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The 10 Most-Read Racket Stories of 2021

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In our 4.5 months in business, Racket has published 398 stories. Around the country, bloviating click consultants sell dinosaur newsrooms their SEO snake oil, but much of the web-traffic process remains a beautiful mystery dictated by Big Tech’s malevolent legions of server farms. That is to say: It’s impossible to predict which stories readers will gravitate toward, so it’s wise to default to the fundamentals of producing quality content you believe in and hope the algorithms have your back. Of our 398 articles, the following 10 attracted the most eyeballs from Racket readers in 2021. Let us know what future spinning chicken content you’d like to see in the comments. 😉

10. Why Can’t Minneapolis Have a Public Sex Forest? (Aug. 25)

Yeah, why the hell not?! Jessica Armbruster navigated the horny contention around the future of Minneapolis’s Hiawatha Golf Course, placing an emphasis on one group. Not the one that wants to preserve the links. “The sex forest will be for fags and faeries, dykes and sissies, e-girls and femboys, criminals and normies,” states the manifesto of Make The Golf Course a Public Sex Forest. “No single group will be in charge of the sex forest, but long-standing kink and leather organizations will collaborate with loose crews of anarcha-feminists to ensure that dungeon-monitors/pleasure lifeguards are on hand… You’ll recognize the pleasure lifeguards by their matching black assless chaps.” A raunchy stunt? Perhaps, but the movement is meant to spur conversations about public land use, pollution, sex rights for oppressed groups, and even the arts—the Sex Forest advocates are planning an erotic zine. Even if the golf course never becomes a Sex Forest, Armbruster optimistically concludes, the campaign will hopefully yield some interesting smut.

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Credit: Em Cassel

9. Local Pizza Chains, Ranked (Dec. 15)

From S&M chains at the golf course, we shift our attention to the chains slingin’ ‘za around the Twin Cities. This one, more than perhaps any other Racket story, stirred passions and riled readers. For partisans of No. 13 Parkway Pizza, we committed a cardinal sin of pizza criticism. For others, our 30-pizza marathon binge elicited a whole lotta gooey, greasy dialogue and debate. The gut-busting amount of pizza journalism endured by the four-person Racket staff made some of us swear off pizza for… a couple of days.

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8. Minnesota’s Lonely Links

More chains! These ones, explored with great passion and detail by JD Hovland, represent the last remaining links of restaurant chains that still populate Minnesota. “After entirely too much research,” Hovland writes, “I identified at least 45 chain restaurants with one or more locations in another state and only one in Minnesota, which I’ve mapped for you here.” The story packs surplus “Remember some guys” energy, but also brings sociological insight through the lens of burger joints and pizza parlors. As a mega-fan of chain restaurant podcast Doughboys, I considered this delicious history lesson required reading.

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7. TikTok and Fred Durst Love This Brother-Sister Band from Burnsville (Oct. 12)

I’m not a TikTok user, though I somehow acquired the fascinating localized TikTok beat. (See: viral zombie band; viral environmentalism; viral lettuce club.) And, of course, there’s viral Burnsville-launched brother-sister rock band Durry, whose hit song “Who’s Laughing Now” attracted the attention of industry power-players as well as Mr. Bizkit himself, Fred Durst. It’s a story about the rapidly evolving music biz, sure, but also an aww-inducing one about familial bonds. “Honestly, we were never really buds until all of this came about,” Taryn Durry says of her brother, Austin. “Our friendship has kinda blossomed through this project, and so far it’s been a really sweet process.” Since Racket wrote about Durry first, the SEO bump has been our reward, thus the No. 7 spot on this list.  

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6. Watch an MPD Officer Make a Scene at Aldi (Dec. 2)

Almost exactly one month after Minneapolis voters declined to reform policing, the city’s thug police force reminded us of the status quo we’d just vouched for. “How is this de-escalating? How the fuck is this de-escalating?” shouted onlookers at the Aldi on E. Franklin Avenue as off-duty, fully uniformed cop Christopher Lange—the subject of five misconduct investigations—slammed 64-year-old shopper Troy Lee Billups to the ground for seemingly no reason. Em was the first local journalist to seize on the viral footage; while follow-up reporting has revealed biographical details, the actions depicted in the clip still overwhelmingly speak for themselves.

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5. I Went to a VIP Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit and Now I’m Pissed (Oct. 6)

Speaking of anger at our broken institutions: Devohn Bland’s hybrid account of socio-political commentary and arts criticism really resonated during election season. Gentrification, class inequity, police violence, and arts huckerism are all touched on, as are the political forces that feed into and off of it all. Plus, at a base level, the $40-$70 exhibit seems to really suck—”Would not recommend,” reads Bland’s frank coda.

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4. Remembering Norman Truman, Beloved Minneapolis Punk Personality (Aug. 23)

I didn’t know Norman Truman. So, for this obit-meets-oral-history, I let those who loved the larger-than-life punk personality tell his story in their own words. The universal consensus: Norman was a great fucking guy. “Everyone knows Norm,” says friend and Bryant-Lake Bowl manager Peggy Dainty. “He’s a local icon.” Making matters more tragic/timely: Brain injuries sustained after a cop shot Truman with rubber bullet during a 2020 protest lead to his death, according to widow Alisha. “Norman was the love of my life,” Alisha said. “My soulmate. My husband. My protector. My ultimate best friend. I will never be complete or whole again. He was my entire existence. The devastation is indescribable and I am in utter shambles without him.”

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3. Rustic Inn Cafe is Better Than Betty’s Pies, and It’s Not Even Close (Sept. 23)

Oh boy… that last quote is fucking crushing. Can we please talk about pie? Sure, yes, let’s. So in late September, the Racket staff was a skeleton crew of me and my main man Keith. On the morning of the 23rd, our homepage sat unrefreshed from the previous day, sending me into a start-up biz owner panic. Since I happened to be in Two Harbors that day, I sprang into action wielding the powers of pie-critic faculties and the determination to churn out content. My frenzied pie acquiring, pie tasting, pie writing, and lovely pie photography from my wife yielded a take that many believed wholeheartedly though few had voiced so loudly: Rustic Inn Cafe is king of North Shore pies and Betty’s… well, it’s kinda trash.

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2. Mick Jagger: I Love Your Many Hometown Beers and Ate Two of Your Regional Specialty Cheeseburgers, Local Townspeople (Oct. 25)

For those who are unfamiliar, The Flyover is our daily news aggregation roundup, where we turn the day’s headlines into quippy lil blurbs for your easy consumption. It’s never a heavy hitter, traffic-wise, but it’s a fun way to highlight what our tiny newsroom can’t cover and flex our elite headline-writing muscle. For some baffling reason, Google plucked this installment from obscurity and sent tens of thousands of readers our way. Those seeking insight into Mick’s burger tastes were also made aware of the Strib’s embarrassing Mickey Moore saga; we didn’t experience many repeat customers from that tidal wave of national clicks.

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1. Local Grocery Store Rotisserie Chickens, Ranked (Oct. 13)

We knew there’d be some interest around hyper-local rotisserie chickens. We had no idea 100,000+ readers would be interested. Beautiful mystery, man.

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