Oh, for the professional sports optimism of a year ago at this time. In late March, 2018 …
*The Twins were preparing to open their season, fresh off 85 wins and a surprising berth in the wild card game of the 2017 playoffs.
*The Vikings were a couple months removed from a disappointing end to a fantastic season and had just signed a couple weeks earlier the prize of the QB free agent pool: Kirk Cousins. Super Bowl talk was everywhere.
*The Lynx were the defending WNBA champions and loading up with a veteran roster for what they hoped would be a fifth championship in eight seasons.
*The Wild was barreling toward its sixth consecutive playoff berth and what would be its second consecutive 100-point season.
*The Wolves were battling for their first playoff appearance since 2003-04, a spot they secured shortly thereafter thanks to a clutch performance from Jimmy Butler (31 points, five rebounds and five assists) in Game 82 of the season against Denver.
*Minnesota United was in the midst of Year 2 in Major League Soccer and had shown at least some early progress.
Five of those teams – all but the Loons – had reached the postseason in the preceding year. It was enough to make a fan feel like there were some genuinely good times ahead.
I’ll try to be brief as to not belabor what has happened in the last year, nor am I offering the rewind as a means of making you sad. Rather, it’s just a reminder of how quickly things can change.
The Vikings and Cousins not only didn’t win the Super Bowl, they missed the playoffs. And the early 2019 offseason has offered constant reminders of the pennies the franchise now must pinch thanks in part to the contract doled out to a quarterback whose statistical success was not matched by team success.
The Wolves endured close to two months of Jimmy Butler drama, fired head coach Tom Thibodeau and predictably fell short of a repeat trip to the playoffs. The Wild, too, has its playoff hopes on life support after an uneven season fueled by injuries, uneven play and a roster shakeup. Both of those teams are firmly in transition, and the short-term results could very well be painful beyond this season.
At least the Whitecaps brought a winter championship.
The Lynx made an early playoff exit, then watched Lindsay Whalen retire and Maya Moore take a break. This, too, feels like a franchise in transition.
The Twins and Loons? Out of the six teams mainly referenced here, those might be the two biggest reasons for optimism – in part because their seasons are still in their relative infancy and in part because there are real things about which to be excited.
Cleveland’s reign atop the AL Central is in long-term jeopardy. It might be in the short-term, too. Even after a 78-win season last year, the Twins should be competitive. They are going to score a bunch of runs. If that pitching holds up …
The Loons are putting a better product on the field this season than in either of their first two years, and they will do so in a brand new stadium when Allianz Field opens in a couple weeks.
That’s your spring and summer plan: Hop on the Green Line and hope there’s a party worth shuttling back-and-forth to in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
It’s not nearly as much as you had a year ago, but it’s your best bet.