A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal presidential poll came out Wednesday, and for some reason I’ve decided to take one of the most important decisions in our country and turn it into a vehicle to talk about Minnesota’s sports teams.
You’ll find no analysis here of Hillary Clinton’s six-point lead over Donald Trump. Instead, you’ll find the qualities of several of Minnesota’s teams put through a few of the same poll questions that formed the basis of the recent candidate poll. And instead of putting this to a vote, this is a dictatorship: only my vote counts (at least until we reach the comments section, where you should obviously chime in).
The entities who will be considered here: Vikings, Twins, Wild, Wolves, Lynx, United and Gophers.
And here are the questions, modeled after some of the questions in the poll. We’ll grade the first two on a scale of 1-100.
*All in all, do you think that things are generally headed in the right direction, or do you feel that things are off on the wrong track?
Vikings: GM Rick Spielman has his critics, and the team has been exposed as being thin at QB and offensive line due to recent injuries and poor play. But overall, there’s no denying this is a team on the upswing and that the GM at least deserves some of the credit for a deep roster. Approval rating: 75.
Twins: If the election was a year ago, the Twins and Terry Ryan would have been right in the hunt. But now, heading toward a 100-loss season in which Ryan was fired and several prospects have stalled? Confidence is low, and the franchise is one David Kahn-esque personnel hire away from deep oblivion. Approval rating: 25.
Wild: Here’s an interesting one. If we consider where the franchise was four years ago — full of optimism after signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, but coming off a slew of disappointing seasons — the on-ice product is certainly better. But are things headed in the right direction? They seem at more of a standstill, or at least a step forward/step back pace under GM Chuck Fletcher. Approval rating: 50.
Wolves: This is a franchise suddenly full of potential but still waiting for real results. Still, if the question is about heading in the right direction, there’s no question the Wolves and new coach/boss Tom Thibodeau are inspiring confidence. Approval rating: 75.
Lynx: I’m not sure if Roger Griffith (the GM and CEO of the Lynx) gets enough credit, but three WNBA titles in five years (as well as a great shot to win another this year) leave no doubt where this franchise stands. Approval rating: 100.
United: The club’s sporting director, Manny Lagos, has a deep well of soccer contacts and is well-positioned to help United in its transition to Major League Soccer. Moving up a division and into a new outdoor stadium is a nice combination even if unknowns remain. That said, the team’s uneven play in its final year in the NASL is a little concerning. Approval rating: 70.
Gophers: New athletic director Mark Coyle showed a firm hand in firing wrestling coach J Robinson, but plenty of other big decisions could be on the horizon. At this moment, it’s hard to say with confidence that the department is headed in the right direction — though the vote could be different a year from now. Approval rating: 30.
How would you grade each candidate’s ability to make changes for the better, on a scale of 1-100?
Vikings/Spielman: 60. Some draft misses, but this is a deep enough roster to embolden decisions like trading for Sam Bradford.
Twins/TBA: 30. Let’s see who the new boss is. Then let’s see what they do. After the last six years, a lot of fans are taking a “guilty until proven innocent” approach.
Wild/Fletcher: 50. This would be lower, but the ability to go get Bruce Boudreau as coach was big.
Wolves/Thibodeau: 70. We don’t know yet exactly what kind of executive Thibs will be yet, but we know he can coach defense and we think he nailed his first draft pick (Kris Dunn).
Lynx/Griffith: 80. The core has aged, but Griffith has been able to add pieces like Sylvia Fowles to keep the championship window open. And as long as Maya Moore is in her prime, everyone looks good.
United/Lagos: 60. His eye for talent will be put to the test with the move to MLS.
Gophers/Coyle: 50. This is the equivalent of an incomplete. Coyle is generally likable but his legacy will be defined by the culture, facilities and of course major-program victories.
If you had to decide today which of these candidates you would vote for in a general election of all Minnesota sports executives, who would it be?
This is a tough one. Griffith gets the highest approval ratings, but is he a visible enough candidate? Spielman is probably the best-known candidate and could ride a wave of positive momentum to a general election victory. Thibodeau would do well in the debates.
In the end, it’s hard to argue with winning. Griffith is the most electable candidate. But I’d love to see a Griffith/Spielman ticket go up against a Thibodeau/Lagos ticket.