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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Last time the Vikings played a Monday night game at Met Life Stadium in Jersey, the Vikings were in the middle of another lost season, but the personalities and circumstances were dramatically different.
Brad Childress was the coach, and fighting for power within the organization. Tonight, the Vikings' coach will be Leslie Frazier, whose job may be in as much jeopardy today as Childress' was in 2010, but who plays his role with more diplomacy.
Brett Favre was the quarterback, and fighting off tabloid stories about his texting habits. Tonight, the quarterback will be Josh Freeman, who, unlike Favre in 2010, is hoping to play another 10 years in the NFL.
Randy Moss was the supposed midseason saviour. Tonight, Freeman plays that role, trying to prove that Greg Schiano really is who we think he is.
The Jets beat the Vikings on that rainy Monday night in 2010, but what I really remember was dealing with Moss and Favre after the game.
Moss was difficult, parrying interview requests until Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press challenged him to talk, and Moss did. That night, you could not have imagined that a television network would ever hire Moss and pay him for his thoughts.
Favre was masterful. Not on the field, but in the cramped, overcrowded postgame interview room. If Anthony Weiner could handle negative press and difficult questions about his personal life the way Favre did, Weiner could be president, instead of out of politics.
The Minnesota media had already asked Favre plenty of questions about his texting habits and relationship with Jenn Sterger. This was the New York media's chance to go after him. Favre calmly turned every question towards football without getting angry or offering any new information.
I think Favre would have made the perfect politician. He looks and acts like a leader. He is a master at manipulating the national media. He has fame and money on his side. And he is the best press-conference manager I've ever interviewed.
I'll be on 1500ESPN at 9:30 instead of noon today so I can catch my flght to New York. I'll also be on KFGO in Fargo with Mike McFeely, probably around 3:30 Central time. I'll also be on 1500ESPN at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday before heading back to Minnesota.
My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib. Thanks for reading.
My friend and colleague Joe Christensen is picking the Gophers to lose to Northwestern in a close game today in Evanston.
I'm here covering the game with Joe, and I don't see it being that close.
Factor in Northwestern's blowout loss at Wisconsin last week and analyze their weaknesses, and Joe's pick makes perfect sense.
Here's why I don't see it being that close:
The Gophers went into the Big Ten season with a great deal of optimism. That has since been crushed. They got physically whipped by a mediocre Iowa team, then got physically whipped by a mediocre Michigan team.
Now their coach is convalescing, and they're on the road against a good team desperate to right itself. Northwestern can throw the ball and figures to play with a great deal of emotion today.
If you're the Gophers, where do you find the positive emotion? Do you really around defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys, who's filling in for Jerry Kill? Is the Gophers' coaching staff really as capable when the head coach isn't at the stadium?
My pick: Northwestern 41, Gophers 18. I like Mitch Leidner as a quarterback, and I like the fact that the staff didn't play any games before naming him the starter this week, but I don't think he has a whole lot of help.
For the Gophers to keep it close, I think Marcus Jones will have to have a big day in the return game, and tight end Maxx Williams will have to make big plays in the passing game, and Leidner will have to run wild.
I'll be running Sunday Sports Talk on 1500ESPN from 10-noon tomorrow, with Chris Reuvers in the Twin Cities. Korzo has the weekend off.
My Twitter handle is @Souhanstrib. Thanks for reading.
A series of national reports indicated the Vikings have signed former Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman.
Freeman is problematic. He was inaccurate and error-prone this season. He missed a team photo and battled with his head coach.
This part is important: The coach he battled with, Greg Schiano, may be an idiot.
I like the move. Freeman has had two outstanding NFL seasons. He has the talent to succeed. The Vikings are getting a chance to try out a quarterback capable of being a productive NFL starter without giving up a first-round draft pick or a massive, long-term contract.
The reports are Freeman will sign a one-year deal worth $2.5 to $3 million. That's nothing for a quarterback.
The Vikings may not admit it, but this should end Christian Ponder's tenure in Minnesota. Matt Cassel is sure to start against Carolina next week, and the Vikings aren't bringing in Freeman to be a third-string quarterback.
Freeman gets a fresh start, and the Vikings get a quarterback with NFL talent without waiting and hoping the right guy falls to them in the draft.
This is a smart, aggressive, low-risk, high-reward move by Rick Spielman.
Waiting for my flight home with Strib photographer Carlos Gonzalez, wondering whether the NFL really could work in London.
I think it would work in terms of fan support and television ratings, because London is immense and there have to be sane people in the UK who would realize how much more spectacular the NFL is than soccer and cricket.
The real question fo rme is how it would work logistically. If by the end of the decade, when the NFL would like to place a team in London, it would require a 12-hour flight to travel from Seattle or San Diego to London, then this is untenable.
If flight travel quickens and improves, so that large men don't get off a plane feeling like they've been beaten with hammers, everything else falls into place.
For most of the week, I didn't see any signs or hear any buzz about the game, and the major news outlets largely ignored the NFL. That can change quickly, though, if London has a home team and starts developing decent television ratings.
What won't change without improved air travel is the willingness of NFL players to play in London.
Then again, no premier free agents want to play in Jacksonville, either.
I tend to believe that the NFL will find a way to make this a success. It's not exactly a risky market. It's huge and Engilsh-speaking and not that far from New York.
It's usually a mistake to give people in sports too much credit, but I have to believe that the NFL's research indicates that a team in London would eventually thrive. This league does know what it's doing when it comes to marketing and maximizing television revenues.
Personally, I love London. It's huge but never overwhelming. You never have here that sense you get in New York ,where you feel claustrophobic because of all the skyscrapers. It's more like Boston or San Francisco, filled with quaint buildings and beautiful architecture in the context of a major city.
Heading home now to find out Gardenhire's fate, cover the Wild opener and catch up with the Lynx.
Thanks for reading our coverage from London, and please check out Carlos' many great photos on startribune.com.
NFL players and coaches don't want to fly over the Atlantic and give up a home game to play in London. That's just the way it is. If they wanted to sightsee in London, they'd do it in the offseason.
Given that fact as context, the Vikings' week in London couldn't have gone much better than it did.
They practiced at a golf resort. They had time to adjust to the time change. They played in front of a remarkable number of friendly fans, whether they were Vikings fans who made the trip or Vikings fans for a night.
Wembley Stadium is beautiful, and loud, and much better at picking music than most American stadiums.
Most important, the Vikings won while finding their quarterback. Matt Cassel performed well enough that the Vikings resembled the team I thought they'd be all along: A talented team whose offense helps make up for weaknesses on the back seven of the defense.
If they keep Cassel at quarterback, as they should, and Chris Cook and Jamarca Sanford get healthy over the bye, this could be a dangerous team the rest of the way.
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