Taking inventory of his nacho stand and the state of affairs at Target Field, Joe Wiggins said things are different these days. Wiggins, a straight-talking teenager who works concessions at Minnesota Twins games, is closing up shop earlier than normal thanks to the steep drop-off in attendance and interest. Fans are still mostly pleasant, and exhibit roughly the same behavior, with one exception.
"Well," Wiggins said, "When we're losing, they drink more."
Likewise, a review of the team's ticket sales might inspire the Twins' front office to reach for some of the hard stuff. Compared with last season, Minnesota has suffered the second-largest drop in attendance of any major league team, beating only the truly atrocious Houston dis-Astros (zing!). Over the past few weeks, attendance has been goosed by the team's willingness to slash ticket prices; on Sunday, $11 bought a prime viewing spot in straightaway center field.
Snatching a late-inning brew during Sunday's contest against the Chicago White Sox, Twins fan Jim Horner shrugged at the results of the day, but applauded the weather.
"It's a chance to get out on a nice summer day -- in the fall," Horner said.
The team generously self-reported 31,722 attendance for Sunday's game, although those fans received scant rewards during the 9-2 shellacking. Aside from Joe Mauer's first-inning home run, the largest cheer of the day was reserved for a Jumbotron marriage proposal. (For those of you scoring at home, Claudia said yes.)
By the time the Detroit Tigers arrive to close out the season, Twins fans might be outnumbered by Twins outfielders. But, as seasoned stadium attendant Rick Peterson points out, the Sept. 24-26 home stand does offer one outlet for catharsis.
"They can still play the spoiler role against the [New York] Yankees in that series," Peterson said.
Indeed, with the Yankees squeezed in between simultaneous divisional and wild card races, the Bronx Bombers probably need to win all three games in Minnesota. The series offers a final rallying call for another lost season.
For the moment, we might not be in love with the Twins. But we can always find it in our hearts to hate the Yankees.