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
OK, as usual, the headline is a little strong. What I meant to say is that Tim Tebow isn't the devil. I just think he made a deal with the devil. All this religious stuff is just cover.
Tebow obviously has sold his soul for a few NFL victories. There is no other rational explanation for him going 7-1 while throwing like a drunk Tarvaris Jackson.
On to today's highly irrelevant Local Power Rankings, which are really just a vehicle that allows me to comment on the seven major revenue sports in town:
1. Minnesota Wild.
Duh. Still the No. 1 team in the NHL. I wrote in today's paper how everything is looking up for the franchise, whether you're looking at the standings or young talent or realignment.
I asked Mike Yeo on Wednesday night if he looked forward to playing more games against teams like the Jets and Blackhawks. Yeo said, yes, ``we already dislike the Jets. And we already dislike the Blackhawks.''
The Wild could be quite entertaining for years to come, and I hope they find a way to land Zach Parise, who owns a home in Minnesota and would the front-line scorer this team needs.
2. Gopher hockey
We're seeing slippage. I love the talent on this team but have to be shown that they can gut through the long season and be at their best in the postseason. So far they've been impressive, but I still don't think they're quite playing to their talent level.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves
Yes, the Gopher basketball team has a gaudy record. But just holding intrasquad scrimmages means the Timberwolves have faced tougher competition.
I'll be at Target Center on Saturday night to see the debut of Rubio, Adelman, et al. And I'm as intrigued and optimistic about this franchise as I've been since Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell staged their mutiny.
4. Gopher basketball
Can we please get to the point where the Gophers stop getting praised for playing and beating lousy teams?
The Gophers' nonconference schedule is an embarrassment for the program and an affront to ticket-buyers. I'm not going to take this team seriously until it plays, and wins, a few conference games.
5. Minnesota Twins
While the average ranting fan demands that the Twins make a blockbuster trade or sign a top free agent, realistic observers of the team should be able to recognize that Terry Ryan is having a very good offseason so far.
Bringing Matt Capps back doesn't impress anyone, but Ryan has always believed that competent relievers fluctuate year-to-year, so it's probably a worthwhile gamble. He got rid of Kevin Slowey, which could have the same positive effect on the Twins that the Wild trading Martin Havlat has had. Jamey Carroll is the kind of short-term, inexpensive stopgap that could help the 2012 Twins without busting the payroll or blocking any worthwhile infield prospects. Ryan Doumit is a perfect fit for a team that doesn't know how many games its catcher will catch.
And even for someone who has known Michael Cuddyer since 1997 and thinks very highly of him as a player and a human, the Josh Willingham signing is a winner. Willingham is a similar player to Cuddyer and is less expensive, and Cuddyer's departure brings two draft picks to a Twins franchise desperate to rebuild its farm system.
Ryan has also signed a number of minor-league players who are more talented than their struggles indicate. And remember, Ryan's strength was always finding hidding gems, like Lew Ford, Alexi Casilla, Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Johan Santana.
Also: Bringing back Bill Smith is a winning move for the organization. I don't think he was a natural general manager, but he does good work in Latin America and in Lee County, where he's always had a great working relationship with the stewards of the Twins' spring training ballpark.
Smith is a valuable employee, and it speaks volumes about his selflessness and his relationship with Ryan that he would come back to an organization that just fired him.
A couple of months ago, the Twins' front office looked overmatched. Now the Twins' front office features Ryan as the boss, former Reds GM Wayne Krivsky as a valued adviser, and Smith. Those moves, with the addition of Gene Glynn as the Triple-A manager, should pay dividends. If not this year, then in the future.
6. Gopher football
Jerry Kill hasn't lost a game in a long time.
7. Minnesota Vikings
They need to keep losing and draft Matt Kalil, then land either a speed receiver or quality defensive back at the top of the second round.
The Vikings have a dozen problems to address, but as Jacques Lemaire always said, ``Solve one problem, and two more disappear.''
Upcoming: I'll be at Target Center to watch the new Wolves on Saturday, then at the future site of Zygiopolis on Sunday to watch the Saints and Vikings.
Today, I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05, and sometime tonight (between 6 and 8) with Tom Pelissero. Tom and I will run Sunday Sports Talk from 10-noon on Sunday before the Vikings game (also on 1500espn). My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
Yes, I'm a hypocrite.
I watched Christian Ponder run around the Metrodome, complete a low percentage of his passes and lose, and I was impressed.
I watched highlights of lowlights of Tim Tebow running around in Miami, completing a low percentage of his passes and lead a comeback victory, and I wasn't impressed.
Ponder can throw a pass quickly and accurately, with good mechanics, and I believe his charisma is a product of his athletic ability and confidence.
Tebow has terrible mechanics that will limit his ability to develop, and I believe his charisma won't matter if he can't complete routine throws.
As I noted in my column in today's paper, Ponder, after his horrific third quarter (0-for-5 with two interceptions), had the composure to rebound and, in the middle of the fourth quarter, convert five straight third downs, all of six yards or longer.
Colleague Mark Craig notes that Ponder converted five of seven third downs in the fourth quarter on Sunday. Donovan McNabb, whose statistics indicated he was more accurate, converted four of 15 in weeks 1-through-5.
And my radio colleague Tom Pelissero notes that 12 of Ponder's 13 completions went for a first down or touchdown.
So while Ponder needs to be more accurate, he has the guts, arm and athletic ability to make big plays. I'm impressed.
Aaron Rodgers finished 24-of-30 for 335 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, and the Packers dropped at least two passes, and he had another incompletion on a spike to stop the clock.
Adrian Peterson leads the NFL in rushing with 712 yards. Jared Allen leads the NFL in sacks with 11.5 (and while sacks aren't always a great indicator of effectiveness, in this case his stats accurately indicate just how hard and well he's playing).
Rodgers is second in yards behind Drew Brees, but leads easily in passer rating at 125.7. Tom Brady is second at 104.8, with Brees third at 104.6.
Rodgers is having one of the greatest seasons of a quarterback, ever.
Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2 p.m. every weekday. I'll be on The D-List with Drew Olson in Milwaukee on 540 ESPN at 1:15 today. No appearance with Tom Pelissero tonight on 1500espn because the station is carrying the World Series.
I plan to write a little Gopher football and Wild hockey this week, as well as setting up the Vikings game at Carolina. I'll be at that game with Dan Wiederer and Mark Craig.
I'll also be tweeting about the Vikings today from Winter Park, @Souhanstrib.
Greetings from Milwaukee. It's a beautiful day here, spent the morning walking down to the lakefront, running into dozens of Twins fans wearing their gear.
Milwaukee always feels, to me, like a smaller, slower Chicago.
I've read a bunch of excerpts from the Bill Simmons interview of David Kahn. Where else would Kahn cut open a vein, but on the BS Report?
The funny thing is, if there's anyone who has criticized Kahn more than me, it's Simmons. But Kahn is desperate to appear legitimate and to defend himself, and he can't find a bigger audience than by speaking with Simmons.
What's amazing is that Kahn can change his story from minute to minute. His first year on the job, I wrote about how I didn't think the triangle offense was a good fit for his team, and particularly Jonny Flynn, and he called me to explain that the offense wasn't necessarily the triangle and...well, I dozed off after a while, so I'm not sure what else he had to say.
Now he's telling Simmons that the triangle didn't work with this team, and damaged Flynn's progress, which is exactly the point he was trying to shoot down when I made it two years ago.
Kahn also repeats the ridiculous notion that he's still making a decision on Rambis.
I've had colleagues tell me they find all of this highly entertaining. I don't. I see a guy you can't trust running a team I want to care about.
People in my business use the ``Event X will define Person X's legacy'' line way too often, but I"ll say this: Kahn's decision on his head coach could determine whether he'll have the job two years from now.
If he keeps Rambis, he's in deep trouble. If he fires Rambis and make a ridiculous move like the rumored Bernie Bickerstaff hire, he'll be on his way out. If he fires Rambis and somehow lands a legitimate, quality, NBA coach, that coach could take an interesting group of young players, improve the team's record dramatically in part because there is nowhere to go but up, and make Kahn look like he knew what he was doing all along.
For example, what if the Wolves can land Rick Adelman? He's one of the best coaches in the game. I'm not sure he wants to work for this organization or endure a rebuilding project, but if the Wolves could land him, they'd improve dramatically over the next year or two.
But would Kahn be willing to hire someone who could wind up becoming the primary personnel voice in the organization? That's the big question surrounding the Wolves right now.
-Maybe Joe Mauer and Jose Mijares sniping at each other last night means nothing. These things do happen.
Or maybe Mijares' willingness to challenge the Twins' franchise player is a sign that Mauer, in the midst of a season in which many people in the organization have become frustrated with him, no longer commands unversal respect or receives the benefit of the doubt in the clubhouse.
I've always been told by Twins people that Mauer is not an exceptional pitch-caller. But when you hit .340 and throw out runners, nobody's going to complain very loudly about that.
Now, though, Mauer is swinging weakly and throwing poorly and at least some of his teammates have privately questioned whether he's willing to play with pain or discomfort, and now a less-than-established player like Mijares is calling him out?
Does that seem like a coincidence?
There is also the question of why Mijares didn't shake off Mauer if he didn't want to throw a 3-2 fastball to Prince Fielder. That is a good question. Mijares has final say.
But before that pitch was thrown, where would you have placed your faith: In the franchise player who is a veteran catcher, or in the wildly erratic lefty? Kind of like asking whether you want Brett Favre or Bernard Berrian making a call on third-and-5.
-I like the Wild's trade of Brent Burns for Devin Setoguchi for a very simple reason:
I like goals. With Burns gone and Setoguchi at forward, the Wild figure to score more, and allow more, goals, and defensive hockey bores me to tears.
Judging it more objectively, I still like it. Burns was a good guy and a real talent, but the Wild trading him when he was a year away from free agency for a talented winger who is signed for three years is exactly the kind of move the Wild needed to make.
-Still lining up guests for Sunday Morning Sports Talk. At this point I believe we'll have Derrick Williams, Chuck Fletcher and Milwaukee radio star Drew Olson. The Gardenhire Show starts at 9:30 a.m. on 1500espn followed by SMST from 10-noon.
-I'll be Twittering tonight from the Twins-Brewers game, @Souhanstrib.
Amazing how our quiet, borderline-depressing sports scene continues to make news. A month ago, I feared a summer in which the Twins were irrelevant and the NFL was dormant.
Now I expect the Twins to play meaningful games all season, the NFL to start on time, and the Wolves to be much more interesting by this fall.
I'm not sure what they're thinking.
They pushed Jacques Lemaire out. Lemaire's message may have gotten old, but he's a hockey genius. They replaced him with Todd Richards. Fine, you went with a young coach and planned to be patient while he developed. But then you fired him after two years, probably just as he was adapting fully to the job.
And then you went looking for a veteran coach. Craig MacTavish? Sounds good. Ken Hitchcock? Love it.
Now, I'm not predicting that Yeo will fail. Maybe he'll be a great coach, and Chuck Fletcher has made a brilliant, insightful, move. That wouldn't be shocking.
But this is a strange progression, from veteran brilliant coach to long shot to...long shot.
Because what Fletcher doesn't know about Yeo is exactly what he didn't know about Richards - how he would react to the pressure, the speed, and the players of the NHL.
This smells like a money-saving move. Yeo is thrilled to have the job. MacTavish and Hitchcock would have wanted money and influence. For a franchise needing credibility and a way to keep fans interested, this is a puzzling move.
Whatever the Wolves' problems, they may be close to passing the Wild in terms of intrigue and watchability.
-Wolves' exec Tony Ronzone told our Jerry Zgoda and other reporters today that the Wolves plan to hold onto the No. 2 pick and take the best player available. That is exactly the right approach. Derrick Williams is the right choice at No. 2. He might be talented enough to make Ricky Rubio look good.
After speaking with a few people around the NBA, I believe that if the Wolves take Williams, they'll need to trade Michael Beasley. Beasley is a nice enough guy, and he can score, but he doesn't play defense and doesn't get his points in a structured, reliable, way. You don't want Williams having to share shots with him. Williams could become a star.
-I'm rooting for Rory McIlroy. Golf needs a magnetic, charismatic, brilliantly-talented star to capture the imagination. Martin Kaymer doesn't cut it. And Phil Mickelson looks like he'll never win another major.
-Joe Mauer spoke today. He looked lean and tanned, and he handled the tougher questions very well.
He was asked about people who have criticized him for an unwillingness to play hurt. He called the critics, ``Misinformed.'' That's a logical response, but what he should know is that his slow recovery created critics not just in the media, but throughout his organization and in his clubhouse and among former players.
The percentage of Twins' employees rolling their eyes about Mauer's timetable was about the same as the percentage of fans screaming about him.
-Wrote my Friday column on the Twins' latest improbable victory, and Ozzie Guillen's latest nickname for their lineup. I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 Friday.
-My prayers go out to E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who is recovering from a stroke. I listened to a bunch of hair bands with my high school buddies until one day we were driving around, and this sax break played over the radio, interrupting a song featuring lyrics about life, and death, and redemption, and I could never listen to Styx again.
Clarence played that sax, and as much as I love Springsteen, the best moments of his glorious concerts always feature Clemons, as soloist or foil. I stopped listening to ``Jungleland'' years ago...except for Clemons' amazing, emotive, expressive solo, during which, in concert, Springsteen always walks around the stage, pumping his fist, leading cheers for the Big Man. As it should be, and I hope someday will be again.
After all of his fourth-quarter failures, after LeBron James choked in the same building where he celebrated like a champion before ever playing a game with the Miami Heat, here is what James had to say late last night:
According to the Associated Press, James said this of fans who ridicule him:
``All the people that were rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today. I'm going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that. So they can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal. But they got to get back to the real world at some point."
James is telling everyone who doubts him that they are losers with lousy lives. Once again, he has proved he has no sense of timing on or off the court.
The man celebrates a championship before he wins one. He disses Cleveland with his TV special. He fades in the fourth quarter.
He and the Heat should have the ability to win a handful of NBA championships if they can add talent and depth to the roster that almost won it all this year. But will James ever be a go-to-guy again? While he may be able to improve his game, especially on the low post, will he be able to alter a personality that had him passing up good shots and missing many of those he took in the fourth quarter of a Finals in which Dirk Nowitzki made him look like a chump?
I don't know, but I do know it's time for me to go be happy for a few months before facing the real world again.
-I don't know if I've ever liked a champion athlete as much as I like Dirk. I"ve admired many. I've been awed by a few. I don't know if I ever got to the end of a championship game or series and admire anyone more for so many reasons.
Nowitzki played hurt. He played sick. He made big shots. He overcame difficult shooting nights. He called out his teammates without losing their respect. He led. He excelled. He demonstrated the fruits of his long hours in the gym and dedication to his craft.
-I keep hearing NHL fans and writers say that the NBA celebration pales in comparison to the Stanley Cup handshake line. They're right. Too bad you have to sit through so much boring hockey to get to the handshakes.
I will watch the NHL finals tonight. I would appreciate them keeping me awake with the occasional, legitimate, scoring chance, and I would appreciate seeing a few clean, pretty, goals.
-Our hockey guy Michael Russo writes that Craig MacTavish could be closing in on the Wild head coaching job. I've been pushing for Ken Hitchcock, but MacTavish is a good, accomplished, candidate. He'd bring credibility and a strong personality, and an ability to reach players.
-Derek Jeter has reached 2,993 hits. I used to love baseball milestones. I don't know why, but I don't care much about this one.
I don't know if that's a reaction to baseball's steroid era, which blew up so many meaningful records. I don't know if my loathing for Yankee entitlement has diminished my enthusiasm for this particular milestone. I don't know if it's Jeter's sense of outrage over the Yankees' unwillingness to pay him $30 million to be a mediocre shortstop.
But I just don't care as much as I used to about players reaching numerical milestones.
-Wrote for today's paper about the Twins' chances of getting back into the race. I don't know if it's possible, but what I always root for, as a daily newspaper columnist, is meaningful games. If the Twins can play meaningful games in September after their lousy start, I'll consider this season less of a failure.
-From my twitter feed (@Souhanstrib): Ricky Rubio has another chance in the Spanish finals to pull off a Rubio double-double: Two points, two assists.
-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 p.m. today.
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