Sprinkling the infield:
1.I felt privileged to spend time writing about Vikings' COO Kevin Warren, a generous and accomplished person. He was open and accessible, and has much about which to be proud. Please check out my profile of the NFL's first black COO, and how he got here: http://www.startribune.com/vikings-chief-operating-officer-knows-no-limits/459978103/#1
2. If you are a Gopher football fan, please have enough pride to feel embarrassed about P.J. Fleck's performance the last two weeks. As I wrote after the Northwestern debacle, you don't have to give up hope that he can run a program to accept that he was grotesquely outcoached.
Athletes like to talk about effort level, but this can be misconstrued as equating effort to achievement. In contact sports in particular, if you're not sure of your assignment, or if you're not sure that tackling your assignment will lead to success, you can become disheartened quickly. The past two weeks the Gophers looked confused and disheartened. Don't blame the kids. They want to win. Blame the coaching. The coaches gave them no chance to win either game.
3. Tom Thibodeau runs a quality offense. He creates open shots and three-pointers as well as driving lanes. What remains in question is his defense. As with the Gophers, if the Timberwolves players aren't sure of their assignments, or whether their assignments will lead to success, they're going to look a step slow. We see this most often with Karl Anthony-Towns. Here's one of the most productive young players in NBA history, a player who clearly wants to win, and yet he often looks lost on the defensive end. Do we really believe he doesn't want to play quality defense? Isn't it more likely that he, like so many Wolves over the past 14 months, aren't sure of their assignements? The Wolves are a bad defensive team. That's Thibs' resonsibility.
4. One theme that has become popular on social media among fans is this: Why won't the Vikings just announce that Case Keenum is the starter the rest of the season?
Counterpoint: What's the benefit in that?
It won't help Keenum play better. He's a career backup who seems to be thriving with his current mindset. He's not going to play better if he is given security. He might even play worse, if he feels too comfortable or starts contemplating his next contract.
And what if Keenum does what he's done before in his career, and collapse after playing well for a stretch? Then the Vikings would have to renege on their promise to him. The team would look bad, and the lockerroom could become divided.
One tenet of sports management that I've heard from the best people I've covered is this: Never make a decision before you have to. Circumstances change in sports all the time. Why make a judgement based on current information when the information is bound to change, perhaps even in the next week?
Keep playing Keenum? Of course. Commit to him?
5. Yes, the Gopher basketball team was outplayed for a stretch by an Alabama team limited to three or four players on the court.
If the Gophers were a bad team, this could be cited as a symptom of dysfunction. But they're not a bad team. They're a top-10 quality team.
So I would attribute their difficult stretch to the oddity of the situation, not a lack of intelligence. Basketball teams don't practice power plays. Over a longer stretch, I'm sure the Gophers would have figured out how to play more efficiently and would have taken advantage of their manpower advantage. Instead, Alabama's players were more decisive. They knew they had to attack, and take the first good shot they saw, and take away easy buckets on defense. The Gophers on offense were out of rhythm and on defense were unsure how to operate when open shots were there without running their sets.
Please check out my podcasts, including my new show with KARE-11s feisty Ryan Shaver, at MNSPN.com