The members of the Turkey Committee have decided to heed the call of this country's dynamic new chief executive. We are putting behind the blundering and the bickering that have led to the current gloom, and we are embracing change.
It starts this afternoon, on the 30th anniversary of the Turkey Banquet, when our honorees will be asked to go forth not in bitterness but with hope for a better day.
As our keynote speaker, Sonia Pitt, will say in her remarks:
"It's been a long time coming, but today, because of what we did on this day, at this banquet, at this defining moment, change has come to Turkeydom."
The committee went away from its local bias a year ago and honored Charlie Weis, Notre Dame's football coach, as the Turkey of the Year. Fear not, Turkey followers, with these contenders the Grand Gobbler will be coming back to its Minnesota home.
First, there's a wide-ranging list of honored guests:
John Daly. What was the latest -- passed-out drunk in a Hooters in Winston-Salem, N.C.? John, you're down to one option for change: Check yourself into a Russian gulag for 18 months.
Jeff Dubay. Your former KFAN boss, Mick Anselmo, is looking to shake up another AM station, which means there's hope for a comeback. But, Jeff, people aren't going to believe the necessary change has been made until you stop wearing Gophers hockey jerseys in public.
Joe Nathan. Four years, $48 million, and if not for those four blown saves when it mattered most, the Twins wouldn't have had to worry about a one-game playoff in the AL Central. That's what made it off putting to hear Nathan as the main whiner about the playoff location (Chicago) being chosen with a coin flip. Fortunately, change could be easy for Nathan in 2009: Throw more fastballs.
Roger Clemens. He spent weeks on the attack in his steroids scandal -- and came off as a fool every time he opened his mouth. For the past few months, he's been staying out of public view. That's a wise decision, Roger.
Joel Maturi. The Turkey Committee understands that an old romanticist from the Iron Range, sitting on the shores of Lake Como, sipping wine and listening to violin music, can get a bit carried away. We realize that spending that Italian vacation with Mrs. Maturi and the women's basketball team explains coach Pam Borton's three-year extension, when she still had three years left on her contract.
We'll forgive you, Joel. Just don't mention again the possibility of an extension for football coach Tim Brewster -- not coming off a November collapse capped by a 55-0 loss in a game in which the Gophers were 6 1/2-point underdogs. The Turkey Chairman can't be responsible for his prose if the AD of our great state university does something that stupid.
Nordy. Youngsters attending a Twins game encounter T.C. Bear and think "cuddly." They attend a Wild game, see the new mascot, Nordy, and start screaming, "What is it, Mommy?"
Hours later, they awake in a nightmarish sweat, shrieking, "How can it be both a fox and a woodpecker?"
Please, Nordy, for the kids' sake ... pick a species.
Daunte Culpepper. So, Daunte, you spend three years ruining your reputation and career, get another chance with the desperate Detroit Lions, and you come back with a gut like an old sportswriter. Here's a suggestion if the Lions will have you for 2009: Move into the training facility Jan. 2 and live there until the start of training camp.
Delmon Young. Couldn't field, couldn't run, didn't produce as a hitter, and didn't seem to give a darn. He's only 23 and not yet a lost cause, so the committee has this advice: Several weeks of counseling for oppositional defiant disorder -- the malady that causes an athlete, when asked to do A, to automatically try B.
Rashad McCants. See Young, apply pertinent basketball categories, note same attitude and recommend similar counseling.
Nicole Ohlde. Listen, Nicole, it was 2004 when Janel McCarville chased you and your K-State teammates out of Williams Arena. Go ahead and finish a play ... the Lynx won't mind.
Bill Smith. For goodness sakes, Bill, you signed Mike Lamb to a two-year contract. You traded valuable commodities for Young. If not for Ron Gardenhire's miraculous 88 wins, you had a shot to be top turkey as a rookie general manager. This is the recommended change for your front office this winter: Get smarter.
Don Lucia. He coached the Yankees of college hockey to seventh in the WCHA, then ran off assistant Mike Guentzel as the scapegoat. In mid-September, Lucia was a warmup speaker for a John McCain Sarah Palin rally -- with polls at the time indicating Minnesota was a tossup. For now, Lucia is strutting about with the No. 1-rated team in the country. Yet, no matter past and future glory, The Don will never be able to change this: He's the Gophers hockey coach who finished an amazing seventh in the WCHA and helped the Republican ticket to a 10-point defeat in Minnesota in the same calendar year.
This brings us to the drama -- the three serious contenders to claim the Grand Gobbler. Remember, if the Turkey of the Year can't serve, the runners-up will be asked to fulfill the duties.
Second runner-up: Mike Grant, the Eden Prairie football coach, said before his team's state quarterfinal against Blaine: "No one in the conference thought we were going to win the conference. No one really gave us a chance in this section."
The Eagles entered the season with a 28-game winning streak, two Class 5A titles in a row and were ranked No. 1 by the Star Tribune from the first week of the season.
It's simple, coach Grant. If you want to be an underdog in any game the rest of your career, you must leave Eden Prairie, perhaps for the second high school in the Chaska district.
First runner-up: Glen Taylor, the Timberwolves owner, long ago used the last vestiges of goodwill for saving this franchise. The Comfrey boy has a reputation for being close with a buck in his other businesses, and now we're seeing that with this woeful franchise.
Brandon Roy for Randy Foye was a money saver. O.J. Mayo to Memphis was a big money saver. Mario Chalmers was a money maker -- a straight sale to Miami arranged by Taylor.
Glen, you either have to take off the blinders and change the basketball operation or sell. Shucks, that longtime front-row occupant, Denny Hecker, might be interested.
We're now ready for the Grand Turkey -- and for the first time the winner is a ghost ... Marian Gaborik.
He was invisible for the Wild in the playoffs last spring. He's been invisible for the past seven weeks after allegedly suffering a mid-torso injury in an intense game of Hacky Sack.
Between these disappearances, Gaborik turned down the Wild's long-term offer for many millions.
Sad to say, the Turkey Committee couldn't locate Gaborik to invite him to the banquet and to hear our clarion call for change.
Of course, in Marian's case, change could come in the simple act of playing a game.
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