Once upon a time, Ricky Rubio refused to come to Minnesota because the state was “too cold.” As I pen this article on a 70 degree day in early March, it’s become painfully clear that “too cursed” would have been a better descriptor.
Rubio’s first 41 NBA games not only represented hope for a moribund franchise, but also offered a reprieve to tortured Minnesota sports fans. His fresh face and magical talent momentarily distracted us from our fallen stars and gut-wrenching losses.
Now that a torn ACL has ended Rubio’s sensational rookie campaign, the reprieve is over—feel free to return to your regularly scheduled suffering.
Minnesota’s current string of catastrophic injuries has crippled each of the state’s five major sports teams, but the origin of the curse remains a mystery.
What did we do to deserve your wrath, almighty sports gods?
Gangelgate? When the NCAA neuralyzed the 1997 Final Four season I thought we were square.
The illegitimate Joe Smith dealings? Stripping a bad NBA team of five first-round draft picks is the rough equivalent of eternal damnation, which already felt like a bit of an overreaction considering it was Joe freaking Smith.
Selling the North Stars was a self-imposed punishment, and getting in bed with the arch-nemesis earned us a Sexually Texted Disaster—no further sanctions were necessary.
At least the Twins have played by the rules. Sure, promoting Bill Smith to GM could be considered a crime against baseball, but didn’t you have (artificially) bigger fish to fry?
Clearly, I’m being satirical. I don’t believe in curses. Injuries are a part of sports, and no team is immune. However, what’s happening in Minnesota has blurred the line between bad luck and superstition. Between coincidence and conspiracy.
These haven’t been run-of-the-mill DL stints for replacement-level players, but instead debilitating injuries to the players who matter most.
We would have offered up Drew Butera as a sacrificial lamb, almighty sports gods. We’d have given you Tyrell Johnson if we could have found him, and you can keep the Metrodome. Hell, we’ll give you Darko right now. But please, for the love of all things holy, lift the bounty on our stars.
The following list outlines career-changing injuries to game-changing Minnesota athletes over the past two years. Enough is enough.
Justin Morneau (concussions)
Since taking a fluke knee to the head on July 7, 2010, the 2006 MVP and four-time All-Star has been in a haze. Morneau has subsequently missed 177-of-246 games, due primarily to concussion symptoms. He’s recently acknowledged that he may be one setback away from retirement.
Joe Mauer (unknown)
Considering that he’s the face of Minnesota sports, it’s only fitting that Mauer’s 2011 season was cloaked in mystery. In addition to known knee and neck issues, the 2009 MVP missed 80 games due to cryptic ailments that ranged from a viral infection, to pneumonia to the infamous “bilateral leg weakness.”
The organization’s veiled communications led to rampant speculation. While rumors of Lyme Disease have been squashed, other theories continue to linger among skeptical fans despite Mauer’s relatively clean bill of health.
Denard Span (general fogginess)
Morneau isn’t the only Twin who spent 2011 dazed and confused. Leadoff man Denard Span missed 92 games, battling dizzying symptoms related to concussions and Vestibular Neuritis. He’s already experiencing neck soreness in spring training, and the cumulative nature of concussions has cast a dark cloud over his future.
Kyle Gibson (Tommy John surgery)
As if ravaging the current lineup wasn’t enough, the sports gods decided to pillage the team’s future rotation as well. Top prospect and 2009 first-round pick Kyle Gibson was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery last September, and considering the post-surgery results of Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan and Pat Neshek, Twins fans have every right to worry.
Adrian Peterson (torn ACL and MCL)
If we had one mulligan, we’d use it on Peterson, who tore both his ACL and MCL on December 24, 2011. The notion that he’ll be ready for Week 1 is delusional—with what we know about this injury, he’s unlikely to be back to full strength before the 2013 season.
Considering that he turns 27 this month, and that his success is predicated on violent cuts and jarring collisions, the safe money is that his best days are behind him.
Antoine Winfield (broken clavicle)
Antoine Winfield broke his clavicle in a 45-7 loss to the Packers last year, and managed to play just five games in his 12th NFL season. While he’s expected to be fully recovered by Week 1, it’s a dicey injury for a soon-to-be 35-year old who has built his career on lowering the shoulder.
Mikko Koivu (shoulder)
Wild captain Mikko Koivu has now missed 24 games with two different shoulder injuries, and may eventually be shut down for the season.
Guillaume Latendresse and Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussions)
What a headache. Dating back to last season, both Wild forwards have missed significant action with recurring concussions. There’s a very realistic chance that each of their careers will be cut severely short.
Niklas Backstrom (groin)
Considering the carnage, a four-week groin injury to the team’s top goaltender feels like a Swedish massage.
Ricky Rubio (torn ACL)
This was the most heartbreaking of all the injuries, as our dazzling 21-year-old Spaniard was leading the Wolves’ playoff charge. These injuries aren’t what they used to be, and Rubio has a fair chance of returning to full strength by the beginning of next season. However, there are never any guarantees with torn ACLs.
Trevor Mbakwe (torn ACL)
Leading scorer and rebounder Trevor Mbakwe’s ACL tear essentially condemned the Gophers to the NIT. In a cruel twist of fate, the team’s senior captain and emotional leader had his reconstructive surgery on the same day as Adrian Peterson. There remains a small chance that the 23-year-old will return for a sixth season.
E.J. Henderson (fractured femur)
In Week 13 of the bittersweet 2009 season, friendly fire (Jamarca Sanford) sent middle linebacker E.J. Henderson’s left leg flopping in all the wrong directions. Through investigative Internetting, it appears that this injury (December 6, 2009) marks the inception of the curse.
The rapidly declining 31-year-old is unlikely to return to Minnesota. While he enjoyed a resurgent 2010 season, the metal rod in his leg will ultimately shave time off his career by hindering his speed and agility.
Sidney Rice (hip) and Cedric Griffin (torn ACL)
The 2009 NFC title game was the beginning of the end for promising youngsters Sidney Rice and Cedric Griffin. What is that, Gregg, about $2,000? Asshole.
Joe Nathan (Tommy John surgery)
The Twins’ lofty 2010 goals took a major blow when All-Star closer Joe Nathan tore his ulnar collateral ligament in spring training. To add insult to injury, the team would eventually trade Wilson Ramos for Matt Capps to shore up the bullpen (thanks again, Bill). Nathan returned and pitched poorly in 2011. He’s now a Texas Ranger.
Eric Decker (Lisfranc injury)
A lisfranc injury cut the superstar receiver’s Gophers career short, and caused his NFL draft stock to slip. After a nondescript rookie season in Denver, Decker scored nine touchdowns in 2011. Fortunately, he was able to leave the curse behind him when he left Minnsota—a suspected ACL tear this January was later downgraded to an MCL sprain.