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.
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.
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