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Vikings to Invade Stadium Village!!!


TCF snow.jpg
Photo: Simon Guerra

So the Metrodome implodes under 2 feet of snow and frozen ice so a sad-sack Vikings team that is playing out the string has to play its last game at the Gophers home field, which itself is buried under 2 feet of snow and drifts up to 4 feet high. What could go wrong. Oh. It's one Monday night when then the temp at game time (8:00p) is slated to be around zero and only going down by time the game winds up at 11:00p.

So right now a crew is shoveling out the TCF Bank stadium and food service workers are de-winterizing the bathrooms and concessions

What is interesting is that the University plans for months for the football season. Traffic and security is in place, season ticket holders have designated and pre-paid parking, staff is instructed to stay away, games are on a low-traffic Saturday. Now Vikings and University officials have 5 days to plan, the snow has significantly reduced transportation and parking around the area, the Vikings have sold 14,000 more tickets than TCF holds, the Metrodome has 70 sold out suites, TCF has 35. Oh and the place doesn't serve booze. At least the semester will have ended and less students and faculty will be around.

So it's going to be a logistical nightmare. But it should be fun too. It will be interesting to see how hardy Minnesotans are with nearly 30 years of indoor football under their belt and the weather promising to be unforgiving. Also that the game is on Monday Night football means a national spotlight as well. In some respects it's the only thing that will bring interest to a team that is going nowhere. The Vikings should embrace the opportunity and make it an experience no one forgets.

Unsolicited Advice for Jerry Kill



O.k. I am on record as being underwhelmed with the selection of Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill as the new football coach for the Golden Gophers. It's partially based on expectations. With the Mike Leach's and the Randy Shannon's of the college football world on record as being interested in the job, I (along with thousands of others) were hoping for a bigger name, someone who would instantly bring excitement to the team. A guy who would make you pick up the phone and call the Bierman building and get a couple of season tickets to next's years season at TCF. Jerry Kill just isn't that guy.

However Kill does bring some positives to the program besides a killer name (sorry). He's won everywhere he's coached and promises to bring a hard-nosed run and defense-focused effort to the Gophers. That's something they desperately need and an approach that Iowa and Wisconsin have proved can be quite competitive in the Big Ten. And it should be just as desirable to come to Minneapolis as it is for an 18 year old to come to Iowa City and Madison.

The biggest hit against Jerry Kill is that people (including me) are concerned whether or not he can recruit the skill players needed to compete in the Big Ten. Jerry Kill would do himself a lot of favors by again looking at what Iowa and Wisconsin does to get players to those programs. I for one know that Iowa fills a lot of its roster with Iowa kids. They may not be starters and the definitely don't have a future in the NFL but they are serviceable back-ups and great practice kids. Plus they bring a lot of in-state pride to the program as the "local kid is a Hawkeye" buys a lot of love. This attitude also helps sell the program to the High School coaches so that when they have a blue-chipper, the relationship is established and Iowa can then go in and make the sell to the kid, his parents, the coach and the community. Given the fact that the state's lesser division football teams have had a lot of success lately, there is talent to fill out a Big Ten football roster in Minnesota.

So Jerry Kill is what he is. A good coach but not a barn burner. After the all talk and no show Brewster years, it might be a relief. However, a couple of 7-5 seasons and Insight Bowl appearances are not what's going to excite this town. If I were Jerry Kill, I would hire the best recruiters I can, target a few good markets like Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit and then try to get who you can from Florida and Texas and then fill the rest of the roster with Minnesota kids. Then coach the hell out of them. You do that, win some big games and just once or twice vie for a Rose Bowl bid, then we will be eating out of your hands for years to come.

Marketing the World Series



Readers of this blog know that I like baseball better than football. Sure, I'll watch the Vikings and big games between exciting teams, but I enjoy baseball more, am more invested in how the Twins do than the Vikings. This doesn't mean that I can't acknowledge that professional football is more popular than baseball. It's an unfortunate but given fact.

Some have said that football is the perfect TV sport. A few seconds of action punctuated by delays so that TV can go over what happened and get ready for the next action. However you can say that about baseball too (but without the violence). I think the main difference is that the NFL long ago learned to market the entire league to the American public. Sure there are glamour teams but all teams are created and marketed equally. Compare that to baseball where the Yankees and Red Sox get most of the attention, followed by the Mets, maybe the Cubs and Dodgers, then all the rest. It can be maddening if you're not a fan of those few teams. Unfortunately MLB perpetuates this focus as well.

No better example is last year's Super Bowl vs. this year's World Series. This past Super Bowl had two very small market teams (New Orleans and Indianapolis) playing for the championship. Sure you had a nice story with New Orleans and its 40 plus years of futility and the issues related to Katrina, but still two pretty unglamorous markets as far as sports go. But it doesn't matter for the NFL, the game got monster ratings, some of the highest ever.

Now compare that with this year's World Series, which is already getting slagged as boring because there's not a big market involved. Fact is there are two huge markets involved. Dallas-Fort Worth is the 5th largest market in the U.S. behind NYC, LA, Chicago, and Philly. San Francisco/Oakland is sixth. So we are talking big markets here. Also California and Texas are the two biggest states in the union, and undoubtedly there will be folks from Houston, Austin, LA, San Diego, etc., tuning in. In short these are two large market teams, vying for their first Championship and MLB has focused so long on Boston-NYC that it can't figure out how to get people excited about any other team or match-up.

Unfortunately, the non-ESPN media has bought into the Yankee-Red Sox as well, even to their detriment. I was in Chicago this weekend, and some of the local sports talk shows were discussing "worst World Series ever?" topic. Chicago! If there ever was a market that would want to break out of the eastern seaboard mentality of ESPN and Fox Sports you would think it would be Chicago.

Now I don't know how to fix this. Sorry. But I know I will be watching, I'll be excited even if my sports media overlords aren't. And when the poor ratings come in, instead of thinking of ways to increased the likelihood of a Yankees-Red Sox World Series, perhaps MLB should think of ways to market 30 teams across the country. Ask the NFL how they do it.

Requiem for a Losing Playof Team

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You know I had a bad feeling about the Twins chances during game 1 last Wednesday night when Span got that leadoff hit and Hudson immediately bunted him over to 2nd. Why were we giving up an out in the first inning of the first game? If we wanted to stay out of the GIDP why not have Span steal off a noodled-arm Posada? I was worried right then and there that the Twins did not have the right kind of attitude to win a series against the Yankees.

It's a pisser because they obviously brought the moxie when they faced the White Sox in mid-September. By all accounts the Whities needed a sweep and the Twins, who could have easily survived by winning one game, went out and took down the Sox all three games. Maybe it's the difference between the White Sox and Yankees. Maybe they turned the switch off and couldn't turn it back on. I don't know. Oh and also, the loss of Justin Morneau finally caught up with the Twins.

IT was a fun season, especially putting the pedal to the metal during August and September. But the playoffs were a major buzz kill. This team will look a lot different next year, hopefully with a couple of players with a little grit and fire in the belly.

Target Field Myths v. Facts


Photo: Jared Wieseler

Even though the playoffs start on Wednesday, we've finished one year of regular season baseball at Target Field and it's time to evaluate some of the myths that cropped up in the planning and design of Target Field and how they actually played out over 81 games and 6 months.

Myth #1 - No Roof means rainouts.

Fact - There was one official rainout and one suspended game this year, actually below league average. Rain had practically no impact on baseball played at Target Field this year.

Myth #2 - O.k. no rain but it will be cold in April and October.

Fact - Opening day saw temperatures in the 70's. I went to two games this past weekend (Oct. 1 and 3rd) both days were quite pleasant, yesterday was quite warm. Two playoff games are scheduled for later this week. Forecasted temperatures those two days? Low to mid 70s.

Photo: Ballpark Magic

Myth #3 - Target Field had to be shoe-horned into a small space. It will be a bandbox with lots of cheap homeruns hit.

Fact - Target Field had dimensions quite similar to the Metrodome and had the 3rd least amount of homeruns hit of any Major League park this year.

Myth #4 - I can't believe they built Target Field next to a garbage burner. It's ugly and going to smell like rotting garbage.

Fact - Funny how not one word has been written about smelly garbage once 3 million plus people started showing up. This was and is a non-issue.

Myth #5 - Twins will make a lot of money at Target Field but the Pohlad's are cheap. They aren't going to spend any money on the team for a couple of years to "make up" for the lost opportunities at the dome (Dan Barreiro was a big proponent of this one).

Fact - Twins payroll went up nearly 50 percent this year and is around $100M with all indications that it will continue to stay at this level if not higher for the foreseeable future.

Photo: Ballpark Magic

UPDATE! One more Myth:

Myth #6 -- Downtown Traffic is going to be a bear during Twins games, it can't accommodate all that Twins traffic.

Fact -- Traffic was no issue, even when there were events at the Metrodome, Target Center, etc. People used public transportation, bikes, and parked all over downtown to get to the game. I went to 13 games this year and I drove, biked, carpooled and took the bus. I found it was easier to get out of downtown this year then in past years at the Metrodome. And this was with full houses every game.

Clearly the ballpark haters were wrong on all counts. Also I haven't heard of any family going bankrupt paying 15 cents to help fund the ballpark every time they buy $100 worth of electronics at Best Buy in Hennepin County. Target Field has been a huge success aesthetically, the way it plays on the field, national exposure, and for the Twins bottom line. The Twins and Hennepin County hit a home run with Target Field and it look forward to enjoying it for many many years to come.

It wasn't all bad

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Photo by The Daily Gopher

So you say the Gophers, Vikings, and Twins all lost this weekend (Twins 2 of 3)?. Doesn't matter. The USC Cheerleaders Song Girls were in town. That will always brighten a sports weekend abyss.

btw, make sure you click on the pic to enlarge, the Song Girl in the middle is particularly beguiling.

Coffin. Hammer. Nail.



Given their recent track record against the White Sox in August and September, it comes as no surprise that , with the season on the line for Ozzies Boyz, the Twins come into Chicago and lay a death blow to the White Sox season.

Wednesday it was Jesse Crain and striking out Ron Paul Konerko and Manny with the bases loaded. Yesterday it was Joe Mauer showing off his man muscles and hitting a key three run homerun. In each instance you could see the Sox deflate and basically check their watch for the rest of the game. It's over. The Twins can smell it, the White Sox have accepted it, and all of a sudden the national press has noticed the Twins and wonder if they can compete in October.

You gotta love the killer instinct of this Twins club. Coming into Chicago with a 6 game lead, they really didn't need to win a game and still would have been in the driver's seat. But that's not the approach they took. Denard Span said after Tuesday's game that they wanted to kill the White Sox' chances and by winning the first two games, effectively did that.

So it would be nice to win tonight's game too, just to rub their nose in it. But it doesn't matter if the Twins win or not tonight. Sometime in the next week or so they will have clinched the AL Central Division and then set their sights on the playoffs: Rest some players, get their pitching match-ups in place, scout the Yankees and the Rays. It's all looking good and we'll be playing baseball in a chilly but rocking Target Field this October.


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