Friday, 1 June 2012

6 years and counting....

Trevor Mbakwe has become a familiar name around the state of Minnesota. He will be playing not his first, or third, not even his fifth year as a golden gopher, BUT his sixth year! That’s right six consecutive years playing for the same college basketball organization. All university expenses paid for of course….Trevor grew up in Saint Paul, Minnesota and has not left the area since. Or as some might say a loyal Minnesota kid. Mbakwe is the starting power forward for the Minnesota Golden Gophers men’s basketball team.

Mbakwe’s last season was cut short. A serious injury resulted in Mbakwe playing in only 9 games. He tore his  anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Therefore, the  National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) decided to grant the 6’8 starter with another year of eligibility. Mbakwe has already received an undergraduate degree in parks and recreation (not kidding) and he will no pursue his masters at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Quite an achievement as most players typically receive only an undergraduate degree. That’s if they don’t drop out of school and follow NBA dreams first.

It gives me the opportunity to play another year of college basketball and hopefully contribute to a team that showed it can be dangerous. It also provides me with the opportunity to leave the university with a Master’s degree. That means a ton to me. Not many athletes have that chance to get multiple degrees during their stay, and unfortunately it took an injury for me to have this opportunity, but I am going to take full advantage of it. I am excited to get back on the court with my teammates.
Well Mbakwe’s educational milestones are inspiring questions arise. If the NCCA makes and exception for this injury, are there going to be more players trying to extend their eligibility? Will Mbakwe be fully healed by the time the season starts? Will the gophers actually have a good basketball season? Ok…ok…before I get too off topic. The real questions are why do college athletes seem to get so many chances and free passes? Let’s say someone was on an academic scholarship for a set period of 4 years? Would that person get the same extension? Well I cannot say for sure but it seems unlikely.

Mbakwe is not the first to get athlete to get special treatment and he certainly will not be the last. There have been reports of college athletes receiving cars, houses, and even getting paid under the table. Although I love college sports and do think that these athletes should be rewarded for the all time and energy that they put into training, practicing, travelling and games. It can’t help but bring up the question when is time to say enough is enough? A FREE college education should be enough. Many people spend years paying off student loans. These men and women are given the chance to improve their lives far into the future. Less then 2% of college basketball players actually go pro. However, they are rewarded with something at graduation. A free piece of paper. A college degree.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

No Playoff 'Love' for the Timberpuppies

A breakthrough season. You have got to be kidding me. Encouraging, I suppose but there is no way a 26-40 season should be described as a breakthrough. The theme of this post....shocking is again about another disappointing Minnesota sports team. The Minnesota Timberwolves. The NBA playoffs is an exciting time of surprises, upsets, perseverance,  and great basketball memories. However, Timberwolves' fans are left watching from the sidelines, yet again. We've been stuck there since, ouch, it hurts to even say it, 2005.

Since the glory days when we had Kevin Garnett it's been a struggle to fill the Target Center. Fans aren't going to show up to watch a team lose over and over again. Luckily, there is a new Kevin in town. Kevin Love is the main source of hope for fans. This year he transformed his body loosing weight and getting in shape. Love also managed to become one of the league's leading scores and represent the West in the 2012 All-Star game. The Timberwolves line-up is finally starting to improve with Ricky Rubio, JJ Barea, Michael Beasley, and Anthony Tolliver to back up Love. Now if only the Timberwolves could win a game, which K-Love is confident they can.
Going to work every day with these guys, whether it's the coaching staff or the players out there on the floor, we had a good camaraderie, a good electric group of guys that are ready to take the next step. I know its been a tough year, the battle of attrition that we had guys goingout and gettting hurt. But I figure if we keep putting things together, we know what we're capable of next year and we'll continue to get better.
It's pathetic that fans, players, and coaches are excited about a season that which they finished well below .500! Although the team did improve this year there is still so much work to do. I'm sorry but I just can not get excited about the fact that the Timberwolves were in 8th place in the Western division for a short period of time. One of the major challenges the team faced was finishing a game. There were a handful of games where they lost by 5 points or less. They started out hot but crumbled midseason, vanishing the miniscule playoff hopes that were sneaking into the minds of hopeful fans.

Some of the common sayings among Minnesota sports fans are:

  • "Next year will be better."
  •  "Remember how good they were just a couple years back." 
  • "It doesn't help that (insert name here) was hurt." 
  • "They are just going through a rough patch." 
  • "Well if we could get a decent draft pick then we might have a chance." 
Instead of using excuses, looking ahead to the future, blaming injuries, or reminiscing the past let's figure it out now. Having a decent sports team makes rooting for them so much more fun. Is it too much to ask that one of our major sports teams end a season with a winning season? Give us something to cheer for. Please Minnesota Timberwolves please, give us some hope here and win more games than you lose next season. 

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Twins Win?

The Minnesota Twins are heating up. They are on a 4 game winning streak, the longest winning streak since June of last year. My oh my go Twins. With the win the Twins have increased their playoff chances from 0.5% to 2%. Like I said in the last blog post, sometimes being a Minnesota sports fan is a hard thing to do. Yet we love our baseball. Nothing better than a beautiful day in downtown Minneapolis eating a dome dog, cracking peanuts, and washing it down with an ice-cold beer. Well, actually there would be one thing that could make our new outdoor stadium even better. A decent baseball team.  
Saturday’s game against the defending National League Champions was a painfully exciting win for the Twins. The Twins had the lead multiple times but the Milwaukee Brewers managed to creep back each time. Even though they are still in last place in the Central division, the win the Twins brought their record up to a meager 14-26.

The entire dugout cheered as Trevor Plouffe saved the Twins in the messy win with a homerun in the 11th inning. It was third homerun in four games. Although the Twins managed to scrape up a win, it was a sloppy one full of mistakes and missed opportunities. The Twins loaded the bases without managing to score not once, not twice, but three times. After Carl Pavano was pulled from the game in the 6th inning, the team cycled through so many relievers it appeared as though manager Ron Gardenhire was trying to play every Twins pitcher on the roster. Nonetheless, a win is a win and things are starting to pick up.
Despite playing with a shoulder injury, starting pitcher Carl Pavano’s throw is starting to change for the better. He was able to pitch six reasonably good innings in Saturday’s game against the brewers. His fastball has been lacking emphasis since his injury was discovered about a month ago. On Saturday some of his pitches were just shy of 90 miles per hour. A good sign for Pavano. A good sign for the Twins. He is an essential member of the Twins pitching team. Pavano wants to see the Twins win just as much as the rest of us. He acknowledged the Twins poor play thus far but he seemed hopeful that they can still turn it around.
"It's about picking each other up and weathering the storm. There's going to be storms throughout the season and we hit a pretty bad one there. I wouldn't even say that we're out of the woods, but we're playing better baseball and it is translating to wins."

The Twins are looking to sweep the Brewers today and bring their winning streak up to an unthinkable five in a row. Could it really be done? Will the Twins continue their hot streak or will they go back to their good, old, predictable demise that we are becoming so accustomed to seeing here in the land of 10,000 lakes?

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Vikings Stay at Home

Minnesotans have purple and gold running through our veins. Through the good and the bad seasons we stand by our team. The Minnesota Vikings make our Sundays. When it’s not football season we’re counting down how many days until the season starts. We can rattle off facts about Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen. We will probably tell you about our season about 1998 when we should have won it all but a missed field goal shattered our dreams. We might tell you how much we don’t like the stinking Packers. At the end of the day it is easy to see that we love American football, and we love our team.

Talks of a new stadium have been threatening to take away our beloved team and give them a new home in far away states. The talks over a new stadium started nearly a decade ago. Talks intensified when the Metrodome collapsed in the winter of 2010 after a heavy snowstorm. The debate has been whether the stadium should be funded solely by the Vikings franchise or if the public should help through higher taxes and the Minnesota state lottery. My question is why wouldn’t we support our team? After all they bring lots of attention and joy to Minnesota. Los Angeles already took one of our teams, why would we want them to come in and take another?

An agreement was made that the state of Minnesota will contribute $498 million to the project. The Vikings franchise will cover the rest. Dayton said he could not release where the VIkings funding was coming from:

No, the private participation is distinctly different from the public, where there should be complete transparency. The (public stadium) authority should have a right to make sure that they have the financial wherewithal, but where their financing comes from really is their business.

            This Monday May 14th Governor Mark Dayton signed the $975 million stadium bill. It was a great day for Vikings fan across the world. The Vikings nation let out a sigh of relief knowing our team isn’t going anywhere. Which of course was followed by a “SKOL VIKINGS!” The stadium is scheduled to be completed in 2016.