HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns

January 1, 2007

2006 was life as usual in the sports

By Jesse Menden

It was quite a year.

The long-awaited Playstation 3 was released. The game show re-emerged on television, with the most boring and simplistic game, “Deal or No Deal,” near the top in ratings. My car hit the 200,000-mile mark, and remarkably, is still running. David Hasselhoff somehow became popular again.

A blonde made his debut on the big screen as the new James Bond. And General Mills came out with a new version of Cheerios, Berry Burst Cheerios.

It was a wonderful year for all of those reasons, but unfortunately the list isn’t nearly as long for 2006 sports teams in Minnesota. But as Minnesotans, cheering for lackluster sports teams is what we are about, and what we’re used to.

The list of disappointments, however, is particularly long this year. It is as long as my list to Santa Clause. Here are some of those disappointments.

2006 culminated with something most of us knew was coming, the Vikings eliminating themselves from the playoffs.

With a solid defense that Vikings fans have not seen the likes of in years, and an offense that specialized in ineptitude and conservatism, the Vikings managed to get little out of decent talent.

Purple fans’ excitement for their new head coach soon turned sour when he took a team that went 9-7 under an idiot coach, and made them look like a Pop Warner team.

Because of the way the team has fallen apart at the end of the season, the Vikings get three out of five disappointment stars for 2006.

There was plenty of disappointment at the University of Minnesota this year.

The beginning of the year saw stunning collapses by two teams, the girls’ basketball team, and the mens’ hockey team.

The Gopher womens’ basketball team started the 2005-06 season with a ton of hope. They were a younger team, but heading in the right direction.

By the end of the season, a team that finished third in the Big Ten and had an overall record of 19-10, lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Not only did the season end on an abrupt and sour note for the lady Gophers, many of the players had become sour with their coach, Pam Borton.

The Gophers lost 11 letter winners, six of them to graduation.

The five who didn’t graduate but left anyway, took 36.3 points and 19.3 rebounds per game with them. Remember, that is not including the seniors who graduated.

As a result of the departures, the Gophers only have five years of experience at the Big Ten level of competition on their team this season.

Through Dec. 22, the Gophers have a record of 8-4. Last Friday, they lost their final Big Ten tune-up to Division 1-AA North Dakota State University. Actually, lost is an understatement, they were crushed, 62-48.

The memories of Lindsey Wahlen and Janel McCarville are rapidly fading.

For all of the drama on that team, they get two stars for 2006. Let’s hope they can turn it around soon.

The mens’ hockey team came to a screeching halt earlier this year, also.

The Gophers were embarrassed in the WCHA Final Five and then it got even worse when they traveled up to Grand Forks for the first round of the NCAA playoffs.

The worst seeded team in the tournament, Holy Cross, upset the Gophers in one of the most epic defeats of all-time.

That loss was a result of a controversy-filled season fueled by local media and selfish players.

Head coach Don Lucia admitted after the season that mistakes were made, but to his credit, he has turned an embarrassing situation and corrected it.

The Gophers are 15-1-3 and have a plus-44 goal differential. Odds are, this topic won’t come up again next year.

But it will be hard to escape that loss to Holy Cross. They get four and a half stars for putting their fans through all of that embarrassment.

Here is the part where I parley into my disappointment of the Gopher football program and do some Glen Mason bashing.

But he isn’t all that bad. He has taken the Gophers to bowl games in seven of the past eight seasons. Only four other teams in the Big Ten can say that.

After they were embarrassed against North Dakota State University in October, the Gophers rallied to salvage a season by winning their last three games to earn a 6-6 record.

I don’t make New Year resolutions because I am generally a lazy person, but I will make one this year.

No more Glen Mason bashing.

The team was a disappointment again this year, but I have grown tiresome with the whole situation. For that reason, they get just one star.

Needless to say, the Timberwolves were an expected disappointment in 2006. If a losing record wasn’t enough to finish the 2006 season, the recent Allen Iverson trade talk has made things worse.

The front office was very tight lipped both during and after Iverson went to the Denver Nuggets.

It would be nice for fans to know what the Wolves did do to try to trade for the second-leading scorer in the National Basketball Association. The team better have offered everything but the Big Ticket and the Target Center to get him.

They get three and a half stars in 2006. Not because of their losing record, but because they couldn’t get Iverson, and will have to trade Garnett soon.

The Minnesota Wild just barely managed a .500 record this season. Considering the talent they had on the 2005-2006 team, a 38-36-8 record was not all that bad.
But the disappointment with that team has to be Marian Gaborik.

He has missed all but seven games this season due to a muscle pull. He is by far the biggest star on the team, but can’t get back on the ice.

The Wild are taking their time with him, and the date for his return has been pushed back numerous times which is becoming worrisome.

The history of his injuries is making some believe he might not have the career that we originally thought. Until he can get back on the ice and contribute, goals and wins will be harder to come by for the Wild.

Gaborik gets three stars.

So as sports go in Minnesota, it was a typical year. I can’t wait to see how many losing teams 2007 will bring.