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
But, as you know, I could be wrong.
A Series of Random Thoughts on Super Sunday:
-I like the Packers tonight. I think Aaron Rodgers will be the Super Bowl MVP, and will take advantage of the Packers' receiving depth to exploit (a word we think of as a good thing only in football) the Steelers' secondary. I see Jordy Nelson making a big play tonight.
-I'm covering the Gophers-Ohio State game right now, and Ohio State is off to a 9-4 start. Blake Hoffarber is trying to run the point, and William Buford is all over him, and Austin Hollins is showing some early nerves. And, as usual, every Gopher fan in the Barn is asking for the refs to call traveling on every possession. Because that's what we all pay to see - traveling calls.
-Had Wild GM Chuck Fletcher on the highly-rated Sunday Sports Talk on 1500espn, and I asked him about something that's always bugged me: Why do we always attributed NHL wins and losses to effort, instead of skill?
But Fletcher disagreed with me. He said that the talent of most teams, especially in the middle of the pack in the West, is so close that goaltending and effort are the X factors. So I was wrong. Dang.
-Jon Deibler looks like one of the Beatles. Of course, so does Hoffarber.
-The Wolves' loss last night to Denver leaves them at 11-39, one game behind the pace last year that left them with 15 victories. And their upcoming three-game road trip means they're about to be 11-42.
After talking with people in and around the organization, I don't see any reason for owner Glen Taylor to keep GM David Kahn or coach Kurt Rambis around. That entire organization is a dumpster fire. Blow it up, again, and start over, and this time hire good people.
-Congratulations to the Gopher hockey team for holding Mike Connolly to five goals on Saturday.
-One important difference between the Packers team that is in the Super Bowl this year and the Vikings team that almost went to the Super Bowl last year: The Packers have zero players acquired by trade, and have demonstrated a great depth of home-grown talent this season.
The Vikings are a patchwork of free-agents, trade products and draft choices, and lack the Packers' great young depth. Leslie Frazier is a sharp guy, but he has a lot of work to do to rebuild this roster.
-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 every day this week, and will run my final Sunday Sports Talk with Brad Lane on Sunday. Tom Pelissero will replace Brad as my co-host two weeks from now (when we'll both be in Fort Myers covering the Twins), and Brad will concentrate on his new job at the station - program director.
My thanks to Brad for helping Sunday Sports Talk become such a hit, and congratulations to him on his promotion.
Tom will bring a reporter's knowledge and a columnist's edge to the show. Other stations will not be able to stop us; they can only hope to contain us.
-My Twitter name is Souhanstrib.
No, Jay Cutler is not a wimp. He has taken many beatings as an NFL quarterback without begging out of a game. He has proved quite durable. He has not complained about getting hit. He hasn't even complained publicly about losing games.
He is less than ideal as a public figure. He does not know how to manage perceptions. But let's forget about perceptions and deal with facts - always a useful place to start:
1. He injured his knee.
2. The Bears' medical team told him he probably shouldn't play.
3. He tried to play.
4. He could not play.
If his name were Peyton Manning, and he had left the field gripping his leg and fallen down on the sideline and pounded the turf with his fists, we'd feel sorry for him. Because he has behaved like a spoiled brat during his career, and because he is not aware enough to know how to manage public perception of him, we assumed the worst when we saw him standing on the sideline with that glum look on his face.
I've known many athletes who have damaged their knees. Having a torn MCL doesn't necessarily keep you from walking or standing. It keeps you from performing explosive athletic movements, like throwing a pass or running away from a pass rush.
I hate to defend Cutler, but he's not a wimp, and there is nothing in his professional history to make us believe he would pull himself out of the biggest game of his life unless he simply couldn't perform.
-Which brings us to Twitter, a day after many NFL players used Twitter to criticize Cutler without having any idea of what his injury was.
I have come to the realization recently that I hate Twitter.
At least I'm evenhanded about my hate.
I hate when I use Twitter.
I hate when athletes use Twitter.
I hate when the general public uses Twitter.
I hate even when some of my best friends and most esteemed peers in the media use Twitter.
I think I've un-followed (to use a term that I hope I"ll never use again) more people than I have followed.
I find Twitter useful for getting newsy updates about the teams I follow. But, as you've noticed, Twitter usually ends up being filled with garbage, including barely-formed thoughts...drunken ramblings...half-baked opinions...aimless bickering and backbiting...and all manner of self-serving bleatings.
I find that when I've used Twitter for anything other than blatant self-promotion, I've regretted it.
Call me old-school, but I've always thought that one of the most important aspects of writing was the thinking you put into your writing. Twitter allows most of its users to skip that step - the thinking step.
-My early Super Bowl pick: Packers 27, Steelers 23. I think Aaron Rodgers will beat the Steelers' blitzes with quick passes to his many fine receivers, and the Packers will intercept Ben Roethlisberger enough to keep the Steelers at bay.
I think the Packers were able to survive a pretty lousy performance against a good defense on a terrible field. I believe on the fast turf in Dallas, with two weeks to prepare, Mike McCarthy and Rodgers will find a way to move the ball against a very good defense that specializes in stopping the run.
Also, I can't help but root for Rodgers, by all accounts a wonderful guy, over Roethlisberger, one of the NFL's foremost cads.
-Don't worry, Gophers fans. Sure, you're missing Al Nolen, but this is where DeVoe Joseph will step in and handle the point guard duties.
-Had this thought while during my daily appearance on 1500espn: Why don't NFL head coaches employ bench coaches? They have coaches handling everything else, including "quality control'' and ""assistant offensive line''...why wouldn't you employ a guy to stand next to you who can concentrate solely on game situations?
Like when to call timeouts. When to punt. When to go for the first down. When to run or pass inside two minutes.
It's amazing how many good football coaches make mistakes in game management. It's understandable. They're trying to be aware of everything happening with their team - offensive decisions, defensive decisions, play calling, injuries, game situations, opposing personnel packages. So why not hire someone who can help you think clearly when the game is on the line?
-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 tomorrow, as on all weekdays. We'll do Sunday Morning Sports Talk this week from TwinsFest, with a great guest lineup, including Rod Carew and a bunch of current players.
Random and not-very-deep thoughts on the day in sports:
-I don't know if Bill Musgrave will be a good offensive coordinator, but I like that he's interested in highlighting the Vikings' existing talent, and that he's not married to the West Coast offense. (That's the subject of my Friday column.)
-My NFL picks for Sunday:
AFC: The Steelers beat the Jets because their pass rush will get to Mark Sanchez, and because Ben Roethlisberger is that rare athlete who plays his best at the end of close games.
The Patriots didn't have enough athletes on defense to either stop the Jets running game or hassle Sanchez. The Steelers' defense is good enough to do both.
I believe the keys to modern football are having a quarterback who can make plays down the field and a defense that can disrupt the opposing quarterback. The Jets are talented enough to keep it close, but the Steelers win this one, say, 20-17.
NFC: The Bears are far better than I thought they were, but they're not as good as the Packers, not the way the Packers are currently playing.
Aaron Rodgers is better than Jay Cutler. The Packers' pass defense is better right now than the Bears'. For the Bears to win, Julius Peppers will have to have one of the great postseason games ever by a defensive end. I think Mike McCarthy is smart enough to find a way to limit Peppers' influence, and the Packers' passing offense will roll. Call it Packers 34, Bears 23.
-If hockey players are so tough, how come, when a team is getting beat, it displays the emotional maturity of a bunch of 8-year-olds who didn't get their naps?
The Wild gets up early on Edmonton, and what do the Oilers do? Start cheap-shotting the Wild.
Toughness is taking a hit and accepting that, as a hockey player, you are going to take hits. Toughness is not whacking an opponent in the ankle with your stick because you're losing.
-It wasn't long ago that there were rumors about Todd Richards' job status. I never thought he should be fired, and now I think he has a chance to be coach of the year.
The Wild lacks goal-scorers and has watched its two top goalies suffer injuries, and yet Richards has the team playing its best. His players almost always play hard, they move the puck, they play inteligently, and when they score a few goals, they get credit for how disciplined they are on defense.
-The re-visit my last column: I'm serious when I compare Mike McCarthy favorably to Vince Lombardi. Lombardi was great in his era; my point is that the modern era of football is much harder on coaches. It's much harder to win championships in a 32-game league, it's much more difficult to manage today's players and today's media and today's workload, and that football has become increasingly complex over the years.
I'm sure Lombardi would have found a way to be a good coach in today's environment, but there is no way he would have been adaptable enough to dominate the modern NFL.
-It's interesting to see Leslie Frazier adapt to his new role. I asked him about that, about going from being friends with his fellow assistant coaches to telling people like Darrell Bevell and Brian Murphy - both exceptionally nice people who had plenty of success in their roles - that their services were no longer required.
His answer: ``It's a difficult process, especially in this case where you worked with guys for a number of years like I have. Now you're making decisions that are going to affect peoples' lives. It's a part of our profession. I've been on the other side of it. I know what's required and I know that my purpose in being here is to bring a championship to Minnesota. Anything less than that and we'll be parting ways down the road. That's the way this business is. But it's hard because you have feelings. These are friends. It's a tough deal, but it's the business we've chosen.''
Hard to argue with that. Coaches complaining about getting fired is like sportswriters complaining about deadlines. It's what you signed up for.
-I liked what Musgrave had to say about his offensive philosophies. New special teams coordinator Mike Priefer startled me, though, when he talked about the possibility of kicking to Bears return specialist Devin Hester.
To quote John McEnroe, ``You cannot be serious!'' Priefer said that if a punt unit executes properly, it can handle a good return man. That's what everyone says until they see Hester make all of their players fall down. You cannot kick to Hester. He is the best return man ever, and the rare return man who has demonstrated longevity. Without him, the Bears might have been a .500 team. -In October, I spoke with a Twins official who said that the team would like to bring back Carl Pavano, perhaps to a two-year deal worth about $17 or $18 million. Then, as happens in free agency, Pavano solicited other offers, and tried to find a three-year deal, and watched Ted Lilly sign a three-year deal worth $33 million, and must have believed that his market value had risen. And then he signed with the Twins for two years and $16.5 million. That's some pretty good negotiating by the Twins, getting the best remaining pitcher on the free agent market for perhaps even a little less than they expected to spend. And for those saying the Twins need to spend more money to bolster their bullpen or their infield, please remember that the best Twins teams have not traditionally been those that had set rosters when they left for spring training. The best Twins teams have been those that have kept their best players healthy and developed key role players as the season progressed. Right now the Twins have three end-game relievers - Matt Capps, Joe Nathan and Jose Mijares - and six starters, meaning one of those starters could become the long reliever. Let's say that guy is Kevin Slowey, and let's say that Glen Perkins is at last a left specialist. That would leave the Twins with one bullpen opening and a bunch candidates, like Pat Neshek, Jeff Manship, Alex Burnett, Rob Delany, Anthony Slama and the fast-rising Carlos Gutierrez, as well as the two relievers arriving in the J.J. Hardy deal. This isn't a crisis. This is business as usual for almost any big-league team. Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 today, then on the station in Joe Soucheray's stead from 2:40-6 p.m. on Friday. On the station, Sunday Sports Talk will feature appearances from Kevin Seifert and Tom Pelissero, and I'm working on a Wild or Twins guest as well. Also, you can follow me on Twitter at Souhanstrib, although I wish you'd really just mind your own business. Please congratulate me: I didn't mention Brett Favre once.
To quote John McEnroe, ``You cannot be serious!''
Priefer said that if a punt unit executes properly, it can handle a good return man. That's what everyone says until they see Hester make all of their players fall down. You cannot kick to Hester. He is the best return man ever, and the rare return man who has demonstrated longevity. Without him, the Bears might have been a .500 team.
-In October, I spoke with a Twins official who said that the team would like to bring back Carl Pavano, perhaps to a two-year deal worth about $17 or $18 million.
Then, as happens in free agency, Pavano solicited other offers, and tried to find a three-year deal, and watched Ted Lilly sign a three-year deal worth $33 million, and must have believed that his market value had risen.
And then he signed with the Twins for two years and $16.5 million.
That's some pretty good negotiating by the Twins, getting the best remaining pitcher on the free agent market for perhaps even a little less than they expected to spend.
And for those saying the Twins need to spend more money to bolster their bullpen or their infield, please remember that the best Twins teams have not traditionally been those that had set rosters when they left for spring training. The best Twins teams have been those that have kept their best players healthy and developed key role players as the season progressed.
Right now the Twins have three end-game relievers - Matt Capps, Joe Nathan and Jose Mijares - and six starters, meaning one of those starters could become the long reliever. Let's say that guy is Kevin Slowey, and let's say that Glen Perkins is at last a left specialist. That would leave the Twins with one bullpen opening and a bunch candidates, like Pat Neshek, Jeff Manship, Alex Burnett, Rob Delany, Anthony Slama and the fast-rising Carlos Gutierrez, as well as the two relievers arriving in the J.J. Hardy deal.
This isn't a crisis. This is business as usual for almost any big-league team.
Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2:40 today, then on the station in Joe Soucheray's stead from 2:40-6 p.m. on Friday.
On the station, Sunday Sports Talk will feature appearances from Kevin Seifert and Tom Pelissero, and I'm working on a Wild or Twins guest as well.
Also, you can follow me on Twitter at Souhanstrib, although I wish you'd really just mind your own business.
Please congratulate me: I didn't mention Brett Favre once.
Yes, I agree with the Eagles' decision to postpone their game on Sunday night.
I believe I'm alone in expressing this sentiment. I know the rest of the Twin Cities media stuck in Philadelphia with me for four days - four days! - disagrees.
I get their arguments. This is football. Football gets played in bad weather. Football fans know how to deal with bad weather. This sets a terrible precedent. The Eagles may have postponed the game because they'll have a better chance to win on a clear field on Tuesday than in slop on Sunday night, since the Eagles have more speed and better skill-position players.
While I agree with all of the above, I also walked outside on Sunday night. Star Tribune photographers Jerry Holt and Carlos Gonzalez and I walked through the blizzard to what might have been the only restaurant open in Philadelphia on Sunday night.
The wind was howling. The streets were slick. Snowplows were out, but weren't winning the battle. And I watched all day as local TV stations talked about closing bridges and terrible traffic and injury accidents.
Which leads to my ultimate point: While the postponement is an inconvenience for everyone involved, the Eagles did right by their fans.
It was their fans who would have had trouble making it to the game. I saw one estimate that the attendance might have been as low as 20,000 for a team that always sells out, that features one of the most passionate fan bases in all of sports. It is their fans who would have sat in 40-mile-an-hour winds, getting snow and ice blown in their faces. It is their fans who would have gotten stuck on the sides of roads or in traffic jams, trying to get home at midnight on Sunday.
NFL fans spend lots of money on their teams, and they are guaranteed just eight regular-season home games a year. Whether their motives were pure or diabolical, the Eagles wound up doing right by their fans, and while their decision has messed up my personal and professional schedules, I can't argue with the decision.
The NFL really has a fascinating product, doesn't it?
I do NFL picks with Brad Lane and Tom Linnemann on Sunday Sports Talk, and I might have had my worst week of the season this week. I believe the only pick I got right (we usually pick the five or six best games) was the Packers over the Giants.
Which is why I love writing about the NFL. It is unpredictable because of random variation, and luck, and weather, and circumstance, but also because every time you think you have a team figured out, something changes.
Just when we thought Peyton Manning was having his worst season as a veteran, he produces two great, clutch performances to re-elevate his team.
Just when you thought the Jets may have turned it on, they get swamped by Jay Cutler. Who would have thought before this season started that we'd see Cutler picking apart a secondary that includes Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie?
Who saw this coming from the Bears, at all? I keep calling them frauds, and they keep proving me wrong, and now they've beaten the Eagles, Jets and Packers, and they're suddenly scoring like the Patriots West.
In a season in which no NFL team looks supreme, maybe the Bears can make a run.
I'm thoroughly impressed with the Packers, from Mike McCarthy to Aaron Rodgers to Clay Matthews to Charles Woodson to Dom Capers.
Donald Driver has always been one of my favorite NFL players. How many receivers his size have his toughness and longevity?
What's best about this Packers team is its ability to survive injuries without whining or making excuses - or letting those injuries keep it out of contention.
We're entering the phase of the year where you'll start hearing the Vikings whine about injuries and their stadium and travel woes, but they still had enough talent on the roster to contend this year. They just didn't have what it takes.
Despite my support of the Eagles' decision, I've gotta say, this is a lousy week to be stuck in Philly. I was going to do some fill-in work on 1500ESPN, and my daughter flew in from DC on Christmas Eve to spend a week at home, and I'm spending two days that I would have been home stuck in a downtown Philly hotel, wishing I hadn't already read everything Lee Child and just about everything Stephen Hunter has written.
(I used to be a heavy literature guy; now I like well-written, well-executed escapism.)
This would be a good time to be a movie buff, but I just don't find many movies worth a two-hour investment.
So...I'll be jumping on 1500ESPN sporadically the next two days. I have my usual weekday call-in at 2:40 p.m. with Joe and Pat, and I'll be on with Joe Anderson tonight, I believe at 7:10 p.m.
I did it! Made it through a day without mentioning Brett Favre.
I'm in New Orleans, staying in the Warehouse District, an arts-and-industrial area a bit away from the French Quarter.
I spent much of this week traveling back and forth between New Orleans and Kiln, Ms., home of Brett Favre. In today's paper, I wrote about New Orleans, the Saints, and the recovery from Hurricane Katrina through the eyes of local legend Angus Lind, the longtime columnist for the Times-Picayune.
In the Sunday paper, I have a long piece on the characters who populate Kiln - most notably, Bonita Favre, Brett's mother. At one point on Friday, as her friends were erecting a sign honoring Brett, she was juggling two MIller Lites and a Marlboro. Skills run in the family.
The Kiln story will be on 1A, and I'll have a lengthy story in the sports section based on a candid conversation I had with Vikings coach Brad Childress earlier this week.
New Orleans is one of my favorite towns to visit - friendly people, great food, great atmosphere, warm weather. Everywhere I go I hear people saying ``Who dat?'', short for the Saints rallying cry, ``Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?'' I went to dinner at Emeril's on Thursday night, and the entire Saints defense was dining there at a long table, with Darren Sharper at the head.
I'm picking the Vikings on Sunday, but I'm not very confident. I think Percy Harvin's status could be the key factor in the game. Either way, I expect a big game from Adrian Peterson. He's due, he's motivated, and the Saints' defense is not strong against the run.
Of course, all this prediction stuff is just fun nonsense. None of us know how the games will play out. If we did, we wouldn't need to watch.
I think I'm more interested in this game than any game I've ever covered. When I cover the Twins in the playoffs, I really don't expect them to go on and win a World Series. When I've covered the Vikings in the playoffs, I either haven't expected them to win a Super Bowl, or I've found them to be an uninteresting bunch.
This team, with Favre playing his best season and a group of professional people in the lockerroom, is much more fun to watch, and to talk to.
-I still can't believe Tim Brewster would keep the offensive scheme that caused his offense to bottom-out in the Big Ten, even as he hires a coach who has no track record as a coordinator. Jeff Horton? Really? You're going to keep a scheme that failed and hire someone without a track record to fix it?
I have nothing new to add about the morass that is the Gophers' athletic department.
-I plan to have Brad Childress on Sunday Morning Sports talk, 10-noon on KSTP, am-1500. I also plan to have a national guest and a New Orleans writer on to talk about the big weekend. We'll also do picks with Reusse and The Biltz.
-I contributed an essay to the FSN North Hockey Day program. I know the people at FSN have been working like crazy putting the show together.
-Scrimmages at the Gophers basketball practices are simple these days: Active players vs. suspended players, make it-take it.
You can follow me on Twitter at SouhanStrib. I'll post another blog tomorrow from the Superdome.
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