HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns

November 19, 2007

So much not to be thankful for

By Jesse Menden

As Thanksgiving approaches, one can come up with many things to be thankful for. Off of the top of my head, I can think of several, in no particular order – family, freedom, twin-track snowmobiles, ESPN.com, warm fronts, Spaghetti O’s, high definition television, Kip Deville in the Breeder’s Cup Mile, and Diet Coke.

I am thankful for those things and so much more, but when it comes to sports in this area recently, there is very little of which I show gratitude.

One of the things I am least thankful for is the concept of free agency. To be quite honest, it seems like the local squads don’t have a grasp on exactly what it is.

The Wild made some minor splashes in it two years ago when they brought in Pavol Demitra, and a year before that with Brian Rolston. The Vikings have made some acquisitions like Antoine Winfield and Darren Sharper.

But the Timberwolves never have any cash to improve their team and the Twins think free agency is a time in the winter months in which you sign a player that is older than 30 and won’t hit above .240 or have an earned run average under five.

Can you tell I’m skeptical of Craig Monroe?

Just think if there was no such thing as free agency. The Twins would be the king in the castle with their minor league system, the Wild would be the lion on the African safari with their ability to identify foreign talent, and the Timberwolves would not sign bit players to absurd contracts.

Another thing I am not thankful for anymore is the NFL’s adoption of the forward pass in the early 1930s.

Just think how good the Vikings could be if they didn’t have to pass the ball. They are basically playing a pre-forward pass style anyway, so that would really level the playing field.

If there was no forward pass, we wouldn’t have to suffer through afternoons in which Brooks Bollinger only has seven passing yards in almost three quarters.

Of course, there are some reasons why we should be thankful for the ability to legally pass the ball. If not for the forward pass, we couldn’t have experienced the heartbreak of the 1998 NFC championship game.

Also, we could not make obscure references to former Vikings quarterback Spergon Wynn, who played in three games for the ‘Queens’ in 2001 and six interceptions and just one touchdown, without the advent of the forward pass.

Perhaps my disdain for the forward pass stems from somebody I’m not thankful for, Ziggy Wilf, the owner of the Vikings. Several talking heads in the media have stated repeatedly that he is a good owner and wants to win. Sure, he has stuck lots of money into the facilities and the coaching staff, but where are the results?

The team will miss the playoffs for the third time in the three years under his ownership. In today’s NFL, it is not hard to turn a team around, and the Vikings appear to be nowhere even close. The team makes one inadequate move after another.

One specific reason that nobody should be thankful to have Wilf as an owner is his hiring of so-called offensive genius Brad Childress. The front office people, including Wilf, were so enamored with Childress in the interview, that they offered him a contract without talking with a slew of other potential candidates.

Thanks for that, Mr. Wilf.

One person that I should be thankful for, but am not, is Kevin Garnett. Sure, he brought the Wolves out of anonymity and lifted them to their first playoff series. He put Minnesota basketball on the map.

But while he did that, he also prevented them from going any higher. His large contracts handcuffed the Wolves, and his opinions, which Kevin McHale followed to keep the superstar happy, stunted the Wolves’ progress. A different star that would have let the front office made the coaching and personnel decisions might have prevented the team from being where they are.

When I sit down Thursday for my grandma’s always-immaculate turkey with all of the fixings, I will have some other things to be thankful for, though. I will be glad I’m sharing another Thanksgiving with family . . . and not having to watch the Vikings.