Thursday, December 30, 2004
First, let's talk about how parity happens. Now I understand that parity isn't exactly something that you can manufacture. But one of the reasons that every single team has a shot at going to the big show in the NFL every year is because the NFL does not have guaranteed contracts. The only money that is guaranteed in the NFL is the signing bonus, and most teams spread the signing bonus out over the life of the contract so that if they do lose a player to injury, trade or otherwise, they are only responsible for what is left on that player's signing bonus. Since the contracts are not guaranteed, like in other sports, it's much easier to release players. The long-term commitment that you make to a player isn't necessarily as long-term as it may seem. Because of all of this contracts tend to be shorter in terms, and, generally, have a year or two at the end that are optional. All of this put together means that big name players, like a Terrell Owens, can move around the league more easily, and because of a salary cap and other things the NFL has put into place in order to protect the competitive nature of the league, the money isn't going to be much greater from one team to another, and so, players tend to gravitate toward teams that have the greatest chance of winning in the very short term.
So why is this a good thing?
First of all, it's great for the fans. In August of every year almost every fan in the entire league believes that their team has a shot to go at least to the playoffs, and maybe the Super Bowl. And none of them are wrong. Every team does have a shot because the system that is in place makes everybody truly even on opening day, unlike the NBA or MLB, each of which generally have one or two very clear favorites to win the title, and this almost always comes to fruition throughout the season.
Second, it's good for the teams. It means that every year, every team has a shot to rebuild into a championship caliber team that will be a serious force within three years. I've believed for many years that in the NFL you have a three year window to win. You have (1)your rebuilding year, (2)your figuring out your identity year, and (3)your year when it all comes together and you take a shot. If it doesn't pan out after the third year you go back to the drawing board.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
According to an ESPN.com poll, it seems there's still plenty of folks out there who think Vince can rise back to his 2001 stature as one of the league's top players teamed up with Jason Kidd. This is what happens when people only watch his occasional Sportscenter highlight dunk. They don't see his unwillingness to get in the paint, pass, defend, or do anything but shoot fade-away 3's and make an open-court dunk. Despite this year's career low totals, Carter still has a career scoring average of almost 23 pts a game, but if there were a way to measure heart, desire, and leadership, Vince would be in negative numbers. Not only do his lack of desire to play team basketball make Kobe look like unselfish, but his pouting, whining and dissatisfaction when things aren't going his way have made him a clubhouse cancer.
Need proof? In 2002, Carter suffered an injury called "Jumper's Knee" (or as I like to call it-- "Wuss-itis") and was lost for the last 3 months of the regular season. Instead of folding like a cheap tent or pulling a Vince and "fading away" the Raps rallied without their star and made an incredible run to get into the playoffs--back when that meant something in the Eastern Conference. Coincedence? The next year Carter was relatively healthy, and the same group finished with 4th worst record in the league.
Bottomline is Carter didn't want to be in Toronto and it was obvious they didn't want him. They basically gave him away to the Nets, and although they may have gotten a better deal had they waited a little longer, the Raps are sending a message. They feel like they can make a run to the playoffs (which isn't saying much in the East), and wanted to rid themselves of the distraction of Carter. THey have an up-and-coming star in 2nd yr forward Chris Bosh. Like the Wolves did with KG, the Raps want to surround Bosh with "good guys" who will be a positive influence on him. Look for Bosh to break out and the Raps, at just 9-18 with Carter, to slide into the playoffs as a 7 or 8 seed. This team will be a prime example of the Sports Guy's Ewing Theory.
As for the Nets, they'll have plenty of highlight-reel plays, with JKidd throwing lobs for Carter and Richard Jefferson. A playoff team? Maybe, but I can think of, well, just about anybody else I'd want taking crunch-time shots instead of Carter or RJ. The word "soft" comes to mind for both guys. The Nets are team who needs to trade JKidd and rebuild. Instead they dealt some assets for a guy who might put some butts in the seats but won't do a whole lot for them in the standings. Style over substance. That's too much of the NBA today.
Saturday, December 18, 2004
I do not, and should not, pretend to know what it's like to be born and raised in Minnesota and grow up with all these teams. At the same time, I still consider myself as passionate a sports fan as Minnesota Jer, cheering as hard for my teams as you do for yours. There are times when it seems like you think of me a lesser fan because I had to choose my teams, rather than being born into them. However I assure you that having to choose your sports affiliations at an early age and having to live with those choices is just as difficult as being born into them.
And hey, at least we can agree on one thing: we both hate Iowa.
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Despite all of it's problems sitting in the stands at an outdoor baseball stadium with a plastic glass of beer and a hot dog topped with all the fixin's still feels like one of the most pure fan experiences in sports. Even if that outdoor stadium is indoors and the grass is plastic, there's something American about the experience.
A few years ago baseball looked like it had a chance to make a comeback. Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire battled in the late summer to see who would break the all-time season homerun record. It was quite possibly the most storied record in all of sports and the entire country was interested to see who would get it done. In the end McGuire ended up outdueling Sosa.
A couple of years later Barry Bonds beat the record set by McGuire. It was a bit anti-climactic when Bonds did it. It felt too soon, the ink of McGuire's name had barely dried when Bonds beat it.
With all the recent news of steroids and human growth hormone and creams and on and on and on, Bonds record looks like complete crap. Baseball already had a paper thin reputation with most of the country. The casual fans of baseball have been beat up for the past decade at least but the powers and money in baseball never seem to be concerned about the fans or the future of their sport. I just wonder if baseball will be able to recover from this latest set-back and win back some of the fans, like myself, who wonder if it still has anything worthwhile, and honest, to offer.
Sunday, December 05, 2004
But, as often happens when I'm cheering on any of my beloved Minnesota teams, I forgot who I was watching, and the next thing I knew Daunte threw an interception, and the reality of being a Vikings fan would set in heavily over the next 3 hours.
On a mild late fall day in Chicago, despite Daunte's best efforts, the offense never found any momentum. They had three long, time-consuming drives that ended with zero points. The defensive pass rush was good, but as a whole we made yet another terrible, inexperienced quarterback look like a pro-bowler. And turnovers were a problem all day.
During the Mike Tice era the Vikings are 1-12 in outdoor games. 0-5 in 2002, 1-4 in 2003, and 0-3 so far this year. The Vikes DID beat the Texans at Reliant Stadium in Houston this year, which has a retractable roof, but I'm not sure if the roof was open or closed that day. Nonetheless, it took them overtime to win the game.
The truth is that this isn't a new problem. The Vikings have never played well on the road, especially outside. Since the Denny Green years this team has been built for speed and finesse on astroturf with an emphasis on the offensive side of the ball.
But this might be the single most glaring problem that the Vikings have: they just aren't tough mentally or physically.
The lack of toughness comes through in many areas of the game. If the Vikings get behind early in a ballgame, you can bet that they won't have the intestinal fortitude to make a comeback. As stated before, anytime they have to play outside, they have almost no ability to adjust, and if it's even a little bit cold forget about it. The defensive line is built for a speed pass rush, but they are too small and the translation is that their run defense is just about the worst in the league. Anytime an opposing offensive line can get physical with our D-linemen, like the Bears did on Sunday, our guys are so tired by the end of the game that we might as well throw the practice squad on the field.
I've never been one to get involved in the stadium debate. I'm a huge Vikings fan, so I'd love to see them get a new stadium, but if it has to be funded by public dollars, I'm just not sure that I support it. Red McCombs wants a retractable roof stadium, but despite the fact that he bought this franchise for next to nothing, relative to other pro sports teams, because the stadium revenue was so low, he doesn't want to put a penny into a new building.
I do not support Red as the owner of the Vikings, but I am now placing myself squarely on the bandwagon carrying the folks who are pulling for a new Vikings stadium... with a couple of qualifications.
I think the Vikings should get a new stadium, but I think it should be an outdoor venue with no retractable roof.
Look at the Packers. Lambeau Field is probably the toughest place to play in the entire NFL. Part of that has to do with the amount of paint thinner Packer fans huff before each game. But the biggest advantage the Packers gain at Lambeau, especially late in the season, is that they are acclimated to the weather conditions and they are tough enough to play through those conditions when most teams are not. An outdoor stadium would give the Vikes a similar advantage and help them when they have to go on the road and play outdoors.
Right now the Vikings play a minimum of 9 games in domed stadiums each year (8 home games and one game in Detroit). Many years they also play games in other cities with domes like Seattle and St. Louis. But even if you could guarantee that they would win all of the games that they play in domes that would still be roughly just over half of their games, which would put them, at best, in the middle of the pack in the NFC.
In order to get to the level of the elite teams in the NFL you need to be able to produce double-digit win seasons year in and year out. They are nowhere near that level right now and it is my opinion that until Red & Tice can figure out how to toughen the team up they might ever get to that level. When the stadium finally does get approved, committing to an outdoor stadium, and getting back to the tough, hard-nosed football that the Vikings of the 70's were known for, is a good start down that road.
Monday, November 22, 2004
Now, the fans. Detroit's crowd Friday night made the Scottish Soccer Hooligans look like school girls. Again, Artest should take blame for going after people in the crowd but there is no excuse-NONE- for the idiot that threw that beer. Or any of the other people that started attacking players or came onto the court or threw MORE beer. Fans have the mentality now that paying for that ticket entitles them to say and do whatever the hell they want. And apparently, the NBA agrees. What did you hear from the Detroit Pistons CEO? Blamed ALL of it on Artest. Didn't say how disappointed he was in his fans for how they acted or any of that. Nope, let's blame Ron-Ron. And that's what everybody else is doing. Artest is a guy with a checkered past so he's an easy scapegoat for all of this. Fans and media can persecute Artest for all of this (even though he should be sharing the players' side of the blame with the rest of the guys who got suspended), and everybody will overlook who out of control the fans were.
If you've watched TV or ESPN at all in the last few games, I'm sure you've seen this brawl from about 3 million different angles. I would love to see the Detroit Police go after each and every person that threw something or came on the court. They should have plenty of footage to do it. How? NOt as hard as you would think. Those lower bowl seats weren't purchased by someone just walking up to the gate. They were either season ticket holders or people that had to buy them well in advance, meaning that the Pistons should have everybody's credit card and addresses. Start taking blocks of seats, track the people down, and see if they match the descriptions on tape.
Also, I saw a couple of interesting suggestions about suspending beer sales in Detroit as penalty, or not letting fans into the rematch in March. You can be sure neither will happen, because owners love the income too much. They won't even discuss whether beer sales should be tempered or moderated because people will pay outrageous prices for a beer at a sporting event--and obviously Detroit fans are buying a LOT of them. And they're not going to turn the fans of Detroit away because ticket sales, and especially those in the lower bowl where the melee happened, are their biggest revenue maker. Owners will run the risk of fans doing this again, and inevitably it will happen, if it means more money in their pockets now.
Sunday, November 21, 2004
This is what the world would be like if every industry treated their employees like the NBA. Ron Artest didn't just hit a fan (or several fans in this case) he punched a client. He punched the people who are paying for his mansion, his cars, and his new rap album, in stores in December.
The only way that these NBA players are going to lose their sense of entitlement is for a guy like Artest (who I believe was diagnosed as clinically insane last year and he's still in the league) to get booted for life from the league. If an entire league of primadonas realizes that banishment fromthe league is a possibility if they become too out of line, then maybe they'll wise up and realize that they are just playing a game, and they owe more to the fans than they do to their agents.
*Is Kelly Campbell the dumbest player in the entire NFL? I'm not saying the guy doesn't have a career in color-commentary or something where his enthusiasm and his mouth can write his paycheck. But when it comes to football, honestly, is he the dumbest in the league?
*I'm excited to see who is going to win the first Nextel Cup this weekend. It's really anybody's guess. It could go to any of five guys. It looks like the formula that Nascar came up with to bring more excitment to the points standings really paid off for them. That and the fact that they have a veritable plethora of talented drivers. (Did I just write that? I will now plunge an electric mixer into my left eyeball.)
*If there was any doubt that Kevin Garnett is the heart and soul of the Wolves and that he is still the MVP of the league, Saturday night proved it. Up 9 points coming out of halftime the Wolves let the Hornets back in the game. But as soon as KG hit the court the Wolves went on a 14-4 run. Their team leader was back, all was right with the world.
Wolves teams have started slow almost every year since Flip started coaching them, so their mediocre start this year isn't really a concern. Garnett is still most definitely on his game, and the team seems to be getting their legs under them. Now if Glen Taylor can just figure out a way to feed Spreewell's family (or get the man a decent barber, I can't decide which is more important), we'll be in business.
Sunday, November 14, 2004
25 was a disappointing birthday. It's sort of a benchmark birthday, but that was not an enjoyable one. You assume certain things about turning 25 and when those things aren't a reality you begin to take an inventory of your life's events.
26 was no big deal. By 26 you have had a year to finish up the inventory process and come to grips with where you are at.
27? That's just a different story. I imagine the next couple of birthdays will be a wash until the dreaded 30 year mark roles around in just a few years. People my age are at a point where they can finally afford to do and have most of the things that they wanted when they were 21, but now they just don't have the energy to go through with them.
So why am I telling you this? I'm really not sure. Oh, wait, yes I do. I bought myself an early birthday present last week. A new cowboy hat. (I am wearing it right now.)
Here's the deal, 6 months ago I hated country music. Now? I listen to country almost exclusively and I own not one but two cowboy hats. Have I gone off the deep end? It's quite possible.
The point is this: if you would have told me six months ago that I would own two cowboy hats by mid-November I would have laughed heartily at you. If you would have told me six months ago that the Gophers would lose 5 of their last six games to end the season, I would have at least thought you were crazy. If you would have told me six months ago that Glen Mason would be at the top of the list of people who need to be sucker punched in the stomach by me, I wouldn't have believed there was even a chance of that happening.
And yet here I am six months later in front of a computer, wearing a cowboy hat, and absolutely shaking my head at what has happened to my Gophers.
Last year the Gophers put together the best record as a team that they had had in decades. The record on paper was very impressive. And good ol' Glen was sure to tell us how impressive it was. But I never really believed that they were a good football team. They didn't beat any great teams, they won a lot of games against very mediocre teams, and they never really looked like the kind of team that could challenge the heavy hitters. They played their best game of the season in the Alamo Bowl against Oregon but outside of that you never had the feeling they were a good team.
And that is what makes this season so hard to swallow: this year they actually looked like a good team, but absolutely everything went wrong at all the wrong times.
At the Metrodome yesterday against Iowa I looked at the game clock with 4:22 left and I had absolutely no clue how we were even in the game. The fact that we only lost by two points amazes me. Iowa beat us in every aspect of the game. (You have no idea how had it was for me to write that last sentence.)
On the Gophers last offensive drive of the game they were moving the ball well and there was a split second where I actually believed that we were going to steal the game from Iowa. It didn't take me long to remember who I was watching and the Gophers proceeded to fizzle out. The salt continued to be rubbed into this years wounds when the merry Englishman missed a field goal that he shouldn't even have had to kick.
Are the Gophers going to a bowl game? Probably. Their 6 wins most likely puts them into some low-tier bowl game brought to you by a mostly low-tier sponsor. If they get into something like the Alamo Bowl again I will personally be driving to El Paso to find out exactly what the people who decide who plays in that game are smoking because that has got to be some grade-A premium geef. They more accurately deserve something like the Motor City Bowl. And speaking of premium weed, who decided that Detroit should get a college football bowl game? Ted Nugent must be a big college football fan and he threatened to castrate somebody if a bowl game wasn't brought to his city. Is there really any other explanation for this?
But I don't believe that the Gophers even deserve the Motor City Bowl. I think they should stay home.
Actually, I take that back. Let's send the Gophs to Detroit. In the meantime, somebody get the Nuge on the phone and see if he is available to coach the team that day.
Thursday, November 11, 2004
If you have any semblance of common sense, even a shred, you will think that last paragraph, although witty and humorous, is downright absurd. That I would be off my rocker (unless you've heard me sing karaokee--stunning. Just stunning), crazy, loony, coocoo! Well, althought I am one of the finest karaokee artists who've never actually sung karaokee, that last paragraph thankfully is untrue. But, in essence, this is exactly what NBA forward Ron Artest said to his employer, the NBA Pacers, a few days ago. Artest, one of the league's best defenders, and an all-star last year for the first time, told the Pacers he needed some time off to tend to some personal and health issues that apparently included promoting his new rap album. And he did this with a straight face.
The Pacers, who, like the rest of us, probably took a few moments to let his comments register, suspended Artest for 2 games for conduct, that in the words of Pacers coach Rick Carlisle,
"compromised the integrity of the team. It's a private team matter, and I'm going to leave it at that."
RonRon's response? "I don't know what that means," Artest said. "They probably expected a little more; expected me to play every game. Everybody's different. It's early in the season, so I feel like I could take some time off early and be ready for the long stretch." Keep in mind we're barely 2 weeks into the season and Artest had the last 5 MONTHS of the offseason to tend to all of his "issues."
No remorse, no apology. It was Ron Artest doing what was best for Ron Artest. More immortal words now from Ron Artest on Ron Artest about Ron Artest.
"This is Ron Artest. … I was in a (music) studio all summer and I came back and had 31 (points) in my first game (of the season against Cleveland). You have to accept Ron Artest the way he is, and if not, that's OK."
And again, he was SERIOUS when he said and did all of this. I thought I had heard it all with Latrell Sprewell's comments a week ago about "having a family to feed" as one reason he just could not, in good conscience, accept anything less than the $14 million a year he's making this season as a basketball player. After shining examples like these, is there a group of people who are so far out of touch with reality as NBA players?
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
I read an article on Star-Tribune online just now. The headline very much caught my eye. "Transsexual Golfer Qualifies for Ladies European Tour."
It seems that earlier this year the Ladies European Tour, the European version of the Ladies Professional Golf Assoc., changed the wordage in one of their rules. The rule concerning participants used to say that participants had to be female at birth. They changed that so that they could fall in line with International Olympic Committee regulations. I don't know what the new wording of the rule is, but I imagine it is something to the effect of "... must be female at time of competition, regardless of gender at birth, or even last week (or yesterday for that matter)." This week the first ever transsexual golfer qualified for a spot in a tournament.
This could be filed under Sports Illustrated's "This Week's Sign That The Apocalypse Is Upon Us." But maybe we should look at this a different way?
For far too long the percentage of guys who play sports when they are young who go on to become professional athletes has been absurdly low. And until now there has been virtually no loop-hole in the matter. Until now.
You see, I've always considered myself at the very least a serviceable athlete. When I was young I played football, baseball, basketball and later in high school, golf. I was at least decent in all of these sports. But I was never the best in any of these sports. I was good enough to be part of the socially important parts of sports away from the game, but I was never good enough to be a guaranteed starter. I was the athletic version how Paul Harvey describes the "common man": the best of the lousiest and the lousiest of the best.
I was the best player on the second squad of my 7th grade basketball team that won the Rochester City Championship (in which I scored 10 points). I was the last player cut from the "majors" baseball team when I was in 6th grade, which made me the best player on the "minors" team. High school golf teams are allowed to play six varsity players - during my junior year I was seventh, or first on JV and during my senior year I was sixth, or last on varsity. I was never a bench warmer (okay, we WON'T talk about basketball my sophomore year - that had NOTHING to do with my talent) but I was never the team captain either.
Of every sport I played I easily would have had the best opportunity to do something worthwhile with golf. But I never could have gone professional. Right?
Or could I?
So these questions begin to run through my mind:
Am I really that "attached" to my male anatomy?
How much would I really give up to have a shot at playing professional golf?
Did this guy, um, gal, change her, um, his anatomy so that he/she could have a shot at my same dream?
Okay, let's get one thing strait here...
There is nothing, and I firmly mean NOTHING, better than being a guy. The only possible explanation for having a sex change would be so that you would always have the female anatomy readily available (for whatever it is that female anatomy is useful to a man for) and therefore never have to go looking for it. And still, this is a horrible reason to have a sex change. The reason for doing this would come squarely from said man thinking with his crotchal area, and yet that is the very thing he would have to get rid of, and therefore his newfound female anatomy would be rendered useless.
I love golf. I love sports. And I would love to be a professional golfer.
But not that much.
Monday, November 01, 2004
15. Seattle Sonics- Last in the West and yet they'll still only get the 11th or 12th pick in the league. Maybe you forgot how terrible the East is. Don't.
14. LA Clippers- Brand and Maggette is a nice nucleus. Proof that Duke players CAN play in the NBA--as long as they stay 2 years or less. Will Avery is the exception to this theory.
13. Golden State Warriors- Spent a lot of money on Derek Fischer. I'm not sure why either. Jason Richardson NEEDS to finally develop into an allstar.
12. New Orleans Hornets- Top 6 in the East, third worst in the West. Will miss the Monster Mash. A prime example of why contraction is needed in the NBA.
11. Portland TrailBlazers- PLayers staging dog fights in their homes and others getting arrested. Good to see the Blazers are cleaning up their image. Plenty of talent but not enough guys who really want to use it. Van Exel and Stoudamire could come to blows by mid-season. Hopefully Wally Sczerbiak will be the newest Blazer before then, just in time for somebody to throw punches at him.
10. LA Lakers- A little biased because I hate them, but they simply don't have enough inside to compete out west. Kobe will find out life without Shaq isn't as grand as he thought--of course he'll blame everybody but himself.
9. Memphis Grizzlies- Lack of go-to-guy will hurt them. Still a good team, but will be out of the playoffs. In the East? Homecourt advantage in the first round.
8. Utah Jazz- I know, I know, Jerry Sloan wills this team back into the playoffs. They're better on paper with the Booz and Mehmet Okur, but they're not taking anybody by surprise this year.
7. Phoenix Suns- Spent a lot of money in the offseason, and it should get them back in the playoffs. Need to deal Marion to give more PT to Joe Johnson and Quentin Richardson. Am I biased because Steve Nash is a long-haired Canadian who dates hot british women? Of course not.Ok, I am a little.
6. Sacramento Kings- How does Chris Webber run his mouth about Peja when he was hurt all year? How? Lack of depth this season may hurt team more than lack of chemistry.
5. Houston Rockets- The T-Mac trade sealed Yao Ming's career as a guy we'll always wonder about how good he could have been. Did the trade upgrade the team? Yes, but T-Mac's not going to like the idea of running the offense through Yao anymore than Franchise-Killer did. Also they have no point guard. If this was 1992 and you needed a college quarterback to win you the Heisman, hey the Rockets would be in great shape. But it's 12 years later and Charlie Ward is well past his basketball prime-wait he never had a prime.
4. Dallas Mavericks- Dirk Nowitzki will never have a better chance to join the league's elite. He COULD score 30 a night if he wants to shoot that much. Erik Dampier is so important, but I'd be worried about a guy that had one good season in his contract year. They also need Marquis Daniels to take over at the point because a point guard Jason Terry is not.
3. Denver Nuggets- Best low-post rotation in the league with the addition of K-Mart, who'll also give them some toughness to back up their big mouths. Melo averages AT LEAST 25 a night. Andre MIller's the key however. Needs to get the ball to the right people at the right time. 2. Minnesota Timberwolves- KG will really be tested because there are two things surrounding that team he can't control--money and playing time. There was a reason Spree and Cassell were so available last year and we may see it this season. Amazed Wally's running his mouth when his big move in crunch time is to soil himself. But not before turning the ball over first. The Wolves need to move him ASAP.
1. San Antonio Spurs- Because of recent developments, I hate San Antonio more than usual, so ranking them here hurts. But they're game tested, they're experienced, and they got Brent Barry to knock down outside shots, the one thing they didn't have last year. Not as good on paper as the Wolves, but they also don't have the chemistry and character issues.
Sunday, October 31, 2004
Glen Mason? Yeah, he had some things to say too... about Indiana. "You have to give their defensive players credit. They were in position and they made tackles."
Mason, apparently a new fan of the Hoosiers, went on to say "I've always said you get what you deserve."
It's hard to say if our boy Mase was talking about the Hoosiers, who outplayed an opponent who has much more talent, a more high-profile coaching staff and a better record; or his own team. So the question is: What do the Gophers deserve?
Of course, the possibility also remains that he could have been talking about himself. What does Mason deserve?
At this point the Gophers deserve about exactly what they are getting. They do not deserve to be considered for a high-profile bowl game. They do not deserve to be considered as a threat to beat anybody in any game they enter. And, they do not deserve to be favored over, or even considered a close contender with, either of their next two opponents: Wisconsin & Iowa. I'm not even sure they deserve to be considered for a bowl game at all. But they also do not deserve the majority of the blame for the fact that this season is a complete loss and we haven't even played our two biggest opponents yet.
What they do deserve, however, is a head football coach who can get them ready to play, who can win the big game, and who is willing to take the heat when he and his staff fail to set their incredibly talented team up for success.
As for Coach Mason, he does not deserve the talent that surrounds him. He personally deserves every bit of criticism that his team is currently taking for his failings. He deserves every ounce of heat that he is personally taking for his team being a complete joke right now. And mostly, he deserves to be shown the door by Athletic Director Joel Maturi. (And don't let it hit you in the rear on your way out, Glendolyn.)
I will continue to thank Glen Mason for bringing this program out of the absolute cellar of the Big 10. I will continue to thank him for allowing us as fans to enjoy a few low-profile bowl games over the last couple of years. And I will continue to thank him for being able to convince guys like Barber, Maroney & Cupito to come play for a program that hasn't had anything to play for in a very long time.
But I will also continue to hold the view that his time has passed. He has done what we needed him to do, and now it is time for Gopher football to move on.
Do you see how close we are? Do you see how close this offense is to being absolutely unstoppable? Do you see how a solid game plan every week would make this team downright scary? Do you see how a head coach who knows how to win, knows how to motivate college men, and knows how to adjust when his boys are down could carry this program to year in and year out respectability?
It's all we want as Gopher fans. We want to be competitive every week against every team we play. We want to know that we have a chance to beat Ohio State and Michigan. (Heck, at this point we'd be happy to know we can beat the worst teams in the Big 10.) We want to know that we have a shot at the Rose Bowl. We want to be respected by other teams and other coaches and we want to feel confident about faithfully cheering for the Gophers every single week.
We don't have this with Mason. We never will.
But still, nice game Hoosiers! Right Glen?
p.s. The Florida Gator faithful started a web-site calling for the firing of Coach Ron Zook. Did it work? Well, Zook is out at the end of the season. Could this work with Mason? WHO'S WITH ME!?!?!?!?!
Another p.s.: To be fair, Mason did say this in a Star-Tribune article: "I need to do a better job. I am not getting the job done. Coach Mason is not getting the job done." But if you read the entire article he still goes on to say that his team isn't executing. I still have trouble blaming anybody but the coach when a team so talented is said to have a lack of execution.
Friday, October 29, 2004
Let’s be clear here: I don’t care that the Pistons, Pacers and Heat reside in the Leastern Conference this season: this is THE WORST CONFERENCE IN THE HISTORY OF PROFESSIONAL SPORTS. Ever. After the top 3 it’s really anyone’s guess, and to be honest, I'm still not sold on Miami being a title contenderAlso remember that everybody in this conference but the Big 3 would be lottery bound if the NBA seeded regardless of conference. Just keep that in mind.
15. Charlotte Bobcats: With the league already watered down, it just made sense to add yet another team. Really how did it not? But they’re here, and they’re dead last. And hey, they have bright orange jerseys, so what’s not to love? Well they have fan support, which a lot of teams can’t say. They also have nowhere to go but up. To be honest, most of the teams in the Least would love to be in Charlotte’s position. Stop laughing, I’m serious. No expectations, some decent young talent and TONS of cap room to work with. If the Bob’s play their cards right, they won’t be in the cellar long.
Must Step Up: Emeka Okafor needs to prove he was worthy of a top pick, and he’ll get every opportunity. If his back holds up, he’s the definite front runner for rookie of the year.
In the End... this team will be borderline unwatchable as a whole. Gerald Wallace should have the most Sportscenter highlights for guys on a crappy team. Hey you have to start somewhere.
14. Chicago Bulls: Ah, the Baby Bulls, seemingly forever in rebuilding mode. Jerry Krause showed he had no clue how to rebuild, and new GM Jim Paxson is taking his time figuring things out. This is far and away the youngest team in the league, and it may be tough to develop them without some veteran influence. Paxson looks to have gotten things right when he drafted former Kansas Jayhawk star Kirk Hinrich to run the show. Hinrich came on last year and has been playing well in the preseason. Ben Gordon and Luol Deng were both top 10 picks from the latest draft who will be counted on heavily in their first year.
Must Step Up: Eddy Curry has an all-world body, and if he had any desire whatsoever, would be an all-star center for years to come. Curry, at just 22, is already in his contract year and reported to camp in the best shape of his career. For Chicago, it'd be best if he'd start living up to potential--so they can trade him by the deadline in February. Curry has all the makings of a career underachiever.
In The End...There's just no way all this young talent comes together at the same time. Since MJ and the gang were kicked out of town, this team keeps taking steps backwards. The Bulls need to pick some pieces and start building.
13. New Jersey Nets: If you see the Nets ranked higher than this elsewhere, it's only because of reputation. Yes, this WAS one of the best teams in the East the last few years, but to call this team a shell of its former self would be doing a disservice to shells everywhere. K-Mart is gone. Kerry Kittles, who wasn't even that great to begin with, is gone. Jason Kidd is out until at least January with a knee injury, and that's bad for Nets fans (wait, there are no Nets fans), because Kidd wants out in the worst way, and he knows the only way out is to prove he's healthy. So if his timetable to return keeps getting pushed back, as it has, you know things are bad for JKidd. Of course the longer he's out the less we have to see of his damn wife and kid.
Must Step Up: Richard Jefferson signed a long-term contract. Why? Nobody but RJ knows. Jefferson had a horrible Olympics and will be looking to silence doubters about his worth in the NBA. Honestly, Jefferson could score 50 a night and it wouldn't matter. This team is just awful. But hey, he's got his money. Welcome to the NBA.
In The End...Without Kidd, their starting lineup, including Jefferson, is Aaron Williams, Jason Collins, Ron Mercer, and Jacque Vaughn. Excluding Jefferson, those guys not only wouldn't start anywhere else in the NBA, they'd have trouble cracking an NBDL starting lineup.
12. Atlanta Hawks: They did make some whole sale changes, and do, like the Bobs, have plenty of cap room to work with next summer. They’re going to need to win some games thought if they want to lure anyone to the worst pro sports market in the US. Antoine Walker will have every opportunity to score, rebound, handle the ball and anything else he wants to do. Al Harrington now has a chance to prove he's a legit starter. Other than that, not much happening here.
Must Step Up: We all miss the old Antoine Walker, you know, the one that hoisted 3's like his jersey was on fire and the only way to put it out was to shoot more 3's. And if that didn't work, well then he'd just shoot 3's. Keep in mind, he’s 6'8 and 240 and a pretty decent lowpost scorer and rebounder. Last year in Big D, Walker was lost in the rotation with plenty of other guys who liked to shoot 3's and to whom the concept of defense was a foreign as most of their home countries. This year, in Hotlanta, he’ll get all the shots he wants, and the Hawks need him to be scoring 22+ pts a game for them to have any hope.
In the End... hope like the playoffs? Um, no. To get enough wins to get some more help for Toine, and that's if he sticks around next year. When Kenny Anderson is slated as your starting point guard, you know it’s going to be a LONG year for the 7 or 8 people that show up to watch Hawks games this year. Montreal Expos attendance figures make the Hawks folks envious.
11. Toronto Raptors: An absolute train wreck-- and they're better than 4 other teams!! (have I mentioned how monumentally bad the East is? Just making sure) Their “star” player, Vince Carter, who should have been the best player in the league by now, whines almost as much as he fades away and gets injured. What a guy. An anti-leader if there is such a thing. The worst thing for the Raptors is that everybody else in the league knows it and won't give the Raps market value for him. Carter WAS putting fanny's in the seats with his occasional spectacular dunk, but now even Toronto fans have caught on, booing him all preseason. That could be because once Carter takes a hit, he avoids the paint the rest of the game like it were made of ebola.
Must Step Up: Jalen Rose hasn't exactly been a character guy. Once the leader of the Fab Five, all he's been leading is one crash-and-burn-job after another on his way to 4 different teams that have gone nowhere. He's entering his 30's but still has some impressive offensive skills, and needs to put them to work if the Raptors have any hope at all.
In the End... Toronto has a gem in 2nd year forward Chris Bosh, and if they want him to develop, they need to keep him as far away from Carter as possible. Not saying that Bosh will be anywhere close to KG, but the Wolves had a similar situation when they got Garnett, and had to clear out some bad seeds like Isaiah Rider and Christian Laettner. THe Raps probably won't win no matter what, so getting rid of Carter and building around Bosh should be the priority.
10. Orlando Magic: It would have been bad enough if the Magic had traded Tracy McGrady to the Houston Rockets for Steve Francis, Cuttino Mobley, and Kelvin Cato. But when the Rockets get Juwan Howard in the deal as well? It's obvious that somebody in Houston has pictures of Magic GM John Weisbrod and Grant Hill together in compromising positions. There's just no other way this deal could happen. The Magic could have gotten plenty of young talent to rebuild around #1 pick Dwight Howard. Instead they trade for Francis, who has been a disaster everywhere he's been. Stevie gets the number's he wants at the expense of everybody else. If he wouldn't pass to Yao Ming, do you really think he's going to pass to Howard?
Must Step Up: This is becoming an annual event in Orlando. For the 4th year in a row, it's the "This is Grant Hill's Year to stay healthy." It's a lot of fun, really. Mickey and Minnie wear casts on their ankles and Goofy pulls the ol' fall-down-on-crutches gag. Can't help but love it. This year they're even getting a cake--but instead of a stripper hopping out it's Donald Duck with a mallot who breaks Hill's ankle like James Caan in Misery. They figure it's the only way to keep Hill from making failed comebacks.
In the End...With or without Hill, they're not contending. Developing Howard should be priority #1, but when you have team Stevie Franchise-Killer, well good luck on that one. I almost want them to make the playoffs so when it gets to crunch-time, the Magic players can stand around and watch Stevie go one-on-five and shoot airballs like he did against the Lakers last year. You just can't put a price on that kind of fun. Really, how bad could those pics of Weisbrod and Hill been?
9. New York Knicks: Bad team with bad management with bad players with bad attitudes and even worse contracts. Get the idea? Yet they're David Stern's team so you'll be seeing them a lot on TV, and probably in the playoffs. I don't think they're good enough but I don't run the league like a mob family and I don't think the Knicks should be competitve every year just because they're in New York. To say this team is over the salary cap is to say the Pacific Ocean is a pretty good-sized body of water. Plus they have Stephon Marbury, maybe my least favorite player of all time. Wait...yup, he is.
Must Step Up: Jamal Crawford NEEDS to take the starting 2 guard spot. Allan Houston is making $100 million a year missing jump shots, but they can't keep him in there just because of the contract. Crawford needs to score and defend to give this team a chance.
In the End... If David Stern wants this team in the playoffs, he's going to have to force somebody to make a trade with the Knicks again. Remember that deal last year that sent Marbury from Phoenix to New York? You really think Suns owner Jerry Colangelo wanted to make that deal? Of course not, but when Guito and Vinny have your hand in a vice grip and are threatening to "take you on a trip to the desert", well you make the deal.
8. Milwaukee Bucks: Congratulations, you're in the playoffs!! Now you get to have your heads beat in by the Pacers or Pistons. AND you have no shot in the lottery. The Bucks get one of the last 3 playoff spots that nobody wants. 2nd year PG TJ Ford's health determines the fate of this team. With him, they've got a good chance of hosting a 1st round playoff game. Without him, they'll struggle to make the playoffs. Ford is lightning fast and at just 6 feet (if he's 6 feet tall then I weight 300 pounds) is still able to get to the rim. Around him there's nobody flashy, just guys, like their head coach Terry Porter, that will outwork the other team and make few mistakes. Apparently they call it "team basketball". You won't see it much in the NBA.
Must Step Up: Michael Redd is the NBA's most underrated player. STILL amazed that he wasn't on the Olympic team. He hits shots, plays D and doesn't turn the ball over. Oh and he also doesn't run his mouth. I guess the Olympic commitee is looking for punks. Too bad, because Redd is a good one. He was an allstar last year and especially with Ford out, can't shoot enough again this year.
In the End...They play hard, they play well, they play together. If this were a league where things like teamwork, passing, and defense were encouraged, well the Bucks would have a chance. Alas this is the NBA, where The Don Stern prefers one-on-one streeball, so the Bucks will be a one and done in the playoffs.
7. Cleveland Cavaliers: Players are getting softer. If Michael Jordan or Larry Bird had a teammate that ditched their team to sign somewhere else, especially in the way Carlos Boozer did it, do you REALLY think they would have played on the Olympic team with that guy? If he somehow didn't end up at the bottom of a river somewhere, either one of those guys would go out of their way to score 60 whenever they played him. Lebron? Played on the Olympic team with Boozer. Their buddies. It's cool. Maybe when you're making over $100 million dollars this is how you feel.
Must Step Up: Duh. LBJ was beyond expectations last year, and he needs to take it to a "top-5-player" status this season for this team to make the playoffs. And, not sure if I mentioned this, considering how bad the rest of this conference is, that should tell you Lebron's not getting much help here.
In the End... Drew Gooden will be an ok replacement at the 4, "Big Z" will continue to be one of the ugliest, awkwardest (is that a word? It is now), gangly, uncoordinated white guys to average 15 pts a game. Eric Snow and Jeff McInnis will be serviceable, and I really think Dierks Bentley's twin brother Luke Jackson (good lord did I just make a country music reference? sorry, it's been a long week) could be one of the steals of the draft. Still, Lebron needs a lot more help.
6. Boston Celtics: They finally drafted well. They have Raef MyFriends healthy, which might actually be a good thing, they overspent to resign C Mark Blount, again a good thing, and if they can get Gary Payton to just shut the f--wait nobody's been able to do that, but if they get a decent season out of GP, the Celtics could be on the mend.
Must Step Up: It wasn't that long ago that Paul Pierce and Vince Carter were battling for that coveted title of "Next". We saw what adversity did to VC--he'd grab his purse, hike up his skirt and run like hell the other way (think he and A-Rod hang out? Somebody needs to introduce them. 2 guys who will never be winners. Ever). Pierce has already proven he's a fighter, since he was stabbed mulitple times a couple of summers ago while back home in LA (gang violence in LA? What?), and responded with an all-star season. The verbal stabbings he's been taking pale in comparison, yet Pierce still has an image to resurrect.
In the End...You couldn't pay me enough to have Danny Ainge run my basketball team. Still, after this draft and looking at this team, dare I say Danny might have a plan? High schooler Al Jefferson could be a beast by season's end, and Delonte West is another one of those crazy kids that stayed in school all 4 years, has fundamentals and can shoot the lights out (basically he's not Olympic material). If Payton doesn't self-implode and bring everybody else down with him, this team has a future.
5. Washington Wizards: Yup, this is my sleeper in the East. Now two years removed from the Michael Jordon fiasco, the Wiz are ready to make a jump. Last year's big free agent signee, Gilbert Arenas, was on the shelf most of the year and virtually non-existent. He should team with this year's big catch, Antawn Jamison, to form a solid young, and more importantly talented, nucleus. How fast do you think it took the Wiz to pull the trigger on that trade that got them Jamison, sending Jerry Stackhouse out of town? What's faster than a millisecond? And this should tell you all you need to know about the state of the NBA: the center combo of Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas is one of the league's best. Let that sink in a minute.
Must Step Up: No, it's not Kwame Brown. He needs a change of scenery or just some heart and desire, to amount to anything. Nope the guy they need is Jarvis Hayes, last year's lottery pick. Hayes is primed to bust out huge if he can get enough shots from Jamison and Arenas. Hayes is 6'7 with a smooth stroke, and actually shows signs of some defensive ability. If Hayes can become a consistent scoring threat the Wizards will score some points this year.
In the End...Imagine if the Warriors actually hung on to some talent. Yes, Jamison, Arenas and Larry Hughes were starters for that team a couple of years ago. That team went nowhere, but all three have matured and have much more around them now. The Wizards have been awful for years, but things are starting to turn around.
4. Philadelphia 76ers: He carried the Olympic team on his back, he's onto his 19th coach in the last couple of years, AND he has to have Glenn Robinson as a teammate. And yet, here's Allen Iverson, still going and going strong. Will moving AI back to the point work? He's going to get his shots no matter where he plays, but he's starting to figure out that getting his teammates involved isn't the worst idea.
Must Step Up: Sam Dalembert averaged 12 pts, 12 boards, and almost 4 blocks a game the last two months of the season. So how'd he start off the'04 season? By getting demoted out of the starting lineup. Nice work, Sam. Head coach Jim O'Brien is laying down the law early, and it'll benefit Dalembert. The Sixers need him to be that force in the middle he was late last season because, well, they'd be one of the few teams in the league that would have one.
In the End...Not on par with the top 3, but better than everybody else. Hey, at least it's something. Kenny Thomas and Aaron McKie are a couple of wiley vets that need to stay healthy and help AI. The #4 spot is theirs to lose.
3. Miami Heat: Look, I know they have Shaq, but I still have trouble ranking a team with Christian Laettner as the starting power forward this high. We're all familiar with Christian Laettner right? Makes Alex Rodriguez look manly. Was a little TOO close with roommate (which in Duke terms means "lifepartner") Brian Davis in college. When he was at Duke he was maybe one of the most detestable people ever to live. And we all hate him, right? Just checking.
Must Step Up: EVERYBODY BUT SHAQ AND WADE. I hate to overstate the obvious, but without Shaq and Wade, this team makes Ashlee Simpson look talented. I mean this team has NOTHING else besides Shaq and Dwayne. And yet they're a number 3 seed in this conference and people, with straight faces, are actually talking about this team as a title contender. Welcome to the NBA.
In the End...Look, I'm not about to doubt AngryShaq, but how is this team any better than the Lakers team they had last year? I love Wade and hate Kobe, but Dwayne's got a ways to go to be in Kobe's class. And have I mentioned they have NOTHING ELSE around these two? I think Shaq will be on a mission but will the body hold up? Nothing less than 27 and 15 a night from the big fella keeps them in contention. Oh, and he has to play a full season.
2. Indiana Pacers: Never thought I'd say this, but losing Jeff Foster to injury for a couple of months hurts them. He wasn't spectacular last season, but if you've been following along, decent centers are harder to come by than you think (want to be a millionaire? Grow a kid that;s 7'2. Guaranteed millions even if he's never heard of basketball. Or a lefty that can change speeds and keep the ball around the strike zone. But I digress). With him out this means more Jermaine O'Neal at center, and last year he was bordering on fragile. The Pacers just signed PG Jamal Tinsley to a 7-year-deal. This from a guy who shoots as well as Keith Richards stays sober, and well, you could call his decision-making "Keith Richards-esque". And this is the point guard of a championship contender? For some reason, I'm just not impressed with Indiana.
Must Step Up: At what point do you tell Reggie Miller not to show up anymore? Change the locks maybe? Tell him the team has relocated to Gary? Stephen Jackson NEEDS to be the crunch-time 2 guard on this team. He has championship experience from his days with the Spurs, and the Pacers desparately need him to consistently hit the outside shot. And keep Reggie off the floor.
In the End...Same results as last year. Good regular season, maybe they steal the #1 seed, but in the end, the Pistons come back to get them. I'm saying that because I just can't stomach the thought of Tinsley leading a team to the title. They DO have Ron Artest. Anybody else miss the old Artest? I hope he skips his anger-management meetings. It adds so much more to the season.
1. Detroit Pistons: They're baaaaaaaack. World Champs last year and they've added even more. Last year's #1, Carlos Delfino, looked very good in the Olympics and should make an impact. If McDyess knees, which are as dependable as Rasheed Wallace in a non-contract year (uh oh), hold up, he'll be a nice complement off the bench. The Pistons sport the most cohesive starting 5 in the league, and now they know how to win. Just imagine if they'd of had a #1 draft pick last year. Oh they did? Darko who? The kid with the dyed blond hair and ear rings? No seriously, who'd they draft? I mean, if they HAD a pick last year, wouldn't they have taken Carmello Anthony? Right?
Must Step Up: They need Rasheed Wallace to play like he did down the stretch last year. The Sheed everyone thought he could be. A shooter, defender and rebounder--AND not completely stoned all the time. He was the key to their run last year. Here's the problem for this season: he got his big fat contract extension (probably not half as big as the blunt's he's been rolling all offseason), and that will mean he reverts back to the old Rasheed. The Pistons better keep the snack guy close to the bench this year.
In the End...They're the champs, and they got everybody of meaning back. They even added a few nice pieces. They're the favorites in the East. They'll be in the Finals again. I just don't see them being better than the Spurs or Timberpuppies because they lack that go-to-guy--unless you're talking about the guy that gets Sheed snacks during games when he's got the munchies. That guy will be one tired man.
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
I hear a lot of sports writers and commentators writing about how the NFL is watered down. The fact that the the Super Bowl champ is anybody's guess going into the season and the number of upsets on a weekly basis, they say, shows that the talent is not what it used to be. I disagree. I think that since the NFL is the only professional sport that doesn't allow Middle Schoolers to enter the draft means that the talent is stronger and the players are better. Just look, on a weekly basis, at how many different players make an impact. The fact that these guys have actually played college ball means that they are more prepared and, therefore, have the ability to make an immediate impact. I do not belive the talent pool is watered down. If anything the league is over-competitive because the talent pool is so good. Your thoughts? Jeremy
The NFL is just in a class by itself. I don't think parody is good for any of the other major sports (as much as I hate the Yankees and Lakers, they're needed), but the NFL thrives with it. And it's the only league that doesn't need to contract a few teams. QB play hasn't been great this year, but I think there's guys who aren't getting a chance to play that could do something. And just look at the Broncos for how much talent there is in the league: they trade anall-pro and plug in last year's backup fullback andthe guy's a star. You're dead on about the NFL keeping kids in school, and that's why it's still so good. The kids coming out of school are actually gasp! ready to play!! I hope they will continue to keep the Maurice Clarett's and Mike Williams' of the world out, because although there's going to be a guy once in awhile who could play in the league before he's been out of high school for 3 years (that Adrian Peterson kid for Oklahoma comes to mind--good lord!!), there would be so many more that would come out who wouldn't be ready. The NBA is such a prime example of that right now. Apparently the NBA getting an age restriction doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of making it, but I still hold out hope something will happen.
Speaking of colleges, are the expectations insane? I mean Zook gets fired from Florida mid-season. He wasn't Spurrier, but there's at least 90 other college programs who would love to have his record the past 3 years. Some of those southern schools are just crazy? And what's happened to music? I'm officially old because I turn on a rock station and most of it just sounds like old. What happened to the good music of the early '90's in the days of our youth?
Sunday, October 24, 2004
Q: The NBA knows Shaq is no longer a Laker, right?
A: Just checking, because TNT has already aired a Lakers' PRESEASON game, and will air the first 2 Laker regular season games. Apparently I'm the only person not excited about watching Kobe hoist 40-50 shots a game as the Lakers go down in flames and miss the playoffs. It will be fun to watch Vlade chain-smoking Marlboro Reds with Jack Nickelson during games though. How long until Lamar Odom starts smoking some, um, "stuff" of his own openly when Kobe refuses to pass to anybody? SPeaking of Odom...
Q: What was a bigger shock from last season: the fact Chippendale's hasn't yet hired TheDan, or that Lamar Odom spent an entire season in Miami without getting arrested once?!?!
A: Chippendale's has no excuse, I mean, come on, theDan is already getting paid to shake his goods on the dance floor. But I still have to go with Odom. When he was a Clipper the man made Cheech and Chong look like the Smothers' Brothers. He was rolling and smoking everything in site!! LA saw a 30% reduction in smog just because Odom got traded out of town!! And not just any town--Miami has to be the naughty co-capital of the US (along with Vegas, of course). I think a better question is, where did Pat Riley and Stan "Ron Jeremy" Van Gundy keep him when he wasn't playing? They must have been keeping him in a bubble or his own little "hot" box where he couldn't get in trouble. Simply amazing. A truly underrated story from last season. And how has Odom not been a Blazer yet? Is there a more perfect match? I can't think of one.
Q: Can President Bush conduct a military draft that would include only NBA players? (And A-Rod?)
A: I see no other way to get rid of people like Steve Francis, Stephon Marbury, and Vince Carter. Francis said this week he wants to "play for his country" in the 2008 Olympics. We tell guys like him they'll get to "play" alright. Ship them overseas, drop them in the middle of Karbala and whatever happens, happens. Put them on a plane, and drop them in. I can see it now...
Steve: What's the helmet for? And the cammos?
Sgt: Um, that's for your protection on the court, Steve. We wanted to go with a more "authentic" uniform for these Olympics.
Steve: wait why does everybody else have a gun? Why don't I? Why....heyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy....
Q: Why is Wally Sczerbiak still a Timberwolf?
A: I have no idea. The Big Ugly Sweater (aka Kevin McHale) has been resting on his laurels after a trip to the conference finals. Um, kev? You realize all of that was done without Wally, right? That Wally coming off the bench will cause him to whine and complain and kill any semblance of team chemistry you worked so hard to build last year? Apparently, Wally does have some trade value out there. I guess none of the other teams have seen Wally's playoff performances: you know, when he can't dribble, pass, defend, rebound or really do ANYTHING without turning the ball over. Oh but he can sure hit a jumpshot if he's WIDE FREAKIN OPEN!!!! And we get all of this for just $50 million. What a deal. If Zach Randolf can keep himself out of jail (Vegas is giving 3:1 odds) the Pups should be able to trade World to the Blazers for Shareef soon. I hope.
Saturday, October 23, 2004
I find it hard, however, to take the Gophers seriously when our head coach finds a way to spin over everything they do wrong, and find good in it. Quotes like this cannot serve our team well:
"To be quite frank with you, after watching the film we didnt tackle as poorly as I thought..." You lost 51-17, how is this comforting?
Now you look at us, and we look pretty darn good in that turnover margin..." Wake me up when the Big 10 starts counting turnovers instead of points to award the winner of games.
"...every time we did something good, they countered it, and got it going back their way. Thats why we performed the way we did, and when I say perform that takes everything, Im not just talking about the players performance, Im talking about the performance of our football team. It takes everything into account." But certainly not the coaching staff, right Mase?
Mason has more talent on this football team than he's had in his entire head coaching career. He has experience in this league and he knows the other teams in the Big 10. Couple those things with maybe the weakest schedule in the Big 10 and this team should be a contender.
I've said it before and I'll continue to say it: Mason has done a great job getting this team to respectability, but it's time the U of M started looking at a new head coach to take them into national prominence.
Thursday, October 21, 2004
So if I had a button that spoke the truth about my baseball cheering habits, it would read: I cheer for the Twins, and whoever's playing the Yankees. So for the last 10 days or so I've been a Red Sox fan.
Cheering for the Red Sox isn't actually much of a stretch for me. When I was a kid I did some pitching in youth baseball and I used to like to watch Roger Clemens when he was with the Sox. I even had a Red Sox hat at one point. Also, my favorite sports writer, Bill Simmons, is a die-hard Sox fan so he writes about them constantly. Because I love Simmons and hate Sid Hartman, it's possible that I know more about the Sox than the Twins.
So I was very happy to see Boston stick it to the Yankees for the last four games. Being the first team to come back from an 0-3 playoff series deficit, and having it be against the Yankees of all teams, is probably the greatest instance of poetic justice in all of sports history.
Game 7, as far as baseball games go, should have been an unbelievably boring game. But watching the Sox play the Yanks with an 8-1 lead, even late in the game, felt eerily like watching pretty much any Vikings game where they are winning: it just never feels like enough. You just always get the sense when the team you are cheering for is playing the Yankees that it could explode in your face at any moment. But the Sox never let up, the Yanks never turned into the Yankees, and history was made.
So who do I want to win the series? Honestly, I don't care. After last night the baseball season is over. The Twins aren't playing, and nobody is playing against the Yankees, so all of my teams are out of it. I'm sure I'll watch Boston and in many ways hope that they can complete what they've started and take home the trophy.
But I wonder if the Sox and their fans don't feel just a little bit like I do. I wonder if they feel like the hardest part, the important part, is behind them. That even if they win their first World Series in 86 years that it's just not quite as big as beating the Yankees in the ALCS and shaking that darn "Curse of the Bambino."
If the Sox do win the Series it will be one of the greatest stories in recent sports history. Everyone will be happy for them. But I bet that people won't talk as nostalgically, especially in New England, about a World Series win, as they will about shaking the curse, and finally beating the Yankees.
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
The Seahawks are in trouble too. THey lost their best lineman, Grant Wistrom to injury, and the unit really wasn't playing incredibly well with him. In other words, they can be had. Yes it kills me to say it, but the PAck aren't quite out of it yet.
I have been concerned about the Vikes D all season. The offense rolled up over 600 YARDS OF OFFENSE Sunday night against New Orleans-- and they only won by a touchdown!!! Um, does that alarm anybody else? If you're scoring that much, shouldn't you be winning by 30? If Daunte Culpepper hadn't morphed into the football lovechild of Dan Marino and Joe Montana, the Vikes wouldn't be 4-1. The offense has been impressive, but they've HAD to be impressive. The offense is one of the league's best, and the D has easily been one of the worst.
And yet, after looking at the standings, I'm not that concerned for the regular season. Why? Because there's only 3 other teams in the league better than the Vikes. Really, other than the Pats, Colts and Eagles, who really scares you in this league? I know the Jets are undefeated but they'll be coming back to earth as soon as they play a decent team., like say, this Sunday against New England. Atlanta? Pittsburgh? Denver? The New York Football Giants? All of these teams, like Minnesota, has one loss, yet I'd take the Vikes without question over any of them. The Vikes have no D, yet they're going to be able to outscore anybody except the top 3.
Having said that, it could be 1998 all over again. An impressive, record-setting regular season that goes all-for-naught. The Vikes can wipe the floor with the rest of the league, but if they can't get by the Eagles, what does it matter? Or if they somehow do, what does it matter if they meet the Pats or Colts in the Superbowl? Minnesota meets Indy on Monday night in 3 weeks, and that will be the most telling game of the regular season. Philly already proved they were better, and as good as Minny's offense has been, I'd take Indy's and Peyton Manning over it right now, and I think Indy will outscore the VIkes in that game. They won't punt in the 1st half, and they may not in the 2nd either.
No matter how good the O continues to look, the defense HAS to come together. This was supposed to be the year. If I'm not mistaken, the talent's there, we've got a good defensive football mind in Cotrell, but it has to start happening. Otherwise, it will be another great regular season--and another heartbreaker for the Vikes. That is, unless you like getting all the way to NFC Championship game and losing. And this time around, we can't blame it on Denny Green.
Sunday, October 17, 2004
I made a conscious decision this year to not bash Glen Mason. Looking at the guy's track record as the head coach of the Gophers, I have to admit that he has done some good things with this program. At least he's brought the team to a point where other Big 10 teams can't look past them anymore. They have had one of the most prolific offenses in the country for the last two years. They are not the doormat of the Big 10 any longer. I felt like all of these were good reasons to stay off of Mason's case.
My hiatus from Mason bashing is officially over.
The boys just were not ready to face
And the bigger problem is that it's not just this game. The Gophers talent has allowed them to bail Mason out 5 times this year, but they always start out so slowly that you can't look past the fact that they just do not look ready. The Gophers have given up a touchdown on the opposition's opening drive in 5 out of the last 7 games.
We have now gone from being a favorite in the Big 10 to trying to avoid another trip to
Mason has done a good job of getting this program to a respectable level and he has done a good job of recruiting, but I honestly believe it's time to look at bringing somebody in who can win the big games.
So, yes, Glen, hang your head. Despite all of the talk of taking us to the Rose Bowl, you have not given us, or yourself, much reason to look up.
Saturday, October 16, 2004
Now that I've mostly recovered from the Gopher's collapse against
I spent a good part of the week mourning the loss of the 2004 Minnesota Twins. (Speaking of which, I hope our farm system is as good as the team is letting on, because the Twinks sure will look different if they do indeed let Guzy and Jaque go.)
I also spent about 90 minutes on-line one night this week trying to figure out if the Gophers could still win the Big 10. I might be working with that "new math" or it could be my lack of "old math" but I think the Gophers can still do it. But there are two problems. First, Purdue Quarterback Kyle Orton. Second,
Have you heard about this one? The girls swimming coach at Cold Springs high school near
In early August I was telling people that, for the first time ever, I was more excited about the upcoming Gopher football and Timberwolves seasons than I was for the Vikings season. I was not wrong about this. Here we are 5 weeks into the NFL season and all I can think about is how many rushing yards Barbaroney will have this week and can Sam Cassell's body hold it together for an entire season. (Speaking of which, just in case Sam's postman is reading this: can you put a hold on his AARP card? I'm afraid he might get the wrong impression.) I know I've talked about this several times, but with Shaq suddenly in the Eastern Conference things look very good for the Pups. Of course the West is always tough, but Shaq was really the only reason we weren't facing the Pistons for the championship last year.
It's the most wonderful time of the year.
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
- I could take this time to rip on the Packers, but I don't want to hurt Porta's feelings. I can say this tho; we'll see who the REAL Packer fans are now. I don't know about you, but I know plenty of Cheeseheads that claim they've been life-long Packer Backers, even in the '80's when they played half their games in Milwaukee. We'll see.
- If you don't know it yet, I'll tell you: the Vikes have to play the Colts on Monday night in a few weeks. I figure the over/under could be an even 100 points for that game. And you know what? I think I'd STILL take the over.
- I can't decide what makes me more giddy: the thought of the Packers woes continuing all season long, or when the Lakers don't make the playoffs this year and Kobe will have no one left to blame but himself--even though he WILL blame everyone else. I just can't decide.
- One of my fantasy football teams is 5-0. The other is 1-4. Don't ask.
- Even the devil himself wouldn't cheer for the Yankees.
- I think Joel and I are probably the only people I know who are exstatic that the NBA starts very, very soon. And as soon as I learn to spell ecstatic, well, the sky's the limit really. And Porta, you forgot one of my "smorgasboard" teams: the Seattle Supersonics. Yeah baby, the only team in the West who is pretty much guaranteed to not make the playoffs.
- Whether it happened in Minnesota, Cleveland, Buffalo or any other city or state that has suffered sports heartache and a championship drought, I am just baffled at what a tv sports reporter said in Seattle last night: Seattle won the WNBA championship last night, and apparently, according to this guy, that's supposed to cure the woes of sports fans of the Pacific Northwest for the last 25 years (the Sonics won the last and only REAL sports title in 1978 for the city of Seattle). The WNBA? Are you kidding me? A WNBA "Championship" has about as much validity to me as somebody winning a game of pickup basketball at a local court or the PS2 Madden Super Bowl I won. Why can't David Stern let the WNBA die? WHY? Would it be to much for ask to just let them go it alone? I mean if hockey has to suffer, why can't the WNBA?!?!
Sunday, October 10, 2004
It's no secret to my partner on this website Jeff, that I find the fact that he cheers for several different teams in different areas of the country very convenient. I don't blame Jeff for this. He is a man from
I have always said that being from
I said in a previous post that
I suppose I was lucky. I was working through the Gophers second collapse to
But the way that I felt on Saturday night (and felt all day on Sunday right up until the Vikings pulled out the game against
Once again, after Saturday, I couldn't call my cousin, I couldn't call my uncle and I didn't want to talk about it at all. They didn't call me either. When I saw on my caller i.d. later that night that Jeff was calling I didn't even want to answer (thanks for not mentioning it Jeff).
But I got an email from my cousin and I have to share some of the things that he said, because I can't say it better myself. Here's what you need to know about my cousin Josh: he is the second coolest person you could ever meet (besides me of course), he is as loyal to Minnesota teams as I am, and he is currently living in Tucson, AZ working in the desert with reptiles. If I was hurting after Saturday he was living in some sort of sports hell. Here are two snippets of what his email said.
About being far away:
"After two very heartbreaking losses, I find myself surrounded by people who are wishy-washy fans at best, and fans of the opposing team at worst. I spent what had potential to be one of the biggest days in recent Minnesota sports history walking around, 2,000 miles away, in the desert surrounded by cacti, and tortoises, and people who barely even know that Minnesota is a state. What's worse, these people are mostly unaware of the games football and baseball, let alone would they have any awareness whatsoever of the Gophers or Twins. These people were capable of offering no consolation, let alone any respect for the pain I was experiencing."
About the feeling of the day:
"I have never felt so alone in all my life. Standing on the shores of a flooded canyon, no other person in sight (at least none that cared). My eyes actually filled with tears for a moment as I slowly walked along the ridge toward the pontoon where the rest of my research team was sitting, laughing, eating lunch in the shade. Nobody there could have known just how awful I was feeling. And then a terrible day got worse. Later on Saturday afternoon, after enthusiastic calls about what appeared to be a Twins victory over the Yankees, I sat on my hotel bed, watching as my Twinkies went 3 up 3 down in extra innings to lose, yet again, to the the damn Yankees. It was lemon juice in a gaping wound. I love my Twins and Gophers. What's more, I love my Gopher family. It broke my heart that I could not be there with you, or that I could not even talk on the phone during the high times of the game. It breaks my heart that I could not punch walls with you and curse and sit in angry silence while we all coped with our loss. These silly little sports teams play a bigger role in my life than I could have ever imagined."
Rational? No. But this is what it feels like.