The Super Bowl is returning to the Twin Cities of Minnesota for the first time since 1992. But it’s not going to match what the area experienced back then, especially with Justin Timberlake as this year’s halftime performer.
After all, that 1992 game was part of the most extraordinary year of sporting events any city has ever experienced hosting. From the second half of May 1991 to April 1992 -- a span of less than 11 months -- the Twin Cities hosted the U.S. Open, the Stanley Cup Finals, the World Series, the Super Bowl and the Final Four. About the only major U.S. event missing was the NBA Finals, which the Timberwolves still have never even come close to reaching.
(If only the 1992 Winter Olympics had been in Minnesota then as well rather than Albertville, France. Heck, St. Paul-native Lindsey Vonn was skiing at Buck Hill in the Twin Cities suburbs back then.)
No community has ever hosted that many major sporting events in a single year before and probably never will. Can any even come close to comparison?
Consider Boston. Over a nine-month span in 2007-08, the city hosted the World Series (which the Red Sox won), the NBA Finals (which the Celtics won) and saw the undefeated Patriots go to the Super Bowl, though New England lost that one. So that’s three league championship games for one city in a year, which is really impressive.
However, that Super Bowl was played in Phoenix rather than Boston, probably because it was difficult to deflate footballs in New England that time of the year. And neither the Final Four nor the U.S. Open were in Boston, either.
New York City saw the Jets win the Super Bowl and the Mets win the World Series in 1969, followed by the Knicks winning the NBA championship in 1970. But that was a span of 15 months and the Super Bowl was not in New York, nor were the Final Four or U.S. Open.
Other cities have seen teams win or at least play two championships in a single year. Among them: Boston saw the Bruins reach the Stanley Cup finals (they lost to the Blackhawks) and the Red Sox win the World Series again in 2007. Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl and Stanley Cup in 2009, as well as the Super Bowl and World Series in 1979. Los Angeles saw the Lakers in the NBA finals and the Dodgers win the World Series in 1988, and the Dodgers win the World Series and UCLA win the Final Four (played in Portland) in 1965.
And Atlanta hosted the Olympics and the 1996 World Series (which it lost) in 1996.
Still, none of that matches Minnesota hosting five of the biggest sports championships in less than a year.
Three of those championships – the World Series, Super Bowl and Final Four – were played in the Metrodome, back in the day when stadiums were the home for multiple teams and were much less expensive. The Twins, Vikings and Minnesota Gophers college football team all played there, as did the Timberwolves for two seasons. The Metrodome cost a mere $60 million when it was built in 1981 (roughly $180 million in today’s money) while the current U.S. Bank Stadium – built on the former Metrodome site -- cost $1.2 billion and pretty much only hosts the Vikings. Hey, local taxes are great, aren’t they?
The first two events of that fabulous 1991-92 year were not in the Metrodome, though. Yes, shocking that the U.S. Open was not played inside on artificial turf.
Playing at the Met Center in Bloomington where the Mall of America is currently located, the North Stars competed in their second Stanley Cup finals, this time against the Pittsburgh Penguins, who were in their first. Minnesota, alas, lost in six games, including an awful 8-0 loss in the finale. (Maybe they needed the Hanson brothers on the roster to shut down Mario Lemieux.)
The U.S. Open was played the next month at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, which is barely a Rory McIlroy drive from Prince’s former home, Paisley Park. The tournament was so tight it went to a Monday playoff with Payne Stewart winning his first of two Open titles.
And then four months later, the Metrodome not only hosted the World Series, it might have been the greatest Series ever played.
What a stunning matchup. Both Minnesota and Atlanta were the first teams to go from last-place finishes one year to the World Series the next. And then they went all the way into extra innings of Game 7. After Minnesota won Game 6 on Kirby Puckett’s 11th inning home run, the Twins won that amazing final game 1-0 in 10 innings. That victory was thanks to St. Paul native Jack Morris pitching the entire 10-inning shutout, which no one has matched since.
The Twins went to the White House a few days later to be honored by President George H. W. Bush, then flew home during the start of a three-day blizzard where roughly eight inches of snow fell in the area that night with another 20 inches and single-digit to below-zero temperatures on the way.
Not surprisingly, Minnesota winters can be cold. And Buffalo fans must have spent the day of the Super Bowl frozen solid watching their team lose their second of four consecutive SB defeats.
Timberlake did not perform at that Super Bowl (nor did cause a wardrobe malfunction with Janet Jackson). And no Prince either, even though he was such a Vikings fan he wrote “Purple and Gold’’ for them in 2010. Instead, Dorothy Hamill and Brian Boitano figure skated and rode snowmobiles during the halftime show, which was dedicated to Frosty the Snowman. Well, it was Minnesota in the winter.
Two months after the Super Bowl, Duke reached the Final Four after Christian Laettner sank a last-second shot to beat Kentucky 104-103 in a regional final that many consider one of the greatest games in college basketball history. The championship game in the Metrodome was not as exciting, with Duke whipping Michigan 71-51. The Timberwolves drafted Laettner a couple months later. Alas, it did not result in getting Minnesota to an NBA final.
Can the Twin Cities repeat that 1991-92 stretch given that it is starting the year with the Super Bowl and also had the amazing Vikings last-second victory over New Orleans in the NFL playoffs? Well, it won’t be hosting the U.S. Open or Final Four this year. Plus, the Wild and Timberwolves have winning records, the Twins made the playoffs last year and the Lynx won their fourth WNBA championship just four months ago (maybe the Timberwolves should trade for Lynx guard Maya Moore).
Whatever happens and whatever they host, they should be sure to play many of Prince’s hits.