January 30, 2010
January 27, 2010
The last Pinewood Derby car
Together my son and I created our last Pinewood Derby car. For his last year as a Cub Scout he wanted to make a Ford F150. We did the best we could!
Something happened in 1961
|Sandy Stephens, the only Gophers|
Rose Bowl MVP
If you are anything like me, you are still recovering from the latest testament to football futility in Minnesota: the Vikings loss to the Saints last Sunday. Even days after, I find myself waking up in the middle of the night with a huge, hollow pit in my stomach or screaming, "Just run it Favre!" much to my wife's unhappiness (she's a light sleeper).
As we all know, this is only the latest episode in how much it sucks to be a fan of the Minnesota Vikings. And when you think about it, it really is the latest episode in how much it sucks to be a fan of Minnesota football in general. I mean, what is more difficult? Being a Vikings fan or a Gophers fan? I can't decide. For every Vikings debacle there is a Gophers football catastrophe. I need only mention the 2003 Michigan game to put any Gophers fan into a spiral of anger and self-pity.
This has gotten me to thinking: when was the last time Minnesota won any game of importance in the game of football? Since the Vikings have never won anything of significance we have to travel back to the 1961 Gophers who were the last Minnesota team to win an important football game. They, of course, won the Rose Bowl.
So, 1961 was the last time a Minnesota football team was good enough to win a championship. It could make a person wonder what in the world happened in 1961 that made the football gods so upset.
Quite frankly, the football gods are very upset at Minnesota. Just look at the history of the Vikings, and the Gophers since 1961, and it will become clear we did something really, really bad to tick them off. Being a football fan in this state has sucked since then. What could we have done to make the football gods so angry? Let's take a look at a little Minnesota history for the year 1961 and see if we can't deduce the reason:
- The Minnesota Legislature named the Common Loon the state bird -- Enough to tick off the football gods? Probably not, although the name "loon" is somewhat humorous and may have caused other states to snicker.
- Elmer Andersen became governor -- Gov. Andersen was a pretty good guy and has donated a lot of money and resources to the University of Minnesota. He is also described as a "liberal Republican" which may have made the football gods scratch their heads, but not enough to ban winning in Minnesota forever.
- Bob Dylan releases his first album -- Surely this made the football gods smile (who doesn't like early Dylan?) but rumors persist that Dylan sold his soul to the devil to attain his good fortune. As Pat Robertson has already made clear, don't make a deal with the devil if you want to succeed! If true, the football gods could not have been happy about this, and therefore may have punished Minnesota football teams forever as a result. Hmmmm ... this might be a stretch.
- The Minnesota Vikings are born -- Yes, the Minnesota Vikings played their first season in 1961. In fact, the Vikings won their very first NFL game against the Chicago Bears in a huge upset. Could this have upset the football gods? Could they have said, "Well, Minnesota has already won something so that will be quite enough for a while." Or maybe the football gods thought Minnesota was getting greedy. The could have said, "The Gophers have won six national championships and now they want an NFL team? A pox on their houses!" I think we are getting a little warmer, but also in 1961 ...
- The Minnesota Twins are born -- The Minnesota Twins played their first season of baseball in Minnesota in 1961. This could be the real reason the football gods are upset with Minnesota. Baseball and football have always been at odds concerning the attention and love of the average sports fan, and the football gods could be punishing us for our dalliances with "America's game." To top it off the Twins are the only Minnesota team to have won a championship which ticks the football gods off even more. Really, is there any doubt that the football gods are punishing us for the success of the Minnesota Twins?
The evidence is in and I think it is clear: the day the Twins were born is the day that football in Minnesota died. A lot of Gopher fans blame the Vikings for the Gophers' troubles since 1961, and maybe vice versa, but I think both teams need to consider a common enemy. Truly, if we ever want to have winning football in Minnesota again ... it is hard to say it but ... we must abolish the Minnesota Twins.
That is, unless someone can think of something else that happened in 1961 to tick the football gods off so much ...
January 21, 2010
out of here! I'm in over my head!
Let me see if I get this right. Jedd Fisch created an offense where Minnesota ranked last in the Big Ten in scoring (20.9 points per game), rushing (99.5 yards per game) and total offense (306.5 ypg) in 2009.
QB Adam Weber also clearly regressed under Fisch. Weber dropped his QB rating from 126.93 in 2008 to 114.65 in 2009. Fisch also stupidly changed Weber's throwing motion and it showed as Weber uncharacteristically missed receivers all season long.
And yet, Pete Carroll tabbed Fisch as his new quarterbacks coach for the Seahawks. What about the last year convinced Carroll that Fisch would be a good hire?
What is really bizarre about all of this, though, is that I wanted Fisch to stay. Even after watching the putrid offense he created and oversaw, I still wanted him to remain as the Gophers OC. As the Daily Gopher points out, this is all for the sake of continuity.
This is the really scary thought though: Fisch essentially took a demotion and a paycut to become the Seahawks QB coach. What does this say about MarQueis Gray, the Gophers QB heir apparent, when a supposed QB guru doesn't want to coach you? Gray, if he is all that Brewster says he is, could have made Fisch's career.
What it says to me is that we are in for more pain and suffering, Gopher fans. But then that really shouldn't be a surprise.
January 19, 2010
I have had this LL Bean backpack since the 9th grade. That is almost 23 years of daily use. The strap is ripped, it is faded and stained, and a couple of weeks ago the zipper gave out.
My kids gave me a new backpack for my birthday this weekend. I am excited for a new one since backpack technology has improved in 23 years, but it is sad to retire the old one.
So long old friend! We've had a good run: high school, college, grad school, two jobs, vacations, and numerous camp outs. Here's hoping my new backpack lasts 24 years.
January 18, 2010
The curse is over!
Well, I am a happy, happy camper. The birthday curse is over. The Vikings have won a game on January 17th. I will always remember my 37th birthday for this reason. And not only did they win it, they absolutely crushed the Cowboys. It doesn't quite make me forget about the Herschel Walker trade debacle, but it helps. Now for a few thoughts:
- Keith Brooking's whining made it extra special, didn't it? As a fan of Minnesota sports, I only need to think about Michigan's 4th quarter comeback against the Gophers in 2003 to know that you never let up on an opponent. Never. In the case of the Vikings yesterday, either you run out the clock or you try to score. And I'm sure the paying customers at the Dome (the Vikings fans anyway) appreciated another reason to cheer. The NFL should be all about entertainment, and fan happiness, regardless of Brooking's delicate sensibilities. Right Indianapolis fans?
- I just realized that this year is Super Bowl XLIV. Do you realize what number that is? It is Super Bowl "44." Long time readers of the Greet Machine (how many of you are left, 3 or 4?) know that the number 44 is almost a number of mythical proportions to me. First of all, it is the number of Chuck Foreman, my all time favorite Viking. And secondly ... well, that is about it. I love the number 44 because of Chuck Foreman and now it is Super Bowl 44. I hesitate to read much in to that besides I think that it guarantees the Vikings will win it all this year. But beyond that I won't dare to make any dangerous prognostications.
- Finally, I just realized that at the top of this blog's home page I still have the phrase: "Where Brett Favre will always be public enemy #1." While that isn't necessarily true anymore, I have decided to leave it up there as is. As a superstitious type fellow who believes wearing my Cris Carter jersey brings good luck to the Vikings, I don't think it is wise to change much of my typical routine just in case it has an adverse affect on the universe. Plus, hopefully Brett Favre reads it and it encourages him to keep striving towards making Vikings fans happy. That, and I'm lazy.
Until next time Vikings fans. Here is hoping the 25th ranked defense has difficulty containing Favre, Rice, and Peterson next Sunday.
January 16, 2010
Beware the Ides of January
|Vikings fans need no explanation for this picture ...|
So, it is my birthday tomorrow. Usually this would be cause for celebration, but unfortunately for me the Vikings are in the playoffs. That means that my birthday will either be a time of great joyous celebration, or a time of anguish and pain.
You see, for a Vikings fan, January 17th is not the best time to have a birthday. Not only is it a little close to Christmas, but almost every year the Vikings do something to screw it up. Just take a look at these great birthday weekends from my past:
- Jan. 16, 2005 - NFC Divisional - Philadelphia 27, Minnesota 14
- Jan. 14, 2001 - NFC Championship - N.Y. Giants 41, Minnesota 0
- Jan. 17, 1999 - NFC Championship - Atlanta 30, Minnesota 27 (OT)
- Jan. 17, 1988 - NFC Championship - Washington 17, Minnesota 10
- Jan. 15, 1984 - NFC Divisional - Washington 21, Minnesota 7
Before then my memory gets a little fuzzy since I was just a little tyke, but most of their Super Bowl losses also came around my birthday.
The worst of all these games for me is by far the 1999 NFC Championship game. Most Vikings fans do not need a reminder of this epic failure, but I can't help but share some of the memories.
The Vikings were 15-1 and playing at home. They had highest scoring offense in NFL history led by a rejuvenated Randall Cunningham, the great running back Robert Smith, and one of the best group of wide receivers in NFL history, Cris Carter, Jake Reed, and NFL Rookie of the Year Randy Moss. What a team! What a joy to watch ... except for this game.
As I've already spelled out, the game was on my birthday and for once in my life I thought, "The Vikings can't lose! They are at home! The have a record setting offense! It is on my birthday!" We had a big party at my parents' house. We had some awesome chili, we had some cheese doodles, we had some great chips and dip, the beverages flowed freely, and we all sat around the TV expecting a Vikings victory.
Except the Vikings lost. Gary Andersen, who had never missed a field goal all year, missed for the first time. The Falcons drove down the field in OT and kicked their own field goal and won the game. Oh man ... I was angry, sad, frustrated, and confused all at once. Quite frankly, my birthday was ruined.
The Vikings play the Cowboys tomorrow, on my birthday. Will they finally redeem themselves for the 1999 debacle? Will my birthday finally be a time of joyous celebration? We will find out tomorrow. I have learned not to get my hopes up, but unfortunately for me my hopes are getting dangerously high. Please Vikings, PLEASE, don't screw this up!
January 14, 2010
My cat, Ethel
January 12, 2010
At basketball practice
At basketball practice. Having fun.
January 10, 2010
The greatest play in Golden Gopher football history
One of my favorite things about the web site Memorial Stadium: 1924-1992 is the section devoted to videos of old games at the Brickhouse. We put up some famous ones, like Paul Giel's record setting day against Michigan in 1953, and even a video featuring the Gophers vs. Knute Rockne and Notre Dame from 1925. However, even with over 25 fantastic videos uploaded to the site, we were still missing one of the most important ones. In fact, much to my unhappiness we were missing what many people consider the greatest play in Golden Gopher football history.
Of course, I am talking about Bruce Smith's 80 yard run against Michigan in 1940. This famous run propelled the Gophers to their fourth national championship and virtually sealed the Heisman Trophy for Smith in 1941. The University of Minnesota Archives is supposed to have many versions of this run such as in the 1940 coaches film of the game, or the 1940 highlights film, or many other highlight films covering the glory years of Gopher football. However, in every single film that promised to include this run, it has been spliced out. As we reviewed videos for the site, I would literally scream when the play would be coming up only to have the video jump to the next play with a little blip in the action. My theory is that this run was so famous early film room maintainers spliced it in and out of so many films that they essentially spliced it out of existence. Hard to believe? Believe it.
It pains me that the University of Minnesota no longer has a copy of this play. It was also very painful to me to think that we could unveil the Memorial Stadium web site without this play included. I called the Athletic Department numerous times thinking that they had to have a copy. I even talked to the Assistant Athletic Director, Phil Esten, thinking that they would have a copy somewhere in their film room. Nope. No luck. I also called the sports archives at University of Michigan and asked if they had a copy. No luck there either.
In my research I found out that the run is included in a 1942 Hollywood movie made about Bruce Smith called Smith of Minnesota. So, I called up Sony and asked for ... no, I demanded a copy. I claimed it included footage owned by the University of Minnesota and that a copy belonged in our archives. Of course, they said no and gave me the option to pay them $500 so that I could show the movie once to an audience. I turned down the offer. Jerks.
Unfortunately we had to unveil the site without Bruce Smith's 80 yard run. We had no choice. However, after unveiling it, I got a private message from a member of the GopherHole, cemba99, that said:
I ... was able to get an electronic copy of the movie "Smith of Minnesota." This 1942 Hollywood film about Bruce Smith has many actual clips from 1940 and 1941 Gopher teams including some footage from the infamous 80 yard run against Michigan ...If you are interested in a DVD copy of the film, let me know.
Well, as you might imagine I was very interested in getting a DVD copy of the film! And I did get it (thanks Scott!). Of course, I spliced my own copy of the famous play and I put it up on a University server. And now I present it to you.
First though, a little bit about the play itself. Tim Brady, in an article for the Alumni Association magazine called Who Was Bruce Smith, describes the play as if he was there. Michigan was up 6-0 in the second quarter in what was proving to be a brutal game overall. Brady writes:
Just a couple of minutes remained in the first half when Smith's number was called in the Minnesota huddle. [George "Sonny"] Franck would get the snap and head right with another back in front of him. Smith, playing the wingback position just beyond the right side of the line, would head in the opposite direction, to his left, and receive a handoff from Franck. Smith would then head around left end with good luck and Godspeed ...
By the time Tom Harmon and the Michigan defenders realized that Bruce Smith was carrying the ball around left end, not George Franck heading right, Smith was already into the secondary with his shoulders squared and a bead on the goal line. He needed to beat Harmon, Evashevski, and a couple of others, but with a juke here, some good blocking there, and a long sprint to the end zone, Bruce Smith had completed the most important touchdown run in Gopher football history. Eighty yards to pay dirt.
The film below includes some humorous Hollywood nonsense, but the beauty of the run remains intact. One of the great things about the clip is that it is narrated by Bruce Smith himself. And now, I present to you, The Play:
If you watched that, you are one of the few people that have ever seen Bruce Smith's 80 yard run against Michigan in 1940. Unfortunately, due to copyright restrictions we decided not to include it on the Memorial Stadium web site. However, I've decided to claim fair use and present it here. A large part of the video includes footage filmed by the University of Minnesota, and I don't think Sony will lose any money over this one.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed it. Until next time.
January 9, 2010
A moment captured in time
With the opening of TCF Bank Stadium, I had the bright idea to create a web site remembering Memorial Stadium using pictures, videos, and other items from the University of Minnesota Archives. The web site, Memorial Stadium 1924-1992, was built during the spring and summer of 2009 and let me tell you, it was a real labor of love for everyone involved. I wish I could work on stuff like this all the time. All the old photographs, programs, videos, etc. gave me a really clear sense of how important Memorial Stadium was to campus, and also how the football program is so incredibly rich in tradition.
One of the more important traditions for the Golden Gopher football program are the trophy games. Minnesota plays four trophy games: against Michigan for the Little Brown Jug, against Wisconsin for Paul Bunyan's Axe, against Penn State for the Governors' Victory Bell, and against Iowa for Floyd of Rosedale.
The website has a section devoted to these trophies, and one of the pictures of Floyd of Rosedale is actually very unique. It is what is called, "a moment captured in time." Take a look:
Click on the image for a larger version if you need to. As part of the unveiling of this web site there was a corresponding exhibit at Andersen Library with print-out versions of many of the pictures, including this one. When the exhibit ended, they were going to throw all of these print-outs away so I swooped in and saved as many as I could. They are now hanging in my office, including a much larger version of the one above.
After I hung the picture up, I noticed something peculiar about it. Why are the two men laughing and looking down at the pig rather than looking at the camera? Do you see it? If you look closely enough you will see some wetness on the ground next to the pig's front feet. You should also see a glint of wetness on the shoe of the man on the left, as well as the trophy.
What I think happened was that the trophy was first placed under the pig, and of course the pig started to urinate on it. In a rush the men picked the trophy up, and the photo was taken at this moment. Again, "a moment captured in time."
In other words, I have a picture of a pig taking a whiz hanging in my office. And that, my friends, is hard to beat. Don't you think?
January 6, 2010
At the bus stop
A beautiful start to a frigid day.
January 5, 2010
If Big Ten nicknames really went at it
What if Big Ten nicknames, or what they represent, fought in real life? Which Big Ten nicknames would have the upper hand?
Some of the rules/caveats: Since all of these nicknames are referred to in the plural, could a swarm of one nickname beat a swarm of another? And if I don't know what one is, it probably couldn't beat those nicknames that a person can actually visualize. So ...
- Illinois Fighting Illini -- I give the nod to Native Americans as the most unbeatable for 2 reasons: 1) they are "people" and we all know people are more intelligent and crafty than animal-based mascots and 2) we are in the Native Americans' home turf.
- Michigan State Spartans -- A very, very close second. We all know the Spartans were great warriors, but I think the Illini would make mincemeat out of them, especially if the battle was fought in Big Ten country.
- Purdue Boilermakers -- Again, a Boilermaker is a person and as such would probably be smart enough to beat any animal.
- Penn State Nittany Lions -- No one is exactly sure what a "Nittany" Lion is, but I'm pretty sure a pride of lions could take down any animal listed below.
- Michigan Wolverines -- Commonly known as a rather tenacious animal, a group of wolverines would probably be pretty difficult to fight against.
- Wisconsin Badgers -- I am of the opinion that badgers are a lot like wolverines in terms of tenacity, but you usually hear that wolverines are more vicious.
- Northwestern Wildcats -- A group of wildcats could probably take down a group of gophers, but not a group of badgers.
- Minnesota Golden Gophers -- The weakest animal nickname in the Big Ten. However, a group of gophers would most definitely enjoy a meal of buckeye nuts.
- Ohio State Buckeyes -- A mascot named after a nut. Unless the nuts could throw themselves at a group of gophers I think it is save to assume that the gophers would come out on top.
- Indiana Hoosiers -- I don't know what a Hoosier is. You could argue that a Hoosier is a person, but for the most part it is a made up word. However, whatever it is, it could most likely beat ...
- Iowa Hawkeyes -- A Hoosier could probably beat a hawk eye, or a group of hawk eyes. I'm pretty sure an eyeball can't beat anything and that is why the Hawkeyes are the weakest nickname, overall, in the Big Ten.
January 4, 2010
World War Z
Ack! I forgot about one of the better books I read over 2009: World War Z by Max Brooks. If you like zombies, you will love this book. It isn't too gory or gruesome, but zombies do get their butts kicked so that is nice.
The picture above is concept art around one of the main fights in the book: The Battle of Yonkers. Cool description of how overwhelming the zombie hoard could be.
And furthermore, that reminds me that I read another zombie-like book in 2009: I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. I won't include it in the list below since it was only about 150 pages. Quite a bit different than the Will Smith movie. The title makes a whole lot more sense in the book.