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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A couple of weeks ago, John Munson reached out to me on Twitter with this sentiment:
Yo @RandBall why doesn’t someone analyze the impact of grief in The Wild’s undoing. There is a story there beyond memorializing JP methinks.
I go a ways back with John — 15 years now — to a time when one of us was a young writer covering general assignment sports for the Star Tribune and the other of us was the bass player for a little band called Semisonic. We were both part of a strange and wonderful pickup basketball game that ran every Tuesday and Thursday, comprised primarily of local journalists and local musicians. (Don’t let that description fool you; the quality of the ball was strong, and the games were always the right mix of intense and fun). The two of us chatted sports often during the breaks and down times of those games, and John’s sports opinions have maintained value through the years. He’s a sports fan who tends to think of things from a different — more human? — perspective than a lot of us.
I’ve thought about his tweet pretty much every day since he sent it, trying to get a better handle on it. Munson was referring to both Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, two of the Wild’s best players, who have both lost their hockey-playing fathers in the past six months. Bob Suter — whom Ryan described not just his dad but his best friend – died a month before the season started of a heart attack at age 57. J.P. Parise died earlier this month after a battle with lung cancer at age 73.
Media members and fans have spent ample time dissecting the Wild’s coaching, the Wild’s goaltending, the Wild’s physical health — whether it’s on-ice injuries or the bizarre but impactful battle with the mumps. But true grieving? The loss of fathers? That’s much heavier, harder to quantify stuff. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think about it or ask about it even though the questions are hard.
So when I caught up with Parise on Thursday at a promotional event, I told him about Munson’s tweet and listened to him speak earnestly, again, about how tough things have been.
“It’s been really hard. I can’t speak for Ryan, obviously. I can only see what he went through,” Parise said. “But for me personally, it’s been really hard the last couple of months just seeing everything, and the way everything happened. It’s been awful. A lot of times at the rink, my mind wasn’t there.”
This is where we can all be reminded that athletes are humans. They are not a set of statistics to write in ink or a set of expectations to be mandated. Fans want answers and hate excuses, but life events are not excuses in the way that breaking a stick or having a puck take a funny hop are excuses. Life is a thing we are all living.
We are all fragile. We have all dealt with difficult things in our personal lives, and most of us have been asked to continue working or going about our day-to-day lives while also processing those difficult things. Most of us probably would agree that’s very tough. It’s not the kind of thing you’d be able to label and say it impacted you X percent at your job, but you know it did.
This is not even to say that the performance of Parise or Suter has declined this year. Parise leads the team with 19 goals; Suter, despite a recent hit to his plus-minus rating, is the team’s lone All-Star. Sometimes personal tragedy can be channeled into great performances, as sports history has shown us many times.
“That’s kind of the cool thing about hockey,” Ryan Suter said in September, when he talked about his father’s death for the first time. “You get to get out on the ice and you don’t really have to think about anything. You can just go out and be in your own little world.”
But sometimes life creeps back in, and we should all remember that. Getting back to Munson’s original tweet, the impact of grief on the Wild’s season … the only conclusive thing I would ever say about it is that it caused pain. Parise’s loss is the freshest, and he’s still working through it.
“It was hard to separate myself from what was going on. Mentally, I just wasn’t there and it was hard to play,” Parise said. “But it’s getting better, and hopefully it will continue to.”
It’s hard to get the entire Internet to agree on much, but there are exceptions. One of them appears to be this: we have never heard of a single person who didn’t enjoy the first go-round of the NFL’s “Bad Lip Reading” — one which prominently featured Adrian Peterson and his “orange peanut.”
The latest incarnation, featuring more hilarious voices and phrases that seemingly match the lips of NFL players, came out this week. And again, people love it. In case you haven’t seen it, let us just gently set it down here for you to enjoy:
The Badgers have been running through head coaches faster than a lot of us go through a cough drop, so those associated with the program can be forgiven if they aren’t quite up to speed on all the facts about new head coach Paul Chryst.
Still, they should probably know the name of the school at which he was most recently a head coach. Per Lost Lettermen — and called to our attention by noted Badgers fan Stensation — that doesn’t appear to be the case. A recruit sent out this tweet:
— Jake Heinrich (@JAKEHEINRICH1) January 21, 2015
Everything is good until the last part. Chryst, of course, was the head coach at Pitt and not Penn State. Hey, they’re both in Pennsylvania!
There was a market for the Metrodome urinal troughs. So why wouldn’t there be a market for other Dome leftovers?
Nick Vetter and Joel Bradley are counting on it and will be selling their “Domepourri” featuring bits of the now-demolished Dome this weekend at TwinsFest. A 4-ounce jar of scraps is $5, while a nicer 8-ounce jar is $15.
“It’s a nice conversation piece and we think it will bring smiles to a lot of faces,” Vetter told City Pages. “A lot of people have a lot of great memories from the Dome.”
If you can’t make it to TwinsFest at Target Field, you can also make a run at one of the jars via eBay. What’s in Domepourri? A hodge-podge of old bits of the Dome, including pieces of the old roof, old turf, cup holders, seats and even bolts.
(Insert joke about 1998 NFC title game tears here).
Before the NBA season started, Bovada and other Las Vegas casinos set over-under win total lines for all the teams. The Wolves’ number was 26.5, which seemed quite reasonable and even tempted those with optimism to make a sprint to Sin City to bet the over.
Anyone who made that bet needs the Wolves to win at least 27 games. We are halfway through the season now, and we can report this much: Minnesota has taken care of the crooked number, the seven. Now all that remains is the 20.
This is not exactly impossible — the Wolves going 20-21, basically .500 ball over the season’s second half — but it is improbable enough that we wouldn’t pay anyone more than 1 cent on every dollar bet to buy them out of their over tickets.
The reasons are many, but the primary one is simple: as the season has gone along, a franchise that nearly perfected losing has somehow gotten even better at it.
The Wolves were 2-2 in the season’s first four games; the two losses were by four points at Memphis and by one point at home against the Bulls. In their fifth game, Ricky Rubio hurt his ankle early on. They wound up losing in overtime, and they have only won five times since then. Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin quickly followed Rubio to the injured list, with Pek being the first of the three to finally return Wednesday in a blowout loss to the Mavericks.
Rubio, Martin, Pekovic, J.J. Barea (bought out before the season) and Ronny Turiaf (two games played) combined to play just 26 games in the first half of the season. Put them in a 5-on-5 game against any other 5 on the Wolves’ roster and they probably win 8 of 10 times. Add to the mix that Corey Brewer was traded after 24 games, and you have an almost foolproof losing cocktail.
A 19-year-old (Andrew Wiggins) is the only player to have started all 41 games, while second-year center Gorgui Dieng is the only other player to have played all 41 games. Rubio and Martin will return at some point (your guess is as good as ours as to exactly when), but it also wouldn’t surprise us if those gains are somewhat offset if Thad Young and/or Mo Williams are traded to contenders for more young pieces or salary flexibility.
Our best guess is this Wolves team will at least be somewhat improved in the second half, meaning it won’t stay on the same pace and finish with 14 wins — which would make this the worst team in franchise history. Where it falls on that spectrum — 10 Wolves teams in full 82 game seasons have won between 15 and 26 games — remains to be seen, but if you are still clinging to that betting slip and it says “over” on it … well it is, indeed, over.
|New England||2/1/15 5:30 PM|
|Stephen F Austin||82||FINAL|
|Sam Houston St||80||FINAL|
|Miss Valley St||84|
|Central Conn St||51||FINAL|
|Miss Valley St||52|
|(12) Texas A&M||61||FINAL|
|(1) South Carolina||79|
|Mount St Marys||44|
|East Tenn St||72||FINAL|
|(18) Miss State||59||FINAL|