For the years following the Vikings collapse in the 2009 NFC Championship game, there has been little to get excited about in terms of the Minnesota sports scene. The Lynx won the WNBA Championship last year and got a few pulses racing, but that has been about it.
Minnesota fans battled through bi-lateral leg weakness and concussion like symptoms, both on the diamond (Morneau) and the ice (PMB). Then, in a seemingly meaningless game against the Washington Redskins, All-Pro/All-World running back Adrian Peterson suffered a serious knee injury. The Vikes somehow ended up winning that game and ultimately costing themselves the 2nd overall pick. That 2nd overall pick was recently turned into a bounty of quality draft picks.
Despite all that, the arrival of Ricky Rubio changed everything. Suddenly there was something to pay attention to night in and night out. The Wolves were regular contributors to ESPN’s Top 10 because of Rubio’s artistry with a basketball.
Not only was Rubio fun to watch, but, with time, the Wolves made a push for the Western Conference playoffs. They strung together wins, both at home and on the road, against quality opponents. Then, while attempting to make the fundamental basketball play we have come to expect from him, Ricky blew out his knee trying to take a charge against the Black Mamba. Like we needed another reason to hate Kobe. As Rubio limped around the court, you could just feel the season’s momentum evaporating.
A savvy local team could have filled this void. A few teams had a chance to bring some excitement to their respective fan bases. The Vikings were in the middle of free agency. The Twins were wrapping up free agency and about to begin spring training. And lastly, the Wolves were nearing the NBA trade deadline with pieces to move.
The Vikings have actually done less than nothing when it comes to free agency. Let me explain. They cut veteran influences like Steve Hutchinson and failed to replace that talent with anything resembling a sought-after talent. In fact, not only were the Vikings not signing anyone to get the pulse racing (apologies to John Carlson’s mom — an average NFL TE coming off an injury does not count), but, they actually refrained from being involved in the discussion. Seemingly all the big name free agents that would have excited fans and improved the squad, never seemed to be courted by the Winter Park brain trust. This is even more peculiar considering the fact that said brain trust is holding the people of Minnesota hostage for a new stadium to the tune of $550 million.
Going into spring training, the Twins were reporting with recent signees Jamey Carrol, Ryan Doumit, and Jason Marquis. Is there even any need to explain how much of snoozer it must be down in Fort Meyers right now? Through the first week of spring training games, the whole roster, including minor leaguers, beer vendors, and ardent white-haired super fans, had one, no, seriously, one, extra base hit. The only thing marquee about the Twins free agent signings is the fact that one of guys’ last names is a punny play on words. After 99 losses last season and with all this stadium generated revenue, punny is not going to it. Aren’t we past trying to dress up average major leaguers as these diamond-in-the-rough finds?
Making your way east a few blocks to the Target Center, you will find Wolves GM David Kahn working furiously on finishing his first Level 2 sudoku puzzle. Other teams are calling the Wolves about their multiple trade pieces: Michael Beasley and Luke Ridnour. But, don’t worry, Kahn is not going to take the bait. Full fairness in savagery, the Wolves were at least mentioned in trying to flip Ridnour or Beasley into Jamal Crawford (who, by the way, would have been a great fit on this squad). Though, considering both the principals in that deal, Portland and L.A., made moves for players who were not as good as the Wolves pieces, you have to think the sudoku got in the way.
Ultimately, it has been eerily quiet since Rubio’s anterior cruciate ligament decided to take a vacation. One can only hope that both he and AP are able to fully recover and return to inspire their respective squads. Considering the current state of affairs, we should hope for good weather this summer, at least then we can take advantage Minnesota’s remaining recreational gems: the golf courses.