Thursday, January 20, 2005

Jeremy: Unloading

I received this email today:

"midwest sports rubes is due for an editorial about t-wolves basketball, especially now that they have fallen to .500, trail seattle by 8+ games, are standing in 8th place in the west, and couldnt beat the lakers even with kobe benched. -cuz"

My cousin knows me well. He knows me well enough to know that this Wolves slump makes me sick to my stomach. He knows me well enough to know that I have an opinion on it. And most of all, he knows me well enough to know that it makes me so mad that I don't really want to talk about it.
I'll start by comparing the Wolves, or what I think the Wolves should be, to toilet paper. Yep. Toilet paper. You know the commercial I'm talking about. "Charmin Ultra, Less Is More." The old adage "addition by subtraction" I think applies well to the Wolves right now.
Less Is More. Less players, less complicated defense, less quick shooting, less settling for outside shots, and less selfish play.
If you look up and down this team at players, stats, minutes played, etc. it's tough to figure out what's wrong. They are averaging more points per game (+3.8 ppg), more team assists per game (+.3 apg) and more rebounds per game (+1 rpg)... but that's because they have to, because they are also giving up 7.1 more points per game than last year.
Besides giving up more points per game I cannot find one stat that will support why the Wolves are an absolutely horrible team right now.
So where do I take this?
The thing that set the Wolves apart from everybody else last year is that they weren't like them. Simple right? They were a team that played defense as well as they played offense. They moved the ball around the parameter until the found the best lane or the best shot. They took the outside shot when they had it and they nailed it. They were unselfish. They knew that KG was the leader of the team and nobody questioned it. They played the game that Flip coached, they didn't question, they played together and they won.
This year they are just like everybody else. They play bad defense. They don't move the ball around enough. They take bad shots too quickly. They play selfish. There are too many guys who want to be the man instead of letting KG do his job. And they are questioning every move that Flip makes because they were all good players on a great team last year who somehow perverted their success into thinking they were all great players on a great team so they should all be a part of how the team wins this year.
My opinion on this team? Only two people matter: KG and Flip. As harsh as this sounds, everybody else on this team means nothing. Unfortunately there's only three guys on the court who seem to buy into this philosophy: KG, Flip and, ironically, Wally. I don't love Wally, I don't even particularity like him as a player that much, but Wally gets it right now. He understands that he's not KG and he never will be. He might even understand that he'll probably never be a Spree or a Cassell, but what he does understand is that as long as he plays his hardest, works on his defense, shoots his open shots and makes a good fraction of them, he's going to be an impact player on this team with a consistency that Spree and Cassell have never dreamed of.
Look, Wally's not going to save the world. He's not even going to save the Wolves. But (as much as I hate to say this) if all of the players on this team would take Wally's lead, who takes his lead from KG, and work hard and keep their head in the game, the whole team would be better off.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Jeremy: Toughen Up, Lose The Dome, Part 2

This Sunday three NFC teams will take the field in the Divisional Playoffs who call a domed stadium home: Minnesota, St. Louis & Atlanta. This got me to thinking today: how do domed teams fare in Super Bowls? So I did a little research. What I found was literally unbelievable to me.
First of all, let's break this down. 39 Super Bowls have been played and completed. Not counting teams that have played in multiple Super Bowls, that means that 39 teams have won the Super Bowl in its history, and a total of 78 teams have played in the Super Bowl.
Out of the 39 teams that have won the Super Bowl, only one, the '99-'00 St. Louis Rams played their home games in a domed stadium.
Out of the 78 teams that have played in the Super Bowl, only two have played their home games in domed stadiums: the '98-'99 Atlanta Falcons and the '99-'00 St. Louis Rams.
Pretty unreal isn't it?
In addition to that take into account that the Falcons had home field advantage in the playoffs until the NFC Championship Game against the Vikings, which was played in the Metrodome, and the Rams had home field advantage throughout the '99-'00 playoffs. And to throw even more fuel on the fire, guess where the Rams played that Super Bowl on January 30, 2000 when they beat the Tennessee Titans? You guessed it, a dome. The Georgia Dome in Atlanta. So, the only team from a domed stadium to ever win a Super Bowl had the luxury of playing their entire playoff schedule, including the big dance, indoors.
Teams that play in domed stadiums do not play well in the playoffs unless they play in domes. The Vikings and the Rams winning their playoff games last weekend was an anomaly.
Is there any greater evidence that football should not be played indoors? Why would any owner even want to build a domed stadium? For the comfort of his team? Because apparently comfortable teams get too comfortable and can't win the big games.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Jeremy: Do I Still Live In Minnesota?

On Sunday November 28th the Vikings beat the Jags when Kevin Williams recovered a fumble and returned if 77 yards for a touchdown with under two minutes to play. The game was at the Metrodome, where the Vikings should never ever lose a game. A day or so after the game I talked to Jeff on the phone and said these words: "It's nice to be on the winning end of a game like this when we have gotten so used to losing them." In other words: lightning has struck. And lightning can't strike the same team twice can it? Certainly not in one season. Right?
I called Jeff again yesterday after the Vikings went up 14-0 just five minutes into their Wild Card Game with the Packers. "Hey, who are the Packers playing today? Cause it sure doesn't look like the Vikings." Apparently I was wrong because they were playing the Vikings, and roughly three hours later the second lightning strike of the season was complete.
Were ya like me? Did you have that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach everytime the Vikings did something right? Everytime they had a long play, did you do like I did and look to the upper right hand corner of the TV screen for that familiar little yellow box and the world "FLAG"? Were you surprised everytime you didn't see it? Did you shake your head in utter disbelief all FOUR TIMES (!!!!!) that Favre threw an interception? Did you get a little nausous when you noticed that the Vikings had scored 31 points? The same number that they had scored in their previous regular season losses to the Pack?
Watching the Vikings game for me brought on one old emotion and one new emotion that I haven't felt in awhile. The old emotion was: we've been here before, Favre is still leading the Packers, there's bound to be penalties, I just don't trust this team. The new emotion, the one I haven't felt in awhile was: we are playing with heart, I'm confident that we can score everytime we have the ball, our defense isn't going to beat us today.
I don't think that I was wrong to feel the first emotion. As a life-long fan of this team they've really given me no reason to believe anything other than that. But you knew, you just felt something different, the moment Daunte scrambled and found Mo Williams who rambled down the sideline for the opening drive touchdown. That second emotion was valid too. We were excited, we had come to play, and we had done exactly what everyone in the world said we had to do to win this game: we got on them early. And we kept getting on them.
For the second time this season I can say it: it's nice to be on the winning end of a game like this.
Suddenly the Vikings are the sexy choice in the NFC. My favorite NFL analyst, Sean Salisbury, (sensing any sarcasm?) took about .0743 seconds to jump back on the Vikings bandwagon and choose them to beat the Eagles next week and go to the NFC championship game. I'm not ready to go quite that far, but I will say this: if they Vikings play next Sunday like they played on this Sunday, they will not lose. But do we suddenly have a chance to go to the Super Bowl? Um, I think not.
Look, I'm just like any other Viking fan: the world is certainly a better place the Monday after a win. But we've got to be realistic here. Don't we?
Or do we?

Friday, January 07, 2005

Jeff: Throwing gas on the fire...

Happy Friday--unless you're a Vikes fan. Good lord. Mike Tice is just an idiot. Just plain dumb. You know about Randy Moss walking off the field in DC before the game was over last week. You know it just adds to his bad reputation. You know he's been "Randy just being Randy" for his whole life. You know he doesn't need motivation from fans or the media to play well (think what you will of him, but on national tv games, when healthy, he just flat-out dominates). According to Daunte and Matt Birk, the players and Moss hashed things out and have moved on from the incident in DC. Your fan base, although more pissed off and frustrated than ever, were shifting focus from another selfish Moss act to focusing on the inevitable heartbreaking loss to the Pack this Sunday (not that I'm not confident in the Vikes right now--lost 7 of 10, 2-15 outdoors under Tice, oh and we're playing the team that always gets the better of us when it matters. ALWAYS. But other than that I love their chances) So what does Tice do? He tells Moss to call into Tice's weekly radio show last night "to defend himself", hoping Moss would clear the air on his actions last week (despite evidence to the contrary that it wouldn't happen!!!) The show's host, Dan Barrero, is one of the most negative, sarcastic, smartasses ever to hit the airwaves (which means I love him). He's not about to ask Moss cupcake questions. To quote Swingers, he's not going to talk about "puppy dogs and ice cream". Of course Moss says he's not sorry for walking off the field, and of course Moss says he could very well do it again. Barrero asks the tough questions, and Moss either brushes them off or gives answers that you don't want to hear from a guy you're paying $80 million.

Tice defended his star player the entire interview. Now all of Viking-dom is irrate at Moss. But here's why I think Tice is an idiot: Um, Mike? WHAT ELSE DID YOU EXPECT RANDY TO SAY?!?!?!? A lot of people hate Randy because he's selfish and cocky and admits freely he plays when he wants to play. Fine. But Randy is who Randy is. He's been the same guy for the 7 seasons he's been in Minnesota. He's not going to change. He didn't put a gun to Red McCombs head to pay him $80 mill with a $20 mill signing bonus (a contract extension I was against, might I add). Randy is going to do what's best for Randy, and as Vikings fans we have to hope that means dominating on the field most of the time, and we are at his mercy because of that contract. But again-WE KNOW THIS.

Tice has been in Minnesota, as either head coach or a coordinator, for most of Moss' 7 seasons. If anybody should know Randy, it'd be Tice. If anybody should know that Randy wasn't about to come on the radio, 3 days before the team's biggest game of the year, and kiss ass and apologize. He's never done it--HE NEVER WILL!!! He said as much in the interview!!! My question is what on God's green earth did Tice think he would accomplish by bringing Randy on the radio, knowing he'd get grilled for the Redskins shennanigans and everything else?!?! Your fans were focusing on the game at hand, your players had made their peace with him, and Moss hates talking to the media anyways. Why bring this up again? WHAT WAS THIS SUPPOSED TO DO?!?!?

I've tried to be a positive Vikings fan. Am trying to find the silver lining. Everything is stacked against this team right now, and they have noone to blame for it but themselves. I hope the impossible happens, and the Vikes pull out a miraculous win. But I'm counting on that about as much as hearing Moss apologize for his actions, or Mike Tice getting fired after this season for driving this team into the ground 2 straight years. Have I mentioned how much I love this team?

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Jeremy: An Open Letter to Jeff

First, I want to apologize to you. In an earlier post you commented that you sometimes feel like I think of you as less of a fan because you had to choose which teams to cheer for. I love you, man. I definitely don't think of you as less of a fan. You know me, I get like this when things are especially hurtful in my sporting world. I become resentful of teams like the Lakers, Michigan football and the Yankees because they always win and I feel like their fans have it easy. I begin to hate places like the New England area for having two championships in one calendar year and ending an 86 year championship draught in baseball. I start to feel like we here in Minnesota are the last truly tortured and loyal fans on earth. I know this isn't true, but it makes me feel better, much like a pint of rocky road made me feel better when that bastard Bruce broke my heart (did I just reveal that?). In any case, YOU'RE MY BOY, BLUE.
Moving on, I need to rant about some sporting type stuff...
The Wolves are horrible. What the heck is going on? Garnett scores a franchise record 47 points and adds 22 rebounds against the best team in the West right now, and they somehow manage to give up 121 points... in regulation? Are you kidding me? It's possible that their defense right now is worse than the Vikings. They play the expansion Bobcats tonight in Charlotte and I have ZERO confidence that they can win.
Speaking of the Vikings defense... Green Bay for the third time this season in the first round of the playoffs this Sunday. I know it's very hard in the NFL to beat the same team three times... but then again, we ARE talking about the Vikings here. I give them a small shot because they are playing in Green Bay, which is just about the only outdoor place where they play halfway decent. This team has no heart, Jeff. I heard that the game-time temperature is expected to be 25 degrees. A little quick math tells me that's roughly 47 degrees cooler than they prefer to play in. Vegas is favoring the Pack by about 6 points right now. I fully expect that number to go down as the week goes on because anybody who is betting on the Vikings to cover that 6 points has DEFINITELY been out in the cold way too long.
Did you see that my Gophs won the Music City Bowl? Yeah, it was probably the sloppiest football game I've ever watched. So many penalties at absolutely horrible times, plus, I've never seen a quarterback overthrow so many wide-open receivers as Pennington did for Alabama. The Goophies have a shot to be better next year. They basically get their entire set of skill-position players back, but with Mason still coaching this team, I have my doubts. I'm calling it right now, here's my time-line for Gopher-football next year. Mid-August: I will once again get excited for Gopher football. September: Gophers yet again breeze through the non-conference schedule as Mason sings the praises of his team and himself. Early October: excitement will ensue as the Gophers have a great early season, the running game still looks solid, and Cupito looks like he's matured. Early November: I will be disappointed that the Gophers can't carry their winning ways into the Big 10 season (I will make no public predictions regarding Michigan or the game following Michigan). Late November: I will be calling for Mason's head after the Gophers manage to lose their final two games to Wisconsin and Iowa. Maturi will call me for advice After a long discussion, in which the phrase "better late than never" is uttered by me no less than 12 times, Maturi will respond by canning Mason. Late December: coached on an interim basis by Bozo the Clown, who is actually able to put together a gameplan that utilizes the talent on the team, the Gophers rout Coppin State in the Motor City Bowl. (Here comes the wishful thinking.) Early January: USC wins yet another National Championship, offensive coordinator Norm Chow decides he's ready to be a head coach, and leaves the warm Southern California climate for the frozen tundra of Minneapolis.
By the way, as long as you've known me have I ever been THIS jaded as a Minnesota sports fan as I have been in the last two months? In the last week I have said that I had no confidence that the Vikes could win in D.C. (they didn't), now I'm saying I don't think the Wolves can beat anybody. Seven weeks prior to this I was sitting in a lower-deck endzone section of the Metrodome next to Porta as the Gophers collapsed against Iowa and the only reason it didn't break my heart was because I absolutely knew it was coming. DO YOU SEE WHAT THESE TEAMS HAVE DONE TO ME??????????
With Love & Admiration,
p.s. The road to knighthood is paved with strength and nobility, Jeff, not LSD and sideburns.