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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The NFL held its Pro Bowl and the NHL held its All-Star game on Sunday.
Part of my job is to consume as much of newsworthy, noteworthy sports on television as I can. I didn't watch a minute of either.
Judging from today's reports, I didn't miss anything.
Here's how I would ``fix'' the All-Star events, or at least make them more watchable:
NHL: Hockey without defense is a bad idea. Goals in and of themselves are rarely pretty. They're exciting because they occured against a bunch of defensive players trying to stop the puck, or crush the shooter. Hockey requires intensity to be entertaining. So instead of paying each player a nice fee for making the All-Star game, throw all of that money into a pot, add a few million to make it enticing, and give all of the money to the participating players on the winning team.
Wouldn't you love to see the best players in the game playing hard for that last goal?
Basketball: Again, make it a winner-takes-all game, and tweak the rules. Install a four-point line to reward extra-long shots. And make dunks worth four points. Nobody wants to see mid-range jump shots in an All-Sar game, Reward the spectacular.
Baseball: This remains the best of the All-Star games, because it is the only one in which the defense is performing to the best of its abilities. One tweak: Allow players to reenter the game. The flaw of the baseball All-Star game is that the subs are in the game for the deciding innings, and it's possible for both teams to run out of players. If the bases are loaded with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, with the home team trailing by one, would you rather see the manager forced to use the player scheduled to bat...or would you like to see him call Miguel Cabrera off the bench, even though Cabrera left the game in the third inning?
NFL: Football without fully-engaged defenses might be even less entertaining than hockey without defense. My longstanding suggestion: Scrap the Pro Bowl and make the NFC and AFC battle in an old Superstars-style competition.
For the younger generation, Superstars would take star athletes and have them compete in events like sprinting, tug of war and the obstacle course. With the winners taking home loot
This format created one of the great moments in non-tradiational sports history. Here's a recap of it by ESPN and former St. Paul Pioneer Press writer Jim Caple:
``The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Minnesota Vikings met in Super Bowl IX in New Orleans in January 1975, a game that included 16 future Hall of Famers (counting coaches Bud Grant and Chuck Noll), Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain defense, Minnesota's Purple People Eaters and legendary quarterbacks Fran Tarkenton and Terry Bradshaw. That game, which the Steelers won 16-6, was not the most dramatic or memorable showdown between the two teams, however. That distinction goes to an epic, 16-minute tug-of-war on the sands of Waikiki held two weeks later as part of ABC's "Superteams" competition. After it was all over and the two teams lay moaning and exhausted in the sand, Dick Button -- yes, that Dick Button, the figure skating guy -- told a Sports Illustrated writer, "Nothing -- nothing, not even my own Olympic victories -- has ever moved me like that."
JEFF SIEMON, former Vikings linebacker: "It was the worst physical strain I've ever been under. It was the most intense, brutal abuse I've ever gone through -- and maybe by far."
DAVE OSBORN, former Vikings running back: "The tug-of-war was the toughest, most physical thing I've ever done, bar none. As far as being tired, I have never been more fatigued. I was always in great shape as a player. Practice was always a breeze. But when you have got to do something for a length of time and don't dare let up, it drains you. It was 16 minutes, but it seemed like 16 hours."
BEV OSBORN, Dave's wife: "You just wanted them to win the Super Bowl, but this was wondering if everyone was going to still be alive when it was over."
I love that incoming baseball commissioner Rob Manfred had the guts to suggest that baseball's defensive shift might be outlawed.
I liked the shift when it was a novelty that rewarded progressive thinking. Now it's a common stratagem that takes away hits. I no longer like it. Make fielders stay in a rough semblance of order. Let's see good hitting rewarded.
Latest podcasts at SouhanUnfiltered.com: 105.1 The Ticket's Bob Sansevere and I telling stories about the best characters in Vikings history; Strib hockey writer Michael Russo on the Wild; Twins GM Terry Ryan on his health, past and future; USA Today football writer Tom Pelissero on the Patriots, Seahawks, and the reaction he's received from scientists about the Deflatriots.
Next podcast: Today, 5 p.m. at The Local with Twins president Dave St. Peter.
My podcast network, The Alive&Social Network, now has a house containing a studio, and we're going to start doing live music shows as well as talking about music and sports. Follow @Aliveandsocial on Twitter to keep up to date.
Also, I'll be appearing on 105.1 The Ticket with Bob Sansevere every afternoon at 3:30.
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.
I've been saying on the radio for days that I didn't think Zach Parise would sign with the Wild. I thought the lure of playing with Sidney Crosby, or staying with the Devils, or joining the Red Wings, would be the deciding factor.
I was very wrong, and I'm very happy about that.
This is a rare day in Twin Cities history, a day when one of our tent-post sports team lured the No. 1 free agent on the market to Minnesota.
Craig Leipold emailed me last night, hinting that this was going to be a good week for him and his franchise, and today he and general manager Chuck Fletcher pulled it off, signing Parise and Ryan Suter.
This is a win for Leipold because his franchise is now an NHL player and a local draw. It's also a win for Fletcher and coach Mike Yeo, If Parise and Suter didn't feel either was competent and promising, they could have easily gone elsewhere.
So, to recap: Congratulations to the Wild on creating one of the most stunning days in Twin Cities sports history. I was wrong, and I'm glad I was.
As Zach Parise has spent three days hearing pitches from teams, discussing deals with his agent and meeting with his family and advisors, I've heard fans accuse him of becoming the next Brett Favre, of actling like a diva and keeping teams, and the free agency process, on hold.
Give me a break. Give him a break.
He's a thoughtful guy who's taking all of these immense offers seriously and doing his due diligence before making one of the biggest decisions of his life. He has to weigh opportunities to win, money, cities and travel. I don't blame him a bit for taking his time.
Plus, it's been three days. Three days! If he had signed on Sunday, that would have meant that he knew where he was going before free agency even started. He spent much of Tuesday traveling.
The people complaining about Parise's patience are fans who think it's Parise's job to make them happy, and media members who didn't want to be bothered on July 4.
This really isn't about you.
The longer Parise deliberates, the more you have to believe he's taking all offers seriously. That can only help the Wild.
By next year, none of us will remember whether Parise took three or five days to make this decision., Only his decision will matter.
I'm writing about the Wild's pursuit of Parise for the Wednesday paper. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
OK, about to watch Thunder-Spurs, here are my NHL and NBA picks, along with an admission that I never would have picked LA or Jersey to make it to the finals in the NHL, had I bothered to pick at the beginning of the Stanley Cup playoffs:
Eastern Conference NBA Finals, otherwise known as the Slumber Games:
Miami over Boston in 5. Rondo will be brilliant enough to win at least one game, but Wade and James are playing together beautifully right now.
Western Conference Finals:
San Antonio over OKC in six. I'm tempted to pick San Antonio in five, because I think they match up so well with the Thunder, but it's hard not to envision a couple of game-winning shots from Westbrook and/or Durant.
The Spurs have the better coach and the deeper roster, and while I don't usually consider ``experience'' a key factor, I think the Spurs' combination of experience and rest will play to their favor.
Stanley Cup Finals
I like the way Jersey is playing, and I love the way Parise is playing, and Brodeur is on the doorstep of history. But I'd never bet a dollar on hockey. Too many funny bounces.
The Twins are on historically-bad paces for losses and ERA, and you know what? It could be worse.
Where would this team be if P.J. Walters and Scott Diamond hadn't materialized out of thin air?
On the TNT pregame show tonight, Charles Barkley ripped ``all the talking heads'' who ripped Shaquille O'Neal as a potential NBA general manager. Chuck made a great point, saying: ``I've been in the NBA, and there are a lot of dumb GMs.''
The man has a way with words.
I'll be on 1500espn with Reusse and Mackey at 2:05 on Monday.
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