Rand: Rubio latest version of Minny-mania

  • Article by: MICHAEL RAND , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 21, 2011 - 8:13 AM

The newest Timberwolf isn't the first Minnesota athletic figure to cause a stir with his arrival.

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Ricky Rubio arrived at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Photo: Leah Millis, Star Tribune

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Ricky Rubio's official introduction to Minnesota will come during a Tuesday news conference. Unofficially, though, the lid is already off this thing. The Timberwolves representatives (varying from David Kahn to Crunch), media members and fans who greeted Rubio at the airport Monday made sure of that -- and if they didn't, Twitter took care of the rest.

The Wolves' Twitter feed pumped out updates and photos from the ride from the airport to Rubio's hotel. Rubio, who has pretty much exclusively sent out messages in his native Spanish to his 280,000-plus Twitter followers (@rickyrubio9), switched to English around 9 p.m. Sunday. His first tweet in English: "Minnesota here I go!!! I so excited to play w them. It's gonna be long week. I can't wait to see all things over there."

Rubio-mania has begun. It reminds us of a few other semi-recent waves of mania upon arrival on the local sports scene:

 JOE MAUER

An opening day crowd of 49,584 greeted Joe Mauer in his Major League debut on April 5, 2004. Mauer, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 draft, was still two weeks shy of his 21st birthday. The mayors of both Minneapolis and St. Paul, along with then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty, rose to their feet when Mauer batted for the first time. He walked on four pitches, part of a night in which he reached base four times (two walks, two hits) and helped the Twins to a victory. The next day, unfortunately, Mauer tore cartilage in his knee chasing a foul pop-up. He missed nearly two months, came back for most of June and part of July, then was shut down for the rest of the year. In those two April games, the mania -- and fans fretting about Mauer's durability -- were born.

TUBBY SMITH

The bandwagon for the Gophers coach was overflowing in March of 2007 when he was hired. Fans, players and coaches in the state were almost universally on board. Even Michigan State coach Tom Izzo was swept up: "He's tough, he's good, he runs a clean program, he's great. I'm sounding like I'm going to be his recruiting coordinator. I just love him," Izzo said. "To me, he's a special guy. I think it's great for our league; it's great for Minnesota."

BRETT FAVRE

In case you forgot, it was less than two years ago -- Aug. 18, 2009 -- when Brad Childress pulled into the Vikings' practice facility in a black SUV, carrying some very precious cargo: Brett Favre. Fans on hand waiting for Favre's arrival chased Childress' vehicle. A helicopter famously hovered over the entire scene. Truth be told, the Favre Era didn't get any more or less surreal from there. In retrospect, though, it was a mighty fitting start.

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