Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.
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Last time the Vikings played a Monday night game at Met Life Stadium in Jersey, the Vikings were in the middle of another lost season, but the personalities and circumstances were dramatically different.
Brad Childress was the coach, and fighting for power within the organization. Tonight, the Vikings' coach will be Leslie Frazier, whose job may be in as much jeopardy today as Childress' was in 2010, but who plays his role with more diplomacy.
Brett Favre was the quarterback, and fighting off tabloid stories about his texting habits. Tonight, the quarterback will be Josh Freeman, who, unlike Favre in 2010, is hoping to play another 10 years in the NFL.
Randy Moss was the supposed midseason saviour. Tonight, Freeman plays that role, trying to prove that Greg Schiano really is who we think he is.
The Jets beat the Vikings on that rainy Monday night in 2010, but what I really remember was dealing with Moss and Favre after the game.
Moss was difficult, parrying interview requests until Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press challenged him to talk, and Moss did. That night, you could not have imagined that a television network would ever hire Moss and pay him for his thoughts.
Favre was masterful. Not on the field, but in the cramped, overcrowded postgame interview room. If Anthony Weiner could handle negative press and difficult questions about his personal life the way Favre did, Weiner could be president, instead of out of politics.
The Minnesota media had already asked Favre plenty of questions about his texting habits and relationship with Jenn Sterger. This was the New York media's chance to go after him. Favre calmly turned every question towards football without getting angry or offering any new information.
I think Favre would have made the perfect politician. He looks and acts like a leader. He is a master at manipulating the national media. He has fame and money on his side. And he is the best press-conference manager I've ever interviewed.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at 9:30 instead of noon today so I can catch my flght to New York. I'll also be on KFGO in Fargo with Mike McFeely, probably around 3:30 Central time. I'll also be on 1500ESPN at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday before heading back to Minnesota.
My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib. Thanks for reading.
A series of national reports indicated the Vikings have signed former Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman.
Freeman is problematic. He was inaccurate and error-prone this season. He missed a team photo and battled with his head coach.
This part is important: The coach he battled with, Greg Schiano, may be an idiot.
I like the move. Freeman has had two outstanding NFL seasons. He has the talent to succeed. The Vikings are getting a chance to try out a quarterback capable of being a productive NFL starter without giving up a first-round draft pick or a massive, long-term contract.
The reports are Freeman will sign a one-year deal worth $2.5 to $3 million. That's nothing for a quarterback.
The Vikings may not admit it, but this should end Christian Ponder's tenure in Minnesota. Matt Cassel is sure to start against Carolina next week, and the Vikings aren't bringing in Freeman to be a third-string quarterback.
Freeman gets a fresh start, and the Vikings get a quarterback with NFL talent without waiting and hoping the right guy falls to them in the draft.
This is a smart, aggressive, low-risk, high-reward move by Rick Spielman.
The Minnesota writers from the Twin Cities in London for the Vikings game have developed a morning routine. We eat breakfast, scan the papers, look at each other and say, ``Nope. Nothing.’’
There has been no mention of the Vikings-Steelers game at Wembley in the major morning papers. I haven’t seen a mention on the television, although at least one member of our traveling party has seen a 20-second clip of a Vikings’ practice.
In a country that reveres soccer, cricket, the America’s Cup, Olympic sports, snooker and rugby, this is not particularly surprising.
What’s surprising is that the Vikings are being covered by a large contingent of reporters who seem to be both legitimate and British.
Unless the NFL hired a squad of actors to imitate reporters and legitimize the game.
The British journalists ask intelligent questions and seem keenly interested in American football. Maybe they’re saving all of the coverage for Sunday.
If my personal experience ia any indication, the Vikings should have a big advantage over the Steelers on Sunday.
I landed at midday Monday. I think I had completely recovered from the flight, jet lag and time change by Thursday morning, about 72 hours later.
The Steelers arrived Friday morning. They’ll be playing an NFL game about 54 hours after having landed.
I agree with Jared Allen. The NFL can talk all it wants about putting a team in London, but no NFL player will want to play for a team based here.
We’re covering Vikings practice in Watford right now. Mark Craig, Chip Scoggins, photojournalist Carlos Gonzalez and myself will post columns, news stories, videos, photos and blog posts all day at Startribune.com.
We had a tough assignment last night: Shooting a video of Mark Craig taste-testing beer in local pubs. The funny thing is, Mark’s a Bud Light guy. He recoils at the sight of fruit in beer, or any beer that may hold more color than a glass of ice water. So the beer-testing didn’t last long. He found a European version of Bud Light and settled in for the night.
My column in Thursday's paper recreates the way I think the conversation between Leslie Frazier and Christian Ponder might have gone.
Here I'll put things more plainly.
Ponder coming down with a mysterious rib injury is perfect for the Vikings. They can take a look at Matt Cassel in a must-win game heading into the bye week, then make a more full-informed decision on the quarterback position. If Cassel plays brilliantly, he keeps the job. If he plays poorly, the Vikings can go back to Ponder and hope he has cleared his head, and they never would have actually benched him.
Of course, this is only speculation. The Vikings aren't about to tip their hand on this one.
For those wondering why, given all of the Vikings' problems, Ponder is the only one facing a potential benching, I go back to what Jerry Burns always said: Changing left guards doesn't send a jolt of electricity through your team. Changing your quarterback does.
Also, remember how much the Vikings invested in their passing game during the offseason. They signed Greg Jennings. They traded into the first round to draft Cordarrelle Patterson. Having a quarterback willing to hang in the pocket long enough for those players to get open (assuming Bill Musgrave actually puts Patterson on the field) might be a good idea.
I keep waiting for some sign of the NFL's popularity in London.
Haven't seen any indication in London proper that there is an NFL game this Sunday. Haven't seen a word in the major newspapers or on the morning TV shows. Or on the evening TV shows. I'm sure there has been media coverage, because there are plenty of reporters covering the Vikings' appearances and practices. Maybe I'm just looking in the wrong places.
The NFL chose well when it chose the Vikings to play here and spend the week promoting the game. They're a willing group of interviewees and ambassadors. When I spoke with Jared Allen yesterday, he used the phrase ``bangers and mash'' about 12 times, saying he loves the food in London.
During the Olympics, I often made fun of London's food, but Allen's right. You can find great restaurants in London, just not where I was staying during the Olympics. The Strib's traveling entourage has particularly enjoyed the Grazing Goat Pub. Mark Craig even tried a dark beer before switching back to something resembling his traditional Bud Lights.
I thought the highlight of the press conferences was Rick Spielman saying he called home to tell his wife to bring her bathing suit, the weather was so nice here.
Not so fast, Rick. It's overcast and threatening today.
I'm spending today with photojournalist Carlos Gonzalez in London, looking for some local color. I mean, colour. Thanks for reading. Remember, we have Mark Craig, Chip Scoggins, Carlos and myself covering all angles of the Vikings' trip to London, including the game. Please check back on Startribune.com for columns, stories, notes, blog posts, photos and videos.
London -- The first wave of the Star Tribune contigent - photographer Carlos Gonzalez (@CarlosGphoto) and me - arrived in London this afternoon (or morning, Minnesota time.)
The Vikings will arrive Tuesday morning, and we'll cover their first press conference here. Chip Scoggins and Mark Craig will join us Tuesday afternoon, and we'll provide stories, columns, notes, blog posts, photos and videos all week. Please pick up a paper or follow us on Startribune.com.
So far, I've checked into my hotel, eaten lunch at a Lebanese restaurant and taken a walk that led me to Paddington Station, which is kind of like London's Grand Central Station.
I asked a young man with a heavy beard working at the "ee'' phone store whether there was excitment in London over the Vikings' game on Sunday against the Steelers.
Here's a rough recollection of how the conversation went:
Me: Anybody talking about the NFL game?
Him: "Not really.''
Me: Do people here care about the NFL?
Him: "Not really. People here are into football, or what you call soccer. American football isn't really followed here, and it's on at odd times - late at night, when people are sleeping.''
Me: Will you watch the game?
Him: Probably not.
The time change is six hours, so the Vikings' noon kickoff (CST) will begin at 6 p.m. in London.
That's really not that late. The impression I got from the young man at the phone store was that he just didn't care about American football, and so hadn't bothered to think about why he didn't care for it.
I wrote about the Vikings' coaching staff and their impending arrival in London for the Tuesday paper. I picked up a bunch of local newspapers, and didn't see a mention of the Vikings-Steelers game or the NFL at all.
I still view the marketing of football in Europe as misguided greed. The NFL is incredibly successful in part because of its size. There are 32 teams grouped in divisions of four. While Jacksonville is a weak link because of city size, stadium quality and poor management, there isn't a franchise that can't thrive if managed intelligently.
Expand to Europe, and you add exhausting travel to the physical challenges facing NFL players. You'd probably have to alter the way the schedule works. You'd have to play games at a time that would be inconvenient either for local fans or the prime TV audience.
While I love having an opportunity to spend a week in a great city like London, I don't even think it's right to play a regular-season game here. The Vikings sacrifice a home game and add a difficult trip to their schedule, and for what?
I'm really not sure.
1500ESPN got me a phone I can use for international calls, so I'll be keeping my usual radio schedule: Noon(ish) each day with Judd@Dubay, plus calling in to Sunday Sports Talk and the last Ron Gardenhire Show of the season, 9:30-noon on Sunday.
Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
Thanks for reading.
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