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Saturday, February 06, 2010
Super Bad

So far my "do the opposite" system for picking NFL playoff games has not fared well. Going 4-6 in the games leading up to the Super Bowl is hardly a stellar record. And the matchup between the Saints and Colts doesn't really present any obvious opportunities for bucking convention and past history. But if you look hard enough there's always an angle that can be played.

Heading into tomorrow's game, it seems that almost everyone outside the state of Indiana is pulling for the Saints, even if they think the Colts will ultimately prevail. This pro-Saints sentiment stems partly from a desire to see the team reverse the franchise's pathetic past, but mostly it's driven by the belief that the people of New Orleans somehow "deserve" to win the Super Bowl after what their city went through with Hurricane Katrina. The Saints and their city are such a feel good story that you can't help but cheer for them, right?

Wrong. I not only want to see the Colts beat the Saints, I want to see them trample the Saints. I want to watch as the Super Bowl hopes and dreams of the Saints and their fans are completely and utterly destroyed. Sorry about what happened with Katrina New Orleans, but you don't "deserve" to win a Super Bowl because of your suffering.

The better team deserves to win the Super Bowl and I don't think the Saints are that team. I still don't think Drew Brees is a big game quarterback and despite their propensity for creating turnovers, I remain unimpressed with the Saints defense. The Saints were fortunate to get to the Super Bowl, but it will take more than that to beat the Colts. The Colts will not give the game to the Saints. If the Saints want to be Super Bowl champs, they will have to win it. And I'm skeptical about their ability to do so.

Not only do I think the Colts will win and win big, I want them to. Many will complain about having to sit through a Super Bowl blow out, but I'll savor every second of it. Colts 37 Saints 12.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010
This Too Shall Pass

Now that the finality of the Vikings season ending in New Orleans on Sunday has sunk in, it's possible to look back at what was and ahead to what be might (and stop obsessing about what might have been).

We have to start of course with Mr. Favre. Much of what I said about Favre when he signed proved to be almost completely wrong:

The other group of Viking fans are cool-headed and rational enough to realize that while Favre once WAS a great quarterback, his best days are long behind him. Now, he's nothing more than a washed-up, egomaniacal prima donna whose brain is writing checks that his arm can no longer cash.

Favre clearly proved me and the other skeptics wrong by having a great regular season and leading the Vikings to the NFC Championship game. I have no problem eating crow and admitting that I was wrong. I just wish I had been proven 100% incorrect:

The idea that he's going to calmly and carefully help quarterback the Vikings to the Super Bowl with deliberate style is absurd. Even if he wanted to take such a measured approach to the game, he couldn't. It's not in his nature. He's still Brett Favre and even if he manages to contain his urge to improvise for a good part of the season, you know that at some critical point in a key game he's going to try to do too much.

Say with nineteen seconds left in a tied NFC Championship game for example. But as awful as that throw was, I can't blame Favre for the loss. If his teammates hadn't fumbled away scoring opportunities and given them to the Saints and if the Vikings had a head coach who knew how to finish a game, he wouldn't have had to be in that position to begin with. Favre is Favre. You have to take the good (getting the Vikings to the brink of the Bowl) with the bad (making a bad decision in crunch time). If he decides to come back next year, I (and I imagine almost all Viking fans) would welcome him back with open arms. Next year, the Vikings just need to make sure not to let the game come down to one Favre gamble.

Next up, how do you solve a problem like Adrian? Having Adrian Peterson on your team is like having a beautiful girlfriend given to incurable bouts of explosive diarrhea. When she's strutting around looking smokin' hot, you couldn't imagine wanting anyone else. But when that diarrhea flares up, you want nothing to do with her. The question is do you stick with her and hope she figures out a way to control her problem or trade her in for a less hot but more regular gal? In the case of Peterson, that might mean the Vikes opt to try to make another run with Chester Taylor and see what they could get for Peterson in a trade. Personally, I think he's got too much talent to let him go and you rarely get back what you give up talent wise in NFL trades. Get somebody to work with him on holding on to the damn ball this offseason and see what happens next year.

Speaking of trading talent, assuming that Favre comes back and AP can hold on to the ball, the Vikings offense should once again be potent. But to make it even more so, the Vikings should discretely inquire whether the Patriots have had enough of Randy Moss. He's inked through next year with them, but after this year's shenanigans I wouldn't doubt if the Pats would be willing to move him. I have no idea what they would want or what the Vikings could give them, but the idea of Favre having Moss as a potential target is an intriguing prospect. Hell, it might even help convince Favre to come back.

Even if the Vikings don't get Moss back in purple, they appear to be positioned pretty well for next year. There are definitely positions that could be upgraded, but no glaring deficiencies. Among the players at least.

My number one concern continues to be the coaching. On the surface, Childress' record of success is hard to argue with. 6-10, 8-8, 10-6, 12-4 is an impressive four-year improvement and it seems that he played an instrumental part in getting Favre on the team. You can't deny him credit for that. But like Denny Green, I wonder if he's one of those coaches who doesn't know how to get it done in the clutch. Even before the inexcusable 12 men in the huddle fiasco, it didn't seem as if he had a clear plan for how they were going to win the game. As Vox Day has astutely noted, as soon as the Vikings got inside the Saints forty, Childress started to tighten up. I was watching the game with the NIGP and neither of us could understand why the Vikings called that first time out. And then to follow it up with two obvious running plays that gained nothing, another timeout, and then the penalty that will live in infamy call Childress' game management skills into serious question. I can't imagine other NFL coaches who have had success at the highest levels making those same series of mistakes.

Unfortunately, Childress had his contract extended this year so Vikings fans will have to hope that he learned something from Sunday night. Yes, the Vikings should be fine next year. As long as they can overcome Favre's nature, Peterson's dropsyness, and Chilly's command skills. No worries, right?

Finally, let me say that I am not one of those Vikings fans who's now wishing the Saints well in the Super Bowl. They had the NFC Championship game handed to them and they almost let it get away. While it's to their credit that they did win the game, they hardly looked impressive doing so. The Colts are not going to be nearly as generous as the Vikings were and if the Saints are going to become Super Bowl champs they're going to have to go out and win the game themselves. Frankly, I'm still not sold on the idea that Brees is a quarterback who can do that. We'll find out in a couple of weeks. Watching the Super Bowl as observers from the outside. A position that Viking fans are all too familiar with.

The Nihilist Chirps in: For me, the least favorite part of every Viking season is the week or so spent dissecting exactly where the team failed. The closer to the big game, the more unpleasant the exercise is. So I'm going to change the subject by informing readers that the AL Central Champion Minnesota Twins just signed slugger Jim Thome to an incentive-laden contract. He should see at least 80 games as DH, as well as providing valuable insurance in the event that Justin Morneau's back injury is still impacting him. It's time to look forward.

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Friday, January 22, 2010
A Town Without Pity

In yesterday's WSJ, Allen Barra--snugly ensconced in a myopic East Coast elitist bubble--penned a piece whining about all the suffering that Jets fans have had to endure through the years. To Mr. Barra and other Jets fans here's a message from the frigid north of fly-over country: cry us a freakin' river. You know nothing of suffering because of your football team.

Are we supposed to feel sorry for you because you've only won one Super Bowl and that was like forty years ago? Ain't happening brother. Your one Super Bowl may seem like a distant memory these days, but at least you got that on your shelf. We here in the Northland got nothin'. And we've been a heck of a lot closer than you have for most of the last forty years. That's what real pain is all about. So stifle your tears. You'll find no pity here.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Emotions Running Hot and Cold

It was tough NFL divisional playoff weekend for the "do the opposite" pigskin prediction system. The only game that I got right was the Vikings over the Cowboys. I guess I can take solace in the fact that it was the only game I really wanted to get right, but it's become clear that the opposite system is not one you want to bank (or bet) on. However, even though the results have not been good and the premise has been stretched beyond all credibility, when you get to this point you gotta stick with what you got.

AFC Championship

The Jets-Colts game offers up all sorts of intriguing "who would you rather play in the Super Bowl?" scenarios for Vikings and Saints fans tuning in before their tilt. While it might seem insane for fans of either NFC squad to wish to face the Colts and Peyton Manning (who's well on his way to becoming the best NFL quarterback of ALL TIME statistically speaking), does anyone really want to play the brash, upstart Jets? The Jets, as personified by their coach, are like a delivery driver who shows up at a member's only country club cotillion and refuses to leave. They just won't get the message that they don't belong here among the NFL elite and the longer they hang around, the more confident they become that they're really the ones who own the joint.

They also present a paradox for those trying to prognosticate their games. After failing to predict their previous two playoff victories, they're a team that I should have learned not to pick against. But they're also a team that I still can't justify picking to win. We all know that the Jets "beat" the Colts 29-15 late in December to spoil the Colts perfect season. This time around, the real Colts will be on the field for sixty minutes and they will kick the Jets to the curb winning 25-9.

NFC Championship

We all know the set up. A team lead by its high-powered, big play offense and opportunistic defense is the NFC's top seed. After crushing the Arizona Cardinals in the divisional playoffs, they're hosting the NFC Championship inside their domed stadium filled with rabid fans hungry for a Super Bowl title. They face the #2 seed, a team that also plays in a dome lead by a veteran quarterback, a top running back, and an explosive rookie kick returner that's coming off a win in the divisional playoffs against one of the iconic franchises in the NFL.

We're talking Saints-Vikings this week, right? Try Vikings-Falcons in 1999. Yes, as painful as it might be for Vikings fans to dredge up those memories, this Sunday's NFC Championship in New Orleans gives the Purple the chance to reverse roles and play spoilers to the Saint's Super Bowl plans much the same way the Falcons did to the Vikes in 1999.

With the NFL's two most prolific offenses squaring off, many expect a high-scoring affair. I think it will be more of a defensive struggle with an unexpected hero emerging to make the difference. How about the pride of Luling, Louisiana--a man with a mom named Katrina and sporting a Cajun-flavored surname--Darius Reynaud housing a punt return late to give the visiting Vikings a 27-20 win? It would be a phenomenon, but stranger things have happened. When a Republican wins Ted Kennedy's Senate seat in Massachusetts, you know we're in a time when anything goes.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010
Purple Pride Payoff?

Front page piece in today's WSJ on economists who tried to put a price on what the Vikings are worth to Minnesotans:

MINNEAPOLIS--Christopher Slinde, a lifetime Minnesota Vikings fan who has endured decades of heartbreak and lots of overpriced beer in supporting his team, believes Vikings fandom is priceless. According to economists, it's worth $530.65.

"This is deep," said Mr. Slinde, a 33-year-old X-ray technician, outside the Park Tavern near Minneapolis on Sunday. He had been handed a recent economics paper that is tattooed with equations and attempts to value, in dollars, the joy and pain Minnesotans get from the Vikings.

"Don't economists spend their time on more serious stuff?" he asked, after thumbing through the paper in the cold.


First off, this dude is thirty-three, so while he's endured his share of Vikings heartbreak, he also missed out on some of the worst of it.

Secondly, when it comes to putting a value on the "joy and pain" that the Vikings bring to their followers, I would think any rational economic analysis would have the fans coming out in the red.

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Friday, January 15, 2010
Sorrow, Stone, and Snow

Article in Thursday's WSJ explained that the way the Vikings have built much of their current team defies NFL conventions:

The Minnesota Vikings have never won a Super Bowl. They play in a drafty old dome in a sensible Midwestern city where the average low temperature in January is four degrees.

But in each of the past four seasons, the Vikings have used a combination of charm, shoe leather, a private jet, clever legal maneuvers and gobs of cash to craft a roster that's full of the kinds of gifted free agents who almost never become free. While most NFL teams have very few imported stars, half of the Vikings' current starters?from quarterback Brett Favre and guard Steve Hutchinson to Pro-Bowl defensive end Jared Allen?were drafted or signed by other teams.

"Scratch, claw, all the things they've had to do to get these guys," says Ken Harris, an agent who represents Mr. Allen, "the Minnesota Vikings are a phenomenal story."


Despite this "phenomenal" story and the fact that the Vikings are hosting this Sunday's divisional playoffs in the Metrodome (where they're 8-0 this year), I don't get the impression that many true Vikings fans are all that confident that their squad will beat the Cowboys. Sure you hear a lot of false bravado on local talk radio stations and some of the younger cadre of Purple fans may honestly believe their team is Miami bound. But deep down the fans who have been around for a while, the ones who can all too clearly still recall the playoff and Super Bowl losses, know that when it comes to the Vikings letting us down it's not a matter of if but when. The Vikes very well might defeat Dallas this week. All that will do is postpone the inevitable letdown.

What best describes this attitude? Some might say cynicism, others fatalism. I would say it's more of a stoicism, taking the definition of the word commonly used today rather than the philosophy itself. We accept our destiny but continue to carry on anyway, impassive in the face of eventual defeat. It's almost as if Viking fans have taken on the persona of Bud Grant, a man well-versed in hiding the pain of crushing losses. Vox Day was the first one I recall to make that connection:

People occasionally ask me how I can persevere so stoically in the face of constant scorn, derision, mockery and ridicule. They marvel at my ability to shrug off the most scathing attacks with little more than a sardonic smile, and they wonder how I remain so blithely unmoved by criticism, dislike and hate.

I find it hard to understand the question. I am a Vikings fan. There is nothing you can throw at me that could make me feel any worse than I have felt before. I sobbed in 1974. I raged with burning fury in 1975. I cried in 1976. I felt sick in 1987. By 1998, there was nothing left inside but a frozen hollow. In 2000 and 2003, I barely blinked. That which did not break me has made me stronger and harder than you can possibly imagine.

We are cold and bleak, we men of the North. We are made of sorrow, snow and stone.

We are all Bud Grant.


And there have been plenty of crushing losses over the years. The Nihilist in Golf Pants has long argued that Viking fans have suffered more almost any other followers of professional teams. With a couple of World Series under their belts, Red Sox nation is no longer in the mix. While Cubs and Indians fans bemoan their long World Series droughts, the truth is that both teams have rarely really had a shot at the ultimate prize. In the last forty years, the Cubs have had what three good teams? The Indians may have had a few more than that, but they too have only been knocking on the door a few times.

In the NFL, those who follows the Saints, Browns, and Lions have also been long suffering. But again, how many good teams have these three franchises had in recent history (this year's Saints being an obvious outlier)? The Vikings had more good teams in the Seventies alone than these three franchises have had COMBINED over the last forty years.

While having a bad team is certainly not a lot of fun, it doesn't compare to the pain for fans when good teams fail. Being a Lions fan is like having a dull muscle ache. After a while you get used to it and almost don't even notice it's there anymore. Being a Vikings fans means getting a knife in the gut on a fairly regular basis. And then having it twisted and ripped out. You don't easily recover from having your insides torn apart.

The Vikings kicked off the Seventies by losing Super Bowl IV 23-7 to the Chiefs despite being heavily favored. They went on to lose three more Super Bowls during the decade. Only the Buffalo Bills can match that record of futility, but again other than their run in the early Nineties the Bills haven't put many good teams on the field over the years.

The Eighties were mostly a down decade for the Purple. But in the strike shortened 1987 season, a team with better talent than their record would indicate made a playoff run that ended when they lost the NFC Championship game to the Redskins 17-10. The Vikings had the ball at the Redskin six yard line with a minute left, but when a fourth down pass fell incomplete the season and hopes of reaching the Super Bowl died.

The Nineties require no further elaboration. The mere mention of "1998" causes Vikes fans to experience an involuntary twinge of pain. That was the last time that we suspended our disbelief and allowed ourselves to truly believe that this was the team of destiny that could not fail to deliver us our Super Bowl. Let us mention it no more.

The Vikings started the Aughts in 2000 by going 11-5 and reaching the 2001 NFC Championship game against the Giants. Even though the game was in New York, the Vikes were actually favored to beat the Giants and reach the Super Bowl. Instead they went out and suffered the worst loss in franchise history getting utterly destroyed 41-0. It wasn't nearly as painful as the 1999 NFC Championship game, but it was disappointing to see them mail in such a pathetic performance.

Here we are again in 2010. A 12-4 team with a good deal of talent on both sides of the ball. Could this be the Vikings team that finally breaks through, wins the Super Bowl, and ends the suffering that Viking fans have endured for so long? It certainly could be. Do Viking fans believe in their heart of hearts that it actually is? Certainly not.

As Vox Day explained in another post:

Fortunately, Vikings fans have no need of faith. We have no expectations, we have no heart, we simply watch in numbed catalepsy and hope for the best.

So on Sunday we'll put on our grim game faces, utter a stern "Skol!," and await our fate.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010
You'll Cry and Cry and Try To Sleep

While I got off to a rough NFL Wild Card Weekend start, by the time it was over my "do the opposite" system of picking games ended up at 2-2, a respectable showing considering the circumstances. Respectable enough that I will employ it again in seeking to divine the divisional playoff winners. Since there won't be three games that replicate the pairings from the week before it will require a little more creativity this time around.

Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts

In Week 11 of this season, the Colts came to Baltimore and silenced the Ravens 17-15. Baltimore returns the favor this Saturday by going to Indy and beating the team that used to represent their city 25-17.

Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints

Applying opposite principles was tough here as the two teams did not meet in the regular season and neither has what you would call a storied playoff history. So I'll fall back to the last time they met which was in December of 2007. The Saints won that game at home 31-24. This time I'll take the Cards 34-21.

New York Jets at San Diego Chargers

On January 8th, 2005, the Jets defeated the Chargers in 20-17 in overtime in a Wild Card playoff game in San Diego. The Chargers will reverse field this Sunday and down the Jets 17-10.

Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings

The Cowboys and Vikings have met six times previously in the playoffs (seven if you count the 1969 Playoff Bowl). Yet it was quite easy to pick the one game to apply the opposite system to. On December 28th, 1975 the 12-2 Vikings faced off against the 10-4 Cowboys on the frozen tundra of Metropolitan Stadium. The Vikings lead 14-10, but with 24 seconds left in the game, Drew Pearson committed second degree assault against Vikings cornerback Nate Wright allowing Pearson to get open and catch Roger Staubach's desperation 50 yard pass for a TD. That blatant violation of the rules, to say nothing of human decency, handed the Cowboys a much undeserved 17-14 win. It lead one irate Viking fan to drill official Armin Terzian in the head with a whiskey bottle, an act that was deplorable for its intent while admirable for its accuracy.

It also lead one impressionable seven-and-half-year-old boy to learn an unforgettable life lesson. We were watching the game in Wisconsin, either at the home of my grandparents or one of my uncles. While I--almost undoubtedly clad in the ragged #10 Fran Tarkenton shirt that I would have worn every day of my life if allowed--fought to hold back the tears of frustration and anger welling up at the travesty that had just befallen my beloved Vikings, I noticed that my uncles were not similarly distraught. In fact, they appeared downright ecstatic with the result, laughing and chortling as my heart was breaking. With a wide-eyed, Cindy Lou Who-like level of innocence I asked my father, why? Why are they happy that the Vikings lost? Why?

His response was seared into my memory that day, "Because they're Packer fans."

Packer fans. Part of me was forever changed that day. I now could see things as they really were. The enemy of my enemy was my friend. Bad news for my enemy was good news for me. If my enemy was up, I was down and vice versa. Most of all, I was able to identify the enemy clearly. That enemy was the Green Bay Packers. So when Arizona's Michael Adams stripped Aaron Rodgers of the ball and Karlos Dansby ran it into the end zone for a game winning touchdown in OT on Sunday, my inner seven-and-half-year-old was screaming with joy. Actually, my outer self was pretty damn excited too. You get the point.

Anyway, back to this Sunday's game between the Cowboys and Vikings. It will again be a close, hard fought battle just like in '75. But this time, it will be Sydney Rice making incidental contact with a Dallas defender before hauling in a late touchdown pass from Bret Favre to give the Vikings a 24-17 victory and Viking fans just the slightest bit of redemption.

Excuse me now while I go dash off a couple of quick e-mails to my uncles in Wisconsin. The needling never gets old and the whirlwind must be reaped.

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010
Bizarro Bowl

From the Seinfeld episode The Opposite:

George : Hey, I just found twenty dollars! I tell you this, something is happening in my life. I did this opposite thing last night. Up was down, black was white, good was--

Jerry: Bad.

George : Day was--

Elaine : Night.

George : Yes!

Jerry : So you just did the opposite of everything?

George : Yes. And listen to this, listen to this; her uncle works for the Yankees and he's gonna get me a job interview. A front office kind of thing. Assistant to the travelling secretary. A job with the New York Yankees! This has been the dream of my life ever since I was a child, and it's all happening because I'm completely ignoring every urge towards common sense and good judgment I've ever had. This is no longer just some crazy notion. Jerry, this is my religion.


Last week, I speculated that it was possible that both NFC wild card playoff games would be rematches of the last game of the regular season. That has now come to pass and in the AFC there's also a repeat matchup with the Jets again facing the Bengals this weekend (expect this time in Cincinnati). In order to handicap in these unusual circumstances, it's best to throw in-depth analysis to the wind and go with a simple system.

New York Jets at Cincinnati Bengals. The Jets crushed the Bengals 37-0 in New York on Sunday. This time around it will be the Bengals pulling out a 20-17 win.

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys. Dallas destroyed Philadelphia 24-0 on Sunday. The Eagles will reverse the outcome this time around and win 20-14.

Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals. The Packers played their starters longer and clipped the Cards 33-7 on Sunday. But they might have tipped their hand and when the two meet again in the wild card playoffs, the Cardinals will prevail 27-23.

Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots. While there is no repeat of the regular season end for these teams, they did meet in Week 4 at New England with the Patriots winning 27-21. Again, the tables will be turned and the Ravens will advance with a 31-17 triumph.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Back For More?

After the Vikings exciting, but exasperating loss in Chicago in last night, the NFC playoff picture is still muddied with only one week left in the regular season. We know who the six playoff teams will be. We just don't know how they'll be seeded and who will play who in the first round. With New Orleans, Minnesota, Arizona, Philadelphia, Green Bay, and Dallas in, the only seed locked down is New Orleans at number one.

There are a ton of different scenarios that could play out depending on how the regular season ends. There's one that would be particularly intriguing if it played out. I haven't been able to confirm this for certain, but from what I can tell if the following happens next week...

Minnesota beats New York Giants

Dallas beats Philadelphia

Arizona beats Green Bay

...the NFC playoffs seedings would be:

1. New Orleans
2. Minnesota
3. Arizona
4. Dallas
5. Philadelphia
6. Green Bay

Which would mean the opening round would feature Green Bay traveling to Arizona to face the Cardinals and the Eagles flying to Dallas to take on the Cowboys. Which would be an exact repeat of the last game of the regular season for each of these teams. Gotta wonder how often that's happened in NFL history. With all the possible scenarios out there, it's probably unlikely that we'll come to see this one pass, but it certainly would add an interesting wrinkle to what already promises to be a series of great playoff match-ups.

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Monday, November 30, 2009
Requiem For A Fat Ass

In 2004 the University of Notre Dame fired failed head football coach Tyrone Willingham. The Willingham firing was controversial, as politically correct commentators ignored Willingham's incompetence in their zeal to find a Catholic institution engaged in alleged discrimination against a black man. Ultimately, the media storm stung Notre Dame's leadership so badly that they sacrificed some of the University's Catholic character to honor the staunchly pro-abortion President Barack Obama with a JD degree in a nasty little quid pro quo. We'll give you cover for your culture of death if you'll drop your trumped up charge of racism. As a post-script, Willingham amassed a 11-37 record as head coach of the University of Washington in his final NCAA head coaching job.

The firing was followed by a botched hiring of then-Utah coach Urban Meyer, who chose the University of Florida, publicly humiliating the University that once offered his "dream job." The media, still in a feeding frenzy, began to circulate stories that no one wanted the Notre Dame coaching job. This led to Notre Dame turning to Charlie Weis, who was a successful NFL coordinator, winning 3 Super Bowls with the New England patriots. However, he had never been a head coach at a level above high school. The initial signs were favorable. Notre Dame followed Willingham's 6-5 record (6-6 including a bowl loss under an interim coach for Willingham) with a 9-3 record in 2005 and a 10-3 record in 2006.

With most of the starters graduating, Notre Dame expected a down year in 2007. What they got was arguably their worst season ever, a 3-9 effort that looked more like a Three Stooges film than a Notre Dame football season. Lows included Navy ending Notre Dame's 43 game winning streak. 2008 featured a 7-6 mark and inexplicable losses and near losses to some of the worst teams in college football. The 2009 team was no better, finishing the regular season at 6-6, despite having arguably the best quarterback in Notre Dames legendary history, Jimmy Clausen.

Weis never grasped the concept of defense. He loved tinkering with the offense, but eschewed a power running game. That may work in the NFL, but power running wins games in college football. While Weis amassed offensive talent, it didn't translate to wins. Weis was fired today, deservedly so. The fact is, he was a terrible coach. If he had any experience, people would have seen this. Notre Dame's mistake was giving him a chance. Being a good coordinator doesn't translate into being a good head coach.

There will be press stories that Notre Dame can't win anymore. That Notre Dame's holier than thou attitude doesn't fit in this day and age. Who makes their players attend class, much less graduate? Notre Dame leads all NCAA Bowl Subdivision teams in this statistic. The naysayers are full of BS. Notre Dame can win and graduate its players. If Notre Dame gets a proven coach, the team will win. Let's hope the leaders at Notre Dame understand this.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Brown Out

NFL fans everywhere are eagerly anticipating this Sunday's showdown between the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns. Not since the epic Browns-Bills shootout in Week Five, when Cleveland clawed out a 6-3 win, has a game attracted this kind of excitement. Many intriguing questions are already emerging as the pre-game buzz builds:

Will the Browns score an offensive touchdown?

Will Brady Quinn attempt to throw the ball more than ten yards downfield?

Have the Browns defensive coaches figured out how to count to eleven yet?

How many false starts, illegal formations, and delay of game penalties will the two teams combine to get?

How many Lions starters will be injured before halftime?

What creative new ways will the Lions find to shoot themselves in the foot and give away points to the other team?

Will they even be able to give away points to a team as offensively inept as the Browns?

These questions and many more will finally be answered when the two teams face off on the hallowed grounds of Ford Field on Sunday. It's a surprise and a shame that this isn't a nationally televised game because it promises to be one you don't want to miss.

One thing that we all can be thankful for is that this little turkey bowl is scheduled for this Sunday and not on Thanksgiving Day when the Lions will face the Packers.

UPDATE-- Tom e-mails with another point to ponder:

If you are the TV broadcast team covering this game, do you switch looking for a new gig into high priority mode? Because, other than covering the unveiling of the salt pile at the D.O.T. as the snowflakes begin to fly, could there be a worse job to be had in TV broadcasting other than covering this game?

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Monday, November 16, 2009
If You Build It, They Won't Fumble

After yesterday's victory over the Lions, Vikings head coach Brad Childress made what has to be the worst excuse for a player's performance and the worst pitch for a new stadium for the team that we've heard to date:

We asked Brad Childress if Adrian Peterson could have done anything to prevent the fumble on his breakaway run, and he said that if this were a new stadium with a huge Jumbotron in each end zone, Adrian would have been able to see the defender coming up behind him.

I asked Brad if he was blaming the taxpayers of Minnesota for Peterson's fumble. He said, "Whoever is responsible for us not having a Jumbotron."


Damn you David Strom! You and your like-minded skin flints who refused to hand over a blank check from the State of Minnesota to a wealthy owner of a professional sports team are responsible for Adrian Peterson's fumble. You're just lucky that we were playing a team as hapless as the Lions or else YOU could have cost the Vikings the game. If this team doesn't live up to its now vastly inflated expectations and win the Super Bowl this year at least we'll know who's really at fault.

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Monday, November 02, 2009
Gut Shot In Green Bay

Two-year contract to sign aging quarterback who played for hated rival for many years...$25 million.

Seeing said aging quarterback return to rival's home field and stick a dagger into the hearts of fans...Priceless.

When the Vikings signed Favre I was extremely skeptical that the move would work out. But after watching yesterday's game and knowing the pain that Packer fans are feeling right now, I gotta admit that I was dead wrong. Even if Favre breaks his leg in two weeks and the Viking collapse and lose the rest of their games, the spectacular agony we witnessed at Lambeau was worth every penny.

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Monday, October 05, 2009
Normal Distribution

After a weekend spent taking in a lot of sports on television and in anticipation of further viewing over the course of the next two days, I've come up with the following observation:

On average, almost any "normal" regular season NFL football game is more compelling and interesting to watch than any "normal" regular season MLB contest. However, when the two sports are played at the peak of their meaning and importance, most of the time a baseball game will be more compelling and contain more drama than the football game.

Watching the Twins close out their season over the last week was better than watching any Viking games in some years (including last year's playoff game). Conversely watching the Vikings in weeks one, two, or three this year was better than watching the Twins in April, May, or June.

Obviously it's difficult to compare the sports directly because of the vast difference in number of games played. But the fact that any given NFL game will provide at least decent watchable partially helps explain the league's popularity. Yesterday, I caught parts of the Bears-Lions, Ravens-Pats, and Broncos-Cowboys and followed each with interest. And I don't play fantasy football or bet on games. I doubt if I would spent any amount of time watching early season baseball games not involving the Twins.

But I will watch as much of the MLB playoffs as possible. Because baseball at its best and most important is unbeatable to watch. That's probably partly because the gap between your average regular season baseball and your meaningful late or post-season games is huge.

Not so much so for football. While there's a significant quality viewing difference between the regular season and the playoffs, it's not as substantive or striking as with baseball. And even at its worst, regular season football is still pretty good.

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Friday, September 18, 2009
More Salt Anyone?

In Wednesday's WSJ, Allen Barra wrote about a new Showtime history series on the AFL called Full Color Football:

The AFL's and Stram's greatest triumph was the league's last game. On Jan. 11, 1970, in the fourth and final meeting between the two leagues' champions and the second game to officially use the name "Super Bowl," Stram's Kansas City Chiefs, a 16-point underdog, thrashed the Minnesota Vikings 23-7. "It's a triumph that most fans don't remember today," says "Full Color Football" co-producer David Plaut, "even though it might have been a greater victory than the Jets over the Colts the year before. A lot of people still thought the Jets' victory was an aberration and that the NFL dominance would reassert itself. But the Chiefs absolutely dazzled them with tactics and plays no NFL team would have used, like the unbalanced defensive line and the end around. The Vikings had their great defensive line, 'The Purple Eaters,' but they were never in that game. Kansas City beat them physically, mentally and emotionally." The fifth episode in "Full Color Football" brings that game to life for a new generation of fans, with the kinetic Stram striding up and down his team's sideline shouting "pump it up, baby?pump it up! Keep matriculatin' that ball!"

Probably don't really need to catch that one.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Painting The Map Purple

The WSJ reports that judging by jersey sales, Favre fever has reached pandemic stage:

Sorry, Favre-haters. From April 2009 to the end of the NFL preseason, the best-selling jersey for any NFL player belonged to Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre, whose jersey was the top seller in 19 states. Mr. Favre is one of just eight NFL players whose jersey was the top seller in more than one state. Below is a popularity map for these eight players, based on exclusive data from Reebok.

Interesting to note that one of those nineteen states was Wisconsin. Sorry Aaron Rodgers. While it's allegedly "all about the Packers" in Wisconsin, apparently a large number of Cheeseheads still have a lingering man-crush on number four.

It should be noted that as an outspoken Favre skeptic (I reject Sisyphus' label of "Favre denier") I am not celebrating the spreading number four purple jersey pandemic. I just find it amusing that the lemming-like laundry wearing is not limited to Minnesota.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Black and Blue Division

One interesting aspect of the fallout from the Vikings fling with Favre is the divisions it has created among both Viking and Packer fans.

Among Viking fans there is a large delegation that seems to believe that with Favre clad in purple, the long awaited dream fantasy of a Vikings Super Bowl victory will finally come to fruition. They're busy buying Favre jerseys, putting money down in Vegas on the Vikes, and booking hotel rooms in Miami. I've labeled this group of Viking fans "NeoBretts" and estimate that they currently compromise about 80% of the Viking fan base. Their support however is contingent on Favre's and the Vikings success and once he starts throwing the ball to the guys in the wrong jerseys, I expect their numbers to dwindle precipitously.

The other group of Viking fans are cool-headed and rational enough to realize that while Favre once WAS a great quarterback, his best days are long behind him. Now, he's nothing more than a washed-up, egomaniacal prima donna whose brain is writing checks that his arm can no longer cash. Yes, he's still a gun-slinger, but one who's now much slower on the draw and less accurate with his shooting. Worst of all, he still carries with him some of the arrogance of youth that most men with his experience have learned is unfounded. The idea that he's going to calmly and carefully help quarterback the Vikings to the Super Bowl with deliberate style is absurd. Even if he wanted to take such a measured approach to the game, he couldn't. It's not in his nature. He's still Brett Favre and even if he manages to contain his urge to improvise for a good part of the season, you know that at some critical point in a key game he's going to try to do too much. When the Favre of old gambled, he usually won more than he lost. But expecting the Favre of late to pay off is a sucker's bet. I estimate that 20% of Vikings fan--the Realists--are not suckers today.

Meanwhile, there are also divisions among the Green and Gold faithful. I think that most Packer fans (60% or so) are actually happy that Favre is a Viking and were laughing in their beer yesterday. They recognize that he's a shell of the former quarterback who light up Lambeau Field and that his age and attitude will prove to be detrimental to Minnesota's hopes. The other 40% are still unable to let go of the Favre man-crush that they've had for years and still pine for him in their hearts. They're having a tough time coping with the idea of him playing for the Vikings and spent most of yesterday weeping in their beer. However, I would expect for most their sorrow will quickly turn to bitterness and anger at the perceived betrayal. Hell hath no fury like a Packer fan scorned. Assuming that Favre stays healthy until then, the November 1st Viking-Packer showdown in Lambeau should be one of the most anticipated games in the rivalry in years. With the all the mixed emotions, divided loyalties, and lost loves involved it almost could be aired on Lifetime.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009
One Threw Over The Cuckoo's Nest

We give up. So far we've resisted getting baited into the controversy that seems to have already dragged on forever. But our resistance has its limits and we've reached the point where we can hold out no longer.

Since the talk in these parts is pretty much all-Favre all the time these days, we're going to break our boycott and add our two cents to a matter that's garnered attention and interest far beyond reasonable expectations. It is a phenomenon that defies rational explanation and borders on mass delusion. The reaction of many Viking fans is almost a textbook definition of the madness of crowds.

So we offer a voice of sanity calling out in the wilderness of hysteria with a simple message: No Favre, no way, no how. No super star, no Super Bowl, no super-sized expectations. T-Jack is a train wreck and Sage is probably going to end up being the little quarterback that couldn't (I think I can, I think I can...), but I'd rather suffer these tools gladly than see number four wearing purple (shudder). Some things are just not meant to be and this is clearly one of them.

Please stop the madness. And vote in our special Favre poll on the left sidebar.

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Monday, February 02, 2009
When The Clock Strikes

In Saturday's WSJ, former Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher offered a Super Bowl preview that proved prescient:

At quarterback, the game offers a wonderful contrast. Kurt Warner, 37-years-old, resurrected his career, leading a second team to the championship; he was the most valuable player for the victorious St. Louis Rams in 2000. A decade his junior, "Big Ben" will be looking for his second ring with Pittsburgh. Warner has already earned his place in the Hall of Fame, says Mr. Cowher, staking out a mildly controversial position, "but obviously a win here will cement him." As for his former quarterback, "he could go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks to play the game." Even with Roethlisberger's not-so-great statistics? "He's never been about stats, he's about winning," Mr. Cowher says. "There's a lot to be said for that. Ben has a way of making a play that's not there."

Speaking from experience, he continues, "Undesigned plays will take place more with him than with Kurt. Kurt is more of a pocket quarterback who runs an offense that's designed. The success of Ben is more things that are improvised. Let me tell you, when it's in the fourth quarter and you get the look on his face, he's got the confidence he's not going to be denied. If I was Arizona I would not want Pittsburgh within a touchdown of me in the fourth quarter because he has done this time and time again and he will be in his domain."


And indeed he was.

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Monday, January 19, 2009
The Steel Diaspora

In Saturday's WSJ, Jerry Bowyer wrote that Sports Mania Is a Poor Substitute for Economic Success:

In some ways, the sports mania in these towns is a substitute for genuine economic achievement. Sure the middle class is disappearing. But, hey, how 'bout them Steelers? Football triumphalism is a kind of civic cocaine, creating a sense of accomplishment where the reality is otherwise. (Maybe that's what's behind Western Europe's soccer fanaticism.)

When the Steelers were in the Super Bowl in 2006 I was the host of a radio show in Pittsburgh. I argued that the franchise was an exercise in leadership excellence in a city whose politicians were anything but. Numerous callers hammered me. They said there are a lot of "Steelers" bars across the country, and that proved the city still had some national respect. Indeed, there are hundreds of watering holes dispersed across America loaded with fanatical devotes of the Pittsburgh Steelers. "Where are the Seahawks bars?" the callers asked.

In Seattle, of course. That city has gained population while Pittsburgh lost it. Steelers bars are the visible cultural artifact of a kind of economic diaspora. People in those bars are the refugees who looked at high taxes, union dominance and lousy schools and voted with their feet. They can still root for their favorite team -- from Raleigh, North Carolina. You go South or West to get your bread. The circuses can be watched on cable.


Congratulations to the Steelers. Pittsburgh residents can savor the success of the team for the next couple of weeks and will likely be able to celebrate another Super Bowl championship. Then it will be back to reality.

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Friday, January 02, 2009
The Purple Paradox

Vox Day nicely summarizes how Vikings fans approach the playoffs:

Fortunately, Vikings fans have no need of faith. We have no expectations, we have no heart, we simply watch in numbed catalepsy and hope for the best. An NFC North championship and a 10-6 record is more than we'd dreamed possible this year. Sure, there are those poor souls who shriek "Super Bowl" every time we win two games in a row, but that's just the Post-Traumatic Staubach Disorder talking. Or, in the case of younger fans, 38 Wide Syndrome. Just nod, speak softly to them, and leave them to their haunted dreams of victories that never were.

Can we beat the Eagles? Absolutely. Can we lose to them? Definitely. Either way, we porphyrogeniti will watch, all purple-clad, and hope Sons of Bud Grant will give us cause to sound the horn and wave the sword.


At a New Year's Eve party, Atomizer opined that he wished the Vikings had lost last Sunday and the Bears won so he could be spared the inevitable playoff disappointment that awaits. As Vox notes, it's almost impossible to predict how the Vikings will play on Sunday. Nothing would be surprising, from the Vikings collapsing completely to them running up a big number on the Eagles.

The only thing that Vikings fans know for certain is that at some point, the agony of defeat is guaranteed. If not this Sunday, then the next, or possibly even the one after. The longer it goes on, the more difficult it is to swallow. That's why the more fatalistic fans subconsciously hope and will not be all that disappointed if the Vikings go belly up early on Sunday afternoon and get the suffering out of the way.

And yet, as Vox also notes, we will be tuning in on Sunday and following every snap. We know the Viking ship is going down at some point, but we feel a duty to stay on board until the bitter end. It's our birthright as Vikings fans and a fate that we have no choice but to embrace. Skol!

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Thursday, December 18, 2008
It's The Final Count Downs

Are you paralyzed with anxiety over the possibility that you might miss the opening kick off for this year's Eagle Bank Bowl?

Consumed with dread that the pageantry and majesty that is a December 20 bowl match up between the fifth best team in the ACC and a service academy that somehow managed to lose to Notre Dame might pass you by?

If so, please start taking your medication again, you are a danger to yourself and others.

Or, optionally, you can temporarily ease your pain and silence those hectoring voices (you're going to miss the game, you never do anything right, you're a loser! L-O-S-E-R!) by following this link to:

The Eagle Bank Bowl Countdown!

Yes, you can know down to the millisecond how long it is before the start of the Eagle Bank Bowl and plan your life accordingly.

I've been casually monitoring it for the past 17 hours 43 minutes, 23.465 seconds or so and I must say it does provide a certain level of reassurance.

On the other hand, there is the issue of watching your life race by at the millisecond interval that is marginally horrifying. It's like someone put a fast forward on your own mortality and you realize how much time has been wasted. What else should I have done with my life? How many more Eagle Bank Bowls will I get the opportunity to view before this fragile candle glow be doth snuffed?

For those haunted by similar questions, I would recommend this link instead.

The Eagle Bank Bowl Countdown to Game Time

This one will allows you to monitor the progress this space-time continuum is making toward kick off of the Eagle Bank Bowl, yet at the languid pace of Days, Hours, and Minutes. Literally dozens of seconds go by before anything happens at all on this countdown. So as you watch this one, kick back and relax for the next 44 hours and change.

Of course, there is the worry that something may go wrong with this countdown in the 60 seconds between updates. What if it seizes up, experiences delays, distorts to the truth on when exactly the Eagle Bank Bowl really starts. I could be late or miss the whole thing and then where will I be!?!?

For those with similar concerns, Fraters Libertas is happy to provide as a public service, the following Countdown to Eagle Bank Bowl Countdown Countdown. This tells you exactly at what point the various Eagle Bank Bowl Countdowns should be counting down to zero.



As always, we've got your back Eagle Bank Bowl Countdown fans. Now let's get ready for some Eagle Bank sponsored football.

UPDATE: KAR takes note and documents for history this momentous FL event.

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Monday, December 08, 2008
Too Much Junk On Television

Yesterday, I suffered in front of the television watching the Vikings ugly win over the lowly Lions. During the game, my eldest son made repeated requests to watch a video instead, which in hindsight would have been far more entertaining. I kept telling him to wait until after the football game was over. Once it was, I acceded to his demands and we fired up a movie which he has only viewed 137 times previously.

It turned out to be a fortunate decision as we were spared the post-game locker room shot of Visanthe's Shiancoe :

Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe was the Vikings leading receiver and had a go-ahead touchdown catch in the fourth quarter today.

Unfortunately, he also became the subject of an embarrassing mistake in the locker room afterward that caused Fox officials to issue an apology.

Shiancoe was inadvertently shown naked on television while a FOX camera crew taped owner Zygi Wilf's presentation of the game ball to coach Brad Childress' 19-year-old son Andrew, who is joining the Marine Corps on Monday.

Shiancoe was standing behind and to the side of Wilf with a towel partly covering his body. But not completely.


Anytime you bring a camera into a locker room you're running the risk of catching more than you bargained for. The most memorable locker room exposure that I can recall came during the North Stars 1981 Stanley Cup playoff run. After they defeated the Calgary Flames in Game Six of the conference finals to reach the Stanley Cup Finals, local television was covering the post-game locker room celebration and viewers were treated to a full frontal shot of one of the disrobed Stars walking through the room. I believe that it was Gordie Roberts, but could be mistaken. Search for the clip on You Tube at your own risk.

JB Says:

I believe that nekkid north star was actually Greg Smith.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greg_Smith_(ice_hockey)

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Gray Matter Separated At Birth?

Cartoon character who proved impervious to conditional learning when his sister proved that he was dumber than a hamster Bart Simpson and...

...buffoon football coach who proved impervious to conditional learning when his insistence on continuing to punt to Reggie Bush proved that he was dumber than a hamster Brad Childress?

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Friday, October 03, 2008
A Bunch Of Chumps Named Steve

Paul heps us to a New Orleans blogger's take on the Vikings upcoming visit to the Big Easy:

What it comes down to is that the Vikings are Adrian Peterson and a bunch of chumps named Steve. The only reason the Saints should lose Monday night is if somehow it stays close and it ends up coming down to the kickers. Because, well, you know...theirs is very good, and ours is Marteen.

Prediction: Another day at the office for Drew. Dulymus probably only gets 8-10 relatively unproductive carries for 25-30 yards, but it'll be enough to achieve the desired effect. The "running game" will shift back to the short passes to Reggie, after he spent much of his time last week sulking. But that's fine, that's what they ought to do. Peterson will get his buck twenty and score twice, and they'll move the ball enough through the air to allow Longwell to add 3 field goals. Saints fans will be nervous most of the night, but in the end, this offense is officially rollin'. Saints 31, Vikings 23


After the lackluster performances that we've seen so far from the Purple, it's hard to argue with his pick (although I think that relying on statistical comparisons after only four games is a bit shaky). However, if there's one thing that we've learned during the current reign of Childress The Lame it is to expect the unexpected. Just when you're ready to write off the team, they'll rise up and surprise you by playing well. Conversely, as soon as your expectations start to rise, they'll lay an egg against an opponent they should easily beat. It's the ultimate in mediocrity.

Either way, with the Saints sporting a weak run defense and the Vikings pathetic (still) against the pass, Monday night's game should be fun to watch. And that's not something that we've been able to say very often during the current Chilly spell.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008
Profile Of A Face Painter

Personalized license plate spotted yesterday on a truck with a large Vikings decal:

MSNMOSS

Now, that is a hardcore purple fan.

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Friday, July 25, 2008
"Garbage in garbage can"...hmm, makes sense

Ex-Viking Darrion Scott fined $200, sent to parenting classes:

A former Minnesota Vikings player received a $200 fine Thursday for putting a plastic dry cleaning bag over his 2-year-old son.

Darrion Scott, 26, quietly accepted the sentence after waiting nearly an hour outside the courtroom by himself.

He also received a two-year stayed sentence, and could face jail time if he has contact with his son or wife unless it's approved by family court or if he is found taking illegal or non-prescribed drugs.

He was also ordered to attend parenting classes.

"I think you need that more than anything else," Nord told Scott.


From The Simpson's episode "Home Sweet Home-Diddily-Dum-Doodily":

Goodman: Now, who knows how the Skinners could have resolved this
problem?

[everyone puts their hands up]

Without resorting to violence.

[all hands but one descend]

Or childish name-calling.

[the last hand comes down] Anybody? [nope] OK. That's OK,
because making a happy home isn't like flipping on a light
switch.

Cletus: Duh, light switch?

Goodman: There are a lot of little tricks to it, things you should have
learned a long time ago. Such as, if you leave milk out, it
can go sour. Put it in the refrigerator, or, failing that, a
cool wet sack.

[much later]

And put your garbage in a garbage can, people. I can't stress
that enough. Don't just throw it out the window.

Marge: This is so humiliating.

Homer: [writing furiously] "Garbage in garbage can"...hmm, makes
sense.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008
One Mississippi, Two Mississippi

A work colleague from China has been in the US for training for about four weeks. He also accompanied me to Mexico last week.

In order to try to give him a bit of flavor of the Twin Cities, I took him to a few well-known spots a couple of weeks ago. Our itinerary including Minnehaha Falls, the Cathedral in St. Paul, the State Capitol, downtown St. Paul, and the U of M campus. While at Minnehaha Falls, I explained that the creek that we were looking at flowed into the Mississippi River.

"The Mississippi?," he asked. Yes, the Mississippi, I confirmed. "So that's where 'one Mississippi, two Mississippi' comes from," he said with a satisfied smile. I asked how the heck knew about one of the staples--along with ghost runners--of American childhood sports rules. The movies, he explained. Of course, the movies.

One Mississippi, two Mississippi. Now, that brings back memories of many a pick up football game. Four on four. Three on three. You could even play two on two as long as you employed the proper Mississippi count. Yes, good times indeed.

I recall that we used to often play such football with a group of kids in the Iowa town where our grandparents lived. On one occasion, JB was so determined to play quarterback and so disappointed when he wasn't allowed to, that he threw a red-faced tantrum, wailing "I wanna be quarterback!" "I wanna be quarterback!" at the top of his lungs. It was quite a scene.

Or that could have been the freckle-faced, developmentally disabled older brother of the kids we used to play with. Over time such fine distinctions of memory tend to get blurred.

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Monday, April 07, 2008
The Force Is With Us

The NFL wises up and does away with what Joe Starkey accurately labels "one of the silliest rules in sports":

The NFL finally broke with tradition--tradition being, "Let's torture the defensive players again"--by making a rule change that could actually prevent some touchdowns.

They did it by rescinding one of the more ludicrous and aggravating rules in the history of professional sports--the dreaded force-out.

Until now, a referee could declare a pass complete if he determined that an airborne receiver would have landed with both feet in-bounds if only he hadn't been knocked out of bounds before he landed.


I've always hated the force-out rule. Besides limiting the defense's ability to take advantage of the limits of the playing field, it was an incredibly subjective call for an official to make. To make the judgment accurately would require an advanced degree in physics:

"Upon further review, we have postulated that the force, kinetic energy, and angle attack of the defensive player when applied to the mass of the offensive player resulted in the offensive player contacting the earth in a slightly different position then would have had the offensive player's descent only been impacted by his weight, velocity of takeoff, and the force of gravity. First down!"

Leave the wouldas behind and let them play ball.

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Sunday, February 03, 2008
Patriot Act Renewed

Given my past record in the pigskin prognastication department you should take my outlook on today's game with a good-sized chunk of salt. Having said that, I have a hunch that we're going to be in for a blowout this evening. I ain't buying the new and improved Eli Manning quite yet and I see him reverting to form and looking more like Rex Grossman than his elder sibling. Three picks minimum from him and big games from Brady and Moss will make for an easy number ninteen for the Pats. Maybe the commercials will be interesting to watch.

UPDATE: Like I said, a giant boulder of salt. I can only imagine the psychic burden of 18-1 that the Patriots will now have to carry with them for a long time (like forever). That's a heavy load of regret to take with you.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008
Feelin' Minnesota

In today's Wall Street Journal, Jon Weinbach notes that in the sports world Minnesota's loss has become Boston's gain (sub req):

It's a bleak winter for Minnesota sports fans. Their pro teams are pathetic. [Ahem--the Northwest Division leading Wild hardly fit that bill.] But worst of all, some of the city's most famous athletes are playing better than ever -- they're just doing it in Boston.

Thanks to help from Minnesota exports, the Boston Red Sox won their second World Series in four years, the Boston Celtics are enjoying a renaissance and the New England Patriots are playing in the Super Bowl next weekend.


Interesting angle. One that I explored back in October in a post called You Don't Know What You've Got 'Til It's Gone. Great minds and whatnot.

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Monday, January 21, 2008
The Frozen Chundra Of Lambeau Field


Ouch. That one has to hurt. Packer fans, I feel your pain. I still laugh at it, but I definitey know what you're going through right now. This was your year. You were a team of destiny. All you had to do was win one more game at home and you were going to the Super Bowl. You couldn't lose.

Until something happened. The game didn't unfold as expected. You were nervous when you went to overtime, but you still kept reassuring yourself that your team would find a way. They had to. It couldn't end any other way.

And then, the field goal attempt. You hope for a bad snap, but it's solid. You see the ball rise through the air and head toward the goalposts and your heart sinks. You know that it's going to be good. The ball sails through the uprights. You last desperate hope for a flag is dashed and it's over. You are crushed.

Been there, agonized that. I almost feel a twinge of sympathy for you. Almost. And then I remember the day after the '99 NFC Championship Game. I was on vacation in the Florida Keys and feeling absolutely miserabe after the Vikings had fallen to the Falcons.

My wife and I were out for a walk in the neighborhood where our inlaws had a vactaion home. A truck with Wisconsin plates pulled up and an older couple struck up a conversation with us. After learning that we were from Minnesota, the gent broke into a wide grin. "How 'bout them Vikings?," he needled. It took all of my available control to refrain from pulling him from the cab and delivering a thorough thrashing.

So Packer fans--while I understand your pain and suffering--it will not prevent me from savoring this moment for all it's worth. And by the way, trying to console yourself by saying "there's always next year" doesn't really hold water in today's NFL (unless you're the Patriots). For most teams, the window isn't open that very often or for very long. When your time comes, you better find a way to get through 'cause you don't know when you'll get another chance.

How 'bout them Packers?

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Thursday, January 17, 2008
Worse Than Wearing An Orange Jumpsuit

Man cited after forcing son to wear Packers sweat shirt, says he was only joking:

A Pardeeville father accused of forcing his 7-year-old son to wear a Packers sweat shirt and then tying him up during the divisional playoff game last weekend said the incident was a joke that "got blown way out of proportion."

Mathew Kowald, 36, was cited for disorderly conduct Wednesday after authorities arrested him Monday on tentative felony charges of causing mental harm to a child and false imprisonment. He was issued only a disorderly conduct citation for the incident.

Kowald reportedly forced a Packers sweat shirt on the boy, who said to his father that he refused to root for the Packers and was told by Kowald that anyone who said that would be grounded. Kowald allegedly also wrapped his son in insulation tape, forcing him to watch the football game.


When his son still refused to cheer for the Packers, Kowald tried waterboarding and sleep deprivation. Kidding of course. But maybe we should think about transferring some of the real hard cases from Gitmo to Green Bay. If I was a jihadist I know I'd crack if someone told me that I'd be forced to wear Green and Gold, cheer for the infidel Packers, and eat haram brats. What would the ACLU say about that?

"He wanted the juvenile to be a Packers fan, and I would suggest he went about it the wrong way," Columbia County Lt. Wayne Smith said.

You think? Stay classy Packer fans. Stay classy.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Does Brett Like Peanut Butter?

Romney finally won a primary by pandering and promising to use the power of the Federal government to rescue companies who have been proved unable to compete in free markets? Meh.

Let's talk football with a double shot of Vox Day. First, he explains why Vikings losses that don't kill you only make you stronger:

People occasionally ask me how I can persevere so stoically in the face of constant scorn, derision, mockery and ridicule. They marvel at my ability to shrug off the most scathing attacks with little more than a sardonic smile, and they wonder how I remain so blithely unmoved by criticism, dislike and hate.

I find it hard to understand the question. I am a Vikings fan. There is nothing you can throw at me that could make me feel any worse than I have felt before. I sobbed in 1974. I raged with burning fury in 1975. I cried in 1976. I felt sick in 1987. By 1998, there was nothing left inside but a frozen hollow. In 2000 and 2003, I barely blinked. That which did not break me has made me stronger and harder than you can possibly imagine.


I can relate. The fire burning within me in '75 was stoked by the fact that I was watching the game with relatives in Wisconsin and all of my uncles (Packers fans) were cheering for the cheating Cowboys. The ironclad hatred of the Green and Gold was forged early on.

Vox also addresses the strange obsession that male Packer fans have with Favre:

So squealed Peter King:

"I just want to tell you one thing," Ruprecht, a 39-year-old optometrist from LaCrosse told me, his eyes crystal clear. "When Brett Favre retires, I will cry. In fact, the day he retires I will call in sick. I won't be able to work."

Now we had built up a little bit of trust and had been talking for a while. Here came the big guns. "This is going to sound weird," he said. "I dream about this guy. I dream that I'm going shopping with him."
I like football as much as anyone. I love football. On days when I can't watch football, I play Maddens. (Okay, I often play Maddens on days when I watch football too.) I probably throw the pigskin around outside every other day; Spacebunny may look like an SI model but she doesn't throw like a girl. There are even Packers owners in the family.

But mamas, this is why you don't let your babies grow up to be Packer Backers.


There's something a little creepy about the way that male Packer fans adore and apparently dream about Favre. Something a little bit too much like the way that Smithers dreams about Mr. Burns.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Polarization

Nothings brings in the e-mail like a little football talk.

Dan from Glen Lake kicks off:

Judging your post about resisting the Pack. I'm starting to think you may be getting nervous about having anyone to watch the Vikings with next year. The masses can not resist the great field, supportive fans, winning (not bitching and whining) attitude, and last but not least, possibly the best player to ever pick up the pig skin. Even when they lose they are more fun to watch than the pathetic purple.

God man, how many times are you going to be let down in your life? I know you lead a fairly healthy lifestyle but best case you only have fifty years left of watching this team. What are the odds of them straightening and winning a super bowl in the next five decades?


Cheering for a team is not about calculating the odds and going with the winners. It's about loyalty and eternal hope in the face of constant disappointment.

Wright piles on:

It must be fun to be a Vikings fan and have so much to look forward to.

"If my sorry bunch of losers isn't going anywhere, why, I'll, I'll - I'll hold my breath and hope the team that kicked their butts loses! That'll make us better!"

Sheesh


I said it was a different type of joy. And yes, it does make me feel better.

Mitch makes a pitch:

First of all, great site and great radio show. I listen as much as I'm able.

But regarding the Vikings.

What is the point of being a "real fan?" I was from 1978 to 1998. I gave them 20 years and they couldn't do it. I emotionally disconnected after the "Take a Knee" game against Atlanta and now I'm just a spectator. For every team.

But about the Vikings, none of them are from here anymore. None of them care about you. Not owners, not front-office, not coaches, not players. All the shouting in your living room or praying helps them not a single bit. Loyalty means nothing to these guys, although they try to talk a good game. Add to that the fact that the simplest of your blog entries is likely beyond their reading comprehension, and what is there to cheer for? What, if a bunch of coddled, steroid-pumped, half-literate monsters wins more games, that makes Minnesota somehow a better place than Wisconsin, or Chicago, or Detroit? Maybe it makes you feel better. I think the only thing worse than a Vikings loss is a Vikings win. "Nobody gave us a chance, nobody believed in us, nobody showed us any respect, etc." God, these dinks need our allegiance and constant adulation for haphazard, uninspired play? Screw that!


Unfortunately, he chooses one of the least effective comparisons in history:

I've become a citizen of the world, a la Al Gore when it comes to football. Totally bandwagon. I love the frontrunner. Damn me if you will, but I love what Brett Favre does on a football field. I love Bill Belichick's "up yours" attitude. Cheating? We live in a society that demands winning at all costs, doing what you have to do. He filmed plays. Stealing signs in baseball is lauded. This is cheating?

You can have Al Gore, I'll take Al Davis and his "just win baby" philosophy which is reflected in Belichick's approach. I too love Bellichick's attitude toward the game. There is no such thing as "running up the score" in professional sports. Mitch continues:

I want a Packers/Patriots Super Bowl and I want the Packers to win, because I embrace Chaos in politics and football. I want the Packers to stand in the way of Destiny.

"Real fans." Let's remind the world how provincial we are in the Flyover Zone.

See you on the Dark Side.


No, my anarchistic friend, you most certainly will not.

Adam turns the Packers over and changes the momentum:

After skipping through channels and finding the Super Bowl XXXII replay on NFL Network tonight it was funny to read your post on the limited joy we Viking fans have. You might have forgotten that those Broncos were 13 point underdogs and only the second Wild Card team to win it all. Even if the Pack would have come back in that game my several hundreds of dollars in bets were already secured by the end of the third quarter thanks to that generous line run up by over confident Pack fans. Anyway, I am happy to report that the Denver Broncos are still Super Bowl XXXII Champions! Keep up the good work online and on the Internet.

PS - Brett Favre and Trent Dilfer are tied at 1 in Super Bowl titles and it ain't going to change this year.


I, and all real Viking fans, most certainly hope not.

Finally, Tim heps to a reminder than no matter how much you may disagree with some of Rudy Giuliani's social positions, you can't question his judgment:

Punta Gorda, FL--Rudy Giuliani refused to sign a potential voter's Green Bay Packers hat after a campaign stop Monday afternoon, saying it would be "bad luck."

The loyal New York Giants fan denied the request as he was signing autographs and posing for photos after a meet and greet at the Village Fish Market and Restaurant on day two of his bus tour through the Sunshine State. While Florida has become the campaign's must-win state, Giuliani is apparently drawing a line as to how far he will go to woo voters.

"I won't sign that," he said after campaign chairman Pat Oxford handed him the hat. "No, no, no. That would be bad luck right now."

The Giants are set to play the Packers in the NFC Championship game on Sunday and Giuliani is a life-long fan of his hometown team.

"I'll sign it after (the game)," Giuliani told the man as he instead signed another supporters' Giants visor. But the Packers fan was relentless, again demanding Giuliani "sign it now!" Giuliani refused the request after which the man could be heard grunting.


For a Packer fan, that's actually a pretty witty and restrained rebuttal.

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Monday, January 14, 2008
A Manichean Worldview

Since we're in the midst of the NFL playoffs and our local Pro Bowl stacked squad is once again relegated to watching the games on TV like the rest of us, it's a good time to remind Vikings fans of the lurking dangers of apostasy. When your team is not in the playoffs, there is a temptation to find another team to cheer on. There is nothing wrong with that in principle. Unless of course that other team is your hated divisional rival.

Since there seems to be some confusion on the matter, allow me be perfectly clear: as a Vikings fan you in good conscience can not in any circumstances ever pull for the Packers. EVER. When it comes to the Purple and the Green and Gold, the choice really is as simple as black and white. There are no shades of gray. You are a Vikings fan OR a Packers fan. But it is a metaphysical impossibility to attempt to be both. EVER.

It's easy to be seduced by the lure of Lambeau, Favre, and knee-walking inebriation. But you must not succumb to it in any way lest you never get back on the path of righteousness again. There are those who have gone over to the Dark Side, but they never return. You cannot serve two masters.

Although Vikings fans are wandering in the playoff wilderness, it's not only a time of suffering and tribulation. There still is room for joy, albeit of a different nature. My favorite Super Bowl was XXXII when the Broncos downed the favored Packers. Seeing the Packers lose and knowing that the hopes and dreams of their fans had been crushed was about as good as a Super Bowl gets for a Vikings fan, especially considering our own shortcomings in the big game.

So hold fast Vikings fans. Hope that the Giants continue their improbable run and end the Packers season next week. Know that even if the Packers win the NFC Championship they will more than likely have to face the Patriot juggernaut in the Super Bowl. Watching Randy Moss help win a title for New England will be a little tough for Vikings fans to take. But watching him do it against the Packers will be far more sweet than bitter.

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Monday, December 24, 2007
No Joy

After the early NFL games yesterday, I had a nice little post on the joys of Schadenball in the hopper (oh, I got a hopper--a big hopper). But after seeing the local eleven come out for the biggest game of the year and choke like mutts, it didn't seem quite as amusing. Okay, it's still kind of funny to imagine the Packer fans in the Twin Cities--who incessantly whine about not seeing Packer games on local TV--finally getting a chance to watch their beloved Pack and witnessing their utter destruction at the hands of their hated rivals, the Bears.

Maybe last night's Vikings embarrassment will quell some of the silly talk I've been hearing around town about possible scenarios where the Purple could reach the Super Bowl or speculating whether Childress should be considered for coach of the year (yes, I actually heard someone say something THAT stupid). The truth of the matter is--to borrow a line from Denny Green-- that the Vikings are who we thought they were. A flawed team with a good defense that's vulnerable to the pass and an offense that can run the ball lead by a quarterback who's clearly still not anywhere near ready for prime time (Why don't you try throwing off your back foot some more Tarvaris? It works so fuggin' well). The fives wins in a row--against mostly poor teams--was more of an aberration than a sign that this team was anything more than we previously thought.

If, as I expect, they go out to Mile High and lose to the Broncos nest week, they'll finish 8-8 which is an appropriate record for what is in reality a very average football team.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Two Steps Back

The Vikings won their fifth in a row last night, but the jury is definitely still out on Tarvaris Jackson. His inability to make two or three critical throws and his incredibly boneheaded interception at the end of the first half were the difference between barely pulling out an ugly win and blowing out the Bears.

When the other team is as committed to shutting down the run as the Bears were last night, your quaterback doesn't have to be great to take advantage of the opportunities. He only has to be average. Last night, Jackson wasn't even that.

In Adrian Peterson, the Vikings clearly have a running back of the future. I'm very skeptical that they have the same at quarterback with Jackson.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Talent Talks

Watching Randy Moss tear up the Buffalo secondary on Sunday night and continue his ridiculous season (sixteen TDs in ten games so far), it's difficult for a Vikings fan not to feel a hint of jealousy. And for those of us who opposed trading him in the first place, it's hard not to ponder what might have been.

While it's true that Moss never lived up to expectations in Oakland, he has always been an athlete of rare talent. Now that he's found a place to once again showcase that talent, you realize just how damn good he really is.

When it comes to professional sports, I believe that in the end the only thing that matters is winning. If a player can help you win, you have to find a way to make it work. Moss might have been selfish, lazy, and acted like an idiot at times when he was with the Vikings. But the bottom line was that his amazing talent made the team better. Consider the bottom line:

With Moss, the Vikings went 64-48 a .571 winning clip. Post-Moss the Vikings are 19-23 for a .453 winning percentage.

With Moss, the Vikings went 4-4 in the playoffs, twice reaching the NFC Championship game. Without him, they haven't lost a playoff game. They haven't won one either.

You can argue about all the other factors that explain the Vikings failures post-Moss. But watch him play now with the Patriots and tell me that he isn't one of top ten players in the league. You don't get a chance at talent like that very often and when you do, you have to hold onto those special players for as long as you can and build teams around them.

Thankfully for Vikings fans, it looks like we might have another player with game-changing talent in Adrian Peterson. We can only hope that organization doesn't squander it this time around.

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Monday, October 22, 2007
The Pursuit Of Happiness?

The Cynical Vikings Guys issues his Declaration of Football Independence:

When in the Course of a football season it becomes necessary for one fan to dissolve the fanatical bands which have connected him with an NFL team, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that he should declare the causes which impel him to the separation.

Tough to argue with his reasons for ending the Madness of Coach Childress.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007
All My Rowdy Friends

Mark Yost--fresh from issuing a fatwa against the Mall of America--writes about the boorish behavior of football fans in today's Wall Street Journal (free for all!):

The other reason is tailgating. While television cooking shows tend to focus on the food, walk through most NFL stadium parking lots and the clear focus is on alcohol. And lots of it.

"The Twins fans come in and have one or two beers," said Marty Neumann, manager of The Little Wagon, a sports bar near Minneapolis's Metrodome. "The Vikings fans come in and have 10."


Hey, I know that dude. Although in the interest of accuracy, I believe the last name should be "Newton."

Surprisingly enough, Yost doesn't mention Packer fans in his story. A couple of them have sobered enough to drop me e-mails though.

Jack starts the crack back:

I enjoy your site. I'm a Packer fan. I'll try not to be too obnoxious.

First of all, isn't Longwell great? He's a genius as well. Kicks outdoors for the Pack for 9 years and then moves into a dome. He'll still be kicking when I retire. He'll win you 10 games easily.

Peterson is impressive, no doubt. He's gonna be a pain in the Packers butt for several years to come. But you almost lost that game. Geez! You're gonna have to put more on the field than him or he's just gonna be another Barry Sanders running in a backfield with Eric Hipple or Scott Mitchell. You should worry more about your front office trading Adrian to Dallas (couldn't resist). We've already beaten you guys once this year and we beat another team (SD) with a decent running back (LT).

Yes, the Packers LOST to the Bears. It was embarrassing. We played a miserable second half. But did you think we were going to go 16-0? These things happen. If you're 5-1 you can dismiss it. If you're 2-3 then maybe you're sharpening the razor blade.

You are correct. The Packers need a running game...........just as soon as we play someone that can stop our passing game, which hasn't happened yet. It's not how I would draw it up. But I can't argue with the results.

At this point I really can't tell you why we drafted Justin Harrell. I'm sure he'll be useful someday. But right now, we're so deep on the defensive line, he's lucky if we even activate him on game day. That Jones kid we took in the 3rd round scored a touchdown against the Vikings. He's working out really well.

Thanks, I am enjoying our 5-1 start. Fluky? Maybe. But the alternative is losing and losing sucks. Yes, we have an aging football legend at quarterback who will require the construction of an additional wing at the hall of fame in Canton when he eventually retires. I'll take him over the last 10 Vikings quarterbacks combined. He's so great they're going to retire his Falcons jersey. And I've got Aaron Rodgers sitting on the bench just waiting for his chance. We're not even carrying a third quarterback right now.

See you November 11th. You'll likely win that game because neither team ever sweeps the season series.


Actually the Packers did win both games against the Vikings last year, which gave the Vikings the opportunity to draft Peterson.

Wright from Minneapolis also checks in:

Adrian Peterson certainly had a good game against Chicago, and he looks like the real deal. That could be bad news for Packer (and Chicago and Detroit fans) but let's keep a little perspective. He's played how many games now? I recall when Herschel Walker had a great debut against the Pack, and was hailed as the 2nd coming personified. How did that work out for you?

I always enjoy a Packer win (and a Vikings loss) but I don't get too up or down either way like I used to. I figure those guys don't care what kind of week I had - I'm not going to lose any sleep over theirs. I have enough stuff that's within my control to worry about. But one thing I learned a long time ago was not to hang my hat on predictions of how well my heroes were going to perform on the field (or how poorly their opponents were.) A fine wine can turn suddenly into a fine whine, and it doesn't taste too good, especially when it's mixed with all those black feathers.


Gotta like the crow eating reference. But mentioning Walker was really a low blow. He then turns to politics:

PS I am in agreement with your assessment of the political landscape in your post ' MN OB IN '08'. Wish it weren't so, but I don't recall going into an election with this much dread before. All ain't lost, but it sure doesn't look good. I blame Trent Lott, Ted Stevens, Don Young, et al and their slobbery porky ways for absolutely turning off the conservative base. I think the difference between conservatives and liberals is the conservatives generally hold their representatives to something of a standard. For dems, it's any means necessary.

Just win baby.

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Monday, October 15, 2007
Wave Of The Future

Another great sports weekend, only slightly marred by the Indians extra-inning explosion. The Rockies continued their improbable run to the World Series. The Gopher hockey squad opened with a pair of victories in the Icebreaker tourney. The Wild beat down the hated Ducks to go to 5-0 on the young NHL season. And the Vikings escaped with a dramatic last second win over the Bears in a game that featured more big plays than the Purple were able to muster all of last season.

Speaking of last year, after the Vikings lost a meaningless late-season game to the Packers, I commented that I was actually happy about the outcome since it would improve the Vikings position in the draft. A few obnoxious Packer fans (talk about a superfluous adjective) responded that my reaction was just sour grapes. Well yesterday, those result of those "sour grapes" was a very fine wine:

Rushing ATT YDS TD LG
A. Peterson 20 224 3 73


But hey, it's not like the Packers need a running back, do they?

Rushing ATT YDS TD LG
D. Wynn 13 37 1 7
V. Morency 4 11 0 6
B. Favre 3 8 0 7


Okay, but at least the player the Packer drafted has been a difference maker, right? Heh, heh.

Enjoy your fluky 5-1 start and aging quarterback now Packer fans. Because in the very near future Purple is going to be the new black.

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Monday, October 08, 2007
As If The Sports Weekend Wasn't Already Good Enough...

...this proved to be a great Sunday nightcap. Bears come alive in second half to beat Packers:

For 40 minutes on an unseasonably warm and muggy night at Lambeau Field, the Green Bay Packers and Brett Favre dominated the Bears in a game Chicago, off to a dismal start, had to have.

Then Favre threw to Urlacher--and that one play swung all the momentum to Chicago, which went on to record a very Bears-style victory, 27-20.


Icing on the cake baby.

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Sunday, September 30, 2007
Offensive Language

It took all of my parental self-control to watch the entire Vikings-Packers game today with my eldest son and not direct a single expletive (at least audibly) at the Viking's statuesque (as in the way he moves in the pocket not his physique) quarterback, Kelly Holcomb. My wife is a casual football fan, but the one thing that drives her nuts is an immobile QB. She hated gunslinging Jeff George during his short stint with the Vikings and she now has the same loathing for Holcomb. Granted, the line protecting him has been offensive of late, but he has feet of clay and little presence of mind once the pocket collapses. The less the ball is in his hands, the better off the Vikings are. How about a few direct snaps to Peterson?

Nice work by the announcing crew today too. They didn't leave many cliches unsaid, especially when speaking of Favre. It was particularly enlightening when they mentioned that when they spoke to him before the game, Favre wasn't as interested in talking about setting the touchdown record as winning the game. Really? Wow, that's shocking. Because sports history is simply chock full of athletes who come right out and say that winning isn't important compared to their personal records.

Sigh. On the positive side, the Vikings have a bye next week and the Wild open the NHL season on Thursday.

UPDATE- A few more random thoughts from yesterday's game:

- The Vikings "throwback" jerseys that they wore yesterday look so much better than the current version. Even if Kelly Holcomb didn't do much to remind fans of Fran Tarkenton, it was nice to see the Vikes sporting the classic purple.

- The fake punt run by the Packers featured the most athletic moves I've ever seen a punter make. Given the current state of their running game, maybe the Green and Gold should consider putting Ryan in the backfield.

- Packer fans intoxicated by their squad's 4-0 start should consider this somewhat sobering fact: the four teams that they have defeated so far now have a combined record of 4-12. The hangover is coming.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007
Dome 'Dogs?

With the notable exceptions of college hockey and elections, my previous dabbling in prognostication has not been especially noteworthy. Nostradamus I am not. But as the lottery suckers like to say, "You can't win if you don't play." Besides life becomes a bore if you don't step out on a limb now and again.

In this case, the limb is a particularly lengthy and tenuous one. For I am now going on record as predicting that this very Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings will shock the world (and the States) by defeating the hated Green and Gold interlopers from the East.

Have I been drinking you ask? No, I'll leave pre-pre-pre-game imbibing to the hard-livered Packer fans (only sixty-eight hours 'til kickoff!).

But the Packers are 3-0, while the Vikings are 1-2. The Packers are quarterbacked by the legendary Bret Favre, while the Vikings pin their hopes on the three-headed Jacklinomb beast. The Packers high-powered passing attack has been lighting up the scoreboard, while the Vikings offense packs about as much punch as a Chris Dodd stump speech.

I know that it doesn't make sense. I know that it's not rational. But I have a hunch about this one.

Packer Nation is feeling pretty darn good about their squad (and therefore themselves) right now. Too good. They're strutting around with their heads held high and their beer bellies out (and that's just the gals). They're feeling that sense of invincibility that usually doesn't kick in until after their eighth Milwaukee's Best. But that's also when they're at their most vulnerable.

At this point of the season, I still haven't bought in to the notion that, with no running game to speak of and an average group of receivers, you can rely on an aging quarterback (no matter how legendary) to pass you to victory on a regular basis. This is the week when the law of averages catch up to the Packers and they come down to earth.

The Vikings passing defense has been their Achilles heel of late, but this is the week that it will make all the difference. To be sure, Favre will get his yards through the air and likely set a new NFL record for career passing touchdowns. But he'll make mistakes and may also set the all-time career interception record the same day. Funny how Packer fans never seem to mention that one.

The opportunistic Vikings will parlay an interception return for touchdown, a fumble return for touchdown, a special teams touchdown, and a safety into an improbable 23-20 victory. You heard it here first. And more than likely last.

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Monday, September 24, 2007
Greet Googly Moogly!

The last time I watched the Vikings play the Chiefs at Arrowhead on television was back in September of 1990. I was with my friend Henry at The Speedway in Grand Forks, nursing one of my Top Five Worst Hangovers Of All-Time (sometime I'll have to post the details of the other four), the result of consuming somewhere around twenty highly potent gin and tonics mixed up by a generous bartender (a friend of a friend) named Stu at The Antique the previous evening. It was one of those hangovers where--during its worst moments of agony--you actually think you may just die and the prospect of passing this veilvale of tears doesn't seem all that unwelcome.

Obviously, I managed to survive that particular day after. The Vikings lost the game by three on a fourth quarter Chiefs touchdown.

Fast forward seventeen years and I'm once again watching the Vikings lose a game at Arrowhead by three after a fourth quarter Chiefs touchdown. But this time around wasn't quite as enjoyable. Yes, watching yesterday's game was that bad.

It's one thing to lose games. It's another to be so utterly boring while doing so. As a fan, you want "your" team to win and that's one of the reasons that you watch a game. But more importantly, you want to be entertained. Right now, I can't think of too many things less entertaining than watching the Vikings on offense. To call Coach Childress' "kick ass" offense vanilla is an insult to the flavoring. Because however bland it may taste, at least vanilla has some flavor.

To borrow a bit from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: I could tolerate any insurance seminar. For days I could sit there and listen to them go on and on with a big smile on my face. They'd say, "How can you stand it?" I'd say, "'Cause I've been watching the Vikings on offense. I can take ANYTHING." You know what they'd say? They'd say, "I know what you mean. That Brad Childress West Coast crap. Woah."

The most pathetic part of the game was the realization that when the Chiefs went ahead 13-10 with nine minutes and twenty-three seconds left, the outcome was all but determined. There was no chance that Kelly "Once A Brown, Always A Brown" Holcomb was going to "lead" the offense anywhere. Just for good measure, Coach Childress pulled the one legitimate offensive weapon (remember the good ol' days when the announcers would spout the cliché about "all the weapons" the Vikings offense had?) off the field on the last drive of the game. We wouldn't want to have someone out there who could actually make a play now would we? No, that might actually cause some excitement for the fans. Wouldn't be prudent.

The members of the Viking defense must be biting their tongues right now. Through three games, they've given up three touchdowns and five field goals (their 12 points a game given up average is currently 5th in the NFL) while scoring three defensive touchdowns. And yet the team sits at 1-2 having now lost two of the three road games that they realistically had a chance of winning this year (they still get the Giants on November 25th). It's going to be a long and boring year. Again.

UPDATE-- Steve e-mails to correct and inform:

Hey, it's vale of tears, not veil. Not the same vale where you find the little brown church, probably, unless you were left there at the altar.

And the Speedway is up for auction Oct. 5; you could now buy that place of your tender memories. Current owner is selling it lock/stock and vale of tears.

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