wikipedia page on the Mall of America along with this sentence: "Only the mall’s entrances are heated."

A search at MSN gave me this page, which says:

No. The only heat is from the lights and people. The only heaters are at the entrances from the parking ramps and external doors. The MOA (the largest mall in the United States) is located in a suburb of St. Paul Minnesota where temps can reach -20F. Yep, I know this has absolutely nothing to do with sledding, I just found it interesting.

So it isn’t all that odd of a question after all. And, if you’re one of the 2.5 people a month who want to know the answer, now you’ve got a ready reference…If Google finds it, that is.

Mall of America Links:

The Plan – Psycho Suzi’s

The plan was to go to Psycho Suzi’s for a few beers and then head somewhere to watch the Vikings/Falcons game. That was the plan, anyway. And as you know, the best laid plans of mice and men…

The game started early at 6:30 and because I knew this, I was very careful to point out the fact to anyone who would listen. Though plenty of people listened, I very much doubt anyone heard me because three or four pitchers of Summit later, there we still were, not watching TV forty minutes into the game.

I beg your indulgence while I digress…

Psycho Suzi‘s: If you’ve never been, you must. It’s located in Northeast Minneapolis at Marshall and Lowrey. Think of an old A & W drive-in restaurant converted into a bar with a goth/tiki theme, park Billy Idol out front as the doorman/bouncer, and you get an idea of what Psycho Suzi’s is all about. They sell beers like Schmidt and Schlitz and Blatz by the can, they serve deviled eggs as appetizers, and the descriptions on their drink menu often describe everthing but the ingredients.

There is outdoor seating, which is good because many of the customers are smokers. And there are plenty of suicide girls [don’t go here during work hours] on staff and as clientel.

So, as I said, I didn’t get to see the first part of the game. In fact, I didn’t get to see the first two touchdowns. But I did see the replay on Moss‘ touchdown bomb and who did he beat but Falcon’s first-round pick, Cornerback DeAngelo Hall.