MINNEAPOLIS, JAN. 11 -- Titletown USA isn't even one town, so it's safe to say the Minnesota Vikings are creating an identity crisis here. Minneapolis is west of the Mississippi River, St. Paul is east and anyone who thinks they're twin cities ought to have his eyes examined.

Judging from what people are saying, St. Paul is going Vikings-crazy and Minneapolis is still Twins-crazy, though something called the Super Bowl is waking up a few on the west side. After Saturday's defeat of San Francisco, the Vikings are one game from the Super Bowl, and about 1,000 fanatics greeted them at the airport Saturday night.

When the Minnesota Twins captured the American League pennant, the airport wasn't big enough to accommodate the 60,000 who wanted to cram inside, so the whole party was moved to the Metrodome. So far, "Touchdown Towels" haven't exactly replaced "Homer Hankies" here, although a victory over the Washington Redskins in Sunday's NFC championship game could change some thinking.

Experts here have several theories, and one comes from Twins General Manager Andy MacPhail, who thinks baseball's playoffs create more excitement because home games are guaranteed. The Vikings, as a wild-card team, had no way of hosting a playoff game.

"First of all, I'm a Vikings fan," MacPhail said today. "But we played our games {at home}, and it has such a tangible effect on the city. It's different seeing it in person and celebrating in the streets than watching it in front of the TV set . . . It's nobody's fault, but it's much more of a community thing with baseball."

The Twins were the area's darlings in the early 1960s when -- shortly after relocating from Washington -- the team reached the 1965 World Series. It pretty much stayed that way until Billy Martin was fired as manager, and something called Purple People Eaters evolved thereafter.

Actually, this wasn't much of a baseball town again until October, because the Twins were, many times, drawing only 10,000 during their drive to the division championship. Only in the playoffs and World Series did it get crowded.

One thing gave the Twin Cities civic pride: The Twins were the first team in World Series history to win four of four home games. The Vikings, by contrast, lost their last two big home games (to Chicago and Washington) and won their playoff games on the road.

Coach Jerry Burns even said he was glad to be out of town, because the media were calling the Vikings the "Backdoor Gang," for backing into the playoffs. Even last week, the Vikings practiced in Tucson instead of home, and they're going to Tampa for practice this week.

Another factor is the NFL players strike, which got lost in the World Series shuffle. When the Vikings hosted Denver for a Monday night game afterward, there were many empty seats and many who showed up wore Twins sweat shirts.

"When we came back from that strike and the Twins won the World Series, our fans sure as hell didn't care much about us," quarterback Tommy Kramer said today. "And it was that way for a long time."

The Vikings apparently turned off some people with their tendency to be public nuisances, what with seven drunk-driving arrests in 18 months (defensive tackle Tim Newton twice, plus defensive back Ike Holt, Kramer, wide receiver Hassan Jones, tight end Steve Jordan and quarterback Rich Gannon). According to a spokesman for the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce, who asked not to be identified, this was a detriment to the team. Others disagree.

They point out that the old Vikings -- the ones who went to four Super Bowls -- had characters like Joe Kapp and Lonnie Warwick, who made Thursday night their regular drinking night. No one got upset about it when they won.

These new Vikings also reserve Thursday for a drinking night, and they often meet at a place called Filly's. Kramer was arrested last summer when he, according to police reports, was drunk at a restaurant. The restaurant called the police, and police followed him and pulled him over for weaving in traffic. Later, angry Vikings fans called the restaurant to complain.

Nonetheless, St. Paul columnist Patrick Reusse has warned people not to drive on Thursdays, there are loose Vikings everywhere.

The heritage is that St. Paul residents are blue-collar Vikings fanatics who'd rather stay home and watch on TV than drive to rinky-dink Minneapolis for the NFL games. In fact, 80 percent of the Vikings season ticket base is in Minneapolis, and it's the same way for the Twins.

Minneapolis, meanwhile, is a more diverse community and a richer place, too. "People went to the baseball games there just to tell their friends how much fun they had at the game," Reusse said.

In the past, football has brought the two cities together, and maybe that's what's coming next. Reusse, the one who coined the phrase "Backdoor Gang," received a recent letter from a Vikings fan addressed to "Big Fat Reusse," so maybe fans are getting riled up.

"When Twins fans write letters, they don't get as personal," he said.