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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I’ve been interviewing people for a long time. The hour or more I spent with Eden Prairie football coach Mike Grant might represent the best on-the-record conversation I’ve had in 30 years.
Grant said he’s contemplating retirement, so he can write books. He may write about race relations, after watching the demographics of Eden Prairie change dramatically during his tenure. He may disappear into the woods with his father, Bud, the legendary former Vikings coach.
He also told me that his father came close to never playing sports or coaching football. When Bud graduated from high school, he told his father he wanted to live off the land, to hunt and fish and forgo college. Instead, he attended the University of Minnesota on the GI bill, subsisted on five-for-a-quarter candy bars and a all-you-can-eat-for-a-buck spaghetti at Café di Napoli in Minneapolis, and lived off the generosity of Star Tribune sports columnist Sid Hartman.
Bud is 87. Mike is 57. Mike says he wants to spend time hunting with his father while he can, and that may mean leaving a program that is trying for its fourth straight and 10th total state championship tonight at TCF Bank Stadium.
``My dad didn’t want to go to college,’’ Mike said. ``He got out of the war he wanted to go hunting. He just wanted to go live in the woods. My uncle tells the story of him and my grandfather arguing, fighting, my Dad saying, `I want to go into the woods and hunt. That’s it.’
``His brother says it’s truly what he wanted to do. He would disappear for days when he was 15 or 16 and be gone hunting and fishing, where he has his cabin now. My grandfather would say, what, you want to be a `Hunyuk’ your whole life? I don’t know what that is. Whatever a Hunyuk is, it can’t be good.’’
I’m writing about Mike’s future and Bud’s past tonight. It’ll be in the Saturday paper and online at startribune.com. If you want to hear our full conversation, in which Mike weighed in on race, Jerry Kill, college recruiting, Red McCombs, Rick Spielman, high school coaching, hungry kids, Tim Brewster, Glen Mason, Jeff Diamond, Sid, Tom Kelly and John Gagliardi, you can find it on my podcast at Souhanunfiltered.com, along with conversations with Paul Molitor, Michael Russo, Mark Craig, Ross Bernstein and Sean Barnard.
Thanks for reading, and listening.
Checking in from TCF Bank Stadium on a rainy night…
-Let me get this straight: A college football player told a lie, and everybody went nuts?
Many college football coaches lie for a living. Between recruiting improprieties and academic mischievousness, college football might be almost as corrupt as Congress. I can’t think of a worse insult.
Josh Shaw told a silly lie, and the school publicized it to make the school look good. Shaw will pay for his mistake with a tarnished reputation, and years of jokes.
USC, the athletic director and the coach will continue to get rich even, as was the case for Pete Carroll and probably a majority of USC coaches through the years, the school or its employees broke the rules to win football games.
Give me the kid who made a mistake any day.
-What should you watch for in the Gopher game?
Last year, the Gophers earned their biggest victories by making big plays on defense.
They earned their most important losses by failing to make big plays on offense.
While they’ve lost key defensive starters, I expect them to be sound defensively. I expect them to be able to run the ball. The big question is whether Mitch Leidner and his young receivers make big plays in the passing game.
-I guess we should congratulate Roger Goodell on belatedly getting it right, on belatedly strengthening punishments for NFL players who are guilty of domestic violence.
What’s sad is that Goodell responded not after watching a tape of Ray Rice dragging his wife out of an elevator, but after he was pilloried in the media.
I’m glad he reacted. I just wish he would have reacted to the right thing.
I’ll be on WJON in St. Cloud at 7:15 a.m. on Friday, and on 1500ESPN-AM at 12:15. We’ll run Sunday Sports Talk from the fair on Sunday, 10-noon, at the 1500ESPN porch, near Sweet Martha’s.
Here's the good news for local college football fans: Two of the best games of the day are in Minneapolis and North Dakota.
Here's the bad news for national college football fans: Two of the best games of the day are in Minneapolis and North Dakota.
College football might be the most compelling and atmospheric sport in existence when it's good. Today is evidence that it's not very often good.
It's late September. The weather is beautiful. This is the best time of the year to be a college football fan, when you can sit in the stands on a gorgeous fall day even on our wintry tundra and enjoy a game.
So how can Gophers-San Jose State be one of the better games of the day?
Because college football, despite constantly threatening to reform itself, still packs its schedule with throwaway games.
Colorado State-Alabama? Please.
Ohio State-Florida A&M? C'mon.
Georgia-UNT (and I'm not even sure which UNT that is, University of Northern Toledo? University of Nonsensical Theology?) Stop it.
College football is the rare sport that can be great and chooses often not to be.
So I'm lucky to be in the press box at one of the more interesting games in the country today, even if it shouldn't be.
After two weeks on the road, I"m back in the 1500ESPN studio for Sunday Sports Talk tomorrow, 10-noon. We'll run the Gardenhire Show from 9:30-10 then move on to our show, with Scott Korzenowski and Tom Linnemann. Working on a surprise guest.
Heading to London to cover the Vikings on Sunday.
Thanks for reading.
Here's today's highly irrelevant, transparently self-serving Local Power Ranking:
They're not just the best team in town (in comparison to the competition they face), they're the most entertaining and endearing team we've seen in this town since the 2001 Twins.
Like the '01 Twins, the Wolves are not only good, they are unexpectedly good, and young, and charming. (Can I call professional athletes charming?)
Last night was the rare night I covered a Wolves game without being restricted by writing on deadline, so I got to work the lockerroom at my leisure. It's hard not to like Derrick Williams, Kevin Love, Martell Webster, J.J. Barea and Nik Pekovich. You can tell they are enjoying themselves and each other.
Rick Adelman is positioning himself for coach of the year honors. I picked the Wolves to win 28 games this year and they're much better than that. And as the Wolves rise, the Western Conference suddenly looks vulnerable beyond the No. 1 seed. Oklahoma City is excellent. The Spurs are admirable but hardly spry. The Mavericks are suffering a predictable championship letdown. Who else scares you?
The Wolves have learned how to beat Portland, the Clippers and the Rockets. I love the way Memphis plays, but the Wolves are not overmatched against them. And the Lakers are a mess. Mike Brown might be the only defensive coach who can hold down Bryant, Bynum and Gasol.
If the Wolves can make it to the playoffs without burning out Love and Rubio, they could be dangerous. Now that they're in the 8th slot, they need to make a move so they face someone other than Oklahoma City in the first round. Even moving into the 6th seed would mean a matchup with Memphis or one of the LA teams.
The Wolves are the most interesting team in town, and they're growing more interesting by the day.
2. Gopher hockey
Don Lucia is having a good year. He has a team that seems to be peaking at the right time. But he still needs to prove he can prepare a team for the postseason and guide it to big victories, like he did in the old days.
I'll give them this: They're better than they were last year. But they could improve by 10 games and still lose 89 and finish fourth. Which, after spending time at spring training, is about what I expect.
If only they had lost that silly game at Washington, they'd have the No. 2 pick and a couple of wonderful options: Drafting Robert Griffin III or trading him. I've thought for months that Griffin has more upside than Andrew Luck. He's a greater risk, but I was not impressed with Luck's throwing motion this season, and I wouldn't want to spend the first pick in the draft on a so-called game manager.
5. Gopher basketball
The coach should be fired, and yet the Gophs rank ahead of two other teams in town. That's sad.
6. Gopher football
Nothing new here.
7. Minnesota Wild
I like Yeo. I like Fletcher. I think they're both sharp. I think Fletcher has a credible plan for rebuilding with dynamic young scorers. But right now this is the most pathetic team we've seen in this town since...last year's Twins.
Congratulations to Glen Perkins. He's shown great humility and flexibility while rehabilitating his career and his relationships within the Twins' organization since filing a grievance against the team.
Twins signed him to a contract extension today because he's become a dynamic pitcher while proving that's he's grounded, and a good teammate, and that he's invested in the organization. It's remarkable how quicky he's gone from problem child to franchise cornerstone.
Upcoming: Tom Pelissero and I will host a rare double-headed, live-and-in-studio version of Sunday Sports Talk, 10-noon Sunday on 1500espn. Lots of talk about all of the above, including Tom's look at NFL free agency and the Vikings' plans, and my thoughts on my trip to spring training and a week with the Wolves.
Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
Today's LPR, my Local Power Rankings of revenue sports, sees little change. For good reason.
1. Minnesota Wild
While most local sports fans were reveling in the Gopher basketball team beating a mediocre, unranked opponent at home, the most impressive victory on Wednesday night was the Wild coming back from a 2-0 deficit in Edmonton to win in a shootout.
Now the Wild needs to survive a stretch of the schedule in which 20 of its 29 games are on the road. They won't have the best record in the West at the end of that stretch, but if they can remain in the middle of the playoff pack, they'll be set up well for the stretch run.
Mike Yeo has got to be the coach of the year in the NHL right now, and Chuck Fletcher has to be among the leading candidates for executive of the year, given that his trades improved the Wild's prospects for the future as well as improved the team this year.
2. Golden Gopher hockey
Time for this team to prove it's not going to fade away like so many other Lucia products. They've proven they have plenty of talent; now they have to show some grit.
3. Golden Gopher basketball
Nice win on Wednesday, but the level of cheerleading among local media members is a bit embarrassing. It's our job to put things into context, not do backflips over every victory. Yes, there were positives, like Julian Welch playing well at the point and Elliott Eliason showing great court-sense, and Rodney Williams looking comfortable at power forward.
Here's the proper context, though: Tubby Smith has beaten highly-ranked teams from Louisville and North Carolina during the non-conference schedule during his tenure at Minnesota, and those victories did not catapult his team to great heights. Beating Virginia Tech at home doesn't prove a whole lot more than this team can beat Virginia Tech at home.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves
I don't like to see arena workers losing paychecks, so I can't be thrilled that the NBA went through a lockout and will play a shortened season. But from a selfish standpoint, this is perfect. Early-season NBA games can be horrid and meaningless. Now we get a 66-game season that will really get rolling right about the time football wraps up, and any winning streak the Wolves can muster could actually make a difference in the standings.
I'm most intrigued not by Ricky Rubio, but by how Rick Adelman will coach a bunch of players with a certain amount of skill but no real idea of how to play the game.
5. Minnesota Twins
Terry Ryan, Wayne Krivsky and Gene Glynn are all good hires, and Jamey Carroll and Ryan Doumit were good, subtle, acquisitions. But the pitching staff is a mess, and without Michael Cuddyer or Jason Kubel the outfield will be, too.
I'm highly intrigued to see if Ryan make a bold move or merely hopes for improvement within the current roster.
6. Golden Gopher football
They haven't lost in, like, two weeks. Is that some sort of record?
7. Minnesota Vikings
I wrote about Leslie Frazier and the Vikings' front office for the Sunday paper. If you really care about this team, all you should be hoping for now is positive developments in the stadium chase, a healthy end of the season for players like Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen, and the highest-possible draft pick.
In other words, lose, baby, lose.
A follow-up to my column today on the ills of high-profile college coaching: I prefer pro sports to college sports. Pro sports are inherently honest. You win or you get fired. You produce or you get cut. No one is pretending to be Mother Teresa. I admire high school and small-college coaches who obviously aren't in it for the money, who actually do have a positive effect on their kids and sometimes their communities.
Only in large-revenue college athletics do you have the disconnect of rich, domineering coaches who, when they lose, want to tell you that they're molders of young men. Only in large-revenue college athletics on insular campuses could men like Jerry Sandusky and Bernie Fine be able to use the auspices of a program to lure victims, and not get caught.
Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 today for my regular appearance on Reusse & Mackey, then I'm filling in for Joe Soucheray on Garage Logic on the same station from 3-6. I'll also be on Tom Pelissero's show at about 6:15.
My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
Enjoy the weekend.
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