Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene and advises you to never take his betting advice. He likes old guitars and old music, never eats press box hot dogs, and can be heard on 1500ESPN at 2:05 p.m. weekdays, and Sundays from 10 a.m.-noon.
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Keep getting asked why it's such a big deal that the Patriots deflated footballs.
The questions I'm hearing:
-Why does it matter?
-Is it really an advantage?
-Isn't it just because the Patriots win, and nobody likes Belichick?
These questions are irrelevant.
If you cork your bat and strike out, you still corked your bat. If you take steroids and fail to perform, you still took steroids.
And there is a benefit to deflating footballs. It makes them easier to throw and catch. And if the Patriots knew they were going to play with deflated footballs, I'm sure they practiced with them all week.
The Patriots would have beaten the Colts with any form of ball in play. That doesn't mean they didn't cheat, or shouldn't be punished for cheating.
Ricky Rubio is belatedly becoming in danger of being not only a draft bust, but a contract mistake.
He's been out for months with a sprained ankle. He does not appear close to returning. It's time for the young man to act like he cares about playing basketball.
The best thing that could happen to the Wolves at this point would be further tests on his ankle that reveal something more serious is wrong. Otherwise, this is the worst sprained ankle in sports history - or Rubio isn't particularly interested in playing basketball and fulfilling his contract.
After their comebacks fell short against Ohio State and Iowa, Gophers players were crushed. They had played brilliantly late in the game to force dramatic endings.
Today, if they're still talking about being one shot away from a victory, they should be ignored.
They were within a shot of Nebraska last night because Nebraska played horribly all night. The Gophers lost because they played even worse. That wasn't a dramatic loss - it was a horrific loss. Neither team deserved to win.
That might have been the most important game of the season. Had the Gophers won, they would havre moved to 2-5. They would have had a two-game winning streak, with an easy upcoming schedule. They could have made a strong move toward .500.
Now they're just a lousy team in a mediocre league.
Tonight at 5 p.m. at Kieran's Irish Pub, great local rocker G.B. Leighton will be my guest for my podcast at SouhanUnfiltered.com.
Thursday at 3 p.m., Strib hockey writer Michael Russo will be my guest. Friday at 5 p.m. at O'Gara's, USA Today football writer Tom Pelissero will be my guest. Monday at 5 p.m. at The Local, Twins president Dave St. Peter will be my guest.
Thanks in advance to all of these people who have been so generous with their time. You can listen to the podcasts live, or anytime later, at the website.
And thanks for listening.
Bob Kravitz, the former Indy Star columnist now working for Indy TV station WTHR, broke the news that the Patriots may have used deflated balls during the AFC title game.
Deflated balls can be easier to grip, throw, catch and control in rainy conditions, and it rained and sleeted during the game.
Kravitz is a pro, and the NFL has confirmed it is investigating, so I wouldn't dismiss this as a provincial reaction to getting blown out. The Colts can't make the case they would have won under any conditions. If proved true, this will further mark Bill Belichick as the kind of coach who will do anything to win, and with two weeks before his latest Super Bowl appearance, will give everyone time to reflect on SpyGate.
The simplistic will paint Belichick as someone who wins because he cheats. He doesn't win because he cheats, but his willingness to bend rules is part of the mentaility that makes him a great and yet thoroughly unlikeable coach.
I've forgotten most of what I ``learned'' in college, which for most people is just a transitional boarding school, but I remember taking a class called ``African American Literature.'' I read Langston Hughes, W.E.B. DuBois, James Baldwin, Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison.
On Martin Luther King Day, this is a good time to remember what is spelled out so beautifully and achingly in their works: That America treated black people as slaves, then as subhumans, not long ago and for a very long time.
One of the things I always loved about sport was that it can be a pure meritocracy blind to skin color. But it wasn't long ago in the history of our nation that black men were not allowed to play sports alongside white men.And a shockingly short time ago NFL teams didn't feel comfortable with black head coaches and quarterbacks.
Let's honor today by continuing to chop down the stereotypes that enable racism. Next time you hear an announcer talk about a white player who ``works hard'' or has a lot of `grit,'' turn the channel.
When the Seahawks were getting whipped yesterday, and before Russell Wilson had completed a pass, I Tweeted that ``I still think Russell Wilson is great.'' I meant it.
He's never going to set passing records, but he has produced more fourth-quarter comebacks in his first three seasons than any quarterback in NFL history - 10. He is the first NFL quarterback to start in two Super Bowls in his first three seasons. He is winning despite a shocking lack of help from his receivers.
Wilson should wni the I-Just-Made-It-Up Herm Edwards Award. You play to win the game. Wilson finds so many ways to win so many games.
It was heartening to see the photo on the back page of the Strib sports page today, of Lindsey Vonn surrounded by her entire family.
I first met her before the Turin Olympics, and when I asked about her family, she said she no longer spoke with her father. Her father woultn't return my calls while I researched a long story about his daughter. I did get to visit her mother at her home in Apple Valley.
The photo shows both parents and Vonn's sister all smiling i nthe same photo.
This morning, Vonn broke the record for the most women's World Cup victories, an amazing achievement for anyone, but especially for someone who started at Buck Hill in Burnsville.
My impression of Vonn, having covered her at two Olympics: She's a powerful person, physically and emotionally.. Her ability to persevere without a relationship with her father and while traveling the globe to compete says something about her resolve.
Latest podcasts at SouhanUnfiltered.com: Michael Russo, Leo Lewis, Terry Ryan, Jeff Munneke. The Alive and Social Network, the podcast company owned by Sean Barnard, now has a studio in Minneapolis, which will enable us to do more frequent podcasts, and to bring in guests via phone from around the country. Thanks for listening.
Urban Meyer won the national title with a third-string quarterback.
This ranks as one of the great coaching performances in football history.
Here are three others that compare:
-The Giants were dramatic underdogs against the Bills in Super Bowl XXV. Giants star quarterback Phil Simms was injured, leaving backup Jeff Hostetler to lead the team. The Giants had upset joe Montana and San Francisco at Candlestick Park, 15-13, in the NFC title game. The Bills had beaten Oakland 51-3. That's right, 51-3 in the AFC title game.
The Bills were loaded witih Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed in their prime. They had not yet developed a stigma about losing Super Bowls.
The Giants relied on old, limited running back Ottis Anderson, Hostetler, and a bruising defense.
The Giants won that Super Bowl, 20-19, in what might be the biggest upset in Super Bowl history other than the Jets beating the Colts in Super Bowl III, which was a surprise because of the lack of esteem with which the old AFC was regarded.
Giants coach Bill Parcells used Anderson to play a ball-control game, frustrated the Bills' offense with his defensive game plan (devised by Bill Belichick), and thoroughly outcoached Marv Levy.
-The Washington team that lost only once during the 1991 season played like a powerhouse. Now we know it won more because of coaching than because of raw talent.
Joe Gibbs won Super Bowl XXVI with a quarterback, Mark Rypien, who would never play well again anywhere. LIke Parcells, he relied on a veteran castoff running back - Ernest Byner. Gibbs would win three Super Bowls with three different non-Hall of Fame quarterbacks and lead running backs. That's why I argue he's the greatest NFL coach in the modern era.
-In Super Bowl XXXVI, Belichick again faced a renowned offense, this time as head coach of the New England Patriots.
Belichick beat the Rams with a physical defense that confused the Rams, and with an unproven quarterback named Tom Brady leading the game-winning drive.
Urban Meyer's work this year places him in the same realm as these NFL coaches.
When a coach wins a championship without the benefit of a great or experienced quarterback, he deserves far more credit than those who put their fates in the hands of a great quarterback.
In the last few months, the Big Ten has gotten much tougher for the Gophers. Meyer may be the best coach in college football. Jim Harbaugh will make Michigan a powerhouse. Penn State is improving. Mike Reilly figures to do well at Nebraska. And Paul Chryst is a great fit for Wisconsin.
This week's podcast schedule: Former Viking and current North High AD Leo Lewis, 5 p.m. on Wednesday at The Local; Strib hockey writer Michael Russo at 5 p.m. on Friday at O'Gara's.
A Monday morning three-pointer:
1. Wrote Sunday that the Wild is so buried that there is no easy fix that will make this a playoff team, not even a competent goalie.
My theory is that at this point this team should hope for the best possible draft pick, which means not trying to salvage a lost season.
But, for the first time since Mike Yeo became the Wild coach, I think he's lost his team. His tantrum at practice last week was an indication that he's run out of reasonable tactics to spur his players on. And the last five periods the Wild has played have been an embarassment to the sport, as well as the perpetually-mediocre hockey club in St. Paul.
HIs players didn't offer much effort in the second and third periods against Nashville, and they were a step behind all night against Chicago.
If I were owner Craig Leipold, I'd fight the urge to salvage a 10th-place finish in the Western Conference, and I'd hope to finish poorly enough to land a high draft pick that could help this team as early as next season.
But if he wanted to fire Yeo, he would now be justified. This team has quit on Yeo, despite his good intentions.
2. I was sitting in the end zone in Miami when Peyton Manning won his only Super Bowl.
Manning is the greatest regular-season quarterback in NFL history. Sunday, hampered by injuries that left him with little arm strength, he managed 13 points in a home playoff game.
There are two things you should know about his postseason resume:
-He hasn't been as bad as you think as an overall playoff performer.
-He was lucky to earn his one Super Bowl victory.
In regular-season games, Manning has a completion percentage of 65.5, a yards-per-attempt average of 7.7 and a rating of 97.5. In the postseason those numbers are: 64.0, 7.3 and 88.5. The small dip can be explained by facing superior defenses, including many of Bill Belichick's, and not always having a productive running game to keep defenses honest.
But he might have become the new Dan Marino - an amazing passer without a Super Bowl ring - if not for a bit of luck in Super Bowl XLI.
That day in Miami (well, Miami Gardens), Manning completed 28-of-38 passes for 247 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was facing a good Bears defense. He was also facing Rex Grossman.
Manning's one touchdown pass came on a busted coverage that left Reggie Wayne wide open for a 53-yard touchdown. And the game was still in doubt in the fourth quarter, with the Colts leading 22-17, when Grossman threw an interception that the Colts' Kelvin Hayden returned 56 yards for a touchdown and a 29-17 victory.
If the Bears don't leave Wayne wide open, and if Grossman doesn't throw a pick-six, Manning's postseason record might be seen as even worse than it already is.
Overall, Manning's play didn't take a huge statistical dip in the postseason. But unlike Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw and even Joe Flacco, he didn't raise his level of play when it mattered most.
3. Dez Bryant's sideline antics have been intriguing us for a long time. Sunday, he walked onto the field holding his head in disbelief, then slumped on the bench in utter depression.
That was the appropriate response.
You saw the play - Bryant made an amazing catch that may have won the Dallas Cowboys a playoff game on Sunday. After he leaped, caught the ball, secured it, landed, dove for the end zone and had his elbow hit the ground, the ball came loose. After Packers coach Mike McCarthy challenged the play, the officials ruled that he had not ``completed the process'' and ruled it incomplete.
This is the problem with NFL officiating; Even when the refs get one technically right, they can be utterly wrong when it comes to the spirit of the rules and common sense.
Everyone knows that was a catch. And Bryant still had the ball secured when his elbow hit the ground, which should end the play. He shouldn't have to carry the ball all the way to the team bus for it to be a catch.
The NFL should want to reward brilliant plays like Bryant's, not parse them out of existence with verbose language and bureaucratic excess.
A catch is a catch, and that was a catch.
On a recent podcast, Twins general manager Terry Ryan told me that he used to have long, red hair and ride a Harley. And that he still rides a Harley. Next podcast is 5 p.m. Wednesday at The Local, with my guest Leo Lewis, the former Viking who is now the athletic director at North High. Leo is not only a fellow Mizzou grad, he's the rare person in this market who knows what life is like inside the Vikings, the University of Minnesota (where he used to work) and on the high school scene.
All podcasts can be found at SouhanUnfiltered.com. Thanks.
I've picked seven of the eight NFL playoff winners correctly. I missed on the Broncos.
My pick for the NCAA title game tonight: Ohio State, maybe big.
I love everything about Oregon football, but Urban Meyer is the best coach in college football. His team is more physical and has plenty of speed. Oregon has lost several key players to injuries and suspensions. My guess is Ohio State 34, Oregon 22.
Can't say I'm better than any other mammal at picking NFL games,but I was lucky enough to go 4-for-4 last weekend, so I'll take another shot.
I'll keep it short and simple: I like all four home teams.
My only qualms about these picks: Aaron Rodgers' calf and Peyton Manning's arm.
If Rodgers is at full strength, I like the Packers, rested and with a dramatic home-field advantage, to beat the Cowboys. If Manning's arm regained straight over the bye,I like the Broncos' defense and running game, with Manning playing game-manager, to make the difference against a flawed Colts team. But I'd hate to bet actual money on Rodgers making it through the whole game, or Manning needing to produce a big game.
I like the way the Ravens match up with the Patriots. I also think ths is one of those trendy ideas that may not play out on the field - that the Ravens, because of their history of playing well against the Patriots, are prepared to win this game.
This is one of Bill Belichick's better recent defenses,and since Rob Gronkowski returned to health, Tom Brady has been excellent. I'll take the Pats.
The other game is the easiest to pick. Seattle should dominate Carolina.
So I'm taking all four home teams.Home teams win 72.8 percent of the games in the divisional round. That would indicate that there could be one upset, but I'll go with the chalk this weekend.
Having covered Cris Carter's arrival in Minnesota, I think the Vikings should do everything they can to sign his son, Duron.
He has size, he's able to get off the line of scrimmage, he has performed well against professional athletes, and he's the son of a workaholic and expert trainer of wide receivers. I think the Vikings' two biggest needs in the draft are for a large wide receiver and an offensive line upgrade. Signing Carter would expand the Vikings' options at receiver.
My podcasts are available at SouhanUnfiltered.com. I'll be covering the Wild game on Saturday, looking to write a Sunday piece about what, if anything, Chuck Fletcher should do at this point.
Enjoy the football weekend.
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