Sunday, October 31, 2004

Jeremy: Gophers Zig; Mason Zags

Indiana head football coach Gerry DiNardo had plenty to say after his over-matched Hoosier team beat the Gophers 30-21 on Saturday. Talking about how much fun it is to win. Talking about how his team played a good football game against a good football team. Talking about how proud he is of his football team.
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

Jeff: NBA Preview Part 1: The Very Least

I realize that myself, Jeremy, and my buddy Joel, are about the only 3 NBA fans left. The Olympics showed just how awful USA Basketball can be, and I’ll fully admit the style of play and fundamentals in the league has never been worse. The World Series has wrapped up, the NFL is in full-swing and Michigan hasn’t screwed up its Rose Bowl chances yet (it’s coming though, don’t worry). Yet despite all that, I am just plain giddy for the start of the NBA season. You know what? I can’t explain it so why bother? And honestly, how many of you really care anyways? Exactly! So then, here’s my NBA preview, starting with the East. Why? Because it has to be done, so might as well get the worst out of the way first.

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

Jeff & Jeremy: The E-mails Begin

Jeff and I have decided to give everyone a glimpse into some of the discussions that we banter back and forth off of each other almost on a daily basis that are sometimes heard on the airwaves of the east central North Dakota area, but almost never anywhere else. We feel badly for the rest of the world that they are not privvy to the genius that is often spewed from our like minds. But the people need to know. To this end, from time to time we will be posting email discussions that we are having. So, in the words of the Black Eyed Peas... LET'S GET IT STARTED, LET'S GET IT STARTED IN HERE!!!

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

Jeff: Queries...

ALl these great sports going on, and all I can think about is the NBA. As a matter of fact, I have a few questions I need answered. And since I'm the only NBA fan I know, I guess I'll have to answer them myself...

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

Jeremy: Spinning

I see no reason for concern as the Gophers head into the Homecoming game against Illinois today. Maybe I should be concerned since it's become obvious that there are glaring holes in this team, at the very least, mentally. The Gophers were a bad football team last Saturday. Last Saturday. But Illinois is just plain a bad football team.
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 didn’t 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. That’s why we performed the way we did, and when I say perform that takes everything, I’m not just talking about the player’s performance, I’m 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

Jeremy: Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen

I've always taken a perverse joy in watching the underdog win. Even if it isn't my team. My uncle used to have a button that said "I cheer for Minnesota and whoever's playing Notre Dame." This button was actually more of a commentary on Lou Holtz than it was on Notre Dame, but the point still rings true.
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

Jeff: A 4 team race...

Whatever happened to parody in the NFL? What happened to everybody being equal and everybody having an opportunity? It sure isn't happening this season. I enjoyed ripping the Pack for their horrible start, but you know what I realzied? They're going to make the playoffs. The Giants and Seahawks are ahead of them right now, but their schedules have both been easier. The Lions and Cowboys are playing the part of contenders, and as the season wears on, both will be exposed. The Redskins may be able to climb back into things if Portis runs like he did last week, and if Brunell stops throwing to the wrong team. But really, as unbelieveable as it is, after losing 3 of their first 5, including ALL 3 at home, the Pack are still in the running, and may very well get in. THe Giants are 4-1 and are playing on the strength of their defense. Tiki Barber and Brenda Warner's husband have had resurrection seasons, but really, how long can this last? How long is it until The Bride of Goezar the Gozarian (Jeremy gave Warner's wife this nickname from the movie Ghostbusters, and it's bang on) returns to the form that got him ridden out of St Louis? And Tiki, after setting a single-season record for fumbles last year, CAN'T go fumbleless all year, can he?

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

Jeremy: Indeed These Things Worry Me

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 Michigan State yesterday. As a team, especially defensively, the Gophs have a problem with starting out slow. Yesterday they got behind the proverbial 8-ball early and often, and the Spartans absolutely rolled. They were not prepared for this game, and it is the job of the coach to get the team ready. How can we blame anyone but Mason for this? He's got the most talented running backs in the entire country. He's got the most accurate and composed quarterback that he's ever had. He's got a more mature and physically larger defense than he's ever had. There is talent at virtually every position on this football team and yet we can't win the big game (Michigan) or even a marginally talented team with nothing but underclassmen and an inexperienced quarterback (Michigan St.). I could have taken a loss to Michigan State on their homecoming in the cold weather if we had played with even an ounce of competency. But that did not happen. My uncle said it best: we got out-coached.
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 El Paso. Ouch.
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

Jeremy: Equal Opportunity Spabbling

Now that I've mostly recovered from the Gopher's collapse against Michigan last weekend I figured that I should let people know that I'm doing okay. Of course the irrational behavior that comes with being a Minnesota sports fan still continues.
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, Wisconsin's defense. We'll find out today which one is the bigger pr0blem. It's highly possible that the Big 10 will be won by a team with one conference loss. If this happens and the Gophers are one of those teams, we are Pasadena bound based on the fact that the team with the longest absence from the Rose Bowl, in the scenario, gets to smell the roses. The strength of our schedule, or actually lack thereof, might divert our tickets to Pasadena. In some past years when the Big 10 was especially tough we actually might have had a better shot because a couple of teams could be BCS bound. But it looks like, based on the fact that the entire Big 10 seems to be spending the fall of 2004 beating up on each other, that we will be lucky to have one BCS bound team this year.
Have you heard about this one? The girls swimming coach at Cold Springs high school near St. Cloud has been suspended. It seems that the coach had been allowing something called "Two-piece Tuesday," where the girls could where bikinis to their Tuesday practices. Harmless right? Apparently this Tuesday ritual got out of hand. As it turns out "Two-piece Tuesday" turned into "Topless Tuesday" recently. For some reason the school board didn't like this. They called it a dangerous situation. So listen, I'm off next Tuesday, anybody up for a road trip?
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

Jeff: Odds and Ends...

I have a few things I need to sound off on--and none of them have to do with the debate tonight, unless that debate is whether I'm eating chips and dip or leftover pizza when I get home from work. Frankly, I could eat both. I am, after all, the person that's come closest to eating 2 chipotle burritos in one sitting, and I still contest that if the girl that made it hadn't put tomatoes in it--ESPECIALLY SINCE I TOLD HER NOT TO-- I would have finished them both. I think all the work of picking out the tomatoes wore me out. Really, how are tomatoes even an option at chipotle? And for the love of pete, why don't they have one in NOrth Dakota yet?!? The 7 other people living in the state want to know too!!!

  • 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

Jeremy: Irrationally Speaking

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 Canada who has strong appreciation for sports that are not prevalent, at least in the professional sense, in his home country. I honestly don't mind that Jeff cheers for these different teams. That's his choice, and he is entitled to it. Just as I'm entitled to forever giving him grief about it.
I have always said that being from Minnesota and growing up in the family that I grew up in requires me to hold the home teams dear to my heart, unwaveringly. My family is a fiercely loyal family. This is not hyperbole. Fiercely loyal. To one another, to our faith, to our jobs and also to our teams.
Being a Minnesota sports fan is similar to getting kicked in the seeds by an incredibly beautiful woman: it's a hurt that is unlike anything else, but at least she's beautiful.
I said in a previous post that Saturday October 10, 2003 was the most painful sports day of my life. And it was... until October 9, 2004.
I suppose I was lucky. I was working through the Gophers second collapse to Michigan in two years and the Twins second collapse to the Yankees in two days. I wasn't as involved in either loss as I have been involved with some other collapses in Minnesota sports.
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 Houston) is the epitome of how Jeff and I are different when it comes to cheering for our teams. I had to stand in disbelief in front of the television at work and watch the Wolverines carry off the Little Brown Jug again. I've said it before, this is not a rational way for an otherwise normally functioning human being to act, but watching that affected me deeply. It hurts. It honestly hurts. And it's the type of sports hurt that I just don't believe a person who isn't from the area of the team they call themselves loyal to can truly feel.
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.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Jeff: Rocktober

There is no better month for sports than October. None. Not even March, although it is a close 2nd. Baseball playoffs are on, which means i'm actually paying attention now (not that you can blame me--the Mariners have been out of it since the season started in April), the NFL is in full swing, hockey is startin--oh wait, we're not discussing that pro hockey league that has no soul and sold-out to old southern men. And then there's college football. There's ALWAYS huge games in October. And there are none bigger for the Gophers than the one coming Saturday. Might I say it's the biggest game for the Gophers since they last went to the Rose Bowl in '67 or whenever it was. Biggest game in almost 40 years. Even ESPN, who is always slow to come around on the sports happenings in smaller markets, has gotten the idea, moving the game to ESPN Classic to make sure baseball doesn't interfere with it. They're even running Minnesota and Michigan sports moments for 18 hours leading up to it.

Before I say good things about the Gophers, I need to call out the Jer, and the Dan for that matter, who has proven he has no sports allegiances whatsoever. Any man who claims that his two favorite NFL teams are the Vikings and the Packers, well, I don't know what to say. Not only that, but he claims he likes Michigan and yet was one of two people (Jer being the other) who were calling me at halftime of that fatefull game last year, giving me grief about how terrible Michigan was playing, how they'd be thinking of me while they were at the Rose Bowl, and various other statements I can't repeat on this website. They promised me they would call after the game to rub it in further as they paraded around town basking in the glow of beating Michigan. Well, we know what happened. The Gophs collapsed and my phone line remained silent. Apparently Jer and Dan forgot my #. Hmmmmmm.....

Look, I've been a fan of the Maize and Blue since I was seven. Blame it on my cousin Kristy. She went to a college near Ann Arbor and sent me all this Michigan stuff. I've been hooked ever since. I lived on campus at the U of Minnesota for a year and had seasons' tickets for a couple, and love the college football atmosphere for Minnesota, especially the tailgating. Of course the atmosphere in the Metrodome is less than desirable, but let's be honest, you could take any of the "big schools" like Tennessee or Texas or Georgia, and if you put them in the Metrodome their atmosphere would suck too. It's not the GOphs fault--they NEED an outdoor stadium. It has to happen. The GOphs really have grown on me in my time in the Midwest, but when they play Michigan I have no such problems with allegiances--I want a Michigan win.

However, that doesn't mean I'm going to get it this year. This game means more to Minnesota than it does to Michigan. Michigan has sold out "the Big House" for years upon end, with a ridiculous 110,000 people showing up for every home game, yet I'd be more intimidated by the Gophers crowd than I would Michigan's. Michigan has the quietest 100,000 people I've ever seen. I know the Gophs aren't intimidated. Nor should they be. The only reason they're only 13th right now in the country is because they're NOT Michigan, if you know what I mean. Whoever Michigan throws on the field, they get ranked in the top 25 just because they're Michigan. The Gophs have to do more to earn it because outside of the Twin Cities they're a virtual unknown. I think they're a better team than a #13 ranking. They also need to stop playing the cup-cake schedule Mason keeps throwing out there for them. Still, he's gotten the team on the doorstep of the ROse Bowl. Really, this game could decide it. Minnesota doesn't have to play Purdue or Ohio State this year. After the Michigan game, Wisconsin is the only ranked team left on the schedule. This is it for Minnesota.

If the Gophers win this one, they're on their way to the Top 10. Michigan loses and they're on their way out of the Top 25. The Gophs have the better team. They've got the best running back duo outside of Auburn. Caputo has been keeping defenses honest. Their D remains the question mark, but to call Michigan's offense a question mark would be too kind. A true frosh QB and zero running game has wasted the best receiving core in the country. The Gophs won't even have to worry about Braylon Edwards and company if they can shut down the run and send in the cavalry to blitz Henne.

This is the Goph's time. Their time to step into the national spotlight for the first time in too long. For Michigan, it's another hurdle to another Big 10 title, and may prove to be another one they're not able to handle. Saturday will tell. I'm hoping for a great game, and for the first time, I'm hoping the Wolverines can keep up with the Gophs. If not, I would fully expect harassing phone calls from Jer and Mr.-No-Conscience-Because-I-Cheer-for-the-Packers after the game. This time I hope they'll wait until after the game is officially over before they start gloating.

Jeremy: The Most Painful Day Of My Life

Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. Section 119, row 18.
That's where I was sitting on October 10, 2003, for the most painful sports memory of my life.
It had been an incredible fall day and the pre-game tailgating was especially right. The fact that we had to watch the game inside on such a beautiful evening could not put a damper on our spirits. There was a buzz about our hometown Gophers. We were going into the Michigan game undefeated. Michigan had beaten the Gophers in every game they had played against each other except for 2 since 1968. And on that day the Gophers absolutely outplayed the Wolverines in every aspect of the game... for 3 quarters.
I was calling my cousin, my Gopher Football brethren in Arizona, about every 5 minutes during the game as the Gophers kept handing it to the Wolverines in all aspects. I had to share it with him, it was too exciting not to and I knew he wanted to be there. We were sharing it together.
The Gophers were literally dominating Michigan, so at the beginning of the 4th quarter, as I was sitting with The Dan, I remember telling him that when there was five minutes left in the game I needed to head up to section 207 so that I could enjoy the moment we won the game with my uncle.
You have to understand that my uncle has had Gopher Football season tickets since the early 80's when the Metrodome opened. My cousin Josh and I learned everything we know about sports from his dad. I learned how to be fiercly loyal to our Minnesota teams from him. I learned about Floyd of Rosedale, Paul Bunyan's Axe and the Little Brown Jug from him. I learned to hate Iowa from him. But mostly, I learned how to love Gopher football. If the Gophers were to down Michigan that day, in a year where we had a shot at the Rose Bowl, I would have to be standing next to him when it happened.
I never made it up to section 207.
It's all a blur to me now, but in the 4th quarter, series after series Michigan scored. And scored. And scored. When it was all said and done the boys from Ann Arbor scored 31 points in the 4th quarter to hand the Gophers their first loss of the season.
It was the single most shocking and difficult sports moment that I have ever been a part of. It had gotten to the point during that game where we were smelling the Roses and it was all ripped violently from our fingers.
The Dan and I sat in shock for 10 minutes after the game. Silent. Motionless. Then the anger set in. The yelling. The cursing. It was irrational, but it was a real feeling.
I couldn't call my cousin after the game. I was planning on seeing my uncle after the game, but I couldn't face him. It was four days before any of us could call or e-mail each other. I honestly just had no idea what to say them.
I'm sitting here now thinking back to it, looking forward to the face-off with Michigan this Saturday and my hands are shaking. (And you think I'm kidding.) The Rose Bowl would be great. But I want Michigan. I want Michigan in the Big House.
This week is huge. It's a huge week for Michigan. They need the win to stay in the Big 10 race. It's a huge week for the Gophers. They have a chance to change their history, to stay on top of the Big 10 and to make a real case for a Rose Bowl bid. And it's a huge week for my family.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Jeremy: Latin Lesson

I just looked it up. I was not aware of it before, but apparently the words "Michael Bennett" translate directly into Latin. Isn't that odd? If I understand the root words correctly "Michael Bennett" in Latin actually means "napkin" or "doily." I can't quite figure out which because my knowledge of the language is still mostly rudimentary.
News came out today that Bennett will miss at least 2 more weeks and possibly as many as 4, when he reinjured a ligament in the knee that he originally hurt in training camp. If (and apparently with Bennett this is a BIG if) he can return in two weeks, he will have missed 13 of the last 21 games the Vikings have played.
This comes as especially bad news considering Onterrio Smith is scheduled to leave on some kind of vacation from the NFL involving botany and Ricky Williams later this week.
So we continue on down the depth chart where Moe Williams also has a re-injury problem. Suddenly the running back depth that Mike Tice talked about all of training camp is really going to be put to the test as the top two backs will not be available and Williams will probably only be available on a very limited basis.
Mewelde Moore and Larry Ned. Going through the depths of my brain I cannot think of a more explosive running back tandem. These guys have tons of experience, speed, strength, vision and great hands. Wait a minute. I don't know if they have any of those things.... NOBODY HAS SEEN THEM PLAY IN A REAL GAME!!!
I still think that Cheech, er Onterrio Smith is the running back of the future for this team. He doesn't have the breakaway speed of Bennett, but he's bigger, likely more durable, he has great hands out of the backfield and he has incredible field vision. Personally, I would like to see Bennett out. I'd like to see the Wikings get rid of him while he still has some value, although that value is quickly dropping.
So here's to the Larry & Mewelde show. The most volatile public cohorts since Ren & Stimpy.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Jeremy: There's A Reason That No Donkeys Or Elephants Are In Sports

Excuse me while I pick myself up off the floor. Did Jeff actually write a column? He actually graced us with his presence? I am happy to see Jeff back. We need to brand of "stop crying" that he brings to the table. Stunning!!!
It's pretty rare that Jeff and I disagree on much. He has his own radio show in Valley City, North Dakota (and yes I am furiously jealous about this) and has several times allowed me to be on the air with him. He has dubbed me "Minnesota Jer: more Minnesota than all 10,000 lakes combined." He came up with that himself, I, of course, think it's brilliant. He has given me my own personae. For that I am grateful. The unsuspecting people of east central North Dakota think that I am some sort of sports expert (wait a minute, maybe you do too). Okay, maybe they know I'm a fraud, but in any case, Jeff brilliantly plays me off as someone who isn't speaking directly out of his butt. Again, for that I am grateful. As you can see, my affinity for Jeff is very strong, and again, we rarely disagree on anything.
I was going to give Jeff a few days. I thought I'd let his column stand for through the weekend. You know, let him have his internet day in the sun once again. As I read his column I thought to myself "this is good." But then I came to this line...

"Of course, I'm one of those few crazy lone souls left who believes in discipline and respect and not catering to brats (closed circuit to The Dan -- and I'm a democrat! HA!"

Well I'm sorry, I just could not leave this one alone. This is for everyone's benefit, not just our misguided Jeffrey.
Sports is just about the only thing that we have left in life that is not perverted by politics. True, politicians are fans of sports teams, politicians are often involved in making stadium decisions, they might even be owners or athletes at some point themselves. But nothing about politics changes the way that athletes perform between the lines and, in the examples of the baseball players and coaches, the way their superiors coach them.
Please, everyone, for the love of all that is good and right with the world, do not ever bring politics into a sports discussion. Jeff and I only ever disagree about politics, Dan and I only ever disagree about sports... never the two subjects have crossed into the same discussion.
My head is about to explode!
It makes me happy that Jeff agrees to call himself a Democrat. When Jeff and I discuss politics this comes through very clearly. I'm glad that he hasn't rejected the American political system based on the fact that he's from Canada. It would have been easy to do that, and to be honest, based on the current political climate, if I was from Canada I would probably be the most apolitical person in this fair city. I will not discuss my political views on this website (I will reserve that for The Quotable Jerdogg, where I did recently speak of some of my political views). And this is the last time politics will be mentioned in this space by me.
I love you Jeffrey!