The classic Minnesota sports fan reads the headline to this article and grumbles: “just another optimist trying to make Minnesota Sports exciting when winning just doesn’t happen here.” And you know what? This typical guy may be right, maybe we aren’t meant to win, maybe there is a curse. It might not be a curse. It is hard to woo players to this cold tundra and that is something we started to accept. So, as Minnesota Sports Fans, we do the best that we can, with what we have, and who we can get to come here.
Well right now, we have something, special, something different… going on in Minnesota. Hell, last week, ESPN (the worldwide leader in sports) showed the first part of a documentary about the gophers head football coach, P.J. Fleck. A 4-part special on the Minnesota Gophers Football Coach…?
Every year, we fans hope for ONE Minnesota team that can make a deep run and we focus on that, but right now, so much more is happening. Sport by sport, and level by level, we have the most exciting season(s) ahead of us that we have EVER had?
We have a top NBA coach. One that picked Minnesota over everyone else. And the Wolves roster is maybe the best it has ever been, or damn close. They will have at LEAST two all-stars this year. Towns, Butler, and Wiggins will hopefully mesh their playing styles to push other teams around the NBA. And with the supporting cast they have (Teague, Gibson, Crawford, Dieng, Tyus), they are destined for the playoffs. The best part will be the continued growth for years to come, as our young guys develop into even better players and the roster continues to gain continuity. And FINALLY, Glen Taylor is opening the pocketbook to resign players like Wiggins and Towns.
The Gophers are going into the season ranked in the top twenty for 2017. That doesn’t happen often. Oh yeah, and did I mention a TOP TEN recruiting class, IN THE NATION, for 2018. With Little Ricky at the helm, the team is destined for a DEEP tournament run. The team has veterans like Mason, Lynch, Coffey, Murphy, and Mcbrayer coming back, with new faces like Fitzgerald, Washington, and Harris being added, they will compete for a Big Ten Title. They will continue to get better as they improve every year and try to keep top Minnesota kids (who are also top national recruits) in Minnesota.
We are yet to see a season under Coach Fleck but he did just bring Western Michigan (who?) to the Cotton Bowl. This is my favorite quote from the special on ESPNU that ran last week:
“If you, cannot do the right thing. I won’t keep you here, and you will never play, EVER!” -PJ Fleck
When I heard this sound bite on the ESPN special, I started clapping. That’s how things should be, and I’m sure as hell glad our coach won’t sugarcoat it. In Fleck’s first year recruiting, he is already ahead of the last regime. That’s in the midst of a coaching change and total disarray from last year. He has already received 23 total commitments, for 2018, and ranks 29th nationally. That’s higher than the previous leadership had, and nobody has even watched him coach a game yet!
Zimmer is the coach that all of us love. He has the mean, nitty gritty, own up to everything, it’s all up to you, mentality. WE LOVE IT! WE LOVE ZIM! Coming off of a disappointing season, the Vikings look to be contending for the NFC North once again. The offensive line may not be great, but it WILL be better than last year, and we know that because… well, it can’t get any worse…
Bradford now has a year of experience with the team, our receivers are more familiar with him and now growing into their own, and he just got another weapon in the draft. When Latavius Murray gets healthy; He, Dalvin Cook, and Jerick McKinnon will be one of the best trio’s of running backs in the NFL. Cook just has that game. He’s fast, he has burst, he is physical, won’t shy away from plowing a guy over, and can catch. Murray will get first downs and touchdowns at close yardage situations throughout the games. And McKinnon will be mixed in there plenty. Oh and our defense isn’t going to miss a beat. We locked up 3 key defensive guys so far this summer (Rhodes, Griffen, Joseph), and probably aren’t done. You may see the likes of Barr, Kendricks, and/or Hunter get new deals before the season hits. Keeping our key defensive guys will ensure that we are in the hunt each year and just waiting for our offense to explode, and when it does, the NFL better be ready.
So, the Twins may not be quite the slam dunk. It starts with coaching. There has been plenty of things I like about Molitor. He has done pretty damn good, considering the toys he has to play with. Having trust in guys like Buxton, and Rosario even when they were struggling. But then again, remember when Sano was in right field? What an absolute train wreck that was. It’s those decisions that stick out negatively for Molitor. I definitely question his pitching usage. There is nothing more frustrating than when he takes a pitcher out at 80 pitches, with 2 runs or less given up, whether to improve the matchup, go to a veteran, or pinch hit in the 7th at a National League park. To me, the pitcher has earned the right to keep on chucking. And let’s be real, with this pitching staff, if someone is throwing that well, they are the best option.
Now, looking at the roster: The Twins are going to be fun to watch for years to come. Sano is an MLB all-star, Buxton is already the best center fielder in the league, and improves at the plate every game. Max Kepler was taken internationally the same year as Sano. Coming from Germany, he wasn’t as hyped, but he is a HUGE part of the team’s future. Rosario has been one of the top hitters on the team. And Polanco…. well I don’t know WTF to think about him…. but we have other options coming up at SS.
To go with the “veterans” that lead this team, we have guys ready to burst through like Mitch Garver (C), Nick Gordon (SS), Stephen Gonsalves (SP), Fernando Romero (SP), and Felix Jorge (SP). I know, I know, we hear this every year blah blah blah. We need to realize that we have young guys that were top prospects not too long ago. Sano, Buxton, Kepler, Polanco, and Rosario, were all playing minor league ball in the last 3 years. This team will be fun to watch in the future, as these guys get there feet wet with success.
This team has probably been the most frustrating team to watch in Minnesota… yet the most successful. There is the feeling that they should be playing SO MUCH better. When we signed Parise and Suter, fans envisioned a Stanley Cup coming to Minnesota FAST. They haven’t gotten close. Again, we were reminded that this is Minnesota.
The Wild should continue to be a top NHL team. We signed two of our best players to keep them long term (Granlund, Niederreiter) and have young guys ready to break (or keep breaking) into the league. Kunin, Erickson Ek, Greenway, and Kaprizov are all top NHL prospects and are all relatively close to NHL-ready, if not already. Throw some of these guys in with our budding stars and seasoned veterans like Parise, Suter, Koivu, Staal, and company and they should be knocking at that Stanley Cup door for years to come. Living in the state of hockey, we expect the best, and nothing less, which we should. I just think we need to take a deep breath and look a little closer. We have a real team here.
The curse might never die, ever (“even if there’s a fire” -Will Ferrell), but we can sure as hell try to kill it. And the only way to do that is to stay persistent, as Minnesota Sports Fans. We love our teams like nobody else does. We go through the downs like nobody has seen. But now, it is time to SAVOR the ups. This is a high time in our sports landscape. It’s not often that we can say this many good things about each team. With young guys everywhere, some talented guys in there prime, and vets to lead the way. It’s gonna be fun to watch.
F*** this curse. Watch us WIN.
Caleb Strack @CalebStrack
Minnesota Sports Fan @RealMNSportsFan