We have three sects of ardent sports followers in Minnesota. There are the reasonable and objective people who take the long view. I am a proud member of this group, although we now have fallen to roughly 2.65 percent of the Minnesota sports base, the same percentage as was obtained by the Grassroots Party’s ticket of Chris Wright-Judith Schwartzbacker in our 2018 gubernatorial election.
The largest sect remains the traditionalists — “true fans,” they call themselves — with a belief that most defeats are caused by poor officiating intentionally directed toward Minnesota teams, or bad breaks, or a momentary lapse in strategizing.
This group now makes up an estimated 53.8 percent, the same majority as winner Tim Walz in the 2018 gubernatorial election, and it has had Sid Hartman as its spiritual leader for 75 years.
This is not quite Tammany Hall (1789-1967) in New York, but Sid’s reign is both impressive and ongoing.
The third group has now grown to 42.4% (by coincidence, Jeff Johnson’s runner-up showing in 2018) and is having a spectacular run in recent months. This is the Prove-It-To-Me sect, with the mantra, “They haven’t played anybody.”
The current momentum for the Prove-It-To-Mes started with the Twins. This was a team that opened the season with an over-and-under win total of 84.5 in Las Vegas future books. Meaning, they had to win 85 for optimists to collect on a bet made before the 2019 opener.
The Twins reached 85 victories on Sept. 2. They finished at 101-61, one shy of the highest win total (102-60 in 1965) in franchise history. They went 55-26 on the road, the best road record in the major leagues by seven wins over second-best Tampa Bay.
The Twins also hit the radioactive baseball for a record 307 home runs (one more than the Yankees) and cruised past the previous franchise record by scoring 939 runs.
The Prove-It-To-Mes were not impressed. They put the emphasis on the Twins dominating the three lowly teams in the AL Central — a 41-16 record vs. the White Sox, Kansas City and Detroit.
“They’ll have to prove it to me against the Yankees,” the vocal 42.4 percent said.
The Twins lost 3-0 in a division sweep to the Yankees. Prove-It-To-Mes’ verdict on 2019 season: Abject failure.
The football Gophers went into the 2019 season with an over-and-under of 7.5 victories in the future books. They have started with eight straight, and are rated 13th in this week’s Associated Press poll and 17th in the first weekly College Football Playoff rankings.
“They haven’t played anybody,” say the Prove-It-To-Mes.
Actually, they have played Maryland, Illinois and Nebraska, and to review:
A year ago, the Gophers lost 42-13 to Maryland, and were outrushed 315-94 and outgained 432-263. This season, the Gophers defeated Maryland 52-10, outrushed the Terps 321-79 and outgained them 498-210.
A year ago, the Gophers lost 53-28 to Nebraska, and were outrushed 383-125 and outgained 659-474. This season, the Gophers defeated Nebraska 34-7, outrushed the Huskers 322-151 and outgained them 450-299.
A year ago, the Gophers lost to Illinois 55-31, and were outrushed 430-178 and outgained 646-438. This season, the Gophers defeated Illinois 40-17, outrushed them 332-91 and outgained them in 487-248.
Even those who wouldn’t mind Coach P.J. Fleck coming up with a previously unknown medical condition, that being a sudden bout of laryngitis every time he sees a TV camera, concede this is a remarkable three-opponent, one-year turnaround:
From a minus 78 to a plus 92 in points; from a minus 731 to a plus 654 in rushing yards, where the hard-nosed aspect of football is demonstrated.
What does the vocal 42.4% say? “The Gophers have to prove it to me against Penn State.”
Thus, the Prove-It-To-Mes’ verdict on 2019 Gophers: Pending until about 2:15 p.m. Saturday.
When it comes to the Vikings, the Prove-It-To-Mes place most of their focus on quarterback Kirk Cousins. The Vikings were 4-0 with three road wins in October, with Cousins throwing for 1,206 yards, 10 touchdowns, one deflected interception and was named NFC Offensive Player of the Month.
“He hasn’t played anybody,” said the 42.4%. “He’ll have to prove it to me at Kansas City.”
The Vikings (6-3) lost in Kansas City. Current Verdict on Cousins: Abject failure, pending Sunday’s outcome in Dallas.
There is an additional, very small sect among Minnesota sports followers. Not to be confused with the Whigs of yore, these are the Thibs.
It’s a cult of around 0.5 percent led by TV analyst Jim Petersen that believes with Tom Thibodeau down the road, the Timberwolves are three years (maximum) from bringing the first NBA title to Minneapolis since the 1954 Lakers.
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