Brutal winters, the Mall of America, Lake Minnetonka, “Fargo” and two WNBA stars named Lindsay Whalen and Maya Moore.
This is what Minnesota will be remembered for in years to come, but with the Olympics days away the attention will be on Whalen and Moore.
The duo just came off the best franchise year for the Minnesota Lynx, bringing the team's first WNBA title to the “North Star State.” Their performance speaks for itself, but they were both chosen to represent Team USA in this year’s Olympic Summer Games.
Playbook recently sat down with both women to talk on a variety of topics.
First up, Whalen.
What are some of the action hot spots in your home state of Minnesota besides the Mall of America?
"I really like this new area outside Minneapolis called the West End. It’s got a huge movie theater, lots of cool restaurants, some shopping and it’s just outside of downtown. There’s a hell of a lot to do besides the Mall of America. I really like finding good places to eat and enjoy a meal."
Do you have any favorite pregame meals?
"Well, one of my staples on game day is peanut butter and jelly. I usually have it, like, two or three hours before the game. So I’ll have my pregame meal around noon if the game is at 7:30 p.m. and then go back and sleep, chill for two hours and then have my peanut butter and jelly. Wheat bread or one of those thin bagels and any type of peanut butter, but my favorite jelly is strawberry."
What “Not Top 10” sports moments have you been a part of?
"Actually, two things when I was overseas. There were like 27 seconds to go in the half, so the other team held for the last shot. So the buzzer went off for the shot clock, and I thought it was the buzzer for the game. I just got the rebound and dropped the ball and someone got the ball and scored. I basically gave them two free points. It was crazy. ... And then my first year over there I didn’t know the intentional foul rule -- like if you grab someone and they have no one in front of them going to the basket more than once you get ejected. I did it twice and got ejected, and the fans were going crazy. My coach was so upset that he was chewing on a mint and I guess he bit it so hard that he chipped his tooth. Yeah, I’ve been a part of a couple crazy moments."
What type of things in Europe did you see that aren’t the norm in the USA?
"All kinds of stuff. There were dogs in restaurants all the time. They could just come in whenever, and that really threw me off. The owner would come in and sit to eat and the dogs would just calmly sit down and wait for them to be done. The grocery stores are tight and crowded, and you really don’t have space like you do over here. The drinking age is 16 over there, too, so seeing teenagers walk around with alcohol was different."
You, Candace Parker and Maya Moore: Does any country even stand a chance in the Olympics against you?
"Yeah, we had some tough games last time in the world championship getting toward the gold medal there. Beating Australia will be tough, Brazil, Russia ... you know. Those are some of the top teams that are definitely going to push us and make it difficult to get the gold."
Who do you think will be leading the team?
"Well, I think the ones that have been there for so many years, like Sue [Bird], Diana [Taurasi], Tamika Catchings. I think that all those guys have been there before, and they’re definitely the leaders. Those of us that are here for the first time are definitely going to follow their lead."
Next up, Moore.
Being from Missouri, how much do you miss that Kansas City barbecue?
"I probably miss more the cooking from my great aunt and uncle that I grew up with, and they can cook! Turkey neck, greens, macaroni and cheese ... don’t get me started. I miss that more than the barbecue."
So if you had to wish for a perfect meal right now, what would it be?
"See? You got me started. Greens, macaroni, some chicken, some more greens and some good punch. You know, the typical holiday meal. You need the chicken, macaroni and greens. You can’t have the holiday meal every day, but when you have a special occasion or you’re celebrating, those are the staples."
What are some of the biggest differences between Minnesota and Missouri?
"Probably the heavier winters in Minnesota. I haven’t experienced one yet, but I heard they’re intense. But I did enjoy sledding and playing in the snow in Missouri, building snowmen and all that good stuff. Probably just family, you know? I have more family out in Missouri than Minnesota."
Have you found yourself picking up the Minnesota accent?
"Oh, yeah, don’t cha know? Fish and chips -- no, that’s London ... but, yeah, it’s rubbing off on us. We joke a lot in the locker room just kind of the different Minnesota accents and my Minnesota teammate, Lindsay [Whalen], will play with us, too. But it’s fun -- the Minnesota atmosphere, their friendly people, die-hard fans, so it’s a good situation."
What are your thoughts on your Britt Griner, who backed out of wanting to play in the Olympics? Will she win a WNBA championship her first year in like you did?
"I don’t know. I mean, hopefully not unless she’s drafted to my team. She’s definitely an impact player that changes the game when she comes in. Just because of the things she can do and the way she is progressing; she’s going to cause a lot of problems for a lot of teams. I can’t say that she’s going to come in and win a championship, just because it’s such a hard task and there are a lot more factors than just one player when it comes to winning a championship. She will have a chance to do some great things individually and depending on what team she’s on, but again unless she’s drafted to my team I don’t necessarily want her to go out there and winning a championship. I’m definitely excited to have her in the game and to see how her senior year goes and on to the next level."
Besides playing ball out in London, what excites you about going there?
"I’m very interested in history, and I like learning about places -- you know, learning about the past and the culture and just the rich history. London is definitely one of those historic places that have things to learn and places to see, so anything from the culture that I can learn. I would just love to meet people who have knowledge about the history and past, whether it’s at a restaurant or wherever. If there’s time, I just want to know everything there is to know about London and the island of Great Britain."