The Making of “Mpls. vs. St. Paul”

Minnesotans are famously conflict-avoidant. We won’t put you out for a cup of coffee without refusing it at least three times first. If the ethos of Minnesota Nice scripts our social interactions with polite friendliness, humble understatement, and an aversion to confrontation, why, then, are our state’s pro-baseball mascots slugging it out on our cover?

Because the downside of Minnesota Nice relationships, in which true feelings are masked for fear of stirring up trouble, is that they can become breeding ground for resentment. “Minneapolis vs. St. Paul” (p. 49) releases some of that pent-up steam and reminds us that we don’t always have to be so self-effacing—that you can toot your own horn without blowing it.

In psychology speak, “prosocial teasing”—poking fun of one another in a playful manner—can actually bring the teaser and the teased closer. The behavior suggests a certain comfort level, that the teased is loved in spite of the flaw. With this in mind, we compared the Twin Cities across a variety of metrics, from parking costs to city-referential song lyrics. We pitted the space-helmet bouffants at Nye’s against the silver sideburns of Mancini’s; Lowertown vs. Linden Hills; the Saints vs. the Twins; and the Brett Favre of radio, Garrison Keillor, against his prematurely bronzed counterpart, Sid Hartman. We knew the Twin Cities’ bond was strong enough to weather the conflict. (And besides, breaking up is not an option—who would move out?) If you have any sort of hometown pride, you’ll surely let us know if you think we picked the right victor.

As someone firmly entrenched on the west side of the river, I appreciate the east side’s equally stubborn character—in one survey of St. Paul residents, 90 percent said they would never consider living in Minneapolis. In putting together this issue, we were compelled to move one of our photo shoots to a Saturday so St. Paul chef Lenny Russo could make the trek. “I can’t go to Minneapolis on such short notice,” he declared. Only because I love the guy’s cooking, I couldn’t help but razz him about that.

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