RandBall

Michael Rand started RandBall with hopes that he could convince the world to love jumpsuits as much as he does. So far, he's only succeeded in using the word "redacted" a lot. He welcomes suggestions, news tips, links of pure genius, and pictures of pets in Halloween costumes here, though he already knows he will regret that last part.

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The one-year anniversary of the Josh Freeman Game: An oral history

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 21st at 2:31pm 279946672

freemanOne year ago today, a group gathered at Legends Bar and Grill in Minneapolis to watch the Monday Night Football game between the Vikings and Giants. The impetus for the gathering, aside from camaraderie, was a mixture of curiosity and real excitement for the debut of new quarterback Josh Freeman, a midseason pickup the Vikings decided to throw into the mix only days after signing him (after Freeman’s release from Tampa Bay and introductory, whisper-filled news conference in Minnesota).

What transpired was a debacle of a game – the low point in a lost season, a low point for the Vikings, period. Freeman, who had one very good season and one pretty good season with Tampa Bay, looked completely lost. He completed 20 of 53(!) passes for 190 yards. Despite the game being within two scores throughout – the Vikings lost 23-7 – Minnesota attempted just 14 running plays. Freeman never threw another pass for the Vikings and is not currently with any team.

To commemorate that experience, we gathered the core people who watched the game one year ago for a reunion Monday at Legends – also during Monday Night Football, this time a much better game between the Steelers and Texans. We put together an oral history, of sorts, of the experience of watching the original game a year ago. Be aware that the conversation veered off-topic so many times we lost count. Maybe it was more fun to be there than to read this transcript. But we hope you enjoy it.

The participants are:

Aaron Gleeman (@aarongleeman), a noted baseball blogger and brunch enthusiast. (First picture, right)

Maggie LaMaack (@MaggieLaMaack), a millennial who in 2013 was watching her first full season of Vikings football. (First picture, left)

Jim Andrews (@realjimandrews), a dedicated Vikings fan who played the game. (Second picture, left)

Jake Nyberg (@jakenyberg), who set the tone Monday by ordering a vodka Red Bull. (Second picture, right)

Michael Rand (@randball), who is us, which is to say, me.

Here we go:

gleemanRand: You were legitimately excited for the game before it happened, right?

Andrews: I was excited for the prospects of an actual Vikings quarterback, that being Freeman. But I didn’t expect them to throw the ball, what, 41 times?

Rand: 53 times.

Andrews: 53 times! That’s an insane amount. Was Adrian Peterson playing?

Gleeman: Yes! That’s the research I did. Freeman threw it 53 times and Peterson ran 13 times for 28 yards.

Nyberg: It almost seems like someone was trying to prove something that night.

Rand: You think? But who?

Nyberg: My crosshairs would go on Leslie Frazier. He’s saying, “You wanted this guy on my team, you want to start him? I’m going to have him throw it 53 times.” He was daring (Rick) Spielman to fire him.

Gleeman: I found a good quote from Frazier after the game. He said, “I thought about taking him out, but we were really close.” And Sherels did have a punt return for a touchdown early on, so it was close for a long time. That’s how we got our mystery shots.

Rand: Did you turn down the mystery shot?

Gleeman: The waitress wouldn’t give it to me, and I was very upset. But then we decided, “well, they just scored. They’re probably going to score four or five more times, so we’ll have more chances.”

Rand: Because of Josh Freeman.

jimandrews

Nyberg: This vodka Red Bull, by the way, wasn’t part of my routine last year. But it should have been. Because I’m soaring right now.

LaMaack: I think my only real contribution to that day was finding a picture of Josh Freeman dressed like the Michael Jackson Thriller cover.

Rand: I forgot about that! By like the third quarter, that was all I cared about.

LaMaack: Why did he actually take that picture? Because it had an actual tiger in it.

Rand: Maggie, last year was your first year as a Vikings fan. How did that game make you feel?

LaMaack: I have watched one Vikings game so far this year – the one where Teddy Bridgewater did a good job.

[Three minutes of discussion of all that has gone wrong this year]

Nyberg: I love how the Vikings have managed to remain such a train wreck that we’ve gathered to talk about something that happened a year ago, and we’re all in on this year. It’s unbelievable. Twins fans can only dream of such a mess.

Rand: Back to Freeman, why do you think they played him in the first place?

Gleeman: Yeah, I mean, if Frazier is daring Spielman to fire him, what’s his end game there?

Rand: Well, his end game happened. He got fired.

Gleeman: Do you think he thought Spielman would get fired and he would stay?

[Long discussion of whether Raffi, the musician, is still alive. He is.].

[Long discussion of whether the Gophers can contend in the Big Ten. There is optimism among the group].

Nyberg: Did we go totally off the rails here? I feel like we’re totally off the rails with the original discussion.

Rand: It’s OK.

Gleeman: There really were no rails.

Rand: We can only talk about the Josh Freeman game so much. I didn’t expect us to talk about it for two hours. This was an experiment. But I do want to hear from Nyberg. What was your expectation going into that game last year?

Nyberg: I thought, to me, how in the world could they just get him for nothing. This guy is a 10-year franchise quarterback, minimum. He was young. … OK, but my real expectations were what your expectations have to be for anything for the Vikings now: the unexpected. Honestly, I’m glad right now that Teddy Bridgewater right now looks raw and young. Because if he was lighting it up every game, you would expect the ACL injury to be two weeks away. You’d be like, “here it comes. Wait for it.” When the highs start to creep towards fun, boom. Here’s what I wish we had the benefit of: I wish I could live a mirror image of the last 7 to 10 years in another NFL market to find out if this is just a Vikings thing or is it an NFL thing. Someone gets arrested (for example) for shoplifting a carabiner. Is that just a Vikings thing, or does that happen everywhere?

Andrews: You mean, do other teams handle their problems head-on instead of dancing around them?

[Discussion of Ray Rice. Inconclusive.]

Rand: Maggie, why did you even start watching the Vikings in the first place last year?

LaMaack: I don’t even know. I think I was briefly dating a guy the season before and he was always watching football. I just started watching it.

Rand: That was quite a year to pick to watch every Vikings game.

Gleeman: It really was. Initially, I blamed (Maggie) for the season. But they’re bad now, too.

LaMaack: I think I’ve just been busy this year. I haven’t been actively trying not to watch.

[Good story from Nyberg about underage drinking in Wisconsin].

Rand: OK, one last try to get us back on topic: I just remember sitting here last year, thinking, “What is going on?”

Gleeman: We must have been excited at one point.

Rand: We congregated. It was a Monday Night game and we were like, “Josh Freeman. Let’s watch this.”

Gleeman: And it was a great turnout, obviously, with five of us.

LaMaack: Also, it was one of the first times I had met Aaron, and he had his Blackberry.

Gleeman: I sat down, and I was like, “Hey Maggie,” and she just stopped and gave me this look and said, “Is that a Blackberry.”

Rand: When did you get rid of the Blackberry? That was your signature for a while.

Gleeman: Like, March.

Rand: That was a big day. With the game, though, I do think we were excited and intrigued. This wasn’t like we were going to get together and make fun of the Vikings.

Andrews: I remember there was a guy in a Wild jersey playing Big Buck Hunter. He was vaping all night. Everything seems so weird when you look back on it.

Tuesday (Rose Bowl irony) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 21st at 4:42pm 279919952

smokyjoeThe Gophers have not played in the Rose Bowl in more than half a century. Yes, their last appearance in the “Grandaddy of them all” was in 1962, when they defeated UCLA 21-3.

Since then, the game has been the pie-in-the-sky benchmark for a return to prominence for Minnesota — the game fans dared to dream about. One coach, Joe Salem, even (infamously in retrospect) posed with a rose in his mouth for a billboard. The Gophers never even managed to finish above .500 in conference play under ol’ Smoky Joe. That was more than 30 years ago.

Lou Holtz conjured images of Pasadena. Glen Mason’s best teams ultimately were woulda coulda shoulda teases that accomplished plenty but couldn’t make a really serious dent in Rose Bowl talk. Tim Brewster had a patch of Rose Bowl grass. No, really.

And here we are today. It would be getting way ahead of ourselves to talk about the Rose Bowl, even in a normal year for the game. The Gophers under Jerry Kill are 3-0 in the Big Ten for the first time in nearly a quarter-century, and the next two games on their schedule (at Illinois, home vs. Iowa) are certainly winnable. Their final three (Ohio State, at Nebraska, at Wisconsin) are more than daunting.

But still, at 3-0, this is the kind of start that would allow most fans to have at least a realistic dream of the Rose Bowl in most years. Indeed, we’ve heard chatter from plenty of them already about that very bowl game.

However, a lot has changed about the game — and getting to the game — in recent years. Unlike many of the seasons in the great Rose Bowl drought, getting there can be complicated.

This season, in particular, it would require being one of the top four teams in college football. That’s because under the new four-team playoff system, the Rose Bowl hosts one of the national semifinals every three years. And this happens to be one of those years.

The Gophers are still in the running for the playoff (think of that, for a moment), but even a Minnesota team that fell short of the playoff but wound up winning the Big Ten would get bounced to a different bowl this season.

Everyone within the program — fans included — would gladly accept that outcome because it would still be the best year for the program since the 1960s. But there would still be some unfortunate irony if the Gophers finally had a season worthy of the Rose Bowl, only to find out they picked the wrong year to be great.

Again: nice problem to have, should it happen — and a long way to go before it becomes  a reality. Just remember it will take a lot more to smell roses this season than in past years.

TFD: Caption contest -- photo from the 50-yard line of new Vikings stadium

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 20th at 6:16pm 279845462

We took a tour of the new Vikings stadium today. It’s not quite game-ready yet, but there are 13 cranes currently operational, including one that weighs 3 million pounds, so it should be finished any day now (or at least by July of 2016).

Dave Mansell of Mortenson Construction led the way, but first he took us on a virtual tour. He said technology has helped erase theĀ “oh [redacted], what do we do now?” moments that used to befall construction projects.

Hopefully for the Vikings, in the new stadium they will have fewer of them as well.

Did we just cheapen it? We did! Let’s end on a different note. Here’s a photo from around the 50-yard-line. It’s caption contest time!

50-yard-line

As bad as it is for the Vikings, at least they aren't the Bears

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 20th at 2:20pm 279814592

bearsWith Green Bay presumably still trying to figure out how to play defense and the Lions projected to be the Lions, a decent handful of folks thought the Bears would be the class of the NFC North this season — or at least contend for the division title.

Instead, they dropped to 3-4 on Sunday with a humbling home loss to the Dolphins. They’re 0-3 at home, and the wheels are coming off the bus. Per the Chicago Sun Times (portion of sports home page screen-shotted for your amusement):

Wide receiver Brandon Marshall reportedly called out quarterback Jay Cutler in the locker room after the game, players were heard screaming at each other about “heart,’’ guard Kyle Long told reporters that fans’ boos at Soldier Field were “unacceptable’’ and former Bear Blake Costanzo tweeted that coach Marc Trestman “has made the Bears soft.’’

Would it be safe to assume that this isn’t the atmosphere of “respect and humility’’ that Trestman is trying create?

Has he lost his team? Has Cutler?

These are the kinds of questions that get asked when teams are falling apart. The Bears looked like they were in mid-implosion.

Your 2014 Chicago Bears! Circle Nov. 16 and Dec. 28 on your calendar. Those are the two epic Vikings vs. Bears clashes this season.

Monday (Eddie Vedder talks about the Gophers on stage) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated October 20th at 9:46am 279779532

vedderThe last time we saw Pearl Jam, it was Oct. 19, 2003, at Xcel Energy Center. The Gophers football team, one day earlier, had lost the second of two consecutive games to Michigan schools — this one to Michigan State, a week after the infamous Michigan game.

We do not recall Eddie Vedder name-checking the Gophers. If he had, the state might have erupted in a furious riot of bad intentions, ending the show early.

We did not make it to Sunday night’s show at the X, but it sounds as if it was a glorious good time.

And it also sounds like Vedder, knowing his audience, gave some love to the Gophers football team (even if he did throw a little bit of playful shade on the school’s nickname). Several people tweeted about this, but here’s the most succinct one we could find, from Ch. 5′s Chris Long:

That’s right: The Gophers football team is riding such a high that they got a shout out from one of the greatest lead singers from one of the greatest bands of our generation. And from the sound of it, Vedder made no reference to 4th-and-20 or any other football that happened Sunday. Good man, Eddie. Good man.

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