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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Rocket's Red Glare: NHL playoff preview, haiku style

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated April 15th at 3:28pm 299890651

rocketI was going to make fun of Rocket for being the only person on earth who could write a NHL playoff preview in haiku form and still have it check in at more than 1,000 words, but then I wrote the post that will go up after this and it’s 1,500 crazy words on how to fix the NBA draft lottery. Pot, meet kettle. Anyway, here’s the guest post.

Rocket?

————-

A short while back I found myself sitting in one of those faux-oases nestled between two shopping complexes.  To my left stood an old manufacturing building that had been converted into a hippie-fried collection of boutiques that your least practical aunt would describe as “magical,” and to my right stood its dullard cousin from the suburbs who thinks of cumin as a rare and exotic spice. I suppose I appreciated the attempt to offer a respite from the only-talk-to-each-other-at-Thanksgiving temples of commerce, but the whole feel of the place was reminiscent of a guy trying too hard to keep his cool around the prettiest girl in school.

Regardless, I was there, sitting on a metal chair fused to a metal table that was mostly covered with a dusting of the sort of natural materials that make me eternally grateful for manufactured antihistamines.  I found myself in this oddly cultivated nether region because Rockette needed to buy something frilly or dainty or otherwise personal and I had no desire to impede this purchase with whatever inappropriate action I was otherwise destined to take.  A small cadre of other lost souls were also in the vicinity, but we were all satisfied with our unspoken agreement to just leave each other the [redacted] alone.  The place was just tolerable enough as it was, and no one was going to ruin it by talking or getting to know each other.

And then HE showed up.  In one respect, he was no different from every other middle aged schlub in the world.  His canvas shoes could not contain the white socks that reached halfway up his calves.  There is no place on this earth where one can spend a double-digit dollar figure on his anonymous gray shorts.  And his garish, mostly blue, oddly patterned shirt is exactly the type of garment that seems to appeal to those who, frankly, ought not be drawing that much attention to their corpulence.  The spindly legs belied someone who may have been an athlete – perhaps even something of a catch back in the day – but they had long ago been forced to endure the bulbous nature of the upper half of his frame and were worse for the wear.

Again, he seemed no different than so many others like him: just another guy in his fifties who had long since seen the best days come and go, destined to be just another seamless face in the crowd.  And yet, within a shorter span of time than it will take you to read this whole soliloquy, he became life’s latest reminder that everyone has a story.

It all began with him gliding into the oasis on his bicycle.  This, in itself, was odd enough as he gave the impression of a man who rode not for the exercise, thrill of the sport, or the wind in his hair, but because it was his most legal form of transportation after the last court hearing.  Yet, the surprises hardly ended there; he had rigged a speaker and a personal CD player to the back of the bicycle and he was pumping out the tunes.  At first, it was exceptionally annoying as the tinny, single speaker completely destroyed the quiet, unspoken agreement I had made with the other patrons of the space to shut up and not bother each other.

Yes, annoying.  At first.  But then I started listening to the song and watching the guy.  He had clearly already been drinking the tall can that he fished out of the Hogwartian satchel he had strapped to the back of this bike.  I assumed it was alcohol at first, but I kept looking at the can and I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was only an Arnold Palmer.  I was probably wrong, since the can looked more like this, but the whole scene just makes more of a twisted kind of sense if one imagines that he was only drinking iced tea and lemonade.  Regardless, he kept taking long pulls off of the can and staring deep into the nothingness of middle distance.  Then the song really caught my ear.  I’m sure that I had never heard it before, but it is such a quintessentially eighties song that once you hear it you never forget it.  For those unwilling to click the link the song is called “Hold On To 18,” by a band called Black N’ Blue, who look exactly like you would expect them to look.  The lyric that really got me was, “I don’t care about society, I don’t care about responsibility…”  Here stood this middle aged man, so far from his prime that the memories of back then had to have been sepia-toned, listening to a 30-year-old song imploring him to hold onto an age that he may have already experienced three times over.

Finally, I understood.  Sitting there, in the “oasis,” I had felt a sense of unease in a place that wasn’t quite right and in which I did not comfortably fit.  But whatever I was enduring in that moment was but a leaky bucket compared to the ocean that engulfed this man.  I was a bit uncomfortable; he was a man out of his time, his place, his car, and everything else that he had once known.  If there were still any corners of the world where he could live the life he wanted they were few and far between, and this oasis certainly was not one of them.

It felt like he stood there forever, but in truth he didn’t even stick around for the whole song.  After finishing the tall can he jumped back on the bike and rode off in search of the next spot were he might feel just a little less out of place.

The moral of the story?  I have no idea what is going to happen in the NHL playoffs, but I am going to make predictions in haiku form anyway.

Montreal v. Ottawa

It’s French Canada

Versus the seat of the feds

Secessionists win

Tampa Bay v. Detroit

Do you fear Detroit?

Stamkos and the crew will win

The Yzerman Cup

New York Rangers v. Pittsburgh

Even Sid the Kid

Cannot escape the allure

Of Hank’s dreamy eyes

Washington v. New York Islanders

Many great games played

In Nassau Coliseum

Too bad it ends here

Anaheim v. Winnipeg

A playoff return!

Winnipeg will go crazy!

Enjoy those four games

Vancouver v. Calgary

Lanny McDonald

And his glorious moustache

Will not be enough

Nashville v. Chicago

Nashville seems all right

But Chicago is better

The city and team

St. Louis v. Minnesota

A St. Loo upset?

Yes! They will be gone early

Just not in this round

New soccer stadium: Bad timing shouldn't diminish good plan

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated April 15th at 11:01am 299842571

soccerMinnesotans are tired of building new stadiums. They should be. There was a time (albeit just one year a generation ago) when the Vikings, Twins, Timberwolves and Gophers football team all played in the Metrodome. Each of them now either has or is building its own stadium. The Wild has its own building, whereas in a lot of markets the NBA and NHL teams share an arena.

We are a combination of overbuilt and overspent, with palaces such as Xcel Energy Center, Target Field, TCF Bank Stadium and the new Vikings stadium — not to mention a new ballpark for the Saints — eating up more than a combined $1 billion in public funding alone (more than was spent on the private contributions). This doesn’t even include renovations to Target Center.

If everyone had it to do all over again (everyone but the teams feasting on the profits, that is), we probably would have done it differently. It’s unnecessary to spend gobs of money on two pro arenas for hockey and basketball when one really would do. It’s a little crazy, even though the audiences are slightly different, to construct two huge new football stadiums so close together in both proximity and timing.

The same could be said, we suppose, for the notion of now considering building one more stadium: an open-air Major League Soccer facility near Target Field and Target Center. The new Vikings stadium can be configured for soccer. It wouldn’t be as good of a gameday experience, but it would work. Should we always have to have the best?

In general, no. But in this case … it adds up. An ownership group led by Bill McGuire was awarded an MLS expansion franchise. That group is willing to pay the $100 million expansion fee and almost all of the $150 million cost associated with the stadium. The group wants some tax relief. That’s about it.

It’s drop-in-the-bucket stuff compared to every other stadium we’ve built, and it’s in line with standard operating procedure for a lot of new businesses coming into an area.

The United group had a keen sense of its bad timing and came in with a plan that is more than just palatable. It’s fair. It might even be a good deal for the state and city, something that is rare. Their bad timing shouldn’t diminish a good plan.

That story linked above, by the way, includes perhaps the greatest single user comment in Startribune.com history from someone with the moniker cutthebull:

So far the comments are falling into a few predictable groups:

1. Those who dislike/hate/feel threatened by soccer, and have a kneejerk reaction every time it is mentioned. (These are the people who love to bring up the Kicks, Strikers, et al. And crickets – obsessed with crickets for some reason.)

2. Those who love soccer and have a kneejerk reaction every time it is mentioned. (These are the “most popular game on the planet” people who like to pooh-pooh American football as a dying sport played by Neanderthals.)

3. Those who are tired of stadium discussions and/or sports in general and have a kneejerk reaction every time they are mentioned.

4. Those who are suspicious of wealthy people and have a kneejerk reaction every time they are mentioned.

5. Those (like me) who have no real dog in the fight one way or the other, but who realize this isn’t a bad deal. If a private business owner was going to pony up $150-250 MM to redevelop an underutilized/blighted part of town and put in a call center or insurance offices or a Target or a widget factory, the $3 MM in misc. tax breaks would be a no-brainer. Most of the opposition comes from people in groups 1-4.

Well-said. Even if you don’t like soccer, rich people or stadiums, it’s hard for a reasonable person to find much wrong with this plan.

You can sense when reading between the lines that our politicians understand this as well. They have to hedge their bets and try to take semi-tough stances because they know what the stadium climate is, but at the end of the day they will build it because they realize two things: this will be the last stadium request for a long time, and it’s (by far) the best deal of the bunch.

TFD: Yet another set of statistics shows Minnesota sports are the worst

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated April 14th at 5:32pm 299761991

millerEvery week or so (maybe not that often, but it seems that way), a new publication comes out with a study, poll or other set of facts indicating that Minnesota sports are bad.

Sometimes they’re ho-hum bad, and sometimes they’re the worst. It doesn’t usually matter what the angle of the study is. Unless it comes to fitness (where we’re great!), the Twin Cities and our pro sports teams are generally judged as epic failures.

The latest effort comes from the Washington Post, which just published a set of online graphics that, coupled with essays from around the country, looks at the last decade for the 12 U.S. markets that have NBA, NHL, NFL and MLB franchises.

The methodology in this case is pretty basic: The Post simply took the combined winning percentages of all four teams starting in 2005 to establish a 1-12 order. Minnesota, with a combined .462 winning percentage, finished last among the 12 markets.

Again, the “what” is not surprising. In tomorrow’s Page 2 feature, I spend a little time trying to understand the “why,” at least in the case of this particular study.

For now, though, I open the floor to the readers. What is the primary reason the last decade of Minnesota sports has been so largely forgettable?

Twins ask fans on Twitter to relive Monday's home opener; fans impolitely decline

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated April 14th at 1:57pm 299714361

Twitter is often all about timing and phrasing. If you miss your window or word something the wrong way, good intentions can drift into bad results in a hurry.

This is particularly true of brands, and even more particularly true of brands that are struggling. I offer up Example A from this morning, when the official Twins twitter account sent out this tweet:

It’s pretty harmless, basically trying to get fans to look at some photos from the home opener. Sure, the Twins are 1-6 and were blasted 12-3 by the Royals, but there were still some nice moments.

However, I imagine the use of the word “relive” served as a launching pad for things to get ugly in a hurry in the @ replies. Let’s take a spin through a handful of the ones that are safe for print:

Tuesday (Finally, some luck for Wolves?) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated April 14th at 12:39pm 299691721

wolvesknicksThe Wolves have had abysmal draft lottery luck in their franchise history. They have never improved their position. On a handful of infamous occasions, they have fallen a slot or two below where they were projected to pick based on record, winding up with lesser players than they should have had.

There is no guarantee that this curse will be lifted on May 19, 2015, when another very important draft lottery will be held to determine the order teams choose in June. But this much is guaranteed:

By virtue of unexpected results from the Knicks and by excelling at the one thing this franchise has really excelled at over the years — losing — the Wolves have positioned themselves quite nicely.

Minnesota has lost 11 consecutive games and 22 of its last 25, including last night’s 100-88 loss to the Pelicans. The Knicks, meanwhile, looked to easily be on track to claim the league’s worst record … but they have won three of their last five, including last night’s stunning win over the first-place Hawks. That has infuriated a New York fan base that had warmed to the idea of tanking because now, with one game left in the season, the Knicks are one game better (17-64 to 16-65) than the Wolves).

As long as Minnesota loses to OKC on Wednesday — the Wolves are playing with a decimated roster and the Thunder is battling for a playoff spot still — the Wolves will be assured of having the worst record (and the best lottery odds).

In addition to giving the Wolves a 25 percent chance of the top pick and about a 2 in 3 chance of having at least a top-3 pick, it would ensure they would fall no further than fourth in the order.

On a team that doesn’t figure to attract top free agents, one more high pick is a big deal. We’re not saying the ends of losing justify the means of picking high because you never know how these things are going to turn out and tanking is a concept we still can’t stand.

But for those who have lamented the luck of Minnesota teams over the years — including the Vikings a few years back, who lost out on draft position with a late-season win — this seems to be a reversal of that.

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Baltimore - LP: W. Chen 1 FINAL
Boston - WP: J. Masterson 7
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Arrieta 5 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: A. Caminero 2
NY Yankees - LP: C. Sabathia 1 FINAL
Detroit - WP: A. Simon 2
Cincinnati - WP: A. DeSclafani 6 FINAL
Milwaukee - LP: W. Peralta 1
Cleveland - LP: C. Allen 3 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: D. Robertson 4
Minnesota - LP: K. Gibson 1 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: E. Volquez 7
San Diego - WP: O. Despaigne 14 FINAL
Colorado - LP: J. De La Rosa 3
Oakland - WP: D. Otero 6 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: M. Shoemaker 3
Houston - WP: T. Sipp 7 FINAL
Seattle - LP: D. Farquhar 5
Milwaukee 82 FINAL
Chicago 91
New Orleans 87 FINAL
Golden State 97
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
St. Louis 0 FINAL
Minnesota 3
Anaheim 5 FINAL(OT)
Winnipeg 4

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