Summer is (unofficially) over. You’re likely being bombarded with that message now that we’re past Labor Day, and people are probably trying to make you feel bad about it.
But that’s not what this space is about today. Instead, this is a celebration of what is yet to come in the near future — the duration of September and October that are always a sports lover’s dream but are particularly so for local fans this year. (Oh, and by the way, the weather these next eight weeks is perfect — the way you hope it will be in the spring, only it never is).
There are so many local sports story lines coming right at you that I had to narrow them down and still I couldn’t knock the list to a number smaller than eight. Here they are in no particular order other than this is exactly how I wrote them down, so interpret that as you will:
1: The Twins are in a playoff race. September baseball at Target Field is going to be meaningful, and the possibility of postseason baseball is basically a coin flip at this point. Every Twins hitter you were grousing about two months ago is suddenly the greatest hitter in the world. Byron Buxton. Jorge Polanco. Eddie Rosario. Joe Mauer. Brian Dozier. This is fun and this is real.
2: You don’t have to squint to imagine the Timberwolves being good. Feel free to be cautious. Go ahead and point out there have been reasons for optimism plenty of times in the past 13 years — none of which has ended with a spot in the playoffs. But don’t get lazy and assume things will fall apart simply because they have in the past. The season starts in mid-October, and the buzz is legit.
3: The Lynx could win their fourth WNBA championship in seven seasons. A late-season slump feels like a distant memory now that Minnesota has secured home-court advantage in the playoffs and is slated to get point guard Lindsay Whalen back from injury for the postseason. The Lynx are already a dynasty. They can add to their legacy with another title.
4: The Wild is still a contender. Last year’s playoffs were a bust, and the offseason hasn’t generated many headlines. But a team that consistently gives itself a chance by making the postseason in the NHL is always one good run away from winning it all. That still describes the Wild.
5: The Vikings are in a crossroads season. Logic says this year’s Vikings will finish around .500, but it’s not hard to see things either falling apart terribly or coming together beautifully. It’s a hard team to read, but that’s why they play the games — starting Monday, of course, against Adrian Peterson and the Saints.
6: The top-ranked Gophers volleyball team is a powerhouse again. Big Ten play starts Sept. 22 with a home match at the newly renamed Maturi Pavilion. Watch this team. You will not be disappointed.
7: Gophers football will be in the spotlight. Like the Vikings, this is a hard football team to read. But you learn a lot about a new coach in his first season, and that should be particularly true of P.J. Fleck.
8: Gophers men’s hockey plays at North Dakota. The whole season will be worth watching, but Oct. 20-21 in Grand Forks will be special.