Zach LaVine is 20, the same age SOME of us were when crafting some truly terrible prose (intermingled with some glimmers of hope?) for the Minnesota Daily, the campus newspaper of the U of M.
Teddy Bridgewater is 23, the same age SOME of us were when, one fine day, the thought crept in that life had been figured out and there really weren't all that many more lessons to learn. (This extreme falsehood is a good reminder that adulthood should not be confused with being a fully formed human.)
Those self-deprecating examples are the best way to keep any kind of perspective about two young Minnesota athletes who inspire big opinions.
After all, aren't you pretty different as a person and a professional now than you were in early adulthood? (That is, assuming you're not currently in early adulthood.) Hopefully you are nodding your head.
With young athletes, though, we tend to forget this. We are eager to declare that the Timberwolves' LaVine is not a point guard. We are even more eager to define what kind of quarterback Bridgewater is for the Vikings — franchise guy, dreaded "game manager," or somewhere in between.
The wiser course is to remember: What they are right now is subjective, in the eyes of the beholder. What they will become is unknown.
LaVine at age 20 might not appear to be a classic point guard. He might never become one. But he also might never have to be one in order to be a very good NBA player.
He plays with a certain fearlessness that borders on recklessness, making him seem like a terribly inefficient and sloppy player at times.
But a good indicator of a player's value — at least offensively — is a statistic called Player Efficiency Rating (PER). A league-average player has a PER of 15; LaVine so far this year has a mark of 18.44, the third-best mark on his team behind Karl-Anthony Towns (a player many of us are convinced already will be great) and Ricky Rubio (another subject of debate).
LaVine has done most of that as a point guard. Maybe he's figuring it out? Maybe he's just a different type of player we need to view with a fresh set of eyes. Time will tell.
Bridgewater lags near the bottom of NFL quarterbacks in traditional measures such as passing yards and touchdowns. But the Vikings are winning while Bridgewater plays it safe and minimizes negative plays, leading to the question of whether that's ultimately the kind of quarterback he always will be.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer says no, there's much more to Bridgewater — things casual fans might not appreciate and other things the young quarterback will prove when necessary. Some deeper numbers back up what the coach is saying.
But even if there weren't handy statistics to support LaVine and Bridgewater, there is this: Although we'd like to have and unfairly expect immediate answers, these things often take time.
Jake Arrieta, at age 26, was a bust. Arrieta, at age 29, won the Cy Young Award this week.
We're all evidence of the need for patience — some of us more than others.