Following are opinions from Mille Lacs County Times editor-sports editor Gary Larson, reporter Luther Dorr and former Times intern Logan Marxhausen. Note: This feature is written on Monday each week.
•Question: The New York Giants (12-7) face the New England Patriots (15-3) in the Super Bowl Sunday. Who wins and why?
-Dorr: I want the Giants to win and that’s who I would likely have picked last week. But I’m starting to think New England’s defense has improved to the point that it can keep the Giant offense somewhat in check. I see the Las Vegas line for the over/under (total points) is 55, a bit higher than usual. That means the bookies think the game will be a high-scoring one. Who does that favor? Probably the Patriots. I will pick New England, for no particular sure-fire reason, but hope that Eli Manning and the Giants can pull off the upset.
-Marxhausen: The rematch between Tom Brady and Bill Belichick against Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning will be a bitter/sweet one as the Patriots try to avenge their one win shy of a perfect season in Super Bowl XLII. Even though New England tight end Rob Gronkowski is injured and may not play I believe that New England will be victorious. If Gronkowski does experience some practice at the end of the week and New England can utilize double tight end formations, then I feel Tom Brady will have enough weapons to spread the ball out and score at will. Both the Giants and the Patriots revealed some weaknesses that the 49ers and the Ravens took advantage of in the conference title games. Manning has shown some terrific arm strength and has deadly weapons at his disposal and the New York defense has the advantage over the Patriot defense. But, I don’t think he will be victorious in this match of gunslingers.
-Larson: While both have had much success, most experts seem to feel New England’s Bill Belichick is a better coach than New York’s Tom Coughlin. Most experts favor New England quarterback Tom Brady over the Giants’ Eli Manning. The Patriots carry a 15-3 record into the game while the Giants struggled through much of the regular season and enter the big game with a lackluster 12-7 mark. Luther and Logan are picking New England.
I don’t love New York but the Giants are my choice. The New York defense will do a better job of keeping Brady under control than the New England defense will do containing Manning, who will have father Archie and brother Peyton in his corner. Don’t tangle with the Mannings. It’s New York 27-20.
•Question: Luther and Gary date back to the first Super Bowl games in the 1960s and Logan has been around for a fair number of the games. Is the game one of your sports-viewing highlights and a “must see” for you?
-Dorr: It was a big deal during the earlier years and I was even there in person when the Vikings lost 32-14 to the Raiders at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The Vikings went four times in eight years and I thought it was going to be part of being a Viking fan to watch a Super Bowl every once in awhile. My interest waned through the years as the hype, and the ticket prices surrounding the game got out of hand. I paid $30 for the tickets in 1977 and I don’t even know what they are today except that the price is ridiculous. Some years I’ve sat down to watch the whole game and some years I haven’t. This year I’m interested enough to watch the game from the beginning. I guess Monday Night Football (never missed it in the early years) and the Super Bowl are about the same for me – I’ll watch if I’m interested in the teams that are playing.
-Marxhausen: The Super Bowl is absolutely and positively the number one most important sporting event of the year. Football has captured the hearts of so many individuals in this country and is a long anticipated process all season long. I do not watch the Super Bowl for the funny commercials or a celebrity band playing at halftime, but I watch for the passion that is in each one of those individuals who are trying their hardest, now more than ever, to achieve victory. This is a rematch of Super Bowl XLII where the New England Patriots failed to secure a perfect season against an amazing comeback led by Eli Manning late in the fourth quarter. The 2007-08 Patriots team was the best team to ever step on the field, but fell short to secure that title with a long, intense game. Tom Brady and Eli Manning are both on their way to securing spots at the top of the all-time greatest quarterbacks list if they continue at this pace the rest of their careers, and to have the ability to watch them duel it out once again in the biggest sporting event of the year is quite a spectacle to witness.
-Larson: I watched the first Super Bowls with my late father, Duane, and my brother Jerry. Dad was one of those who felt the new American Football League was second class, a poor imitation of the National Football League. Until the Kansas City Chiefs wiped out and disrespected our Vikings 23-7 in Super Bowl IV behind unheralded quarterback Len Dawson and a smirking coach Hank Stram. I watched pretty much all of the first 30 or so Super Bowls, mostly at the traditional Super Bowl parties. Lately though, the parties have been at the home of my daughter Andrea and son-in-law Brad. Four of their kids are under six. They want grandpa’s attention and can’t understand why anyone would rather watch grown men wearing hard hats chase each other around for four-plus hours rather than do things with them. So, Sunday, while catching glimpses of the game and relying on periodic reports from Brad, I’ll be coloring, reading, racing toy cars and trucks and searching out hiding places. And, I won’t be very far from the sandwiches, snacks and beverages. I can’t wait! I’ll catch the highlights on ESPN later Sunday night and read about the game Monday.
•Question: Baseball slugger Prince Fielder signed a huge contract ($214 million over nine years) with the Detroit Tigers last week while Kevin Love signed a lucrative contract (nearly $61 million over four seasons)to remain with the Minnesota Timberwolves. What did you think of those signings?
-Dorr: The Wolves had no choice but to lock up Love. But at least they didn’t have to give him the kind of ridiculous contract that Kevin Garnett had. Love, to this point, seems to be the kind of player who won’t let his production slip just because he has a nice contract. Now let’s see if he can lead the Wolves to being more than a near-.500 team. I think Detroit took a huge chance with Fielder, one of the top power hitters in the game. He should be effective for a few years but that large frame of his could be the kind that breaks down as the years go by, yet the Tigers will be struck with that monstrous contract. Or maybe Fielder will stay in good enough shape to be productive for all nine years of the contract. But his contract is the kind that sometimes hamstrings a team, as may be the case with the Twins and Joe Mauer.
-Marxhausen: Prince Fielder signed a massive, lucrative contract that is nine years in length. The 27-year-old has hit 230 home runs and knocked in 656 RBIs over the past six seasons. He is on course to do that again this season, only this time he can also experience the luxury of batting in the designated-hitter spot, putting his bat constantly in the Tigers’ batting order. The Timberwolves have put in place a foundation to build a team around. Love has stepped into the leadership role for the Timberwolves, averaging 25.5 points (fourth in the league) and 13.5 rebounds (second in the league) a game. With the additions of new head coach Rick Adelman, point guard Ricky Rubio and forward Derrick Williams this past off-season, there is a lot to get excited about.
-Larson: Detroit lost Victor Martinez for the upcoming season because of a knee injury. Martinez batted .330 and drove in 100 runs last year. The Tigers replaced his spot in the batting order with Fielder. The Minnesota Twins lost 99 games last summer and since then, via free agency, lost longtime outfielders Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel, along with longtime closer Joe Nathan. The Twins responded by adding….well, you know how that went. A great move by the Tigers who, with their top-notch starting pitching, along with superstars Miguel Cabrera and Fielder, will romp to another Central Division title.
The new deal for Kevin Love is good for the Timberwolves and great for him. If the team isn’t a contender after three seasons (right now, it looks like it will be), he can opt out of the fourth year and head to New York, or Miami, or Chicago or Los Angeles for even more millions.
Do you have an opinion on any of this week’s questions? Do you agree or disagree with the sportswriters? Let us know by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or a note to Mille Lacs County Times, 225 S.W. 2nd St. Milaca, MN 56353. Or comment online.