Thursday, October 18, 2007

Savior of a State

It’s been a good week to be a Vikings fan. They got their first win since Week 1 against a division rival in the Chicago Bears. Even better than that, it was a breakout game for the Purple’s super rookie Adrian Peterson. His well-documented 224 yard, 3 touchdown performance has been all the rage of ESPN, USA Today, etc. He’s joined into the conversation about the best backs in the game and is drawing comparisons to Eric Dickerson. There has been Purple and Gold on the mouths of guys like Mike & Mike and Sean Sailsbury, as well as in print from virtually every website and newspaper in the country. Yeah, it’s been good. But what most people haven’t yet realized is the significance of this performance on the landscape of Minnesota sports.

We have fallen on rough times, sports wise, here in the frigid north. Every other night we get to watch former Twins castoff David Ortiz hitting mammoth homeruns in an attempt to win a second World Series in four years.

Meanwhile, despair is looming over the current, non-playoff Minnesota Twins team. Long time centerfielder Torii Hunter is entering into free agency and all signs point to him being elsewhere in 2008. If that wasn’t a crushing enough blow, the entire baseball world knows that the best pitcher in the game, Johan Santana, is a free agent next winter and the rumors of him being traded have already started to fly. Those two guys are the face of the Twins franchise (I don’t want to hear about a certain St. Paul kid who hits .300 and misses 50 games a year) and there is a high likelihood that neither will be here on Opening Day 2009.

As you head a ways down the street in beautiful downtown Minneapolis, we find the Target Center, which houses the Minnesota Timberwolves. They too have been media “darlings” over the last few months. But the reason for their newfound “popularity” is the trade of Kevin Garnett. I know a lot has already been said about this trade and about KG in general, but it cannot be overstated how much he meant to this team and this state. He was “our guy”. A model citizen, one of the best basketball players ever created, and a genuinely great person to represent your state on the sports map. He gave his all every night and bled forest green and blue.

Now, he’s gone and we have a group of unproven youngsters and a long road of rebuilding ahead of us. Plus, every night we're going to weep at the sight of this:

And it’s not just the loss of superstars like KG, Randy Moss, or Daunte Culpepper. And it’s not just the potential loss of Hunter and Santana. The state of sports in Minnesota is in peril. We’ve lost or could lose the aforementioned stars, we have a non-playoff baseball team, the lowest ranked professional basketball team, a football team that hasn’t had a sniff of the playoffs in years, and terrible college sports as well. Sure, there’s optimism because the Gopher football and basketball teams have new coaches, but there haven’t been any results yet.

I know the Wild are good. They went to the playoffs last year and have started off the season red hot this year. And I know that this is the self-proclaimed “State of Hockey”, but let’s not kid ourselves. Hockey is a fourth-rate sport (at best) throughout most of the country, and while it has more significance here, they will always run second fiddle to a good Vikings, Twins, or Timberwolves team.

All of which brings me back to my original point. AD’s big day last Sunday mattered a lot more than people have realized. He has given hope to a hopeless team. He has given a talent depleted team a big time building block for the future. Most importantly, he’s given the state of Minnesota a face, a superstar, a savior. He’s someone who will be on Sports Center all the time and everyone here will smile as we watch a flash of purple streaking across the screen for yet another score. He’s our guy. We don’t need Moss, Culpepper, Garnett, Hunter, Ortiz, or Santana. You want to know why? Because we have Adrian “All Day” Peterson here to help us escape from the doldrums that are Minnesota sports.

So run young man, run. I just hope that the weight of every sports fan in the state isn’t too much of a burden. We all look forward to our football life AAP, or After Adrian Peterson.

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