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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Posts about NFL post-season

Goodell got it right

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: March 21, 2012 - 3:36 PM

Roger Goodell got it right. I've been critical of the NFL commissioner in the past because I thought he was playing hall monitor too often, concerning himself too often with minor, off-field transgressions of players. I thought he had put himself in a no-win situation.

Today, though, he deserves all the praise we can muster. After years of hammering players on the subjects of behaviour and violence, he put Sean Payton's money where his mouth is. He suspended Payton for a year, forcing him to forgo $7.5 million in salary, and took two second-round draft picks away from a Super Bowl contender. Goodell hammered Payton and the Saints not only for violating the rules, but for endangering other players and for lying to the NFL when the league investigated.

Had Payton and the Saints 'fessed up, the penalties would have been lesser, and Goodell might have even been able to adopt a ``boys will be boys'' attitude toward the Saints' transgressions. When Payton lied, he put himself in the gunsights, and got what he deserved.

Goodell has rightly campaigned for increased player safety. He couldn't ignore a regime that paid players bonuses to cause injuries to opponents. I admire him having the guts to damage one of the best teams and stories in his league.

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Tim Tebow just isn't that good. And everyone who says his force of personality can somehow make him valuable just isn't paying attention.

The entire league had a chance to bid for a former first-round draft pick who won a playoff game as a quarterback just a few months ago, and the best the Broncos could get for him was a fourth-round draft pick. That tells you all you need to know about Tebow's stock. He's just not that good, and a mountain of bibles won't change that.

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Royce White is making a mistake. He finally found a good situation, playing for Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State, and now he's going to go pro? Does he really think he's going to receive the care and attention, and the ability to develop his game, anywhere other than Ames right now?

He should maximize his time with Hoiberg, and hope he's ready for the next level when his eligibility expires.

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Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn on Thursday night with Tom Peliserro. We'll run Sunday Sports Talk on 1500espn from 10-noon on Sunday. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

 

Bountygate re: Favre

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: March 2, 2012 - 6:47 PM

Because Brett Favre is a fickle and mysterious human, you have to wonder how the Saints' bounty on him affected Vikings history and his career.

If the Saints hadn't badly injured his ankle in the 2009 NFC title game...

-Would he have run for the first down after the 12-man-in-the-huddle call? He had room. He instead tried to force the ball to Sidney Rice and was intercepted. Another first down and I would have bet a lot of money that Ryan Longwell would have kicked the game-winning field goal. Well, OK, I would have bet a little money.

-If he had either advanced to the Super Bowl or left Superdome healthy after a close loss, would he have been more eager to play in 2010? It was Favre's passive-aggressive attitude about playing that helped ruin that season. I can't even guess on this one.

What SpyGate and BountyGate have taught us is that the NFL is a dirty, dirty business. Even when defensive players aren't offered rewards, they often enter the game intent on injuring or intimidating offensive players.

I covered Floyd Peters when he was the Vikings' defensive coordinator. Great guy. And he wanted his defensive linemen to knock every quarterback unconcious. Sound harsh? These were the days before concussion awareness, when that was an explicit goal of every defense.

Football hasn't changed. It's become even more violent and profitable. I can't pretend to be offended by the Saints' bounty system because I believe that all defensive players are incentivized to brutalize offensive players. The Saints were just stupid enough to create a traceable system, and stupid enough to get caught.

Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

 

Picking games

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: February 6, 2012 - 1:48 PM

So, I picked the Giants to beat the Patriots. I wrote a column explaining my reasoning, and even won a mythical case of mythical beer from my mythical radio co-host, Tom Pelissero.

So, I was right. Right?

Well, kinda.

I thought the Giants would handle the Patriots a bit more easily than they actually did. My pick was Giants 28, Patriots 17 (or something close to that, it's radio, I don't take notes). I thought the Giants would have an easier time making big plays against the Patriots, but Bill Belichick took away most deep throws, turning the game into a grind.

If I had picked the game wrong, I couldn't comment on the unpredictability of sports. It would sound like a copout. But picking the game correctly reminded me of the reaction when I picked another Giants team to win.

In Super Bowl XXV, I picked the Giants to beat the favored Bills, by one point. I wound up being exactly correct. Back then, with fewer people able to publicly make their picks (no facebook, twitter, or comments sections in newspaper websites - or newspaper websites) making a public pick was a bigger deal.

So when I turned out to be right, I had a lot of people treating me like I could actually pick games successfully whenever I wanted to.

Which is silly. At best, game picks are educated guesses, and they are educated guesses that can be proved wrong by an injury, a tipped pass, a special teams play, a penalty.

If Wes Welker had made that catch last night, the Patriots probably would have won the Super Bowl. If Tom Brady hadn't taken a safety early in the game, the Patriots might have won the Super Bowl. There were dozens of plays determined by centimeters that could have turned the game in New England's favor.

So my advice on picking games is to never to bet money (or beer) you can't afford to lose, and never to believe anyone who tells you they know who's going to win. Especially players and coaches. I can't tell you how many times I've had a player, coach or manager tell me privately that they were certain of victory. Then, after they lost, they didn't bring that up ever again.

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I think Kevin Love's two-game suspension is just about right. It's serious enough to correct his behaviour but doesn't ruin the season, or even the month, for him and his team.

The stomping of Luis Scola was ugly and absolutely wrong, but the behaviour I'd like to see Love correct is his whining about calls while the ball heads to the other end of the court. He's an effort player. He should be an effort player all the time.

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Congratulations again to Matt Birk for winning the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, and thanks to Matt for spending so much time last week talking to me, for a newspaper column and on my radio show.

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Eli Manning is a classy dude. Did you see him run onto the field to celebrate with teammates? Most Super Bowl winning quarterbacks look to the heavens or wave their finger or isolate themselves.

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I'll be on 1500espn at 2:05 each weekday afternoon. Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.

 

More Birk thoughts

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: February 4, 2012 - 7:28 PM
In light of St. Paul native, Cretin alum and former Viking Matt Birk winning the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award tonight, here's a link to the column I did with Matt on the subject, and many others, earlier this week: http://t.co/HnxAPR8n
Matt and I spoke for a long time and covered more topics than I could get to in a newspaper column. Here's one: I asked, given his concerns about the high risk of injury and the debilitating nature of football, whether he ever wished he had done something else. He graduated from Harvard, after all. He could have worked on Wall Street.
``I really can't say I ever wished I did anything else,'' he said. ``This has been a blast. It really has. The whole experience.Really, that's because of the relationships, the friendships, you make while playing football. You have a bonding with your teammates that you don't have in other walks of life, because of what you go through together, and experience together.
``Guys always say, when they retired, that they miss two things: The paychecks and, most of all, the lockerroom. Hanging out with the guys. Show up every day wearing flip flops and shorts and if you choose to you can use any word in the English l,anguage and some that aren’t in the language, and walk around naked in front of 60 other guys. You could say it's a unique work environment.
``You sit there and laugh and say there can't be any other place of employment where this is possible.''
And I asked him if the award was even more meaningful because Walter Payton's name is attached to it.
``Oh, absolutely,'' he said. ``When I was a kid, Walter was the man. He was the best. I was actually up for this award a few years ago and go to to go the Super Bowl, just like this week, and it was a real nice deal.
``They put you in this room for lunch with the commissioner and the finalists and the Payton family. I remember talking to his widow and his two kids, and you hear about the man, stories about him and what he did for people and what he meant to people. It's a special deal.''
Matt said he'd come on my radio show, and I have a text into him to confirm. Tom Pelissero and I will run Sunday Sports Talk from 10-11:30 on 1500espn tomorrow. We'll hit on all the local teams and dissect the Super Bowl. Guests should include Matt Birk, ESPN NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert and guest NFL picker Tom Linnemann. I believe Pelissero and I are going to strongly disagree over who's going to win.
Again, congratulations to Birk. I've known him since 1998 and can say he's very deserving of this award for his strong play and good works over the years.
Please follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
 

Weekly LPR, plus Super Bowl stories

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: February 3, 2012 - 6:09 PM

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.

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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.

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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.

 

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