Best of the Twin Cities 2011

150 things to be proud of because they're ours


From pols to media to sports, love or hate 'em, these are our best

Reason For Hope: The Lynx

The Lynx did the impossible this year, assembling a dream team of talent and winning it all—local girl Lindsay Whalen’s (pictured) off-season acquisition being the final piece of the puzzle. Here’s to the Lynx and our first big-time championship in 20 years. Do we dare to say dynasty?

Website For 'The What': The Star Tribune

The Star Tribune is a staid, credible paper that has always been good but has rarely shown the greatness or flashes of brilliance that typify its striving metropolis. Down, nearly out, and now back from bankruptcy, the paper under editor Nancy Barnes is more engaged, feisty, and interested in aggressive news gathering than pipe-and-slippers contemplation. It’s doing more with less. (But buy a paper now and then for the full effect.) startribune.com

Website For 'The Why': Minnpost.com

If the Star Tribune brings us the “what,” we’ve come to rely on that not-exactly-merry band of ex-Stribbers at MinnPost to bring us the “why.” Freed of the shackles of faux objectivity, a cadre of the town’s longest tenured journalists (and some fresh faces) does an admirable job of cutting through the BS on issues both local and national. MinnPost tilts center-left (surprise), and spicy Internet-age writing is not its forte. But it’s a great place to go if understanding is on your media agenda. minnpost.com

Tough Guy: Mark Dayton

Governor Mark Dayton surprised us, those who thought he might end up flake-in-chief, whipsawed by a GOP majority in the legislature and a resentful, entrenched DFL minority. Instead, the governor held his ground repeatedly, forced a state shutdown by refusing to capitulate, and in the end, if he didn’t quite get what he wanted, no one in state government seems better positioned to have his or her way right now. The takeaway is that Governor Dayton just doesn’t care all that much about the optics, nor is he positioning himself for anything beyond being governor. And there’s nothing tougher than an opponent with nothing to lose.

Weekend Anchor: Jason DeRusha

This handsome devil is going somewhere. And we’re more than happy to come along for the ride! Weekends, WCCO-4

Broadcast Website: 1500 ESPN

Hubbard’s new sports station wins going away; it is the only broadcast website that has made a commitment to producing original journalism online–from Pat Reusse’s columns to Tom Pelissero’s Vikings scoops. The 1500 team tweets news as it happens as well. ESPN 1500 is showing us what a broadcast website can be. 1500ESPN.com

Global Reach: Andrew Zimmern

It’s self-serving to say so, we know, but we weren’t surprised when our guy Andrew Zimmern was ranked as the nation’s most influential online chef by klout.com. The guy works the digital realm like nobody’s business. More significantly, Zimmern is now Minnesota’s ambassador to the world, representing our unpretentious values, fighting for the food rights of the less fortunate, and reminding America of the immense richness of culture and spirit in the lands between I-5 and I-95. andrewzimmern.com

Presidential Pratfalls: Tim & Michele

Well, it wasn’t exactly Humphrey/Mondale, but we did produce two legit Republican presidential candidates, for a while. Ex-Governor Tim Pawlenty and current Representative Michele Bachmann each spent time as front-runners, but Pawlenty could not stop Mitt Romney’s pragmatic juggernaut, and the Bachmann campaign went into a complete nosedive following an Ames Straw Poll win, outclassed by even wackier pols. We never win Super Bowls, either.

New/Old Anchor: Randy Meier

We’ll admit the game of anchor love/hate is a purely subjective one. It’s really just a contest between the credible, the incredible, and the incredibly plastic. On that count, we couldn’t help crack a smile when word got out that longtime KSTP, and then national, anchor Randy Meier was back on a local newscast. His calm, natural demeanor and ability to ask an insightful question is not unique in local TV, but it is surely in limited supply. Welcome back, Randy. 10 pm, FOX9 News

Post-Ideological Senator: Amy Klobuchar

Senator Amy Klobuchar is ideological, don’t get us wrong, but in an election year in which most every Democrat is on the run for their political lives, Senator K. looks so formidable that the GOP can’t find a serious candidate to take her on. Issues-wise, Klobuchar is not that different from most of her Senate Democratic brethren or even her fraternal Minnesota twin, Al Franken. But when it comes to the politics of it, Klobuchar has shown some of the savviest political instincts of any elected official in decades, choosing to tie herself to issues of broad-based consensus and soft-peddle the divisive stuff. The result: Senator Klobuchar transcends politics in voters’ eyes. Masterful.

Fresh Voice: Phil Mackey

The realm of baseball journalism is a mash-up of observational writing, locker room sycophancy, rumor, hunch, and conventional wisdom. Even the town’s best are prisoner to some of it. Phil Mackey has brought a new stats- and rationality-driven take on the grand old game. He’s fearless, willing to say when the fan’s darling is really a mirage (his take on Michael Cuddyer was not popular this season) or shine a spotlight on an underappreciated player (JJ Hardy). He’s even got co-host Pat Reusse sounding curious now and then. 12–3 pm, 1500 ESPN

10 Sports Silver Linings

2011 was a year for the ages in Minnesota sports for all the wrong reasons; the failures of the local squads are well-documented, if not seared into our psyches. Yet amid the rubble, some compelling story lines emerged.

1) The Lynx: champions.

2) Vikings: We’re out on a limb here, but it seems like forces are finally aligning on a stadium and we’ll have a comfortable place to watch the Vikes in five years.

3) Wild: Owner Craig Leopold seems to have a refreshing distaste for losing, borne out by a busy off-season that we hope will bear fruit.

4) Twins: Jim Thome’s chase for 600 homers brought us out to the ballpark with something to look forward to.

5) Gopher Football: Coach Jerry Kill’s down-home candor and refusal to sugarcoat is a refreshing change of pace.

6) Gopher Basketball: Tubby Smith says he recruited athleticism and toughness for this season. If so, the Gophs should return to being fun to watch.

7) Timberwolves: The addition of a seasoned coach, Rick Adelman, the long-awaited arrival of Spanish sensation Ricky Rubio, and No. 2 draft pick Derrick Williams should bring a more embraceable team, once the lockout ends.

8) Target Field: Even a batting order of .200 hitters couldn’t taint our magnificent ballyard.

9) Williams Arena: Our stately hoops palace remains the best place to watch a college basketball game in the Midwest.

10) The Saints: One win shy of a championship is good enough. Let’s build that downtown ballpark.

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