For the first time in a long time, the Minnesota Vikings gave fans joy instead of pain in January. Immediately dubbed the “Minneapolis Miracle” by KFAN play-by-play broadcaster Paul Allen,  Stefon Diggs soared for Case Keenum’s Hail Mary pass on a play called “Seven Heaven” and ran it in for a 61-yard touchdown with no time left on the clock to beat New Orleans and advance to the NFC Championship Game. But the Vikings weren’t the only team in Minnesota playing big games in January. Both the Wild and Timberwolves were in action on Sunday, and both are in contention.

The Futile History of Minnesota Professional Sports

Minnesotans aren’t used to their professional sports teams being competitive. Hell, they aren’t used to their professional sports teams staying in Minnesota. Minnesota has never had a football, hockey and basketball team (and baseball team, technically) in contention this far into their respective seasons as it has in 2018. With the Wild on a five-day bye and the Wolves just a half game behind San Antonio for third place in the Western Conference, Minnesota will be making history every day the Vikings survive. For the first time ever, Minnesota has championship caliber teams contending in all four major, American sports.

Minnesota had two sports teams in contention in January of 2005, and if it weren’t for the NHL strike that cost us all the 2004-05 season, Minnesota would have likely had three contenders at once. The Vikings advanced out of the Wild Card round by winning in Green Bay, but lost in Philadelphia in the Divisional Round on Jan. 16. The Timberwolves entered that day 18-17 and second in the Northwest Division. The Wild were 30-29-20-3 the previous season and then 38-36-8 in 2005-06.

On the same day the Vikings were shutout by the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game in 2001, and the Timberwolves were running fifth in the Midwest Division with a record of 21-17. The Wild, however, entered Jan. 14, 2001 with a record of 14-19-8-2 -- last in the Northwest Division and tied for second to last in the Western Conference. The Timberwolves went onto the playoffs; the Wild did not.

In January of 1988, the North Stars were bringing up the rear in the Norris Division and sitting second to last in the Clarence Campbell Conference while the Vikings were going into the NFC Championship Game they’d lose to Washington. The Timberwolves didn’t exist.

On Jan. 11, 1970, the Minnesota Vikings were blown out by the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl while the North Stars entered play with a record of 9-15-13, good for third in the West Division but worse than every East team. The Minneapolis Lakers, though, had already been the Los Angeles Lakers for a decade. They were 21-22 at that point in the season, en route to the playoffs.

Exactly How Futile have Minnesota Professional Sports Teams Been?

The last time any local fan base had contenders in all four major, American, professional sports in January was just last year. As the New England Patriots marched toward another Super Bowl win, the Boston Celtics were running third in the Eastern Conference and the Bruins were second in the Atlantic Division. Both the Celtics and Bruins went onto the playoffs. The Red Sox went on to the playoffs, too, and as of April 23, Boston still had a chance to win all four major, American, professional sports championships in the same calendar year.

Before that, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Penguins won their respective championships in 2009, but didn’t and still don’t have a professional basketball team to continue the Steel City’s dominance.

All four of Philadelphia's major professional sports teams played in a championship game or series in their respective sports, but not in a calendar year. The 1980 Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series in October, but the Philadelphia Eagles lost Super Bowl XV in 1981. The 1979-80 Philadelphia 76ers lost the NBA Finals, and the 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers lost the Stanley Cup Finals.

The last and only time a local fan base enjoyed winning championships in three of the major, American, professional sports was in 1935, when the Detroit Lions, Red Wings and Tigers all won their respective championships. The Detroit Pistons didn’t exist.

No local fan base has enjoyed winning championships in all four of the major, American, professional sports in the same calendar year. But things are lining up well for Minnesota, as Minneapolis hosts the Super Bowl this year, and the Vikings opened as 3.5-point favorites on the road at Philadelphia in the NFC Championship Game.

If the Timberwolves can secure the three seed in the Western Conference, they could avoid playing Oklahoma City and Golden State in the NBA Playoffs, increasing their chances of winning an NBA Championship against a less competitive Eastern Conference.

The Minnesota Wild aren’t even in a bad position with the top Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. They’d visit nearby Winnipeg in the first round of the playoffs and just beat them 4-1 on Saturday.

The Twins are also gearing up for a run at a championship by bolstering their bullpen. The addition of Fernando Rodney and, surprisingly, Addison Reed, to the backend of the bullpen will push guys like Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey and Ryan Pressly into lower leverage situations. If they can land the top free agent starter on the market, Yu Darvish, to go along with Jose Berrios and Ervin Santana, they’d be legitimate contenders, regardless of Miguel Sano’s status given sexual assault allegations against him.

As it stands, Minnesotans are enjoying the best days in the history of Minnesota sports and will continue doing so for as long as the Vikings allow.


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The Minnesota Timberwolves dominated the Cleveland Cavaliers at Target Center on Monday night with local product Tyus Jones starting at point guard in place of the injured Jeff Teague. The Wolves led by as many as 41 points, as Jimmy Butler shut down LeBron James for his seventh straight win against James’s teams. It resulted in James’s worst plus-minus of his career (-39) and lowest-scoring game in a decade. Not a single Cavs starter had a positive plus-minus in the game.

Meanwhile, every Wolves starter finished with a plus-minus over 30, and Jones finished behind only Butler for the game high. While he had just six points in 28 minutes, Jones added eight assists, two steals and only one turnover. On the season, Jones sits behind Karl-Anthony Towns with the 23rd-best real plus-minus in basketball at 3.45. Teague, on the other hand, is 163rd with a real plus-minus of -.29 -- right behind former Timberwolf Kris Dunn. So is Tyus Jones making Jeff Teague expendable?

What have you done for me lately?

Over the last 15 games, the Timberwolves have the best offense, best net rating and the eighth-best defense in the league. Teague has missed seven of those games, but prior to going down with an MCL sprain, the Wolves were riding a five-game winning streak.

There’s been a drastic change in the number of points allowed in Teague’s absence, though. The Wolves have allowed more than 100 points just once since Teague’s been out, and that was at Milwaukee in the first game Teague missed. Minnesota is averaging 96.29 points allowed per game over the seven-game stretch without Teague, which is nine points better than their 13th-ranked season average and better than Boston’s league-best 97.6 average points allowed per game this season.

The Wolves are clearly benefiting more from Jones’s defense than Teague’s offense. Teague is a game-time decision on Wednesday when the Wolves host the Thunder, so if he doesn’t play we’ll get a chance to see how Jones fares against one of the best point guards in the world in Russell Westbrook.

Regardless of who plays, Wednesday’s matchup with OKC will be a better test for the Wolves than the Cavs were, and give us all a sense of who would win a potential playoff series between the two. Minnesota would have home-court advantage against the Thunder in the playoffs if the season ended today, and with two wins over OKC already, a win on Wednesday would improve Minnesota’s tiebreaker advantage, too.

What could trading Teague do for the Wolves?  

Tom Thibodeau has put the Wolves in a tight salary cap situation. ESPN NBA front-office expert Bobby Marks crunched the numbers and found the Wolves will have just $6 million to spend on four roster spots next season if nothing else changes. So dumping Teague’s salary would put the Wolves in a better place financially, but who would take him?

My NBA front-office expert and cousin said he’d work with Phoenix to acquire Tyler Ulis to backup Jones because Towns called Ulis the best passer with whom he’s played. But no acceptable trades between the Wolves and Suns involving Teague has the Wolves improving their win total according to ESPN’s NBA Trade Machine. (Trading Aaron Brooks for Ulis was an acceptable trade that resulted in no change in wins for either team.)

Minnesota’s trade chips are just making too much money, so a third team would likely be required to make a trade of Teague possible. That said, it just doesn’t look like the Timberwolves are in a position to improve the roster through a trade of Teague – at least not at this time.

But if the Bulls intend to shop Nikola Mirotic after Jan. 14, you have to believe Thibodeau would be happy to acquire his services. Mirotic is 14th amongst power forwards in real plus-minus. He’s Taj Gibson’s complete opposite, so when the Wolves struggle on offense, Thibodeau could substitute Mirotic for Gibson to get a bucket. If it takes Teague to get him, so be it, but whether the Bulls would be willing to part with Mirotic for anything but youth and cap space is the real question. The Bulls aren’t that far away from competing now that Zach LaVine is close to returning from injury, and Lauri Markkanen seems to be working out, so don’t be surprised if the Bulls covet a veteran point guard to mentor Dunn.


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Tuesday, 02 January 2018 20:17

New Year, same old Midwest freeze

Another year, another Midwest record breaking cold front. The National Weather Service issued wind chill advisories, freeze warnings and an approaching “arctic cold front” to a large portion of the country ranging from mid Texas to Canada and from Montana through New England.

 

Of course, if you live in the Midwest, like I do, you’re already familiar with the cold as we’ve all been living with it for more than a week now. Just last week GCN’s guest medical columnist Dr. Daliah Wachs wrote “How to Prevent Hypothermia” anticipating the cold front.

 

Last week temperatures in MN plunged to -37C making my home state colder than Antarctica (-16C) and even colder than parts of Mars. Author Andy Weir knows what we are going through -- he writes in his novel, “The Martian:”

 

“And thanks to decades of reconnaissance by Curiosity, Opportunity, and the rest of NASA’s band of merry Rovers, we know most of what astronauts will need to survive on Mars once they get there: souped-up spacesuits to protect against massive dust storms and sub-freezing temperatures; tons of freeze-dried food; housing pods that can shield against radiation; and a big drill to unlock the frozen water beneath the Mars surface. It’s not easy living, but not too unlike, say, Minnesota.”

 

Thanks, Mr. Weir! We Minnesotans will keep that in mind. =)

 

Anyway. Stay warm. Keep your pets indoors or keep their outdoor activities to the bare minimum, and dream of warmer days.

 

They are not so far away.


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Minnesota governor Mark Dayton is expected to appoint lieutenant governor Tina Smith to replace United States Senator Al Franken, who resigned amid sexual harassment allegations. But Smith is now contemplating running for reelection in 2018, which has Democrats applying pressure on Dayton to appoint more than just a caretaker to the Senate seat.

Democrats have a stable of good horses to win the 2018 race for Franken’s vacated seat, but U.S. House Representative from Minnesota’s fifth district, Keith Ellison, is the thoroughbred. Ellison has served as the fifth district’s House Representative since 2007, so he’s put in the time to earn a promotion to the Senate. Furthermore, he’d vacate another U.S. Congressional seat Democrats could easily win back in 2018 given its Minneapolis voting base. But who will replace Ellison if he indeed runs for the U.S. Senate in 2018?

Here are the candidates most likely to run for Minnesota’s fifth district if Ellison does run for Franken’s Senate seat.

Lori Swanson, Minnesota Attorney General

Rumor is Swanson wants to run for governor, and her office didn’t return our call as of this writing, but she’d probably be a shoe-in for the U.S. House. For an attorney general, Swanson has pretty good name recognition throughout the state and even the nation. She was named one of America’s top ten lawyers by Lawyers USA in 2009, and the very next year, she was named Public Official of the Year by the Minnesota Nurses Association, whose support would be essential for a Democratic victory in Minnesota’s Fifth U.S. House District.

Ginger Jentzen, Socialist Alternative Party

Jentzen was the big story out of Minnesota during the 2017 municipal elections despite losing a bid for Minneapolis’s City Council. She won the popular vote in seven of 12 precincts, but lost the seat to ranked-choice voting. She didn’t get enough second- or third-choice votes to get a majority. That wouldn’t be the case in a race for Minnesota’s fifth district for the U.S. House, where a win would make her the first Socialist in the House of Representatives since Victor Berger of neighboring Wisconsin in 1910 (Bernie Sanders served in the House as an Independent, and retains that affiliation in the Senate). Jentzen had no comment when asked if she’d be interested in running for the U.S. House seat at a Socialist Alternative event on Saturday night.

Raymond Dehn, Democratic Farmer Labor

Dehn was a close second to Jacob Frey in the Minneapolis mayoral race in 2017, garnering 42.8 percent of the vote, but was fourth in first-choice votes. Tom Hoch and incumbent Betsy Hodges received more first-choice votes than Dehn, but Hoch gave money to Republicans, and Hodges isn’t likely to perform well given her third-place finish as incumbent mayor of Minneapolis.

Nekima Levy-Pounds, Democratic Farmer Labor

Pounds was fifth in first-choice votes for Minneapolis mayor, but would certainly receive the endorsement of Ellison given her work as President of the Minnesota NAACP. Ellison was the first black Representative elected out of Minnesota, and was the first ever Muslim Congressman elected in the United States.

If Smith intends to run for reelection, however, Franken’s vacant Senate seat would be ripe for Republican picking. Franken barely edged Republican Norm Coleman back in 2008, and Hillary Clinton won the state in 2016 by just 1.5 percentage points in 2016.

Update: Pounds returned a message stating she has no interest in running for the District 5 U.S. House seat, but offered two candidates who might.

Jamal Abdulahi, Democratic Farmer Labor

Abdulahi announced his candidacy for Minnesota's Fifth Congressional District when Ellison was being considered as chair of the Democratic National Committee in 2016. He is a Somali American who grew up in Minnesota and would be the first Somali American in Congress. He'd be continuing a trend in Minnesota, which has the largest Somali American population in the country by far. Minnesotans elected the first Somali American Muslim woman to the state legislature last year.

 

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UPDATED: This is an archived story and may be out of date. Peterson has since been traded from the Saints to the Cardinals. 

 

 

Karma rears its lovely head.

 

Adrian Peterson wanted out of the Vikings franchise. His contract with the Vikings would have netted him several million dollars and, probably, a decent amount of playing time. But that wasn’t good enough for him. So he moved on. Peterson was the face of the MN Vikings for almost a decade and I was sad to see him leave, but it really was time for him to go.  A few months ago I wrote about that very thing in an Open Letter to Bridgewater, Bradford and Peterson.

 

Even at the age of 332 (which is like 55 in running back years) Peterson thought he had a few more 1,500 yard seasons in him. He also though, as a free agent he would command nine to twelve million dollars per year.

 

And so he left the Vikings. He left the franchise that stood by him for nine season. He left the fans that adored him. He went elsewhere. 

 

Okay. Well, this is the NFL and players move on. It happens.

 

So AP took a chance as a free Agent and the Vikings took a chance on second round draft pick Dalvin Cook.

 

Peterson's journey went exactly how everyone, except for Adrian Peterson, expected -- no one wanted to hire a 32 year old running back. Especially, not one that has had two reconstructive knee surgeries. And, of course, they most certainly did not want to pay him -- nine to twelve bloody million dollars!

 

The few meetings Peterson had with NFL coaches or owners went nowhere. Calls from interested teams were virtually non existent. The Patriots passed. The Seahawks may have been interested but -- no, never mind, they passed too.  

 

It was kind of embarrassing. Peterson should have retired. But then, suddenly -- the New Orleans Saints offered Peterson a roster spot for about one tenth of his asking price and all NFL fans everywhere went, “Wait --- what? Who? Why? Peterson will never take a job with the Saints. He'd rather retire!”

 

Except -- nope. He would indeed take a job with the Saints.

 

But ... but .... but .... (you say).  

 

I know! The Saints have built their offense on the throwing arm of Drew Brees. The Saints don’t run the ball! If they hire Peterson it will just be to use him as a play action decoy -- so Brees can pass.

 

As a New Orleans player, Peterson must know he’s only going to touch the ball about six or eight times per game, right?

 

Wrong.

 

Peterson has now played four games as a Saints running back and he is firmly set in place as the third string running back. That’s right, “third string.” Behind starter Mark Ingram and second string rookie back, Alvin Kamara. In four weeks as a Saint, Peterson has produced 81 running yards on 27 carries. That’s 3 yards per carry. So, obviously he's frustrated. But to be honest, both Ingram and Kamara are more productive than Peterson. And both Ingram and Kamara can pass protect -- which has always been one of Peterson's universally known weaknesses. 

 

Peterson has politely voiced his concern to the press with his now infamous, “I didn’t sign up for for nine snaps (per game)” interview. 

 

Well, Mr. Peterson, I don’t know what the New Orleans Saints staff told but, yes -- you most certainly did sign with Saints to get nine snaps per game. And you should be lucky to get that.

 

On the flip side of things, over the same four games, the MN Vikings started rookie running back Dalvin Cook. Cook amassed 354 yards on 74 carries for 4.7 yards per carry. Sadly, Dalvin Cook was injured in week four and will sit out the remainder of the season. 

  

I’m almost certain Peterson could be far more productive in future games with the Saints, but he will never get the game time to develop into the threat he was in MN.  Peterson is not an "out the gate" type of running back. Peterson is a slow burn. His uncanny endurance is legendary. He gets stronger as the game goes on. He needs twenty snaps per game in order for his per average carry to increase because he tends to pick up speed, vision and yards in quarters three and four. Peterson needs time. He needs snaps.

 

But they just don’t do things that way in New Orleans. 

 

For now, Peterson is a non productive team member for the team that headhunted him and, at the time in 2009, his teammates -- The New Orleans Saints Bounty Scandal.  

 

 In closing, Mr. Peterson, if the only team that offers you a contract is the very same team, with the very same owner and the very same head coach, that offered players additional bonus money to injure star quarterbacks including, Mr. Peterson -- your QB1 at that time-- perhaps retirement is the better option.

 

But Peterson didn’t retire. He became a New Orleans Saint.

 

A New Orleans Saint with 81 yards on 27 carries.

 

Again -- something about karma and its ugly head.

 

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