Minnesota Seniors Online

 

Mike's Sport Blog

                                            About Sports Columnist, Mike Ankoviak:

Mike Ankoviak

Mike Ankoviak is a resident of Champlin, MN.  He was raised in Albert Lea, MN where his father, Bill Ankoviak, finished his career as a professional baseball player.  Along with his 5 brothers and sisters, Mike was brought up on a steady diet of baseball, golf, basketball, tennis, football, and mumbley peg.  He would spend his evenings scouring the paper for the latest sports box scores.  Today Mike's appetite for sports continues.  He has been a season ticket holder for most of our pro sports teams in the Twin Cities.  He has been a part owner of a race horse stabled at Canterbury Downs, and is an avid golfer and tennis player.  You may not agree with all of Mike's opinions but I think you will agree that his insight into the world of sports is always refreshing. 

Send Mike an Email:  Mike@MnSeniorsOnline.com

Mike's Sports Blog Update:

I think itís time I get off my butt and put down a few notes about sports. Itís been months. It was so long ago I was predicting the Penguins to win the Stanley Cup (they did), the Cavs to win the NBA (finished second) and the Twins to suck again! Well two out of three isnít bad! If the baseball season ended today, the Twins would be 3 games out of the playoffs. Itís been many years since they could claim that much relevance any time near the All Star break. Iím not counting them out yet, but it wonít be easy to hang in there. But it sure makes it more fun to visit Target Field when the games have meaning. Letís hope it lasts. A little hot streak at some point and theyíll be right back in it.

Out in Vegas we just finished up the NBA Summer League. The teams all send their collection of draft picks, rookies and other non-rostered players out to the desert to play for nearly two weeks. The Vegas Ďseasoní culminated with the Laker rookie squad led by top pick Lonzo Ball winning the wrap up tournament that finished up last Monday night. On the strength of his performance and general buzz in this Laker heavy territory, the league set an attendance record with nearly 120,000 fans over the course of the 11 days of action. It has grown each year and also helps to fuel speculation that Vegas down the road could land an NBA team some day.

Now you really have to be a sports geek to have been watching the CONCACAF Gold Cup in soccer tonight. But hey, I did catch some of it and for all you non-soccer fans, the USA squad defeated Jamaica 2-1. In soccer terms, thatís pretty much a blowout! But there really wasnít a whole lot of suspense waiting on this championship match, because as my good buddy The Lak said, whenís Jamaica ever beat the USA in any sport involving a round ball, right mon!

In Vegas, poker rules. And the 2017 World Series of Poker just finished up the other night at the Rio down on the strip. I have to admit I donít know too many of the players by name, not even the champ Scott Blumstein. But any contest where the winner walks away with $8.1 million is pretty damn cool! We watched several of the televised broadcasts down the stretch. Its pretty good entertainment with that kind of money at stake.

The biggest things on the horizon in the sports world, and especially here in Las Vegas are the upcoming NHL season (first for the Golden Knights), the NFL opening up barely a couple weeks away and possibly the biggest fight in history with the Floyd Mayweather-Connor Mcgregor fight going down on August 26th. Stay tuned for some previews in my next blog. And oh yeah, Iím picking the Packers again this year!

March Madness Begins!

Last I wrote the Gopher hoopsters had just lost several games in a row and seemed destined to tumble out of relevancy, but lo and behold they turned it up big time! What a great finish to the best season in a long time. They ended up losing in the Big Ten Tournament, but no shame as Michigan was red hot also, and is one of those Cinderella picks for the Big Dance.  Unfortunately for the Gophers, they drew  into a tough seed in a dreaded 5-12 match-up with Middle Tennessee State. Thatís the team that upset Michigan State in last yearís NCAA Tourney. Then this season the Blue Raiders (go figure?) went 30-4 to become a trendy upset pick against the much higher seeded Gophers. Iím doing 4 boards in our pool, and Iíll pick the Gophers to win in two of them, and lose in two of them. While we had a good run this season, I believe this will be a battle. And the oddsmakers have it currently a pick-em game in Vegas, and even -1 for MTSU. Hey, itís still fun to have them in the tourney, and see the program on the upswing again! And if they win game 1, I believe theyíll advance to the Sweet 16. Overall I like the Number 1 seeds, especially Kansas and North Carolina. My Final 4 has Duke beating Gonzaga and North Carolina beating Kansas. Then Duke wins it all to defend itís title. And the Twins will end up in the World SeriesÖ.or some other far fetched tales. This Tournament is so tough to call.  Enjoy the fun, cheer for upsets and Cinderella stories, and I hope I cash some tickets at the window! I think you can tell who I cheer for no matter what happens or the odds.

On another note in the hoops world, turning to the NBA the Timberwolves are also (slightly) relevant this year. Currently they sit just 4 games out of the 8th spot in the Western Conference. They lost a tough game tonight to the Celtics.  However they end up this season itís great to see them also improving and I do believe next year could be the best in a long time. The playoffs are in reach!

The Wild continue their strong season, although it seems the momentum has cooled a bit. A week ago we were with a point or two of the top team in the entire NHL, the Capitals, and now all of a sudden 4 teams are ahead of us. If the playoffs started today theyíd be the #2 seed in the West, conceding home ice advantage to the Blackhawks if it came down to that final match-up for the Western Conference. And we know how our recent history has gone for us against Chicago. At this point Iím going to go with the Pittsburg Penguins to repeat as Champions. They are really coming on strong. But of course Iíd love to see the Wild win it or at least make it to the finals. Itís only 7 months before we get to see the puck drop in Las Vegas for our Golden Knights and that will be exciting as well.

People Get Ready Thereís a train a-comingÖÖ

Inauguration Day has never felt like this before. But hey, letís put our political differences asideÖ..and make St. Paul great again!  Wow, the Wild really have it going on! Theyíve won like 16 out of the last 17 or something crazy and are in first place in the Western Conference.  New coach, a couple new faces, a hot goalie and even the Stanley Cup doesnít seem too much of a stretch. Iíd love to see them coming to Vegas next season as defending champs! Our curse has been the Blackhawks but this year we may have the tools to get past them. If we can do that, then the Cup is in reach. The bookmakers believe it can happen too. About 6 weeks ago they were 20-1 for the Cup when my brother Robert told me to go put some money on them.  I checked last night at the book and they were 5-1. Wish I would have put some of my own money on them. Damn!

Who says our Minnesota Gophers sports teams suck? The footballers got a bowl victory as a 10 point dog to Washington State.  Although they actually got more press for their off-field antics. Which eventually cost their fill-in coach his job. But the new hire has great potential for a change and was actually a coveted candidate amongst some of the big schools looking to hire a head coach. I think the future looks bright for a change.

On the basketball front, the Gophers were looking surprisingly strongÖ..for a couple of games into the Big Ten season.  They rose to #24 in the national rankings, then lost 2 straight. But they have potential. I believe theyíll right the ship and make the NCAA tournament this year. That would be fun!

And lest I forget, the Super Bowl is only a couple weeks away. Of course I should have said weeks ago that the Packer roll was going to continue right through the big game. Iím pretty sure they beat the Patriots and come out of this up and down season as World Champs. No one is hotter than Aaron Rodgers and heís going to get his second ring down in Houston.

November 2016:  Itís About Damn Time        

I mean, that I got around to writing up some thoughts on recent sporting events! How could I have not been writing about the Ryder Cup, the passing of Arnold Palmer, the Lynx losing the finals in game 5, and the Cubs ending the 108 year drought and winning the World Series!  This has been a historic run  these last few months! Iíve been taking it all in from Vegas but just getting around to making some comments now. Gosh itís been busy. Weíre in mid-November with Christmas soon to be breathing down our necks. Bah Humbug! I want fall to last forever.

I donít even know where to start. What about the US winning the Ryder Cup out at Hazeltine just days following the passing of The King, Arnold Palmer. That week was about as memorable in golf history as weíll  ever see.  I still have 36 hours of recorded material on Arnoldís memorial service along with Ryder Cup coverage. Thatís one weíll remember forever.

The Cubs making the World Series was enough to get baseball fans to take notice. But when they fell behind 3 games to 1, I thought the drought was going to continue. But they turned this one into an instant baseball classic with a rally for the ages. This one had everything. And even though I was on the Cleveland side as that was who my Dad played his minor league ball with, it still was great to see the Cubs finally get the Series theyíve been waiting for. Now itís the Indians that are the longest running team without a World Series victory, last winning in 1948. Just goes to show you that every dog does have its day. And now Leslie can quit harping on me about my Yankees, as I think with the Cubs win, and their 200 million payroll, they can she the label of the lovable losers.

Now turning to the NFL, the only thing that really matters.  Iím struggling to remain optimistic. My Packers who had the look and feel of a Super Bowl contender (see my earlier predictions) are sucking! This is really hard to take, especially when the expectations are so high. Iím still going to say they right the ship and make the playoffs. At the same time they are fumbling around doing their best Cleveland Browns impression, the Vikings are in a freefall losing 4 in a row.  At first it looked like they wouldnít miss  Adrian Peterson with the way the defense was playing, but no longer. Theyíve lost a couple of close, winnable games due to the inability to score in the clutch, or stop an opponent down the stretch. I think whichever of the NFC North teams that can get to 9-7 will take the Division and make the playoffs. So for both Minnesota and Green Bay, thereís a chance.  Iím revising my Super Bowl prediction to the Patriots facing off against the Seahawks again.  I think itís inevitable.

Finally the Wolves, Wild and Gophers are in full swing into their respective seasons. In typical Minnesota sports tradition, they all lost this weekend. Although just this night (Sunday) to close out the weekend, the Wolves did knock off the Lakers at Target Center with Andrew Wiggins throwing down 47 points! They do have the best young  talent in the league, so itís fun to see them play. But the playoffs are still likely a year off.  Until then itís the same old storyÖ.wait till next year!

September 2016: FinallyÖFootball!!

Okay the Olympics were awesome. I was kind of down on them in my last blog. But they ended up being pretty outstanding. At the same time, weíre watching the Baseball season wind down.  The golf majors are all in the books. So now itís finally time to celebrate the beginning of the football season. The rest of the stuff is just filling time in between NFL seasons!

Baseball is getting fun now though. The Cubs are clearly the best team in baseball. But can they break the jinx and finally get a World Series title? Iím not betting on it. I still like Texas in the American League and now that the Giants have slumped a bit, the national league is wide open. The Cubs should make it to the Series,  Iím just not confident theyíll overcome the pressure of a century long drought and be able to take it all. However, it will be fun to see them there.  Twins are still playing and as usual Target Field is still a great place to enjoy a ballgame. Go and watch Brian Dozier as heís  on a tear, and before the Twins go let him sign somewhere else.

But back to football, the season opener last night was a great game. The Broncos and Panthers in a super bowl  rematch. It came down to the closing seconds and a missed 50 yard field goal attempt to settle the score with the Broncos barely hanging on. If this is an indication of the season ahead, itís going to be fun. The Vikings lost a QB and then found one. I really donít think theyíll miss Teddy B that much. They signed a stronger armed QB in Sam Bradford, and although heís been injury prone, he certainly has as much talent or more than Teddy. Pass a few times, hand the ball to Peterson and all should work out fine.  I canít wait to watch the US Bank regular season opener on September 18th when the Packers come to town. And for now, Iím sticking with my Super Bowl prediction, Packers defeating the Patriots in the finale.

Finally, I was fortunate to spend last weekend in New York enjoying two days of tennis at the US Open. Itís one of the truly great sporting events worldwide. Itís the most exciting thing Iíve ever attended.  There is so much excitement and energy in New York surrounding it and people from all over the world are in attendance. Like I was telling my friend Doug, New York is an outstanding place to visit, if you can overlook the traffic, the crowds, the trash and sewer  smell everywhere and the fact that a beer can run you $11!! But I love it, and look forward to getting back there for the Open again.

August 2016: The Dog Days of Summer

July has just flown by. Another month of one of the hottest summers  in Vegas is almost  in the books. Since weíve been down here weíve experienced the 2nd hottest year on average last year, and at least 6 months setting average high temperature records as well. But like everyone jokes about, itís a dry heat! Today at 115 degrees late in the afternoon, and early in the evening, Iím pretty sure I could have cooked my bbq chicken just by setting it on top of the grill, rather than light the darn thing and put it on the grill! But I constantly remind myself that I donít have to shovel sunshine and Iím pretty happy about that!

NFL training camps are under way! I love it and canít wait for another football season. So much excitement about the Vikings new stadium, all the new draft picks, and what should be a great battle for the North Division title. This is going to be fun. Only a week from the pre-season opener, and another 5 weeks till the regular season starts. Iíve got September 18th circled on my Google calendar for the Vikings home opener against the Packers. Thatís going to be epic.

Thereís not much to say about the Twins. Other than they also have a really nice ballpark!!

The 3M Championship returns to Blaineís TPC Golf course next week. Itís the best free entertainment of the summer. Check out the link for the Tourney and get out and enjoy a great week outdoors.

http://www.3mchampionship.com/

August does feature one of the biggest spectacles in sports, The Olympics. Iím not a huge fan of the Olympics anymore but there are a lot of cool things to watch that you only get to see once every four years. As for me, you can have the basketball, soccer and now this time even the golf. I donít care to watch a bunch of professionals, be it teams or individuals in action. To me itís about the lesser publicized sports that only get featured once every four years that Iíd rather watch.  The opening ceremonies each year try to outdo each other so this one should be incredible and itís only a week away.

I watched some documentary information the other night showing all that Rio did to get the Olympics and the money involved. It was pretty eye opening. When they won the bid, Rio was booming on the strength of record oil prices, and since then a lot has changed. In a city of nearly 6.5 million people, they have very little money to spend on education, and their health care lags behind most major cities. They toured several hospitals showing people sleeping in hallways and on the floor because of the shortage of beds. But they managed to spend in excess of 15 billion dollars to build an Olympic Village and all the sports venues needed to host the games. Long standing neighborhoods were bulldozed with thousands of native displaced to make room for the games. But that seems to happen at every location that wins the right to host the games.

Oh well, at least in Vegas we can bet on the games. One of the most lopsided bets would be on either the Menís or Womenís basketball teams to win the gold medal. Both are 1-20 favorites! Meaning for every $20 bet, youíd win just a $1 when they bring home the gold. No thanks on that one! Thatís what I mean about the Olympic ďprofessionalĒ teams. I donít really think it enhances the real spirit of what the Olympics used to be.

Enjoy the rest of the summer. The best time of the year is coming when weíve got football along with the stretch run of the baseball season, and then playoffs. Thatís what Iím waiting for. 

July 2016: Happy Fourth of July Weekend!

I have no idea how time can go by so fast. This is crazy!! But on the positive side of things, NFL Training camps start in 3 weeks, and  the Packers kick-off the preseason with the annual Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio in just 5 weeks! So not to worry!!

The 112th annual (or something like that) Solem Fishing Tournament up at Horseshoe Lake (up north as they say) has come and gone.  Would anyone be surprised if they hadnít already heard that Doug Solem (Sr not Jr) won the tournament.  I know nothing about fish other that what I learn at the Byerlyís counter or my local seafood restaurant. But it sure looked like there were some big fish being caught up there. Congrats to Doug!

Iíve been on a roll with my forecasting lately. Excerpts from my last article from early May included Nyquist winning the Kentucky Derby, the Penguins taking the Stanley Cup and even the Cavs to bring a title back to Cleveland. Unfortunately my betting on those Series and individual games was pretty spotty. I should have cleaned up but not so easy it seems! Oh well, thatís Vegas.

 I already did my Super Bowl pick for the Packers and Iíll stay with that. Itís an easy one to pick the Patriots to get back to the title game also so it will be a good one! The Vikings look to be on the upswing with a good draft and early season workouts seem promising.  I cannot wait for that first game at the new stadium hosting Green Bay. Mark it down, Sunday night football September 18th.  That is going to be historic. In the meantime, the sports books already have published lines for the opening weekend. The Vikes and Packers are both slight favorites to get road wins against Tennessee and Jacksonville respectively. 

Finally in baseball, the Twins are really struggling. The few bright spots are long overshadowed by losing game after game. They boast the worst record in baseball. I donít see much changing down the stretch to change things either. Any way, who cares! This is the year of the Cubs!! Right?? Well not so fast. After a red hot start, theyíve come back to the field just a bit. They are an awesome team, but will they break the 100 year drought. I donít think so. Iím going with the San Francisco Giants to win it all. Theyíve been crazy good for a number of years now, winning the Series in even numbered years since 2010. And this is an even numbered year and it could happen again! The American league is tough to pick. The division leaders are Baltimore, Cleveland and Texas. The Rangers look to be the best, but itís anybodyís guess as to who makes it out of the playoffs. Go Giants!

 

May 2016:  Derby Weekend!!

Itís always one of the most exciting days in sports, the Kentucky Derby. Itís truly one of my favorite events of the year, called the fastest two minutes in sports. For this event you donít have to block off your whole day, tailgate in some cold parking lot, or be jostled by rubes from Wisconsin packed into a dumpy bar to watch 3 and a half hours of football. No, you can just cozy up to a big screen a few minutes ahead of post-time, and then enjoy the horse racing drama. And a couple of minutes later, get back to your Saturday chores!

This yearís race isnít quite getting the buzz it often does. Possibly a hangover effect following the historic Triple Crown feat accomplished by American Pharoah. But nonetheless itís big, and if youíre not at Churchill Downs or Canterbury, there are plenty of venues to watch and wager on it. If youíre celebrating with  a group and running a little pool for it and you are lucky enough to get the first pick, the obvious choice is the unbeaten 3-1 favorite Nyquist. But donít dismay if you get a pick beyond that, as there are plenty of very live choices with a good chance to pull it off. I like others including Creator, Mohaymen, Mor Spirit and even My Man Sam. Favorites have won the last two years, and Iíll bet on Nyquist for part of my racing bankroll, but will have those others in my exactas and trifectas. Good luck!

As for baseball season, for local fans it pretty much sucks. The Twins are weak and could lose 95 to 100 games again. My Yankees arenít much better. It seriously could be the year of the Cubs. They are off to a flying start and look solid. And they are due!

Prediction time: Iím taking the Cavaliers to win the NBA Championship. Clearly the best team in the East and when it comes to taking on the Western champ in the finals, I think they can do it. If thereís one thing Lebron doesnít like, itís playing second fiddle to anyone. And that included Steph Curry. So Iím thinking heís going to carry his Cavs to the title and put himself back on top.

In the NHL Iím going to pick the Pittsburg Penguins to finish off the favorite Capitals, and bring the Stanley cup to the Steel City. The Capitals have been the favorite all year long, and rightly so. But the Pens have them down 3-1 and I think theyíll do it. The West is loaded, but Iím staying in the East this year. There are no better playoffs than the NHL, and someday soon I hope to be watching the Wild make a Cup run. They just canít seem to get over the hump though. In a couple of years, I hope to be watching them when they visit and play the Sin City Hookers or Vegas Dealers or whatever we end up naming them!

And I want to get it out in the open right now, the Packers will win the Super Bowl in exactly 9 months!!

Oh yeah, I didnít want to forget the all important John and Scott Invitational Tournament in Red Wing in a couple of weeks. Iím going out on a limb and predicting Doug Solemís team (handpicked) will win for a record 17th year in a row!! Good luck to the rest of the folks playing for second place.

 

March 2016: March Madness

Itís here again. The NCAA Tournament opening weekend is one of the biggest weekends of the year in Las Vegas. The sports books will be packed and morning to late night with college sports hoops fans. Itís great out here, the games start at 9:15 in the morning Thursday and Saturday. The defending Champs Duke Blue Devils play at 9:15 am against North Carolina Wilmington. Dukeís a 10 point favorite, but Iím not betting on the one. They have been way too inconsistent this season to warrant a bet on this game against an in state rival, albeit a ďsmallĒ school.  However if you look at the odds below, I do have a small wager on them getting 30 to 1 odds as a defending champ. Not a bad value. (See the futures odds at the link below)

Itís really not that hard to pick this tournament. Take the best teams from the best conferences. So I go to the Big Ten, and pick Michigan State. Hands down one of the best shooting teams in the country.  I like them in the Final FourÖ.but  they will have to get past Virginia, the number 1 seed in their bracket. Virginia is for real, and that will be tough. So Iíll hedge that pick, saying itís either the Spartans or Virginia coming out of the Midwest Region.

In the East Region, North Carolina is the number 1 seed, and will be challenged by West Virginia, Xavier and Kentucky. If Iím looking for a longer shot, Iíd take Kentucky to make it out of the region, but the favorite North Carolina will be a tough team to knock out.

The West region number 1 seed is Oregon. If anyone says they know a lot about the Ducks, they are fibbing. They play late games on the west coast all year long, so who even watches them. I know they had to beat Utah in the Pac 12 Championship, so what. These are football schools. So Iím picking Oklahoma to come out of the West. Long shots with a legitimate chance are Texas A&M, Baylor and even Duke.

Finally in the South Region, Kansas is a heavy favorite and for a good reason. Solid all the way around, they beat Oklahoma twice during the year along with an early season win over Kentucky.

Final Four if I had to pick just one scenario, would be Kansas, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Michigan State. Kansas and North Carolina advance to the finals and I see the Kansas Jayhawks cutting down the nets. Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk. I just made that up.

http://www.vegasinsider.com/college-basketball/odds/futures/

January 2016: Getting Ready for the Big OneÖGame that Is!

Thereís nothing like Conference championship weekend in the NFL. The number 1 and 2 seeds meet in both the AFC and NFC.  Iím picking the Patriots and Panthers in Super bowl 50. It will be the brash, cocky upstart Cam Newton against Tom ďTerrificĒBrady in a great matchup. Brady continues to ride his white horse to the top of the mountain and would cement himself as the greatest Quarterback of all time with the win. However, Iím going out on a small limb, and picking Carolina to continue their dream season and knock off the Pats in a great game. I canít wait. Get your bets down, you heard it here first!

Minnesota teams are in a huge slump. The Wolves, Wild and Gophers Basketball teams have a total of 2 wins in their last 26 games combined!! My advice as youíre hunkered down this winter is to cancel your sports subscriptions on DirectTV or Cable, and start watching American Idol, Master Chef Junior or even I am Cait....or move to Denver....or even Omaha. Itís getting ridiculous.

But hey, it'll be spring soon....just a few short, cold months and Target Field re-opens. And we get to watch another underachieving pro sports team struggle to make the playoffs.

Oh yeah, there was that brief shining moment a couple of weeks ago. Out of the blue, the Vikings rose up, and defeated the Packers to win the NFC North. The trophy had barely found its place on the mantle at Vikings HQ and they found themselves hosting the rough and tough Seattle Seahawks. Pretty clearly the Seahawks were looking past the Vikings, and probably just a tad bit annoyed to have to travel to Minnesota on the coldest day of the year. The game was ripe for the taking......but the Vikings choked it away when a chip shot field goal was hooked wide left as time expired. Earning the title once again as the most cursed team in pro sports.  

November 2015: Everything in Perspective

Wow, itís been awhile since I stopped to find time to write about my favorite things, meaning sports and more sports! Weíre beginning the stretch run of the NFL Season, very early in the NHL and NBA season and there are so many other events going on I can hardly keep track. Iím happy to be in Henderson, NV living right across the street from a Casino and Sports Book. Itís literally  a Ĺ block walk to the entrance of the sports book! At any given time I can walk in and watch Horse Racing from tracks all across the country, any of the major sports, nascar, golf, soccer and even MMA events. They cover it all. Tennis matches and golf tournaments and just about anything else you could think of.

But sometimes events happen out in the real world that remind us of the realities of the world we live in and make you stop and reflect on whatís really important. First and foremost has been the recent tragic events in Paris. Itís been a harsh reminder that there is still that seemingly never ending struggle to make it safe for people from all walks of life to live peacefully  in their home environments. The world stops to mourn losses like these for a while, and then we go on about our lives with that lingering fear hanging over us all that things like this can still happen. We go on increased security alerts at the airports, and at major sporting events and we all wonder where its safe to travel to and how secure we are in our own homes even. It puts everything in perspective thatís for sure. So be safe out there!

And thatís exactly why we need things like sports, movies and entertainment of all kinds. Itís our escape from the realities of our day to day world and all the bad stuff going on that we see in the news everyday. For me, thatís why Iíd rather watch Sportscenter at night, instead of the latest update from the middle east or even the police stories from my own area. I donít need to be reminded that itís a tough place out there. Give me my scores, my highlights and projections on the games, and Iím a lot happier!

The big news of course now is that the Vikings are leading the North division and host the Packers this week. A win by the Vikings and theyíd lead the perennial champs by 2 game in the Division with the tiebreaker in hand also. The Packers are reeling from 3 straight losses and have been beset with injuries all season long. The way the Vikings are playing at 7-2 with their defense playing as aggressively as it has in several years, I think Iím going to bet on the Vikings. Right now the line is the Vikes favored by a single point.  The Vikings are 8-1 against the spread this year, so might as well bet on them. But that doesnít mean thatís who Iím cheering for of course. It should make for a fun Sunday afternoon!

The Wolves will certainly be fun to follow this year also. Every win the Timberwolves post is a nice tribute to Flip Saunders. Heíd been such a great ambassador for basketball in Minnesota since the 1970ís that every time I flip on the Wolves, Iíll remember watching him play down at Williams arena when I was going to school back in the day.  I believe the Wolves will be inspired all season long due to his leadership and contributions. Itís a stretch to think they could make the playoffs, but we can always hope!

August 2015: Twins Still in the Hunt!

I continue to be amazed by the resiliency of the Minnesota Twins. A couple weeks ago they looked like they were sinking fast and not going to be relevant down the stretch run of the season. Then they turned around and have won 5 of their last 6 games and find themselves only a half game back of the second wild card spot in the American League. I donít know how Paul Molitor is holding them together, but whatever heís doing is working.  They have a rising star in Miguel Sano who if he was playing a full season, might be a top candidate for rookie of the year. They have a tough weekend series with the Astros (yes, the Astros) and the schedule doesnít get much easier with 6 of 9 after that with the Astros again and then the Royals. All I know is it could be a fun September at Target Field with a playoff race for a change!

Of course most of the headlines are taken up with the NFL gearing up for the regular season in a couple of weeks. The Vikings are undefeated in pre-season at 3-0 with two more games remaining. The main thing is they get to find out how all the pieces fit together, and then when the real games start put in the most important piece, Adrian Peterson. He should be healthy and ready to roll. I look for a big season from him and if the rest of the guys can old up their end, the Vikings could surprise some folks. The over/under on games for them is 7, so if you think they can win 8 games, send me your money and Iíll put the bet down for you. But I need the cash first!

Another summer season of golf is nearing an end. I meant to follow up earlier with a wrap up of the 3M Championship up at the TPC in Blaine. It was a super successful event  again, one of the best on the Champions Tour. And my good friend Doug scored what might have been the biggest coup of the tournament. Heís been sitting on a really sweet Sports Illustrated for many years with Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus on the cover and had Arnie autograph it a couple of decades ago. And this year he scored Jackís signature! This thing better be under glass or under lock and key as I donít think thereís a lot of them in existence!!

July 2015:  The 3M Championship Returns to the TPC in Blaine

I get that this isnít the US Open and the guys canít bomb the ball 350 yards like the young guys on the PGA Tour do(or my buddy Jeff for that matter), but itís excellent golf played by many past PGA winners and they can sure get it done! And the 3M Champions Tour event is continuing the winning tradition of FREE Admission every day of their Event. That includes the weekend when Jack, Arnie, Gary Player, Lee Trevino and many other Legends visit for their own tournament within the tournament on Saturday. Last year the crowd must have set a record on Saturday to see the Legends. Joining the guys again is Pat Bradley, Nancy Lopez and Annika Sorenstam. So if you go Saturday, plan on getting there early.

The regular portion of the tournament kicks off on Friday the 31st and wraps up on Sunday. The TPC sets up so well for viewing that there are many vantage points and you never feel overcrowded when you attend. Even the parking is free so there are no excuses for not getting out there. The Twin Cities corporate community really steps up for this event. There are a multitude of local sponsors beyond the major corporations. As testament to how beneficial events like this are, in 2014 the 3M Championship surpassed the $22 million dollar mark in donations to charity since 1993. Major beneficiaries include United Hospital in St. Paul, Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids and Unity Hospital in Fridley.

Another point of interest for me is that last year I was fortunate enough to get to interview two stars of the Champions Tour in Fred Funk and Hal Sutton. These guys continue to perform at a high level after successfully completing a knee replacement for Mr. Funk and both hips being replaced for Mr. Sutton. They are proof positive that thereís hope for all of us to continue to pursue our passions and our hobbies even when the joints start to give out on us. One of their sponsors, Stryker Corporation, is one of the worldís leading medical technology companies, and offers a diverse array of innovative medical technologies, including orthopedics, medical and surgical, and neurotechnology & spine products to help people lead more active and more satisfying lives. Stryker products and services are available in over 100 countries around the world. So as Fred and Hal continue to knock that little white ball around for a living, theyíre doing it on Stryker manufactured artificial joints.  The way my knee feels right now, Iím already starting my research into the options! So get on out and cheer them all on this week and weekend. Itís well worth it.

July 2015:  The Wolves Make Some Noise

The Timberwolves are relevant again! Well maybe thatís a bit premature but the Draft couldnít have turned out better. With the number one pick they took the consensus top player in Karl-Anthony Towns and then in a nice maneuver were able to land Apple Valleyís(by way of Duke and a national title) Tyus Jones. So what is it then, another rebuilding year? How many times have we heard that in the last decade. But this time itís for real! We have the best young talent in the league, bar none. Now that means nothing until you can translate it into victories, and ultimately a playoff berth. That wonít happen this year, and maybe not next, but it will happen! Two years with this young nucleus and weíre back in the playoffs. Right now they are 150 to 1 to win the NBA Championship. Itís not worth even putting $5 on it. But if I could get those odds for the 2017 season, Iíd jump on it. This week the NBA summer league is in Vegas and itís quite a show being put on. The Wolves play 3 times in the next 4 days own here and I hope to make it to one of the games.

The Twins are hanging in there but the Royals are starting to assert themselves in the Central division.  Five games out, but still playing pretty solid.  Iíd say their line-up is as good as itís been for several years. If we can just hand in there and the Royals falter just a bit, it could make for a fun second half of the season. Next week is the All-star game which is always a treat. The Twins have closer Glen Perkins on the roster again. And weíll find out if hard hitting Brian Dozier gets that last American League spot tonight. I hope he makes it as heís very deserving and would be fun to watch.

We all know this time of year anyway is just filling in the dead space waiting for the upcoming football season.  A couple of weeks from now and itís back. Itís been pretty quiet around the Vikings camp. No arrests, no suspensions and finally not much being said about Adrian Peterson and the forgotten controversy.  Iíll stick with my early prediction for the Super Bowl with Aaron Rodgers leading the Packers to the promised land again. The AFC is a little more difficult and Iíll take the Indianapolis Colts to make it to the big game in Santa Clara to meet the Packers. Iím guessing the Vikings to be improved and an 8-8 season could be in the cards for them. I canít wait for the opening weekend in September and weíve already made some first game bets at the Sports books.

 

June 2015 Sports Blog: NHL and NBA Finals

Yes, I remember predicting the Wild would take down the Chicago Blackhawks a couple of rounds agoÖ..and now our guys are home working on their golf games. And itís the Blackhawks who just took game 1 from the East Champs Tampa Bay in the Cup Finals. That coulda been usÖ..except for the fact we were exposed as less explosive, less clutch and less physical than the real contenders. So now we know weíre still a couple of studs short of a team that can really contend for the Stanley Cup. Maybe next year.  In the meantime, sit back and watch some truly intense hockey. Chicago looks to be the best team and are favored to win the Cup. I liked them in game 1(see below) and I like them to get it done. If they really get going it could be over in 5 games, but the Lightning can play too so Iím hoping for a nice long 7 game series. It give me a chance to guess (and bet) on more games! And out here, thatís what its all about.

 

I have to admit that I watch very little of the NBA regular season. I had to look back and double check that the Timberwolves (Minnesotaís pro team) actually did have the worst record in the league. And were finally rewarded with the #1 pick, in a year when thereís not a consensus #  1 pick That being said I will definitely be watching the Finals this year. The match-up between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors will be a good one. The Cavs are of course led by one of the best players of all time, Lebron James. And the Warriors have emerged as a well rounded, talented scoring machine that can also play defense.  And no one shoots the ball like Steph Curry. The Warriors are favored to win the series and I canít disagree with that. But Iím going with Lebron and the Cavs getting odds for my trouble. Iíll probably put a small wager on the Cavs also in game 1 getting 6 points because you donít often get the King and the points. And If I lose, I can blame it on Doug who said to go with Lebron! (although Doug Jr. told me straight up itís the Warriors). We shall see!

I am really anxious for The Belmont Stakes on Saturday. In the sport of thoroughbred racing excitement is building for yet another attempt at the elusive Triple Crown of racing.  Since Affirmed completed the three race sweep back in 1978, there have been 13 horses who have won the Kentucky Derby and The Preakness, only to come up short in the Belmont. This race is the longest of them all at a mile and a half and the third in quick succession for horses at only 3 years old.  As has happened quite often there are horses who for one reason or another sit out one or two of the other races, and come in fresher and more rested. But no one said it would be easy, and thatís why itís such a big deal. American Pharoah has done the easy part, winning the first two races with relative ease. And the bad thing now is he comes into the Belmont as the 3-5 favorite. An odds on favorite is historically a terrible bet in the Belmont. Since there hasnít been a triple crown winner in 36 years, the only reason Iíd bet Pharoah is to get that souvenir ticket if he does win. I really think he is the best horse out there, but it will take an incredible effort to pull it off. The three top contenders all skipped the Preakness and are rested and ready. They are Mubtaahij, Materiality and Frosted. Iíll probably box those 3 in an exacta, all the while still hoping American Pharoah can get it done.  Itís only an 8 horse field, but the pressure on Pharoah to get to the front will be intense, and the rested horses will sit close to the pace ready for the stretch run. So my prediction is Iíll be cheering for the Triple Crown winÖ.but hedging my bet with the next three in the odds for an exacta!

I mentioned the Las Vegas 51s a while back.  Former Twin and World Series hero, Frank Viola  is the pitching coach for them. Patti, Chris and I went to watch them a couple weeks back, but didnít get a chance to get a picture with him for old time sake. Viola had an interview with the Twins at one point for their pitching coach spot, and no doubt someday could end up back in the big leagues.  The  51s play in the very competitive Triple A Pacific Coast League  and fill a nice void down here with pro sports still lacking.  Itís a great venue and weíll be back to watch them again.

Who would have predicted the teams leading the 3 American League divisions would be the Yankees (predicted for third in the East), the Astros (predicted for last or close to it) and our TWINS! The Astros boast the best record in the American league and are not a fluke. They lead the American league in home runs and are a really nice young team. They could do it in the west. The Yankees are not the team of old(no Jeter) but they have Arod back. For a 40 year old with a year off (vacation) heís not doing bad. Can they lastÖ.Iím not sure but always my team win or lose. And after a 1-6 start, whoíd a thunk the Twins would be at the top of the tough Central Division! If the voting were done now, Paul Molitor would be manager of the year! Iím really hoping they can hang in there! Weíre getting together at the sports bar tonight to watch them take on the struggling Brew crew.

May 2015 Sports Blog: Live From Las Vegas

Just like ESPN Sportscenter all week, weíre also live from Las Vegas. And I mean ďaliveĒ. This is sports junkie paradise this week, and with the NHL and NBA playoffs in full swing, the momentum is building for a great stretch run right now. I took my short cut through the Green Valley Ranch Casino Sports Book on my walk to the office this morning, and there were folks in line at the betting windows and plenty of seats occupied already. It was tough fighting off the temptation to hunker down with a bloody mary, a daily racing form and enjoy some horse racing and wait for the early baseball games to start! But I resisted and made it to the office by 9 am. (no bloody mary either as they donít pour them in ďto goĒ cups)

Our MN Wild move on in the hunt for Lord Stanleyís Cup after dispatching the high flying Blues in 6 games. And now starting tonight face a very familiar foe in the Chicago Blackhawks. The Hawks have eliminated the Wild the last two years in the playoffs. But this year is going to be different. Weíre playing great and our goalie Dubnyk is red hot. Iím picking the Wild to get revenge on the Hawks, and take this series in 6 or 7 games. The Blackhawks are now a co-favorite( along with the Rangers and Ducks) at around 7-2 odds, with the Wild close behind at 5-1. Needless to say, Iím very happy to still be hanging onto my 25-1 Ticket that I picked up a couple of months ago! Still we are the underdog against Chicago and itís not going to be easy.

Of course the big news down in Vegas is the Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao championship fight on Saturday night. Itís the biggest fight ever in terms of money and people being brought into Sin City. Fleabag hotels blocks off the strip or out on the notorious Boulder Highway are going for $300 on Saturday night. Prime rooms on the Strip are over $1,000 for the night. And just like anywhere else, if you want to watch it, you have to fork over $100 to get the PPV package for home viewing. Or go to one of the many bars that are subscribing to the fight package and pay anywhere from $25 to $100 cover charge, and often a food and beverage minimum on top of that. All in all, itís going to be a great night of action down on the Strip and Iím looking forward to the fight. Iím picking Pacquiao to pull off the upset in a 12 round decision.

And I canít forget about the greatest 2 minutes in sports, the Kentucky Derby being run Saturday afternoon. Thatís a huge deal out here also and always fun to watch and wager. The race includes a full 20 horse field and is the toughest race in the world to handicap. So many horses that are young and going this mile and a quarter distance for the first time. And we all know favorites rarely win. That being said, Iím picking American Pharaoh, the morning line favorite to beat this field in style. I likely wonít bet on it as Iíd rather throw in a few long shot bets for a potential big payoff. But this favorite looks ready to roll, theyíre predicting a dry and fast track, and it should be a fantastic race.

There is so much other stuff to write about but will save it for next time. Did you know Frank Viola is the pitching coach for Las Vegasí minor league team? The Las Vegas 51s. More on that next time.  

March/April:  NCAA, Wild, Twins and More

Such a great time of year with Spring Training and another baseball season just around the corner, March Madness heading into its Final Four weekend and the Wild looking like they are ready for a serious playoff run. This spring is going to be fun!!

The Wild have just been on a roll, and with just 6 games remaining appear to be a lock to make the top 8 and their third playoff appearance in a row. Itís still a question who theyíll match up first against, and if they get any home series advantages. But seriously I donít think that matters much. Several of the recent Stanley Cup champs have been from the lower tier of qualifiers and I donít think the home ice advantage is that big a deal when it comes to the playoffs. The teams are all so fired up they play hard no matter where the game is. Over the last month the Wild have shown they can beat the top teams in the East or West, so bring it on. The odds continue to drop on them in Vegas as theyíre now down to 8-1 at a couple of the sports books to win the Cup. Iím glad that when my buddy Andy and I looked at it back a couple of months ago we were able to get them at 25-1. Iím keeping that ticket in a safe place for now, hoping it will offset some of my losses on the penny slots.

And speaking of odds, someone must like something they are seeing down in Florida as the odds on them have been dropping also. It must have been Patti and Sarah jumping on them at 30-1 just to win the Central Division that did it. Funny a couple of $10 bets can have such an influence. But considering how lousy they did last year and managed 70 victories, I think it might be reasonable to assume they could get to 80 wins anyway. Maybe not enough to win the division, but with Molitor at the helm, we should see more fire in the young guys. And I hope it inspires the veterans like Joe Mauer also. It would be nice to see him rebound in a big way. I always look forward to watching Tori Hunter play so that should be fun.  http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/index.jsp?c_id=min

The NCAA Final Four couldnít have turned out better. Kentucky has been the best team all year, and after narrowly escaping with a win against Notre Dame, theyíll be focused and tough to beat. I had a couple of boards with Kentucky, Duke and Wisconsin all in the Final Four, but I did not see Michigan State coming on like they did. Iím taking Duke to beat MSU and to meet up with Kentucky in the Championship game on April 6. I could see Kentucky winning that game for sure. But Iím going to go out on a short limb (they were a Number 1 seed you know) and take Duke in the upset for the title. I cannot wait for that game!

Spring also brings us to Masters time, the greatest golf tournament of them all. Itís on the calendar April 9 through the 12th. We donít even know yet if Tiger Woods will be playing in it, but if heís not 100% healthy and competitive, Iíd rather he sit out and let the spotlight shine of those that are playing well. The tour is loaded with great young players and itís anybodyís guess as to who will win. World #1 Rory Mcilroy is the favorite, but I think there are 20 golfers who could take home the green jacket.

When it comes to golf, no one knows more about it, or competes at a high level like my good friend Rick Frame. I think he just set the amateur record for most country club tournaments won as he picked up another member-member trophy at Berkeley Hall just outside of Hilton Head. Whether its member-member, member-guests, an Invitational, club scrambles or just out for fun, you want this guy on your team! And check out the link to his club. If you ever are down that way, tell him Mike said itís okay to stop in and ask for Rick!

February 2015:  Basketballís Back!! So is KG!!

The Timberwolves turned back the clock, in what may be the best move the Wolves have ever made. They brought Kevin Garnett back to inject some energy into another  lackluster season for the local NBA team. And what an injection it was! Last night Target Center  was packed to the point they were selling standing room only tickets! And that on a sub-zero night in downtown Minneapolis for a team that has the 2nd worst record in the entire League. The Wolves fell behind early but came storming back to notch their 13th win of the season by 20 points. KG is no longer the full time player he once was, but his leadership and enthusiasm was evident. I caught part of the game at the local sports book and there was actually a fair amount of interest in the game even out in Vegas. I only regret I wasnít brave enough to place a wager on the Wolves. My good friend Doug said it was just as exciting as the last round of playoffs the Wolves were in versus the Lakers back in 2004. I saw many posts and pictures on Facebook as it seems like everyone came out for the game. Check out the youtube video below to catch the excitement that KG brings to the gameÖ.from the 2004 Game 5 Victory over the Lakers back almost 11 years ago. Is there a chance heís going to be around for another playoff appearance? I certainly hope so. Just for pure inspiration and emotion heís a great guy to have back in Minnesota. Check out his introduction and interview below also. This man is sincere!

The Wild have cranked it up a notch over the last month and in spite of the lackluster performance the other night hosting Edmonton(2-1 loss), they are in the thick of the playoff hunt. Tonight (Thursday) they travel to Nashville to take on the surprising Predators who boast the best record in the NHL. It should be a great game and Iím going to make sure and watch this one. The Wildís odds to win the Stanley Cup were 12-1 back when I looked at it in early December. Then as they slumped through the mid-season they went up to 25-1 and thatís when I put my bet in. I just saw the other day at the sports book they were down to 15-1 again and I believe they can make a serious run in the playoffs if they continue to improve and get  healthy. Iím looking forward to that in a big way.

January 2015:  Super Bowl and all that hype

It pains me to even talk about the Super Bowl this weekend following the debacle of the Packers collapse in Seattle 2 weeks ago. I still havenít brought myself to watch the replay of that game as I was in class that entire day and only saw score updates on my phone. Iíll save that for some cold winter night with a bottle of cheap whiskey (like they drink in the parking lots of Lambeau). But the big game approaches nonetheless and Iím sick of hearing about ďdeflategateĒ and seeing Marshawn Lynch and his freaky big sunglasses doing his best to irritate the press. So letís get to it.  As far as the game goes, Iím predicting a Patriots victory with Tom Brady (who else) picking up another Super Bowl MVP award. Seattleís luck will run out and New England comes out on top. It should be a good game, in spite of the best team in the NFC not being there. And it should be exciting to see Katy Perry at halftime, so Iíll be staying in front of the TV for that. My early in the year prediction had been the Packers and Colts in the Super Bowl. Both made it to the Conference Championship game. I later deferred to the Patriots during the season so Iíll consider my picks to be somewhat in the ballpark. Next year, Iíll go with the Packers and Colts again. Itís going to be Andrew Luckís time very soon. And I did see an article that the Colts could be in the running to sign Adrian Peterson to make that happen.

Milestone:  This past week saw Coach Mike Krzyzewski notched his 1,000th NCAA Division 1 victory for the Duke Blue Devils. Itís the most victories in college basketball history.  This guy is legend and one of the classiest sporting figures ever. This season Duke is loaded with talent as always, but they are going through a rocky patch right now. But Coach K sticks to the basics and his program is run at the highest standards. Check out the article below as even returning star players are held to strict standards or they canít play for the Blue Devils.

Article

Chicago and the baseball world mourned the passing of ďMr. CubĒ Ernie Banks this past week. He was one of my childhood baseball heroes and one of my early fielding gloves was an Ernie Banks model. He was one of the greats and holds the record for most games played without ever appearing in the postseason. That career covered 19 years and over 2,500 games, and never a single playoff game! Thatís amazing. But thatís what happens when you play for the Cubs. A great man and a great player as the article below demonstrates.  Article

 

 

JANUARY 2015 - PAYOFFS!!!

The NFL has its Divisional Round of playoffs this weekend and itís often the best games and matchups of the entire season. Plus the bonus that we again have 2 games on Saturday and 2 on Sunday. And with this weather, what else are you gonna do? Oh wait, I forgot, Iím in Las Vegas and Iím going to go play golf or take a bike ride. Never mind about the weather comment then. Iím going with the favorites to win this weekend, but there will be some close games. New England will prevail over the Ravens because Tom Brady is on a mission to get back to the Super Bowl. But Baltimore plays them tough and it will be a battle. Iím betting the Ravens to cover the 7 point spread, but New England comes out on top. I keep trying to tell myself that Carolina can keep it close visiting at Seattle. But the Seahawks are just on too much of a roll now, and likely will crush at home. Seattle comes out on top and will cover the 11 point spread as well. Sundayís early game features Dallas up at Green Bay in a much anticipated return to the Ice Bowl of the 1960ís fame. But is wonít be that cold as temps are forecast to be in the mid-teens to maybe 20 degrees. With Aaron Rodgers fighting through a fairly significant calf injury, Dallas will keep it close and it should be a great game. If the Pack can stop the Dallas run game, they will win. Tony Romo isnít going to go up to the frozen tundra in the cold and beat Aaron Rodgers in a passing battle. Even with the limited mobility Rodgers will likely have, he still will pick apart the Cowboys pass defense and the Pack will come away with the win in a potentially high scoring affair. All this predicated on Rodgers playing a full game. Iím staying away from betting this one due to the risk that Rodgers re-injures the calf and ends up on the sideline. The final Sunday game features the Colts at the Broncos. The Colts were my pre-season pick to make it to the Super Bowl, but I donít think theyíll get by Denver. The Broncos should be able to stop the Indy run game, and now that Denver has established a great ground attack, the Broncos will win and cover the 7 point line. The match-ups next week will be even better if my picks come through with Green Bay up in Seattle, and Denver would travel to New England.  I canít wait!

And did I mention the Wolves are in another re-building and re-tooling yearÖ..Again! I love the Wolves but they are so young, inexperienced and injured that they should petition to play in the Big Ten this season. I doubt theyíd win the conference, but theyíd make it to the NCAA Tournament at least. Oh well, wait till next year.

The Wild are also in a bit of a slump, losing a couple of home games this week and with only a couple wins in their last 10 games. I caught Mike Yeo on Sportscenter in a very animated rant on the practice rink with the team, blasting them every which way for their lackadaisical play. It was so bad, almost every other word was bleeped out. Iím hoping that might shake them up soon. On a sad note hockey legend and former North Star, JP Parise passed away this week after a yearlong battle with lung cancer. Itís always sad to hear that. Go Wild!

December 2014: 

Isnít it great to hear baseball news on the sports reports in the middle of football season!! Itís a sure sign that there will be a spring at the end of another long winter. The Twins made news with the re-signing of one of the most popular Twins of all time by bring Tori Hunter back to the team on a one year contract. Tori has shown he can still play the outfield and contribute offensively so to me thatís a huge deal. And not bad for Tori either, getting a reported $10+ million for the one year deal. And probably even more important is the signing of one of the top free agent pitchers Ervin Santana to a long term contract. The Twins have been desperately in need of a proven #1 starter and this should fill that bill. Iím going to go out on a limb here and predict a .500 season (or better) for the Target Field occupants. And that would be a great improvement over the string of ninety plus game losing seasons weíve been enduring. Iím looking forward to spring at Target Field already. (now I just have to convince my buddy Rick to re-enlist for those season tickets!)

The Vikings have proven that the loss of Adrian Peterson can be offset with good young players and even more importantly, coaches that know how to win. Teddy Bridgewater should be the quarterback around here for many years to come. With no real superstars at all, theyíve managed to be 6-7 at this point, and still on the long-shot radar for a playoff spot. Now thatís a real long-shot, but itís still a chance. This weekend will prove to be a tough task as they travel to Detroit to take on the Lions. But it could happen. On paper it would seem on both sides of the ball the Lions are vastly superior, but as my friend Doug always reminds me, thatís why they play the game. Upsets can happen and I think the Vikings could surprise some folks this weekend. The future of Peterson is now in the hands of the NFL (scary thought) but Iím going to predict that heís played his last game as a Viking and it will be on to greener pastures for him next season. Iím also changing my Super Bowl prediction from the Packers/Colts which I stated back in March to the Packers/Patriots. It should be a dandy!

The Wolves continue to muddle along through a retooling and rebuilding seasonÖ.again. So many injuries that weíre now a minor league team against the elite of the NBA. Next year should be a lot betterÖ.and I think Iíve said that now for maybe 4 years in a row.

November 3, 2014 Sports blog: 

As I suspected, the Twins did let Gardenhire take the fall. But the good news is (beyond the fact that Gardy is still very well paid and will be ok) they finalized the contract with Paul Molitor this week. I think that will be a good move. But not even a hall of fame player will be able to win with the players on this roster. Another 90 game loss season is likely in store next year, and continued declining attendance at Target Field. But there is hope. They Twins do have a decent crop of very young players, and we just saw the Kansas City Royals make it to game 7 of the World Series, and they have sucked for many years! I do think improvement is on the way, but I wonít hold my breath waiting for it.

When I last wrote, Teddy Bridgewater was making his starting debut. Now he just finished up with a win over the Washington Redskins and head into their Bye week with a 4-5 record. Not too bad considering all the crap thatís gone on with the whole Adrian Peterson mess. And now the Vikings are set to welcome back AP and he could be in uniform by the Week 11 matchup with the Bears. I just hope that heís also learned a lesson about what it takes to be a responsible parentÖ.lord knows heís had enough practice in the baby-making portion of the process. Now how about setting an example for all the young folks that look up to him and be a responsible citizen. When Iím commissioner of the NFL, all the young prima donnas coming out of college will attend mandatory citizenship and parenting classes.

I donít think anyone can disagree that the darlings of Minnesota sports teams right now are the Minnesota Wild and Timberwolves. The Wild are looking great so far consistently outshooting their opponents and scoring goals aplenty. If the goalie situation stays strong, I do believe theyíre in position to make a deep run in the playoffs. I am really looking forward to the winter season with them to watch.  And the Wolves are super young and talented, and very fun to watch. Last nightís win in Brooklyn was cool, and thereís more to come. Can they make the playoffs? Itís maybe a year too early for that, but I think Flip has them headed in the right direction (and only direction considering how down weíve been).

And of course finally itís deer hunting season again. So to all my deer hunting friends out there (and you know who you are) remember NO drinking, texting, driving and shooting all at the same time. Be careful out there. I know itíll be a lot less crowded at the bars I hang out at in town this weekend! At least fewer guys anyway. Be safe.

 September 2014: The NFL drops the ballÖ.and more

The NFL always takes center stage this time of year, especially in Minnesota with the Twins long out of the pennant chase. But this year itís for all the wrong reasons! Domestic abuse, alleged child abuse, drug suspensionsÖcan their image get any worse. But overall, Television ratings are up and evidently thatís all that Commissioner Roger Goodell is concerned about. Time for them to clean it up and take a hard line against behavior that just doesnít cut it in todayís world.

Enough of that stuff, how about Teddy Bridgewater getting his first start this week. Unfortunately it comes at the expense of Matt Casselís foot injury knocking him out for the season. It will give the beleaguered Vikings a look at the future and I believe heíll do well. Itíll be tough sledding right off the bat, but heís talented, smart and has a great arm and I look for him to be the starter around here for years to come. At least that gives Coach Mike Zimmer a ray of hope as we move forward with the Vikings in the post-Adrian Peterson era.

As mentioned the Twins are in the gloaming of their 4th straight 90+ loss season. And amidst another season of declining attendance at Target Field, I think itís time for a change. By no means is it Gardyís fault that we can no longer compete, or even be a .500 team, but it has to start somewhere. Poor decisions regarding player development, free agents and trades have left Gardy fielding a AAA Ballclub against the rest of the league. At the same time, former Twins abound on playoff contenders and pennant winners. I see it as a failure of upper management, yet Gardy will likely take the fall. Heíll probably be relieved that he can get out of the mess heís been left with if they let him go. There are bright spots among the young players, like Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas, but by and large next year looks to me like itís still going to be an uphill battle.

And for us long-time baseball and Yankee fans in particular, of most importance is watching the final weekend of games played by the Captain, Derek Jeter. Last night was his final home game at Yankee Stadium and it was special. He finishes up this weekend with 3 games in Boston (where else) and itíll be sad to think heís not going to be in the line-up next year. The Yankees missed the playoff this year for the 2nd consecutive season. Itís the first time theyíve gone back to back years out of the playoffs going back to 1993 and 1994. That was the year before Jeter made his major league debut. He was a winner, and he did it with class. A lot of pro athletes could learn a lesson from watching how heís handled himself. Hatís off to #2.

Donít forget the Ryder Cup is on this weekend, along with Wild pre-season hockey. And the Wolves open training camp too. So much going on!!!

August 2014:  Fall, Football and Up North Golf!!

Okay, itís not exactly fall yet, but it is going to be September next Monday. Thatís way too early for me, but I have to say itís hard to argue that late August and September in Minnesota arenít the best times of the year. Weíve got the State Fair going on and thatís pretty hard to beat. Iím going to try and get over there one of these last mornings and check out the breakfast juicy lucy, the key lime pie bar, some French fries and of course Sweet Marthaís Cookies. Sounds like a great breakfast to me! My buddy Doug will of course give me his critique of the bacon wrapped turkey legs, deep fried walleye bites, tater tot hot dish on a stick, the gyros, sweet corn and pork chops on a stickÖÖand thatís just for appetizers. But thatís why we go there. The best meal you can get and for $13 admission and $13 to park, sure itís like going downtown to Mannyís in terms of the budget. But a whole lot more fun.

And what better time to head north to get in some golf just before or during the time the leaves are changing and the kids head back to school. I had the pleasure of getting out on one of my favorite courses in the state (or anywhere for that matter) last week when we played Deaconís Lodge at Breezy Point. And believe me it doesnít get any better! First off the staff treats you like you are guests at a private club. They definitely have great customer service. We found the course as usual in top condition in spite of heavy rains that morning. You can hear the Loons, see deer running across the fairways, watch eagles soaring overhead and even knock in the occasional birdie to round out the day. I left feeling really good about carding an 82, in spite of 3 tee shots that went straight into the woods. Who knows, maybe next year Iíll back up from the forward tees and take on a new challenge! The pictures we took donít do it justice so make sure to put it on your list of places to play very soon.  
http://breezypointresort.com/brainerd-golf-courses/

The Gophers football season gets underway tonight at TCF Bank stadium. It does seem kind of early to be thinking about football, but hopes are high down in Dinkytown. Coach Kill has overcome all kinds of challenges in his career and if he can turn the Gophers into a consistent winner, bowl games each year and even contending for the Big Ten title, he will have done an outstanding job. I like this team a lot and with their outstanding defense and leadership of QB Mitch Leidner I hope to see them in a more prominent Bowl game this season. It would be fun to have them playing on New Yearís Day for a change.

The Vikings still have their one last pre-season game remaining, but Coach Zimmer has already announced that Matt Cassel will be the starting quarterback, with Teddy Bridgewater as the back-up. It makes perfect sense to me. Teddy is going to be the guy in the long run, but if Cassel can get the offense in gear and the team wins, heíll be better off watching for a year or two and then stepping in. Consider if he is called into action this year, it will be because Cassel gets hurt or the Vikings stink, and thatís not the best scenario for the young guy to step into. I think the Vikes will be improved from last year, especially on offense. The question will be can the Defense stop anyone. The NFC North is loaded with high powered offensive teams so there will be some great games to watch within the division.

The Minnesota Lynx find themselves back in the Western Conference finals against a familiar foe. It will be a good match-up against the Phoenix Mercury in a best of three series. The only home game is Sunday and it should be a fun time down at Target Center as the local fans support the Lynx looking for another championship.

The Wolves re-load for the 2014-2015 season. This is going to be good. The new crew is impressiveÖ more on the Wolves next timeÖ.

 


http://breezypointresort.com/brainerd-golf-courses/

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July 2014:
FREE GOLF!!! The Champions Tour Returns to the TPC in Blaine.   FREE GOLF!!!

Itís that time of year again and Blaine will be rocking with the return of the Champions Tour as they tee it up in the 3M Championship. Can you believe they have been playing here since 1993 when the great Chi Chi Rodriguez topped the field up at Bunker Hills! Back then it was the Burnet Senior Classic. 3M became the official sponsor in 2000 and they moved the venue to the TPC of Blaine. Itís regarded as one of the best events on the Champions Tour and since the inception, over $21 million has been donated to local charities including healthcare programs at Mercy and United Hospitals.  So itís not just great golf and entertainment, its super important to the community all around. And yes, they are continuing the policy of free admission, free parking and free shuttles to make getting there and getting around easy. You do have to pay for your hot dogs and beer though. Check out the link to the main site for facts and figures about it and how to get there, etc.

http://www.3mchampionship.com/

Whatís sure to be one of the highlights this year is that Jack Nicklaus is making his inaugural appearance at the 3M event! He joins up with Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Lee Trevino on Saturday for the ďGreats of Golf ChallengeĒ. Itíll match up these legends against Anika Sorenstam, Nancy Lopez and Pat Bradley in a friendly competition sure to attract a large following. This follows the regular tee times on Saturday so it should start just before noon. (I hear that Arnie may not be playing, but will captain the Ladies group)

I also had the privilege of heading out to the TPC on Tuesday to sit down and talk to two of the stars of the Champions Tour, Fred Funk and Hal Sutton. They are both major champions and former Ryder Cup team members.  Getting media passes for cool sporting events is just one of the many perks of being a big time sports guy affiliated with www.mnseniorsonline.com.  Once I began talking to them, I was surprised to find out how much in common I had with these guys. Besides the obvious I mean like being a really nice guy, wearing all the same cool golf apparel and being a really good golfer.  On top of that as top flight athletes, they share many of the same aches and pains that we average weekend warriors do. And they are living proof that you can overcome those aching joints and get back to elite status and performance. Fred Funk had a full knee replacement back in 2009 and in 2010 won the Jeld-Win Regions Tradition, another major on the Champions Tour. He already had a Senior U.S. Open title. Sutton meanwhile has had both hips replaced (2012 and 2013) and comes into the 3M healthy and swinging better than ever. Halís a former PGA Champ, 4 time Ryder Cup team member as well as a Captain, and was the PGAís comeback player of the year way back in 1994. Well thanks to his Stryker replacement hips, heís on the comeback trail again! Check out the link below and also www.stryker.com to learn more about the joint replacement products that have enabled them both to keep playing the game that they love. And youíll also have a reference to fall back on if your joints, like mine are coming up for replacement in the future. And who knows, maybe it will make us a better golfer. So head out to the TPC in Blaine and enjoy the upcoming great weather and golf at its best.

Stryker Brand Ambassadors Fred Funk And Hal Sutton
Set To Play At 3M Championship

   

July 2014:  World Cup FeverÖ..not quite as Hot now!

Oh yes, the World Cup continues. And itís easy to tell the fever up in the northern territories has subsided quite a bit. But I have to say, itís been quite a spectacle. The television ratings have been high and itís going to set a record as the most watched sporting event in history. Iím still picking Brazil to win it, in spite of losing their star Neymar to a freak back injury, but it will be a lot tougher. Argentina would be my choice to knock them off if they just canít recover their form after the big loss of Neymar. The final match is this Sunday July 13th.

Great news as the Wild pulled off the biggest signing of the NHL free agency period. Thomas Vanek is another top line goal scorer and will help to propel them further into the playoffs and hopefully into the Stanley Cup finals. If the goalie situation works out in a good way, I think Iíll be getting those season tickets again.

Believe it or not in this cold and now rain shortened summer, the Vikings open camp in just over 2 weeks! They report to Mankato for the 49th straight year on July 24 with the first practice on July 25th. There are so many open issues with the team it will be fun to see how it unfolds. I canít wait to see Teddy Bridgewater in action. The first preseason game in TCF Bank stadium is August 8th, so just 1 month away. Hereís a couple of links to keep you informed of all things Vikings. 

Vikings Fan Shop       Vikings Cheerleaders 2014-15

Most golf fans (and all Tiger Woods fans) were rejoicing as Tiger made his return a couple weeks ago from back surgery. The PGA Tour misses Tiger in a big way, and even though he missed the cut at Congressional, heís a force always no matter what he scores. Now he has his sights set on The Open Championship at The Royal Liverpool Golf Club at Hoylake, where he won 8 years ago. I think this time it maybe optimistic for him to even make the cut as he needs time to round into form. But Tiger can surprise us, so it will make for a great mid-summer event and I canít wait to watch it.

The Twins just completed a great 4th of July weekend at Target Field hosting the Yankees. And in spite of losing 3 of 4 to the Bronx Bombers, the fans got their moneyís worth, as they generally do at Target Field. There were fireworks on the 3rd of July following the game, bobblehead promotions on the 4th and 5th and it was military appreciation day on Sunday the 6th. They had two separate flyovers on Sunday with vintage WWII airplanes and a great flag promotion ceremony honoring Veterans in all branches of the Armed Forces. They also had a nice retirement for one of the great Yankees of all time Derek Jeter who played his last regular season game on Sunday and singled in his last at bat, plus had the assist on the last out of the game in his final appearance here (until the All-Star game that is). The Twins along with the Twin Cities will get plenty of exposure with the 5 day All-star festivities starting up on Friday and culminating with the All-Star game on Tuesday the 15h. It will be a treat to see, whether on TV or in person. And some of the coolest things about going to a ball game arenít whether they win or lose, but the people you run into, or getting a foul ball or watching your favorite player play right in front of you, especially if itís his retirement season like Derek Jeter. Check out the picture of our nephew Samís excitement over his game ball from Sundayís game, or running into Tony Oliva up in the Metropolitan Club. And if I could take a picture of a Dollar Hot Dog from last Wednesdayís game, youíd know why Doug likes those Wednesday games the best!

       

June Sports Blog:  World Cup Fever

The worldís most widely viewed sporting event got underway this week in Brazil amid riots, protests, music and oh yeah, Game #1 in which Brazil beat underdog Croatia 3-1. Brazil is one of the favorites in the tournament and needed a favorable call by one of the refs to help them get this win as they played even for quite a bit of the match. This event is truly a world event with the final game, which isnít until July 13th, expected to draw nearly a billion viewers on the worldwide telecast. Over the next 4 weeks there will be 64 games broadcast on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 combined so you can get all the soccer you want at almost any time of the day. The United States plays first this coming Monday at 6 pm versus Ghana, with their second game coming up on June 22. The US squad isnít expected to advance beyond pool play, but upsets can happen and it would be fun to see them advance to the quarterfinals. My money is on the host team Brazil and a victory by the host team would trigger a celebration like nothing weíve probably ever seen. 
World Cup Song 2014

The Twins are still relevant as we get within a month of the All-Star game. This weekend is a big series at Detroit. I love the addition of Kendrys Morales as he is a tough hard hitting player and has really stepped into the line-up and provided the spark needed and is a solid RBI man. I give the Twins management kudos for going out and signing him as a signal that they are trying to win this year. At least as many games as they can and give the fans something to cheer about.

I was sure wrong about the Triple Crown chances of California Chrome. No excuses in the Belmont, he just got beat. It shows how tough it is to get that elusive triple crown, which hasnít been won since 1978. Canterbury Park is off and running this year and the excitement of the triple crown chase boosted the early season crowds. It is a great place to spend an evening or afternoon and the quality of the racing here is at the highest level itís been since the very early years of the track.

June 2014 - Itís June So It Must Be Hockey SeasonÖ

While it seems like forever ago the Wild finished up their season losing to the Blackhawks, weíre now just getting to the Stanley Cup Finals. The long season has left us with a great matchup pitting the two major markets of New York and LA in a classic finale. While the Kings just won the Cup two years ago, itís been 20 years since the Rangers played for the Cup, winning it in 1994. The Kings have already made history by winning all 3 of their best of seven seriesí so far in the 7th game and this one in Overtime. Both teams have outstanding goaltenders and the Kings now have the red hot Marion Gaborik going up against his former team. The consensus is the Western Conferenceís best teams are better than those of the East and the Kings have been established as the favorites. I think with the way these playoffs are going, weíll see another seven game series. And Iíll pick the LA Kings to prevail. The puck drops Wednesday night to start up the finals out at the Staples Center in LA. If youíre looking for a reason to cheer for the Rangers however, check out this story of personal tragedy and perseverance on Dominic Moore of the Rangers. It shows the struggles that even sports stars have to go through and the truly human side that any of us may experience in our lives. espn.go.com/video/clip?id=10938904   

The NBA finals start up on Thursday night with the San Antonio Spurs hosting the Miami Heat in a rematch of last years finals. The Spurs happen to be one of my favorite teams as they consistently play at a high level without all the typical fanfare of the superstars that rule the NBA. Miami being the prime example of that with Lebron and Dwayne Wade and company. It should be a great series and I think San Antonio has something to prove after losing to the Heat in the finals last year. Iím picking the Spurs, but you can never underestimate King James, so itís going to be good.

The Twins are actually playing pretty decent ball right now, coming off a nice win over the Brewers last night. (although they have drifted to the bottom of the central division standings they are respectable at 27-29).  They return home tonight to face the Brew Crew at home for two games now following the 2 in Milwaukee. Tonight will be a great night to be out at Target Field on Dollar Hot Dog night and Iím pretty sure a lot of fans from across the river will be in town to partake in those dogs. Along with a lot of beer as Brewer fans are known to do.

Raise your hand if you can honestly say that you knew the Minnesota Lynx are undefeated in the WNBA through their first seven games. They again are quietly putting together a great early season run, and continue to show they are again the class of the league. They are on the road for three games now before returning home to Target Center to host Phoenix on June 15.

Finally, horse racing history will be in the making Saturday, in the Belmont Stakes.  California Chrome, in my opinion, will become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.  Barring any freakish bad racing luck, Chrome will get it done from post position 2.  I can't wait to watch this one!!

May 2014 - Wild Season Comes to an EndÖ. 

As everyone knows, the Wild were bumped from the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Blackhawks in game 6 the other night. Like the rest of them, it was a very winnable game and the Wild did us proud. They played great hockey but just came up short as Chicagoís goalie stopped nearly everything in sight in that game 6 matchup. Next year is going to be very exciting. The Wild will be looking to strengthen and deepen the roster again, and rumors have them going after Thomas Vanek which would be a great addition (former gopher). And if they can settle on the top two goalies amongst the group of Backstrom, Kuemper and Harding it could be a sweet run in the playoffs. If all goes well, and we get lucky with injuries (or lack thereof) I can see a spot in the finals next year!

The Twins are actually hanging in there better than I thought. They are currently sitting at 19-20 after taking 2 out of 3 from the Red Sox, which I loved to see. The bad news is Detroit is starting to pull away in the Central already and weíre 6.5 games out of first. Looks to me like we could be long gone from the race by the time the All-Star extravaganza rolls into town in mid-July. Itís also looking like another year of declining attendance with the combination of cold and wet early season weather and another 90 plus loss season. If you havenít been out to Target Field yet this season, donít worry, there will be plenty of cheap seats available in August and September.

May 2014 - The Quest for Lord Stanleyís Cup continues!!

I didnít want to go out and predict anything crazy like a Wild win in their first round match-up with Colorado as I was afraid to jinx them. But they came through in one heckuva 7 game series that had everything a hockey fan could handle! And to come out on top in the 7th game overtime was just outstanding. Iíve always said that the NHL playoffs are the most intense of any of the major sports. Its edge of your seat stuff nearly 100% of the time! In case you didnít stay up for it, hereís a link to the winning goal for the Wild in last nightís overtime game.

http://www.startribune.com/sports/wild/257451951.html

Now itís on to the 2nd round and a match-up against the defending champs the Chicago Blackhawks. The Ďhawks started slowly in the playoffs falling behind 2 games to nil against the tough St. Louis Blues. However they stormed back winning 4 straight and are certainly a formidable foe. Plus they finished up a few days early and would seem to be well rested. They bounced the Wild out of the first round of the playoffs in 5 games last year, but I think the Wild are playing much better now and are a team with more depth than we had last year also. A question mark might be our goaltending as it looks like Darcy Kuemper may be out with an injury as he was pulled out late in the game. In which case weíd switch back to Bryzgalov who played well down the stretch, but was yanked out of the line-up early in the playoffs. That might be our Achilles heel, as I believe the rest of the team can skate with anyone. Itís going to be a great series and it would be sweet revenge to knock off the Blackhawks. Game 1 is Friday night in Chicago. For more on the great traditions and superstitions of the Stanley Cup, check out the link below. GO WILD!!!

Traditions & Anecdotes Associated with the Stanley Cup

Donít Forget the Twins!!  Hey, it is baseball season for heavens sake. So letís not forget about our Twins. They are down at Target Field muddling through the 2nd wettest April on record. And cold? Letís just say it hasnít been the nicest weather for the home team. When asked how his warm weather team might do in Minnesota, Dodger manager (and former Yankee great) Don Mattingly stated  ďitís so #@!#@!#!! cold up here, how the @#$@#!! do people live here!  After sitting right about the .500 mark for the first month of the season, the home team was swept by those warm weather boys in yesterdayís day/night doubleheader and now sit at 12-14. That may be the closest they get to .500 the rest of the year. The Twins up until the recent couple of games have been scoring a lot of runs, but they may have the worst pitching staff in all of baseball. After another year like this, Ron Gardenhire may be looking forward to his impending retirement. But I wonít let that keep me from attending a sprinkling of games down there, Iíll just wait till July when itís warmer. And donít forget we have the All-Star game in July also which is going to be a great experience. Go Twins. Go Wild!!

April 2014 Sports Blog:  Canít Get Enough of Sports??

If youíre like me and canít get enough sports in a week or weekend, then you have to love this time of year! It seems like everything is in season right now. If you canít find something to keep your DVR rolling and your TVís full, then you must not be a sports nut! Iím still watching some of the events from last weekÖÖand please donít tell me how the Twins did yesterday, Iím still not there yet!

Richard Pitino and the Gopher hoopsters didnít have the season many would have hoped for, getting left out of the 68 team field for the NCAA Tourney. But they are within reach of the next best thing, winning the NIT Championship. They are facing off against the SMU Mustangs tonight at Madison Square Garden at 6 pm in the game carried on ESPN. It wonít be an easy matchup as the Gophers go in as a 3 point underdog. Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown has turned the SMU program around in just a couple years and it would be a sweet win for the Gophers to get this done. The NIT has lost a lot of glamour since the NCAA Tourney has expanded to 64++ teams, but playing in the Garden on national TV still helps recruiting and the players gain valuable experience going forward. Regardless of the outcome tonight, itís a nice stepping stone to continued improvement next year.  And don't be surprised if the Wisconsin Badgers win it all this Final Four weekend in the NCAA Tourney! It would cap off a great showing by the Big Ten.

And back to the Twins, they lost the season opener in Chicago, and will have played 6 road games before returning to the Cities for the Home Opener against Oakland on Monday April 7. Of course, thatís assuming they have the snow cleared out of Target Field following our latest winter blast scheduled for this evening. Being honest, Iím not expecting too much from the Twins this year, again feeling that if they were to get close to being a .500 ball club, that would be a great accomplishment. Most pre-season forecasts Iíve read have them in the neighborhood of a 70 win and 90 loss season. My thought is that it could be slightly better than that, but it could also be a season that approaches 100 losses if we donít get some semblance of good pitching and a more potent offense than last year. Either way, it will be fun seeing the crowd out at Target Field for the home opener, a true springtime event.

On the hockey front, the Wild are still sitting in the 7th spot in the West, as they have been for about the last month. They are coming off back to back solids wins against Phoenix and the LA Kings. Tonight they face Chicago on the road again, and with only 6 games left to play, every point we can get is important. We are 4 points up on Phoenix and Dallas in the standings and barring a really terrible stretch finish, Iíd still anticipate us ending up in 7th.Right now that would mean a first round matchup with Anaheim as they sit in the 2nd spot in the West. The Wildís newest additions are contributing and the team is relatively healthy, so letís get there and see what happens. Thereís nothing better than NHL playoffs, especially if you get past that first round.

We canít forget the Gopher hockey team either. After winning the first ever regular season hockey title in the Big Ten, they got bumped out early in the Conference championship tournament. But they still received the number 1 overall seed in the NCAA and responded by winning their two regional games and now advance to next weekendís NCAA Final 4. A first-round matchup against North Dakota (remember them?) awaits. The other two finalists are Boston College and Union College from New York. It will be great hockey and we are so desperately wanting to have a National Championship back in the State of Hockey.

Finally on the local front, the Midwest Nightmare Semi Pro Football team is gearing up for its season opener May 10th. If you want good, hard hitting football played by and for people that just love the game (nobodyís getting rich out there), then check out the link below and make it up to a game. They play out of Spring Lake Park and itís really fun and affordable sports entertainment for the whole family. And Iím pretty sure you can tailgate right on site for the home games! http://www.midwestnightmare.com/

March 2014: Wolves and Wild and the Playoffs?

Okay, we should be excited that for the first time in a decade that the Wolves are a .500 team at the 60 game mark of the season. And are still a long shot to make the playoffs. Are they going to do it, Iíd guess not. Right now at 30-30 they are 5 games behind the Dallas Mavericks for the 8th spot. The schedule has them hosting Detroit (tonight), then Toronto and Milwaukee over the next 5 Days. So itís not inconceivable that weíd be 32-31 with 19 games remaining. Itíll probably take 46 wins to get in the playoffs and that would mean theyíd have to go 14-5 for that last 19 game stretch. I donít think thatís going to happen. But on the positive side, Kevin Love continues to play at a high level, consistently showing heís one of the top 10 players in the league. And offensively we can hang with nearly anyone. What the team lacks is any sort of defensive consistency. They gave up 118 points to the Knicks the other night, and that just isnít going to get it done if you want to be a playoff contender. All in all there will be some good basketball action down the stretch, but come April, weíll be watching the Twins and hopefully the Wild instead of the NBA playoffs at Target Center.

On the hockey front, the Wild are now in the 7th spot in the West as they are in the post-Olympic stretch run. I think they are solidly in the playoff picture, whether or not itís the 6th or 7th spot. The downside of that is theyíll end up playing one of the very top seeds in the West and that could be Anaheim, St. Louis or possibly Chicago again in the first round. So itís not going to be easy. However weíre healthy and looking like a playoff team so letís see what happens. They say to be the best, you have to beat the best, so whether you get the top seed or the bottom seed, you have to beat them all.

Donít forget State High School hockey this weekend. 4 Twin Cities school advanced to the 2A (big school) semifinals. Edina, Eagan, Eden Prairie and Lakeville North make up the final 4. Can someone please beat Edina??

 

February 4, 2014: Super Bowl Post-mortem

Okay, so the game did not go exactly the way I had thought. I could say that my computer was hacked into while I was out golfing in Arizona and some non-sports computer geek hacker spat out that last column predicting the Broncos and Peyton Manning to prevail. But sadly that did not happen. Now Iím sitting here eating crow and also a couple hundred bucks lighter in the wallet. In the end, the more physical and aggressive defensive minded Seahawks were just too much for the Broncos. They made Peyton look like his brother Eli this season. He was stumbling and bumbling all over the place and hit as many Seattle guys for TDís as his own receivers.  Seattle scored nearly every way possible. In the air, on the ground, a kickoff return (Percy Harvin actually played an entire game), an interception return for a TD and a Safety.  So unfortunately Peytonís great season (best ever regular season for a QB) will be overshadowed by the ass kicking he received at the hands of Seahawks. Oh well itís over and onto the next year. Seattle, being as young as they are, will be the early favorite to return to the Super Bowl. But we know itís not that easy to get back there so Iíll leave them out of my prediction. Iím picking the Packers to matchup against the Colts next year when all is said and done. And I hope to be in Arizona again, avoiding more Minnesota cold and snow, and celebrating with all the cheese heads as they make the trek down to the Super Bowl in the valley of the sun. I canít wait!!

January 31, 2014: Super Bowl Preview

Well the home team favorites did prevail in the Conference Championships as I had expected setting up a matchup of the top offense, the Denver Broncos and the top defensive team, the Seattle Seahawks. Denver is about a 2 point favorite right now, going against the recent trend in Super Bowls which have had the more dominant defensive teams prevailing. Iím going to pick Denver to win the big match-up 27-16. I think Peyton Manning will cap off the single most prolific season a QB has ever had by leading the Broncos to victory and heíll be named Super Bowl MVP!

January 13, 2014: Winter Sports Season is the best time of Year!

The College Bowl season seems like a distant memory, but hats off to the Florida State Seminoles for taking the top prize this season in the final year of the often controversial BCS Bowl scheme. Next year there will be a 4 team playoff system in place which is a step in the right direction. But donít expect the controversy to be over as whoís to say who gets in the final 4 selection with all the conference champions vying for the top spot. As a side note, the football Gophers laid an egg in their bowl game losing to an inferior Syracuse team. I expect them to continue to improve next year and their goal should be to finally achieve a .500 record in the Big Ten and a berth in a much bigger name bowl where hopefully some fans will actually attend.

In the NFL we advance to the Conference Championships this Sunday. This is probably as good of or better football as the Super Bowl is, but without the multitude of commercials/halftime hoopla which stretch that game to nearly 4 hours. The four remaining teams are arguably the best teams and present the most anticipated match-ups (although if Aaron Rodgers hadnít been knocked out for most of the year, the Packers would likely be among the remaining four). My preseason pick Denver hosts New England in another epic Manning/Brady confrontation. And in the NFC the powerful Seattle Seahawks host the 49ers. Iíll stick with the home teams (both small favorites) but expect them both to be outstanding games. The Brady/Belichick combination is often money in the playoffs, especially as an underdog and against Peyton Manning. And the 49ers have the look of a wildcard team on a roll, so an upset in either game would not surprise me. On another football note the Vikes are now in the thick of a head coaching search. And maybe they ought to find one who can play Quarterback at the same time. I donít think a new coaching staff (which may help in the long run) will get them back o the playoffs in the short run without solving the QB situation. So look for some draft position jockeying or free agent signing to get back to being competitive in the Division.

The Wild are in the midst of an up and down season. However by winning 4 of their last 5 games theyíve moved up into the 8th spot in the Western Conference. The injury bug has plagued them again as theyíve found themselves playing without several of their stars (Parise, Koivu, Backstrom among others) for at least parts of the season. With the Olympics approaching everyone should get a chance to get healthy and ready to make a playoff run. Iíd be disappointed if the Wild werenít in the top 8 at the end of the regular season. And coach Yeo would be out of a job too!

The Wolves are somewhat muddling along, a couple spots out of the top 8 in the Conference at this time. And thatís in spite of Kevin Love having an all-star season. Iíve always said that the first step back to the playoffs is to become a .500 team. Then we can talk about the playoffs. They are in reach, but you have to beat the lousy teams, and then step it up, play intensely on defense and then start beating some of the teams above you in the standings. Time will tell and weíll see if they can make that leap forward as itís been way too long since weíve had the NBA playoffs at the Target Center. And it would give us something to do in the spring in Minneapolis along with watching the Twins start out on another 90++ loss season.

And in case you missed it, check out this basketball shot that a 13 year-old boy in Winona, MN made this past weekend to win the game. Itís pretty amazing and then he did it again for the news guy on the first attempt!! Brings back a highlight shot I made as a 6th Grader at St. Maryís Catholic school in gym class. I turned and threw a baseball type shot from the opposite end free throw line. It banked so hard off the back board, as it went in, that it ripped off the net from the hoop! But my reward was a trip to the principalís office (Sister Theresa) and an hour detention that night after school. You see, we were supposed to be picking up the basketballs at the end of gym class so what I did was considered to be screwing around and damaging school property. My best shot ever!!

Winona basketball player, 13, makes miracle shot Ė then repeats it

December 27, 2013  Gophers go Bowling and the Dome is coming down!

The Golden Gophers kickoff today at 5 pm on ESPN in the Texas Bowl in Houston trying to make it a 9-win season. Thatís only been accomplished once before in over 100 years of Gopher football! That would be a nice way to end up what can already be called a very good season, especially considering what Coach Kill has been going through trying to get his illness and seizures under control. They play Syracuse, a team they beat earlier in the year and I think with the improvement the Gophs have shown during the year they will get that 9th win. Iím predicting they win by a touchdown or more. On a side note, they played in that same bowl last year and lost to Texas Tech to finish up at 6-7, so weíre assured of bettering last yearís win/loss record already.

And down at the Mall of America Dome this Sunday the Vikings put the finishing touches on whatís been another unpredictable and frustrating season. They host Detroit whoís already been eliminated from the playoffs and likely will show even less motivation to win than theyíve been showing down the stretch. They blew a division lead and playoff shot by losing 5 of their last 6 games. With a lot of high priced talent on both sides of the ball, they must be as frustrating to be a fan of as are the Vikings. The Vikings seem to win games when it means little or nothing, so Iím guessing they knock off the Lions in the farewell game at the Dome. This will further worsen their draft status but that generally is the way the Vikes roll. The Vikings find themselves in the same mode theyíve been in for years now, still trying to find out who the Quarterback is going to be for the future. Certainly not Christian Ponder, and it seems like theyíve given up on the Josh Freeman experimentÖ.but maybe not as he will be a free agent. They could use a top draft pick for another shot at a young QB, or they may be in the free agent market again as guys like Jay Cutler, Michael Vick, Chad Henne, Kirk Cousins and Matt Schaub are out on the market. Theyíre scheduled to begin deflating the dome shortly after the conclusion of Sundayís affair, and begin the 2 year project to construct the new stadium. Tickets for the final game are going at a premium. But it seems to me that there havenít really been that many great football moments there, so maybe a lot of Twins fans will be in attendance remembering the main highlights in the DomeÖthe 1987 and 1991 World Series victories!! I guess a piece of metrodome turf would still be a cool thing to hang on the wall, so Nick if you read this first, rip off a chunk of it for me too while youíre down there!

And if you want to watch a meaningful game on Sunday, check out the oldest NFL rivalry as the Packers visit the Bears for all the marbles. The winner gets the Division title and a playoff berth. This should be a great game. The kickoff is 3:25 pm on FOX as the late afternoonís national broadcast game. Go Pack Go.

 

 

11/22/2013 - Border Battle Weekend Looms!!

So far my NFL predictions are still holding up. I picked the Saints and Broncos as the Super Bowl opponents, and they both are right near the top of the standings and power rankings. I thought the best the Vikings might manage this year was 8-8, and now itís appearing that possibly 4-12 could be the most they could aspire to. The bottom seems to have dropped out, the quarterback situation is even messier than it was, the defense pretty much stinks and their only superstar Adrian Peterson is bothered by a lingering groin injury. The Vikes travel to Green Bay this weekend and a win over the Packers would certainly be a feather in their caps, and give the fans some ray of hope. (although the prospect of the #1 draft choice might be more meaningful) The Pack will be without Aaron Rodgers again, and so far their back-up QB hasnít played much better than Christian Ponder. The Pack is favored by 4 points on Sunday, and I think with both teams lacking a solid play caller, it should be a close and possibly entertaining game. AP typically has some of his best games against Green Bay and heís always worth watching.

The Golden Gophers host the Wisconsin Badgers in what is the biggest game yet at TCF Bank Stadium.  And probably the most important game the Gophers have played in over a decade. Both teams sit at 8-2 overall and the Gophers are already assured of a pretty nice Bowl bid. They are projected now as a Gator Bowl combatant on January 1 in Jacksonville. And it could get better if they can pull off another win, either over Wisconsin or Michigan State in the season finale. All in all, a really nice surprise to the positive side this year in spite of the coaching uncertainty as Coach Kill deals with his own personal health issues. It seems to be working with him upstairs in the booth and his assistants handling the field duties on game day. Letís hope it continues tomorrow at the BANK in the nationally televised match-up starting at 2:30 pm on ESPN.  

10/11/13 - Lynx World Champs!! And the Vikeís arenít just Joshing around anymore!

I said the Vikings might not make it to the 8-8 mark but did predict they would beat the Steelers in London heading into their bye week, which they did. With the injury to Christian Ponder looming over them and Matt Cassel looking pretty decent in that win, they surprised everyone and went out and signed the newly released QB Josh Freeman. Heís a big and athletic quarterback whoís shown some flashes of  brilliance in his short career and just might be the franchise QB theyíve been looking for. As of this moment, Coach Frazier hasnít officially named the starter for this weekís game against Carolina at the Dome. However it seems the consensus is heíll go with Cassel coming off the win, and then migrate to Freeman as some point very soon. I donít think they spent the money to have him be the back-up, and that should relegate Cassel to the role he was originally signed for. Where does that leave Ponder? Thatís a good question and heís actually been medically cleared now to practice but it would seem heís #3 in the pecking order for sure. How things can change in a mere two weeks. I think thereís going to be a lot of excitement at the dome this Sunday and lots of fans will be jumping right back on that bandwagon. Iím picking the Vikings to show more improvement and innovation on the offensive side of the ball and come away with win # 2 against the Panthers. (of course it does require the defense to show up and hold Cam Newton in check which I think they can do as well.)

Congratulations to the Lynx who won their second WNBA Championship in three  seasons with a 3 game sweep of Atlanta in the finals. It was another dominating season and playoff run that ended nicely for the Lynx. The fans seem to be really taking to this team as the home playoff attendance was strong and it was fun to see national ESPN coverage of the home team. There will be a championship parade in downtown Minneapolis on Monday to honor them. And of course I canít help wondering how long it might be before we get another Twins parade? Or maybe a Vikings parade? Or Wolves parade? Or Wild parade? Well, letís just be thankful we have the LYNX!!

9/26/13 - Vikings in a free fall? Lynx in the Playoffs!

I may have to lower my forecast of 8-8 for the Vikings this year unless they start kicking it in gear a bit. This week they travel to London to play the Steelers in what is now a match-up of 0-3 teams. Thankfully the Brits are just happy to have an NFL game played in Wembley Stadium, as they sold out both games that London is hosting this season in a couple of hours. (In a few weeks, the 49rs and Jacksonville Jaguars play there as well). The NFL is eyeing international expansion and the possibility of London hosting a Super Bowl has been talked about also. My guess is there will be less booing of the Vikings over there, than if the game were played at Mall of America field. QB Christian Ponder has been taking a lot of the heat for the 0-3 start, and thereís a chance that with sore ribs, Matt Cassel may get the nod this week. I canít really say if thatís a good thing or not. Ponder hasnít exactly impressed with his passing nor his command of the game, but in reality the Vikes have averaged 27 points a game so far. However, they have given up 32 points a game on defense. Only the Giants and Redskins have allowed more points so far this season. So the blame certainly can be put on both sides of the ball. With a couple of defensive stands and avoiding just a couple of lapses, they would be 2-1 right now. But in the end, itís only the final score that matters, and those last minute losses can be the difference between making the playoffs or sitting home in January watching them on TV. That being said, my money is on a breakout game for the Purple and betting they will be savoring a victory over the hapless Steelers on the long plane ride home.

And on a winning note, the Lynx head into the Western Conference finals tonight at Target Center against Phoenix. They finished off another strong season, a first round playoff sweep and look like theyíll be very tough to beat moving into this round and in the Finals as well. Hatís off to the Lynx for bringing championship level pro sports back to the Twin Cities again!

8/29/13 - Deaconís Lodge Surpasses Expectations!!  

As I mentioned last week I was excited to be heading up north with the opportunity to play a round of golf at Deaconís Lodge. Itís now the crown jewel in the Breezy Point collection of golf courses. And the experience did not disappoint. From the drive back to the secluded northwoods style clubhouse, to the attentive staff, the great practice facilities and then ultimately the amazing course, it was outstanding. I thought the course was very fair and would provide a great test for the low handicappers, and with the array of tee boxes, would also make for a fun afternoon of golf for the more casual resort golfers. Thereís ample room off the tee, albeit several forced carries and a few that you canít miss by too much, and the large greens make for good targets if you can avoid the myriad of sand bunkers. I wonít say what I shot on the back as lost a few balls in the rough and the marsh, but I did card a 38 on the front side. I might have jinxed myself when I sent a text to my good friend Doug that I had managed to play the entire front nine without losing a ballÖ.then proceeded to lose 2 in the next 3 holes! But all in all, a great experience.


http://breezypointresort.com/brainerd-golf-courses/

And speaking of football (nice segue, eh?), has anyone learned anything at all about the Vikings yet through the first 3 pre-season games? I havenít at all. And in tonightís final tune-up, none of the starters are expected to even be on the field. Iíd call it a crapshoot from what Iíve seen, and my forecast for them has got to be right about an 8-8 team unless Adrian Peterson can carry the whole lot of them on his strong shoulders. Ponder had probably 1 drive in the entire pre-season where he looked like a mid-range NFL quarterback. Otherwise the whole offense hasnít shown much of anything thus far. But we all know it only matters come Sunday the 8th when they tee it up at Detroit. And they get the Browns at home in the 2nd week so all is not lost if they can end up even after 2 weeks.

8/16/2013 - Pre-season Football            

The Vikings travel to Buffalo for their 2nd pre-season game tonight. This one should give a little better indication of  what the fans can expect this year from the team. Christian Ponder is expected to play at least for a few series on offense. The Vikings would appear to be solid in the back-up QB position with Matt Cassel who looked pretty decent last week. But this could be the make or break year for Ponder in his quest to be the full-time starting QB for the Vikings. The Vikes have pretty much improved across the board with free agent signings and draft picks, so a lot of what happens this year will depend on Ponderís progression. Weíll find out if they can build on the 10-6 season that got them into the playoffs, or flounder without a top-flight passing game. And of course if that happens, then the load will again fall on the sturdy shoulders of Adrian Peterson. Heís said he could run for 2,500 yards this year, and if anyone can do it, heíd be the choice. AP has been said to be unlikely to play tonight, perhaps leaving his main warm-up preseason game for next weekís nationally televised game with the 49rs.

My picking hasnít been very hot lately (i.e. Tiger to win the PGA), but regardless nowís the time to throw out my NFL picks for the 2013 season. Iím going with the New Orleans Saints to get back to the Super Bowl and come out on top over the Denver Broncos. The Saints get their coach back, return everyone on offense and have made several defensive additions. And no one will put up more points than the Drew Brees led offense. On the other side, Denver looks to be the most explosive offense in the AFC with the addition of Wes Welker. And Peyton Manning desperately wants to get back to the big game, and this year I think they can do it.

A highlight of the summer is always our trip up north.   This year Iím going to have the pleasure of getting out on the Deaconís Lodge course and I am really looking forward to it. It is always ranked as one of the very top courses in the state, and itís now under the ownership and operation of Breezy Point Resort. Iíll make sure to take plenty of pictures and post a review of all of the golf action up north following that outing.  http://breezypointresort.com/brainerd-golf-courses/.

8/8/13 - Little League and the PGA Championship

Weíve got 2 opposite ends of the spectrum in the spotlight over this coming weekend. First there is the PGA Championship (which is already underway), the final major championship of the golf season. It features the strongest field in golf and the stakes are millions of dollars in prize money and all the endorsements and glory that come with winning a Major. On the other end of the spectrum, the Little League Regional Finals wind up as we have the countryís best 11 and 12 year old teams competing to get into the penultimate showdown, the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Va. There is no prize money at stake or huge endorsement contracts. Itís sports in its purest form, even if you arenít a huge baseball fan.

The field is loaded with so many talented golfers playing at the PGA Championship at Rochester, NYís storied Oak Hill Country Club. The betting favorite is Tiger Woods, and heís my pick to win it also. Heís been waiting since 2008 to take down his 15th Major as he tries to overtake Jack Nicklausís record of 18 major titles. With this deeply talented field, and with so many other players also playing well at this time, it will be no small feat if he wins this one. And I think it will get even tougher as the years go by for him to get those Majors because the talent in the PGA is the best it has ever been. There are nearly 30 hours of coverage this weekend between TNT and CBS, so be sure to tune in Sunday to see who brings home the Wanamaker Trophy. This could be one of the best finishes of the year. A Tiger-Phil showdown on Sunday would be awesome!

I always find time to take in some of the ESPN broadcast of the Little League World Series. I know folks who head out east every year to see it in person and tell me itís one of their favorite sporting events of all. This yearís Little League action is even more exciting as a team made up of Coon Rapids and Andover 11 and 12 year olds have advanced to the Midwest Regional finals in Indianapolis. That game is tomorrow at 11 am and will be on ESPN. I watched their semi-final game yesterday and believe me this team is good. Theyíre like a young version of the Bronx Bombers and have outscored their opponents something like 71 to 10 thus far in the Regional Tournament. The final game pits them against Urbandale, Iowa and is worth watching for sure. Itís also very impressive to see how well they handle themselves, how well-coached they are and the great sportsmanship that is shown all through the Little League event. (some might say in contrast to what we regularly see from the professional sports teams) The winner tomorrow advances to the Little League World Series which takes place from August 15 to the 25th. It consists of 8 Regional winners from the United States, along with 8 World Regional representative teams and is truly a classic event. Watch and cheer for the local boys tomorrow and check out the link for all the LLWS news and updates.

http://www.littleleague.org/worldseries/

Team members (pictured here) include (front row) Wil Goodin, Brett Eagles, Lucas McCain, Jon Koenig, Luke Medved, Nick Dainty; (middle row) Braden Farley, Nolan Belschner, Luke Backowski, Isiah Petrusson, Matthew Brodeur, Carsen Syke, Jackson Bates; (back row) Coach Mike Koenig, Coach Rob Belschner, Coach Marc Backowski; and (not pictured)  Coach Ray Brodeur.

8/2/13  Football already?

Can you believe it, thereís an NFL pre-season game on this weekend! Sunday night to be exact featuring Dallas and Miami.  Itís the annual Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio and the official start to another big NFL season. The game is actually somewhat secondary to all the Hall of Fame hoopla. One of the highlights of the weekend will be the induction of former Vikingsí great, Chris Carter into the Hall. There should be a large contingent of purple fans down in Canton and that will add to the excitement. The actual induction ceremony is Saturday night and is carried live on ESPN2 at 6 oíclock.  The inductees will also be introduced on the field prior to the start of the game and itís a chance to see many former Hall of Famers also. A great weekend for the football diehards whoíve been waiting since February for the kickoff of the 2013 season. Next weekend there will be a full slate of pre-season games. The Vikings host the Texans at the Metrodome next Friday night. And of course, this will be the last season in the dome before it gets demolished and they move to their temporary TCF Bank Stadium digs for a couple of years.

Thereís great golf in the Twin Cities this weekend with the Champions Tour making the annual visit to the TPC in Blaine. Itís a first rate event on their Tour featuring most of the top money winners including Kenny Perry, winner of the Senior Players Championship and Senior U.S. Open. Also many favorites and past winners including Tom Lehman, Hale Irwin, Tom Kite, Jay Haas and first timer Rocco Mediate. And as the tournament organizers always manage to do, theyíve gotten Arnold Palmer to come out and play in the special ďevent within the eventĒ and this will also feature Annika Sorenstam, Nancy Lopez and Pat Bradley. Check out the link below for more information on the Greats of Golf and make note, this event is FREE to the general public including parking. You canít beat that! And if youíre walking down the 16th Fairway make sure to wave to our good friends Jeff and Marje who will likely be out on their deck with a cold drink enjoying the sights from across their pond.

http://www.3mchampionship.com/Players/GreatsofGolf.aspx

I wonít even dwell on how lousy the Twins have been playing. The Star Tribune pretty much roasted them today so enough of that. The short story is they are 45-60, the exact same record they had at this point last season. And thatís just not going to inspire the fans to stick with them down the stretch Iím afraid. Twins management resisted the urge to do any dumping of talent for prospects as the July 31 deadline passed. But the facts are weíve got a lot of guys that just arenít performing up to major league standards. I still say itís worth it to get out and watch Joe Mauer as Iíll stop what Iím doing to see him bat. But the rest of them, not so much! As my good buddy Doug said the other night after attending the Wednesday night game, the $1 hot dogs and the great view of the city skyline still make for an enjoyable evening at Target Field.

7/17/13 - All-Star Classic and golf at Pebble Creek

If you didnít catch the MLB All-Star game last night, it really was a great show put on by Major League baseball. The American League prevailed over the senior circuit 3-0. Itís truly the one all-star contest of all the major sports where both sides play it to win. The incentive is also sweetened with the winning side being the host and getting home field advantage in the World Series. The Twins were represented by Joe Mauer who got the start at catcher and went 1 for 2 at the plate.  Glen Perkins was also on the AL roster and while he did warm-up in the bullpen very late in the game, he did not get to take the mound. What was probably more notable is that there were 8 former Twins on the American League squad! Thatís pretty amazing and one can only wonder if we had managed to even hang onto half of them what these last few years might have been like. But nowadays players are always changing teams, and it often takes that change of scenery to get a player motivated or performing at a higher level again. And money dictated many of those player moves with other teams just plain outbidding the Twins for stars like Tori Hunter and Joe Nathan. The highlight for me and many others watching was the tribute to Mariano Rivera who is in his last season before retiring as the greatest closer of all time. He also was awarded the MVP trophy for the game after pitching a scoreless 8th inning. And it was of course a great preview of the excitement to come next year when we host the All-Star game at Target Field. I heard an estimate of $75 million economic benefit by getting that to come to Minneapolis, which is pretty awesome for the Twin Cities! Iím really looking forward to that game as itís been 29 years since we hosted that event at the Metrodome.

And speaking of summer classics, I along with several of my good friends had the opportunity to play golf up at Pebble Creek just north of Becker, MN last weekend. And this course is truly worth the short drive up either Highway 10 or I-94. It a mere 45 minutes right to the clubhouse from Maple Grove. The course was in absolute great shape, and thatís even considering all the rain and crazy weather weíve had. Theyíve got their main 18 hole Championship course which we played and it is a very fun test of golf. It has plenty of hazards, some ponds and creeks throughout and also several of the nicest Par 3ís around. They also have the ďLocal 9Ē just across the street, which is plenty of challenge and is also well maintained for family outings or golfing with the kids. Check out the link below for all the info on this great course. And since Iím always interested in the food, their hot dogs are top notch also!

http://www.pebblecreekgolf.com/coursetour/

7/2/13 - 4th of July Fireworks!!!

Nothing says summertime better than baseball, soccer and fireworks!!

For a brief few weeks (before Vikings training camp opens on July 26), there is a break in the action. The NBA (Heat) and NHL (Blackhawks) are finally through their seasons. Both were filled with excitement and suspense, but itís nice also to have a more leisurely pace to enjoy some of the great summer attractions in the area. I get to give the remote control and DVR a break for a while!

The Twins are still hanging in there, in 4th place and just 6 and Ĺ games behind Division leading Cleveland in the AL Central. And surprisingly, the Yanks (coming off the come from behind thrashing of the Twins) are 6 behind in the AL East and also in 4th place. This should be a big draw week attendance wise with the Yankees in town through the 4th of July. And there seem to be plenty of tickets available if you can get out there with one of the main attractions being fireworks after the game on the 3rd. Iíve been there for fireworks night before, and thereís no better place to watch them with the backdrop being the Minneapolis skyline. Letís hope the Twins bats can provide some of their own firepower this week and maybe take a couple games off the struggling Yankees. Weíll likely see rookie Kyle Gibson make his second start as a Twin on the 4th also. Heís one of the future stars weíre counting on and had a great debut last Saturday against the Royals.

There wonít be any place better to enjoy top-level soccer than at the Blaine National Sports Center as our own Minnesota United FC host the Atlanta Silverbacks in a primetime NASL match-up on the 4th of July. Fireworks to follow the game! The United are coming off a tough loss up in Edmonton over the weekend, so will have plenty of incentive to come out with a vengeance on Thursday. Check out the link below for the coming match.  And tickets start at just $8 for youth general admission.

 http://mnunitedfc.com/    

6/19/2013 - Finally the NBA Finals are worth watching!       

The Spurs and Heat had to get to the 6th game before they had any drama at all. Unless you call seeing which celebrities were showing up in Miami for hoops, any sort of drama. And ever since Tony Parker and Eva Longoria called it quits, there arenít any celebs in San Antonio to speak of. (Still think Tony messed up on that one!). The average margin of victory since San Antonio opened the series in Miami with a 4 point upset, has been just over 20 points. And last night the Spurs jumped all over Miami with Tim Duncan leading the way and took a 10 point lead into the 4th quarter looking to take home the crown. But King James took over in the 4th  and Miami eventually took the lead, only to lose it again late in the 4th quarter. Former Celtics star Ray Allen dropped an amazing 3 pointer with about 5 seconds left to send the game to overtime. The game remained up for grabs till the end, but Miami prevailed with some serious thuggery on defense. So the NBA gets a game 7 Thursday night in Miami, which is exactly what the TV and NBA executives were hoping for. This should be a good one, and hereís hoping the Spurs can pull it off. As my friend Doug says, this one should be another barnburner!

Meanwhile in the NHL, the Stanley Cup finals are underway with the Boston Bruins up 2 games to 1. The series started out with a 3 Overtime thriller and itís been played as a pretty high level in all 3 games. Tonightís game 4 is in Boston and the Bruins are on a roll with back-to-back stifling defensive games and look to be in the drivers seat. After upsetting the Penguins (my pick to win it all) in the East Finals, they just look too strong, especially on defense. The Blackhawks have just 1 goal in the last 2 games and with Marian Hossa potentially slowed up with a minor injury, which might not bode well for the Hawks. Game 5 does return to Chicago on Saturday so a couple days off might just be what is needed to get the Hawks back on track. 

5/24/13 - Spring Sports Update              

Thereís been a lot of time to watch sports with all the rainy weather lately. But it comes at a great time with the NHL and NBA playoffs in full swing. The intensity is so high now compared to some of the meaningless games played in mid-season. And compared to watching the Twins, the intensity is off the charts!

In the NHL conference semi-finals the Penguins and Bruins in the East look to wrap up their seriesí and advance to the East finals. Both have looked very good and should advance. In the West the Detroit Red Wings are giving a surprising thrashing to the mighty Blackhawks, and are just a game away from moving on to the West Finals. Itís hard to believe the team that pretty handily had the best regular season record, and then   knocked our Wild out of the first round are on the brink of elimination. And the LA Kings are up 3-2 over San Jose as they try to get back to the West Finals. Iíll pick the Penguins to win the Cup this year, and take on either Detroit or L.A. in what looks to be a tough match-up in the West for a berth in the Stanley Cup finals. The playoff games have been great and I look forward to the Wild making a strong run next year as the team grows in confidence and experience.

Speaking of the Twins, they are mired in a 9 game losing streak!! Damn, and I donít think itís going to get much better. They hung around .500 for about as long as the makeshift pitching staff was going to hold up. Oh well, as Iíve said before Target Field is still one of the best places to spend a summer afternoon or evening and did I mention the food??? Itís the best of all stadium venues Iíve ever been to. So donít forget to check out the list of all the great concessions. I feel like Iíve plugged the food enough I should be a part-owner in a food kiosk there. But you have to have something to look forward to when your team threatens to lose near 100 games in a season again.

http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/min/ballpark/information/index.jsp?content=concessions

And finally, the Vikings made another big splash with the unveiling of what will be the first clear glass roofed venue in all of major sports. The drawings sure do look great and it will be fun to watch construction get under way following the upcoming and final season in the Dome. Less than 2 months to training camp!

 

4/26/2013 - Springtime in MinnesotaÖItís Finally Here!!

The Twins have had 10 home dates so far, and only once has the high temperature reported on any of those days exceeded 50 degrees! The average high for those 10 dates has been 42 degrees, but game time temperatures have been more often in the 30ís with wind chills, rain and light snow flurries often the norm. But Iím not complaining as the Twins have managed to play to a 9-9 record and are within striking distance of the division lead. Now this weekend weíve turned the corner. With a beautiful weekend ahead, the remaining 3 games with the Rangers will give everyone a chance to really enjoy Target Field again.  I think itíll take Gardyís best managing job ever to be able to finish .500 for the season. But at the same time, itís evident weíve got a lot of good young talent that should continue to improve and hopefully impress. So maybe next year we can get back to the playoffs? Plus you cannot get tired of watching Joe Mauer and that sweet stroke. I could see another batting title on the horizon for him if he stays healthy, and the hitters behind him can protect him a bit so heís getting good pitches to hit. And as any good fan knows, Target Field is loaded with great food choices and if you canít enjoy a good game, you can enjoy some first class ballpark fare. The link below shows all the concession choices at the ball park, and believe me there are plenty to choose from.

http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/min/ballpark/information/index.jsp?content=concessions

The Wild still havenít locked up a playoff spot. They host Edmonton tonight and finish up at Colorado tomorrow night. Basically a win gets us in the playoffs. But the reward for getting that 8th and final spot in the Western Conference is a matchup with the Chicago Blackhawks, arguably the best team in hockey. Weíre the only team in the top 8 in the West now that have played under .500 their last 10 games, so itís not like weíll be going in to the playoffs on a roll or anything. The Wild just havenít shown the consistency that makes me think they can put together a run through the playoffs, especially as a low seed playing the best teams with the travel involved as a road underdog. But there is hope! Last yearís champs, the L.A. Kings won it all as a #8 seed, so you never know.

And finally, the Vikings made a big splash at the NFL draft last night. Shrewdly moving up to get their 3rd first round pick and snagging a wide receiver with a big upside. They strengthened the defense as predicted and all 3 choices have a chance to be impact players in the very short term. So the future is looking bright as they get ready to play their last season in the Dome, before spending a couple of seasons at TCF Bank stadiums. And then ultimately into the new stadium for the 2016 season. That of course dependent on those darn electronic pull-tab sales, which I never see anyone playing.

 

3/29/13 - Sports Galore this Easter Weekend                

Make sure and find time to shop for your ham and Easter Lilies early, then hide the Easter baskets, and set the DVRís  to cover you while your at Easter Service. Because this is a non-stop sports weekend! It doesnít get any better!!

The Gopher menís hockey team head into the NCAA tournament playing Yale today. A win means a likely match-up in the West region finals with North Dakota on Saturday. After getting knocked off in the WCHA tourney I look for the Gophers to be rested and ready and anticipate them making the Final Four in 2 weeks out in Pittsburg. It would be a real treat to bring home the NCAA championship trophy, especially on the heels of the Womenís team accomplishing that same feat last weekend! 

As for NCAA hoops, itís turning into a wide-open tournament with a couple of the #1 Seeds already gone. And of course the Gophers managed their token win after sneaking in the back door to the Big Dance. It wasnít enough to save Tubby from getting the axe, so now we head into another basketball rebuilding era (sounds like a broken record in this state with the Gophers and Wolves). A couple of the really hot college coaching prospects have already chosen to pass on the Gophersí opening so the search is on for a successor. Tubby was last seen packing up his office and his nearly $3.0 million buyout/severance package, grabbing his golf clubs and heading to someplace undoubtedly warmer than Minnesota in March.

And speaking of warm weather, the Twins are set to open Monday April 1 with a forecast high in the low to mid-30ís! No worries, local establishments have some great warm-up drinks on tap so check these out.
http://www.startribune.com/entertainment/dining/200481221.html

And what do Twins fans really care about?? Itís the food! Check out some of the new taste treats that will be featured at Target Field this year. I guess we have to have something to take our mind off of mundane thingsÖ.like wins and losses. The Twins would appear to be not much better than last year with a revamped pitching staff and new players all over the field. So we can have fun watching Mauer, Morneau and Willingham, plus eat and drink like weíre out on the town! Enjoy!!
http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/taste/200437271.html

3/8/13 - All Hockey all the Time!!                    

A huge weekend of hockey is already in high gear as one of the biggest and best High School Tournaments in the country is going on down at the X in St. Paul, with some games also played at Mariucci at the U. The two-class tourney is the biggest draw of any of the sports championships at the high school level in our state. We get a great preview of many of the kids that will go on to play college hockey at various levels, and a chance to watch several that will end up in the proís as well. The opening rounds on Wednesday(1A), and Thursday(2A) featured a couple of close games and several blowouts as the 4 top seeds advanced in each class. This afternoon and tonight is when it really gets intense. The Class 1A favorite and #1 seeded St. Thomas Academy looking to defends itís title, goes up against a tough East Grand Forks team. And the nightís feature game pits the #1 seed Hill Murray against Wayzata in 2A. Being the favorite bettor that I am, Iíll go with the top seeds to win it all this year. But all the games are worth watching as a hot goalie and a couple of lucky bounces of the puck can turn a game around in a hurry.

The Lady Gophers host the WCHA Final Face-Off this weekend and are solid favorites as they cruised through last weekendís opening playoff games with a pretty easy sweep of Bemidji State. The Gophers host Ohio State tonight in the first semi-final game with North Dakota and Wisconsin squaring off in the second Semi-final. The finals are Saturday 7 pm at Ridder Arena at the U. Win or lose the Gophers should get the #1 seed into the NCAA championships as they seek to defend their crown and keep their unbelievable winning streak going.

On the Menís hockey side of things, the Gophers head into the final regular season weekend of WCHA action facing Bemidji state on the road for two games. The standings now have St. Cloud State in the top spot with 35 points, and the Gophers and North Dakota sit right behind with 33 points. There are 3 other teams within 3 points of the Gophers in the standings. So itís a critical weekend, not only playing with the regular season championship on the line, but also as far as seedings go heading into the WCHA Conference tourney.

Hockey fans at every level will get their fill this weekend. I count 10 games televised over the weekend starting with this afternoonís high school games, and ending with the Wild hosting Vancouver on Sunday night. And those 10 games are just our Minnesota teams (Wild, Gophers and State Tourney). Throw in 5 or 6 nationally televised NHL games depending on which sports package you have at home, and the puck fans should be really satisfied by the time the Wild game wraps up Sunday night. As for me, Iíll watch as much as I can, but by Monday Iíll be looking forward to sitting back and listening to the Twins spring training game from Fort Meyers. The season opener at Target Field is only 24 days away!

2/27/13 - Gophers Upset # 1 Indiana                      

The U of M Gopher menís basketball team pulled off a wild upset of the  #1 ranked Indiana Hoosiers Tuesday night on a nationally televised ESPN game. The crowd at Williams Arena showed up ready to run Tubby and his boys out of town, and instead it turned into a magical night! The Gophers were the more physical team with Trevor Mbakwe leading the way inside. They definitely out-muscled the Hoosiers. This game certainly helps to overshadow the lackluster play of the last few weeks, and almost guarantees them a spot in the NCAA Tourney. Getting a win over Penn State to finish out the season would be nice and would result in a .500 finish in the Big Ten standings, which I said from the beginning would make for a respectable year. They just need to keep their focus and then a nice run in the Big Ten Tourney and even the NCAAís is not out of the question. And as a side note, the last time the Gophers recorded an upset of a #1 ranked team was back in 1989 over then #1 and unbeaten Illinois at Williams Arena. And I was at that game, along with a few of my closest friends! And if I recall, there may have been a few lemon drops consumed in celebration of that victory! If you want to read more and see some footage of last nightís performance, check out the link below.

http://scores.espn.go.com/ncb/recap?gameId=330570135

The Wild had a nice overtime win Tuesday night over Calgary. Zach Parise continues to impress everyone not only with his talent, but also his solid work ethic and leadership on the ice. He tallied the winning goal in overtime. The Wild are right in the mix for a playoff spot, currently 9th overall in the Western conference. With only a point or two separating 5 or 6 teams for the 6th though 8th spot. I do think they will continue to improve as the season goes along and make the playoffs. Every game is so important in this shortened season so a bit of momentum can go a long way in gaining ground and potentially distancing themselves from some of the other contenders. Coach Yeo has been moving players in and out of their line positions looking to get more scoring punch, as the Wild still rank at the bottom in goals scored for the season. That has to change if we have realistic aspirations of getting anywhere near Lord Stanleyís Cup.

And going for the local team trifecta, the Wolves come up short in an overtime loss to the lowly and struggling Phoenix Suns. They did rally from far down only to come up short in the end. News flash: they are not going to make the playoffs this year. But next yearÖ..

 

2/25/2013:  Gophers Rewrite History! 

The U of M Gopher womenís hockey team finished off an historic regular season over the weekend with a couple of victories over St. Cloud State to finish a perfect 34-0. They became the first team in NCAA history to go undefeated and untied for an entire regular season.

They set numerous NCAA records (too many to recount here), including number of wins in a regular season and they still continue on a 42 game unbeaten streak. They havenít lost since an overtime 2-1 defeat at the hands of North Dakota over a year ago! Now they head into the WCHA playoffs hosting Bemidji State in a 2 out of 3 playoff series which starts up this Friday at home. They are odds-on favorite to take the WCHA tourney, and then to defend their NCAA Frozen Four Championship which we host at Ridder Arena in just about a month. So pay attention to the lady Gophers as they continue to make history!

2/1/13 - Super Bowl Preview

I was half right on the final playoff weekend and the Super Bowl berths. Or is it half wrong? I picked the 49rs to knock off Atlanta but expected the Patriots to be their opponent. But the Ravens surprised everyone and took the Pats down and out. Iím now on the Ravens to not only cover the 3.5 point spread, but to win outright in the HarBowl.  The first brothers to ever coach against each other in the NFL and the Super Bowl of course. This will be a hard hitting game and a great match up, but I think the Ravens with Joe Flacco leading the way win it in a fairly high scoring game. And Flacco gets the MVP award as winning QBís tend to do. The highlight of the media week so far has been Randy Moss proclaiming himself the greatest wide receiver ever in the NFL. I believe he must be oblivious to the fact heís wearing a 49rs uniform and doesnít look at the 49rs Hall of Fame pictures as he walks through their facility every day with Jerry Riceís picture staring down at him. But heís never been short on self-confidence or ego. And the other highlight being a back-up cornerback for the 49rs coming out against gays in the NFL and other assorted stupid comments. Again oblivious to the San Fran community he plays in, the most diverse gay/lesbian community in the world. Hoping a few boos reign down on that guy also. Go Ravens!

1/18/2013: HoopsÖÖ.and Hockey again!!

Weíve been getting teased again by the local basketball teams. First off the Wolves had their best seasonís start since the playoff era back with KG, now only to fall to the injury bug and some lackluster performances of late. They are no longer in the top eight in the Western Conference and without the return to form of Ricky Rubio and now without Love for possible 2 months, the playoff prospects are dimming. Add to that, Coach Adelman has been missing from the bench as he tends to his ailing wife who has been hospitalized with as yet an undisclosed illness. The Clippers beat up on the Wolves last night showing why they are one of the top teams in the NBA now, and we face the Spurs Saturday night so it wonít get any easier.

The Gophers have made a big splash on the National scene with their big win over Illinois in the Big Ten. But have come back to earth a bit losing back to back games to Indiana and then last night to Michigan at the Barn. Nothing to be ashamed of, as the Big Ten is loaded this year, and even a finish in the top half of the conference standings will be an accomplishment. Iím looking for them to rebound from these two losses and get back on track as their schedule softens a bit in the coming 2 weeks.

And the big news is the Wild gets the lockout season-shortened home opener at the X tomorrow night against the Colorado Avalanche. The place is going to be rocking! Canít wait to watch it. Some top NHL sports guys have even gone so far as to pick the Wild to make the Stanley Cup finals. Thatís a long ways off, but weíll get to see close-up if we really do have a playoff contender again. With the personnel upgrades and changes, it might take them a bit to really get rolling, but Iím looking for a strong run in the Western Conference so itís going to be fun.

I just looked back at my blog from a year ago and I had picked New England and the Packers to be in this yearís Super Bowl. Well 50% isnít bad and Iíll now go with San Francisco in the NFC to play the Pats. Tom Brady will get a chance to cement himself as the greatest QB of all time by winning his 4th Super Bowl for the Patriots. He already has most playoff wins in NFL history and he's got a few years left I believe.   

12/14/2012:  Great Football Weekend Ahead!!!   

I could talk about the Vikings big game with St. Louis trying to keep their playoff hopes alive, or the classic Green Bay vs. Chicago showdown on Sunday. Or even the Gophers as they prepare for their December 28 Bowl game in Houston against Texas Tech. But the game that deserves the most attention is the Tommies right here from St. Thomas taking on superpower Mount Union College out of Ohio in the Division 3 National Championship game tonight in Salem, Virginia.

Yes, a possible national championship is within their reach! But it wonít be easy against the powerhouse Mount Union team. Theyíre 10 time National Champs and have been in the title game the last 8 years. However both teams go into the game 14-0 and Mount Union had to rally from behind in lastís weekís playoff game to eventually come away with a 48-35 win over 2nd ranked Mary-Hardin Baylor College. So expect a hard-fought battle and we may get a National Championship football team yet! The game can be seen on ESPNU tonight at 6 pm and is carried also on the radio at 104.1 FM. Go Tommies! (and yes I am a St. Thomas alum having obtained my MBA back several decades ago over in St. Paul)

Now back to the Vikes, can they pull of a road win against a somewhat similar team? St. Louis is a run-first, grind it out team with a much improved Defense. But Sam Bradford is a pretty solid young QB, perhaps in the mold that Christian Ponder could strive to be. Not super flashy, but protects the ball, makes good decisions and is a good game manager. Iím predicting a close game, possibly decided by the rookie field goal kickers. Unless of course, AP can throw down another 200+ yard rushing game with a couple of touchdowns to help put the game away. Lots of playoff implications and the Vikings fans should be cheering for the Packers this week to knock the Bear further down the ladder in the wild card standings. It would enhance the Vikings chances of getting one of those 2 wild card spots. And considering the Vikings have Houston and the Packers remaining, itís not going to be easy even with a win this week. But they do have a chance, and going into the season, probably only the most diehard of Vikings fans would have thought theyíd still be talking playoffs going into the 14th game of the season.

And I do hear there are plenty of good seats available for the Gophers Bowl game down in Houston. So if you havenít made your post-Christmas travel plans yet, toss the golf clubs in the trunk and head south to Houston for a few rounds of golf and a Bowl game!

And for those college football enthusiasts, the Bowl season actually kicks off this weekend with 2 games on Saturday. These highly anticipated showdowns feature Nevada vs. Arizona in the New Mexico Bowl (take AZ in that one) and Utah State facing Toledo in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl from Boise, Idaho. Iím taking Utah State in that one giving the 10 points!! Canít wait.

11/12/12:  Vikes and Wolves and Gophers all on topÖ.well sort of!!   

The Vikings moved to 6-4 with a really solid win over the Detroit Lions yesterday. Just in time as the local faithful were getting ready to run Christian Ponder and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave out of town after a couple of real dud performances turned in the last couple of weeks. But Ponder responded with one of his best games with over 220 yards in the air, 2 TDís and most importantly, NO interceptions. And this was in spite of missing Percy Harvin, who had become his primary target in the passing game, and one of the top offensive players in the league. Most people didnít give them a chance of winning without Harvin, but I had a small hunch that if the Defense could frustrate Matthew Stafford and  AP could continue his stellar play, an upset might be on tap. Sure enough, they held Detroit to 3 first half points and came out on with a hard fought win. Perfect timing to head into a much deserved Bye week. They do have a tough 3 game stretch right out of the Bye playing the Bears, Packers and then the Bears again. Plus 4 of the next 4 games are on the road, which is never an easy task. But Jay Cutler suffered a concussion last night and may be missing some time on the field. So they might get a shot at the Bears with a back-up QB out there, making the task quite a bit more manageable. Probably the real story for the Vikes this year is the resurgence of Adrian Peterson to the top of the NFLís rushing ranks after blowing out his knee last season. Heís looking as good as ever and itís truly an amazing comeback for one of the true first-class guys in the league. Itís possible a 9-7 finish could contend for a playoff spot.

The T-Wolves are off to a 4-2 start and are playing solid team basketball. I donít think anyone anticipated weíd be playing over .500 ball while missing our two stars, Rubio and Kevin Love. But they play good defense and move the ball around, without worrying about which guy is getting all the looks at the basket, or whoís leading the team in scoring. The season is long and grueling, but it has to be encouraging to see the team get off to a positive start for a change. I do think making the playoffs is a reasonable goal for them this year. Heck, if the playoffs started today, they would be in! They play at Dallas tonight, but then return home to take on Charlotte at Target Center on Wednesday night. Good seats still available!

And letís not overlook the Gopher football team getting a nice road win over Illinois and becoming Bowl eligible for the first time since the 2009 season!  Granted the Illini are the worst team in the Big Ten, but itís still tough to get those wins in the conference while traveling. Itís a first step to be at the level where we can start regularly beating those types of teams, and the next step is to get competitive with the better teams. It looks like the Gophers have found their QB for the coming years also, and he played right here at Mankato West High School. We actually now have a passing game which you must have to compete in the Big Ten. Considering we finish off the season playing at Nebraska and then hosting Michigan State, itís looking like a 6-6 season is in the cards. But getting to a Bowl is a nice accomplishment and can only help build the young teamís confidence and experience, not to mention recruiting efforts, heading into Coach Killís 3rd season in 2013. Ski-U-Mah!

10/25/12: Change of Seasons

The Vikings can move to 6-2 with a win tonight vs Tampa bay at the dome. Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin on the offensive side of the ball, and a surprisingly rejuvenated defense have them contending for the division lead and possibly a playoff spot. This could get good. I think the Bucs will give them all they can handle but if the offense can actually put some points on the board, the Vikes should come out on top. Favored by 6.5 points isnít a familiar spot for the Vikes, so they need to be ready to avoid the upset as Tampa just put up a bunch of points on the Saints and will be a good test for the Vikings D.

The World Series got off to a flying start with the upstart San Francisco Giants beating up on the best pitcher in baseball, Justin Verlander. The favored Tigers and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera find themselves down a game in what could turn out to be a great series. The Giants had rallied to win 3 straight games and take out the defending world champion St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS and are really on a roll. I'll take Detroit still, but now Iím thinking itís going to go the full 7 games.

The Lynx finished up another outstanding season just missing out on defending their crown as they ran into a hot Indiana team and lost 3-1 in the finals. The future is just as bright for this team and I fully expect them to be right back in the playoffs next year.

I can't say the same thing about the Twins. A major disappointment this year. The house cleaning has already begun with a clearing out of much of the coaching staff and several roster moves, including the release of inconsistent closer Matt Capps. But the problems run deep and without starting pitching and filling some big holes in the infield, I don't see a lot of improvement in the win-loss record next year. And I'd say manager Gardenhire could be facing a win or else scenario for the first time in his managerial career in Minnesota. But we still have the nucleus of Willingham, Mauer and Morneau (my nephew Sam says heís still the best) and a lot of teams would be envious of that 3-some. Plus if they keep Span and Revere in the outfield, thatís a pretty solid core group. But you canít win without pitching so itíll be an uphill climb Iím afraid.

9/21/12:  Minnesota Pro Sports Scene

Iím not sure how it could get much more dismal. The Twins are battling it out with the Cleveland Indians for the worst record in the American league. The Vikings are trying to rebound from a last second loss to the rookie led Indianapolis Colts and now face the 49rs, potentially the best team in the NFL. The Timberwolves are trying to build on last yearís improvement, but are still as yet not even a playoff team in the NBA. And what appeared to be our lone bright spot, the Wild, might not even get to take to the ice this year with the NHL locked out by the owners. So maybe Omaha wouldnít be such a bad place to live! We keep hearing that we canít afford to lose our pro sports teams and the taxpayers keep getting asked to foot the bills for stadiums and Arena improvements. But the return on those investment for the fans has been pretty much non-existent. But the owners could all sell and reap millions of dollars in appreciation as sport franchises continue to grow in value. But how about a winning team for a change. Is that too much to ask?

The Twins are down to 12 games remaining, with 6 of those at home with the Yankees and Tigers visiting Target Field. So the fans have a chance to see the Twins possibly play a spoiler role as both of those teams are in tight playoff races. You might not recognize a lot of the Twins players, as the line-up is filled with prospects and late season call-ups, but the Tigers and Yankees both are worth the price of admission. And Joe Mauer has been hot, so there is the batting title on the line over the last 2 weeks of the season.

The Vikings are 1-1 after getting through the easiest 2 games of the season on their schedule. The 49rs are close to being the best team in the NFL so weíll see how they can hang in their against that team. The betting line is only 7 points for the underdog Vikings, and I canít even get my weekly betting buddy to stay with the Vikes. So I guess Iím stuck with them for $5 getting only 7 points. Iím afraid the score could be closer to a 30 point blow-outÖ.but maybe they can surprise us and keep it close?

Thereís been no progress in the NHL lockout. So the Wild management is promising to pay 10% interest on the season ticket money they hold trying to stem the refunds and appease the fans. And for the serious hockey diehards, theyíve got the minor league affiliate Houston Aeros scheduled to hold some practices here at the X in an attempt to keep the local fans interested. 


8/31/12  Once in a Blue Moon!

So we made it through August and the last time I wrote a sports update it was on August 1, and it was a full moon then. And now here it is again full on August 31. Most people donít even know thatís the real meaning of the phrase ďonce in a blue moonĒ. It is when we get 2 full moons in a single month. So I better get this done or Iíll miss sharing the spotlight of this rare astrological event. (Itís actually not that rare, but is pretty cool)

And speaking of stars nearly aligning, we had the Gopher and Viking football teams in action last night, along with the Twins! And we almost pulled out the perfect trifecta of three losses by the home town teams. However the Gophers ruined that with a thrilling Triple Overtime victory over the UNLV Running Rebels. Although I think that nickname generally applies only to UNLVís basketball team. From what I saw, they wouldnít get much running done against anyone, other than maybe our Gophs. UNLVís average margin of loss last season was just about 35 points in each of their ten losses, so a triple-overtime loss to a Big 10 team is probably as good as they would have hoped for. But Iím not going to be critical, the Gophers will learn a lot in each game, and get better as the season goes along. And I like Coach Kill and the whole team attitude now based on hard work and putting forth a whole team effort. Iím looking forward to seeing how they progress.

Now the Vikings are another story. They have pretty much looked miserable on offense this preseason. A loss to Houston last night wasnít the worst thing since no one recognizable was on the field anyway. But then again, without AP in there, who is recognizable. I passed by Christian Ponder and Kyle Rudolph on the golf course the other day and had no clue they were pro football players. Say that happened in Green Bay and it was Aaron Rodgers and Donald Driver and that would have brought the course to a virtual standstill. Iíll go on record that the Vikings will not make the playoffs this year, or next for that matter, and will struggle to get to 5 wins. There are just too many holes to fill yet on both sides of the ball. I do hope AP comes back healthy and generates the highlights he is capable of,  as he is still a premier back, if not the best overall, in the NFL. And Iím hoping to get him for a steal in my fantasy football draft this weekend.

It now appears certain the NFL season will kick off with replacements refs so that will add an interesting twist to the early season games. Lots of blown calls and replay delays I am sure.

And a final note on the Twins. Yes they are still playing out the season. With 31 games remaining they have a firm hold on the worst record in the American league, and going 9-22 down the stretch would get them to a 100 loss season. Maybe there is a reason Joe Mauer would consider being traded? Iíve always said heíd look awesome in Yankee Pinstripes. Plenty of seats available in September down at Target Field also. 

 

8/1/12 - The Spotlight is on the London Olympics!

Letís see, weíve got water polo, synchronized diving, table tennis, dressage, archery and even sword fighting! Okay, so they call it fencing, itís still the same thing we did as kids with sharp sticks out in the back yard. And we didnít wear all the padding these folks do. The Opening Ceremonies were pretty amazing and the crowds have been upbeat and intense. There is so much going on; I canít even begin to keep track of it. There is something like 1,600 hours of Television or live streaming coverage for the just over 2-week period. Thatís roughly 100 hours a day! How does that work?? I blew out my DVR trying to catch it all just over the first few days. Michael Phelps has set the all-time medal record and the US Womenís gymnastics team was dominant. So much to see, so little time.  And the first major Olympic scandal involves badminton players disqualified for tanking matches to set up a more favorable draw. What were they thinking?  I do believe it would be an incredible event to attend and I might just do that some day. 

And letís not forget the Twins. They just had their 4 game winning streak ended by the damn White Sox! And Francisco Liriano! A few weeks ago I speculated about them getting back in the playoff race! So much for that theory with the trading of Francisco Liriano for minor-league prospects. Iím glad they left the rest of the team intact and didnít do anything rash like dumping Willingham, Morneau or Span as had been rumored. Theyíve got a good nucleus of position players and hitters to build around for next year. Liriano looked pretty relaxed on the mound last night for the rival White Sox, but the Twins should have pulled that one out. They had a near sellout crowd last night at Target Field to see Liriano go against his former mates, but it would have been nice to get that victory.  

The expectations are sky high over in St. Paul following the Wildís dramatic signing of the two top free agents on the market this year. Zack Parise and Ryan Suter will add instant star power and consistency for the Wild. The playoffs are in sight and I canít wait for the season to start. They head to camp in just over a month so weíll hear much more about it as the season draws near.

The Russians are coming! I mean to the Wolves! They signed Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved who have been carrying the Russian Olympic basketball team so far in the Olympics. Kirilenko played last season in Europe after a number of great years with Utah. This could be a nice step forward for the Wolves as their management tries to assemble a playoff contender. I had been optimistic about the playoffs as a goal for this year, but that might still be too much to ask. Weíll have to see if Rubio comes back strong and the other young players continue to develop. And we did just sign Brandon Roy coming off a bum knee to help shore up the offensive depth. Itís still a lot to ask when you are constantly juggling the roster and then the line-up to get the consistency and defensive intensity that is needed to make the playoffs over a full season. At any rate, I think theyíll continue to improve on their win total, just not sure if it will be quite enough to carry them into the playoffs.


7/3/12 - Hot Enough for Ya??

How hot is it? Well the Twins just won their 4th straight game and no longer own the worst record in the American League! Now thatís hot! A nice win over the loaded Tigers gets Ron Gardenhire his 900th managerial win with the Twins and pulls them to within 8 games of division leading Chicago. Is it premature to talk about getting back in the division race?? Well, maybe not if we can get a little pitching help. But at the same time the Twins are warming up a bit, talk is that Liriano is being shopped around to contenders needing healthy arms. And that might mean the Twins brass are looking more towards next season and beyond, rather than holding out hope of being in this year's race.

Meanwhile the Wild come off a good NHL draft and are in the thick of the Zach Parise chase. Signing the Minnesota native would not only be a huge boost to fan interest and ticket sales, but I think would also throw them right back into the thick of the playoff contenders. Something we dearly need to happen over in St. Paul to show that the Wild owner is as serious about winning games as he said he was when he purchased the team a couple of years ago.

The Wolves are also in the news courting several veteran players in an attempt to get back to playoff prominence. They traded out of the first round and picked up a solid young player in Chase Budinger from Houston. Other names floating around are Pau Gasol, Nicolas Batum and even Kevin Garnett. Likely no chance KG would want to play out his career back in Minnesota, over say L.A., but it would be fun!

And speaking of the Vikings, Percy Harvin gives me a headache.

 

And finally in cool local sporting news, my nephew Alex Lair just qualified for the  109th Annual MGA State Amateur Championship to be held July 16-18 at the Hastings Country Club. They had a 9 man playoff for the final 2 spots and he birdied the 1st playoff hole to clinch his spot. Alex first started playing at 6 years old using some old clubs that I cut down for him down at a Par 3 course in Hayward, MN. And to make it even cooler, I get to caddy for him in the big event! Hereís a link for the Championship and the Qualifier results are shown at the bottom of the page for the Northfield site.
http://www.mngolf.org/Tournaments/109th_MGA_Amateur_Championship


6/8/2012 - Playoffs Continued!   And More!

The Celtics/Heat series has been awesome. Weíre watching vintage Kevin Garnett trying to hoist the aging Celtics on his back and get them back into the Finals. Game 7 Saturday night in Miami is going to be Epic. And the reward for the East champs will be to face the amazing Oklahoma City Thunder in the Finals. The Thunder are on a serious roll after falling behind early in their series with the Spurs and Iím not sure anyone can stop them. But it will be fun to watch as the NBA Finals always showcase the best that professional basketball has to offer. And this year will be no exception.

And how about the NHL playoffs. The LA Kings( yep, you gotta love California hockey), are up 3-1 over New Jersey heading into game 5 back in New Jersey on Saturday night. The Kings went into the playoffs as the number 8 seed in the West and are on the brink of capturing Lord Stanleyís Cup. It goes to show you how important all those regular season games can be when the middle of the road teams (i.e. Wild) are battling just to get that 8th spot to advance to post-season. A game here or there, and the Kings arenít even in the playoffs. And it could have been us!

Canterbury Park live racing is in full swing, and tomorrow promises to be one of the highlights of the season. We could see the first Triple Crown winner since 1978 when Affirmed became just the 11th horse to accomplish that feat in over 110 years of racing. Thirty horses have won the first 2 legs, and only 11 have succeeded in capturing that final leg, The Belmont. After exciting wins in The Derby and Preakness, Iíll Have Another is on the verge of making horse racing history. Heíll go off as the odds-on favorite (4-5 early line) in a tough field of 12 horses. Should be a great race and Iíll be cheering for him and I believe he will do it.  This week also the CBY owners announced a nice partnership deal with the Mystic Lake tribal owners that will pump money into the race purses and greatly help to improve the quality of racing at Canterbury and should be a great benefit in the long run for the track.  However the deal does not include The Running Aces harness track in the northern suburbs, so it remains to be seen how that facility will maintain itself.

The Twins are 7-3 in their last 10 games. Still the cellar dweller in the American League. They have shown some life in the last couple of weeks. And this weekend they host the beloved, but lowly, Cubs for 3 games this weekend. The Cubs are one of only 2 teams with a worse record than the Twins. Should be an opportunity for the local team to pick up at least a couple of victories.

UPDATE!!!!! Iíll Have Another Injured! - He's scratched from the Belmont due to late injury following a great couple of weeks of training and prep for the Triple Crown finale. A huge blow to racing as it would have been a highly anticipated event and a shot in the arm for all of horse racing.

 

5/18/2012 - Playoffs take center stage!          

The NBA is seeing a momentum swing potentially away from LA and Miami. How about Oklahoma City as NBA champs? It could happen. In the Western Conference Semiís they are up 2 games to Zip over the Lakers. In the Other Semifinal match-up the Spurs are also up 2-0 on the Clippers. In the East the resurgent Celtics are up 2 games to 1 over the 76rs with game 4 tonight in Philadelphia. And Indiana is up 2-1 over the Miami Heat.  The Celtics could just make it to the NBA finals giving KG a shot at another championship ring. Key injuries to the Bulls which resulted in them being knocked out of the playoffs, and the recent injury to Chris Bosh in Miami are leaving the door wide open for either the Celtics or Pacers in the East. I still like OK City and witnessing the amazing impact just a couple of key draft picks can have on a team. Kevin Durant has shown he is up in the class with Lebron and Kobe. 

And how about the NHL playoffs. The first round was littered with bloody noses and chins and tons of penalty minutes. Now theyíve gotten down to business and the intensity of the Conference finals is amazing. Strangely the teams battling it out in the West are Phoenix and the LA Kings. Not exactly your traditional hockey powers. LA just took a 3-0 lead in the series with Game 4 coming up on Sunday out in LA (which is hosting something like 6 NBA/NHL playoff games in just a matter of 3-4 daysÖso the Hollywood celebs have lots to entertain themselves with). In the East itís a bit more traditional with the Rangers and New Jersey tied at a game a piece leading up to Saturdayís game 3. Iím going with Rangers to take it all.

And in what again may be the brightest note on the local pro sports scene, the Vikings Stadium is finally becoming a reality. If all goes well and the Minneapolis city council approves, theyíd begin play at the new digs in 2016. And why was it again that it took 10 years to figure this out? Who knows, but all of a sudden itís a done deal! 

On another local note, Canterbury Park opens today for live racing. The Preakness Stakes runs tomorrow and thatís always a highlight day out at the track. While the track didnít get its Racino option thrown into the Stadium bill, they are in talks to expand relationships with nearby Casinos that could allow for off-track betting and simulcast wagering. Which would be a nice benefit and help grow Minnesotaís struggling horse racing industry.

The Twins are riding a 2 game winning streak.

 

 

4/27/2012 - Baseball, Beer, Brats and the Vikings in the Spotlight!            

The Twins mercifully had a day off on Thursday. After a very tough early season schedule and the lack of pitching and timely hitting, they find themselves at 5-14, tied with the Royals and Padres for the worst record in baseball. I've been out to 2 games at Target Field and the results haven't been pretty. I went into the season thinking they had a shot at being a .500 ballclub this season, but I'm not so sure now. The pitching staff is below average, and with the loss of Scott Baker, pretty much doomed to mediocrity.  And other than the pick-up of Josh Willingham, the Twins line-up is lacking the power and run scoring ability they will need to keep themselves in games. However on the bright side, if you haven't checked out the new menu at Target Field, the new food and beverage highlights will keep the crowd interested for at least a part of the season. My favorite so far is the "Big Ginger". Make sure to check it out. And it will be easier to get tickets with the crowds somewhat dwindling even here in the early season, especially on the cold nights weíve had.  Target Field's new menu items

The Wolves put the capper on an up and down season with a blowout loss at home Thursday night to the playoff bound Nuggets. Their injuries are well documented but it still was a disappointing run down the stretch. At one point they were 21-19 and definitely contending for the 8th spot in the West. But as the injuries mounted, they were overmatched and finished the season 5-21 in their last 26 games. But it will help them a bit in the draft and the outlook for next year is good. The playoffs should definitely be in reach.

And surprisingly what might be the brightest note on the local pro sports scene, the Vikings had a very good first day in the NFL Draft, getting two blue-chippers with the 4th and 29th picks that should move right into the starting line-up. Matt Kalil will help anchor the offensive line at left guard and should provide Christian Ponder with some nice blindside protection for years to come. And Harrison Smith, acknowledged as one of the best defensive secondary players in the draft, will help shore up the porous pass defense. And with an assist from visiting NFL bigwigs Roger Goodell and Art Rooney, it seems the Vikings Stadium initiative got a much needed boost. Of course our Minnesota legislators are probably the most conservative, do-nothing bunch of folks around, and itís still possible theyíll find a way to screw it up and not get the deal done. Funny how many loyal supporters there are even following the 3-13 season, but when it comes to Minnesota Sports, the Vikings do rule the roost.

4/3/2012   The Big Dance is over, and we segue right into The Masters        

The Kentucky Wildcats did as expected, and won the NCAA Championship. They tied the NCAA single season record with 38 wins, against just 2 losses. They handled Kansas with relative ease and showed they were clearly the superior team. They would likely have done the same to Ohio State if the Buckeyeís hadnít collapsed and blown a big lead in the Semi-final game with Kansas. Heck, Kentucky would probably give the Timberwolves a run for their money, especially the current injury depleted team the Wolves are fielding now. One common theme for all the really good teams in the field is they are loaded with potential NBA talent. Kentucky probably loses 3 freshmen to the Proís. Remember that when picking your brackets next year, you got to have the horses to finish first. And I keep my streak intact, as l finish out of the money for about the 20th straight year in the big NCAA Bracket pool that we run. But I did take the $10 from Goud, which is nice.

On the heels of the Gophers good showing in the NIT tournament, it is anticipated that Tubby Smith will be rewarded with a contract extension. Amazing what a few wins against other teams that also couldnít make it into the NCAA Tourney will do for a guyís pocketbook! Also on the Gopher front, the hockey team takes on Boston College Thursday evening in what promises to be a really good game. The intensity of the Frozen Four is amazing and Iím hoping the Gophers can stand up to the pressure. The national championship game would be Saturday night if we make it.

Meanwhile the Wolves now are falling further out of the playoff race. They were manhandled by Boston and Kevin Garnett last Friday night. Add to that last nightís injury to Luke Ridnour in the loss to the Kings, and it appears the seasonís hopes are dashed. But as weíve said, itís been a great turnaround in ability and enthusiasm and weíll be looking forward to next season and finally a trip back to the playoffs should be in reach.

I know the Twins open this week on the road. And Iím glad they do have that first weekend series out of town. It will give me a couple of days of looking at the box scores to get familiar with the line-up for this yearís squad. So many favorites are gone, so this will really be a new look team. The home opener is Monday the 9th and Iím going Wednesday the 11th, so Iíll be able to get a feel on how they look after just a handful of games. Canít wait to pop open one of those $8 beers and grab a $6 hot dog again down at Target Field.

And finally, what April is really all about. The Masters gets underway this morning. This one is going to be historic. After several yearsí hiatus, Tiger Woods is right back in the mix. The top players in the world are all playing great golf and throw in the stars that have made a name for themselves last year and more recently this year, and this is going to be great. Luke Donald, #1 in the world, is almost an afterthought with all the attention going to Rory MciIroy, Phil Mickelson and Tiger. Itís hard to imagine anyone else being able to beat out all 3 of those great players, but that would be shortchanging many of the recent major winners. Guys like Keegan Bradley, Graham McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer and Charl Schwartzel have proven they can withstand the pressure of a major championship. And the top Americans, all without a major, include Hunter Mahan, Steve Stricker and Webb Simpson all in the top 10 in the world rankings. Who knows how this one will unfold. If Iím picking a top 5, Iíd have to include Tiger, Phil, Rory, and Iíd throw in Luke Donald and maybe Stricker. Itís going to be fun. Maybe weíll see that ďCinderella storyĒ we all dream about as we swing our sticks at the local muni, or country club as the case may be.   
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbQTXFJL8lo

 

3/29/2012   The Madness continues......        

The NCAA Tourney is down to its Final 4. My early thoughts about Kentucky being the best remain true. I think they are the most talented team, and will be tough to beat. Both Syracuse and North Carolina lost key players either just before or during the tourney, and thus fell to the #2 seeds in their respective bracket. Arguably the weakest bracket lost its #1, 2 and #3 seeds (Michigan State, Missouri and Marquette) and sends #7 Florida to match up with Kentucky in the first semi-final game Saturday. Iíll pick KY to win that game and advance to the Finals. The other semi-final game is a great match-up. The Big Tenís best Ohio State, against perennial power Kansas from the Big 12. I think OSU may just be too strong for KS, but it should be a great game. In either case, Iíll stick with Kentucky beating whichever one of that advance to the Championship game on Monday night. And again Iíll finish out of the money in the big NCAA Bracket pool, but do have a fair chance of taking $10 off of my good friend Goud Melos.

Checking back in with our Gopher hoopsters, they have made a nice showing in the NIT Tournament, advancing to tonightís final game against the Stanford Cardinal.  Don't be surprised to see the Gopher's emotional run through the NIT end tonight vs. a good Stanford team.  They could very well end up getting beat if they don't perform at their best. You can downplay the NIT all you want, but with this young team gaining valuable experience, it is a very positive momentum builder for next season. And with the likelihood increasing that Trevor Mbakwe will return for something like his 9th season of college hoops, they should be much improved. I actually heard Sid say the other day theyíd be a favorite for the Big Ten title, which might be stretching it a bit, but they should at least be over .500 in the conference. And thatís what it takes to get you into the NCAA Tourney.  And it sure does help the national recruiting picture to get this extra TV exposure so things are looking up for Tubbyís boys.

Meanwhile the Wolves find them selves 2.5 games out of the 8th spot in the Western Conference with just 14 games to go. Iím going to go on record as saying they wonít be able to overcome that, and will fall short of making the playoffs. But at the same time, theyíve had a huge turnaround this year, will beat the Celtics Friday night at home, and Kevin Love will get strong consideration for MVP in the league. He has turned into a beast in the NBA! Rick Adelman will have them in the playoffs next year for sure.

So much else going on with MLB already starting the regular season in Japan (Aís and Mariners have split 2 games in the Tokyo dome already), Gopher hockey advancing to the Frozen Four(in Florida of all places) and The Masters gets under way on April 5th.  Also the Twins open the regular season on the road in Baltimore on April 6th, and at home vs. the Angels on April 9th.  So there will be plenty to write about next week.


3/15/12   March Madness......

What's more maddening about this March??? Rickey Rubio getting hurt and severely dampening the Wolves chances to make the playoffs? Or the Wild's continuation of an inept run through their second half of the season? We call ourselves the state of hockey and our pro-team probably couldnít win the State High School tournament, much less make their own playoffs. And speaking of the State Tournament, how fitting was it for Benilde St. Margaretís to be crowned the big school Champion with the emotional roller coaster they were on this year. A fantastic end to a great weekend of state high school hockey. Outstanding stuff for sure. And we have the hockey Gophers ready to make a run for the WCHA title, and hopefully a strong NCAA bid for the national championship.

But this time of year is all about the real "March Madness", the big dance, the Men's NCAA Basketball Tourney. The 68 best teams in the country are squaring off (actually the play-in games have already happened so weíre down to 64) for the championship. And imagine that, the Tubby Smith led Gophers don't happen to be counted among the best 68 teams in the land. That's embarrassing. They played last night in the NIT (the Other tourney) and thankfully didn't embarrass themselves further after another disappointing season, and pulled out a win to advance to the second round. And each win there is good for the national exposure and recruiting so letís hope they make a good showing.

On to the brackets. It's hard to pick against the 1 and 2 seeds, as it always is. But someone  sneaks up on us every year. Like a Butler or VCU, but who knows which of those underdogs will make a run this year. I like some of the lower seeded teams like Wichita State, Memphis, Baylor and maybe a Florida State to surprise a bit. But in the end I do believe Kentucky, North Carolina and Syracuse (before losing their starting center) are the top teams. Iíve been doing NCAA pools for nearly 30 years, but itís been over 20 years since Iíve won a pool. And I donít expect this year to be much different. So take it with a very large grain of salt when I say I have either Kentucky or North Carolina winning it all in my 4 brackets. And believe me for a Duke fan, itís tough to have to pencil in the Tarheels, but they may be the best team with a chance to knock The Wildcats off in the championship game. Weíll see how this weekend goes, and then update the picks next week. And remember, gambling on NCAA pools is illegal, and is not endorsed by this column.


2/27/2012  ....and the Oscar goes to.......


Two exciting, contrasting and yet often similar examples of the entertainment industry were on display Sunday evening. The NBA All-star game and The Academy Awards. They both combine elements of comedic and dramatic acting.  There are awards for creativity and showmanship and directing, along with foreign languages being spoken and interpreted, just like at the Awards show. At the end of the night they awarded the Best Actor Award (MVP) to the West's Kevin Durant in the All-star affair. And out in LA, the Best Actor and Actress went to Jean Dujardin from The Artist and Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady respectively. But even with The Artist winning Best Picture, I'd probably rather watch a re-run of Forrest Gump or the Packers in last year's Super Bowl than buy a ticket for what is supposedly the best movie of the year.

And speaking of Awards and highlights, how about our Twolves.  They had Kevin Love on the West squad and he was solid. He also won the 3 point shootout! Also Derric Williams and Ricky Rubio took part in the Dunk contest and rookie games. So all of a sudden the Wolves are making an impact, both during All-star weekend and quite possibly still during the regular season. I will not be surprised to see a playoff run as we get cranked up for the second half of the season.


If we were handing out Academy's to the Wolves, it'd go something like this. Best Actor goes to Kevin Love. Just a few short seasons into what should turn out to be a lengthy NBA career, he has transformed himself into a legitimate NBA superstar. Best Actor in a supporting role could go to several players, but I'll give it to Luke Ridnour. He contributes every night, is second in FG percentage, 3 point field goals and assists and third in average minutes played per game. And he has several game winners including a dramatic last second buzzer beater the other night against Utah. Best Foreign film award goes to Nikola Pekovic. He sat on the bench last year, but has shown he belongs in the starting lineup. He's averaging 25 minutes a game, and leads the team in field goal percentage and blocks and is second in rebounding next to Love.  And I'd create a new award for foreign film 'short story' and give it to Ricky Rubio. He's been more than we could have hoped for and looks to be the real McCoy. And of course Best Director goes to Rick Adelman. Nothing against Minnesota's own Kevin Mchale who is doing a fine job now in Houston, but Adelman is getting the team to believe, work together and pull for one another. For the last few years with all the losses mounting, the bench players usually sat disinterested as the players on the floor went through the motions. Now the bench is on their feet and totally into it. Just a small thing perhaps, but another step in the right direction under coach Adelman. I'll be anxiously watching as the Wolves play 4 road games on the west coast in 5 days starting on Tuesday out in LA. This will go along ways in determining if we really are a playoff contender, or just another pretender. And if weíre really lucky, weíll be watching the next great sports story unfold, maybe we call it ďThe Wolves Run to the PlayoffsĒ.


2/7/12  Football is King, and Vegas Loves the Super Bowl!!!

There is not much more of an exciting time to be in Las Vegas than Super Bowl weekend. From my experience this past weekend, Vegas is alive and well. The casinos, sports books, gaming tables, restaurants and bars were jam packed.

We stayed at Harrah's on the strip as some friends had some comp'd benefits that we were able to share in. Its sort of "old school" Vegas, but right in the center of the action. And if you can get past the $40 room service breakfasts (coffee not included), overall it's a pretty reasonable and fun place to stay. Back to the Super Bowl. It turned out to be an exciting game but there is no way I can be convinced that the Giants are the best team in football. They just got hot at the right time. Much like the Packers did last year. And much like the Giants did a few years back when they also knocked off the Patriots in the super bowl, putting an end to the potential "greatest season ever" by the Pats. Also keeping Miami's perfect season record intact. Same thing this year, a close hard fought game, with just a couple of key plays the difference between winning and losing. I just wish I hadn't been swayed by our cabbie from Wooster, Mass who was so intent on the Patriots winning, that I switched off of the Giants, and backed the Pats. Needless to say, shortly after the game I was wandering the Vegas Strip in search of a Wells Fargo cash machine. Ouch!!! I wish I had bet on the coin flip, color of Gatorade dumped on the winning coach, over/under on the national anthem, or whether Madonna was going to appear in fishnet stockings (she did), rather than the game's outcome. But being a huge Tom Brady fan, I'll go on record now picking New England back in the big game next year, but it will be against the best team in the NFL, the Packers. Already put my money on it in the sports book! And a side note, if Indianapolis can host a Super Bowl, let's get a new downtown stadium with some high profile corporate sponsors and get Minneapolis on the list for the big game! The TV audience hit a record 111 million viewers, and was also the largest streamed sporting event worldwide ever, so football fandom is at an all time high. Let's hope we have a team in MN for all to enjoy.

What about the Wolves!! Just off a win at home against Sacramento with Kevin Love on suspension. The win puts them a game over .500 and currently sitting in the 10th spot in the Western conference, and continues what has been a great start to the season under new head coach Rick Adelman. Can the Wolves really be considered a Playoff contender? Well if Rubio keeps playing like he has, and someone reminds Love its not polite to stomp on your opponents chest, I think they can!! And can there be any truth to the rumor that the Twins are in talks with Rubio's people about a possible tryout as a shortstop/pitcher based on his little league highlights from back in Spain? We can only hope.


1/20/12  When Can I Go Back in the Water?


Thatís what we used to ask Mom after wolfing down our meals and then running down to the beach all ready to dive in.  But the answer was always the same. You canít go back in for at least an hour! And weíd whine and all that stuff kids do, then run back into the water as soon as that hour was up. Well thatís how I feel now about the NFL. When can I go back to watching football? I hate losing. I hate it when my team loses. When I was a kid I hated to lose too. When I was a kid I hated when one of my favorite teams lost. So Iíve pretty much sworn off talking about or watching or listening to all the football chatter this weekÖ..since the Packers lost.  I was probably 6 or 7 when we first passed through Green Bay on a road trip to my Dad's home state of Michigan. We took a small detour by Lambeau Field on that trip and I was hooked. Much to my Dad's chagrin, I became a Packer fan and never changed from that. I paid no attention when the Vikings brought their funny looking purple uniforms and helmets to Bloomington. If it wasnít green and yellow (or gold depending on the light of day), it didnít matter to me. The only thing that did matter during football season was how the Packers did on Sunday. Well this past Sunday was hard to digest. They lost a playoff game they should have won. Sure the Giants were a hot team and I give Eli Manning credit for his solid play. But the Packers receivers dropped balls all over the field with two of those drops for likely touchdowns. They also fumbled the ball away a couple times and when the game was on the line the defense played like a high school team. Basically they played their worst game of the year, and at home for gosh sakes! But I am slowly getting over it. Five days have past and I was actually able to look at the sports section of the star tribune today.  I still haven't watched SportsCenter since Sunday, and don't ever want to see the replays or highlights on the NFL Channel of that game. But the Pack will be back and I feel improved next year. As will likely the Lions and possibly the Bears. Not sure we can say that about the Vikings yet. But probably the biggest news on the Vikings side of things will be if some sort of Stadium bill gets passed. Hereís hoping the powers that be get it right and get a new stadium in the works soon. And as far as the NFL goes, New England is my pick to win the Super Bowl. Theyíll get a rematch with the Giants and prevail this time. (weíll see how that works out on Sunday).

Meanwhile on a much brighter note, the Twolves continue to impress. A nice come from behind win over Detroit on Wednesday brought their record to 6-8. I haven't checked into it to verify, but I believe it's been quite a few years since they have had 6 wins through 14 games of a season. The young guys are showing lots of spirit and athletic ability. Love is developing into a true NBA all-star and Ricky Rubio is surpassing many of the tempered expectations and getting a fair amount of national recognition in the hoops sports world. There is definitely more excitement down at Target Center than anytime since KG left town. It will be fun to catch the game on tonight out in LA against the Clippers to see how we stack up against another team loaded with young stars. The Clippers are trying to challenge the Lakers as the top team in LA.

And talk about teams moving in opposite directions, the Wild have now lost 15 of their last 17 games and are just trying to keep in contention for a possible spot in the playoffs. Injuries and lack of scoring have brought about a huge change of direction in the season, following their hot start. There is still a long way to go so weíll see if coach Yeo can get his team back on track. This will be a tough task for the rookie coach, but Iím hoping they can crank it back up a few levels and make a playoff run. But if they donít get some kind of offense going, as their scoring has been abysmal, they donít stand much of a chance.

So I'm making my way back into the water, albeit slowly. If the AFC and NFC championship games were today, I probably wouldn't be ready to watch them. But by Sunday I'm pretty sure Iíll be ready for some football.  Its just not the same when your team isn't in it anymore. Now I know what the Vikings fans go through most years.
 

12/28/11  Wolves Show Flashes.....But Can They Win?

The Monday night season opener brought back memories of the best times at the Target Center. A packed house and Rickey Rubio created a sensation we hadn't felt for a long time. But in the end, it was another loss. I'm writing this as I watch the Tuesday night game in Milwaukee as the Wolves have rallied back from 20 points down to make a seemingly out of reach game into a tight battle in the waning minutes. Will it be the new-look Wolves who pull out a victory, or more of the same old stuff and another loss in a close game without the finish needed.......same old Wolves. A loss to the same team we beat last week in both of our pre-season games.  Damn. Close but no cigar. The Wolves go 2-0 in the pre-season, but now face Miami, Dallas and San Antonio this weekend and next Monday. There's a good chance we'll be staring up at an 0-5 start. But all is not lost, the young guys look like they can play with the big boys, and it's going to be a fun ride.

And like all good sports junkies, I was channel flipping and caught the Gopher game also. As with the Wolves in the regular season, wins are going to be tough to come by in the Big Ten. No matter what you do in the pre-season or non-conference, the regular season is all that matters and it'll be a struggle the whole way. The Big Ten is loaded with good teams and the Gophers would appear to be in the middle to lower part of the pack. A loss to Illinois on the road in the Opener isn't shameful, but the Illini would seem to be a middle of the pack team also. It's going to be one of those seasons where the Gophs will need to win a majority of their home games, and beat some of the lousy teams on the road to have any shot at being a .500 ballclub. Losing Mbakwe sure didn't help, but the other guys are stepping up so far so again it could be a fun season.

And just when we thought the Vikings season couldn't get any worse. They lose Adrian Peterson to a season-ending and possible career threatening knee injury in a meaningless game that no one wanted them to win anyway. So now instead of having a shot at the #1 draft pick and at least having that to look forward to, they'll finish up the season in another meaningless game hosting the banged up and beaten Bears on Sunday with nothing at stake. I'm sure tickets are easy to come by, so get out and watch Joe Webb and Toby Gerhart take on the Bears and their 2nd or 3rd string quarterback along with a couple of back-up running backs. If they aren't careful, they might finish up the season with a 2 game winning streak! Does anyone care?
 

12/8/11 The NBA is Back!! And Elvis has left the Building

With the NBA labor dispute settled, it's time to look forward to a new beginning for the T-Wolves. A new coach with a solid reputation and winning history, Rick Adelman takes the helm. Practices start later this week and the first game is December 26. Honestly I didn't think I'd miss the NBA, but now that it's all settled I'm excited about the potential that this team has. It's hard not to get anxious to see Ricky Rubio finally in a Wolves uniform. He hasn't exactly garnered rave reviews playing over in Europe recently, but he's a classy young player, and if he's anything like the player we thought he might be, he'll be a great addition at least in terms of marketing and fan appeal. Along with Kevin Love and Michael Beasley, he'll be a great fit as one of the young faces of the newly re-invented Timberwolves. Still yet to sign rookie Derrick Williams is another bright spot and should develop into a significant cog in the machine. I think heíll be a nice reward for getting that second pick in the draft last year. I might be getting a little ahead of myself, but I believe they'll be significantly improved over last years team and it should result in more wins for us fans to enjoy. 

On the other end of the spectrum, the Vikes, like Elvis, have apparently left the building. They got derailed by the Tebow Train this past Sunday. And while the somewhat unorthodox southpaw is being scrutinized for his poor passing statistics as well as his religious fervor, the Broncos have ridden the Tebow Train to first place in the AFC West. While the Vikings are more likely to be found riding in a converted Blue Bird school bus halfway across the north woods of Wisconsin on their way to Detroit. Christian Ponder will win many more games in his career, but maybe no more this year. They face Detroit (albeit slumping) on the road, New Orleans here at home (no chance), travel to Washington (should be a close game), and then finish up with the Bears here in the dome. Now that game could be interesting if the Bears are still fighting for a wild-card spot and should also be a close game, as most are with the Bears. Ponder is a bit banged up and is questionable for the start this week anyway, which might bring Joe Webb back into the QB picture. Another question the Vikings face and will come into play impacting potential wins and losses, is how much do you run Adrian Peterson down the stretch in a lost season. Of course he wants to play and is said to be about 70% strength right now, but the Vikings need to be planning for next year. And a healthy AP is a must to get back to even thinking they can be a .500 team. That and a lot of help in the secondary and likely the offensive line, might get them there.  

Hey, and donít forget the Tommies are still in the running for a national championship in D3 football.  After a couple of very impressive playoff wins at home, they head out to visit UW-Whitewater in a semi-final match-up. This will be a lot tougher. Whitewater has won the last 2 national titles and playing at home will be very tough to beat. But it's great to see them get that far. You can catch that game on WCCO radio Saturday afternoon also. Letís see if we can bring home another national championship to the Twin Cities (remember the Lynx!).
 

11/23/11 That time of Year againÖ Salute the Turkeys, and Give Thanks!

An annual tradition in the StarTribune is Pat Reusseís ďTurkey of the Year AwardĒ which salutes Minnesotaís most noteworthy sportsman. But of course as the name implies itís for ineptitude, rather than winning achievement. And Lord knows thereís been a lot of ineptitude in the local sportsí scene over the last several years. Iím not going to attempt to pick out just one, thereís too many to consider. How about our multimillionaire Twinís walking wounded? Of course thatíd be Mauer and Morneau. Shortly after the Twins sunk half their payroll into the M&M boys, they both have become so fragile that their combined contribution this past season would barely mount up to what Nick Punto did for the Cardinals.

You could also point to the Twinís management in general for their mishandling of the roster, bungling trades and totally overestimating the talent of several of the players they did move into starting roles this past season. Letís hope they lose their passports and donít make any more talent scouting trips to Japan in the short term after the failed Nishi experiment.

And the Vikings are a whole Ďnother story of ineptitude. I have to admit I got a little excited when Christian Ponder moved into the starting role. I donít think McNabb could lead the Eden Prairie Eagles to the State Championship so heís definitely in that ďturkeyĒ category. But now the realities of being a rookie QB have set in and the rest of the team, besides A.P. and Jared Allen, is pretty darn mediocre. They have a chance to post one of the worst records in Vikings history. Iíd say nowís the time for the coaches to step up also as their performance in getting the team prepared is probably rated a D- at best.

Donít forget our Gopher football team in this mess either. Coach Kill has had his hands full dealing with his own health issues, and the lack of talent on the field. Right now their talent level would probably fall right in the middle of the football packÖ..if they were playing a couple of divisions below Division 1A. But they are not, so they rank at the bottom of the barrel. They have a chance to get a win in their final game of the season, hosting the Illini at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday. Iíd love to see them do it for the Seniors, and then at least build a little momentum and enthusiasm for next year.

But forgetting all the bad things going on in local sports, there are certainly highlight as well. Undefeated St. Thomas is hosting Monmouth in the second round of the D3 playoffs, and they have a solid chance at bringing home a national championship. The Wild continue to excel, posting 27 points so far which is tied with Chicago and Pittsburg at this point in the season. The hockey Gophers are near the top in the national rankings after a split this past weekend with St. Cloud. And the Wolves still havenít lost a game yet this yearÖ.oh wait, they havenít played a game. The NBA lockout continues, in what is sure to unfold as one of the worst business decisions in sports history. I feel bad for all the local businesses affected downtown as the Target Center remains mostly empty now, instead of bringing fans downtown for some Pro hoops.

However winning or losing, Iím always  thankful for the enjoyment that sports does give us. Itís a great break from our everyday life as we watch our favorite teams. And I do mean win or lose. Iíve stuck with my teams from the time I was a small kid. And I continue to watch and enjoy many of the lesser covered sports as well, thanks to all the coverage afforded with satellite TV. Hell, Iíd probably watch Dancing With The Stars if they figured out how to make it an event that included betting, or let ESPN2 handle the coverage! Maybe next year Iíll introduce a betting pool for that show, similar to what we do for March Madness.

And what a thanksgiving line-up of football games we have on tap. Packers/Lions, Dolphins/Cowboys and to cap it off, the 49rs at Baltimore in the evening. Now thatís what I call a holiday feast! Happy Thanksgiving to all. 

 


11/10/11  
Say is ain't so JoePa 

Is nothing sacred?? Sex scandal rocks Penn State and pushes Joe Paterno into "early" retirement. But what's so unusual about that? He's 84 years old for gosh sakes. And probably should have retired years ago.  And is there really a difference between being fired at age 84, or just quitting?  That being said, he's probably the greatest college coach of all time and has been throughout his illustrious career held in higher esteem than probably the Pope and the President combined!  Plus his winning percentage is much better!!  But as the story now unfolds, at one point quite a number of years ago he was made aware that "something bad" was going on. And all he did was tell his boss (who basically did nothing) and went on coaching. Now no one is saying he was at all involved in any wrongdoing, but the whole scandal stinks so bad that his time has come to leave. We all have the moral obligation to do what is right, and it seems he, among others, failed to do the right thing and now are paying the price. Interesting enough Penn State hosts Nebraska on Saturday so with this huge subplot it should be a good game to check in on.

It's the first time I've mentioned hockey yet, and we're well into the season in MN!  Who says we don't have teams that can win!  The Wild have started out playing well as they learn their roles under new Coach Mike Yeo. They aren't the highest scoring team around, but getting better as the new players get accustomed to playing together, and they are playing typical good Wild defense. They continued their nice hot streak Wednesday night with a shutout win on the road over Calgary. And on the hockey train, the Gophers have climbed to the Number 1 rating in the Nation. And that's a first for quite some time, after enduring a number of sub-par seasons with the Gopher faithful even calling for Coach Lucia's ouster. Amazing what some wins will do and with the talent they have on this team, let's hope we can get back in the mix for an NCAA title run come post-season time.  

What about the Twins bringing back former GM Terry Ryan. Since he was basically the architect of many of the winning seasons and is widely recognized as one of the great talent judges in baseball, it would seem to be a wise move. And also probably a sign they know how tough it is going to be to get back to winning divisions with the rise again of the Tigers. They need healthy players, and a lot more pitching!  

And finally, after a week off the Vikings and Christian Ponder return to action with a possible game of the year Monday night at Lambeau Field. No doubt Ponder has re-ignited the fans, and the team with his gutsy play. It should be exciting Monday night and I'm thinking the Packers, while formidable on the offensive side of the ball, couldn't stop Anoka from scoring, and will give Ponder a lot of opportunities to get the team in the end zone. I think it will be a high-scoring, wide open affair. The Pack isn't likely to go undefeated, so who knows, maybe the upset is sprung this week! In any case, I think the 13 or 14 point line is too big, and look for the Vikings to make it a close one.


10/20/11  Finally...It's World Series Time

I swore off the season when the Yankees got knocked out of the playoffs. But the World Series is different. If you are a baseball fan, you have to watch it. Two teams making it through the marathon 162 game season and a couple of playoff series to go head to head for 7 games. There is no more a test of champions than this. Forget about the corporate hoopla that has become the Super Bowl (think Jerry Jones hosting last year's Super Bowl just because he built the biggest stadium) and the NBA showcase for L.A. and Kobe Bryant. This is the best pitchers trying to outduel the best hitters and managers trying to out smart the other guy, juggling pitchers, trying to manufacture runs and get the most out of their bullpens and utility players. It looks to be a good match-up with the Cardinals and Texas Rangers. The first game turned into quite a battle with St. Louis winning game 1 at home by a score of 3-2. Good stuff and game 2 is on tap for Thursday night. (Ya think Nick Punto missed playing for the Twins this season as he finds himself playing in the World Series?)
 

NBA Lockout.....Who cares! Head on over to Osseo High School this Friday night and see some of the best young stars of the NBA right here in town. Michael Beasley has put together a nice little showcase of some very good players (himself, Kevin Love, Kevin Durant to name a few). And it's all for a good cause with proceeds going to well deserving charities. Check out the link right here on the AnokaCountyOnline site. But speaking of the lockout, it is doubtful we'll have any regular season games before the Christmas time frame as of now. Going to miss heading down to the Target Center for that action, especially with the Wolves gathering some excitement with the hiring of the new coach, Rick Adelman. Here's hoping they get it figured out soon.
 

October 23, 2011. Green Bay Packers. Maybe 7 or 8 years and some playoff victories into the future, and it'll be a nice Vikings trivia answer. When did Christian Ponder make his first start for the Minnesota Vikings against which team. The future is now for the young QB. It might take some time as it generally does for rookie QB's in the NFL, but it seems like the right time and the right direction to take. All the best teams that are the most consistent winners and get to the playoffs regularly, (and more importantly, win playoff games) develop consistency at the QB position. So it's time to see if Ponder can be that guy, and it will give him a head start for the 2012 season. Obviously if the Vikings were in contention in the division, it might be a scenario where he waits until next year. But if we've seen McNabb's best, then it isn't good enough. And speaking of consistency, those winning teams also develop that at the head coaching position. It's hard to develop a winning program with a new coach every few years also. So it's time for Coach Frazier to step up and show he belongs in that spot. The honeymoon is over. He needs to get better at motivating a team to play 4 quarters, figure out how to utilize the talent they have at key positions (think AP and Percy Harvin), improve the play calling and as a former defensive guy, get the somewhat overrated defense fired up to the point where they can actually stop someone when it counts. But for now, enjoy Sunday and let's see how they fare against the undefeated Packers. I know I'll have my regular $5 weekly bet on the Pack this week to cover the 8 point line.


9/30/11 A Jammed Packed Weekend of Sports!    

 
Too much to even go into any sort of detail, but a sports junkies dream!

The MLB Playoffs start up Friday night. It will be hard to top the excitement of Wednesday's season finale when the two wild card entrants were decided in either the 9th inning or extra innings in both the American League and the National League. After leading the wild-card races handily for nearly the last month, both the Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves saw their playoff hopes dashed with a combination of their own futility, and dramatic comebacks by the Tampa Bay Rays and the St. Louis Cardinals. And for local flavor, it was Coon Rapids' own Dan Johnson who saved the Rays season with a game tying  homer in the bottom of the ninth inning, enabling the Rays to win in extra frames and advance to the division series vs. Texas. Great stuff and much more to come! (and a minor victory for the Twins who ended the season with a 2 game winning streak to avoid losing 100 games!)
 

A huge weekend of football is on tap with more games of interest than even I'll be able to watch. How about starting out with our Gophers on the road in the Big House as a 20 point underdog to the Michigan Wolverines? I think I'll take Michigan in that one (right Wally?). Then when that gets out of hand, see if you can find  the St. Johns versus St. Thomas game on the radio. These archrivals meet for the 80th time spread over 110 years at the campus in St. Paul. And if you can get one, tickets are only $10 and for my dollar, it doesn't get any better for the pure enjoyment of college football than a match up like this one. Saturday evening features the national Big Ten debut of Nebraska as they visit Camp Randall Stadium to take on the Badgers of Wisconsin. A huge game with Big Ten and possible National Championship ramifications. I can't wait for that one. Of course Sunday brings us the Vikings and their quest for win #1. They are favored by 1 1/2 points over Kansas City down there, so maybe it could happen?? For us Packer fans we get one of the featured 3:15 games Sunday afternoon. And if you still haven't had enough, a tough AFC match-up featuring two Super Bowl hopefuls, the Jets and Ravens square off at 7:30 Sunday night. So I figure you could watch games from 11 am on Saturday till about 11 pm, and then on Sunday from Noon until about 10 pm. No wonder I never get anything done on the weekend!
 

And don't forget the Lynx, who open the Championship Finals hosting the Atlanta Dream, a team that reached the finals in last year's WNBA championships. The best of 5 series starts up at the Target Center Sunday evening with the second game Wednesday here also. Good luck to the Lynx and it would be great to bring any sort of Championship Trophy back to the Twin Cities.
 

For those that like to get up early on Sunday's looking for something to do, head down to various viewing points around the Lakes and catch the excitement of the Twin Cities Marathon. It's supposed to be a beautiful weekend of weather, and believe it or not, it really is fun to watch the race from some of the really great vantage points the race features. Check out the website and take in part of this event and you'll find out why it's referred to as the most beautiful urban marathon in America. https://www.tcmevents.org/events/medtronic_twin_cities_marathon_weekend/

 

9/16/11  How Bad Can It Get For Our Minnesota Sports Teams!

How bad can it get??  The Gophers not only lose the game to one of the lowest ranked football schools in the country, they lose their coach! Here's wishing good luck to Coach Kill and I hear he may be back on the sidelines Saturday after a frightening seizure towards the end of last game. The Gophers are slight favorites this weekend over Miami of Ohio, and maybe an inspired outing for the Coach can get it done. However this team is better than last week's opponents, so it may be a battle to get that first win in the Kill Era.
 

How about the Vikings mustering less than 50 yards in the air in the loss to the Chargers? And yet with only a play or two going their way in the second half they could have had a win. This week the Bucs come to town and there is reason for optimism. We'll see, but I'm not betting the farm on it. Maybe $5 with my buddy Doug, but certainly not the farm!  After watching the first weekend of games, I'd say the NFC's most impressive teams were the Bears, Eagles and Packers. And in the AFC the Ravens, Patriots and Texans looked good. Let's see how they all hold up this weekend.
 

And one last note on the Twins.....last place behind the Royals??? How the mighty have fallen. Last year they were on the way to winning the division. Now that really is my last take on the Twins for the season. Spring training will be here before you know it!
 

Now on the positive side, the Wolves sign Rick Adelman as coach, and that is great news. If they can get the NBA lockout settled and get this coming season back on track, maybe this will truly be the start of building a team with long-term goals and a winning tradition. I'm tired of the "re-building" phases we've been in for how many years now??
 

And good luck to the Lynx as they enter their playoffs as the number one seed. Opening at home tonight in a best of 3 series against San Antonio, a team they should dominate. But this is Minnesota, so again we won't count our chickens before they hatch when it comes to the playoffs.


 

9/8/11  It's Finally Football Season...    

 
As I anticipated, the Gophers gave a spirited effort out west (after a sluggish start) and were in a position to pull off a major upset in the waning minutes of the game against USC. An interception dashed those hopes, but in the end it may spur them on to work harder and be better prepared to close the deal in the next close game. I was impressed by the effort and look forward to a couple of wins in the next few non-conference games. They should win handily over New Mexico State this weekend and follow that up with 2 more home games (NDSU and Miami of Ohio) before the start of the Big Ten season. That will be a huge challenge playing the likes of Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin among their first 6 Big Ten opponents. I'd say a realistic (and somewhat optimistic goal) may be a season record of 6-6. And to get that they'd likely have to win the next 3 non-conference games, then find a way to get 3 more W's in the Big Ten. It won't be easy, but I'm looking forward to seeing them progress through the season.
 

Turning to the Pro's and the NFC North, I'll pick the Packers to top the Division this year with something like a 11-5 or 10-6 record. The wins come tough when you're the defending champs. The Pack return several of the key injured players from last year and if they can develop some sort of consistent running game, and the line can protect Rodgers, 11-5 or potentially better is attainable. The Bears (remember they won the division last year) should still be strong enough to get into second place and I'd target a 9-7 or 8-8 record for the Jay Cutler led bears. They added a couple of veterans (Marion Barber and Roy Williams) and they should continue to play tough defense, so they could be in contention for a wild-card spot. Detroit is a popular pick as a much improved team, loaded with offensive talent led by Matthew Stafford and a developing  defense. I would still be surprised if they can get to .500 for the season, so would pick them to be somewhere around 6-10 or 7-9. And right about that same territory the Vikings should fit in, with McNabb and the boys picking up some wins against the weaker teams on the schedule, but still overmatched against the top teams in the league. With 4 games versus the Bears and Packers, then throw in San Diego, Atlanta and New Orleans and the improving Bucs, it will take a pretty solid effort the rest of the games to get to the .500 mark. So I'll project them to be right around where the Lions come in, something like 6-10 or 7-9. There are so many variables here with the Vikings what with the new QB plus Coach Frazier's first full season that maybe there is upside potential, but there's probably as much downside risk to achieving that record and that's why they could be bringing up the rear in the division. I may have to eat my words (plus pay out plenty in bets) if they do finish above .500 so we'll be keeping a close eye on the Purple, along with the entire division. I know there are plenty of folks looking forward to the opening weekend of football and I'm certainly one of them! From now till World Series time is the best portion of the sports year in my book.
 

And let's not forget the St. Paul Saints are in the American Association league championship series. They won the first game last night in the best of five series versus the Grand Prairie Air Hogs. The second game of the series is tonight at Midway Stadium and I hear tickets are still available. So if you want to catch outdoor baseball at its finest (or funniest?), check out the Saints down by the railroad tracks in the Midway area. I believe the promo for tonight's game is Thirsty Thursday, so it's bound to be a good time, win or lose!
 

8/30/11    The Great Minnesota Get Together and Other Sports Stuff

Now that we're right in the middle of the State Fair, it really means that it's back to school time, and it's time to get serious about the football season. We can kiss the Twins goodbye, but a note of thanks to Jim Thome for giving us the lone Twins highlight of the year with his 600th home run. And now he's playing in Cleveland (some reward) as they try and catch the Detroit Tigers. An exercise in futility I believe. I guess we also did have Francisco Liriano tossing a no-hitter way back in May, but most have forgotten about that long ago. Not much more to say except wait till next year. I may jump back in with baseball news or updates as the playoffs approach since I  do have a major rooting interest to follow. More on that later.

As evidence of how important football and specifically the Vikings are in this town, every TV channels' highlight of their State Fair coverage on Sunday was Christian Ponder walking around the grounds, sampling the fair food. But I'll bet you as of now, he doesn't know the difference between a pronto pup and a corn dog. He was however, carrying a big oversized stuffed animal around the whole time, like it was one of his offensive lineman he just helped up off the turf. Nice that he was wearing a Twins cap which is a great way to endear himself to the hometown crowds before he takes over the reins of the Vikes. That could be a year or two off, or maybe not depending on how successful McNabb and/or Webb are in putting games into the win column. The Vikings faithful aren't going to have too much patience with another sub-.500 team as the defense ages, and AP heads into free agency. The Vikings appeared to make some progress in pre-season game 3 so there are some reasons for optimism. Any offense with AP and Percy Harvin lining up in the backfield has a chance to explode from any point on the field. I'll preview the North teams in my next article.
 

Speaking of optimism, how about the Gophers football team. I really do think Jerry Kill can be the guy who can instill some Gopher pride back in the program and get this thing turned around. Forget the rah-rah hype of the Brewster era, Kill is of mid-western stock who was the classic undersized, yet overachieving football player in high school and college. And he has the work ethic and the kind of grit we haven't seen around here for a while. Now it won't be easy with the talent that is here yet. Coach Kill himself, rather than blowing smoke after the spring practices, came out and said the team isn't good enough, strong enough or fast enough at this time. But he's working them harder than they're used to and will make positive strides. The Big Ten is probably stronger than it was last year, especially with Nebraska on the slate so getting wins is going to be tough. But I think they will be fun to watch and I'm looking forward to seeing them in action against USC this Saturday on ABC. It will be a tough task, but we'll get to see right off the bat how they stack up against the big boys.
 

I, along with a great group of friends, witnessed the coolest hole-in-one this past Saturday at our nearly 20th annual Mille Lacs/Ruttgers golf outing. With the entire group of about 30 of us gathered around the 18th green, and another 20 plus folks up on the clubhouse deck observing, John Horita scored the Ace with a 4 Iron covering 194 yards over the lake protecting the elevated green. A soft bounce and a short role and it dropped quietly into the hole. And the whole place erupted with a roar! Not quite like the ones that have echoed around Hazeltine when the PGA was here, but just as exciting nonetheless. Congrats to John on a truly spectacular shot! (and if you don't know the difference between a pronto pup and a corn dog, just Google it sometime).

8/15/11 - It's A Cruel, Cruel Summer....The Twins and Tiger Go Missing...

The Twins are 11 1/2 games out of first place with 7 weeks left in the season. I'm always the optimist, but the best thing that's happened to them lately is a rain out in Cleveland on Sunday. On the off day, maybe they had time to take in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I'm pretty sure Bananarama isn't in it, but their hit song from the 80's "Cruel, Cruel Summer" about sums it up for the home town boys. Hot summer streets..., the pavements are burning..., the air is heavy and dry. The balls aren't carrying out of Target Field, the team can't play defense, the pitchers look like they should be playing in the Northern League and Gardy is looking more and more like a Christmas Elf caricature every day. But fortunately this season isn't the norm around here as we've come accustomed to being in the thick of the pennant race and generally about this time are looking forward to the playoffs. They'll be back with a couple new faces next year and a couple familiar ones likely gone. Let's hope Jim Thome gets his 600th home run here this year as it would be the only real highlight of the season.
 

Tiger Woods heads into an early end of season retirement of sorts, after an embarrassing comeback attempt in the PGA Championship in Atlanta over the weekend. And he fails to make the cut as I'm sure all are aware of. But I do believe he'll dedicate himself to getting back on track and I look forward to watching him the next time it really matters, at the 2012 Masters. The PGA was still fun to watch with several new faces battling it out in extra holes, but the high drama that these Majors have had over the last 10 years simply doesn't exist when Tiger isn't in the mix. Some of the names on these recent leader boards may become household names in the golf world, and some, like Bananarama may be one or two hit wonders. Have to wait and see.
 

And for those serious 80's music enthusiasts, check out the video and see if these really do look like the good old days!  I'm not so sure...



8/4/11 - Football Takes Center Stage

Does anyone even remember what the NFL Lockout was all about? Does anyone care? Football is back and it is King again as it moves most other sports news right off the front page. The pre-season is in high gear as teams have spent the last week scrambling to sign their rookies and free agents. The Vikes made the move to bring in Donovan McNabb (call it a youth movement) as they transition to the Christian Ponder era. Doesn't seem like a terrible move considering they face a formidable and immediate challenge to remain competitive in the Division and need an experienced QB to even hope to be in the race. Odds makers favor the Patriots and Packers (7-1) to come out on top and meet in the Super Bowl. The Eagles who made significant free agent moves are rated right behind the Pack in the NFC. Chicago, Detroit and Minnesota are all right around 30-1 odds in early Vegas lines. We'll go more in depth into the North Division teams as the pre-season moves along. Also I'll get into two of my favorite topics as it relates to football, and that's betting and fantasy football on a weekly basis once the regular season starts up on September 8th.  

Tiger Woods returns to action today in Akron, Ohio at the historic Firestone Country Club. It's a no-cut event so he'll get 4 rounds in (assuming he's healthy and doesn't withdraw) as preparation for next week's PGA Championship in Atlanta. No doubt his return will spark TV ratings as there are many casual golf fans who still tune in to see what Tiger does and don't even turn to the event if they realize he's not playing. It will be interesting to see how competitive he is after nearly a 3 month layoff due to injury. He'll also have a new caddie on the bag (a long time friend of his) so that also is a change that may have an impact on his overall performance.  

Also in golf, the Champions Tour is in Blaine at the TPC. Golf greats who will be here include Arnold Palmer and Chi Chi Rodriguez along with top current players Fred Couples and Tom Lehman. Tournament play starts Friday and wraps up on Sunday. And remember it's free parking and admission, so take advantage of the chance to see some great golf on a great course, all for FREE.  

The Twins are somewhat treading water, or some may say taking on water. Its a very tough part of the schedule playing the Angels now, White Sox this weekend, Red Sox next week and the Yankees still to come in a couple weeks. I haven't seen enough improvement in the offense or the starting pitching to think they can really challenge Detroit in the Central Division. But I won't give up hope just yet. There are plenty of games left and it just takes one really hot streak to get back in the race.  

And lastly, gotta salute the Lynx, since its often hard to find them mentioned in the sports page. They just won their 7th game in a row and now have the best record in the WNBA. It's almost the halfway point in the season so its quite an accomplishment. I'm going to make an effort to get to one of their games yet this season.


7/25/11 - Bono and Bert Blyleven!  Weekend Wrap-up

TCF Bank Stadium hosted nearly 60,000 screaming fans....and it wasn't for a Gopher Football game! The most excitement the new stadium has seen since it opened was the U2 concert Saturday night. Even the rain couldn't dampen the enthusiasm of this packed house.  Let's hope we can see that sort of thing this fall. Maybe an upset win over Iowa or Wisconsin could get the home crowd that jacked up (especially if they allowed beer sales). A great day followed on Sunday in Cooperstown, NY as Bert Blyleven was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Congrats to Bert as he makes it 4 Twins in the Hall, joining Harmon, Kirby and Rod Carew!  

The State shutdown finally ended! We can buy lottery tickets and scratch-offs again! Even better, the horses are running at Canterbury and Running Aces, the dealers are again dealing blackjack and hold 'em. Canterbury had over 21,000 paying customers for the 4 days since Thursday's re-opening weekend. Both tracks put a couple thousand folks back on the payroll. So that's a good thing!

We're not quite that far along with the NFL lockout. But the players association executive committee votes on Monday and if all goes well, players could be in training camp later this week. Then we can get on with figuring out more important things like who might the Vikings go with at Quarterback if they're going to try and be respectable, while chasing the Packers, Bears, and Lions in the division. Plus for us fantasy footballers, draft time is barely a month or so away, so we need to get the free agents signed and give us time to study for the draft. Did anyone else hear the news Sunday that the Eagles are actually considering old #4 for a role as back to Mike Vick in Philly? Like a bad cold, some things just won't go away.

The Twins stumbled a bit in the 4 game series with the Tigers, losing 3 of 4 and falling 7 games behind the division leading Tigers. Looks to me like the Tigers are the class of the division, with a more potent line-up in both batting average and power, a pretty strong starting pitching rotation led by Justin Verlander and a solid closer out of the bullpen. They will be tough to catch. But as I've said, the Twins still have a lot of positives as they get their starters healthy (nice to see Kubel back in the line-up) and Span still to return.  Baker looked good back on the mound and Nathan appears to be ready to fill the closer's role permanently. I still have the feeling that Gardy will keep them in the race. A tough schedule lies ahead as still not a day off until August 1, as they hit the road for 4 games in TX followed by a 6 game trip to Oakland and Los Angeles before heading back home to host the White Sox on August 5th.

And don't forget the Lynx. They are now in first place at the WNBA All-star break. Not quite halfway through their schedule they find themselves 10-4 and on top! So there is a MN team that's on top of their game! The Lynx sent 3 players to the All-Star game also, which was nationally broadcast on Saturday on ABC. Remember with the NBA lockout this may be the only pro hoops we get this season...so you might want to start paying attention.

7/18/11 - Weekend Wrap-up.....   

1) The Twins can be frustrating (Friday night's loss in the 9th) but also so much fun! Two great wins followed that Friday night disappointment so let's not dwell on that one. Joe Nathan takes back the closer's role and gets back to back 1 run saves Saturday and Sunday. They move to within 5 games of the first place Indians and Tigers. And guess who's coming to town for 8 games in 7 days??? The Indians starting Monday with a day-night doubleheader and then single games on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by the Tigers for a four game set starting Thursday.  Gardy will have more juggling to do with the line-up as both Kubel and Span continue their rehab in the minors and could be up within the week. The pitching staff will be stretched to the limit with this 7 day stretch, so Gardy and his staff will have their hands full in that regards also. So let's hope a week from now we can talk about them being even nearer the top of the standings.

2.) The Open Championship was a classic. Young guns versus the veterans. Rory McIlroy couldn't quite overcome the sometimes nasty weather conditions, and the pressure of coming back after his US Open triumph. Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson made runs at the lead, only to falter down the stretch. In the end Darren Clarke turned back the challengers and was a very popular winner. Another of the Northern Ireland elite golfers, and at 42, he's had his share of hardship both on and off the course. A great win, especially with the weather conditions they play in. And not to be overlooked was an excellent outing by Tom Lehman. He fell back a bit in the end, finishing in a tie for 22nd. We'll get a chance to see him up close, because the recent word is that he's committed to playing in the 3M Champion's Tour event here the first weekend of August. This will be at the TPC in Blaine, and again this year, admission is free. So come out and salute Lehman for his really solid performance at The Open.

3.) And finally it was a topsy turvy, and ultimately, a dramatic loss for the U.S. Women's soccer team to Japan in the World Cup final. I do believe the USA would win 7 out of 10 times playing Japan, but you only get one chance in a single elimination format. Japan appeared to play loose and looked like they were having fun, while the USA looked tight and appeared to be playing more to avoid the loss...so it wasn't to be. It was an exciting event nonetheless. Probably followed more closely in other parts of the world that stateside, but  it's always nice to see women's sports take center stage once in a while. We won't hear much more about women's soccer until we get nearer the 2012 Olympic Games in London.


07/13/11 - The Wide World Of Sports ...and Hoosiers!

Just finished watching Hoosiers, one of the great sports movies (and movies in general) of all time. It leaves you with the feeling that anything is possible in the world of sports, as in life itself. Funny how it applies to some of our sports scenarios today too. The long shots can surprise you.

1) Take the Twins for example. At the all-star break they now find themselves now only 6.5 games out of first place. And that's following a first half of baseball that saw them play arguably the worst they've played in years. But as I have said, don't count them out. I think their best ball is ahead of them.

2) The US Women's soccer team pulled off a dramatic come from behind victory over Brazil last week, and today plays France. It may even be over by the time you read this. They are trying to duplicate the miraculous feat of the '99 team that won the World Cup. Let's HOPE that they can do it again.

3) The (British) Open Championship gets underway very early Thursday a.m. Most of the golf world is wondering if Rory McIlroy can follow-up his first place performance in the US Open and repeat as a major champion. But beware, someone showed me the history of first time major winners their next time out in a major event, and many of them failed even to make the cut. Something about the hype and then the letdown factor. But I'll be cheering for Rory because he is the classiest young player out there and golf needs a new hero!

4) And finally can you believe this damn state shutdown is still going on? But does anyone care? I do for the fact that it is putting people out of work, at a time when we need jobs and paychecks the most. Very sad situation and our leaders in St. Paul are letting us down big-time.  The impact may be fatal for our struggling horse racing industry as both Canterbury and Running Aces sit idle as this continues. They are both regulated by the State's Racing Commission, which has been closed, and therefore can't operate according to current rules, which is totally nonsensical since they both generate revenue for the State. Now with their employees out of work and attempting to draw unemployment, they act as another drain on state resources. Oh well, let's hope they make some sense out of the budget mess soon. We could use some good news around here!


07/08/11 - Observations from the World of Sports 

1) The Twins are still 8 games out of first, trailing Cleveland. But following the nice win over the White Sox, are just 2.5 games behind the Sox for third place. They could potentially catch them with 3 games remaining in Chicago over the weekend leading up to the All-Star break. And Mauer makes the transition to first base with ease. For Twins fans, it's the biggest celebrity move since Simon left Idol. Look for much more of Joe playing first base in the coming months, especially if Morneau's return is delayed.

2) Derek Jeter moves closer to becoming the first pinstriper to get 3,000 hits in a Yankee career. Now just 2 short and a lock to get it this weekend at home. One of the few stats I care about, as he has done it with class, without steroids and as the consummate team player, the Yankee Captain!  He will be on top of greats such as Ruth, Mantle, Gehrig and DiMaggio.

3) Has anyone noticed that the MN Lynx are quietly in second place in the Western Conference?? Sure they're only 9 games into a 34 game schedule, but they are playing well. The Lynx host Connecticut at Target Center this Saturday in case that's been overlooked also. It's not all together impossible to think they are the best team in Minnesota to play on that floor. What with young stars Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus along with Lindsay Whalen, they have a legitimate chance to make the finals this year. We'll follow their progress over the next month and see how they are doing.

4) And for golf fans, don't miss the LPGA US Open Championship from the storied Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. A fantastic course to watch golf played on, and a great tournament as Paula Creamer defends her title. She might be our best hope to instill some life into the LPGA giving the Americans someone to really get behind and cheer for. Also for the guys who are out there trying to bang the ball 300 yards every time they take a swing, you can learn from the rhythm and tempo of the ladies' golf swing, and see that accuracy wins over haphazard length nearly all the time.

6/29/11 - Don't Give Up On Our Twins!

Of course I picked the Monday night massacre at the hands of the Dodgers to attend. I was heading for the exits as the Dodgers were scoring the last of their 15 runs in the top of the 8th inning en route to the 15-0 final score. Bemoaning the fact that the Twins couldn't hit a lick, were sloppy in the field, were getting shelled on the mound and generally seemed to be disinterested in the outcome! So just as about 40,000 Twins fans were giving up on the hometown lads, even booing them Monday night, they bounce back and win Tuesday night and then again on Wednesday afternoon. The sun was shining on them for sure as Baker and the relief corp combined for a 1-0 shutout win. So there is hope. Forget the fact they rank near the bottom in nearly every offensive category, are playing their worst defense in years and the bullpen has been spotty at times, and miserable at other times, they are still not out of the race in the Central Division. They're only a short weekend winning streak out of 3rd place, and only 8.5 games out of first place. If anyone can do it, the Twins can! Gardy has a history of shaking them up and getting players to perform above expectations. And there is a lot of room for improvement. The injured players should be rested and could come through in the second half. Mauer can only get stronger and his bat will return. Nathan looks like he may be ready to assume a role of prominence in the bullpen again. At some point we'll get Kubel, Span and Morneau back in the line-up. And maybe even Nishioka will prove that he does belong in the major leagues. They have so many guys barely hitting their weight that they can only get better! Right?? Well that's the belief I'm holding to. So get ready for a great baseball weekend with the Brewers in town for 3 games (fireworks Friday night) and then Tampa Bay follows right on their heels for 3 more. And then without a day off they head to Chi town for 4 games with the hated White Sox. That's a huge 10 game stretch that will go a long way to determining if the Twins are still in it when they get back to Target Field on July 14 to host the Royals. I'm hoping they are!

6/27/11 - It's "The Game" that matters

By way of introduction, I'll just confirm that I am a huge sports fan. But I'm not necessarily a "sports trivia guy" or someone who gets so wrapped up in the details they miss the bigger picture of just sitting back and enjoying a game. I don't know how many singles Pete Rose hit in his best season, I've already forgotten who won the 2008 Super Bowl and don't care who led the NBA in rebounding in 2010. I also don't get wrapped up in the stuff that occupies half of the sports page content these days. Things like who's getting busted for steroids or other off the field indiscretions, which major leaguer has the biggest contract or is holding out for more money, or whether the owners or the players are right in the NFL lockout mess. That's not important to me. What I care about is "the game". We have such a huge range of sporting activities in today's environment, and I try to take in as much as I can. Over the weekend, as I'm trying to digest the Timberwolves and the Wild draft (do either of them know which way they are going?), I also took some time to watch the grace and athleticism of several Wimbledon tennis matches, enjoy portions of the PGA and LPGA tournaments, catch my nephew Jack's little league victory in the playoffs and watch parts of each of the Twins 3 losses to the damn Brewers! And still had time for a couple of rounds of golf. So you can see sports is pretty much what I do! Tonight I'll be sitting down the first baseline at Target field trying to see if the Twins can snap their 5 game losing streak as they take on the L.A. Dodgers. And I'll try and ignore the headlines about the Dodgers owners' messy divorce and the fact that they might not be able to meet their team payroll this week and that the Dodgers themselves are filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. I'll just sit back and enjoy a couple of $7 Coors Lights at Target field and cheer for the hometown Twins. Because to me, it's "the game" that matters.