Dare I say, this week’s RandBall column actually approaches optimism. It’s my way: rampant unfounded optimism followed by cavernously deep depression. As always, this appeared first at the aforementioned RandBall, your home for Olympic canoeing.
The Twins are mediocre, and despite Zygi Wilf making confident predictions to the contrary, it seems quite possible that the Vikings are headed the same way. If you can wait until the later fall, though, I’m beginning to think that the 2012-13 winter season is shaping up very nicely for Minnesota sports fans.
Let’s consider: the Wild made perhaps the biggest free-agent splash in Minnesota sports history, laying out $196 million to grab Zach Parise and Ryan Suter for the next 14 years. After a sterling first two months, the Wild crashed and burned last year, but it’s hard not to think that the Parise and Suter additions turn the team into a playoff team. Moreover, you start looking at line charts, you start looking at a few young guys who can contribute, and it’s pretty easy to talk yourself into the Wild potentially competing for a top-4 playoff spot.
At the same time, the Timberwolves are making a slightly smaller but no less meaningful free-agent effort in Minneapolis. They’ve dumped a bunch of dead weight and added two former All-Stars in Brandon Roy and Andrei Kirilenko. Ricky Rubio’s recovery from a knee injury is reportedly ahead of schedule. Kevin Love is playing with his fellow superstars in London. Again, it’s looking like the Wolves are a playoff team and potentially even a good playoff team.
At the college level, meanwhile, both Gopher hoops and Gopher hockey have large portions of their squads returning. The basketball team gets Trevor Mbawke back, and adds him to the team that nearly won the NIT. The hockey team returns 15 of the 18 guys that played more than 25 games on a team that went to the Frozen Four. Trips to their respective NCAA tournaments would seem to be on the cards for both sports. There might be other places in America for which a playoff trip would be nothing to celebrate, but considering that only Gopher hockey among the area’s seven major sports made the post-season last year (discounting, of course, the NIT’s second-tier tournament), four winter playoff spots would have to be considered pretty good.
Sure, there’s still plenty that could go wrong. The two basketball teams have five balky knees between them (Rubio, Mbakwe, Mo Walker, and both of Roy’s). The Wild looked like they were more than two players short for much of last year. Gopher puck loses Kent Patterson, who played more than 99% of the minutes in goal for the team last year.
All of this said, though, it’s just nice to have hope. Even in August, for sports that don’t start for months and months yet.
On with the links:
*For the graphically inclined, the Olympics seem to be breeding some fun charts. The Economist published this one, and also linked to a bunch of other Olympics graphics from other publications here.
*Humorist Dave Barry is still in London, and still writing. The best of this week: his tips for visiting London during the Olympics (and afterward).
*Will Leitch at Sports on Earth makes the point that, even though NBC is being pilloried daily on Twitter, they’re rightfully ignoring the blowback, because in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter.
*Former NFLer and sometime Deadspin writer Nate Jackson was once on an elite swimming team, and he’s here to explain how much it sucks to all of us who don’t understand American competitive swimming.
*And finally (and non-Olympically): Even nature knows that this is a Vikings town.