Today’s date? October 27th, 2020. It’s often thought of as one of the happiest anniversaries in Minnesota history; something to celebrate and look back on fondly. Much like the demographic that reads this blog, I wasn’t even old enough to form complete sentences, let alone remember a goddamn thing when they won, so I can’t even count it. If you want to re-live the “glory days”, you can do so in its entirety here. For me though, it sounds a lot like remembering the honeymoon phase of a loveless marriage that’s now spiraled into moderate alcoholism with both parties sleeping in separate beds. Everyone involved claiming that they’re “trying to improve” or maybe that they’re “in a good place” but outsiders know that things haven’t been good for a while, and something needs to be done.It’s been 29 years since the Twins won their last World Series title. TWENTY-NINE YEARS. It took seven games for the Twinkies to finally beat the Atlanta Braves, overcoming a crushing 14-5 loss in game five. Can you imagine the Twins of today battling back from that type of defeat and winning the next two because I can’t? Rocco would listen to the nerds in his ear and pull his starting pitcher after 4 innings because he gave up one hit. Listen, as a fellow nerd and spreadsheet jockey, I get that numbers never lie…except they do. The clutch gene is very real and the playoffs bring out the best in those people, and you’re playing scared if you’re constantly pulling them before they have a chance to show it off.
Much like Minnesota, Atlanta is also widely considered to house tortured franchises and be a disappointing sports town by media across the country. They gave up on a hockey franchise after moderate success, lost a couple of super bowls, and haven’t won a basketball title since the 50’s when they were one of 8 teams in the league and were technically based out of St. Louis. Atlanta, however, went back to the world series in four of the next eight years, claiming one of those as a win. They’ve had multiple Cy Young candidates while being in actual contention regularly and more importantly, they’ve won playoff games when they make it there.Not only has it been three decades since the Twins won, but that’s the last championship Minnesota has seen in ANY one of the four major sports. The North Stars (RIP to the name and jersey Minnesota deserves) made it to the cup finals in 1991 as well, but in embarrassing fashion, they lost Game 6 to a talented Pittsburgh team by a score of 8-0 with Mario Lemieux at the helm. Every time they show clips of Lemieux, Minnesota fans have to endure seeing one of the best goals of his career coming from that game. Now, don’t start with me about the Lynx. Yeah, they had a good run, but it was short-lived and they’re already on the decline with Maya Moore leaving the team to pursue other endeavors. Additionally, if you were to ask my opinion, basketball is already on the fence between being a sport and a reality TV show. If you disagree, cool, enjoy that between seasons of Love Island UK and The Bachelor. Not for me. With soccer (do we call it Futbol yet?) becoming more and more popular, the Loons are SURPRISINGLY good, but without the bankroll of teams like the LA Galaxy or others like them, it will likely be a long road before they see a championship of any kind.
The only saving grace is one we, as a state, cling to more than any other: College Hockey. Minnesota Universities have been to the highest stage in college hockey on seven separate occasions in the tortured timeframe we’ve been referencing since the title of this article. They won five of those titles. The Gophers won back-to-back in 2002/2003 and made it back as recently as 2014. The Bulldogs knocked off Michigan in one of the greatest frozen four games of all time in 2011 before cementing their place in college hockey lore by going back-to-back-to-back in 2017, 2018, and 2019 winning the last two. They were all but guaranteed to make another run in 2020 with net-minder Hunter Sheppard (who never lost a playoff hockey game in college) and homegrown Hobey Baker award winner Scott Perunovich but the season was cut short because someone ate a goddamn bat a billion miles away.The Timberwolves are notorious for having internal turmoil from the top down and rely on KAT to carry them through big games. Unpopular opinion: KAT’s not a top 20 player. I don’t see the fire in him that I see in other stars around that league. The Vikings are imploding (some call it tanking) in a way I never thought possible, even as a casual pessimist. They’ve lost in both predictable and unconventional ways before trading people who were thought to be key acquisitions less than 2 months ago. The Twins are inexplicably unwatchable in the playoffs with an aging roster of home-run hitters and no HOF pitchers on either side of the bullpen. The Wild are locked into crippling deals, burning capital on players who are frequently either injured or underperforming, relying on the hope that Kirill Kaprizov and Marco Rossi’s talent will translate from foreign leagues to the big show. Gophers football was just routed by Michigan on opening night of the already delayed Big 10 season after an offseason of hype and hope being pumped into campus. You can visibly see the toll that the sports pain has brought to the people of Minnesota.
At least we’ve got hockey. It’s the one thing nobody can take away from us. Some say we have an unfair rooting advantage with 5 competitive teams in the state, but I say it barely makes up for all the other pain we have to endure. With two teams ranked in the top four, and four in the top 20 of the USCHO Preseason Poll, Minnesota is ready to make another statement when each of the separate conference seasons kick-off. Everyone’s got a favorite child that makes dysfunctional parents think “Stay together for the Kids”, and this is Minnesota’s.
I’ve been hit by cars three times, which is an indication of how stubborn I am.
I write about everything across the board, but focus on Hockey and the pain that is Minnesota sports.
Argue with me on Twitter: @venividiveech