Monday, October 18, 2004

Red Hot Pepper and Nausea

Daunte Sets Mark

Daunte Culpepper continued his impressive play last night in the Vikings' 38-31 victory over the New Orleans Gophers, uh, Saints. Culpepper threw for over 400 yards with 5 touchdowns as the Vikings marched through the Saints' "defense" at will. The 5 TDs brought Daunte's season total to 18 TDs and marked the first time in NFL history that a QB has thrown 5 TD passes in three different games in the same season.

Daunte was credited with three turnovers in the game but can hardly shoulder the entire blame for those turnovers. His fumble was the result of an early and poor snap and his INT on a long pass to Moss--though the result of a forced pass--likely would not have resulted in an INT had Moss not tweaked his hammy. Moreover, fans have been clamoring for the Vikings to unleash Daunte and for Daunte to play with a little more abandon. Last night's game appeared to be a healthy dose of pragmatic abandon.

And when Daunte was not zipping perfect goal line passes to Jermaine Wiggins, a pinpoint pass to Moss at the back of the endzone, or lobbing a perfect sideline pass to Marcus Robinson to pull the Vikings out of deep hole in their own end, rookie Mwelde Moore was shredding the disappearing act that is the Saints' defense. And shredding with more aplomb than one should have a right to expect of rookie playing in his second game.

Great offensive performance.

Nausea

Lest it be said that I view the local sports scene through rose-colored lenses, I shall provide a little rain. I'll save the rain that is the Vikings' defense for tomorrow, but cannot let pass for another day the comments of national and local sports commentators and our favorite local coach.

Never would I have imagined that my "favorite" (read "least disliked") announcer on ESPN's Sunday Night Football would be Paul McGuire. McGuire incessantly repeats himself and makes inane points, but that pales in contrast on the grating scale with the contributions of his booth partners.

Mike Patrick is a virtual non-entity, largely relegated to mimicking what others have already said. That means that Patrick is repeating the statements that McGuire has alread repeated. Or worse, that Patrick is repeating Joe Theismann!

Theismann's gems included this sparkler:

"I mean, the Vikings are running up over 400 yards a game but they are allowing 294 yards a game. They are giving up the same number of yards that they are gaining. That's not good."

No it's not Joe. But it's more a result of your failure to appreciate differences than it is the result of result. Thanks for the continued insight.

Theismann also suggested that the Saints were shafted when they were called for helmet-to-helmet contact after a Saint player lowered his arms and turned himself into a human missile, launching himself directly into Daunte's facemask after the ball was clearly downfield. The play was the reason the NFL implemented the helmet-to-helmet contact rule. But Thesimann was non-plussed. Instead, still irate that the Vikings had not been called for what appeared to be slap of Aaron Brook's helmet by a Vikings' defender, Theismann went on a tirade. Only after McGuire convinced Theismann that the helmet-to-helmet contact call was both a good call and one that must be made, did Theismann shut his yap. At least for a play.

And what would I prefer to the ramblings of ESPN's NFL analysts who continue to over-hype, over-analyze, and dumb up the booth? Something more akin to ESPN's college football analysts who properly savaged the Gopher's performance against the underdog Michigan State Spartans.

Despite entering the game at East Lansing as a 9.5-point favorite, the Gophers managed to hand Michigan State a 34-point victory. That's some light lifting, a fact not lost on the ESPN analysts.

Although falling victim to ESPN's dictate that all ESPN-televised games be hyped as great match-ups, the ESPN analysts covering the Gophers-Spartans game quickly identified Minnesota's weaknesses and roundly condemned the Gopher's "effort."

Minnesota receivers dropped passes left and right, Minnesota coaches continued to call the same offensive plays that have not worked for the past two weeks--refusing to incorporate a short-passing game into the game plan--and continued to insist on playing the invisible defense, defenders continued to refuse to tackle or even touch receivers and running backs, players looked like they were disinterested and played even more so, and Mason continued to place blame everywhere but at home.

Although Mason initially stated that the loss was on the coaching staff, today, he appeared to revert to form, suggesting that he simply doesn't have the talent to compete in the Big Ten. Mason stated that "the effort was there, despite my initial impression that we [the coaches] simply had not gotten the players up for the game." He also claimed that "the tackling wasn't as bad as I thought it had been" (this begs the question of what Mason's definition of "tackling" is).

Reading between the lines, what Mason is saying is that he and his staff did the best they could do to prepare the team to play and the team had made improvements in tackling from the Michigan game. That's what Mason decided to go with on Monday after the numbness of losing big as a heavy favorite had worn off. And he went with this because Mason refuses to acknowledge his mistakes. The mistakes are not with the coaching in the world of Mason, at least not with his coaching, they are with execution. But if that is true, and we are not subscribing to that notion at Vikesgeek, isn't Mason condemning himself in another area in which he routinely bangs his own drum? Isn't Mason saying that he simply cannot recruit good players?

Mason's final comment of the day again reflected the coach's unwillingness to accept blame for his team's short-comings, as he stated that he was going to look into the defensive schemes and make some changes. This was Mason's attempt to distance himself from the defensive playcalling that has been more Wackeresque the past two years than it was during the Wacker era. By saying he would look into the defensive schemes and make changes, Mason was saying that he had been hands off on defense, relying on the purported expertise of defensive coordinator Greg Hudson. Even if Mason truly was out of the loop on defensive playcalling he is indicting himself on two levels without apparently realizing it. First, he is acknowledging that he does not coordinate game plans, even when the situation clearly calls for the intervention of a purportedly experienced head coach. Second, he is acknowledging that his defensive coordinator is not suited for his position.

And none of this surprises Vikesgeek.

Finally, our local sportswriter is still at it, once again shilling for legislative funding of a new stadium. This time, the writer is plugging a new stadium for the Gophers--a stadium that the Gophers need, according to the writer, to compete in the Big Ten.

After the Gophers were demolished by Michigan State in Michigan State's renovated stadium, the local writer opined that Glen Mason might well wish that he had taken the coaching position at Michigan State a couple years ago when it was offered to him. The implication, of course, was that, had he taken the Michigan State job, Mason would have been on the winning end of yesterday's game (unlikely), a victory made possible almost solely by the existence of the refurbished stadium.

What puzzles this blogger are the statements made by the same local writer when the state legislature was debating whether to build an indoor football stadium to house the Gophers and Vikings. At the time, our local writer stated that the Gophers needed an indoor stadium to attract top-caliber athletes to play in Minnesota. The speed of turf ball, he stated, certainly would entice speedy d-backs, receivers, and backs to play for the maroon and gold. And the location of the dome, at the crossroads of downtown Minneapolis and the U of M campus would attract students and professionals alike.

Now, our local writer is contending that the dome was a mistake because it is not on campus. The solution, of course, is an outdoor stadium on campus. In other words, the solution is for the Gophers to play in a stadium similar to old Memorial Stadium, where the Gophers played prior to moving to the dome.

Thank god for the wisdom of our local writer. But he was not done.

According to our local writer, one of the major problems facing the Gophers' athletic department is that the Gophers do not draw well at home. To demonstrate this point, the writer noted that the Gophers will draw "only" 42,000 fans for homecoming against Illinois. That, according to the writer, is the consequence of playing at the dome.

Wow! Where shall we begin?

Let's start with the fact that 42,000 fans (counting only tickets already sold) is a fairly healthy turnout for a game against Illinois. Add to that the fact that, as demonstrated in the Michigan State loss, the Gophers are not a particularly inspiring team, and, in that light, 42,000 fans looks very good.

But our local writer appeared more concerned with turnout at the dome versus what he appears to believe would be a boon in turnout should the Gophers return to a campus stadium, rather than whether 42,000 is good under the circumstances. And from that perspective, his point is sublimely--rather than merely entirely--ridiculous.

The suspicion here is that even with advance ticket sales of 42,000 this week, far fewer fans will be in the dome on Saturday after the loss at Michigan State. Put the game outside on a very chilly October Saturday and even fewer fans likely would attend. Even if fans wanted to turn out in large numbers at a new stadium, however, our local writer protests too much, for, if the Gophers were playing in the stadium currently being proposed for the U of M campus they would have already sold out, as seating capacity of around 42,000 is proposed for the new stadium.

But let's get real about the deal. U of M fans do not attend Gopher football games for reasons largely left unaddressed by our local writer. First, the Gophers have not had a legitimately good team since the 1960s. That wears on a fan base.

Second, the current head coach continues to overhype his team and the fans are wise to this tactic. The Gophers have not defeated a Big Ten team that has finished the year with a winning conference record in the last two seasons.

Finally, Minneapolis is not Iowa City, West Lafayette, Madison, Ann Arbor, East Lansing, Bloomington, Happy Valley, or Columbus, where the University is the center of attention. The Gopher football team, at best, ranks third in local sports interest in October. And that assumes that the Wild are on hiatus, the Twins are out of the playoffs, and the Timberwolves' regulars season has not yet begun. At worst, the Gopher football team ranks, in order, behind the Vikings, Twins, Wolves, Wild, and Gopher Hockey. And when the Gopher Women's b-ball begins, the football team can fall behind them in rank order. And, though apparently unfathomable to our local writer, some people even have plans that do not include the local sports scene.

For writers who cannot deal with that, it may be time to cover sports in a different town. And it clearly is time to drop the line that the Gopher football team's woes are directly correlated with the lack of an on-campus stadium. Fans attend games when a team is good or shows promise. When a team continues to disappoint--even regress--there is little reason to show support, particularly when showing support costs time and money.

Up Next: All Purple, including Tice's progress and rankings.


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I have read through one history
Each of you has your personal story; it is your history. Keeping a diary or writing your feelings in a special notebook is a wonderful way to learn how to think and write about who you are -- to develop your own identity and voice.

People of all ages are able to do this. Your own history is special because of your circumstances: your cultural, racial, religious or ethnic background. Your story is also part of human history, a part of the story of the dignity and worth of all human beings. By putting opinions and thoughts into words, you, too, can give voice to your inner self and strivings.

A long entry by Anne Frank on April 5, 1944, written after more than a year and a half of hiding from the Nazis, describes the range of emotions 14-year-old Anne is experiencing:

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