Minnesota Sports: My Favorite Mistake
You’ll often hear that it takes “a bigger person to admit a mistake.” If that’s true, it’s no wonder I have weight loss issues and seems huge when I look in the mirror.
I can openly admit, I make mistakes all the time.
If I ever have a perfect play-by-play broadcast, I’ll be sure to let you know. The next time my public address announcing sounds exactly how I hope – will be my first time in 17 years on the microphone.
In fact, as happy as I was with last week’s column about the Super Bowl, it was a mistake there that spurred on this week’s material.
I reminisced about a Super Bowl party which helped put “The Northland Sports Page” radio show on the map. I credited that evening and a summer trip to Ridgeview Country Club as our connection to some legendary Minnesota Vikings.
Not so fast.
While I’ve enjoyed Ridgeview Country Club, and value friendships with many people who spend countless hours on those grounds, it was the folks at Nemadji Golf Course who deserve credit for the show’s “purple prowess.” I was not proud to have made this avoidable mistake.
Where I was able to be proud, was in that I didn’t let this mistake eat away at me. I didn’t dwell on it, and I have no plans of bringing it up again.
That’s not a common trait for me in most situations. Ask anyone who has worked with me on anything, and they’ll tell you the smallest mistake will stick with me forever.
Mistakes by others? I rarely let those go either. If I put high expectations on myself, you can bet I expect the same from those in my social circles.
What can I say? I’m a Minnesota sports fan. We love to dwell on mistakes. With a list so long, it’s understandable, but shouldn’t there be a statute of limitations?
On the radio show, we intentionally try to stray from some of the lingering gaffes, but at times they’re simply unavoidable. We want to discuss what fans are discussing.
Let’s take another look at the mistakes from our teams we love to think about -- when we just want to be mad without really thinking at all.
Is it never spending enough to reel in an ace pitcher? Is it trading away a defending batting champion twice? Or as I mentioned in my Groundhog Day piece; is it re-signing (arguably the most fragile player in baseball) Byron Buxton so he can play about two months every season? The answer is a collective yes, but the Buxton angle has a root cause that comes up more frequently.
When David Ortiz entered the Hall of Fame, portions of the Cooperstown crowd looked like Boston 2.0. Of course, Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat were inducted that same day, bringing Minnesota fans out in full force as well. Faithful followers will be left to wonder what the success of Ortiz would’ve looked like in a Twins uniform, and we seem unwilling to forgive his release from Minnesota.
Without question, the Twins should be embarrassed for giving up on Ortiz – the numbers and rings tell the story. Yet, much of it is hindsight 20/20. The release at the time (although cheap – SHOCKING) was not unimaginable. Don’t believe me? Ask the Seattle Mariners about Ortiz.
For starters, Tom Kelly didn’t agree with the way Ortiz played. It seems silly now, but Kelly’s words were gospel at that time in Minnesota. He’s still the only men’s championship coach we’ve had in the last 45 years.
Secondly, Ortiz had fractured his wrist twice in Minnesota, missing considerable time. With the same logic, we all should be anticipating Alex Kirilloff capturing multiple American League MVP awards in the future.
Lastly, there was also a year David Ortiz hit .137 in Spring Training, didn’t initially make the team, and went hitless in a September call-up. Not long after, he hit only .234 but still showed power. Yet, nobody’s longing for Miguel Sano, while many are grumbling about Joey Gallo in today’s game.
Ortiz was magnificent, and the Twins made a bad baseball decision. Maybe that’s why they haven’t won a playoff series since he left. The fanbase still conjures him up whenever anybody leaves.
The jury is still out on Buxton’s future, but it’s a virtual lock that if he left and had even minimal success elsewhere – David Ortiz would be trending on social media. Thankfully Luis Arraez has too little power to draw the same comparison. If he becomes what Rod Carew was with the Angels, we might be able to handle that and (gasp!) move on. The Twins have chosen not to move on from young talent in recent years, and it’s time to see it perform on the field.
Pick a mistake, any mistake! Pick your least favorite kicker, or even your favorite kicker, they’ve all missed. Draft misses? How about almost missing the draft entirely by not getting a card in on time? Wish they hadn’t turned in that Ponder card, but I digress. The Vikings might be the gold standard of embarrassment.
Yet most complaints begin and end with one topic – the Herschel Walker trade. Again, it looks (and certainly turned out) terrible, but at the time, the Vikings felt they were an elite running back away from reaching a Super Bowl. They went out and acquired one of the best in the game but had no idea how to properly use him.
The fact the trade served as the foundation for a Dallas Cowboys dynasty is either an indictment on the late Mike Lynn, a credit to Jimmy Johnson, or both. While that can be debated, there is no debating the idea that the Walker trade still gets brought up in conversations.
I heard it multiple times this past season. Trading the pick to Green Bay that became Christian Watson? Why don’t we just hand the Packers the division? Trading the Jameson Williams pick to Detroit and then doubling down by handing them high picks for T.J. Hockenson? Great, now we’ll even be worse than the Lions. The Vikings are just here to make life easier for everyone else. It’s Herschel multiple times over.
I choose to have a little faith in the new regime that just won 13 games. It won’t be that easy again, and it’s not fair to call 13 wins the new “floor” for the Vikings, but the sky is not falling.
Perhaps the Walker trade isn’t the “mistake” driven into the ground anymore, and every Kirk Cousins contract is the trendy new pick. Even I said “gross,” when Minnesota first inked Cousins, but he’s been far better in purple than I ever expected.
He’s never led the Vikings to a Super Bowl victory, but if that’s the measuring stick, every Viking ever is inherently terrible. Cousins is nowhere near the athlete Jalen Hurts or Patrick Mahomes is, but after watching them, I’m convinced we couldn’t handle Cousins in a Super Bowl anyway.
Hurts was impressive, but imagine the reaction if Cousins fumbles without being hit and it becomes a defensive touchdown? “Pitchfork Nation” would be out in droves if his last pass was 25 yards short of the nearest teammate. Did I say, “Pitchfork Nation?” I meant “Agenda Nation.”
Did Hurts throw a checkdown? I’m kidding – mostly. The fans seem to refuse to get over Walker and won’t move on from Cousins until the Vikings do the same. At least we’ve come to realize that the defense could’ve still saved Gary Anderson’s reputation. That’s real progress.
Speaking of the Herschel Walker trade, we can thank Rudy Gobert for drawing comparisons. Although unfair, the negative feedback of the Gobert trade has perhaps finally lifted the venom off drafting Johnny Flynn over Steph Curry?
Undoubtedly for Minnesotans, this is our Sam Bowie instead of Michael Jordan, but are we over it yet? You’ll hear it almost every draft night. I hope fans in Sacramento get the same reaction for their Tyreke Evans selection prior to Curry.
Why is it all on Flynn? He was unfairly hyped due to a memorable performance in one game. Then he was unfairly blasted due to a severe injury ending his career.
The Wolves took Ricky Rubio prior to Curry too, but you don’t hear nearly the same ire. Rubio didn’t even initially want to come to Minnesota, and his perimeter shooting has the accuracy of the exit polls during the Trump-Clinton election. Yet it’s not the same because he was very nice and seemed to always have fun?
I look at it this way: The Wolves have had strong drafts recently. Anthony Edwards and Karl Anthony-Towns have been cornerstones of a resurgence by the Wolves. Jaden McDaniels might end up being their most important player given the attention those two and Gobert will draw. Curry may still be the most entertaining shooter in the league to watch, but the Wolves could also be building something. Plus, do any Minnesotans really think that after one or two non-playoff seasons, Curry wouldn’t have gone Jimmy Butler on the Wolves brass?
One last note on the Gobert trade, if it was so bad, how come almost every piece the Wolves gave up has been traded again? Most former Wolves are now with the Lakers, being asked to help LeBron James. If it turns out the Wolves roster from a year ago would’ve been championship-caliber with James, that’s not exactly breaking news.
This might be generational. For some, the mistake is that the Wild exist, as North Stars withdrawal is still a thing. Yet, since that franchise has been in Dallas longer than Minnesota, I’ll focus on a “popular” Wild mistake of trading Brent Burns.
It looks terrible in hindsight, but also has a slight link to two of the teams in Minnesota we’ve already discussed. Like the Vikings with Walker, the Wild never truly knew what to do with Burns. Like the Twins with Luis Arraez, Burns was an All-Star here without a real position.
The Wild tried to sell high on Burns, and came to find that Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle, and something called Zack Phillips, were incredibly underwhelming in Minnesota. As Burns remained consistent in production it looked like a shrug-your-shoulders type of trade. Oh well, it just didn’t work out, right?
That was true for about three years. Burns tallied 105 points for San Jose in three seasons. Then he accumulated 361 points in his next five. That’s a spike that would make Karch Kiraly blush. Now Minnesota isn’t sniffing that type of production from defensemen and Burns provides the “David Ortiz Syndrome” if the Wild dare part ways with the enigmatic Matt Dumba – a topic that has also run its course. It’s truly a vicious cycle.
Maybe this was a lazy column this time around. It’s one of my longest, because it’s easy to get rolling on topics that have been brought up so many times prior to today. We’ve heard it all before.
Yet, that’s precisely my point. If you want to truly be a “fan” of Minnesota sports, learn to move on from these events. Otherwise, it plays further into my Groundhog Day narrative.
If you must be negative, because Minnesota sports history has taught you no other emotion, take solace in knowing there will likely be new mistakes to emphasize with each fresh play, game, or season.
I’ll still try to be as hopeful as ever. Sheryl Crow captured my feelings on Minnesota sports teams better than anyone -- you’re my favorite mistake.
Brian's show, 'The Northland Sports Page', can be heard Saturdays from 10 am to noon on the FAN 106.5 FM/560 AM. You can catch previous episodes on the Northland FAN On-Demand area of our website or on our mobile app.