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

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.

 

NFL picks, Tice and Chili news, and Vikings hangovers

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 20, 2012 - 5:54 PM

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.

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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.

Rob Lowe? Reminds me of a story...

Posted by: Jim Souhan Updated: January 18, 2012 - 5:29 PM

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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