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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I've covered seven Super Bowls, and I'm ambivalent about missing them these days.
I hate the pack journalism and inane questions. I also hate not being in the eye of the storm, at the game that commands everyone's attention.
Two favorite Super Bowl coverage memories:
1. At my first Super Bowl, SB XXIV, the Joe Montana/Jerry Rice 49ers blew out the John Elway Broncos 55-10. You might think that the game was boring, but it wasn't, not for me. I was fascinated at the precision of the 49ers. A friend of mine was the 49ers' pool reporter that week, and he told me on Friday, `If you could watch them practice, you'd know why they're so good.'
Also, it was my first Super Bowl, my first big trip on an expense account. Eating New Orleans cooking and drinking Abita beer was a blast, although I learned that following such a diet by eating the chocolate mint on the Hyatt pillow was like lighting a match near a munitions factory.
Also: I remember being in a French Quarter bar with a bunch of writers late at night, and hearing someone yell, `The Doctor is in the house!'' And he was. Dr. J walked in, acting and being treated like royalty.
2. My favorite Super Bowl in terms of coverage was XLI, when the Colts beat the Bears in Miami. The game wasn't very inspiring, and if the Bears hadn't busted a coverage and allowed Reggie Wayne to get open for a free touchdown, who knows what would have happened? Maybe Peyton Manning wouild have joined Dan Marino as all-time great quarterbacks who never won a Super Bowl.
In the days leading up to the Super Bowl, I was able to spend time with Rochester native Tom Moore. Moore had recruited Tony Dungy to the University of Minnesota and now was Dungy's offensive coordinator and Manning's personal mentor. Seeing Moore, such an anonymous yet influential figure, sitting at the back tables of the media scrums, refusing to call attention to himself, made me admire the man even more than I had previously.
Time with Moore was one reason covering that Super Bowl was worthwhile. Another: By some quirk of late deadlines and pure luck, I wound speaking with Manning alone at his locker long after the game, and he started talking about the difficulty of playing with a wet football. It had rained early in the game.
Manning explained that he had prepared for rain. During breaks in practice, he would make his longtime center, Jeff Saturday, dunk footballs into a full bucket, so they could get used to snapping a wet football.
When I finished speaking with Peyton, I ran into his father, Archie, outside the lockerroom, and told him the story. ``Wet ball drills, huh?'' Archie said. ``He really does think of everything.''
I never would have had those conversations with Moore or the Mannings if the Star Tribune hadn't sent me to the Super Bowl.
On to this week's highly irrevelant, completely subjective and yet mildly annoying Local Power Rankings:
1. Minnesota Timberwolves
Didn't like the way they let the Pacers push them around. Hate the fact that the starting lineup features one guy who shouldn't be in the starting lineup (Luke Ridnour) and two who might not belong in the NBA (Wes Johnson and Darko Milicic.) But even in defeat I find this team interesting and entertaining.
It will be interesting, at this point, to see what Rick Adelman does with his lineup, and how Rubio reacts to teams that have been able to thoroughly scout him. His steals are down lately.
By the way, I rank the Wolves ahead of other teams not because of their place in the standings, but because of their combination improvement/likeability/promise/entertainment value.
2. Gophers hockey
They finally swept an opponent last weekend, and have this weekend off. What will be interesting is to see how the new athletic director will react if the Gophers flop in the postseason again. It would be tough for a new AD to fire Don Lucia. It would also be tough for a new AD to be overly impressed with Lucia if his team flames out again.
3. Minnesota Wild
I covered the team on Tuesday, and that was one of the most gut-wrenching days a coach or an organization can have: First a highly-paid veteran rips the coach, then the team blows a three-goal third-period lead and doesn't even salvage a point.
The Wild came back to win in Colorado on Thursday, more proof that fans probably invest more emotion in outomes than do players, who have been winning and losing games all their lives.
4. Gophers basketball
The Wild is still in eighth place in the West; the Gophers may have fallen out of the prospective NCAA bracket with their loss at Iowa. Most people in my business have analyzed the end of the game; i say when you score three points in the first 10 minutes of a game, you should have been thrown off the floor long before time ran out.
5. Minnesota Twins
Nothing new to report here, so I'll repeat myself: I think Terry Ryan made a bunch of sensible, strategic moves to bolster his roster and give this team a chance to compete, but the Twins need Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer to be healthy and Francisco Liriano to be outstanding if they're going to win this division.
6. Minnesota Vikings
The Giants give other NFL teams hope that patience can be rewarded. They stuck with Eli Manning when he sometimes looked lost, and he could give them a second Super Bowl victory on Sunday. They stuck with Tom Coughlin when the tabloids were calling for his firing, and he, like Manning, could win a second Super Bowl in five years. The Giants failed to run the ball as well as they should this year. They patched together an offensive line. They used multiple backs. They had a long-shot receiver (Victor Cruz) become their difference-maker down the stretch.
In other words, you can win in the NFL without setting passing records and being innovative offensively, which is good news for the Vikings.
7. Gophers football
Jerry Kill probably has the perfect personality to appeal to Minnesota high school coaches and recruits. I'm not going to rate his recruiting class, because all that matters is the scores of the games in which these recruits wind up playing.
As for the departure of MInnesota athletic director Joel Maturi, I'll offer a series of thoughts:
1. I never thought he was a big-time athletic director. He was a reactor, not an actor. He often made the decision that was easiest for him, not the one that would lead the department in the right direction. Some people just are No. 1s. It's not his fault; it's the fault of the guy who hired him.
2. Why is it that every time an important sports job comes open in Minnesota, everyone suggests that a Minnesotan be hired? Please. Minnesota should hire the best AD candidate they can find, wherever that person currently resides.
3. Minnesota needs an AD willing to take on lots of big, daunting problems. What do you do with Tubby Smith if he misses the NCAA tournament? What should be done with Williams Arena? How can funds be raised for a basketball practice facility? What happens with Don Lucia if his program flops again?
Minnesota athletics needs a CEO. Mr. Maturi was more like an HR director.
Upcoming: I'm writing a Super Bowl prediction column for the Sunday paper. Tom Pelissero and I will run Sunday Sports Talk from 10-noon Sunday on 1500espn. Hoping for a special guest, plus we'll talk about Tom's season-ending Vikings film work, preview the Super Bowl, do picks along with Tom Linnemann, and check in on the rest of the sports scene.
Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
I'm at the X tonight, writing about the Wild resuming its schedule and Marek Zidlicky complaining about Mike Yeo. Congratulations to colleague Michael Russo for breaking the story. We'll both have much more on this developing situation throughout the night and in tomorrow's paper.
Right now I'm sitting next to Michael and he's wearing all kinds of brown. Brown loafers with lighter-brown shoes with some kind of brown-check pattern, all of which mesh nicely with his brown jacket and pink shirt.
So, I'm jealous.
Fashion aside, I wanted to touch on something I tweeted last night while watching the Wolves dominate Houston.
I've always thought that Michael Beasley's best role would be as a Microwave-style sixth man who could come in with the second unit, jack up shots and be pulled if the opposing coach started running plays to victimize his defensive weaknesses.
But maybe the easiest solutions are the best. Maybe Beasley, a gifted shooter and driver who also can be a gifted passer when he wants to be, is the Wolves' solution at shooting guard.
No, he's not a perfect fit. He's not very good defensively, he sometimes shoots too much and holds the ball too long, and he's not really a guard.
But I'd rather have Beasley as an oversized shooting guard who can dominate opposing shooting guards on offense and give the Wolves another primary offensive option, than keep seeing Wes Johnson stumble around.
Beasley, despite his size, is a better ballhandler than Johnson. And he's a better passer. And if last night was any indication, he's learned that in Rick Adelman's offense, if you move the ball there will be plenty of quality shots for everyone.
Beasley's a likeable guy. Watch the way he interacts with Kevin Love and his other teammates. They're fond of him. And he is too talented for the Wolves not to explore just how good their lineup can be when he's playing correctly.
Having Adelman in place simplifies a lot of personnel decisions for the Wolves. If someone like Darko or Beasley can't perform well in this offense, with Rubio passing and Love spreading the floor with his three-point shooting, then the Wolves won't have to have any regrets getting rid of those guys.
But I think Beasley could find a niche here, soon.
Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 each weekday, and Tom Pelissero and I will run Sunday Sports Talk from 10-noon at the studio for a change this Sunday. I have a special guest planned, and we'll do our last NFL pick and speak with ESPN NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert.
Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
Mike Tice is set to interview for the Oakland Raiders' head coaching job. Brad Childress has interviewed in Tampa and could be on the Colts' list.
Make all the jokes you want about Tice's mistakes and Childress' foibles, but both became good NFL head coaches while on the job in Minnesota, and both will probably be even better if given a second chance.
Tice got blamed for the Love Boat scandal. I can tell you as someone who covered the Vikings for years that Tice's leadership had nothing to do with the scandal. The Vikings held similar parties for decades, it's just that while Tice was in charge, the players got caught having that party on a boat in front of people they had not paid off.
Tice deserves full blame for scalping Super Bowl tickets. That was stupid. But he's not the only NFL coach to do so, he was just the guy who got caught.
Tice helped the Vikings improve and took them to the playoffs with a very limited roster and a JV coaching staff, because Red McCombs, at that juncture of his ownership, did not want to pay for good people. Had Scott Linehan stayed and Matt Birk stayed healthy, Tice probably would have taken the team to the playoffs in consecutive years and would have been much harder to fire.
Childress went from 6-10 to 8-8 to 10-6 to 12-4 before Brett Favre and Randy Moss got him fired. He's a smart, talented coach who drove a lot of people inside and outside the Vikings' organization crazy, but I believe he gained a lot of perspective while he was here. Put him in the right organization, with a real general manager and clearly defined responsibilities, and I bet he wins a lot of games. Tampa Bay could be perfect, because they have a talented young quarterback, and finding and developing a quarterback was Childress' main problem in Minnesota.
As for this weekend, here are my sure-to-backfire picks.
Ravens at Patriots:
I know the Ravens destroyed the Patriots in Foxboro the last time they met in the playoffs, but I believe this Ravens team has lots of problems that will doom it on Sunday.
The defense is old and a step slower than when it was a dominant unit. Joe Flacco is playing without confidence. And the Ravens don't scare anybody with their outside receivers. If Bill Belichick can find a way to rattle Flacco and control Ray Rice, the Ravens won't score many points.
Tom Brady is playing at a high level and can use Gronkowski and Hernandez to take advantage of the Ravens' diminished defensive speed. On defense, the Patriots had a terrible statistical season but are healthier now than they've been all year, and the return of Patrick Chung could make them more formidable.
I think this one's simple: The Patriots have a chance to score a lot of points, and the Ravens don't.
Patriots 27, Ravens 22.
Giants at 49ers:
Eli Manning is better than Alex Smith, and the Giants are the best and most complete team remaining in the playoffs. In researching my Sunday column, I found out that the Giants had the least rushing yards in the NFL this season. But they remain dangerous on the ground.
Modern sports championships are won by the hottest and healthiest teams, and the Giants qualify, just as the Packers did last year at this time.
As in the Patriots' game, I'm picking the team with the best chance to score a lot of points. As good as the 49ers' defense is, I think Manning uses this game to gain the kind of recognition usually reserved for his brother, Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees.
Giants 24, 49ers 16.
Upcoming: With Tom Pelissero headed to Mobile to cover the Vikings staff at the Senior Bowl, Joe Schmit will join me at the boat show to run Sunday Sports Talk, from 10-noon.
Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
If it turns out that Rob Lowe's ``report'' that Peyton Manning will retire is erroneous, we're all going to have a big laugh at his expense. In fact, thanks to Twitter, about 18 million people have already started.
Personally, I never downgrade information because of the perceived legitimacy of the source. Jose Canseco was the best whistle-blower on the steroid era and then there was the time I was working in Dallas...
It was my first full season on a pro beat. I was covering the Dallas Cowboys for the Dallas Morning News. I was at the Cowboys' facility one day when a rumor broke that the Cowboys would trade Herschel Walker, their only big-name player, to the Minnesota Vikings for a bunch of draft picks and players.
Everyone scoffed. Johnson issued a non-denial denial when we asked him about it. We blew it off.
The source was a small-town radio guy in Florida. How could he know what was going on with the Cowboys?
Well, it turned out that the small-town radio guy was friends with someone close to Johnson. Johnson had told the friend, who told the radio guy, and there you had it: The biggest scoop in sports, broken not by a beat writer or NFL insider, but by someone who had the right relationship to gain access to the information.
Also, as several media people have pointed out today, the first person Colts owner Jim Irsay followed on Twitter was Rob Lowe.
I"m not saying Lowe is right. I'm saying that you never know who's going to break a story.
-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 p.m. every weekday, and we'll have a full Sunday Morning Sports Talk, 10-noon on Sunday.
Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib..
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