Thursday, March 30, 2006

Jeff: I'm Done

It's apparent our dear readers of MWSR are sick of Jer and I lamenting the "Woes of the Wolves", but I'm writing this to say that I promise you this will be my last post on the Wolves. I'm serious, this is it: I'm DONE! Jer is his own man, and a better man than I, so I will leave him to his own devices of how to deal with the "Woe of the Wolves." The Strib's Patrick Reusse had an on-point column about the Wolves today, and the part that stuck out most to me was a quote from an unnamed NBA coach when asked about the Wolves and their salary cap situation: "This is their team for the next four years." Four years is how long Kevin Garnett has left on his contract, and the sad group that Kevin McHale has surrounded him with will look much the same for those remaining four. People can complain all they want, and amazingly some have, that KG's contract is the deterant and the reason McHale can't put a winner in the Target Center. Yes, KG's contract is 5th highest in the league (after Shaq I bet you can't name the other three) at $18 million, and will escalate by $2 million every year through the end of the contract. But as Dan Patrick pointed out on his radio show yesterday, Shaq's contract is bigger, at $20 million, and yet the Heat have been able to surround him with Dwayne Wade, AND still had the flexibility to grab guys like Antoine Walker and Jason Williams, players who are role guys there but would be the 1st or 2nd scoring options in Minnesota. Jason Kidd's at $16 million and they can still afford Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter. Tim Duncan makes almost $15 million and they still have room for Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili (and oh by the way they're the defending champs). I could go on and on.

Point is there are other great players in the league with huge salaries whose GM's have managed to put good players around him. KG has the worst supporting cast of any All-star in the league, and there's only man to blame: Kevin McHale. McHale is the reason they have the horrible (and unmoveable) contracts of Mark Blount, Troy Hudson, and to a lesser extent Trenton Hassell. And then there's Marko Jaric: in what should be viewed as the WORST move in franchise history, McHale traded an expiring contract of an inspired player (whenever Cassell was playing for a contract, he played his best basketball. Look at him with the Clippers now!), AND a 1st rd pick for a 6'7 Euro who before the trade had not proven he was capable of running a team or being an NBA starter- unless you believe, as McHale did, that career averages of 27 mpg, 8.4 pts and 4.4 asts, means you're ready to run a team. To make matters worse, he signed him to a 6 yr deal worth more than $37 million. Keeping Cassell (with an expiring salary of $6 million) plus the expiring contract of Olowakandi (another $6 mill) plus the draft picks and somebody like Rashad McCants or Eddie Griffin would have been enough ammo to get Paul Pierce, Ray Allen or Allen Iverson as the Alpha Dog KG has so sorely missed.

Instead, along with the Wally trade, you've got no cap flexibilty and only 2 of your next 4 first round picks. And I've lamented at length at McHale's draft history, which besides Garnett, is awful. Just awful. I know this franchise has had some bad luck with the lottery ping pong balls in the early going (having poor records and missing guys like Shaq, Zo, CWebb, Larry Johnson and others), and Malik Sealy's death, but their current predicament is not the result of bad luck, it's the result of bad management. Kevin Garnett has done nothing wrong in his time in Minnesota, and has tried to everything right to win. But because of McHale it hasn't happened, and because of McHale it won't happen for the remainder of his time in Minnesota.

The two options left are trade for Marbury (which I support), or trade KG and start completely over. THere are no other alternatives. If you stand pat and try to sign free agents with the mid level exception or build through 2 of your 4 draft picks, you're going to be stuck with the same team and same results you've seen this year. That's not doom and gloom, that's just the facts. But because McHale's track record has shown him incapable of making the right moves, and because owner Glen Taylor has proven just as incapable of identifying this, your hopes of anything better than a late lottery selection for the next four years are slim and none.

Folks, I know I've bored you with this stuff before, and I know you're as sick of it now as you were then, but I'm doing this because I'll be doing it for the last time. Until the Wolves fire McHale, I'm really truly done with them. Call me a fair weather fan, call me whatever you want, but I'm done. I've ranted and cried and nashed teeth as loudly as possible and to no avail. I've spent what seems like countless posts going over and over the same crap with this team, but it never changes. As a basketball fan, I will continue to follow the NBA and will continue posting on NBA matters, but this will be my last specific post on the Wolves.

It's been real, at times it's been fun, but it hasn't been real fun.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Jeff: Mental Spewage

* Since the start of the NCAA tournament on March 17th, which number do you think is higher? The number of golf balls Kevin McHale has hit, or the number of seconds of the tournament he's watched? Wait, don't answer that.

* If LSU forward Tyrus Thomas is not the #1 pick in the NBA draft this summer...well it probably means the Atlanta Hawks have the first pick (ZING!). Seriously, he's long, he's crazy athletic, he blocks shots and rebounds, and most importantly (at least to me) he's played his best basketball when it's mattered the most here in March. Sure, his first 4 buckets in the win over Texas were dunks, and he hasn't shown any real semblance of post moves (unless you count catching the ball near the rim and dunking over helpless defenders), but he's got the highest ceiling (I'm trying to come up with another phrase besides "upside") of any prospect in the draft. Could he be the next Amare Stoudamire or Dwight Howard? Sure. Of course he could also be the next Stro Swift, the human pogo stick from LSU who was drafted #2 overall in 2000 (wow was that a bad draft). His career averages are 9 pts and 5 rebs. Still I'd take the chance. All these kids leaving school early is killing the pro game, but hey it makes for a hellva tourney!

* Some basketball "experts" who are infinitely smarter than me STILL say Texas 6'10 soph F/C LaMarcus Aldridge is a possibility for the #1 pick in the draft. Really? I've seen Texas play 3 times this year, and they happened to be three of the Longhorns biggest games of the year: and they lost all three of them. The games were a neutral court bloodletting to Duke 97-66 (Aldridge had the msot invisible 21 pts and 6 rebs in history), an 80-68 loss to Kansas in the Big 12 Tourney title game (5 pts 5 boards), and the Elite 8 loss to LSU where he shot 2-14 for 4 pts. He wasn't even the best player on his own team as PJ Tucker, a 6'5 POWER FORWARD (think about it) outscored him (season average of 16.1 pts compared to 15) and outrebounded him (9.5 to 9.2) won conference Player of the Year. And Aldridge is your #1 pick? You're going to throw a huge contract and build your team around this guy? Best of luck with that.

* The Wolves NEED UConn PG Marcus Williams. He busts his ass, is a leader, will be a solid pro for the next 10 years, and wants the ball down the stretch. Unfortuneatly these aren't really traits McHale has looked for in past players, but we'll get to enjoy watching Williams excel for another team next year. Can't wait for that.

* Alright fine, here's a quicky top 7 for the NBA draft:
1. Tyrus Thomas, LSU, 2. Joakim Noah, Florida 3. Adam Morrison, Gonzaga 4. Lamarcus Aldridge, Texas 5. Marcus Williams, UConn 6. Brandon Roy, Washington 7. Rudy Gay, UConn

* When the Gopher hockey team lost to Holy Cross last weekend, do you think Glen Mason and Dan Monson sent Goph coach Don Lucia cards and flowers saying "thanks for lowering the bar?" or "welcome to the club?" Just wondering.

* Nice to see the guys in Kirkland, WA at the Seahawks head offices are being mature about the whole Steve Hutchinson thing. Signing Vikes restricted free agent WR Nate Burelson to an identical 7 yr $49 million offer sheet with some poison pills of their own doesn't look petty or anything. Or immature. Or babyish. Hey Seahawks: if you wanted to keep Hutchinson you shouldn't have been such cheapskates! I don't care if Hutchinson told you he was coming back or not, if you would have put the franchise tag on him instead of the transition tag, yes it would have cost you $600k more per year, but you would still have your All-Pro left guard. Instead you tried to take the cheap way out and got burned. Deal with it. As much as Burleson would have helped the Vikes this year, we're 4 deep at wideout right now, and they'll be another solid veteran or two available after the June 1 cap cuts. We got a 28 yr old All-Pro Guard AND Seattle's 3rd rd pick for Burleson. I'll take that, thank you very much.

* Can you believe baseball starts this Sunday? Me neither. Twinkies fans I have 4 comments on your team:
1)Your owner is a $%^&*#!?! I'm not even a Twins fan and I despise him. He's one of the worst in sports. He whines about not making enough money although he's in a bigger market than St Louis, San Diego and Cincinnati (who all have new ballparks, by the way), and would contract your team in a heartbeat if it meant he could make more money. Your GM, Terry Ryan is one of baseball's best, keeping a contending team on the field, and never gets the green light to go after the big bat this team has needed for the past 5 years because of your $%^%&* owner (again I bring up the Hank Blalock example).
2) Having said that, the Twins are once again contenders, and the offense should be much better than last year. If 2B Luis Castillo's legs are healthy, he and Shannon Stewart will be wreaking havoc on the basepaths all season, which will make things easier for the guys in the middle of the order. Although Rondell White was not the thunder stick you'd like hitting cleanup, he'll still take some pressure off of the M&M Boys.
3) And the pitching? Good night! Still not sure why Liriano doesn't get that 5th spot instead of starting the year in the bullpen (I guess they figure if it worked for Santana's development, it'll work for Liriano's). I think the kid is your 3rd best pitcher RIGHT NOW, and might be better than Radke by September. Better to have too much pitching depth (see the White Sox and A's) than not enough, but hopefully he'll get his chance in the rotation by summer.
4) Torii Hunter should be traded by the end of July. I love watching his defense and his passion, but there's no way this team can afford to pay a guy $10 million a year to play defense. He's 30 years old and in 7 seasons is a .267 hitter. The offensive explosion isn't coming. He is what he is. You're not going to resign him after this year, and the big $$ teams would line up to get him. I love the guy, but he's been the most overrated athlete in Minnesota this side of Wally Szczerbiak. Trade him.

Jeff: March Madness: Where the Little Guys Rule

"...expect our two remaining Cinderellas, Mason and Bradley, to turn back into pumpkins and be out of the dance before Saturday."

Ok so I was a little off with the above comments last week about George Mason, but at least I wasn't the only one. To use the old cliche "if you watched the UConn/Mason game you couldn't tell who was the 1 and who was the 11 seed." Welcome to the New March Madness, where parity reigns. College ball has become more and more like an international tourney. For years in international ball, the USA dominated other nations because their athletes were just that much better. But since the late '90's when the US has been sending less and less of it's best athletes, the world has caught up to the point that although the USA still has the most talent, the chemistry and international experience of the other nations has not only leveled the playing field, it's almost tilted it away from the States.

This resembles the NCAA Tourney now too. The powers in college basketball, the Duke's, UConn's, Carolina's, Kansas etc are still getting the best players, but they're not sticking around long enough to develop much chemistry. THe freshman and sophomores that are playing most of the minutes for these schools are extremely talented, but are short on experience under pressure. And even when a school like Duke keeps some talented seniors like JJ Redick and Shelden Williams (both named 1st Team All Americans), it's more difficult to put talent around them because of the early defections. This opens the door for the mid-majors, schools that don't get the McDonald's All-Americans, but keep kids around for 3 or 4 years, and develop the chemistry and experience to be able to win in pressure situations. George Mason, Bradley, and Witchita State were not in last year's tourney, but all three were veteran teams. There were also 11 non-BCS conference schools (Nevada, Wisc-Milwaukee, Penn, UAB, Utah St, S Illinois, Montana, GW, Winthrop, N Iowa, & Bucknell)who WERE in the BIg Dance last year, and of those 11 four won at least one tourney game this year. Overall, 28 of the 32 first round games this year involved at least one non-BCS school (Not counting 1 seed Memphis or 3 seed Gonzaga) and the "little guys" won 7 of those games, and 6 more lost by 5 or less. So 13 of 28- ALMOST HALF- of the 1st round games involving at least one mid-major could have gone either way.

What does this mean? Well, for one, if you've enjoyed this tournament, and for me it's been one of the most fun that I can remember, you can expect more of these in the coming years. It also means when picking your bracket next year, you might want to consider the following options to pick games: blind folded, flip a coin, or have your grandmother fill it out (well except my grandmother, because she knows more about sports than most people I know!). had somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 million entries in their bracket challenge. After the 1st round there wasn't ONE perfect bracket. And I'll guarantee you there's no one on earth who picked this Final 4. Not one! But hey it makes for a great tournament- unless you've got money riding on it. Vegas thanks you for the contribution.

Finally, I don't think George Mason's ride to the Sweet 16 even approaches the "Miracle On Ice" or Villanova's title in '85 beating Georgetown in terms of all-time great upsets. Hey it's a great story and they deserve all the credit for beating some good teams, but there's now way this counts as a monumental upset. In 1980 at Lake Placid, almost that entire Russian team was NHL quality, whereas the USA had what, one or two guys go pro? And the Georgetown team Nova knocked off in '85 was a goliath if I've ever seen one. The top teams in this year's tourney were good, but not great. Surf around the net and you'll find plenty of columns on all-time tourney teams, or has a really cool "What If?" tourney you can vote on, which gives the rosters of the top 16 schools if all these guys like Lebron, Melo and Amare had actually gone to school for four years. The lineups are incredible. If George Mason had made the Final 4 beating some of THOSE teams, now that would be an all-time Cinderella.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Jeremy: This Cannot Be Ignored

In Aschburner's Strib article about Kevin Garnett today, KG finally opens up a little bit and gets honest about his feelings on what's going on with the T'Wolves.
It's about time.
"I've always said that I think I'm worth not only being listened to, but I think I'm ... definitely in a position to where I do have a team and I do have a chance to win a ring and I do have an opportunity. So I think, at the end of the day, they should at least give me that. If it's anything different than that, then that's a discussion that we have to talk about. Because I don't know anybody in this city, nor in this room, that likes losing. I don't want to go through another season like this."
The Wolves have been completely embarrassing since the trade with Boston that was supposed to turn it all around. A 10-20 record, in over half of those 20 loses, the Wolves led going into the fourth quarter. A team that can't finish is a team that lacks character... that would seem to be an apt description of the Wolves.
Garnett is doing everything he can as the leader of the team on the court, Dwayne Casey is doing as much as he can as a first year coach, as the leader of the team on the bench. This team needs help and leadership from the front office. Help that it's not getting.
The most telling quote from the article is at the end when Garnett shows where his loyalty with this team lies: with the fans and with the owner.
"I don't know any fans that like to come and watch a team lose. I'm a basketball fan. ... Some of this has to be addressed. But I have faith in Glen that he'll do the right thing."
Notice Kevin McHale is never mentioned in the Strib article. Is there any doubt what Garnett feels would be the right thing to do?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Jeremy: Obliging Jeffrick, Bashing Maturi

I would now like to oblige Jeff and comment on Dan Monson.
Comparing what is happening with Monson to what happened with Glen Mason and the football program is fair. The calling card of both men at the head of the Gopher programs has been mediocrity. The value of a coach, at some point, has to be measured based on the production he pulls out of his players. There are coaches that can mold mediocre talent into fantastic results, and then there are coaches that can take good talent and only pull the bare minimum out of them. The latter would be the description of both Mason & Monson's programs. Both men have had the luxury over the last two years of having the most talent in their tenures that they've been able to put on the field/court, and yet they have nothing better than the same old results to show for it.
So, based on how Maturi handled the Mason situation, and based on how he is also, now, handling the Monson situation, we have only one thing left to conclude: Mason & Monson are not at fault... Maturi is.
Guess what? Gopher fans are NOT okay with mediocrity, the state of Minnesota is NOT okay with mediocrity. Joel Maturi is. I'm beginning to believe that Maturi is preparing himself to run for public office. This was my favorite quote from Maturi regarding Monson: "I've told this to Dan, 'If this were the Timberwolves and I were the GM, maybe he wouldn't be coaching next year. But I don't want to be the Timberwolves and I'm not the GM. I'm the athletic director at an academic institution that has some values, has some integrity and we're going to live that and walk the talk."
All I wish is that Maturi would have gone on to explain what those values are, because I guarantee you that absent from that list of values would be winning. Dan Monson is paid a lot of money, and his job, his only job, is to win basketball games. There are other people employed by the athletic department to tutor the athletes, to get them to class, the advise them in academic matters. These things are not Dan Monson's priorities, winning basketball games is. Joel Maturi, by the way, is also paid a huge amount of money, and his list of duties is more complicated than Monson's, but I would imagine that two of his top duties would be putting all of the athletic programs in the best possible position to win, and making the athletic department as profitable as it can be. By keeping the status quo, and hanging onto coaches who are able to only produce mediocre results, Maturi is failing at both of these priorities. It's obvious by his constant support of mediocrity that loyalty is more important to Joel Maturi than winning is.
Look, I understand, the University of Minnesota is a public research university. We hear this time and time again. If the University is going to continue to ignore athletics, and oh, by the way, ignore the fact that the athletic department is the largest financial contributor to research at the U of M, then please let the fans know so that we can plan accordingly.
Better yet, please lower ticket prices, please decrease the number of athletic scholarships, and please, let's become a Division II school. At least that way we'll be competitive, we'll know exactly where we stand and what we're shooting for, and our actual place in the collegiate athletic world will be consistent with our actions.
Of course, replacing Maturi with an athletic director who has his priorities as an athletic director in the right order might also be an option.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Jeff: In or Out?

After a 2nd round NIT loss to Cincinnati last night, word was Gopher head basketball coach Dan Monson is out at the U. This morning on WCCO radio, Monson said he's in. Monson told Sid Hartman he was assured by the AD Joel Maturi, that he wouldn't be fired, and said he plans on being on the Gopher sideline for next season. Sound familiar? Sound like the song and dance this school performed with another coach on their staff? Another coach who's only accomplishments has been consistent mediocrity? This is a topic I hope Jer comments on, because this is HIS school and his state, but as a Gopher fan, this drives me nuts! As much as I still want Gopher football coach Glen Mason out, the way the University dealt with his contract extension showed just how befuddled Maturi and the U are at making decisions. They're showing it again with Monson.

Here's a comparison of the two coaches:
Dan Monson
Seasons: 7
overall: 116-101
Big 10: 46-68
Big 10 Titles: 0
NCAA Tourney: 1(lost in 1st rd)
vs. "Big Boys": Illinois: 0-14
Michigan St: 3-8
vs. Rivals: Wisconsin: 2-11
Iowa: 4-7

Glen Mason
Seasons: 9
overall: 56-47
Big 10: 27-41
Big 10 Titles: 0
New Year's Day Bowl: 0
vs. "Big Boys": Michigan: 1-6
Ohio St.: 1-6
vs. Rivals: Wisconsin:3-6
Iowa: 2-7

(By the way, every other school in the Big 10 has almanacs, media guides and school sports history available right on their website. The U? Not so much. All the above stats were compiled by going to OTHER school's websites.)

Should Dan Monson be fired? The numbers say without a doubt. But then again, they say the same about Mason, and was retained. You have yet another program that's underachieving, but unlike the football program, it looks like fans have finally had enough. A paultry 2,643 showed up to watch yet another first round NIT game at The Barn, and because of Maturi handles, or doesn't handle, decisions like this, Gopher fans are going to need to avoid The Barn like it was a Packers Rally to get the message home that they expect more from their basketball program. First Mason, and now Monson, need to go. If only we could send Maturi and the administration with them.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Jeff: The Monday Musings of March Madness

Take a DEEP breath everybody. Let that heart rate drop, get the feeling back in your legs, and just breathe. After a wild weekend in the NCAA tournament, one that truly lived up to the name of March Madness, here we sit on the Monday after, the smoke clearing, and surprisingly, things are not as crazy as they first seemed. With higher seeds dropping faster than Lindsay Lohan's cup size, one would expect the surviving 16 teams to have a closer resemblance to the Patriot League tournament or your local Y tourney. But instead, we see some very familiar faces, and that despite the rash of upsets, the Madness wasn't quite as bad as we first thought. Here's where we stand:

- All four #1 seeds survived, and still have a healthy shot at ending up in Indy.
- Yes, only 2 #2 & #3 seeds remain, but overall just 4 of the remaining 16 are seeded 7th or lower.
- ESPN radio host Erik Kuselias said before the tourney that "the first weekend is for the Little Guys. The second weekend if for the Big Guys." Great point, as teams like #14 Northwestern State, #12 Montana, #13 Bradley & #11 George Mason all made headlines with big upset wins. However, expect our two remaining Cinderellas, Mason and Bradley, to turn back into pumpkins and be out of the dance before Saturday.
- Despite being rated the #1 conference in the country, all 6 Big 10 teams are out, meaning the conference was either vastly overrated, or all 6 teams were good but not great.
- You can throw out that whole "pick who's playing well heading into the tournament" strategy for filling out your bracket next year. Big 10 finalists Ohio State and Illinois? Gone. Big 12 champ Kansas? See ya. Big East finalists Syracuse and Pitt? Adios! Pac 10 finalist California? Gonzo. I think next year I'm advancing the four #1 seeds as far as the sweet 16, and then just flipping a coin to determine the winner of the rest of the games.
- Nothing against Winthrop (who should have been ranked higher than a 15), or 7 seed Witchita State, but Tennessee was easily the worst #2 seed in the history of the tourney. If not for a lucky shot by Chris "Don't Call me Kenny" Lofton, the Vols wouldn't have even made it out of the first round, and they were overmatched by the Shockers in the 2nd.

- Although I didn't pick it, let's just say I was not upset to see Iowa get knocked off by Northwestern State. Not upset at all. Elated, actually.

- Quick, name the only state that has more than one school in the Sweet 16 (answer at the end)

- Want to see the biggest boobs in America? Don't bother going to Pam Anderson's website, or flipping through the latest SI swimsuit issue. No, if you want to see America's biggest boobs, simply turn on CBS and watch a college basketball broadcast by Jim Nantz and Billy Packer. My goodness, the egos on these two are so large I'm surprised they fit in the building, let alone on press row next to each other! They've been doing Final Four's for so long, they truly believe that it just wouldn't be the NCAA Tournament if they weren't doing the games, and that you, as a viewer, should be honored to hear them ramble on about some mundane memory from the '77 or '85 or '93 tourney. What's happening in the game you're watching? They'll get around to it when they feel like it, because they're more important than the game. Trust me, if you want to actually enjoy a Nantz/Packer game, mute it, and dial up whichever radio station in your area is covering them. Westwood One has the best play-by-play guys around, and when my favorite color commentator, Bill Rafftery gets bumped up to the radio booth for the Final Four, well it gets even better.

- CBS is also the first network to hire a broadcaster with Torrettes Syndrome- or at least I hope that's their excuse. Color analyst Dan Bonner (who teamed up with one of the best in the business, Kevin Harlan), who most of the time seemed like a pretty knowledgeable basketball guy, would inexplicably blurt out things at the top of his lungs as Harlan was trying to call the game. He was yelling so loud and in such a shriek that you thought his hair was on fire! He did this at least twice in each of the six games he broadcast in the first two rounds, and the best part was, Bonner didn't do it in the final seconds (when everybody goes overboard) on a game-winning shot. No, his outbursts would come with like 12 minutes left in the first half on some meaningless turnover or miss. "HE THREW IT OUT OF BOUNDS!?!?!"
Even if the game wasn't great, I found myself continuing to watch just to see when his next "HE MISSED A SHOT!?!?!" or "OH NO!?!?!" would come. I also thought it'd be great to start throwing out "Bonnerisms" in everyday life. Like today at work, walk into the lunch room, notice the coffee pot's empty and scream like I was being hung by my toenails "WE"RE OUT OF COFFEE!?!?!?" Or next time I'm in line at the bank, walk up to the teller, start making casual conversation and then just blurt out "I NEED A ROLL OF QUARTERS!?!?!?!" then smile calmly and walk away like nothing happened. I think we should all try this. Seriously though, if Harlan didn't suffocate him in his sleep, or alert the authorities from whatever state asylum he escaped from, make sure to tune in for the next installment of "Dan Bonner has tourettes." Only on CBS!!

- Two guys who made themselves a LOT of money over the weekend rocketing up draft boards with their stellar play:
- Marcus Williams, PG, UConn- Forget Rudy Gay or the HuskiesÂ’ big boys in the paint, Williams is the key to another UConn national title. Sure he stole some computers and tried to resell them, something that would have gotten any non-athlete booted from school. But since his return from suspension, Williams has been the team's MVP, and he's showed why in the tourney, running the show, hitting big shots as well as free throws (no small feat in today's game), and stealing passes instead of laptops (you knew I couldn't resist that one). The 6'3 junior is now likely the top point guard in the draft.
- Joakim Noah, C, Florida- A virtual unknown at the start of the year, the 7'0 sophomore has been the Gators best player. His 16 point, 8 board, 7 ast, 5 block stat-filling opening round game cemented his status as the top center in the draft. His encore against Milwaukee yesterday, going for 17, 7, 6, and 4, may have earned him a spot in the top 5.

- I know you want to say that Duke C Shelden Williams should be included as a guy who helped himself in the draft with a big opening weekend, but he's a 6'9 center with no low-post game. I predict a Cherokee Parks-type career, minus the tattoos of course.

- If you reseeded the tourney into one bracket, hereÂ’s how it would look:
1. Duke
2. Connecticut
3. Villanova
4. Texas
5. Memphis
6. Florida
7. Boston College
9. Gonzaga
10. Washington
11. West Virginia
12. Georgetown
13. LSU
14. Witchita State
15. George Mason
16. Bradley

- If you haven't figured it out already, the only state with more than one team in the Sweet 16 is non other than Washington, with the Zags and U-Dub. How about a little love for the Pacific Northwest?

- Don't forget to check out our NFL mock draft, listed right after this.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

2006 Midwest Sports Rubes NFL Mock Draft (Vol. 1)

Welcome to the First Annual Midwest Sports Rubes Mock Draft! A quick note: we will be commenting on the top 20 picks. Beyond the first 20 things seem to get muddled, and quite frankly, a little boring (the already solid Broncos having two of the last ten picks in the first round makes it ever more boring) and a complete crap-shoot. We will still do mock picks for all 32 first round spots, but will not comment on our final 12 guesses.

It is 5:14 p.m. Central time. Currently I am cracking open my second beer of the afternoon as Jeffrick's first beer is half-empty (or is it half-full?)...
And we're underway!
1. Houston Texans - Reggie Bush, RB - USC - *Whether the Texans need a RB or not, he's the best player in the draft, and you just do not pass on a talent like Bush.
2. New Orleans Saints - D'Brickshaw Ferguson, OT - Virginia -*Now that Drew Brees is the $60 million man, they are going to need someone to protect his precious backside (and bum shoulder). D'Brick is a franchise tackle to build an o-line around. The Saints could still trade this pick, but the Jets were their best option to move down, without moving to far, and now that the Jets have signed Ramsey, N.O. might be staying put.
3. Tennessee Titans - Matt Leinart, QB - USC - *How often can you get a two-time national champion, former Heisman Trophy winning quarterback with the third pick? The best part for the Titans? Leinart can start tomorrow, but they don't need him to.
(Jeremy just finished his second beer, Jeff is finishing his first... might be time for a beer run.)
4. NY Jets - Mario Williams, DE - N.C. State - *It looks like John Abraham is going to Atlanta and the Jets must replace him. Super Mario is a good choice.
5. Green Bay Packers - A.J. Hawk, LB - Ohio State -*Haloti Ngata is an option here, but Hawk is a franchise type backer who the Pack would do well to re-build their defense around. Plus, female Packer fans will need a new franchise guy to pine over. Who are we kidding? The male Packer fans will too.
6. San Francisco 49ers - Vernon Davis, TE - Maryland -*Alex Smith had nothing to throw to last year and Davis is an unreal pass-catching TE who could make the difference in building Smith's confidence.
7. Oakland Raiders - Vince Young, QB - Texas - *Al Davis has to be salivating over finally being able to get his hands on an athletic quarterback, versatile quarterback to pair with the speedsters he puts everywhere else on the field. If there``e was an overweight, vodka slamming kicker available, Vince might slip past the Silver & Black, but since there isn't, Vince is safe.
8. Buffalo Bills - Haloti Ngata, DT - Oregon -*The Bills need to address defense, and Ngata is the best available defensive tackle. They've needed someone to plug the holes that used to be plugged by Fat Pat Williams. Ngata is the guy.
9. Detroit Lions - Michael Huff, DB (corner/safety) - Texas -*Huff is the best DB in the draft, he can play both positions. This pick makes so much sense for the Lions... you just know they'll draft a wide-receiver.
10. Arizona Cardinals - Ernie Sims, LB - Florida State -*235lbs, ran a 4.4 sec 40 at the combine. They took Rolle last year, and they need to start addressing the interior D. Sims is all over the field and could make an immediate impact on a bad Cards defense.
** Following the 10th pick we made a beer/pizza run. Please consider this a Midwest Sports Rubes plug for Papa John's Papa's Perfect Pan Meat Pizza and Miller Lite. Back to the action...
11. St Louis Rams - Jimmy Williams, CB - Virginia Tech -*With Archuletta gone, and few safeties in the draftable bunch, Williams will help solidify the rest of the Rams defensive backfield.
12. Cleveland Browns - Tamba Hali, DE - Penn State -*With Ted Washington now plugging the inside of the D-line, Hali will be a nice compliment on the outside. We think this could be a pick that Cleveland is looking to shop if Cutler is still available, but if they stay put, d-end is the pick.
13. Baltimore Ravens - Jay Cutler, QB - Vanderbilt -*The Ravens should go after Cutler, whether or not they need to move up to get him is the question. They have never had a franchise QB, and you can bet the offensive-minded Billick is ready for his man.
14. Philadelphia Eagles - LenDale White, RB - USC -*The Eagles threw the ball more than any other team in the league last year, and it wasn't because they wanted to, necessarily... they HAD to. Westbrook is not a franchise back, and LenDale could be the bruising touchdown machine that balances the Eagles attack.
15. Atlanta Falcons - Winston Justice, OT - USC -*Michael Vick needs much more time than he had last year to run around and make bad decisions with the football... Justice give him that time.
16. Miami Dolphins - Marcus McNeil, OT - Auburn -*Whether Daunte is ready to start in Week 1 or not, the 'Fins need someone to protect whoever is going to be making the poor decisions from the QB position. McNeil protects whatever investment is under center.
17. Minnesota Vikings - Chad Greenway, LB - Iowa -*This pick prompted a lot of discussion between us. The two best players left on our board are DeAngelo Williams (RB) and Brodrick Bunkley (DT), but the Vikes do not have immediate need at either position. The most glaring need, then, would be QB, with no other QB's available who are worthy of a first round pick. Next need in line is linebacker, and Greenway is the best available. Not the fastest, but a tackling machine who is smart and should fit well into the Cover 2 defense.
18. Dallas Cowboys - Tye Hill, CB - Clemson -*WR would have been the pick here, but now that T.O. is wearing stars, the 'Boys have to address some big D. Hill ran the fastest 40 of any CB at the combine and will help solidify things in the d-backfield for the Jonestown boys.
19. San Diego Chargers - Chad Jackson, WR - Florida -*Phil Rivers is going to need lots of people to throw to, and Jackson is the fastest WR in the draft and was a productive receiver at Florida where parrity among receivers is the norm.
20. Kansas City Cheifs - Santonio Holmes, WR - Ohio State -*Let the run on wide receivers begin! With Gonzalez the only sure-fire throwing option for Trent Green, he's going to need someone else to throw to when that, along with handing off to Larry Johnson, gets boring. Holmes is a good all-around receiver who isn't huge, but has decent speed and good hands.
21. New England Patiots - DeAngelo Williams, RB - Memphis
22. Denver Broncos - Brodrick Bunkley, DT - Florida State
23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Eric Winston, OT - Miami
24. Cincinnati Bengals - Gabe Watson, DT - Michigan
25. NY Giants - Ashton Youboty, CB - Ohio State
26. Chicago Bears - Leonard Pope, TE - Georgia
27. Carolina Panthers - Dominique Byrd, TE - USC
28. Jacksonville Jaguars - Laurence Maroney, RB - Minnesota (As a personal sidenote (Jeremy) after watching Maroney run for the past three years I can't believe he goes this low, but they don't call us experts for nothing. HEY! Stop laughing!)
29. Denver Broncos - Sinorice Moss, WR - Miami
30. Indianapolis Colts - Joseph Addai, RB - LSU
31. Seattle Seahawks - Taitusi Lutui, OG - USC
32. Pittsburgh Steelers - Bobby Carpenter, LB - Ohio State

We reserve the right to modify this list at any time, for any reason. Keep in mind that free-agency is still in play and we didn't bother speculating on any picks being traded. If you don't like our picks, too bad... we don't see YOU spending hours and hours on a mock draft.
Total time spent preparing for mock draft: 5 hrs, 12 minutes & 5 beers.
Total time spent on actual mock draft, including beer/pizza run: 2 hrs, 13 minutes & 10 or 11 beers (but who's counting?).

Friday, March 17, 2006

Jeremy: Hilariousness of the Madness Kind

For the first time in history last night I watched part of the NCAA Tourny with a girl. My special lady friend and I decided to go out for a bite and it completely escaped my mind that Champps might have the tourny games on. (Honestly, it did. I'm not even kidding. I had worked all day and then shoveled after work and prior to walking into Champps I hadn't watched a single second of basketball.) Anyway, this was a first. The comments were priceless. I had to share some of them.

Special Lady Friend: "Gonzaga? I'd like to know what Gonzaga is. Sounds like some kind of street drug."
Later, with Adam Morrison shooting free throws she throws out this gem.
SLF: "Who the heck is this guy? Guido? He looks like the kind of guy who would SELL Gonzaga."
Jer: "We like to call him 'stache."
SLF: "No. It's Guido. Is he going to barber's school?"

With seconds winding down in the George Washington/UNC-Wilmington game, UNCW was holding the ball to eat the clock. My SLF had already decided she was pulling for the blue team in both games that were being shown (UNCW & Xavier)...
SLF:(with hands balled into fists, raised at about eye level) "WHAT ARE THEY DOING? Why are they doing that? DO SOMETHING!!!"
Jer: "Hon, they're trying to eat up some time so....."
SLF: "I KNOW how to play it."
UNCW ended up missing the shot...
SLF: "SEE?!?!?! See what happens when you mess around? DAMNIT!"
At this point I was beside myself. If I had been sitting at another table I would have thought she was a UNCW alumnus. She got that into it! I was losing my mind. All I wanted to do was call Jeffrick and tell him about her comments but I was afraid I'd wreck her mojo.

One comment after watching Gonzaga last night... In the history of basketball has there ever been a player that was more disruptive to his own team's offense than Stache Morrison? Honestly, have you ever seen anyone who chases the ball around like this guy? Is it even possible that his movements fit into what they are trying to do offensively? I'm not saying he isn't outstanding, because he is. And I'm not saying he isn't a scoring machine who can pretty much create a scoring opportunity from anywhere on the floor, because there's no doubt that he can. But I was amazed by how often I saw him running toward the guy with the ball, not to set a pick or to get the offense in motion, just to try to get the ball. Maybe this is Mark Few's strategy with Stache, but holy jeez, it was staggering!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Jeremy: It's Always About the Money

To quote Jeffrick: "...both Brees and Edgerin James took the most money they could get, even though it looks like their new teams will be much worse than their old ones."
I know that if you really dissected my opinion on this issue you'd probably find that I talk out of both sides of my mouth, but in professional sports, and to some extent college sports too, it's always about the money. I know that the problem, for me, comes in with players who say "screw you" to whatever team they've been with, where the fans have fallen in love with them, to go where the money is. I'm working on that. I've admitted that this is a fault of mine, and I believe that admitting this problem is the first step to conquering it.
Of course out of the other side of my mouth you've seen me say things like David Stern has every right to enforce a dress code for NBA players because he's running a business which he has a right, and a duty, to protect. You've also seen me take a similar attitude with the new Vikings regime.
I'm prepared to bring my opinions of the players attitude toward money closer to my opinion of the owners attitude toward money.
I think Daunte Culpepper should be learning this lesson with me.
In his interview with Andrea Kremer, Daunte had this to say: "I wanted to know what [the Vikings] thought about me, if they thought I was a franchise guy, you know, let me be treated like that. I didn't really get the clarity on the situation, so I had to do what I had to do."
Daunte is right, he had to do what he had to do. But so did the Vikings, and I'm not sure that's the part of the equation that Daunte understands. Daunte has basically been begging for the Vikings to give him some kind of sign of what they think of him. He has wanted to know all along if they see him as a franchise guy or not. But Daunte hasn't proven to them, through his actions following his injury, that he's willing to act like that guy off the field, and he hasn't been rehabing at Winter Park so as to show them that he is physically making progress to become a franchise guy on the field.
Despite Zygi saying that Daunte was their franchise quarterback both verbally and financially, and Brad Childress saying that Daunte was their franchise guy when he started, Daunte has continued to push the Vikings into a decision that they didn't have all of the information that they needed to make. He didn't act like a team leader off the field, and the new regime, following the injury, has no clue if he's going to be able to be a leader on the field.
So by forcing the Vikings hand, Daunte reduced this decision, for the Vikings, down to the lowest common denomenator, as always, money. Daunte forced the Vikings to make a business decision based solely on risk and possible return on investment.
I think that's the part about this whole situation that bothers me the most. Daunte continues to lay blame on the Vikings, without taking any responsibility for what has happened. He cannot blame all of this on the Vikings, when he wasn't willing to put himself in front of the decision makers at every opportunity to show them that he was willing to be the leader that he was asking to be paid like.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Jeff: Where to begin?

Wow what a week! March Madness, some crazy free agent signings, and of course, Daunte the Dolphin (which, along with the Brees signing, completely shakes up the draft). Jer and I both have been Daunte supporters since the beginning (go as far back on this site as you want, and when we mention Daunte, we've been in favor of him), and although, like everyone else, we were disappointed with his performance last year, we both wanted to see him back in Minnesota this year. Which Daunte would have returned? The former Pro-Bowler, or the Deer-in-the-headlights guy we saw last year? I wanted to find out. Call his bluff, make him report to camp, and give the guy a chance to play under the new "Triangle of Authority's" regime. Learn from what happened to the Timberwolves by letting Stephon Marbury go: Yeah guys can make life miserable for their team when they're unhappy, but let it play out a bit and see what happens. Give him the 2006 season to see what he looks like, because I don't think there's any way he could be worse than he was in 2005. As witnessed in the Moss and Culpepper deals, you'll also never get full value in trade for a quality player.

So the Vikes caved to his wishes and dealt him, and frankly getting a 2nd round pick in this year's draft was impressive, considering you were only dealing with one team, the Dolphins, who were actually willing to give you a 2nd rounder (the Raiders were apparently only willing to give up a 3rd). Really I think the TOA (Triangle of Authority in Winter Park) felt like they wanted to completely wipe the slate clean, and start over with THEIR guys, and guys who wanted to be there. Not a bad theory, and really, if they felt they had to trade Daunte, they did as well as they could in the deal, and along with their free agent signings, it give the Vikes a lot of flexibility in the draft.

(Strib reports today also that the Vikes will get new uniforms for 2006. Considering how ugly most new uniforms have been- think Cincy, Arizona, Buffalo or Seattle- and the fact we're dealing with purple and yellow as a color scheme, let's just say I'm not too thrilled about what these things are going to look like.)

Speaking of the draft, what happens now? Damn good question. For Minnesota, I think they stay put at 17, unless they feel like they can make a good enough deal to get up into the top 10 for one of the QB's. However, now that the Saints have a QB, there's no telling what will happen in the top 4 picks now until draft day comes, and those top 4 will affect everyone after that. If New Orleans ends up at staying at #2, their management should be fired on the spot. With a top talent like Leinart available, and teams behind you like Tennessee, the Jets, Oakland, Arizona, Baltimore, and Minnesota all needing a franchise QB (I'd include the Lions in there but we know they can get the best WR without moving up), the Saints SHOULD have no trouble finding a good deal to move down, stockpile picks, and still end up with a quality 1st round pick. This draft is stacked at the top, with 7 or 8 guys (Bush, Leinart, DE Mario Williams, LT Ferguson, LB AJ Hawk, TE Vernon Davis, Cutler, Young, and DB Michael Huff) grading out as top 5 talents. Although many scouts are saying Williams is another Julius Peppers, QB's are always worth more, and the Saints could move down even a couple of spots, with either the Jets or Titans, and still get him.
IF the Saints do stay put and take Williams, then Leinart goes to the Titans at 3, the Jets take Cutler or Ferguson at 4, the Pack perhaps go Hawk at 5 (or Lendale White), and then from there? Well you'll have to wait for our 1st Annual MWSR Mock Draft next week.

Regardless, the Vikes, for the first time since Daunte was drafted, need to look for a quarterback to develop in the draft. Despite some rumors or prognostications to the contrary, I'd be shocked if Cutler or Young falls all the way to 17 for Minnesota. If they don't go up to get one of those two guys, you have to use one of your 2nd round picks on either Brodie Croyle from Alabama or Charlie Whitehurst from Clemson (who I'm a big fan of), as this is a pretty weak QB draft after the Big 3, and after Whitehurst and Croyle, it's an absolute free-fall in talent.

As for the wild moves in free agency, both Brees and Edgerin James took the most money they could get, even though it looks like their new teams will be much worse than their old ones. The Saints were offering more guaranteed money than the Dolphins were, and according to one article earlier this week, Brees said he looked forward to the challenge of rebuilding the Saints, and doing what he could to help the city of New Orleans rebuild after the hurricane. He's always been an underdog in his career, as Purdue was the only D-1 school to offer a scholarship (who he helped lead to a Rose Bowl. Why doesn't that ever happen at Minnesota? Oh that's right, Glen Mason's there and Gopher fans are happy with 6-5 seasons every year. I forgot. My mistake. Go mediocrity! Go Gophers!), and despite gaudy collegiate numbers, he was a 2nd round pick with San Diego. It could also be a nice excuse for taking more money. As for Edge, despite what Indy said, apparently the Colts had no intentions of bringing him back. With very few teams needing a starting running back (especially with a strong draft class coming), he took the best deal he could get. At 28, with already a lot of wear on him, I don't think you can blame the guy for taking $20 million over the next two seasons. I don't think he'll be as successful as he was in Indy. Teams last season dared the Colts to run, often dropping seven or eight guys in coverage on every play. With Arizona, they had one of the league's worst lines last year, and teams are likely, despite the threats of WR's Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Bolden, to play the run first. I don't think he'll have a terrible year, but I would doubt he'll put up the MVP-like numbers he did the past season.

Finally, this from's Gary Horton: with Tennessee likely to draft a QB and keep McNair, Billy Volek (a 29 yr old QB who was outstanding filling in for an injured McNair- wait, that's redundant. McNair's ALWAYS injured!- two seasons ago and who I think could be a good starter in this league), is now expendable. With some extra draft picks on hand in Minnesota now, what would you think of Billy Volek in some new hideous purple uni this fall? Personally? I say let's get it done-- well minus the hideous uniform part.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Jeff: The Musings on a Blizzardy Monday

* is blizzardy a word? It is now. What a gong show of a day.

* Like Jer I'm still recovering from the shock of the first couple days of free agency, where your Vikings have looked like the prudent franchise we've always wanted them to be. THey've been targeting players that fit the schemes for their new offense and defensive schemes. Would grabbing Edgerin James have been a bigger splash than Chester Taylor? Or Will Witherspoon or Lavar Arrington instead of Ben Weber? Certainly, but they're going for substance over style, and they're saving money in the process.

* this from Peter King's MMQB this morning:
"I think next October we'll all be writing, "Wow. I never thought the biggest impact player in free agency would be Chester Taylor with the Vikings." Prediction: Chester Taylor outgains Edgerrin James in 2006."

Again, this is a player signed by the Minnesota Vikings. As Vikes fans, we've expected the worst for so long, I'm not sure what I'd do if this management group actually puts a contender on the field that produces. I'd like to find out though.

* the Steve Hutchinson offer is indeed massive, but it's a homerun if the Seahawks don't match (they have until sometime Saturday to do so). Hutchinson is a 2-time 1st team All-pro guard who's only 28, meaning he'll be in his prime right through the end of this deal. To me the O-Line is THE most important group on the field, and getting a monster like Hutchinson would be a huge help.

* Looks like the Daunte deal hinges on Drew Brees signing. He left New Orleans without a contract, and I'd be shocked if he leaves Miami today without signing. They're a Super Bowl contender with him (remember this team won 9 games with Gus Ferotte at QB. Nick Saban should be Coach of the Decade for that performance), and they're in Miami. Shouldn't be a tough sell. If Brees does go there, the Vikings are out of trading options.

If there weren't 12 feet of snow outside I'd be walking around singing "It's the most wonderful time...of the year!!!" Obviously everbody wins by me not singing, but man I just love this time of year. Can't wait for Thursday for the opening day of the tournament. How is this not a national holiday yet? You can probably count on one hand the number of guys that will be in their respective offices Thursday afternoon, so why not just give us the day off? And you what, while we're at it, throw Friday in too!!!
It would probably save American businesses in the process. Another excerpt from Mr. King's column:

"The New York Times reported Sunday that according to a job-search firm, the 2006 NCAA men's basketball tournament will cost American companies $3.6 billion in lost worker productivity."

* Want to know who's going to win it all? Don't even bother asking me. I love filling out brackets, but I never come close to winning them. So if you're looking to win $$ from someone (and if the IRS is reading this, by $$ I mean, um, chewing gum. Or popsicle sticks. Or bragging rights), sure I'd love to join your office pool!

* After watching some of the bracket shows, seems everybody likes UConn. Not me. They're unquestionably the most talented team in the country, but as was exposed in the Big East tourney, they lack an alpha-dog. When the game's on the line, who's not only taking, but MAKING the big shot for the Huskies? Exactly. Now that I've said that, they'll probably roll through and win the whole thing.

* Jerry McNamara is my hero. Just so you know.

* I also caught some of the Duke games in the ACC tournament, covered by Mr. Duke himself, Dick Vitale. I'm now fairly certain that the movie "Brokeback Mountain" was loosely based on the life of Dookie V and Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski... or JJ Redick...or Josh McRoberts...or Bobby Hurley...or really any white player that's played, is playing, or could play at Duke.

* somewhere Billy Packer and Mateen Cleaves are screaming that Brokeback was really about them. Sorry fellas, my mistake.

* Speaking of my least favorite announcer, Mr. Packer, did anyone else watch the CBS Selection show yesterday, where Jim Nance and Packer CUT OFF the NCAA Selection Chairman so they could complain about how many major conference teams were left out? I caught the interview right before they cut him off, so I'm wondering if I missed something, or did they really cut him off? If that's true, Nance and Packer are #'s 1 and 1a on my list of guys who need to be suckerpunched.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Jeremy: Free Agency Action

Just in case you were confused, Vikings fans, yes, that was the Minnesota Vikings they were talking about last night when your favorite sports anchor said they had signed some free agents.
I know, I know... I was shocked too. The Vikings? Active on Day 1 of free agency? Really? Apparently Don Wilf really is bringing a new era to Vikings football, and along with it, he's bringing a spend-spend-spend attitude.
The day started with Koren Robinson singing with the Vikes for another 3 years. This was a nice re-signing for us. The jury is still out on if Robinson can be a solid game in, game out, wide receiver for us, but we certainly saw bits of explosion from him last year. We can probably expect to see KoRo get more reps at wide-receiver this year... you can bet that Childress is going to set Brad Johnson up with plenty of options to throw to.
Saturday continued with the news that long-time Packer kicker, and often Viking killer, Ryan Longwell, had followed Darren Sharper's lead from last year and gave up the green and gold for a nice purple. This was a big signing for the Vikings for two reasons. First, we haven't had a reliable kicker on the roster since Gary Anderson's season in '98. But the second reason is perhaps more important. The Packers were trying to get Longwell back and were offering him similar numbers in terms of compensation, but the Vikings came in with a larger signing bonus to land Longwell. This was a statement signing. By signing Longwell, and virtually outbidding the Packers (as well as the Bucs, who were also interested) the Vikings are letting everyone know that the cap money they have available they are willing to spend. In addition, this signing obviously tells the Packers something about the new Vikings regime. Hopefully that message is "you will NOT beat us in free agency, and you will NOT beat us on the field."
Of the four signings the Vikings had on Day 1 of free agency, I know the least about Ben Leber. Leber looks to be the kind of fast outside linebacker that the Vikings were looking for to plug into the Cover 2 defense they are planning to run. He's coming off of a season in which he lost his starting job to stud Shawne Merriman, and then suffered a season ending foot injury. From what I've read on him his foot is coming along very well, and he should be a good fit for our new defense.
Last, but certainly not least, is Chester Taylor, Baltimore's back-up to Jamal Lewis last year. Taylor hasn't had a ton of opportunity to prove himself in the NFL, but when he's gotten the ball, he's produced. He's averaged 4.3 yd/carry for his career, and is the kind of back who can catch the ball coming out of the backfield, which should fit nicely with Brad Johnson's weak arm.
The Vikings addressed the two most glaring areas that they needed to attend to when this off-season started: running back and linebacker. Of course quarterback is now a concern as well, but based on how aggressive the new group has been, you've got to be confident about where things are going. The other nice thing about these free agent signings is that it will give the Vikes some flexability in the draft next month. Having addressed a couple of major holes already, they will now be able to draft the best available player with the 17th pick in the draft.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Jeremy: Alright...That's It!!!

Okay, I've officially had it with Daunte Culpeppar. At this point, my message to Daunte would be "Don't let the door hit ya in the ass on the way out!"
I just can't handle it anymore. The guy gets hurt, which by the way is something that happens to almost every athlete at some point in time, granted it's a major injury, but it's not like Daunte is the first guy in history to have a major knee injury. And what is his response?... CRICKETS!!! The guy absolutely disappears. He's nowhere to be found. The media can't find him, the team can't get ahold of him, nothing! We come to find out that he's gone into some kind of deep depression over his injury, his poor play before the injury, his contract, the "Love Boat" incident, blah, blah, blah.
In the words of Dan Barreiro: "GET OVER IT!!!"
Daunte's a talented guy, and I understand that this is the only market in the entire country that has spent even an nano-second of time debating whether or not Daunte should be a starter or not. I have never, ever, debated the fact that Daunte should be a starter in the NFL. He definitely has the credentials and the talent to be a starter in this league. But if he's going to whine, if he's going to cry, if he's going to disappear when the going gets tough, then let him go, let him be a starter someplace else.
The biggest mistake that Daunte made was when he decided to represent himself instead of having an agent. We already knew that Daunte was an emotional dude, prone to pouting when things get tough, and getting his "roll" on when things went even slightly well. But he's always had someone to calm him down, someone who was on his side to say, "look, it's going to be okay, this is just the business of the NFL." He's always had a filter. Now he's got nothing, by his own doing, and everytime he gets upset, or feels underappreciated, he just fires off an email to Andrea Kremer. And we were supposed to see this as a smart business decision? Really?
So, Daunte wants out, and I can't imagine that he's not going to get his wish. I'm sure Zygi is sitting in a big, comfy office chair somewhere in New Jersey, reading Daunte's email and saying out loud... "YOU WANT OUT? YOU WANT OUT? You got it, you ingrate! Saves me 6 mil!"
Let's not forget that Zygi is the guy who re-did Daunte's contract as pretty much his first move once he bought the Vikings. He's the same guy who all along has said that Daunte would get his roster bonus in March. And Daunte just keeps pushing. Well Zygi's got the muscle to push back. And I'm not talking about money... I'm talking about "the muscle." I'm talking about Guido and Vinny and the boys. Look, I'm not saying, I'm just saying... I think Zygi might have some "connections," if you know what I mean. Daunte might be the first guy to learn the reality of what it means to try to "deal" with Don Wilf.
Daunte might end up in Wilf's office, and I imagine the conversation might go something similar to Don Corleone's conversation with Johnny Fontaine in "The Godfather."
Daunte: "Oh Zygi, I don't know what to do. I don't know what to do."
Zygi: "YOU CAN ACT LIKE A MAN!!! [Slap!]

Monday, March 06, 2006

Jeremy: Here's To Number 34

Super Bowl XX, Chicago vs. New England, January 26, 1986, is my first memory of sports. That's the first time I remember sitting in front of the t.v. watching a sporting event with my dad.
But the first time that I remember what it felt like to be a sports fan, not just what it was like to watch, but what it really felt like, was the 1987 World Series, when the Twins played the St. Louis Cardinals. And that 1987 Twins season is my earliest memories of Kirby Puckett as well.
I was just shy of my tenth birthday when the Twins won that World Series over the Cardinals. I remember watching games during that season and paying special attention to Kirby. That season my dad took me to a Twins game at the Metrodome, my first ever major sporting event, and as we sat on the third base line and Kirby ran out to centerfield in the first inning, my dad leaned over to me and said "That guy, number 34, keep an eye on that guy. That's the guy you want to be like."
Growing up playing youth baseball all I ever wanted to do was play centerfield. Of course, I wasn't the only one. It was Kirby's position, he was the most popular athlete in Minnesota, and every kid my age wanted to play centerfield. And let me tell you, when I was a kid there was no equal opportunity when it came to playing positions in sports. Coach Snyder gave you your position, you played it every game, and there weren't any questions about it. I got stuck in leftfield. Dan Gladden was a pretty good role model too, but he was no Kirby.
Then of course, there was Kirby's number. 34. Not only did everyone want to play Kirby's position but everybody wanted to wear Kirby's number. Coach Snyder had a plan for that too... nobody got to wear number 34.
But there were a few things that Coach Snyder couldn't take away from us. He couldn't keep us from trying to play in the field like Kirby. He couldn't keep us from standing in the batter's box like Kirby. And he couldn't keep us from trying to flip our bats after a great hit like Kirby.
That bat flip. If you were a kid in Minnesota playing baseball, you knew that flip and you tried to mimick it every chance you got. That is one of the lasting images, one of the images burnt onto my brain about Kirby Puckett. Kirby would step up to the plate, take is practice swings, and wait for the pitch to come in. And Kirby wasn't one to take a pitch. If the first pitch came in and he liked it... CRACK!!! And as soon as it left his bat, he knew it was gone and on his follow through his bat would flip off his left hand, like a rocket, in such a perfect way, like only Kirby could flip it. The Kirby Flip.
The other lasting image that sticks in my head of Puck was the 1991 World Series against the Braves. In the 11th Inning Kirby hit a solo shot to win the game as Jack Buck yelled "We'll see ya tomorrow night!!!" I'll always remember how it felt when Kirby hit that ball and watching him round first base yelling and pumping his arms with excitement! That was the beginning of this home town team addiction that I suffer from... such a sweet first high!
Kirby was the kind of player that we should all tell our kids about. The guy who worked hard, didn't look the part, beat all the odds, who played the game because he loved the game, and ended up a World Series Champ and a Hall of Famer.
Baseball just hasn't seemed quite as much fun to watch since Puck had to leave the game because of glaucoma. He is already missed.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Jeff: "Gene Upshaw is a piece of" well, you know"

My words? Nope those are from Vikings center Matt Birk. Leave it to a Harvard guy to sum up everything much better than I could, as Birk does in Mark Craig's article today in the strib. Looks like the owners aren't the only ones who are unhappy with the way the players union is being run. If you're interested at all in the NFL, it's a good read.

Have a good weekend, everybody.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Jeff: Shocked Into Stunned Disbelief

"We're going to behead the golden goose," one NFC owner said last week. "And I can't see why both sides would ever let it get to that..."

I thought I was smarter than this (any of you who know me can insert your own "well you should of asked me and I could have told you you weren't" joke here). I really did. With all the spoiled athletes and owners in today's world of sports, I didn't think there was anything out there that could really shock me. Well I was wrong. Reading Len Pasquarelli's column today on about NFL labor strife leaves me stunned. I expected the labor problems that happened in baseball, basketball, and especially hockey, but never the mighty king of pro sports, the National Football League. While the commissioners of the NHL and Major League Baseball are incompetent at best, and David Stern (now, without a doubt, "the Don Stern" is the best commissioner in sports) has done what he can with the third most popular sport in the country, I just thought the NFL was bullet-proof. The hard salary cap and non-guaranteed contracts have done wonders for pro football. It gives small market teams like the two latest Super Bowl contestants, Pittsburgh and Seattle, a chance to compete with the big boys in Dallas, Washington and New York. Although it's definitely a disadvantage to the players, having no guaranteed contracts makes them play harder, and therefore makes the game better. Hell, the fact the league is so wildly popular despite having NO TEAM in the country's second largest media market (Los Angeles) should tell you how well both the players and owners are doing here.

So you would think, as I did, that both sides would look at this, as well as the problems and shortcomings of the other leagues, and try to get a new collective bargaining agreement finished as fast as possible. If you're involved in the NFL, you're not making money hand-over-fist- money is practically falling from the sky!! Yes, owners from major markets could probably be making more money than they are now, but considering their franchises are all worth in excess of $800 MILLION DOLLARS each and they continue to be cash cows, is it REALLY worth it to sacrifice all of that for a few more millions a year?!?!?!

Apparently it is. Besides the fact owners and players can't agree how much of a percentage of league revenues the players should receive (players want 60%, the owners won't budge from 56.2%), you have the owners themselves fighting with one another!!! It was the late New York Giants owner Wellington Mara who years ago took the responsibility of convincing the owners that a salary cap and sharing revenue streams more evenly would be better for the league, even though Mara, owner of a team in the world's largest media market, standed to lose the most from this proposition. When Mr. Mara died this past year, it seems like his forward-thinking common sense that had been a Hallmark of this league for so long left with him. Is it possible to screw up the NFL? Before this week I would have said no. I believe college football is the only "untouchable" sport in the country. I can't possibly think of a scenario where people would stop watching and attending college football games en masse. I used to think the NFL was in this class too, but it looks like I was mistaken.

Is the NFL now doomed because of this week's happenings? No, but I'm no longer convinced cooler heads will prevail here. Unless something unforseen happens today, the NFL will have an "uncapped" season starting in 2007. Suddenly the two things that have made this league so great, a salary cap, and reasonable player contracts, will be gone. Suddenly small-market teams like Minnesota will no longer be on even standing with the Dallas Cowboys or Washington Redskins. Those "big boys" can sign as many players as the want to as much as they want. Yes, the contracts will still not be guaranteed, but that gives even MORE advantage to the bigger cities, as we've seen in baseball. If player X can sign for $10 million in Minnesota, or for $20 million in Washington, what do you think he's going to do? And if a team like Washington, a team that makes obscene amounts of money already, can spend freely on players with no concerns about their bottom line, well I think you can fill in the blanks from there.

Oh, and just so you don't think I'm totally blaming the owners for all of this, here's a quote from the Pasquarelli article on comments from NFLPA (players association) director Gene Upshaw:

"And Upshaw has reiterated throughout the talks that if the NFL ever plays without a salary cap for one season, players will never permit one to be reinstituted."

At this point, I have no reason not to believe him. Football fans (and especially those in Minnesota), enjoy the 2006 season, because after this, football as we know it may never be the same.