There is nothing to excite sports fans more than unexpected success. There is nothing better to irritate sports fans than unexpected failure.
The hockey team located in St. Paul and the baseball team located in Minneapolis find themselves at the extreme edges of these reactions.
The NHL's shortened 56-game schedule started in mid-January with a Wild outlook that was, "They might squeeze into the playoffs."
Then rookie Kirill Kaprizov turned out to be the team's first true franchise player — so much so the question among Minnesota's hockey fanatics became:
"Why not a Stanley Cup parade for us?"
Kaprizov has plenty of help up front, Jonas Brodin leads an excellent defense, and General Manager Bill Guerin's decision to sign Cam Talbot as the goalie who could steal wins and not contribute to losses in the playoffs looks 100%.
As the Twins were starting spring training Feb. 19 in Fort Myers, the Wild was escaping a two-week COVID shutdown and launching a six-game winning streak to end the month.
The optimism created by that winning streak could not have been greater than what surrounded the Twins.
On those days that manager Rocco Baldelli put most of his A team on a Florida field, it was a dangerous group — particularly with indications that Byron Buxton and Josh Donaldson could be healthy.
Kenta Maeda and Jose Berrios were sharp. Michael Pineda was going to be the same: well above average.
The bullpen had suffered a serious loss in Trevor May, but the nominees to replace him, Alexander Colome or Hansel Robles, seemed adequate.
The Twins opened the season at No. 7 in Las Vegas sportsbooks to win the World Series at 20-1. They also had the seventh-highest over-and-under wins number: 88.5.
Those of us at the Star Tribune also were preaching optimism. My projection was 87-75 for the Twins, a number that some readers suggested was simply an attempt to be negative.
I'm now in a position to apologize along with colleagues for not only drinking the Kool-Aid, but helping to mix it.
On Tuesday, the Wild was taking a 1-0 lead, in goals and in the series, into a late-starting Game 2 at Las Vegas. At the same time, the Twins were holding the worst record in the majors, 13-26, and trying to avoid another thumping from the White Sox.
The Wild's surprising push from mid-February created a Big Three with Las Vegas and Colorado in the COVID-refigured West. This wasn't as hyped as would've been the case in a normal season.
There was only a smattering of relatives inside Xcel Energy Center for a long while, and then restricted crowds. The headlines were there, the Kaprizov highlights were seen often, but the buzz was missing the sellout crowds.
That changed Sunday, when the Wild got the head start in Las Vegas. The hockey team is going to own this sports market as long as it plays this late spring and perhaps into summer.
The Wild only has given the Twin Cities one legitimate playoff run. That was in its third year of existence, 2003, when the seven-game upsets of Colorado and Vancouver were basically miracles produced by coach Jacques Lemaire.
It was a great odyssey, also impossible to perceive that those Wild actually could bring home a Cup.
This time, with this roster, all levels of optimism are permitted.
As for the Twins, the embarrassment of what has been a hat trick of futility — bad pitching, lousy hitting, shaky fielding — was trumped in the wake of Monday's 16-4 battering from the White Sox.
The last run came when the Willians Astudillo comedy act was on the mound for the ninth. Astudillo threw his 45 miles-per-hour loopers, got a couple of outs and everybody was chuckling.
Then, on a 3-0 count, Astudillo lobbed another one and Yermin Mercedes slaughtered it for a 430-foot home run to center field.
Mercedes is Astudillo's twin with the White Sox — a chubby catcher long buried in the minors, finally given a chance and producing, and with more power than the Turtle.
The height of silliness followed, with the Twins deciding to be offended that someone had the audacity to hit a 3-0 pastry from Astudillo for run No. 16, rather than wait for a 3-1 pastry to do the same.
Mercedes was disrespecting the Turtle as a pitcher, and disrespecting a team that had put the Turtle on the mound for the laughs? We have to protect our dignity by having Tyler Duffey throw at this make-believe villain a night later?
That Twins reaction was more pathetic than the putrid manner in which Baldelli's club has had to play to overtake the Detroit Tigers for the title of Baseball's Worst.