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.
Find him on Twitter
It's silly to pretend that a city or state's sporting teams are all somehow linked by anything other than geography. The Twins don't affect the Vikings who don't affect the Gophers who don't affect the Wolves, and so on.
But this is getting a little creepy.
The Wolves are on one of the most remarkable five-year runs of ineptitude in NBA history. The Twins are headed toward 100 losses. Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and, I believe, TC Bear are all done for the season. The Wild has fired two coaches since it last made the playoffs. Gopher football lost last week to New Mexico State, which just lost at home to UTEP.
Sunday, the Vikings blew a 17-0 halftime lead to lose, 24-20. They've now been outscored in second halves this season, 41-3.
Since Brett Favre threw that fateful interception, the Vikings are 6-12, including 3-5 under Leslie Frazier.
In an easier division, starting 0-2 might not be such a big problem, but the Vikings probably have the fourth-best team in the NFC North.
I'm not sure I've ever seen two poorer performances from a quarterback who didn't throw an interception than I've seen from Donovan McNabb the last two weeks. He's the anti-Tarvaris: He isn't making killing mistakes, he's just a little off, whether in timing or accuracy.
He threw for 228 yards and no interceptions on Sunday, but made so few positive plays in the second half that the Vikings lost again.
It's hard to lose when you run for 186 yards, throw for 228 yards and commit zero turnovers. But an inability to pick up the occasional first down under pressure is almost the same as committing turnovers.
Maybe I should be more sensitive, but I have a hard time believing that Joe Mauer couldn't play another game this season.
Let me ask you one question: If Derek Jeter had the same illness as Mauer today, do you think he'd take off the rest of the season?
I said this on Twitter earlier, and I believe it: The Wolves' hiring of Rick Adelman makes them the biggest winner of any sports team in town this week.
How often, over the last few years, could the Wolves have said that?
Given the state of disrepair of all the other teams in town, I could see Adelman making the Wolves one of the most popular draws in Minnesota. I believe he can immediately improve the Wolves from 17 wins to 30-some wins, and this town will embrace a young, fun, up-tempo team in the heart of our downtown.
I went to see the Gear Daddies at the Fine Line on Friday, and, as someone who doesn't spend a whole lot of weekend nights downtown, I was stunned at how many people were on the street around midnight. (Or later.)
That's the Wolves' demographic. I've gotten the feeling the last couple of years that there are tens of thousands of people who will pack Target Center if the Wolves can just give them a little hope. And I think Adelman represents hope.
My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib. I'll be on 1500espn at 2 p.m. weekdays, plus on at 6:15ish on Monday and Friday (Twins schedule permitting) with Tom Pelissero, my Sunday Morning Sports Talk partner, who will be hosting a nightly show from 6-8 p.m. on the station.
Donovan McNabb conducted his first game-week press conference as a Vikings quarterback, and he was thoughtful and insightful. Must be the podium. He was a lot like Favre, except that he listened to the question and kept his answers shorter than 35 minutes. And he didn't ask himself rhetorical questions the way Favre did.
The Vikings appeared pretty close to completely healthy as we were allowed to watch the beginning of practice on Wednesday.
Here's my take on this team: I like the people, I'm not sure I like the mix.
I think Leslie Frazier has a good chance to become a very good coach. I think McNabb has a chance to have a bounce-back season. The Vikings still have elite players in Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Antoine Winfield, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Chad Greenway. They have highly-useful veterans like Visanthe Shiancoe, Jim Kleinsasser, Steve Hutchinson, Michael Jenkins and E.J. Henderson.
But they lack the kind of youth movement that could give those veterans one last run at a championship. Kyle Rudolph may be the only young player who could be outstanding this season. The Vikings lack roster depth, are installing a new offense with a new quarterback without the benefit of offseason workouts, play in the same division as the best team in football and need to maintain close to perfect health to have a chance to post a winning record.
So, my pick for this teams is 7-9. They went 6-10 last year, and I think Frazier's steady hand will give them a chance to win one or two more games than they did during the crazy 2010 season.
Their best hope is that they can win the games they're supposed to win, that the Bears take a predictable fall and that the Lions aren't nearly as ready to win as most people think they are. To get to 9-7, McNabb will have to be sharp enough to lead the Vikings to wins in a lot of close games.
I would love to predict that the Vikings will go 10-6 and make the playoffs. After watching the Twins stumble around all season, I'd love to cover a playoff team. But I think this team's weaknesses in the secondary and on the offensive line will be exposed by quality opponents.
I hear a lot of fans whining about the Twins calling up youngsters and putting them in the starting lineup. That's the way this works, folks. Take it from me: I covered the Twins as a beat writer from 1993-97. Watching the kids come up and play in September was the highlight of those seasons.
I'm most interested in Joe Benson. He's a multi-talented guy who can run, hit, hit for power, throw, and cover ground in the outfield. He seems to have charsma. He loves Springsteen (!). He plays with the energy of a football player - he was a standout running back in high school. And unlike a lot of the kids who have been called up this season, he seems to be after more than a big-league paycheck.
With the futures of Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel uncertain, Benson could be a key player for this team next year.
I highly recommend reading our hockey writer, Michael Russo, these days, even if you don't care about hockey. His piece on Derek Boogaard's death, and his quick-reacting coverage of the airline tragedy in Russia are just the latest examples of his outstanding work.
I'll be traveling to Green Bay for the season opener against the Saints tomorrow, then coming back and heading to San Diego for the Vikings' opener. I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 weekdays from now on, and I'll be calling in from Green Bay tomorrow at that time.
Quick stat from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Bob McGinn: Saints coach Sean Payton's career record is 53-33. Packers coach Mike McCarthy's is 53-34. And they've won the last two Super Bowls.
Tom Pelissero and I will run the Gardenhire Show and Sunday Morning Sports Talk from San Diego on Sunday morning, from 9:30-11. We'll do our first NFL picks, along with my buddy Tom Linnemann, and we'll have ESPN.com NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert on to preview the games.
I'll also be calling 1500espn at 6:20 p.m. tomorrow from Green Bay.
My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
Enjoy the beginning of football season. I know I will.
-Isn't releasing the schedule for an NFL season threatened by a lockout like planning how you're going to spend your lottery winnings?
-Must be something wrong with the Vikes' schedule. Shows only one game in Detroit, no games on Tuesday and none at TCF Bank Stadium.
-Rick Adelman might not be the best possible coach for the Timberwolves, but he'd be an upgrade. Then again, so would Randy Wittman.
David Kahn will have a dozen good candidates to replace Kurt Rambis, including Adelman, Dwane Casey and Sam Mitchell. I'm sure he'll go for name recognition, though, and hire someone like....Kurt Rambis. Or Pee Wee Herman.
-Bunting in the first inning: I'm never in favor, even when it's Matt Tolbert in the 2-hole putting down the bunt. Play for the big inning early in the game. Please.
-Remove frustration from the analysis, and the Twins' slow start isn't that surprising. They had injuries in spring training, they rarely play well against the AL East, they aren't a particularly strong road team, and their home games were against a very good pitching staff (Oakland) and a team you'd rather play later in the season than early, when they still believe in themselves (KC).
-Today's NBA playoff prediction (I'll change this every day for a few months): Oklahoma City over Miami in the finals. (Yesterday, it was LA over Miami in the finals, but the Lakers looked lost in Game 1.)
-60 Minutes did a great piece on Blazers and Seahawks owner Paul Allen, who ripped into Bill Gates in his new book. Allen owns the guitar Jimi Hendrix played at Woodstock, a massive yacht with its own submarine, and still has dozens of billions in the bank.
And guess what Allen said in the interview: He's still hopeful of meeting someone with whom he can start a family. All those billions, and yet at that moment I felt sorry for him.
-First, my 1500espn radio partner Tom Pelissero said he believes the Vikings are targeting Jake Locker. Now Peter King is agreeing with his mock draft. I don't believe a lot of what I hear about the draft this time of year, but I am starting to believe that Jake Locker will be wearing purple this fall.
Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 Wednesday. My twitter name is @Souhanstrib.
Two trips to Detroit in a month.
I forget, is that the second or third ring of Hell?
A reader emailed me last night, asking why we don't hammer Bernard Berrian more for being a slacker and one of the worst free-agent signings in franchise history.
He's right. All I can say is that Berrian is blessed to be shielded by low expectations.
Brad Childress made a lot of great personnel decisions, and Berrian helped the Vikings go to the playoffs in 2008 and added an occasional threat last year. This year, he's been worthless. In a normal year, where Brett Favre, Randy Moss, sexting, a stadium implosion, migraines, and a systemic failure (love that phrase) hadn't dominated headlines, we might very well have spent the season castigating Berrian.
He's lucky to be only No. 32 on the list of what's wrong with this year's Vikings.
Remember the good ol' days, when we thought losing Chester Taylor was going to be the worst thing that ever happened to this team?
Right now Berrian is testing his sore (fill in the blank) on the field. I'm sure he'll gut it out and play.
The Winter Classic was great. Take a sport in which you can't see the puck, and play it in a stadium where noone can even pretend to see the puck.
Actually, I think the Winter Classic is a good idea. Anytime the NHL can break up the monotony of its regular season and give the casual viewer a reason to watch, I'm all for it. But hockey is just a weird sport to try to promote. Those who love it will love it no matter what form it takes. Those who don't love it will always be ambivalent because even superstars like Sidney Crosby play only a portion of their games and can't even control when they touch the puck.
I feel for anyone who has gone through the health problems Don Lucia has experienced, but I can't excuse his coaching or the way his team has played.
This was supposed to be a weekend of fattening up on weak opponents. Instead, he loses to Union (is that a brand of jeans or a college) at home, then blows off a shootout so he won't lose to Ferris State (named after Buehller, I hope?).
If only the Gophers athletic department had someone in charge, maybe someone named an ``athletic director'' who could take charge of the program. Someone should look into that.
I fear the Wilfs are going to blow this. I fear they're going to take a good coaching candidate they know and like and let him explore the market, and lose him, and start another coaching search with no guarantee that they'll hire anyone as good as Leslie Frazier.
This is one of those decisions that can be screwed up only by overthinking. Hire Frazier tonight, announce it tomorrow, give Rick Spielman the GM title, and move forward.
Wrote about Brett Favre's last appearance on a Viking sideline in the Sunday paper. Yes, I'm asking you to go buy a stinking paper, which costs less than a foo-foo Starbucks drink, or a gallon of gas.
Here's my newspaper rant: They're the last bargain in America. For a small price you get tons of coupons, funnies, crosswords, Soduku, op-eds, news, and a packed sports section. And if you subscribe to the paper, the premium stuff is all free.
I can't decide whether signing Carl Pavano would be a good thing or a bad thing. He'd flesh out the rotation and provide innings, but is he really worth $10 million a year?
I think the Twins are playing it right. I'd give him two years, but not three.
I still think the biggest issue facing the Twins is whether Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan can be what they once were.
I'll check in after the game. Because what else would I do in Detroit?
Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 p.m. each weekday. My twitter name is Souhanstrib.
While I consider graduation rates to be worthwhile and sometimes interesting news, I personally don't care much whether Athlete A graduates from the University of Minnesota. I'm not sure why anyone does.
If my neighbor's kid earned a scholarship to the U and failed out, would I draw any grandiose conclusions? Would I assume that all teenagers from Lakeville are using the University for nefarious purposes, or that the parents were rotten, or that the kid's life was necessarily ruined? No, I'd feel a little sorry for the kid and hope that this brand of failure propelled him/her to something better.
Why would we view failing athletes any differently? They earned a scholarship by displaying talent in a particular field, much like a math or science whiz. They were given an opportunity to go to school for free. They blew it. So be it.
It's their loss, but I'm not sure it should be my concern.
An Informed Reader who is not a Gophers fan emailed me to say that he once asked a Gopher football fan why the fan base ``put up with Glen Mason.''
The fan's answer: ``Because we remember John Gutekunst.''
It is becoming fashionable to doubt LeBron James as a ``winner,'' as his new-look Cavaliers slog through the early season.
I hate this line of thinking. Dan Marino was an all-world quarterback; his inability to win a Super Bowl was not due to his passing skills; it was due to the players assembled around him.
John Elway didn't suddenly become a better quarterback during his last two years in the league; he was allowed to operate a passing system that better featured his talents, and he was given Terrell Davis, good receivers and a killer defense.
James could be slightly better at closing out games, but he is asked to do so much over 48 minutes that it isn't realistic to expect him to always be at his best in the last two. He doesn't have a Pippen. I'm not sure he even has a Paxson.
He put together one of the greatest all-around statistical seasons in basketball history last year, and he won games singlehandedly in the playoffs. He is already one of the greatest basketball players of all time. If he fails to win a title, the fault will be with the Cavs' executives who failed to take advantage of this rare talent.
My Vikings pick this week: Vikings 34, Seahawks 17. If I weren't so modest, I'd point out that I'm 9-0 on Vikings picks this year.
Penalties and turnovers kept the Vikings from scoring 40 last week. They'll play better this week, and the fact that the Seahawks are a better team than the Lions won't make much difference.
Upcoming: I'm writing about the Gophers athletic department for the Friday paper, then heading to Iowa to see Tim Brewster celebrate the greatest victory of his college playing career.
You can follow me on Twitter at SouhanStrib. Or not.
I would mix in more pop-culture references, but I can't find time to watch TV or movies these days, and I'm sure you don't need any more references to my memories of the early days of Everybody Loves Raymond.
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