This weekend was to be a grand one in Minnesota sports. That it was not is attributable to the demons that each of the local teams faced. Whether the Vikings can salvage a weekend of once highly anticipated returns, depends greatly on whether the Vikings can exorcise a demon of their own.
The Twins started the Friday-Saturday downer off with a performance that only a Minnesota sport's fan can truly appreciate. The night began with a quick, though requisite small, lead. That lead quickly disappeared. And, when it became evident that the Twins were no match for the less-than-spectacular Kevin Brown (who messed with the Twins' hitters' heads by throwing the ball right down the middle of the plate), the Twins got loopy.
First, Hunter tried to stretch a double into a triple with nobody out and the Twins trailing big. Hunter claims he was just being aggressive and that he would do it again. If so, Hunter needs some base-running coaching.
But at least Hunter had a chance at third. Two batters later, Koskie was out by several feet trying to stretch a single into a double. Throw in a ball dropped over the fence for a home run and a few signs of resignation and that was that.
The Gopher football team felled the next domino in the weekend of dashed Minnesota sport's fans' hopes when it once again failed to put away the Michigan Wolverines. Leading by four late in the fourth quarter, the Gophers went into their "enable offense" mode--an offense that enables the opponent to get the ball back quickly--despite reasonable field position, two stout running backs, and a decent passing game.
During the Gopher's fourth quarter meltdown, the Gophers twice ran running plays deep in their backfield, despite clear indications throughout the game that Michigan was not going to be fooled regarding who the ball carrier was. Both plays went for big losses and left Minnesota in uneviable passing situations.
Despite the suspect playcalling, Minnesota needed only one more first down with just over three minutes to play to end the game. It did not happen.
Instead, the Wolverines got the ball back on their own 15 and took one minute to march for a touchdown. The only question was why it took even that long, as Minnesota had clearly gone into its special version of prevent defense during which all players in the vicinity of the play are required to retreat from the ball carrier (or, in the alternative, are required to miss easy tackles).
The Gophers had an opportunity to recover from the Wolverines quick strike, but more questionable playcalling led to a terrible pass on 4th and 2. And that was that.
The Twins wrapped up the spectacular sports smorgasbord on Saturday night in Minneapolis, losing to the Yankees in 11 innings.
It would be easy to say that the Twins lost because Gardy pulled Johan after 5 innings, despite the fact that Johan had held the Yankees to one run. And, had Johan pitched a couple more innings, the Twins could have used Balfour's spectacular two innings, and Nathan's spectacular outing to close out the game. But that would be nonsense.
Plus, we know better than to believe that Johan's short stint was the reason the Twins lost to New York.
The Twins lost to New York on Saturday, as well as on Friday, for the same reason that the Gophers lost to Michigan on Saturday--because neither the Twins nor the Gophers can exorcise their respective demons.
The Twins' demon is the Yankees, as the Twins cannot beat the Yankees when it matters. Not to get home field advantage in the playoffs, not to advance in the playoffs. Unfortunately, that's the positive/half full angle.
The negative/half empty angle is that the Twins simply cannot hit in the clutch. One of the classic lines from the loss on Saturday was the Fox analyst saying of LeCroy, pitch-hitting in the 11th, "he can change the game in a hurry." This comment came with nobody on base and LeCroy stepping to the plate with all of 9 (!) homeruns all season! Every batter in the Yankees starting lineup had more homeruns this season. Sadly, the Fox analyst would have been correct had he said, "LeCroy is as likely as any Twin to change the game in a hurry." It would not have meant much, but it would have been true.
Just as the Twins cannot exorcise their demon, the Gophers, after nearly two decades trying, cannot exorcise their demon--the Wolverines. The half-full angle is that the Gophers are simply snake bit against Michigan.
The half-empty angle is that Mason chokes when it matters against Michigan, calling conservative offensive plays and refusing to play tight defense for fear of incurring game-turning penalties or getting burned deep.
I'll go with the rosier demon theory for now and allow Mason a one week reprieve. But whether rosey or gloomy, the fact remains that our beloved Gophers once again lost to our hated Wolverines.
The real test for the weekend comes Sunday when the Vikings play the Texans in Houston. Unlike the Twins and Gophers, the Vikings are favored to beat the Texans. Half-full guy says favorites win out this weekend.
Half-empty guy says another Minnesota team fails meet fan expectations this weekend, losing yet another game on the road, in the elements (assuming the roof is off of the stadium), and making the weekend a lost weekend for fans of the big three sports.
Up Next: Post game with hopes of being more full than half-anything.