Growing up on southwest Minnesota’s prairie in the 1950s and into the ’60s, I might as well have been in downstate Indiana when it came to winter sports. Basketball was king and hockey was merely a rumor.
The golden era was from 1960 to 1964, when that corner of the state had three of Minnesota’s five one-class high school basketball champions: Edgerton (1960), Marshall (1963) and Luverne (1964). There also was nearby Sherburn as the champion of the last one-class tournament ever in 1970.
Much as I appreciate the hot summer winds and the pheasants and waterfowl that filled our lives in the fall, there are times these five decades later that I envy people who were growing up in this same period on the Iron Range.
Presumably, I then could have the soul of a hockey fan rather than a basketball fan, and that would be so much easier here in the golden years of a long sportswriting career.
Can’t do it, though. Can’t sit there and spend 2 ½ hours watching people endlessly trade possessions and generally to no meaningful end. Sorry. I like sports that when you’re on offense, there’s a 50 percent chance that it’s going to lead to something.
It would be great to sit in front of the TV on a cold winter night and have the patience to watch the great Zach Parise score three goals in a road victory in Columbus for the Wild, rather than monitoring the latest misery for Richard Pitino’s third collection of basketball Gophers.
Can’t do it, though. Can’t watch Parise when there’s a chance to grumble over the team I’ve come to call the “Little Richards.”
There never has been a more pathetic winter in the Twin Cities to be a basketball fan rather than a hockey fan than this one.
If I was paying the hefty price as a season-ticket holder for the Timberwolves or the male Gophers, it would be tempting to kick the shin of the next person associated with those teams who told me to “be patient.”
You know what “be patient” means? It means they are asking you to waste another winter following these clown shows. It means wasting thousands more dollars to watch losers. It means paying hefty parking prices to enter the two worst venues in the Twin Cities when it comes to infrastructure.
In the spring of 2013, Pitino took over a team that handily had beaten Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and UCLA in the first round of the NCAA tournament. In three short years, Pitino has turned the Gophers into a joke … a team destined to be in the fight for 14th in the Big Ten.
There was a lively crowd for Michigan State on Saturday, allegedly, but that’s not likely to be repeated more than a couple of more times this winter at Williams Arena. And it came after a December when actual crowds of 4,000-5,000 were routine for the usual litany of nobodies for home games.
The difference this time, in Season 3 of the coach with the famous surname, is that the Gophers lost to the nobodies. They had a 47-game winning streak vs. nonconference opponents in the Barn, and then came a four-game home stretch with a victory over Chicago State and losses to South Dakota (two overtimes), South Dakota State (mismatch) and Milwaukee (mismatch).
Do we have no shame remaining in men’s athletics at the University of Minnesota?
The football team lays the grotesque, giant egg of a 5-7 season, suffers the humiliation of going to a bowl game in Detroit, and the followers are asked to celebrate a seven-point victory over Central Michigan in front of a crowd that did not equal your average Eden Prairie home game.
And now the Little Richards lose to South Dakota and South Dakota State in a 72-hour period, you wait around to get beat by Penn State with its wretched basketball tradition, and you want us to talk about Amir Coffey at Hopkins High School.
The Gophers were No. 34 in RPI before the start of the 2013 NCAA tournament. Tubby Smith was fired, Richard Pitino was hired and on Wednesday, the Gophers were rated No. 186 in RPI.
Foul by foul, coach. Keep building. We’re proud of you.
And then there’s the Timberwolves. Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. What a future!
You have the Twin Cities on fire thinking about the glory that awaits, Woofies. You betcha — 29th among 30 NBA teams with a padded attendance average of 14,087 entering Wednesday night’s showdown with …
You Timberwolves, you pretenders young and old, just were blown out in the fourth quarter by Philadelphia. That should be an excellent momentum builder for another 60-loss season.
The battle cry at Target Center is the same as at Williams Arena: “Be patient.”
Trouble is, Wolves, there’s hardly anyone left to be patient. The customers are gone. You’ve destroyed the product with 12 straight seasons of pathetic play.