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 2012 London Summer Olympics ended Sunday. What were the most memorable performances from your perspective?
-Dorr: I saw less of this Olympics than ever, even with the hundreds of hours of television coverage, so my choices are limited. I was very impressed by Manteo Mitchell running nearly 200 meters with a broken bone in his leg during the 4×400 relay, helping his U.S. team qualify for the finals. How many people would have done that? I felt good for the British athletes having such a good performance in their home country. It was nice to see nine Minnesotans bring home medals. Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt were the outstanding individuals but Great Britain’s Andy Murray upsetting Roger Federer in men’s tennis was a compelling story. The United States coming home with the most medals, and most gold medals, was also a big story, despite those from this country who seem to delight in U.S. failures. Great Britain received a lot of criticism prior to the Games but did a very good job as the host country. I did watch the U.S. women’s basketball team in the gold medal game and it was very impressive. Sure, they were supposed to win, but I liked how they played as a team.
-Marxhausen: The Olympics have come and gone and it was another memorable event for the Americans. Gabby Douglas had a huge opportunity after her fellow American competitor, Jordyn Wieber, failed to make the finals round for the gymnastics all-around competition, leaving Douglas the chance to win gold. She didn’t hesitate when she became the third straight American and first African-American woman to win the gymnastics all-around. Usain Bolt becomes a legend after winning the 100 and 200 meter track sprints and running anchor in the 4×100 relay for the Jamaican team to duplicate the same three medals he won in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Michael Phelps started the Olympics extremely slow, failing to medal in his first event and dropping out of his second event, but held strong and finished as the most decorated Olympian ever with 22 medals.
-Larson: I’m not one of those caught up “in the spirit of the Games.” Nope, I follow what the U.S. is doing, no matter the event. If Uncle Sam leads in medals, like he did in London, it was a great Olympics. If not, not so much.
So, with the exception of the performance of the world’s fastest human, Usain Bolt, my highlights list is strictly red, white and blue. It includes the electrifying Gabrielle Douglas and the women’s gymnastics team, the men’s and women’s basketball teams, the women’s champion soccer team, Michael Phelps, the greatest swimmer ever, gold medal tennis champion Serena Williams and wrestling champions Jordan Burroughs and Jake Varner. And, I’ll add Claressa Shields, the women’s middleweight boxing champion in the first Olympics to include the sport.
•Question: In Charley Walters’ column in the St. Paul Pioneer Press Sunday, Walters asked Minnesota Twins General Manager Terry Ryan to comment on building the team in the offseason. Ryan responded, “This isn’t going to be a free agent approach.” What’s your reaction to Ryan’s comment and how do you think Twins fans would react to it?
-Dorr: If that means the Twins aren’t going to spend any, or much, money for pitching, I don’t think the fans will react well to that approach. The way it is right now, it seems the team is going to lose a good number of season ticket holders. Many people I’ve talked to at Target Field this summer say they aren’t going to renew and that number will grow if the team does nothing to improve its pitching staff. I didn’t see the Walters column and don’t know in what context Ryan was speaking but if he means they’re simply going to use players from their farm system to improve, that doesn’t sound good. Maybe he’s got a trade or two in mind to help the team but there isn’t much of a market for anyone on the Minnesota roster so that isn’t much of a possibility. Are his hands tied by financial constraints? One would hope not since the team is expected to draw about 2.8 million fans, even in a bad year like this. I’ve always thought Ryan was a good baseball man but the call-up of Tsuyoshi Nishioka last week was a joke and I wonder who was responsible, or why it was done. He made three errors in three games and messed up four other plays, as well as going 0 for 12. Pay him off and let him go. And please, please, let’s not have an outfield in 2013 with both Ben Revere( 4 for his last 28, all singles) and Denard Span out there. I’m tired of all those singles.
-Marxhausen: Sounds exactly like the Twins organization and Terry Ryan approach to solving the big problem of putting a championship team together. The problem being, the Twins haven’t won or advanced to a World Series or done well in the playoffs under Ryan’s long reign in the organization. Ryan hasn’t been afraid of making trades or bringing in new faces via the farm system to fill voids in the team’s lineup. Even so, the Twins always lack enough talent in their lineup and bullpen to push them past the point of Central Division champions to World Series champions. Now, instead of upgrading a winning team, the Twins have to start over the long, slow process of building around the little talent they have. Ryan should not rule out the free agent approach to picking up new players. It sounds like he is making sure Twins fans don’t have high expectations for next season. The fans are not going to keep supporting a failing baseball team even if it has a new, shiny stadium and other attractions to lure them in.
-Larson: Remember when it was said that a new outdoor stadium would draw millions of fans and boost profits, thus allowing the Twins to compete on the free agent market as well as build their farm system? Well, fans have flocked to beautiful Target Field and spent a lot of cash on tickets and other items. “This isn’t going to be a free agent approach” isn’t what many want to hear after two disastrous seasons in a row. Professional sports teams could get by using the “rebuilding” model to their fans 30-40 years ago but not any more. There are too many other options for folks to spend their money on now.
Fans have to hope that Ryan didn’t understand Walters’ question. If Ryan did, fan loyalty will be tested. As Luther said, the Twins have little to offer in trades. And, we’ve already seen this season what immediate help is available in the minors.
•Question: The Minnesota Vikings lost at San Francisco 17-6 Friday in their exhibition opener. Anything to take away from that game?
-Dorr: I didn’t see one second of that game so it’s difficult. I’ve heard the Twin Cities media people criticize the defense for the way San Francisco moved the ball on the ground. I know there were some key defensive players missing and that may have been part of the problem. Or, the defense just may not be very good. Or, it was only an exhibition game and it’s hard to tell much from the first game of the exhibition season. If teams are still running the ball at will a couple weeks from now when the Vikings play the Bills and Chargers at home, it might mean a little more. The media guys were also very critical of the performance of back-up quarterback Joe Webb. Sid Hartman, however, thinks Minnesota will be 2-0 against Jacksonville and Andrew Luck-led Indianapolis when it plays San Francisco in the third game of the season at home. Wouldn’t that be nice?
-Marxhausen: Every pre-season has to be taken with a grain of salt. The Vikings’ first game got them back into the swing of things, such as hitting, timing and other fundamental that each player needs to improve on so that it isn’t an issue during the regular season. The offense had difficulty getting in rhythm as well as staying on the field. The receiving core has just as many question marks as the quarterback position. The pre-season is for players, especially inexperienced ones, to stand out and show that they are willing and able to play hard during the season and all season long. This game will be used as the starting block and as a reference for the players during the rest of the pre-season to see if they can make the cut. A judgement of the team can’t be taken on the basis of one exhibition game.
-Larson: How inept was Minnesota’s defense against the run? Not taking anything away from Luther and Logan, but a quick check of the game stats showed each had over 50 yards against the purple and gold. Kidding, of course.
Even with some starters not playing, it wasn’t pretty and several of the players who were run over and around will be counted on to make plays when the season begins. Overall, the defense looked slow. Second-year quarterback Christian Ponder showed some poise – third-year quarterback Joe Webb did not. The Vikings have said they plan to utilize what they feel is a talented group of tight ends and there was evidence of that. As Luther and Logan stated, Friday’s game didn’t mean much and we’ll find out more about the team over the next few weeks.
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