You knew this was coming. First, the Vikings would be grilled in proper fashion for last Sunday's putrid home-field effort vs. the Chicago Bears by the local sports media and the legion of fans known as the Purple Faithful. That would last for a couple of days, and then here would come the excuses.

This decade has been so bad for the Twins, and history has been so bad for the Timberwolves, that they are not deemed worthy of excuses for their failures by either the media or the fans.

The Wild doesn't even need excuses. Win, lose or get a free point, the locals still will arrive in two groups for the next game: Hunky and Dory.

The excuse-making for the Vikings, though: It's ridiculous.

The team did have a sad and shocking event when offensive line coach Tony Sparano, 56, died from a heart issue right before the start of training camp. Terrible, yes, but I have to think that a football lifer such as Sparano himself would have scoffed at the idea the Vikings' vomitous effort against Chicago could be linked to the death of an admired assistant coach 23 weeks earlier.

And Sparano's death is the only excuse that comes with even a hint of credence.

Injuries? The Vikings' toll was nothing out of the NFL norm. The Bears came to Minnesota with key injuries and, by halftime, no real incentive to win, and yet they intimidated Kirk Cousins and shoved the rest of Zim's paper tigers all over Zygi Wilf's gold mine.

You might have noticed Rochelle Olson's Star Tribune report that the dome's artificial turf is going to be replaced after only 2½ years. The advertised reason is wear; I'm saying the real reason was that the Vikings left such a stench in that turf last Sunday that it could never be removed.

South St. Paul in the '70s when the wind was blowing in the wrong direction through the stockyards …. that was what the Vikings created while falling from 13-3 to 8-7-1.

There were those critical injuries, of course. As we were reminded just the other day, Chad Beebe was out for five games.


Scattergunning from the catbird's seat (whatever that means):

• If Mike Zimmer wants a fired-up, demanding veteran to fill the Sparano void as offensive line coach, it couldn't be easier: Hire Mike Tice (if he'd leave retirement in Seattle).

• Richard Pitino will reach the NCAA tournament for the second time in six seasons at Minnesota and then take a job in the ACC or SEC in April.

• The Wolves will finish a half-dozen games out of playoffs, Tom Thibo­deau will be fired, and he will be an NBA head coach (not interim) again within two years.