Michael Rand started RandBall with hopes that he could convince the world to love jumpsuits as much as he does. So far, he's only succeeded in using the word "redacted" a lot. He welcomes suggestions, news tips, links of pure genius, and pictures of pets in Halloween costumes here, though he already knows he will regret that last part.

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New guest post feature: Scratching a Niche

Posted by: Michael Rand under Sports Updated: January 7, 2011 - 2:11 PM

Our hope for a more diverse and representative blog has led to a couple of new features (and hopefully a couple more soon) from the talented and dedicated commenter pool. This one is (tentatively) called "Scratching A Niche," and it will feature the stylings of Newbie and Marthaler taking you deep into the world of things not normally covered by RandBall or even much of the mainstream press. Here is the first installment, with Newbie leading off. Fellas?

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My hope for RandBall in 2011 is to bring more sports to the forefront.  Randball covers the soft underbelly of sports, however far too often it is only 2.5 or 3 of the "major" sports.  Which probably appeals to the masses; however RandBallers are not the masses.  We come here to get takes and stories we can't get anywhere else.  Well, the stories I guess we can, since most often the blog topic is just a link to someone else's work, but you get my point.  Mr. RandBall assembles those links so we don't have to search other places.  Mr. RandBall deals with the [redacted] links so the readers don't have to.  He's good at dealing with links, can't you people understand that!

At any rate, I know from the comments that many of you have interest in reading about other stuff.  Or at least have interest in not reading 15 straight Vikings posts. 

Therefore to look forward we will look back on 2010, there were some incredible feats.  Some were discussed here, some maybe not. Here's a reminder of some stuff that happened worldwide:  There was the longest tennis match ever played; Isner must have watched that tape before this rematch.  Jimmie Johnson won his unprecedented 5th straight NASCAR title. There was a World Cup and a Winter Olympics.

And lost in the shadow of the World Cup and Olympics this year, was the World Ringette Championship.  It is apparently a thing.  And the US finished 3rd.  Again.  I honestly blame Clarence and the MSHSL for not keeping up with this to produce greater athletes and making Minnesota the "State of Ringette."  Don't ask me to link to any more sites because there aren't many and they are all terrible.  Cooperalls, or some form of pants, do seem to be the uniform, which at least makes more sense than the skirts they make the female lacrosse players wear.  I have no other analysis.

I also enlisted the help of Mr. Marthaler, our resident niche sports snob junkie.  Here is what he had to say.

Newbier emailed me to ask for my top niche sport moments of 2010. Two days on, this has induced much panic, as it's far too broad a topic for me. What should I cover? What sports really are niche sports, anyway? Is reality only an illusion created by my limited understanding of four-dimensional space AAAH I'M FREAKING OUT.

With this (somewhat tenuously) in mind, I'm going to instead give you the Top 5 local niche sport 2010 seasons. Here we go:

5. Minnesota Swarm (box lacrosse): The Seattle Seahawks of the National Lacrosse League, the Swarm made the playoffs despite an absurd 5-11 regular-season record and a six-game losing streak to end the year. They were summarily waxed by Washington in the NLL quarterfinals. Also, they play ear-splitting music for the entirety of their games, moving them down to the bottom spot.

4. Minnesota Lynx (women's basketball): The Timberwolves get the press for being terrible year after year, but the Lynx really deserve it. They haven't had a winning season or made the playoffs since 2004. In 11 years, they've won exactly one playoff game. They finished 13-21 in 2010 and missed out on the playoffs by a tiebreaker. But hey, they won the draft lottery and get to pick Maya Moore from UConn this spring, so that keeps them out of last.

3. NSC Minnesota Stars (soccer) - Yet another local team that finished with a losing record but still made the playoffs, the Stars get points for merely existing throughout the year and not ending the season owing everyone in the Twin Cities money. The Stars also held Carolina, their playoff opponents, to a credible 0-0 draw in the home leg of their playoff, before getting killed 4-0 on the road.

2. Minnesota Whitecaps (women's hockey): The Whitecaps won both the Western Women's Hockey League championship and the Clarkson Cup, awarded to the winner of the National Canadian Women's Club Ice Hockey Championships. They are the best women's club hockey team in Canada, despite being from Minnesota. This is confusing, but honestly, you follow niche sports long enough and you get used to this sort of thing.

1. John Shuster rink (curling): You'll remember these guys - John Shuster, Jeff Isaacson, Jason Smith, John Benton, and Chris Plys - from our adventures during the 2010 Winter Olympics. The five Minnesotans qualified to represent the nation as USA's curling team; Shuster promptly missed winning shots in three of the team's first four matches and got summarily benched, making him - as far as I'm concerned - an epic part of Minnesota sports lore. The USA finished last and didn't make the medal round. Still, when an all-Minnesotan team ends up at the Olympics, they go immediately to spot #1.

*Please note, I do not consider myself an expert on all of these sports, (perhaps Marthaler does, though) I’m just interested in them.  If you have corrections or insight to add please do so.  Or email Mr. RandBall and he will get you in touch with me.

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