Each week Jon Marthaler bakes up a delicious batch of links for you. Other times, you can find him here. Jon?
We here at the Weekend Links love our less-covered sports teams, so congratulations must go out to the Minnesota Lynx for dominating en route to their first WNBA Championship. It's an awesome thing for an area that's been starved of any good news on the sports pages lately, and it's the first local title since Gopher hockey in 2003 and the first pro title since the now-defunct Thunder won the now-defunct A-League in 1999. [Proprietor note: Fans of Saints baseball and their 2004 Northern League title are shaking their heads]. We'll take any opportunity to celebrate.
*On with the links:
*We start off with soccer, as ESPN's Leander Schaerlackens looks at the growth of fan groups in MLS. Soccer has for years tried to sell itself as a family game - Junior plays soccer, so let's get Mom and Sis and go to a game! - but is finally, at the MLS level, realizing that the fan that's going to drive these franchises is young, urban, and (mostly) male. Soccer is a game that, let's be honest, has some slow stretches, and what these clubs are figuring out is that they need something to drive the atmosphere. Nobody comes back if the sounds are of Mom and Dad sitting on their hands, or (worse) of Thunderstix and screaming and those horns that used to be de rigueur. That's what you get when you go for families. This kind of thing from the (Portland) Timbers Army is really what you need.
*This is as good of a time as any to remind you that if you're young, urban, and male (or otherwise), head up to Blaine tonight and make some noise for the Stars in the playoffs. As Rand mentioned in his Q&A with CEO Djorn Buchholz, the game's at 7:30, but you really want to be there at 5:00, when Surly Brewing will be handing out free beer at the tailgate. You'll be hanging out with the Dark Clouds, the Stars fan group. They are really good guys (mostly guys), and they're the ones who provide the atmosphere at the National Sports Center, and while it's nothing like the thousands-strong Timbers Army, you cannot begin to imagine how quiet it'd be without them. This will sound stupid, but I can't imagine who'd want to go to a Stars game if they weren't there.
*We move next to the Twins, as Parker Hageman says what the team really needs is guys who'll hit line drives to center at Target Field. You might scoff at this, but it's the simplest way to explain the drop-off of Danny Valencia, who made the change to pull the ball more and ended up hitting 65 points lower as a result. Also in Twins news, John Bonnes has another look at the Twins' likely payroll next year, with the note - there's really no reason it should need to go down next year. That'll give the Twins some money to spend, which could help.
*And finally: I don't have a lot of experience with rugby. I've seen a handful of games now, and I've heard much of the legends of how much rugby players like to party, and I had a professor in grad school who played rugby and who liked to tell stories of how much Pacific Island players like to fight. I don't know much, but I'll say this - this story, in which Deadspin's rugby correspondents have to rescue a sozzled American girl from an Wellington drunk tank despite being credentialed media, seems like it's pretty much par for the course for all rugby stories.
That's enough for this week. I need to go get the air conditioner turned back on. Seriously, it cannot possibly be this warm outside.