We named our blog ‘Land of 10,000 Losses’ to chronicle how difficult it is at times to be a Minnesota sports fan and to make light of the idea that all of our sports teams (ever since the 1991 Twins) have been less than stellar over the past few decades and usually choke in the end even if they do manage to qualify for postseason play.
While our name does have some negative connotations, we try to avoid being the blog that is constantly whining and bitching about how hard we have it. With the majority of our articles, we do try to remain as positive as possible.
This is not one of those articles.
While many of us Vikings, Twins, Wolves, Wild and Gophers fans would probably rather forget the last 12 months or so, I think an argument could be made that there has never ever been such a wretched time to be a Minnesota sports fan, certainly not in my lifetime.
It started last fall with the Twins annual exit in the first round of the MLB playoffs at the hands of the hated New York Yankees. Despite the Twins’ switch in philosophies lately and their increasing payroll, it was still horrible to watch the ritzy, wealthy Yanks beat our plucky, hard-working, bring-your-lunch pail-to-work Twins once again.
Sure, at least we got to the playoffs, but for a team that boasted two former American League MVPs and has made it a habit recently of losing in the ALDS, it was more than fair to expect Gardy and boys to finally take that next step. Sadly, things just got worse from here.
Of course, as the fall progressed, our football teams disappointed us even more so than our baseball team.
The Gopher football team was as bad as ever, turning in a season that would ultimately be Tim Brewster’s last, meaning that he would not make good on his “I’m taking Gopher Nation to the Rose Bowl!” promise.
And obviously, the Vikings were a huge disappointment coming off their 2009 NFC Championship heartbreak. We rejoiced when Brett Favre agreed to come back for one more year, and went crazy with joy and nostalgia when the Vikes re-acquired Randy Moss from New England, but of course, it was all just a giant tease and ultimately a swift kick to the proverbial groin as Minnesota stumbled to a last-place finish in the NFC North.
The Randy Moss reunion was obviously a disaster, as was Favre’s final season. Stars like Jared Allen, Sidney Rice, Pat Williams and Steve Hutchinson were all either hurt or guilty of underperforming. Head coach Brad Childress was fired, and the nightmare season for the Vikings ended with a season-ending loss to the Detroit Lions!
And on top of all that, the Metrodome roof freaking collapsed! Oh yeah, and while the Vikings were suffering through all of these struggles, their arch-rival, the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl.
Fast forward to winter and things just got worse.
The Tubby Smith-led Gopher basketball team was supposed to build on the previous season’s NCAA berth with many of their top stars returning. The season got off to a promising start when the Gophers beat east coast powers West Virginia and North Carolina on their way to a stunning tournament win at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in November. But that would ultimately prove to be the highlight of an otherwise disappointing season, which ended with Tubby’s team not even getting an N.I.T. invite.
And of course, the Timberwolves proved to be the same abysmal franchise as they’ve been ever since Kevin Garnett left on their way to a 17-win season.
Gopher hockey continued its disappointing run with another sub-par season, once again failing to finish as the best college hockey team in their own state.
The pro hockey team was a disappointment as well, missing the playoffs once again. The Wild was another team to tease us fans, looking impressive and poised to make a postseason run a month before season’s end only to utterly collapse at the end and miss the playoffs in typical Minnesota fashion.
And once again this summer, the 2011 Twins have proven to be the biggest disappointment of all.
Coming into the 2011 season, Twins fans were excited to have the strongest team on paper in the AL Central. Joe Mauer was locked up to a long term deal. Justin Morneau was back from the season-ending concussion he suffered the previous summer. Delmon Young was coming off a breakout year in 2010. Jim Thome and Jason Kubel were going to add power to a very formidable lineup. Japanese import Tsuyoshi Nishioka was going to finally provide some stability to the middle infield. Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano were going to anchor a solid starting rotation. And Joe Nathan was set to return as the team’s closer to team with Matt Capps at the end of the bullpen.
I don’t need to tell you what has happened instead. Mauer has been hurt for the majority of the season. Morneau is clearly not the same player he was. Young, Thome, Nishioka and Nathan have all been hurt, ineffective or both. And the Twins currently have the very worst record in all of baseball.
Add in the NFL lockout, the impending NBA lockout and the Vikings’ stadium chaos, and it certainly has been a rough year for sports fans in Minnesota.
And that’s just the trivial sports-related stuff.
This past week, the Minnesota sporting world was rocked in a much more tragic way with the passing of former Wild fan-favorite Derek Boogaard as well as Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew, the greatest Minnesota Twin of all time.
Obviously, these losses are much more important and tragic than anything that happens on the field, ice or court, but they contribute to our despair as Minnesota sports fans nonetheless.