Twenty years is considered a generation, right? That means Sid Hartman is working on his fourth generation of providing information with his unique spin to Minnesota sports fans. That makes him the sage of Twin Cities sports for all-time.
Trouble is, I think Sid is pretty much hopeless to support the upcoming declaration, so as a guy who started as a Twin Cities sports writer on Labor Day of 1968, I’m declaring myself to be Sage for a Day.
And in that role, I’m making this official:
As media and members of the local sporting public, we no longer have the privilege of embracing a defeat suffered by Jerry Kill’s Gophers or Mike Zimmer’s Vikings as a moral victory.
It is cut-and-dried going forward: If these football teams win on a given day, they are winners. If they lose, they are losers.
Please, join me in this, because I can’t stand it anymore.
The Gophers showed up with little enthusiasm at Texas Christian. From the start, Kill seemed more focused on trying to hold down the score than take the required risks to stay in the game.
And yet, when TCU turned out to be an offensive powerhouse and a top-rated team, this became the unusual moral victory awarded in retrospect by the hometown media and Gophers fans.
When the final score was close vs. Ohio State, 31-24, it was declared a magnificent moral victory and a game that the Gophers almost had won if not for a few mistakes. There wasn’t much attention paid to the fact that two big blunders from Ohio State were what kept the margin from being three touchdowns.
When the Gophers blew a 17-3 lead in Madison and lost to Wisconsin for an 11th straight time (34-24), the moral victory angle was boosted by complaints about the officiating.
The record book will say that the Gophers were 8-4 in Kill’s fourth regular season, but there was only one loss – at Illinois – that didn’t qualify as a marvelous achievement for the Gophers.
(Note: The Moral Victory Crowd (MVC) also has taken to saying that Illinois turned out to be better than thought, so even that loss stands as nothing to sneer about.)
Political maneuvering by Jim Delany, the Big Ten commissioner, has landed the Gophers in the Citrus Bowl vs. Missouri on New Year’s Day in Orlando. It’s a fine reward for the Gophers’ eight victories (particularly at Nebraska and the Iowa blowout), but I fear the MVC will again rear itself due to Mizzou’s status as winners of the SEC East.
The East is the second tier of the SEC, as is the West in the Big Ten, but the Gophers are underdogs, so a victory is likely to be labeled as a fantastic upset, and a hard-fought loss … oh, we’ll be told to be so darn proud, and so forth.
Listen: Mizzou lost to Indiana. It lost at home 34-0 to Georgia. It had narrow victories over the bottom feeders of the SEC East.
The Gophers should win this game. And if they lose, they are losers.
Kill has been much more willing to embrace magnificent defeat than Zimmer. That changed a bit after Sunday’s 16-14 loss at Detroit. Zimmer was into the “we did everything but win’’ mode on Monday.
OK, the Lions are 10-4 and probably going to playoffs. But they still are the Lions. When a player puts on the Honolulu blue, it is very difficult to overcome the urge to screw up.
The Lions went 0-and-8 vs. Mike Tice. The Lions had more to do with putting Bud Grant in the Pro Football Hall of Fame than the Purple People Eaters. And when faced with a rare opportunity for success, the Lions have been choking for more than a half-century.
The Lions were more than willing to do so again Sunday, if Teddy Bridgewater hadn’t run that one-minute drill with the aplomb of Spergon Wynn. Just because he has a stoic appearance doesn’t mean Teddy the Glove was different than 90% of young quarterbacks when faced with a chance to win a tense game on the road:
Sorry, no moral victory here, and none left on the schedule … with a game against the mediocre Dolphins in Miami, and a home game vs. the Bears that will be Marc Trestman’s last-ever game as a head coach in the NFL.
Two victories would lift the Vikings to 8-8. Our guy Sid said on Sunday, on the always-entertaining The Sports Show, that Zimmer should be the NFL’s Coach of the Year if the Vikings finish at .500.
I hate to argue with the Sage for All-Time, but at this point, the Vikings’ six victories have come against six losing teams with a combined record of 24-59-1.
The great columnist Bob Verdi once wrote of the Bears, “They didn’t beat a good team all season, including in the games that they beat themselves.’’
That applies to the 2014 Vikings, and it won’t change with what happens vs. Miami and Chicago.
As Sage for a Day, I insist: No more moral victories for the football Gophers or the Vikings, as far as we can see into the future.
Adrian Peterson entered a no-contest plea to a misdemeanor for reckless assault on Nov. 4 in a Texas court room. This was a result of Peterson taking a switch to one of his 4-year-old sons in May at Adrian’s Houston-area home.
In standing before the judge, Peterson said: “I want to say I truly regret this incident. I stand here and take full responsibility for my actions. I love my son more than any one of you can even imagine. I’m looking forward and I’m anxious to continue my relationship with my child.’’
Peterson was ordered to pay a $4,000 fine, serve 80 hours of community service, take parenting classes and spend two years on probation. If the court deems him to have complied with those guidelines and to have avoided further incidents, the case would be cleared from his record.
The mother of the 4-year-old boy released a statement supporting the court’s judgment in the case, and expressing confidence in Peterson’s ability to be a good parent in the future to her son.
On Tuesday, two weeks after Peterson’s plea, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell gave Peterson a minimum of a six-game suspension – effectively eliminating Peterson from returning to the Vikings and the NFL this season.
In his letter reprimanding Peterson, Goodell made this charge:
“ … you have shown no meaningful remorse for your conduct. When indicted, you acknowledged what you did but said that you would not ‘eliminate whooping my kids,’ and defended your conduct in numerous published text messages.’’
The national media has accepted the “no remorse’’ angle as fact in siding with Goodell in Tuesday’s decision on Peterson.
In laying out his no-remorse case against Peterson, Goodell went back to text messages that were sent to the mother of the 4-year-old in late May, and to late summer when he testified to a grand jury and said he would not give up ‘’whooping’’ his kids.
Once the indictment was revealed, the Vikings first said Peterson would continue to play, then got together with Goodell and had Adrian placed in a mysterious limbo – where he couldn’t play but got paid.
While on what I call the commissioner’s whim list, the word from Peterson’s camp was that he had been seeing a therapist. I’m guessing they talked about the days that Adrian was whooped by his father, and that this was no way to treat a child.
On Tuesday, Goodell decided to judge Peterson on what he wrote in text messages to the 4-year-old’s mother, and what Adrian said as a man still obtuse about parental discipline when testifying before a grand jury in late summer.
Goodell paid no attention to the remorse expressed and responsibility for what Peterson now clearly saw as a wrong act when appearing before the court on Nov. 4.
The court laid out a plan that it saw as proper punishment and rehabilitation for Peterson. And the court is where the responsibility for that should rest
Goodell revels in using the muscle that the cowardly NFL Players Association gave him once again in the most-recent labor agreement. He relishes in his unilateral power to steal players’ money.
This time, though, Goodell’s pomposity has reached a new height.
Back in August, in the wake of the Ray Rice elevator tape, Goodell gave himself the power to change his discipline on the run and implement a suspension of a minimum of six games in a domestic abuse case.
Certainly, Goodell had the power to slap Peterson with those six games on Tuesday. In doling out the suspension, he also had the right to refer back to Peterson’s text messages from 5 ½ months earlier, and even his comments before a grand jury in late summer, as part of the league’s punishment for the original act.
But for Goodell to sit in New York and refute what Peterson said this month in court, and to say that he knows better than the Houston court as to what is required of Peterson to become an acceptable parent, is a power madness run amok.
You might not be affected at the moment, but remember this, dues-paying members of the NFL Players Association:
Roger Goodell is the enemy, as are all power-hungry dictators
Someone pointed this out in my Twitter feed in the late stages of the Vikings' blowout loss to Green Bay on Sunday night: At least quarterback Christian Ponder still was attempting to compete until the end of the no-contest, which is more than could be said for many of his teammates.
That's remindful of Daunte Culpepper in the infamous 41-donut loss in the NFC title game in January 2001. Culpepper still was trying in the fourth quarter, while everyone around him had long ago given in -- starting with Randy Moss from the opening snap.
The difference is, Daunte was a much more accurate thrower and much more decisive in his actions than Ponder. He had a few years as an elite NFL quarterback because of those qualities, as well as his mighty legs.
Ponder made his quarterback destiny obvious to all once again in the Metrodome. Ponder not only won't be elite; he won't be average.
His destiny is to become a journeyman, moving from team to team as a backup until he's 33, 34, and there's no longer such a job. His destiny is to go from the 12th overall choice and advertised franchise quarterback to Sage Rosenfels.
Ponder was 0-3 to start this season (his third), sat for the next three games, and returned for this 44-31 loss to the Packers. As was the case in the first three losses, the defense was the No. 1 cause of the Vikings' failure on Saturday, by a slight margin over Ponder.
The defense was so horrendous, in fact, that amateur lip readers were able to discern from a closeup that Jared Allen said, "I've never played on a defense this bad,'' as he stood on the sidelines in the fourth quarter and watched his defensive mates.
Then again, the collapse of that defense started with Aaron Rodgers buzzing two of the quickest, past-a-defender's-earhole shots in history for touchdowns -- one for a short TD to Jordy Nelson and another that became a long touchdown to Nelson.
Rodgers was fantastic. It made no difference that two of his three best wide receivers and his best tight end were unavailable. Rodgers has become what Tom Brady was for so long in New England: a quarterback who can make succulent chicken salad out of a receiving corps consisting of chicken feathers.
With Ponder, we no longer have to strain for the proper comparison. Forget that Rosenfels reference. Ponder absolutely is the second coming of Tarvaris Jackson.
As with Tarvaris, he's OK if the first place he looks there's an open receiver, and Christian's just peachy in garbage time against soft-playing defenses. But he's inept when facing the serious complications required to play the position at the major league level.
I can use that, right? Bert doesn't have it copyrighted, I hope.
Ponder's legs are fine. His arm strength is marginal. And his instincts are non-existent.
More than being unable to duplicate the Rodgers' throw that zinged past Josh Robinson's helmet as he oft-burned cornerback was turning to look for a football that was about to smack into Nelson's hands ... our guy Christian couldn't even have envisioned throwing that early to make such a connection possible.
Tarvaris was the Vikings' starter when healthy in his second season (12 starts in 2007), he was benched and then returned for a time in his third season, and then he became yesterday's news. He played for Seattle in 2011, only out of the Seahawks' desperation ... not with the idea that he actually could be their answer as a winning quarterback.
Jackson watched in Buffalo last season, and now he's back in Seattle, standing on the sideline as a caddy for Russell Wilson. He'll probably get a few more years of paychecks as a veteran backup, whether it's in Seattle or elsewhere.
If Ponder (26 next February) is curious amid the Vikings' quarterback chaos as to where his NFL career is headed, all he has to do is look where Tarvaris is as 30-year-old, bcause they are the same player.
Tuesday, 5:35 a.m., the always-interesting Holiday station located northwest of Target Field and across the street from the garbage burner.
I'm at the cooler, loading up on the day's supply of Diet Cokes. Those new, smaller 99-cent bottles. Those are the ticket.
An employee is stocking nearby. He's also a Concerned Purple Fan. He says: "Patrick, what are the Vikings doing with the quarterbacks?''
Me: "I think they want a guy who can throw the ball 50 yards down the field. Josh Freeman can do that.''
CPF: "He might be OK, but he's not that great of a quarterback.''
Me: "They want a quarterback who can offer the football to Adrian Peterson, suck in the eight defenders near the line, take the ball away, step back and let it fly with some accuracy to Jerome Simpson, or Cordie Patterson, or to the Mad Mentorer (a k a, Greg Jennings).
"They found out in London that Matt Cassel can do that better than Christian Ponder, and there's a very good chance that Freeman can do that better than Cassel.''
CPF: "I don't know. If Freeman was better than average, why did Tampa Bay let him go?''
Me: "There are distractions for 25-year-old NFL quarterbacks. Rumor has it, Josh liked to stay up late, causing a bit of tardiness at the Bucs' practice facility. And with a coach [Greg Schiano] who acts as if he's still at Rutgers, rah-rah defeated reason and Freeman was run out of town.''
CPF: "I'm still surprised. His stats aren't that much better than Ponder's. What do the Vikings really see in him?''
Me: "I think they see last October, that Thursday night when Tampa Bay came in and ripped up the Vikings 36-17. The Vikings couldn't stop the runs of Doug Martin, and that gave time and opportunity to Freeman, and he had three touchdowns with no interceptions.
"I think they see Freeman and what he did a year ago in the Dome when he had an outstanding running game. And the Vikings figure they have that every game with Adrian Peterson on their side.''
CPF: "So, what's it going to take for this work?''
Me: "Freeman getting out of bed in the morning. He has to be getting up at this time of the morning, not getting home.''
* * *
I always stop at this Holiday on my one or two early mornings per week. Gas, Diet Cokes and seeing what the city folks and early commuters are up to ... that's the menu.
A couple of weeks ago, a guy in his 20s walked over and said, "I can give you a great deal on some cologne; $120 worth of Gucci cologne for 20 bucks.''
Response: "I'm not really a Gucci guy. Here's a buck. You keep the cologne.''
He seemed satisfied.
* * *
The majesty of the garbage burner is a reminder of my defiant middle years as a Twin Cities sports columnist (1979-present). It was 1990 and Target Center was the first major sports building in this area to carry a corporate name.
I rejected this. I was holding out for stadiums and arenas named after great people, such as Hubert Humphrey or John Mariucci, or noble concepts, such as Metropolitan Stadium and Center, or the Civic Center.
I went a couple of years without writing Target Center in a column. My favorite euphemism was the clumsy, "Marv and Harv's, the new arena near the garbage burner.''
Eventually, my spitting into the wind got tired, and it became Target Center, and Target Field, and TCF Bank Stadium.
As for Xcel Energy Center ... well, after going four days without power this spring and having my basement flooded, I'll probably go with "the Wild did such-and-such on whatever night in St. Paul'' when in attendance this winter.
The one corporate name I've never been able to choke down is Mall of America Field.
I proudly voted for Hubert to be the president of the entire 50 states of America in 1968. It was a loss more heartbreaking than the Twins to the Red Sox at the end of the Great Race in 1967, or the Vikings in the Super Bowl after the 1969 season.
Heck, one of the finest moments of my sportswriting career came at Met Stadium in 1970s, when I had a chance to go shoulder-to-shoulder with Hubert at the urinals in the small men's room behind the football press box on a cold December day.
That still stands as my No. 1 urinal moment, even though I was in the same position -- shoulder-to-shoulder -- with Leonardo DiCaprio at the Staples Center, during the Wolves-Lakers series in 2004.
"How's life?'' I asked.
"Very good,'' Leonardo said.
Anyhow, any chance that I would ever willingly have Mall of America Field appear under my name ended in 2010. The Vikings had been trumpeting Mall of America Field as the title of their stadium ... and had been lobbying hard with decision-makers at local media outlets to do the same.
Then, the roof collapsed under the stress of a monumental blizzard, and suddenly all those Vikings' news releases promoting Mall of America Field started referrring to the stadium as the Metrodome.
The Vikings even started telling us that another good reason for giving them a new stadium was that the "Metrodome was dangerous'' to their customers. Apparently, those customers were safe in Mall of America Field, but they had a chance to be mortally wounded in HHH's Metrodome.
Hopefully, we can all make it out alive until January, and then start working on the new place, the Taj Ma Zygi, where the main danger will be the bloody ends faced by songbirds, ducks, geese, owls and bald eagles after they smash into all that glass as they head for the lights at night.
The Vikings spent the week describing this as a must-win game. If they couldn't win at home against the Cleveland Browns, it was almost a certainty that the season would be lost for the Purple.
The quarterback, in his second full season as a starter, had little to offer in the first half. There were boos for him and the Vikings as they left the field at halftime.
The Vikings increased the defensive intensity and the home team started to rally in the second half. Eventually, victory was there to be had, but it would take a well-arced heave to the end zone by the quarterback and maybe a lucky ricochet.
And there it was: the ball tipped perfectly into the hands of the veteran receiver, and he secured it, and the crowd responded madly, and the Must Win was just that for the Vikings.
Excuse me. You didn't think we were referring to Sunday's game vs. Cleveland Browns II at the Metrodome, where the Vikings came in 0-2 and would be dead in the water with a loss, did you?
This was a recollection of the game with the original Cleveland Browns on Dec. 14, 1980, at Met Stadium. The Vikings at 8-6 and in need of a win to squeeze into the NFC playoff field. A loss would've sent them to Houston in need of a win against Earl Campbell and the Oilers in the regular-season finale.
The Browns led 13-0 at halftime. There were boos for quarterback Tommy Kramer and his mates.
The Vikings scored to open the second half, on a 31-yard pass from Kramer to Joe Senser, but Cleveland came back to make it 23-9 in the fourth quarter. That was the score into the final five minutes, when Kramer threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Ted Brown, and then a 12-yard TD to Ahmad Rashad.
There was no two-point attempt in 1980, so Rick Danmeier's PAT made it 23-22. By the time the Vikings got the ball back, there were14 seconds left and they had the ball at the 20 ... their 20.
No chance? That was never the case with team coached by Bud Grant, who already had been dubbed "Horseshoe Harry'' by a smart-alecky St. Paul sports columnist, in honor of the luck that Bud's boys seemed to find.
On the first play, Bud ordered his favorite late-gamer -- the hook-and-ladder. Kramer made a quick throw to tight end Senser, halfback Brown came scooting past to take a pitch, and it went for 35 yards. That gave the Vikings one shot (4 seconds on the clock) from Cleveland's 45.
Kramer arced the ball toward the end zone, Cleveland safety Thom Darden and Vikings receiver Terry LeCount battled for it, and it went to Rashad on a rebound. Ahmad corraled the football and the Vikings had a 28-23 victory and a place in the playoffs.
They lost the regular-season finale in Houston 20-16, and then lost to Philadelphia's first Super Bowl team, 31-16, in a playoff opener.
On Sunday, Christian Ponder, in his second season as the starting quarterback, had one heave toward the end zone that could have reversed the Browns' 31-27 lead, and it was knocked down. On with the final gasp, Ponder was swallowed up by defensive tackle Desmond Bryant (a guy from Harvard) for a sack, and that was it.
No final play heave to the end zone. No fortunate ricochet. No "Miracle Catch.'' And a lost season with 81 percent of the schedule remaining.
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