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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Crazy night in Charlotte. At dinner with the boys when I get a text from Gary Louris and Marc Perlman of the Minneapolis band The Jayhawks. They were about to take the stage at Spirit Theater a few blocks away.
So I head there with photos Jerry Holt and Carlos Gonzalez and videographer McKenna Ewen, and halfway there, I realize I'm wearing a Jayhawks t-shirt that I bought at their First Avenue shows this winter.
Great show, intimate theater, and we even had the pleasure of watching a drunk guy hit on two women sitting in front of us, before he passed out right in front of me and missed the encores.
This morning I'm in the press box at the Panthers' stadium. It's a beautiful day, and I'm about to start Sunday Morning Sports Talk with Tom Pelissero.
Among the topics:
-Should anyone ever listen to anything Donovan McNabb has to say?
-If beating Iowa at home is such a big deal, why isn't Jeff Horton still coaching the Gophers?
-Yes, I really do like Jerry Kill, but I'm not backing off the notion that it was silly to give him a raise and an extension before he won a Big Ten game.
-Christian Ponder and Cam Newton are proof that a promising rookie quarterback brings more promise than anyone at any position in sports. These teams are terrible in terms of record, and yet I can't wait to watch this game. I did not feel the same way when McNabb was starting.
-Check out startribune.com later for postgame video as well as game coverage from me, Dan Wiederer and Mark Craig, plus the work of Holt, Gonzalez and Ewen.
-I'll live tweet as internet allows, at @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.
Monday morning second-guessing (let's call it what it is):
-Logically, there is no reason for professional head football coaches to have to jog through the maelstrom of bodies on the field after an emotional game and offer a gratuitous and often insincere handshake. It's a silly custom.
Logically, the practice should be banned.
But I'm glad it exists, because it's brought us some great moments, like Bill Belichick dissing Eric Mangini and now Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz almost starting a brawl.
Here's the deal with Harbaugh and Schwartz: They were both wrong. Harbaugh was wrong to show up Schwartz, which he certainly did. Schwartz was wrong to escalate the situation by chasing Harbaugh down.
But I loved it. This is entertainment. It's also a win-or-bust business. Pro football is not for nice people. There are exceptions to that rule, like Tony Dungy, but they are rare exceptions. I love it when high-profile people bare their teeth and souls. So while I wouldn't want my kids or high school coach or even college coach behaving like this, in pro football, I love it when coaches break their usually cliche-ridden molds.
-I'm at Winter Park today, awaiting news on who starts at quarterback. I've been calling for Ponder since the Vikings fell to 0-3, but now I really don't think the timing matters much.
Start McNabb again, to save Ponder from facing the Packers in his first start? Fine with me. That's one of the reasons McNabb is here, to protect Ponder.
Start Ponder to introduce him to the NFL as quickly as possible, to prepare him for 2012 - or just to evaluate him? Fine with me. Why not?
Start Joe Webb? Fine by me.
When you're 1-5 and bound to lose and have so much of the season left, it really doesn't matter anymore.
-I fear for the Gophers. Their head coach is telling anyone who will listen that they're no good, and the players have every reason to believe him, and now they're facing a Nebraska team that will physically whip them. I fear not only for a 60-0 score, I fear for the players' safety. It's a hard game to play when your heart's not in it.
-To me, the Vikings' loss last night was predictable. They never play well in Chicago. Why would a bad Vikings team play well in Chicago when ever the best Vikings teams have struggled in that town and on that surface?
I am surprised it became a blowout so quickly. I keep thinking about all the quality players the Vikings have, but, then, these are the same players who seemed to quit under Brad Childress just a year ago. Maybe their talent level is overrated.
-Gov. Mark Dayton has been very even-handed, smooth and presidential in his handling of the Vikings' stadium debate. Now he's saying that a 1-5 record makes the stadium iniative less popular.
That's a blatant copout, and the kind of statement that makes us hate politicians. Noone, whether stadium proponent or opponent, should base a decision that will affect the state for good or ill for the next 30-plus years on how Donovan McNabb is playing this season.
The Vikings are a state asset. Different people will value their presence in different ways. I'm a sports guy. I value sports and think there are intangible benefits to having a team in state as well as tangible economic benefits. If you don't value sports, I don't expect you to agree with me.
But the decision should not be based on a win-loss record, whether the Vikings were 6-0 or 1-5. The decision should be based on the value of having an NFL franchise in our state. And if Dayton or anyone else wants to argue that we should let the Vikings leave because they're 1-5, I would argue that Minnesota eventually would decide to lure back an NFL franchise, and that acquiring another franchise will be much more expensive and complicated than building a stadium for the current franchise, which, for all of its faults and big losses, has been remarkably entertaining and competitive for decades.
-Since the start of the 2010 season, the Vikings are 7-15. That's the fourth-worst record
Here are the teams that are similar or worse during that span:
St. Louis: 7-14.
-My pick: Rangers in six. Other than Cris Carpenter, I don't think the Cardinals' pitching staff can handle the Rangers' lineup.
-Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2 p.m. with Reusse and Mackey, then on tonight, perhaps around 6:40, with Tom Pelissero. I'll also be on with Mike McFeely on KFGO in Fargo at 2:35.
My twitter handle is @Souhanstrib.
Just finished with the afternoon session of interviews at Winter Park, including Donovan McNabb's weekly self-assessment, which goes something like this:
``I'm fine. We're fine. Why are you bothering me with these questions?''
His verbatim quote on questions about his accuracy: ``Well, I guess according to y'all, I've always been inaccurate.''
Which is a particularly self-pitying thing to say.
McNabb recommended Uno's deep dish pizza in his hometown of Chicago. I prefer Geno's. But it's telling that McNabb is more forthcoming on the subject of food than on his play at the most important position in sports.
One thing you learn as a longtime sportswriter is there are three kinds of athletes who almost never admit to a mistake: Golfers, pitchers and quarterbacks. All three categories produce athletes who find confidence and self-assurance so crucial that they rarely want to go down the path of public self-analysis. They teach themselves not to second-guess themselves because if they start, they may feel doubt in the heat of action.
That's where we find Donovan McNabb these days. I don't know if I've ever seen a less-accurate quarterback, and yet McNabb on Wednesday fought off questions about his mechanics and inaccuracy.
He told Sports Illustrated lately that he finds talk of him being replaced ``hilarious,'' and Tom Pelissero of 1500espn found similar quotes from him last season before he was benched by the Redskins.
I'd say it's time for McNabb to feel a little more urgency. W'hether he wants to believe it or not, he's not many losses away from being replaced. If and when the Vikings reach a point where they have no hope of making the playoffs, they will be forced to play Christian Ponder, if only to evaluate him.
Asked about mechanical problems that have him throwing the ball into the ground, McNabb said, ``This whole mechanics thing is getting out of hand.''
I understand that quarterbacks, given the intense scrutiny under which they perform, aren't going to stand at a podium and welcome more criticism. But a sense of reality might be nice.
I hope the Twins are paying attention to the Detroit Tigers, at all levels, this year.
The Tigers' GM isn't afraid to make dramatic moves, whether it's signing Ivan Rodriguez, pursuing Miguel Cabrera or trading for Doug Fister.
The Tigers' players aren't afraid to play hurt. Cabrera has averaged 157 games played over the last eight seasons. Victor Martinez strained an oblique on his home-run swing on Tuesday, yet vowed he would play unless ``I'm dead,'' and is in the lineup tonight. You could see Justin Verlander arguing to stay in Game 1 despite two rain delays.
I don't know if the Tigers are a likeable team, but they're an admirable team. And they're threatening to distance themselves from the Twins, long-term, just as the Packers have separated themselves from the Vikings.
Upcoming: I'll be on 1500espn at 2 p.m. today. I'll be in the studio on Sunday for Sunday Sports Talk, which airs from 10-noon and will feature Pelissero from Chicago, plus Kevin Seifert and a couple of guests to be named later.
Many of my peers and friends in the business can offer much more comprehensive remembrances of the late Al Davis.
All I have is a good first impression.
I covered high school sports for the Dallas Morning News. My first pro assignment was covering Cowboys' training camp in 1989 in Thousand Oaks, Ca. The Cowboys would practice against the Raiders, who trained in Oxnard.
So on my first visit to Oxnard, I was watching the Raiders' defensive backs, when suddenly Elvis appeared. Well, he looked like Elvis. It was Al Davis, wearing his signature white, Elvis-style jumpsuit, gold-framed glasses and slicked-back hair.
Here was the owner and one of the most visible owners in sports, coaching his defensive backs.
I remember Davis' .life the way I remember Elvis', too. He was one of the greats before he slipped into self-caricature. He influenced the merger of the AFL and NFL, creating the NFL as we know it today. And he created the persona of one of the great franchises in sports history, the Oakland/LA Raiders. ``Just win, baby,'' and ``Commitment to Excellence'' became punchlines, as do all slogans when teams lose, but they weren't laughable when the Raiders were winning.
Update: Tim Brewster lost eight of his last nine games. Jerry Kill has lost five of his first six games. Jeff Horton went 2-3 against Big Ten competition with the same players.
Jeff Horton should belatedly be named Big Ten coach of the year for 2010.
Also: When Paul Johnson was at Navy, he was considered a Gopher football coaching canididate when Joel Maturi hired Brewster.
I'm told Johnson did not have interest in the Gopher program. Too bad. Johnson has Georgia Tech undefeated this season.
Covering the Lynx's championship on Friday night, and wrote a piece about Lindsay Whalen for the Sunday paper.
Whalen has always tried to maintain a pretty stoic public face, but I waited until the Lynx celebration was done and her teammates were all on the team bus before I caught her outside the lockerroom, and she was giddy and funny.
I'm staying in Atlanta to pick up a piece on the Packers that will run in this week's Star Tribune.
I'm picking the Vikings to win on Sunday, and I'm not sure why. I guess I figure that if two bad teams play each other, you should probably take the home team. Which is why I was silly to take the Vikings last week.
As for Donovan McNabb's assertion that talk of him being benched is ``hilarious,'' my radio partner Tom Pelissero points out that McNabb said something similar last year...before he was benched.
I understand why Leslie Frazier wanted McNabb. I don't blame him for wanting a veteran in place following a lockout, and McNabb is serving the purpose of keeping the Vikings from rushing Christian Ponder into a pressurized situation.
But if McNabb can't win games, he has no value to this franchise. He's on a one-year deal. So today could be his last chance to prove that he has some value.
Strange how baseball payrolls work. The Twins set a record for payroll, at about $115 million, and had their most disappointing season ever, barely missing 100 losses. Meanwhile the last four teams remaining in the playoffs all rank 10th or lower in payroll.
The Tigers are 10th (at about $106 million), followed by the Cardinals at 11, the Rangers at 13 and the Brewers at 17.
Could be a random event, or it could have two meanings:
1. The largest salaries are paid not to players who are on the rise, but players who have long-established value. That means older players. In the post-steroid era, age is a big deal. Players no longer can artificially extend their prime.
2. Old, rich players can be troublesome in the clubhouse. They can be divas. The Red Sox' sour attitude led to an epic collapse and the firing of Terry Francona. The Yankees are like a bunch of bankers, joyless and acutely aware of the bottom line.
You have to give big money to the right people. There is little dead weight on the rosters of the remaining teams.
I'll be in Atlanta for Sunday Sports Talk. Tom Pelissero will be in the studio. We're on 1500espn from 10-noon. Guests include Lindsay Whalen, Kevin Seifert and Tom Linnemann. Follow me on Twitter at @Souhanstrib.
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