Friday, November 30, 2007

Mark Madsen is a bad basketball player

What was that bang? waxes eloquent on Madsen's suckitude at Epic Carnival.

National Friday League, week thirteen

What a game! The Vikings lost to the Lions at Detroit in week two (in overtime), and now get the Lions at home. The Lions are 6-5 and reeling; the Vikings are 5-6 and seem to be on an upswing. A win would put the Vikes at 6-6, with a favorable schedule to try make a playoff run. A loss would put the Vikings at 5-7, forcing them to win out for a shot at the playoffs.

Detroit's offense is both good and bad for the Viking defense. It's a threat because they can spread out the field with a bunch of wide receivers, throwing almost every down: the Vikings are very vulnerable to such an attack, and they could get scorched. It's good becaues the Vikings have been rushing the passer pretty well lately, and they could get to Kitna and force turnovers. So Detroit could have 400 yards passing, but also have 4 turnovers in the passing game. The Detroit offense is capable of exploiting the Vikings' defensive weaknesses, but the Viking defense is also capable of forcing turnovers and either putting up points themselves or providing good field position.

Offensively, it's tougher to judge. In week two, Chester Taylor was out and Detroit contained Adrian Peterson's rushing very well. Tarvaris Jackson threw four interceptions and faced constant pressure in the pocket. But now the Vikes should have Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson, the offensive line has really gelled to make the running game very strong, and Tarvaris Jackson is playing much better football than he was earlier in the season. The Viking offense likely won't tear up the Lion defense, but it should be much, much better than it was in week two.

I'm excited and confident. These are the games that make me happy to be a season ticket holder--not only is there a serious blackout threat for this game, but the Vikings are playing a divisional opponent in an important late season game that could determine their playoff hopes. Cheer hard.

Tony Romo
Here's what I like about Tony Romo: he's a chucker. He's no system quarterback, that drops back in stiff timing and finds his dink and dunk short throws. He drops back, rambles around a bit, and always seems to be trying to hit a downfield target. I like these aggressive quarterbacks that go for the downfield shots.

The NFL Network
The NFL has been undergoing a pretty widespread propaganda campaign regarding the NFL Network. This campaign is directed at football fans, and uses many different methods, including emails and advertising on football websites. The NFL has worked very hard to convince football fans that it is right and "Big Cable" is wrong in the dispute over the NFL Network. It has tried to convince football fans to contact their cable companies, to abandon their cable and switch to a system that includes the NFL Network, and even to contact the FCC over the issue.

Think about it: how many times have you heard the NFL's perspective/angle on this dispute? And how many times have you heard "Big Cable"'s angle (reading the NFL's version of "Big Cable"'s angle doesn't count)?

From my understanding, neither side has a real principle here: the dispute is over amounts of money. Yet the NFL has been putting forth a strong campaign to convince football fans that there is a principle at stake here, and that it is "Big Cable" that is acting against principle, and against the interest of viewers.

(I don't even get ESPN--and I don't care that I don't get ESPN--so I'm not exactly stressed about missing some games).

It's cold
As I walked from my car to my office today, I was almost thankful the Vikes play in a dome--almost. I imagine my back row seat at an outdoor stadium, exposed to all the elements, and I'm kind of happy for the controlled Metrodome climate. Kind of. I would still enjoy an outdoor game, but I would be very, very bundled up--several layers would just turn me into an immobile lump in the seats. Maybe in a few years I'll be attending December (and January!) games at an outdoor Twin Cities stadium, cold but quite happy.

8-3 Jacksonville visits 9-2 Indianapolis in one of the most important games of Week 13. If Jacksonville wins, they are tied with Indy and the final four weeks will be a run for the division title. If Indianapolis wins, they're two games up on Jacksonville (plus they have the head-to-head sweep), and will likely win the division.

If your fantasy team's prospects depend on any Colts in week 17, you should probably root for the Jaguars to win. If the Colts open up a big lead in the division and clinch a #2 seed, but can't catch up to the #1 seed, they could end up resting significant starters in week 17. If they lose to Jacksonville and are battling down to the end for a division title and playoff positioning, your Colt fantasy performers will likely play.

I'll still root for the Colts, though.

Viking News
Kevin Seifert writes about special teamer Heath Farwell (think about it--Farwell only plays on special teams, but you hear his name quite a bit, right?).

Adrian Peterson is wearing a brace but is ready to play (Star Tribune).

Antoine Winfield talks about his health status (Pioneer Press).

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I feel special.

Because I got a card from "The Wilf Family and The Minnesota Vikings" telling me "Best Wishes for a Happy Holiday Season."

OK, I'll be honest: when I got a freaking Holiday card from the freaking Minnesota Vikings, I danced around the house and giggled.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wednesday Afternoon Blizzard

Viking DT Fred Evans has been suspended for two games for actions committed before he joined the team (Access Vikings).

The Viking game could be blacked out on Sunday, for real (Pioneer Press). If I hadn't bought season tickets, these constant reports of imminent blackouts would cause a nervous breakdown. Instead, I know I'll be watching the Vikes and Lions from my happy seat in front of the Coke ad.

More on the Viking blitz strategy (Star Tribune).

Cold Hard Football Facts has long pointed out that it is silly to rank pass defenses by yards allowed, since that is dependent largely on attempts allowed (which is not entirely dependent on the quality of the pass defense). To show pass defense efficiency, they give defensive passer rating (the passer rating of all opposing quarterbacks against that defense). The Vikings have certainly struggled against the pass this season, but after Sunday's impressive domination of Eli Manning, the Viking pass defense ranks a mediocre 15th on passer rating, better than the awful 32nd in ranks in yards allowed.

The Bleacher Bums talks about Carl Pohlad's big scam (via MN Gameday). If you're a Twins fan, how do you get excited? You should be excited when the team has one of the best pitchers in baseball--but then the Twins will get rid of him once he costs them significant money. So you have to hope they get these young talented players to gel, then win a championship in the four or five year window before they get rid of these young talented players. And this after giving taxpayer funds for a stadium. gives some historical comparisons to analyze Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn.

For some reason, the Vikings are noted in the headline of Dr. Z's power rankings, but get very brief mention in the actual ranks.

Bob Sansevere: pointless in any medium

You may know Bob Sansevere as a sports columnist for the Pioneer Press. If you don't, you can read the Deadspin post about why he sucks.

Well now Sansevere is doing commentary on local Twin Cities news station KSTP. His latest, um, commentary, can be read and viewed here.

And my commentary on just how vapid Sansevere's commentary is can be read at We Have Mixed Feelings About Sven Sundgaard.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sean Taylor

It's hard to think about Sean Taylor's child growing up without a father. ESPN says he has a one year old daughter. Will she remember her dad? We can pray that the girl's mother, as well as Taylor's extended family, can be there for her as she grows up.

There has been far too much speculation about a connection between Sean Taylor's previous violent acts, and this violent act inflicted upon him. Jesus did tell Peter "He who lives by the sword dies by the sword." But Jesus didn't live by the sword, and he met with a violent death, as did Peter, who certainly must have taken Jesus' words about nonviolence to heart. Taylor is the victim of violence--that is the overriding reality.

Peace to Sean Taylor, and to all his family and friends.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Scattered Monday Night Blizzard

Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins are a proud franchise. During Don Shula's tenure from 1970 to 1995, the Dolphins had just two losing seasons. Their consecutive losing seasons in '06 and '07 are the first consecutive losing seasons the franchise has had since their first years from '66-'69. They've been to five Super Bowls, won two Super Bowls, and of course, have the only undefeated season in NFL history, the 17-0 1972 team.

So now the Dolphins are 0-11 after losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers 3-0 on a field goal kicked with 17 seconds left in the game.

What a trying year for the Dolphin fans. They really shouldn't care enough to root one way or another, and yet they have to root for one bloody win just so they don't go winless. And if they get that one win, it can't really come with any sense of joy, but mere relief.

Minnesota Timberwolves
Tonight the Timberwolves gained a 21 point halftime lead, and then...won the game! They got their second win on the season, 103-94 against New Orleans. The Hornets must have had some defensive struggles at the guard position: Marko Jaric had 21 points and 6 assists (on 8-12 shooting), and Sebastian Telfair had 20 points and 8 assists (on 6-9 shooting).

I will grimace every single moment I realize Mark Madsen is still on the Timberwolves' roster.

Government, Stadium, and Leverage
The Minnesota Vikings, like most professional sports franchises, are trying to get the Minnesota legislature to use tax money (either state or city or both) to build them a stadium to play in. I love the Vikings and want them to stay, even though my political soul lurches at the idea of a state subsidy for a private entity valued in terms of hundreds of millions.

The franchise usually holds the leverage: if the city/state doesn't build a stadium, the franchise can relocate. But I try to think of ways for the city/state to use what leverage it can, and today I had another zany idea.

If the city/state pays for a stadium, the city/state has some ownership over the stadium, and should be able to claim a vested interest in what happens at the stadium. So here's my idea: for a city/state to pay for a stadium, it must receive guarantee from the NFL that no games played at that particular stadium will be blacked out for any reason.

It's reasonable, right? If we're going to devote money that should rightly be used for safety, transportation, education, health care, etc., for a football stadium, we should be able to make certain demands, right? And that's a tradeoff I think sounds reasonable. If the city/state pays for the stadium, the city/state has some right over what happens in the stadium, and should be able to prevent blackouts.

When Zygi Wilf comes to the Minnesota legislature to ask for money to build a stadium, the legislature should tell Wilf to bring Roger Goodell with him, and then bring its own list of demands. You want money for a stadium? OK--here's what we want. And one of the items on the list can be a guarantee that there will be no blackouts. Put an exception into your rule, because if you don't guarantee no blackouts, you can build the stadium yourself.

Monday Blizzard

Sean Taylor
Washington safety Sean Taylor was shot and, according to PFT, is fighting for his life. We hope and pray for his health.

According to PFT, and according to the Miami Herald (via Fanhouse), Taylor was the victim of a crime; he was visiting his girlfriend and baby, and Taylor was shot by an intruder/robber. Taylor is the innocent victim of a crime, which makes the AP story about the shooting unconscionable. First, the AP story provides the completely irrelevant information of how much Taylor paid for the home. If you are shot in your home by an intruder trying to break in, do you think newspaper accounts will provide details on how much you paid for your home? But it gets worse:

"Although extremely talented, Taylor has been in trouble -- on and off the field -- numerous times since he was drafted with the No. 5 overall pick out of Miami in 2004."

The article goes on to describe Taylor's fines and legal trouble. Why is this necessary information here? By current available accounts, Taylor was spending time with his family, and was the innocent victim of a criminal. Why then does the AP article talk about Taylor as a "bad guy" who has been in trouble in the past? If you want an example of media demonization of black athletes, here it is. At this point, Taylor should have our sympathy, concern, and prayers. He has mine.

We should now sympathize and pray for Taylor no matter what. But the last line of the AP article notes also that "teammates said he became more mature over the last year after he became a father for the first time." That's good and expected, and I hope Taylor makes it through this, not least for his young daughter's sake.

Randy Wittman is a horrible basketball coach, and I defy you to convince me otherwise.
This weekend, the Timberwolves were playing the Denver Nuggets close on the road, and then struggled in the second half to lose. The next night, they blew an 18 point halftime lead to the Atlanta Hawks.

But this has happened consistently this season during the T-Wolves' 1-10 start: they play solid basketball for three quarters and then collapse in the fourth quarter. The conventional line on this consistent occurance is that the Wolves are a very young team, and the young players don't have the experience to close out games strong and win a tight game in the fourth quarter.

But does coaching have nothing to do with this? Couldn't a competent NBA coach make some sort of fourth quarter defensive adjustments, call some sort of offensive plays, make some sort of reasonable substitutions, to win some close games in the fourth quarter? Does everything need to be blamed on the youth and inexperience of the roster?

When the Wolves fire Kevin McHale (and that should pretty much be TODAY), they should also fire Randy Wittman.

Viking Links
Grant's Tomb writes about Sunday's win, as does The Ragnarok.

Daily Norseman complains about media focus on the Giants' struggles rather than the Vikings' success (a turn of events my wife predicted during the game).

The Star Tribune says Adrian Peterson should play against the Lions. But in what capacity? My fantasy football squad needs to know.

The Star Tribune also points out the easy(ish) schedule coming up for the Vikes. When I look at that, I like to believe the Vikes could win out (or even finish 4-1) and make the playoffs. After following this team all season, however, I fear they'll lose some of these games close.

Sean Jenson of the Pioneer Press talks to Zygi Wilf, who says Brad Childress' job is secure for 2008. I have to think Wilf is responding based on his emotions after a big win against his old favorite team, and on his hopes for what will happen the rest of the season (Wilf also says the team will make the playoffs). I mean, if the Vikings lose the rest of their games and finish 5-11, is Childress' job really secure? Let's all be reasonable here.

Viking Update talks about the team's playoff chances.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

On the Couch, week twelve

PV's initial thoughts on the Viking win are below at "Trailing Clouds of Heaven: Vikings 41, Giants 17." "On the Couch" is a chance to talk about the rest of the NFL.

It means nothing. This means nothing. Tom Brady throws for 380 yards and the Patriots win a close game. Brady is brilliant when you spread the field, give him time to throw, and ask him to complete a lot of quick, short, accurate passes (isn't Wes Welker the perfect WR for Brady, perhaps even moreso than Randy Moss?). But this means nothing.

The Jaguars
In August, I thought the Jags made a bad move cutting Byron Leftwich. After Sunday's win, they are 8-3, and starting QB David Garrard hasn't thrown a bloody interception. Clearly I don't understand the first thing about football.

Frank Gore
214 yards from scrimmage and 2 touchdowns against Arizona? After last season's 1,695 yards rushing on a 5.4 yards per carry average, this is what fantasy rubes hoped Frank Gore could do.

Devin Hester defies logic.
Hester has to be one of the most feared players in the league: no matter what is happening in a game, no matter how well you are executing on offense and defense, Hester can destroy you. Ask the Broncos.

The Cleveland Browns
The Browns improved to 7-4 Sunday, and they are one of the year's big stories. Kellen Winslow Jr. and Braylon Edwards came out of college as highly touted, extremely talented receivers, and they've each come fully into their own. I still don't know what to believe about Derek Anderson. Another good out-of-nowhere quarterback? A fluke year? Beneficiary of Braylon Edwards? I have no idea what any of this means. I mean, if the Vikings could trade for either Anderson or Brady Quinn this off-season, I have no idea which QB I'd prefer.

I've been pretty critical of worn out metaphors on this blog. But Guy Deutcher's The Unfolding of Language features a chapter on how dead metaphor is pretty inextricably bound up in the basic makeup of language. Hey, since I've been reading this book (slowly, as anything I read for pleasure during a semester) I've already repented of my stance on "their" as singular. Is Deutscher leading me to give up my condemnation of worn-out metaphors?

No, not quite. It's fascinating to see the level to which dead metaphors infuse our language. But sportswriters using uncreative, unthinking cliches to try explain sporting events is something altogether different, and altogether worthy of scorn.

The Vikings blew out the Giants on the road.
Just wanted to say it again.

Trailing Clouds of Heaven: Vikings 41, Giants 17

Vikings-Giants Box Score on

Turnovers and Touchdowns
The story of the game: the Vikings intercepted Eli Manning four times; Darren Sharper, Dwight Smith, and Chad Greenway returned interceptions for touchdowns, and another INT from Smith led to Chester Taylor's eight yard touchdown. It can't be emphasized enough: that's what made this 41-17 road win happen. Sharper, Smith, and Greenway deserve a lot of credit for their savvy interceptions, and their tenacity in striving for the end zone after the interceptions (Ben Leber also deserves credit for a great tip in the red zone which led to Smith's game-clinching TD). It's exciting when the Vikings score defensive touchdowns, and it makes for a fun win. But there was another story of this defensive performance, a part of the story that had a lot to do with the defensive touchdowns of Sharper, Smith, and Greenway...

Pass Rush
Though the Vikings only had two sacks (which came late), they put constant pressure (and confusing pressure) on Eli Manning all game long and took him out of any rhythm. They blitzed effectively and strategically, and the defensive line played very well too. Keep it coming, Leslie Frazier: the defense looked outstanding today, and the pass rush was a huge part of it.

Sidney Rice
With 82 yards and a touchdown today, Sidney Rice looks to have real potential for a team in dire need of a playmaking wide receiver. He's made some big plays this year and shown flashes of real ability.

But the 2006 and 2007 drafts have been successful for the Vikings. Today, their first four selections of 2006 (Chad Greenway, Cedric Griffin, Ryan Cook, and Tarvaris Jackson) started in a 24 point win. Two of their 2007 selections (Sidney Rice and Marcus McCauley) played significantly and had an impact. The Vikings are putting a young nucleus together, and I think they're moving in the right direction.

Tarvaris Jackson

The most surprising claim I can make about the Vikings' 2007 season is this: Tarvaris Jackson's early season injuries have had a major negative impact on this team.

Tarvaris Jackson has missed four games. That sets the education process for a developing young quarterback back. That also set the evaluation process back for a franchise that needs to know if Jackson is the Revolution we hope him to be.

But the Vikings lost all four of those games. With Tarvaris Jackson as starter, the Vikings are an absurd 5-2.

Of course that's not all, or even mostly, about Tarvaris Jackson. In two of those wins Adrian Peterson had 300 all-purpose yards. In today's win, the defense had four interceptions and three touchdowns. But in hindsight, we can now see that of all the quarterbacks currently on the Viking roster, Tarvaris Jackson gives the team it's best chance to win.

Early in the season, Jackson's accuracy was a serious issue. Today he followed up a 17-22 game with a 10-12 game. Early in the season, injuries and decision making seemed to limit Jackson's running ability. Today he ran 5 times for 38 yards.

I have to say what I said last week: Viking fans should be slightly terrified about Tarvaris Jackson's improving performance. If he sucks, the Vikings know they need to get a starting quarterback this offseason. If Tarvaris succeeds, the Vikings can believe he's the answer at quarterback, and then the offseason becomes a little more doubtful (though if Tarvaris is the starter in 2008, this team MUST acquire a quality backup).

We were really, really wrong
After some fans (including me) suggested that the Vikings were quitting on Brad Childress during and after the 34-0 loss at Lambeau (in two games at Lambeau, Brad Childress' Vikings have zero offensive points. This about it), the Vikings have won two straight games, and the defense is playing hard, aggressive, and proud.

Enjoying today
The Vikings won two games in a row for the first time this season. They won their second road game of the season. They had three defensive touchdowns. Let's feel good.

Looking ahead
Next week, the 5-6 Vikings host the 6-5 Lions at Thunderdome. Adrian Peterson may return. Every game remaining on the Vikings' schedule is winnable--or loseable. But it should be fun.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Quick stuff on a vacation weekend.

P-F-R blog notes the historic greatness of the 2007 rushing differential--they're dominant rushing the ball and dominant stopping the run. But of course they're still mediocre.

Antoine Winfield is doubtful for Sunday's game (Viking Update). From what I've seen of the Giants this season, they have some big running backs, and they like to run plays that take those running backs off tackle. Winfield is a great tackler and would help on a lot of those plays; without him, the Vikes could actually get exploited against the run tomorrow.

The Star Tribune talks about Kevin Williams and Pat Williams.

Adrian Peterson is listed as doubtful, but according to the Pioneer Press, probably won't play Sunday. And that's the best move: if his recovery is really moving along this quickly, let him rest another week, and he could be much closer to full capacity next week.

The Ragnarok previews the Giants game.

The 4-6 Vikings are playing on the road against the 7-3 Giants. It goes without saying (and yet I'm saying it anyway) that if the Vikings win, it will be an upset. Of course it is possible, but a lot of things would have to go just the Vikings' way for Minnesota to win (including committing zero turnovers and forcing turnovers at key times).

Enjoy the game everybody.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Let us abandon all hope in the Timberwolves

After falling to 1-8 (actually, well before that), it is clear the 2007-08 Timberwolves are dreadful. Much more awful than I could have imagined. Worse even than the early 90s teams. Al Jefferson is good, but he's just "20-10 on an atrocious team" good.

This team is headed for the fourth pick in the 2008 draft. Oh, they'll have the worst record in the league, but as the Timberwolves have always had horrible lottery luck, that worst record is going to net them with the fourth pick.

And I would like to just cast my hopes to the future: the Timberwolves could hit on a superstar in the 2008 draft.

Of course, then I have to remember that the Timberwolves hit on a superstar in the 1995 draft. They had him for 12 seasons (during which he dominated), surrounded him with nothing, and won two playoff series during his entire 12 year tenure.

So why should the hopes that they hit on a superstar in the next draft really count as hopes?

I wanted to believe, but goodness, there's not even a hope for a future hope here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

No, Peyton Manning is still the best quarterback ever

Tom Brady is in the middle of the greatest season any quarterback has ever had, and this is not even disputable. He has completed 74% of his passes (off the top of my head, I can think of only three QBs who ever completed 70% in a season: Ken Anderson, Steve Young, and Sammy Baugh). Brady is averaging 305.9 passing yards per game--short of pace for Dan Marino's record 5,084, but still a stunning number. And he has an absolutely Super Tecmo Bowl like TD to INT ratio of 38 to 4. He'll likely shatter Peyton Manning's TD record of 49, and he might do it with 6 or 7 interceptions.

Combined with Peyton Manning's relative "struggles" this season, Brady's season may lead some, like Bill Simmons, to assume "the 'Brady vs. Manning' argument was settled over these past 11 weeks" (which Simmons throws in flippantly rather than seriously, I'm sure part of his continuing effort to annoy people outside of Boston).

But while all credit is due to Tom Brady for the greatest QB season ever, guess what?

Peyton Manning is better.

Let's set aside subjective discussion involving the impact of teammates on Mannings' and Brady's performances. Let's also set aside team success (since both have had it, though Brady much moreso in the playoffs). Let's just look at stats. Brady may be having a greater individual season than anybody has ever had, but Manning has slapped together multiple individual seasons that put just about every other quarterback to shame.

For his career, Manning still edges Brady in completion percentage (63.9% to 63.1%) and yards per attempt (7.7 to 7.1) And while Brady is having a better single season than Manning has ever had (though his 9.1 yards per attempt are still just behind Manning's 9.2 in 2004), it's absurd to claim that one spectacular season somehow negates the numerous superior seasons Manning has had.

Before this season, Brady's best single-season completion percentage was 63.9% in 2001. Manning topped that (significantly) five times, in 2002 (66.3), 2003 (67.0), 2004 (67.6), 2005 (67.3), and 2006 (65.0). Brady's 2007 season may blow Manning's best out of the water, but Manning has put together many more spectacular seasons than Brady has.

Tom Brady is likely to break Manning's TD record, but before this season, Brady's career high for TD passes was 28. Manning topped that four times.

Before this season, the most yards in a season Brady ever had was 4,110 in 2005. Manning topped that seven times.

Statistically, Tom Brady's 2007 season is going to go down as the absolute best ever. But do you really think one spectacular season makes one QB better than another QB? Look at the career Manning has had. More than a single season, and more than cumulative numbers, I respect players that are able to put together several outstanding seasons (which is why Brett Favre's eight seasons with 30+ TD passes is more impressive to me than his 433 total TD passes). Manning has never had fewer than 26 TD passes in a season. He's having his ninth season with 62% passing, and he's had five seasons with 65% passing. He's thrown over 4,100 yards seven times. Manning has compiled a long string of spectacular statistical seasons.

I think we're lucky: I believe Manning and Brady are among the five to ten best quarterbacks ever to play the game, and we get to watch them compete against each other. But while Brady is probably a top-five quarterback of all-time, Manning is a top-one quarterback of all-time.

Monday, November 19, 2007

On the couch, week 11 (the Patriots)

At this point, Bill Simmons is deliberately trying to irritate every non-Boston sports fan, right? It has to be on purpose, right? That's the only explanation.

Consider this passage from Simmons on the possibility that the Colts could miss the AFC Championship Game:

"The Patriots fan in me is furious because a 19-0 season wouldn't feel quite the same if they didn't beat the Colts twice.

" You know what it's like, actually? When the '86 Celtics were slapping together the greatest NBA season ever, they avenged the '85 Finals in two regular-season wins over the Lakers, rolled through the East in the playoffs and were poised to destroy Showtime as we knew it. So what happened? The Lakers never showed up! They got smoked in the West finals by an underrated Houston team. To this day, every Celtics fan feels cheated by the fact we didn't get the Lakers."

Dear Mr. Simmons,

We're sorry that the last time your favorite basketball team won a championship, they didn't get to beat the Lakers to make the experience even more special for you. That must have been tough. We'll also be sorry if your favorite football team doesn't get to beat the Colts in the playoffs this season to make a fourth Super Bowl and an undefeated season even more special for you. I know that will be difficult.

Fans of teams that have never won a championship.

Randy Moss
Randy Moss is quite possibly my favorite athlete of all-time. When he was a Viking, I dreamed that Moss could break Jerry Rice's single-season touchdown reception record of 22. I had such joy watching his spectacular catches: I used to tape the games so that I could come back, again and again and again, to see the mind-boggling receptions. Little gave me more joy in life than a Randy Moss touchdown.

Now Randy Moss has 16 TD receptions in 11 games, threatening Jerry Rice's record. Now Moss is rejuvenated, making spectacular catches every game, continually topping himself.

But I can't enjoy it at all. I can barely watch the games he plays in (and I often choose not to). That Moss's spectacular play is helping Tom Brady, the Patriots, and the spoiled fans of Boston sports teams, just galls me. It's made this NFL season really difficult to follow. Randy Moss's brilliance for the Patriots is even harder for me to take than Brett Favre's brilliance for the 9-1 Packers. I basically want to follow the Vikings and ignore the rest of the league. I could be enjoying watching the brilliant offense that is the Randy Moss-Tom Brady Patriots. They are ruthlessly good. But I can't. I get no pleasure from it at all. The Patriots are the best team ever. They're 10-0 and have outscored their opponents 411-157. And it just makes me sad.

King Lear
King Lear questions the existence of divine justice. Some characters assert that there are gods in the heavens that punish the wicked and reward the good. Other characters suggest moral character and earthly reward are unrelated, and the events of the play suggest an amoral, indifferent, or perhaps even malevolent universe.

Though King Lear cannot offer us comfort, it can offer us a context in understanding sports. Sports fan pleasure is distributed unequally: fans of some teams get a lot of pleasure, while fans of other teams get very little pleasure. This unequal distribution is not tied to morality, for what, in essence, is the difference between a 49er fan, a Viking fan, a Patriot fan, a Browns fan, an Eagle fan, a Bills fan? Fans of a team don't do anything to deserve pleasure or misery. It just happens, with no sense of fairness or reason, no punishment or reward. Patriot fans currently get a lot of pleasure, while fans of all sorts of other teams get a lot of disappointment. There's no moral reason. There's no fault. Nothing is deserved. It just happens. Patriot fans don't deserve all sorts of pleasure, in the same way Bills fans don't deserve all sorts of misery.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Trailing Clouds of Heaven: Vikings 29, Raiders 22

Vikings-Raiders Box Score at

Chester Taylor
This week, after Adrian Peterson's injury status was revealed, I traded Cedric Benson, Kenny Watson, Larry Johnson, and Steve Smith for Chester Taylor in the Hazelweird Fantasy League. 202 yards from scrimmage and 3 TDs later, I'm pretty pleased.

Taylor had a very good day today, aided by very good run blocking and horrible run defense. So often, Taylor was getting through big holes and running around out in space picking up extra yards. We have been spoiled by Adrian Peterson's speed, but Chester Taylor had several longish runs on Sunday that were beautiful to watch.

Tarvaris Jackson
There is no question that Tarvaris Jackson played his best game as a pro. He made one horrible pass that was intercepted in the end zone. But on the day, Jackson was incredibly accurate. I don't know how well it shows up on the TV screen, but when you watch the Viking WRs live, it's incredible how little separation they get from defensive backs. When Jackson was throwing outside passes to the WRs, he had to put them on a very precise spot, because defenders were right behind the WRs. Repeatedly, Jackson hit those WRs for short (but productive) completions. He also moved around well, throwing to (wide open) WRs while rolling to his left. A 17-22 performance from Jackson is worth smiling about. It makes me wonder if Jackson's various injuries earlier this season were really affecting his accuracy.

While I want Jackson to play well, his good performance should slightly terrify Viking fans. If Jackson struggles, the team knows it needs to go in a different direction at quarterback. No question. Simple. If Jackson starts playing well, making good decisions and completing accurate passes, then the team has to wonder whether Jackson really is the quarterback for this team.

I'm not ready to gush over one very solid performance in the midst of Jackson's struggles throughout the season. But Jackson's performance as the season goes on is worth monitoring. He's mobile and strong-armed. If he starts throwing accurate passes consistently, and he starts making good decisions consistently, the Vikings have a tougher decision to make in the offseason.

Pat Williams and Kevin Williams
Do you reach a point where you take the brilliance of PW and KW for granted? They just repeatedly make impressive plays.

Daunte Culpepper
We saw everything from Culpepper today. We saw the mobility and the accuracy. We also saw the tendency to hold the ball too long and take losses. I miss Daunte...but I sort of don't.

Red Zone Playcalling
Early in the game, I feared I was watching a repeat of the Kansas City game, when the Vikings played superb offensively early in the game, but just missed out on a lot of points, and then let the opponent come back. The Vikings should have had a multi-touchdown lead early in the first half. Turnovers were obviously one problem, but red zone decision making was responsible, too. Up 7-0, the Vikings had first and goal at the three yard line. They had run successfully with Chester Taylor, and they had the inexperienced/erratic Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback. My plan would be to plow Taylor forward three times. The Vikings called a pass play, and Jackson threw a horrible interception (luckily the Raider tried to run out of the end zone, which helped set up a subsequent safety). 1st and goal at the 3 may be, as Jeff Dubay and Mike Morris said after the game, a good passing down, and the turnover entirely on Jackson. But the Viking playcallers know they have an inexperienced/erratic QB, and should have played it safe with runs.

A few series later, the Vikes again got the ball into the red zone. This time they did run three straight times--with Naufahu Tahi. Tahi is the team's fourth-string tailback. If Chester Taylor needed a break, they had Mewelde Moore. In the red zone, why would a poor offensive team use a needed scoring opportunity to run a fourth-string tailback three straight plays?

These decisions frustrated me.

When you look at a box score, and you see one WR in the passing category (2/2 for 94 yards) and another WR in the running category (1 rush for 26 yards), you know you're seeing some shifty plays. The first play of the game (a reverse WR pass to the TE that went for 79 yards) really woke the crowd up (and I presume woke the Raider defense up). Those gadget plays are always fun.

Vikings win
I don't care if the team is just 4-6. I love when the Vikings win. The W makes me happy. Listening to "Skol Vikings Skol" at Thunderdome makes me happy. Watching other smiling Viking fans makes me happy. I'm happy.

Sidney Rice: He gives Vikings' Fans HOPE

When a WR can complete a 79 yard pass it is amazing. He threw a long bomb. It wasn't completely perfect since Shiancoe had to slow down and adjust to it, but man that was fun.

It is official. Sidney Rice has the 2nd best arm on the team. I think Tarvaris has the best arm in terms of distance, but Sidney isn't far behind him and he is better than Bollinger and Holcomb in terms of distance.

Man this game started out fun. We will see what happens the rest of the game.

Saturday Night Blizzard

I'm really looking forward to going to the Viking-Raider game. It should still be a lot of fun, know, everything. Really, Daunte Culpepper is in town! And it is still a Viking game. They may be 3-6, but they're the Purple, and I love them.


I've speculated the fear that the Viking players are quitting on Brad Childress. Kevin Seifert assures us that "in interviews with a cross section of players last week, as well as off-the-record discussions with others, there were no strong indications of a mutiny or even a lack of interest in playing out the season." Let me point out again that reporters like Seifert are the reason newspapers still matter to sports coverage: while a good blogger can do what most columnists do (and often more), reporters like Seifert are still able to provide relevant insights and inside information.

Don Seeholzer writes that Andrew Walter is going to be Oakland's #2 QB Sunday. So there's a chance that Tarvaris Jackson and Andrew Walter could duel each other in a fest of suckitude. Hmm.

At Jason's DeBlog, scroll down to "We Did It! We're The Best! WCCO to The Rescue!" to read about WCCO and Miller buying up 2,000 tickets for Sunday's game. When the PA guy tells us to cheer for ourselves because this is the 100+th sellout, I think I will literally boo.

It repenteth me
In September, I brought my grammar snobbery to this blog in a post about using "their" as a singular pronoun.

I'm currently reading Guy Deutscher's The Unfolding of Language, which is about how and why languages change over time. I realize while reading, of course, how silly (read "reactionary") it would be to insist to my deathbed that "their" cannot be used as a singular genderless pronoun. Language evolves, and the evolution is usually pretty fun. I'll still teach my students to use the current grammar rules, because that's (a very small part of) my job. But I'll recognize the fluid and flexible nature of language, and even if it hurts my eyes, I will lighten up.

Funny, in a tragic sort of way
From the Onion: "U.S. Military Wasting All Its Victories On Notre Dame"

Friday, November 16, 2007

National Friday League, week eleven

What right do I have to be confident the Vikings will win this game? None, but I am. The Vikings are playing at home against a 2-7 team with a bad offense. The Raiders certainly don't have the strength in the passing game to play to the weaknesses in the Viking pass defense. The Vikes can't really pass, but Chester Taylor is a competent runner. And the game is at home.

This should be a Viking win.

However, we must also remember that the Vikings are a 3-6 team with bad offense, so the game should be close and could go either way. And there's also the distinct possibility that many of the players are in the process of quitting on Brad Childress.

This Raider game will probably reveal to us the nature of the rest of the season. If the defensive players continue to play hard all season (and proud players like E.J. Henderson, Kevin Williams, Pat Williams, and Antoine Winfield should), the Vikings can still have close games all season long. If the Vikings come out flat defensively (they're going to come out flat offensively because they are flat offensively), it's probably a sign that the team doesn't care too much anymore, and things will disintegrate for the rest of the season.

I'm still excited to go to the game. Chester Taylor is still a good running back. The defense often makes exciting plays, especially against a weak offense. Daunte Culpepper is leading the opponent. The Metrodome atmosphere is still fun. Sunday should be a fun day.

Daunte Culpepper
Daunte returns to Thunderdome. In August 2005, Daunte Culpepper was coming off one of the all-time great seasons, the team had been built and focused around him, and Culpepper appeared ready to lead the Vikings to another level of glory (some national writers, such as Peter King, picked them to go to the Super Bowl). It all fell apart just so quickly. Daunte had some bad games early in the season (it wasn't all his fault--the protection was awful). Then the Minnetonka boat incident happened. Then Daunte got hurt. Then he bickered with the team via emails to the media. Then he was traded. And now he's on his third team in three seasons.

How did this happen? How did such hopefulness turn to such hopelessness, for Culpepper and for the Vikings, so quickly? When I look down at #8 for the Raiders, am I really seeing DAUNTE FREAKING CULPEPPER? I just don't feel the same emotional commitment. I wish him the best. Maybe after Childress is fired, the new coach of the Vikings will try to woo Culpepper back to Minnesota. That would be nice. I sort of miss him.

"As flies to wanton boys, are we to th' gods, They kill us for their sport."
I'm teaching King Lear right now, and something about the crazy old man out on the heath yelling up at the storm resonates with me. I envision the world of King Lear as a vast wasteland, open and empty space devoid of divine justice, where Nature hurls its terrors down upon weak and vulnerable humans. Today I read Lear's rail to the storm (and the cosmos) to my class:

"Rumble, thy bellyful. Spit, fire. Spout, rain!
Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire are my daughters.
I tax not you, you elements, with unkindness.
I never gave you kingdom, called you children,
You owe me no subscription. Then let fall
Your horrible pleasure."

Somehow, that world of Lear is akin to my view of Minnesota in January and February. Hard snow, freezing cold, dirt and breath everywhere, as a vulnerable people hide from the terrorizing elements of Nature. Indeed, when I think about attending Timberwolves games, my impression is zero degree weather, seeing my breath as I walk through the dirt and ice encrusted sidewalks into the Target Center.

Readers of this blog will not be surprised to find the desolate landscape and worlview of King Lear touching on my feelings as a Viking fan. Eventually I'll reach self-parody, as every possible work of literature just reminds me of the Vikings--hell, maybe I'm already there. But literature is how I make sense of my life. And King Lear speaks to me. Rooting for the Vikings is like giving everything to your ungrateful daughters, then having all your pleasures taken away and getting locked out in a storm, where the elements pound on you, your Fool mocks you, and your company for conversation is Tom o' Bedlam. OK, we've already reached self-parody stage. Such is life--I even hate myself.

Grant's Tomb previews Sunday's game. is in the process of undergoing some big changes, and you can read about those changes at the blog. My favorite feature at the moment is the AAFC data (look at Otto Graham!), but there is just an immense amount of new information, including more roster information, older team information, and more detailed statistics. Though there's always an adjustment period when a beloved website makes changes in the format, P-F-R is the best football database there is, and now it's adding even more data. That's really good news.

Cid Zeigler, Jr. of Outsports thinks that Phil Jackson's "Brokeback Mountain" joke was a good thing.

The Timberwolves website had an interesting contest involving T-Wolves bloggers (via TWolvesBlog). Nice idea all around.

Footballguys compares Randy Moss and Jerry Rice.

Dave Zirin suggests municipalization for the Seattle Supersonics. It's a beautiful dream that will never be allowed to happen. I shouldn't say never: if people like Zirin can try push the idea, perhaps someday there will be a better way to run pro sports than letting teams that are owned by billionaires play in stadiums funded by state and city tax dollars. If we can suggest that owners pay for their own stadiums, we can also suggest that cities and states paying for stadiums have some ownership over the teams. It's not such an outlandish idea: when Zygi Wilf asks the state of Minnesota to help pay for a new Viking stadium, the state could demand a certain percentage of ownership over the franchise in return.

I don't follow baseball (though I'm going to start following the Twins--more on this later), so most of what I know about Barry Bonds I've got in bits and pieces from various sports blogs I read. But Will Leitch and Dave Zirin have compelling takes on the new indictment.

Enjoy the weekend everybody. Except Packer fans.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Timberwolves win.

It really happened. Look at the ESPN box score. The number next to "Timberwolves" is bigger than the number next to "Kings."

Dang, Rashad McCants, where have you been all my life? And by all my life, I mean "the last two years"?

Wednesday Blizzard

Chester Taylor is still a pretty good running back. And the Raiders don't have much of a passing game (look at their passing stat rankings: 31st, 29th, 29th, 25th, 24th, 30th). At home, this is the sort of game the Vikings should win. I'm still excited to go to the game. Of course if the players have already quit on Brad Childress, it could be another ugly bit of Autumn afternoon.

Jim Souhan: still not a good columnist
Jim Souhan has written a lot of columns criticizing Brad Childress and the Vikings, and I've written a lot of posts criticizing some of these columns. Now that I've come around to giving up on Childress, I just want to make it clear that I still don't think Souhan is a good columnist.

It is not the fact that Souhan has criticized Childress and the Vikes, but the manner in which he does it. Childress has done much that is worthy of criticism, and any professional sports team, especially one that has struggled as the Vikings have in the past two seasons, is open to criticism. But my critque of Souhan has always been that his criticisms lack any real insight. He works at the major newspaper in this market, he presumably has significant contacts, and he has access to information and direct observation. And yet, most of his criticisms have been pretty uninsightful screeds designed more to inject as many unfunny jokes as possible into a column than actually illuminate anything (my critique in posts like this, this, and this--despite his position covering sports at a major newspaper, Souhan does nothing more than--and often less than--bloggers do with no inside access) . That Souhan was right to criticize Childress and the Vikings doesn't change the fact that his actual criticisms were devoid of analysis.

Kelly Holcomb and Brooks Bollinger are combined 0-4 as starters for the Vikings. Tarvaris Jackson is 3-2. So there. He's the quarterback for this team (of course, in one of Tarvaris' wins, the Viking defense outscored the opponent 14-3, and in the other two Adrian Peterson had 300 total yards--and in one of those Tarvaris didn't even play in the dominant second half anyway. And of course Tarvaris' lack of durability is its own problem. And of course all statistics and observation suggests Tarvaris sucks).

Interesting article at Outsports about a gay triathlon coach at West Point.

Dr. Z praises Peyton Manning, and this column (beginning as it does with a story about messing with ants, and with it's "Man can be destroyed but not defeated" sort of theme) reminds me of Ernest Hemingway.

Adrian Peterson's jersey from the 296 yard game is going to the Hall of Fame (Access Vikings). Once again, no matter what else happens, we'll always have that.

Judd Zulgad writes about the Vikings' horrible third down conversion rate.

The Ragnarok responds to Sunday's "debacle," and like everybody else he's convinced Brad Childress hasn't worked and won't work.

I'll have what he's having

UCLA Basketball's account of the Bruins' most recent win includes mention that 97 year old John Wooden attended the game.

So let's be clear here: John Wooden is 97 freaking years old. And a 97 freaking years old man healthy enough to be attending basketball games.

That's enough to inspire us all to go out and buy all of Wooden's books. How does he live? What does he eat? What exercises does he do? Who or what does he pray to? What does he do with his spare time? How much sleep does he get every day? What sorts of things does he read? What sorts of people does he hang around with?

Basically, what has he done in his day-to-day life for the past 97 years to be at this point?

These are things we need to know. In 70 years, I would like to be attending a UCLA basketball game. Of course, it will probably be really hot. But wouldn't that be nice? Isn't that what we're all striving for? Don't we want to be 97 year old people healthy enough to attend basketball games? I mean, it's 12:30 in the morning, and I just got done eating a slice of beer bread and slamming a bottle of Diet Mountain Dew. I'm guessing that's not the key to 97 year old health. Perhaps we should all be deferring to John Wooden for life advice.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Minnesota Sports: the Wasteland

At Epic Carnival, wwtb? describes the widespread depression that just about all Minnesota sports teams are driving us into.

I know next to nothing about hockey. I know there's a goalie, a penalty box, sticks, skates, and pucks. I know that you want to try get the puck into your opponents' net, and if you do that more than they do it to you, you win. I know there are a lot of substitutions. I know there is checking. I know there are goals, saves, assists, and +/-.

That's enough, I think. I'm going to start rooting for the Wild. I'm completely serious. Why not? I'm in Minnesota, lots of people love hockey here. They might win something. wwtb? has convinced me. I'm going to do it. Minnesota Wild, here we go.

"Who's There?" "Despair." "Come in my friend, I know you well."

According to Access Vikings, Adrian Peterson will miss this Sunday's game against Oakland with a "partial tear of his lateral collateral ligament."

The same article notes the Vikes still have 3,500 tickets to sell, which might be tough without Peterson. So if you live within a few hundred miles of the Twin Cities, unless you're buying tickets, you're probably not seeing Tarvaris Jackson handing off to Chester Taylor. That's probably for the best.

I already have my season tickets, and it feels worth the $10 parking fee to drive into Minneapolis and watch the game. Eh.

(the title of this post is from a brilliant The Kids in the Hall sketch involving a couple of vaudevillians. The thing about TV shows you like--they don't really have games they can win or lose. They just are. Of course, they can get cancelled).

On the Couch, Week Ten

My initial despair over the Vikings is below; "On the Couch" is a chance to explore other NFL games and stories, while also reviving the misery of the Vikings.

Week Ten Scores

Peyton Manning tells me to buy bigger shirts.
I laughed out loud at the new Peyton Manning advice commercial, where he tells us that we can't have a good stomach, and if he were us, he'd buy bigger shirts. His delivery on the final line is as perfect as his delivery of the football into Reggie Wayne's waiting hands (this deliberately hokey sentence is my submission to the Stupid Blog Sentence of the Year awards). But seriously, it's a great commercial, and Manning is hilarious in it.

Strategy at the end of Colts-Chargers
If you're in a tie game, and you get the ball into field goal range with three minutes left, it's not bad strategy to try run time off the clock and kick the field goal at the end. Even if you miss the field goal, it's still a tie game, and you're diminishing your opponents' chance to score.

If you're a bad offensive team, down by two points, and you get the ball into field goal range with three minutes left, it's not bad strategy to try run time off the clock and kick the field goal at the end. If you're a bad offensive team, that field goal try is probably your best chance to win, and you want to give yourself your best chance.

But if you're a good offensive team, down by two points, and you get the ball into field goal range with three minutes left, you should try to score a touchdown. Your offense is good, and you should rely on it. Even if you've had turnovers earlier in the game, you have to trust your good offense more than a field goal attempt, when anything can happen (especially in wet conditions). And maybe when the Colts were running Joseph Addai up the middle three straight plays, they were trying to drive for a touchdown (after all, Addai was only inches short of picking up a first down). But it sure looked like they were playing it safe, running time-killing plays up the middle, avoiding trying to pass the ball into the endzone for a final score.

I trust Peyton Manning throwing for a game-winning TD in the rain more than I trust any kicker making a field goal in the rain.

Minnesota has turned my soul cold.
Later this week, What was that bang? will be writing about the across the board miseries of the Minnesota sports scene. We were chatting about how many games, combined, the Vikings and Timberwolves would win this season. We both agree that there's no way they get to 30. No chance. There's even a possibility they don't combine for 20.

And embracing this atmosphere of despair is a little bit better than having any hope. Just viewing Minnesota sports fandom as a wasteland in which no teams are really going to get a championship is slightly more comforting than having or hearts ripped out and stomped on over and over again. None of our pro teams have reached a championship round since 1991. There's really no reason to think any of them will by 2091. Ours is a lot of despair. It's OK.

I'm not so stupid.
Whenever Adrian Peterson dominates, my friends and family have taken to mocking me for my desire to see the Vikings draft Brady Quinn at #7 in April.

But I'm not so stupid.

No, I'm thrilled the Vikings drafted Adrian Peterson, and we're going to get to see the next all-time great running back's career unfold in front of us.

But quarterback is the most important position in pro football. And the Viking quarterbacks suck. I wanted the Vikings to draft Quinn because I thought they'd be solidifying the most important position in football for the next 15 years (or at least taking their best shot at doing so).

Adrian Peterson is great, so mock me if you like. But the Vikings have no passing game whatsoever, and I wasn't so stupid to want the Vikings to draft a quarterback.

Donovan McNabb will burn your soul.
Aided by Brian Westbrook, Donovan McNabb had a great fantasy week. Was his early season inconsistency merely the recovery period from last season's injury? Was Sunday's performance, like McNabb's early season performance against Detroit, just another "We'll see" from a distracted mother getting kids to hope "We'll see" means they'll be getting ice cream? What does it all mean?

What a brutal season for Dolphin fans.
One reason I despair so over the Vikings is because they've never won a championship. If they had, even if it was 30 years ago, no matter what they did, I'd tell myself, "Well, at least they won a Super Bowl."

Dolphin fans, watching their horrible team continue to lose, can still do that. They won two (they even whipped the Vikes in one of them). But Dolphin fans have also always been able to fall back on the 17-0 1972 team. No matter what the Dolphins did, they always had the undefeated season that nobody else had.

Now their team is 0-9, with a real possibility of 0-16. And one of their big rivals, the New England Patriots, appears to have a real possibility for 19-0.

If both those things happen, Dolphin fans will have to mark 2007 as their darkest time as fans.

Fantasy Football
A week ago, I would have looked at tonight's Seahawks-49ers Monday night matchup and barely cared. I don't ever want to see a .500 team or under win a division, so I suppose I'd be rooting for Seattle. But really, would anything really make me care one way or another who won or which players did what?

And then last week I traded for Matt Hasslebeck and Frank Gore in the Hazelweird Fantasy Football League. Now I'm super excited and super anxious for tonight's game.

That's what fantasy football can do--make you care about things you don't care about.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Staying on the Ledge: Packers 34, Vikings 0

Today's EMBARRASSING loss marks the beginning of the end for Brad Childress. Actually, this entire week marks the end. After a spectacular home win last week, the Vikings should have been all good feelings. But then Troy Williamson was treated callously by the Vikings after his grandmother died. And now the team has been utterly destroyed by the Packers. And Adrian Peterson got injured and did not finish the game.

I think the Viking players are this close to quitting on Brad Childress, and the rest of the season will be a complete and total bust.

Today's EMBARRASSING loss is a microcosm of everything that has gone badly for the Vikings during the entirely Childress era. Lack of talent at the quarterback and wide receiver positions left the Viking offense impotent. The Vikings could not mount any reasonable pass rush, and could not cover opposing wide receivers, and thus got destroyed by the opposing team's passing game. The Vikings even had some of the bad luck that has characterized this era, as (with the game already out of hand) Brett Favre threw a pass so bad that two Viking defenders should have intercepted it, but they ran into each other and the ball bounced into a Packer receiver's hands.

A shutout. 34-0. A horrible defensive performance. A horrible offensive performance. Adrian Peterson injured.

Among Viking bloggers, I've been one of the strongest supporters of Brad Childress. It's not that I've been thrilled with anything he's done. I've just blamed poor passing game personnel for the Vikings' struggles, and believed we needed more patience to see what Childress could build. But now we've seen 25 games. Now I'm convinced. This isn't going to work.

And the remaining seven games of the season could get worse. As Edgar says in King Lear,

"And worse I may be yet: the worst is not
So long as we can say, 'This is the worst.'"

If, as it appears, the team no longer plays hard for Brad Childress, he cannot return as head coach next season. I think this is it. I think the Brad Childress era is coming to an ugly close.

Be healthy, Adrian Peterson.

Brad Childress Sucks.

The Vikings are on their way to losing their fourth consecutive game to the Packers. That's two straight seasons of sweeps. Two teams that always play each other close, and Brad Childress is on his way to leading the Vikings to four straight defeats to their biggest rival.

Brooks Bollinger sucks. Kelly Holcomb sucks. Tarvaris Jackson sucks. These are all QBs that joined the Vikings since Childress became head coach.

So here we are, down 20-0 in the 3rd quarter with no passing game whatsoever. Assuming the rest of the game goes as this has (and since we have no passing game, why wouldn't it?), Brad Childress has never beaten the team's biggest rival. In four tries. Two straight years of sweeps.

In college, that's enough to get a coach fired.

Friday, November 09, 2007

National Friday League, week ten

Both teams are good defensively and one-dimensional offensively. Both teams have been in a lot of close games this season. However, because in professional football the passing game is more important than the running game, the Packers have been able to win most of their close games, while the Vikings have lost most of theirs. In a close game, Brett Favre and all those young talented receivers can mount a winning drive. In a close game, the Vikings don't have the passing game to mount a necessary fourth quarter drive.

As I pointed out yesterday, the Vikes have won 3 of their last 5 games at Lambeau Field, and the two losses were by a combined 5 points. It appears to me that there's going to be another close game--which means Brett Favre might have a chance to lead a late game-winning drive, while Brooks Bollinger will have to hope Adrian Peterson or Chester Taylor can break out big plays.

If the Vikings win this game, they move to 4-5 with a favorable schedule ahead, and we should be optimistic they can get to 9 wins. If they lose, they'll be 3-6, and many will give up on them (though they shouldn't--they still have a favorable schedule, and as long as the team doesn't give up on the season, they can win any game remaining).

Troy Williamson
Williamson missed some time for a funeral: the Vikings docked his pay, and Williamson wished he could have more time off.

I'll set aside the ethical question of the situation (though what the Vikings did certainly appears distasteful) to look at the pragmatic consequences. Brad Childress better have a good feel for how the other players on the team feel about Williamson and the situation. If Williamson is well-liked and the players on the team symphathize with his actions (and resent the team's treatment of him), this could be the sort of thing that gets the team to turn on Childress and Viking management. It appears to me the team has always played hard for Childress (with the possible exception of last season's week 17 game). Hopefully the Vikings have a good feel for how players on the team will react to the Williamson situation, or this could spiral badly out of control.

Rivalry Week
Looking at the week 10 matchups, we can see that 10 of 14 games feature divisional matchups. It's the second half of the season, and we're ready for the playoff run.

The Fantasy Championship Run
Now's the time to finish up building your fantasy football squad for the second half of the season. Members of the Hazelweird League were trading fast and furious this week, gearing up for a title run over the last eight weeks.

Take that, Boston
Sure, Boston fans might be reveling in the joy the Red Sox, Patriots, and Celtics are giving them. But if Bostonians want to go to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, they have to pay. The Twins, Vikings, and Timberwolves may perpetually disappoint us, but we can to go the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts for free. So there. Think about it. Yeah.

Have a good weekend everybody. Except Packer fans.

wwtb?'s latest fantasy flukism (when a RB is awful but scores short TDs and thus has a good fantasy week) is up at Epic Carnival.

Addendum 2
Cold, Hard Football Facts compares Adrian Peterson and Eric Dickerson.

Addendum 3
My favorite chapter in any novel is in The Brothers Karamozov, when Ivan has a conversation with the devil, who tears Ivan's "everything is permitted" ideology to shreds. Ivan is a philosophical nihilist who believes there is no morality. The devil points out that Ivan's nihilism actually reveals a desire for transcendent meaning--if "everything is permitted," why doesn't Ivan just do whatever he wants? Why does he have to create an elaborate philosophical justification for it? Why does he have to develop a philosophy to imbue doing whatever you want with meaning? Ivan, the devil reveals, has a real desire for spiritual meaning not merely hiding within his nihilism, but revealed by his nihilism.

And Bill Simmons continues to write columns not merely justifying anything the Patriots do, but anything Patriot fans do, say, or feel about it, claiming they are saying "F--- you!" to everybody else. As I stumble through these barely readable screeds, I sort of wish Ivan's devil would have a conversation with him. If you're going to say "F--- you!" to the entire league, shouldn't you just do it? If you write column after column explaining and justifying that you are saying "F--- you!" to the entire league, aren't you sort of admitting you realize something is amiss? To borrow one of the most famous lines in literature's history: "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Thursday Blizzard

Vikings in the second half of the season
I'm convinced we can't give up on the 2007 Vikings until they lose their 8th game. Just look at the remaining schedule:

AT Green Bay. The Vikes' last five games at Lambeau Field: 5 point win, 3 point loss, 14 point win, 3 point win, 2 point loss. This game could go either way.

Oakland. The Vikings are better than the Raiders and should win.

AT New York (Giants). This is the toughest game remaining on the Vikings schedule. The Giants should win, but then they aren't so dominant that they can't lose, either.

Detroit. The Vikes lost to the Lions in overtime at Detroit; they can compete with the Lions at home.

AT San Francisco. The 49ers are bad. Last season the Vikes lost 9-3 at San Francisco. This time around, I pick the Vikes to dominate.

Chicago. The Vikes beat the Bears at Chicago, and should beat them at home.

Washington. Right now Washington looks like an OK football team. Who knows what they'll look like in December? Either way, they don't really play to the Vikings' weaknesses, and this should be a favorable matchup at home.

AT Denver. Denver has been struggling, and they're another favorable matchup for the Vikings.

Right now the Vikings are 3-5. Given their schedule, a 6-2 finish (even with a loss at Green Bay) is conceivable. I doubt it will happen (with this weak passing attack, they'll likely lose some close games they could win), but they're going to be competitive.

Adrian Peterson is Dr. Z's all-pro RB for the first half of the season. Hopefully before the season ends he gets a good look at Kevin Williams, Pat Williams, and E.J. Henderson, who are other possibilities.

Dr. Z also continues to write candidly about Hall of Fame voting. Among other things, he writes, "Cris Carter's numbers are overpowering. I don't see how they can keep him out."

Sports Illustrated ranks the Metrodome 31st for NFL stadium fan experience. The low-quality experience of the Metrodome is a big reason the Vikings struggle to sell out games. No matter how bad the Packers are, going to Lambeau is an experience in itself. The Metrodome really has no appeal in and of itself; the only value is what occurs on the field. However, in a reasonable society, all stadiums would either be privately financed by billionaire owners, or would be similar to the Metrodome: cheap multipurpose buildings to service a community. Instead, cities and states have to subsidize massive stadiums; that's just the reality of the situation. (by the way, I think we've moved to the point where plural is "stadiums," not "stadia").

The Vikes still lead the league in big play differential (Cold, Hard Football Facts).

Matthew Yglesias talks basketball and political science (Free Darko).

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Wednesday Blizzard

The Vikings at the halfway point
When I predicted the Vikings would go 9-7, I thought they would be 4-4 at the halfway point. The Vikes have lost three games I thought they'd win (at Detroit, at Kansas City, Green Bay--yes, I thought they would start 4-0), and won two games I thought they'd lose (at Chicago, San Diego).

Now that the Vikings are 3-5, however, that doesn't mean I'm simply lowering my prediction to 8-8. My 9-7 prediction was also based on the hope the Vikings would muster an average pro passing attack. They haven't. I also don't know if they will. The Vikes need to finish 6-2 to reach 9 wins and have a shot at the playoffs, and with this passing game, I can't reasonably expect that. Even a 5-3 finish (against a pretty mild schedule) will be difficult.

However, nobody knew how good Adrian Peterson would be either, and nobody could have predicted just how dependent the Viking offense would be on him. In Viking wins, Peterson is averaging 233.7 yards from scrimmage; in Viking losses, he's averaging 106.2 yards from scrimmage. Peterson's dominance also leaves the possibility of opening up and improving the passing game. As Patrick Reusse points out, "the Vikings now have an offensive approach that can work: All Day, All Day, All Day, Chester, play action to All Day and over the top to Rice or Troy Williamson." As defenses focus on stopping Adrian Peterson, the Vikings can get opportunities with play action passes and deep throws to players like Sidney Rice. If they're going to turn the season around, they'll have to.

If I were a gambler, I wouldn't place a bet on a Viking game for the rest of the season. The combination of dominant run defense and horrible pass offense on the same team makes things unpredictable enough. But you really can't predict when Peterson will have another monster game. Such performances could come at any time, and if they come on any particular Sunday, the Vikings have a chance to beat any opponent remaining on their schedule. A team that has put up one offensive touchdowns in six of its games scored 34 and 38 points when Peterson rushed for over 200 yards.

Though it's not probable, the Vikings really could go 6-2 the rest of the way. If Brooks Bollinger plays, and plays as an adequate game manager that can hit the occasional deep pass, it could happen.

On the couch, week nine
When I go to Viking games, it's pretty emotionally draining, and I don't focus too much on the other games I watch. It's a little more difficult to churn out posts about the other games.

And considering two of the biggest stories of this NFL season are stories I don't care to even pay attention to (Green Bay's incredible performances, featuring MVP-looking Brett Favre, and New England's incredible dominance, featuring MVP-looking Tom Brady aided by MVP-looking Randy Moss), it's probably reasonable that I skip this feature occasionally.

The fantasy dream is dead.
Last night I was very happy to trade Donovan McNabb and Laurence Maroney for Matt Hasselbeck and Frank Gore. In the off-season, I perceived McNabb as the most exciting fantasy QB around, but it was not to be, so I trade him for the blandest fantasy football starter there is (you know with Hasselbeck you're getting approximately 3,500 yards and between 24-26 TDs. You just know it, and you let it happen, and it's hard to get excited about, but it's consistent production). I'm also happy to trade Maroney (a RB prone to dancing behind the line of scrimmage for a great team) for Gore (a hard-running RB stuck on a really bad team). I'm now more excited about my team than I've been for several weeks.

The Vikings signed Koy Detmer (SI). This deserves mention, but I'm ashamed for all of you who think this deserves comment.

Sidney Rice is pretty good (Star Tribune). Both of Rice's touchdown catches have been right below my seats (well, not right below--quite far below, actually). If there's any hope for a deep passing attack this season, it rests with Rice.

The Vikings are still risking blackouts, with a very real threat for the Oakland game (Viking Update). Fans around the country are perhaps wondering why people aren't clamoring for the chance to watch Adrian Peterson. I'm sort of wondering it myself.

Why is Craig Smith playing less than 16 minutes in a game ( Box Score)? Of course in his 15:17 he gets 13 points (on 75% shooting) and 6 rebounds. DOUBLE HIS MINUTES.

Matt Ufford writes about Adrian Peterson (Free Darko).

The Nosebleeds continues to heap praise on Peterson (The Nosebleeds NFL Blog).

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Viking-Charger articles

Football Outsiders features the Viking-Charger game in its "Any Given Sunday" feature.

Cold, Hard Football Facts points out how rare it is for a defense to shut down Ladanian Tomlinson AND Antonio Gates in the same game, which the Vikes did on Sunday.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Adrian Peterson Blizzard

On the day after Adrian Peterson lit Thunderdome on fire with a record-setting day, we should take the time to note some of the praise Peterson is getting.

Praise for Adrian Peterson, Vikings

"Give me Peterson over LT" (Andrew Perloff)

"Tomlinson has six runs over 60 yards in his seven-year career. That's less than one a year. Peterson already has three runs of over 60 yards in his rookie season, including a 64-yard touchdown in the Vikings' 35-17 win today. And Peterson took a screen pass 60 yards for a touchdown in Week 1."

"Peterson is a throwback to the running backs of my youth, like Sanders, Earl Campbell, Eric Dickerson, Tony Dorsett and Walter Payton - players who seemed to be capable of ripping off 70-yard touchdowns every game. Guys you couldn't take your eyes off."

"Perfect Day for an Explosion" (Mark Craig)

It takes good fortune to rush for 296 yards; Craig points out some of the things that worked in Adrian Peterson's favor.

Superman? The Vikings have more than one" (Patrick Reusse)

Reusse points out that while Peterson is likely praised for his performance Sunday, E. J. Henderson was a defensive superman, too.

"The rookie started slowly, but oh, what a finish" (Jim Souhan)

"Peterson Adjusts, Accolades Fly" (Tim Yotter)

"Minnesota Vikings set up rookie Adrian Peterson for two long touchdown runs against San Diego Chargers" (Sean Jensen)

Jensen gives some justified attention to the blocking that set up Peterson's great performance.

"Minnesota Vikings get last word: blitz" (Tom Powers)

Powers also gives attention to the Vikings good defensive performance.

"An Unforgettable Game: Adrian Peterson Dominates, Breaks Record" (Viking War Cry)

"Adrian Peterson Makes Grown Men Cry" (The Viking Age)

"There Simply Are No Words" (Daily Norseman)

"Monday Morning Quarterback" (Peter King)

King gets some good quotes from Peterson.

"Audibles at the Line: Week 9" (Football Outsiders)

Scroll down to comments on the Viking-Charger game.

"Vikings 35, Chargers 17: Peterson Leaves Chargers Embarrassed" (JJ Cooper)

"There's No Stopping Purple Jesus" (JJ Cooper)

I hate that nickname, by the way, but here's a good note: "No other running back has more than two 40+yard plus runs this season, Peterson has five."

"Week 9 Observation Deck" (Jeffri Chadiha)

" featured a rookie running back who has become the most exciting player in the league in just nine weeks of action. That isn't hyperbole, either. Adrian Peterson is a man who is playing on an entirely different level than the rest of the runners in the NFL these days."

"Adrian Peterson is pretty much my hero" (Complete Sports)

"Purple Warrior" (The Nosebleeds)

I think a lot of people are getting a new non-favorite-team favorite player.

"And That's Why We Call Him 'All Day'" (Ghosts of Wayne Fontes)

Jim Souhan misfires again
Before the game, Souhan wrote yet another column just to criticize Brad Childress, but this time included VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman in his critique. Souhan says the Vikes need to "bring in a real general manager," and even blames Spielman for the Dolphins' 2007 season. According to his team bio, Spielman left the Dolphins during the 2005 offseason; I would put most of the blame for the Dolphins on Nick Saban and Cam Cameron, not the GM that had nothing to do with the team for the previous two offseasons. Furthermore, Spielman oversaw the Vikings' 2007 draft, which brought them Adrian Peterson in the first round (296 rushing yards Sunday), Sidney Rice in the second round (40 yard TD catch Sunday), Marcus McCauley in the third round (starting CB yesterday as the team shut down the pass), Brian Robison in the fourth round (I don't recall him at all yesterday, but he's been an effective pass rusher this season), and Aundrae Allison in the fifth round (a 62 yard kickoff return yesterday). Yep, Spielman needs to bring in a quarterback for the Vikings. But he's a "real general manager," partly responsible for a (short-term, at least) wildly successful 2007 draft. The rest of the season is necessary to determine whether Childress should return as head coach, but I see no reason Rick Spielman shouldn't return as Vice President of Player Personnel.