Minnesota sports figures are quoted every day in the Star Tribune. I would estimate that 99.99 percent of the things they say are quickly forgotten — not because they have no value but because they are disposable. Ricky Nolasco’s explanation for throwing a certain pitch (for example) might matter in the moment, but nobody is going to file it away in their long-term memory.
There are, however, stark counterpoints to this general rule sprinkled throughout history.
Randy Moss seems to be responsible for roughly 73 percent of these on first blush, but maybe the number really isn’t that high. Most people would agree, though, that his famous quote, “I play when I want to play” — uttered to Sid Hartman and published in a 2001 column — pretty well stuck with him for the rest of his career (at least during the bad times).
So, too, does the regrettable choice of words from Latrell Sprewell, on the eve of the 2004-05 season, when he believed he was being lowballed by the Wolves: “I got my family to feed,” he said.
When the Twins announced in 2011 that Joe Mauer had “bilateral leg weakness,” they tagged him with a phrase he still is trying to shake five years later. Every subsequent Twins injury (particularly to Mauer) invokes those fateful words.
In each case, we probably had an idea that the words carried more weight than the typical throwaway phrases we’re used to — though few could have predicted just how much lasting impact each would have.
I bring all of this up not because I was merely bored and taking a trip down memory lane, but rather because there appears to be a new entrant into this quote category — one which we perhaps can identify mere days after it happened as one that will live on for years.
Here it is: “Total system failure” — the words used by Twins owner Jim Pohlad to describe this season to Star Tribune columnist Chip Scoggins.
Twins fans experiencing alternating fits of despair and anger over this increasingly lost season latched onto that phrase with purpose and clarity. One of them, inspired by the phrase, sent me an image of a T-shirt incorporating the Twins logo into the “Total” part of the phrase.
The Twins were 8-20 when the column came out; as they were swept over the weekend by the White Sox, that phrase kept popping up on social media and in casual conversations.
Another reader suggested to me that the phrase “total system failure” more aptly applies to what’s happening in the Gophers athletic department than at Target Field. If this thing starts to spread and multiply, one can only imagine future implications.
Even now, less than a week old, it feels like the kind of thing we will remember for quite some time. Let’s make a pact to meet back here in two years to re-evaluate this total system failure.
After all, my legs are fine, but I also have a family to feed. And I don’t just write when I want to write.