If you ask a lot of folks, the No. 1 activity at the Great Minnesota Get Together -- besides, of course, getting fat together -- is people-watching. There are characters aplenty at the State Fair, and watching them mingle is one of the precious things that doesn't cost a dime.
Always eager to take the pulse of the Minnesota sports scene, we put our people-watching to a certain test Sunday at the fair -- one that started general and turned very specific. You see, our mission was to count the number of people wearing sports team-related apparel in a high-traffic area.
Plenty of fair-goers in caps and T-shirts soon started to stroll by. There was a Gophers cap. Twins shirt. Twins cap. Etc. We tracked the type and quantity with an iPhone note list (We write things down with pen and paper less and less these days, but that's a story for another time). As we tracked, we were struck by the particular absence of one team: the Vikings.
In fact, it wasn't until 12:30 p.m., a full 30 minutes after we started diligently staring at people, that we finally saw a guy come along in a Vikings T-shirt. By that point, we had seen 27 people in Twins gear, 13 in Gophers apparel, two more in Brewers shirts, a Minnesota Duluth fan, a Tampa Bay Rays hat and even a jersey celebrating the Atlanta Black Crackers of long-ago Negro League baseball fame.
We wouldn't call this extremely small sample size evidence of any specific Vikings-related malaise among the state's widest cross-section of people. Maybe the fair -- with thousands of people milling around in a selfish and unorganized mass -- just doesn't jibe with the precision and teamwork celebrated by the NFL.
Still, we considered it odd (not odd enough to deter the eating of about a dozen cookies, but strange nonetheless). Our meandering path, though, brought us to another odd sight: two rather muscular young gentlemen who looked familiar and were gaining attention while being followed around by a camera crew.
Upon further investigation, the duo was none other than Vikings rookies Christian Ponder and Kyle Rudolph. They were strolling the grounds, giving out Vikings tickets and generally exciting everyone in their paths.
A few fair-goers surveyed declared that Ponder seems like a really nice guy, the ultimate Minnesota athlete compliment. One woman didn't look like she wanted a hug from Ponder to ever cease. After he left, her knees were wobbly as she started hammering away frantically on her mobile device.
Our faith in the Purple's popularity was restored.
The kicker, though: Ponder was wearing a Twins cap.