With the Minnesota Twins' recent loss at the hands of the New York Yankee$, the Vikings' Monday night loss to the Jets, and the overall embarrassment that is the Golden Gophers football team, life has been less than kind to the average Minnesota sports fan lately. While the situation in Minnesota may not be as dire as that of Cleveland or, say, Seattle, it is indisputable that rooting for the teams from Minneapolis is an unenviable position.
The Twins 2010 season was undoubtedly memorable, with new Target Field, the resurgence of Jim Thome and emergence of Danny Valenica, and with the team being the first to clinch a playoff spot on September 21. Unfortunately, the season left a bad taste in the mouths of many fans (as has become tradition), as the team once again turned in to the Pittsburgh Pirates during the playoffs, en route to being swept out of the ALDS by the New York Yankees for the second consecutive season. While the Twins may have been the victim of a bad call or two- as bad umping all around has become an unfortunate tradition in recent playoffs- there's no excuse for the way the Twins played, giving up more than there fair share of clutch hits while not getting a hit with runners in scoring position until late in Game 3. As Twins fans know well, the Yankees' domination of the team is nothing new. The Twins have made the playoffs six times since 2002, losing to the Yankees in four games or less four times in that span, in 2003, 2004, 2009, and most recently this past week. In my time as a sports fan, never have I seen one high-level team- say what you want, the Twins making the playoffs six out of nine years isn't an accident- so thoroughly and frequently dominated and demoralized by another. With no clear way to figure out the Yankees in sight, Minnesotans now turn their attention to the Minnesota Vikings, but at this point, is that really the answer?
This was supposed to be the year for the Minnesota Vikings. Brett Favre was back for another year, and the team was smelling blood after January's heartbreaking loss to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC championship. Then things started unraveling. Sidney Rice had surgery on his injured hip- keeping him out until after Week 6- Favre's lack of training camp attendance started to show, and the team now sits at 1-3 after a Monday Night Football loss to the New York Jets, "highlighted" by a last-minute interception thrown by Favre which Dwight Lowery returned for a touchdown. Favre did throw his 500th career touchdown to his new toy, Randy Moss, but also tied and surpassed Warren Moon's record for most fumbles lost during a career by giving up #'s 161 and 162. The Vikings face a tough road ahead, and a win against the just-as-desperate Dallas Cowboys in Minnesota next week is critical. As tonight reiterated, heartbreak is nothing new for Vikings fans. With memories of last January's loss to the Saints, Gary Anderson's missed field goal, and even the four Super Bowl losses looming in the memory of Vikings fans, it may not be long before some Minnesotans start cheering for Los Angeles' professional football team- and no, I'm not talking about USC- claiming the end result is the same anyhow. Even if the Vikings make a turnaround this year, barring a Super Bowl victory, fans will end the season shaking their heads and counting down the days until the Twins start spring training, and the cycle will start anew.
Possibly the most pathetic story unfolding in Minneapolis this fall is that of the Minnesota Gophers football team. A team which has in past years feasted on non-conference competition, even being ranked in the top 25 before losing in the Big Ten and falling from grace, this year the Gophers have seemed to skip the grace period, losing four straight since an opening-week win over Middle Tennessee. Losses to USC and Wisconsin were expected and forgivable. However, the Gophers also lost to South Dakota in week two, and then dropped a 29-28 heartbreaker to Northwestern on October 2nd- Minnesota's homecoming, nonetheless. With chants of "Fire [head coach Tim] Brewster" being heard at recent home games, the home crowd may be on to something. In Brewster's reign, the Gophers have twice in the Insight Bowl, but sitting at 1-4 with dates against Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Iowa looming before the season closes, the Golden Gophers probably won't even have a bowl game to lose this season, barring the advent of something ridiculous like the Jersey Shore Bowl (Hopefully the BCS isn't getting any ideas), and the Brewster era may come to a merciful end.
Possibly the only good news for Minnesotans- at least the ones who are paying attention- is that University of Minnesota wrestling product Brock Lesnar is defending his UFC heavyweight title at UFC 121 in Anaheim, on a date many are appropriately calling "Brocktober 23rd". Outside of that, there's not much to cheer for in the Twin Cities right now. After all, with Halloween approaching, the Timberwolves' regular season starts soon, and that might be the scariest thing of all.
Ben Anderson-Smith, Contributor/Pissed-off Minnesotan