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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Was off for the holidays last week, so I haven't offered my second installment of the all-important LPR: Local Power Rankings of our mostly-woeful revenue sports teams.
Here's Round 2:
1. Minnesota Wild:
Impressive that Mike Yeo could get this team to respond after a two-game losing streak, and on a back-to-back with a goalie who got pulled the night before. Right now Yeo might be the best coach/manager in town, and he's still getting used to having his own parking space at the X.
Also: Cal Clutterbuck, long a favorite of mine because of his toughness and hustle, was outstanding last night. As was Mikko Koivu and Backstrom. This team continues to overachieve, and in this town, if you overachieve you're an easy No. 1.
2. Minnesota Gophers men's hockey team
We're seeing some slippage here. They've slipped to No. 5 in the national rankings, and the specter of all of Lucia's recent underachievers is rising into view. In this town, they're still easily No. 2, but they have to prove they can win games while they're under pressure. This has been a soft, soft program for a long time.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves
That's right, just planning to practice within the next two weeks moves the Wolves to No. 3. In this case, the devil you don't know is better than the devils you know. Plus, the 66-game schedule almost ensures that the Wolves won't lose 50 games again.
4. Minnesota Gophers men's basketball team
What does it say about Tubby's program that one injury can destroy all expectations for an entire season even before the Big Ten schedule begins?
Actually, it says a lot.
5. Minnesota Twins
The signings of Doumit and Carroll are good, common-sense moves that could solve glaring problems. What's more impressive is the way Terry Ryan (and Bill Smith before he was fired) started fixing the baseball operation. The hiring of Wayne Krivsky (Smith deserves credit for that one), the re-hiring of Ryan, and the hiring of Gene Glynn as Triple A manager are moves that might not affect the 2012 standings but should help the Twins regain their respectability and set them up for future success.
The Twins would also benefit from luring Smith back into the fold. He has many skills that can benefit the business side of the operation. He's been a good soldier for this organization for a long time and should be treated as such.
6. Minnesota Gopher football team
Three victories against a weak schedule is not impressive, but Kill and his staff at least coaxed some improvement from Gray.
7. Minnesota Vikings
This team is an imperfect storm of lousy personnel and poor coaching. I think personnel depth is the bigger problem, but a team with Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen and Percy Harvin in their prime should have more than two victories.
I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 with Reusse and Mackey, and at 6:15 with Tom Pelissero. My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
Let me recap this amazing Minnesota sports weekend:
1. Jerry Kill suffers a seizure.
2. The Gopher football team loses to gawdawful New Mexico State at home one week after inspiring hope (at least for a sucker like me) at USC.
3. The Twins take half-measures, firing two members of the Triple-A staff, while the big-league team continues to bumble around like drunks.
4. The Vikings unveil their new quarterback and offensive coordinator and manage two passing yards in the second half of a 24-17 loss.
Reactions to the four?
1. I wish Mr. Kill well, but please don't try the ``This puts things in perspective'' line on me.
Does that mean that because Kill was stricken in public that we should all pretend the games don't matter, or that sport doesn't matter?
Really? So the University of Minnesota is paying Kill and his staff millions for no reason? The billion-dollar industries that are the NFL and MLB don't matter? Kill's ability to create a great life for himself, his family and the coaches and players whom he values doesn't matter?
Bad stuff happens every day, all over the world. You know how these events help me ``put sports into perspective?'' By making me enjoy and value sports even more.
Sport is not a bunch of kids playing pickup ball while blowing off their homework. Sport is commerce. Sport is human drama. Sport is entertainment. Sport is a means by which many people improve their lives, either directly or vicariously.
Are they overdone sometimes? Certainly. But the only reason they're overdome sometimes is because so many of us care about them, and care about the people who play them.
A man falling ill doesn't ``put sports into perspective'' anymore than it puts theater, or car ownership, or eating donuts into perspective.
I admire Kill because of his story and his gumption. I wish him a speedy and full recovery. And when he's back, I'm sure he'll tell you that his seizure isn't reason to pity him or care less about the games. I'm sure he'll tell you that he's doing what he loves and plans to throw himself right back into the business of trying to win games and influence people.
That's what he's chosen to do with his life. Don't diminish it with this nonsense about ``perspective.''
2. I'm back to what I thought of the Gophers entering the season. They have few outstanding players and will struggle to win five games. Six would be a triumph.
I do believe that MarQueis Gray can help this team more as a slot receiver than a quarterback. I'd make the move now, putting in Max Shortell, and allowing Gray to play multiple roles, including Wildcat quarterback.
Gray was often spectacular at receiver last year. Shortell is the future, for the moment, at quarterback. You're not going to the Rose Bowl regardless of which one plays QB. Play for the future - Shortell's as a quarterback, and Gray as an NFL prospect at receiver.
3. How do you spell ``Bleeechhhh?''
4. I expected the Vikings offense to be somewhat boring. I'm shocked that it was this ineffective in the second half.
Donovan McNabb threw for two yards in the second half. Two. (2). Dos. Brett Favre on his worst day would do better. So would Fran Tarkenton - today.
I don't blame McNabb solely. The play-calling was highly predictable, especially on first down, from the end of the first half until deep in the fourth quarter. I counted running plays called on seven straight first-down plays.
After the game, Percy Harvin hinted and Mike Jenkins came right out and told me that the offense was predictable. (More in my Monday morning column.)
McNabb wasn't the only problem - Charlie Johnson and the lack of speed at receiver were also factors - but he's got to be a lot better than this. The Vikings ran for 159 yards and a 6.1 yard average, and McNabb and his receivers didn't come close to taking advantage.
I'm hearing the Wolves are negotiating with Rick Adelman. Two things I don't know:
1. Whether they're willing to meet his demands of a long-term deal worth $5 million a year or more, when they're still stuck with Kurt Rambis' contract and the league is in a lockout.
2. Who's their fallback? It's probably either Sam Mitchell or Don Nelson. I hope for Glen Taylor's sake that it's Mitchell. I keep hearing bad things about Nelson's last couple of stints. I think he'd burn out quickly and the Wolves would be going through this again next summer.
Adelman would be a great hire at the right price. Mitchell would be a promising hire and would make sense for this franchise. Nelson? Could be trouble.
Upcoming: My new slot on 1500espn is 2 p.m. each weekday. My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
When Kevin Slowey took the mound on Sunday, he could have had any number of goals.
He could have wanted to win a game. That's always good. Whether he wants the victory to help his teammates, or to help himself in arbitration, or to enhance his trade value, doesn't matter. You've got to want to win, right?
Or he could have wanted to help his team out, and save the bullpen for Monday, when the Twins have to play a doubleheader with a thin, injury-depleted pitching staff. Saving the bullpen would be a baseball moral victory.
Or he could have wanted to prove that he's a tougher guy than everyone thinks he is, after he bailed to the disabled list earlier this season because he didn't want to pitch in the bullpen.
So Slowey throws 95 pitches through seven innings. He looks sharp. He strikes out four, doesn't walk anybody, and he's down just 2-1.
If he goes out for the eighth inning, he has a chance to get a victory, or at least has a chance to save the Twins' bullpen for Monday.
Instead, he complained of a tight hamstring, forcing the Twins to bring in two relievers to pitch the eighth. The Twins lost 4-1, and Slowey didn't accomplish anything other than fortifying his reputation within the organization as a malingerer.
They need to trade this guy. The problem is, he's got a 5.31 ERA and a bad reputation. The Twins need to wait until teams are looking for pitching help this winter, and trade him for the best offer.
I can't mention any names because of the sources of my information, but I was told that three different Twins were laughing or giggling or smiling in the late innings on Sunday, as the Twins lost 4-1.
It's amazing how a bad farm system has taught a bunch of young players that losing is the norm, and that there's no reason to get down about it.
That's one of the subjects of my Monday morning column.
I keep hearing people saying that Rick Adelman and Don Nelson are better candidates than Sam Mitchell.
Well, Adelman is an excellent coach, but he's 65. When is the last time a 65-year-old coach took over an NBA rebuilding project and wound up being the right guy? (I'm sure there are examples. I'm also sure there aren 't many.)
The more I talk to NBA insiders, the more I hear that Nelson would be a ticking time bomb who would quickly fall out of favor with ownership and the front office. He might not last a season.
Mitchell may not be the first name you think of when you decide you want to hire an NBA coach, but he shouldn't be dismissed, either.
He was the NBA coach of the year in 2007. His winning percentage with the Raptors was .452. Not impressive? Well, consider the context. The only Raptors coach who has done better was Lenny Wilkins, at .459. Mitchell's replacement, Jay Triano, won at a .380 clip. I can only wish Dwane Casey, the classy former Wolves coach, luck in turning that franchise around.
Mitchell is 48. He's experienced but not old. He fought his way to the NBA with a gritty style of play that hid his lack of talent. He is an experienced NBA assistant. He'd force the Wolves to play with fire, and to play defense. If he had success, he wouldn't use this job as a golden parachute into retirement or a steppingstone to a better franchise. He'd stay.
He'd reconnect with Wolves fans who remember this franchise when it was competent and competitive. He'd be a credible connection to potential free agents. He has the right personality to make owner Glen Taylor feel included without allowing Taylor or anyone else to impinge on his authority.
Would he succeed? I have no idea. Circumstances are more important than will in some cases. But he seems to me to be the best fit out of all the candidates.
My favorite moment of the day: FSN's Robby Incmikoski asking Twins manager Ron Gardenhire if he took solace in the fact that his rotation is settled.
Gardenhire looked at him like he had cotton candy leaking out of his ears.
Settled? Gardenhire has one member of his original five-man rotation healthy: Carl Pavano. His other starters this week will be reliever Anthony Swarzak, Rule 5 draftee Scott Diamond, TBA (probably callup Liam Hendricks), Pavano, and the out-of-favor Slowey.
The Twins' rotation is about as settled as the San Andreas Fault.
Sometimes I hear the stupid questions people in my business ask and I hate the media, too.
My thanks to Gophers coach Jerry Kill for joining Sunday Morning Sports Talk. For once, I see Gopher fans falling all over themselves about a new coach, and I think they might be on to something.
Interesting week coming up for me: I'll be in Green Bay on Thursday night for the Packers opener, then heading to San Diego for the Vikings opener. I guess I could drop by Target Field, too, but I don't like being lonely.
My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib. Follow me, Kevin. Please.
I watched the Heat and Bulls last night, but didn't realize until this morning, watching Mike & Mike, that Joaquim Noah used a slur against a fan in Miami - the same slur that got Kobe Bryant into trouble earlier this season, when he yelled it at a ref.
First of all, I spent a little time around Noah when he played for Florida, and I know a few people who have covered him. I like the guy, and like everything I've ever heard about him.
Was uttering the slur wrong? Of course. But, as Mike & Mike noted, we're getting to a point in player-fan relations where I think we have to start holding the fan more accountable.
I think sports teams should start ejecting fans when they become too abusive. Haven't we evolved? Shouldn't we have reached a juncture in civilization when buying a ticket doesn't allow you the right to scream obscenities?
During the Twins' last homestand, a guy stood up in front of the press box and began screaming and cursing at a Twins reliever - I believe it was Joe Nathan. Why should he be allowed to do that, and ruin the experience of everyone within earshot? (A Twins usher calmed the man down.)
I took my daughter to a Timberwolves game years ago - we're talking the '90s - and we wound up next to a group of people who cursed the entire game. I never brought a kid back.
And that's not a shot at the Wolves. Whatever the state of their team, they work like crazy to make their fans comfortable..
I believe we need to start looking at sports more like theater, and less like a drunken night in a dive bar.
Can you imagine buying a ticket to a show, or a movie, or a concert, and having to sit next to someone who's screaming and cursing the entire night?
I'd say ``No.'' So why should it be allowed in professional sports, where people spend immense amounts of money on the entertainment?
-As I said on Twitter this morning, even if the Twins finish in last place, if they can trade Kevin Slowey, the season will be a success.
-We had ESPN's Chris Broussard on Sunday Morning Sports Talk on 1500espn this weekend, and we wound up talking about how LeBron James is almost like Magic Johnson in his ability to dominate a game physically and win without scoring. Then last night, he played a remarkably even, versatile game while letting Chris Bosh handle most of the scoring.
James has damaged his reputation as a good, down-to-earth guy in the last year. But he may be on his way to establishing himself as one of the greatest players of all time.
-I'll be fascinated to see how the Twins draw the rest of the year. Will people come for the ballpark? Will people show up only if the weather is good? Could the Twins' struggles be good for anyone who wants a chance to attend Target Field, and perhaps find a reasonably-priced ticket?
-Nice piece by colleague Chip Scoggins today on Chris Weinke's passing camp.
I don't know whether Christian Ponder will be a good NFL quarterback. He at least strikes me as an earnest, hard-working, responsible guy. That, combined with his obvious intelligence, should give him a chance to succeed.
Look at the great NFL quarterbacks. Their common denominators aren't exceptional arm strength and tremendous athletic ability. Their common denominators are intelligence, work ethic, leadership and accuracy.
Personally, I think covering the development of a talented young quarterback is the best story in sports. I'm hoping Ponder gives us something to write about, and talk about, for years.
-Had breakfast with Jerry Kill last week, leading to the piece I wrote for Sunday.
I like the guy. I think he's genuine. I also think he has a tough job.
-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 p.m. all week, and we'll host The Ron Gardenhire Show and Sunday Morning Sports Talk from the St. Thomas University mobile press box this week. You can follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
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