2007 was not a local sports heaven

Jan. 7, 2008

by Jesse Menden

Wow, where did 2007 go?

This past year was interesting, to say the least. Chuck Norris once again became an American icon.

Coca-Cola released Diet Coke Plus, which is fortified with various vitamins and minerals, for those of us that have completely eliminated healthy drinks because of caffeine addictions.

Just like the Energizer Bunny, my car just keeps on going as it passed the 235,000 mile mark in December. And stamps rose to 41 cents just days after I bought a book of 39 cent stamps, forcing me to buy two-cent stamps for the next three months. Those were the highlights of my 2007.

It seems like just yesterday I was recapping 2006 by ripping Don Lucia and his Golden Gopher hockey team for their loss to Holy Cross, Marian Gaborik for being eternally hurt, and Glen Mason for being, well, Glen Mason.

As they say, what a difference one year makes. If you thought 2006 was a bad year for sports around here, 2007 was a real treat.

Only one of the state’s four major professional sports teams finished above .500. The Wild finished 48-26-8, which really means 48-34, but they did win more than half of their games. The excitement from that good regular season didn’t last long, however, as they were promptly dispatched from the playoffs by Anaheim.

At the collegiate level, things were not a whole lot better. The 2007 Gopher football team was one of the five worst in the country. The basketball team only won a handful of games. The men’s hockey team did provide some excitement, winning the WCHA Final Five, and actually won their opening game in the NCAA tournament. But don’t get too excited, they finished out 2007 by losing to Rochester Institute of Technology, a team that doesn’t use scholarships.

Before I dwell on the most negative aspects of the year in semi-local sports, I should mention some of the positives this year. Adrian Peterson provided a beam of light as Vikings’ fans were preparing for a long, cold winter. His performance not only earned him offensive rookie of the year honors, but also prevented any television blackouts, which would have been certain without him.

The Timberwolves organization finally came up with a plan to mold the team back into a contender, and traded away Kevin Garnett.

One of the greatest moments in the history of the Minnesota Wild took place this year. I will never forget when Derek Boogaard skated around the ice in total intimidation fashion during a break in action after Brad May ambushed Kim Johnsson. The whole arena chanting “Boo-gaard” still gives me chills when I think about it.

Finally, Joel Maturi and the University of Minnesota did one of the smartest things ever done in the history of mankind and brought in legendary coach Tubby Smith. The men’s basketball team has already won as many games as the team did in all of last season.

OK, back to the negatives. Despite all of that disappointment, three special groups took the cake this past year – it is time to hand out the three stars of disappointment for the year 2007.

Despite their attempt to start over and get better, the Minnesota Timberwolves get the third star.

Through Wednesday’s game against Portland, the T-Wolves are a league-worst 4-27. I supported their move to start over, but who would have thought it was going to be this bad? They are on pace to become one of the worst teams in league history.

This season, the Wolves are worst in the league in point differential, fourth-worst in field goal percentage, and are one of the worst teams in turnovers.

Their largest problem at the beginning of this rebuilding stage is the lack of decent players. Al Jefferson is an excellent player, but nobody else on the team has the ability to take over a game.

Minnesota’s top draft pick in 2007, Corey Brewer, has been a disappointment thus far. Three months into the season, Brewer ranks as one of the worst shooters in the league and has shown little progression.

Others on the team, like Rashad McCants, Craig Smith, Marko Jaric, and Gerald Green, are just bit players, and will probably not be a significant part of any team in the future.

Blowing up the team was only the first step in turning the organization around, and so far, they have not shown me they have the ability to take the second step.

The second star of disappointment goes to local cable television providers and those at the NFL Network and Big Ten Network. Work something out already!

At this point, it seems that the government will need to get involved to resolve this issue because it is becoming a bigger issue by the month.

To the cable providers: give us the choice on what we want to watch. Viewers know what they like more than you do. Give me the sports channels and you can have the Lifetime and Oxygen channels. Oh, and make sure I get Spike and the History Channel, too.

To the upstart networks: let us see your product. Isn’t it easier to sell advertising for programming that is actually seen by more than a handful of people? Work it out . . . what is a dime here or there?

The bottom line is, the whole feud between the two sides is ridiculous. Figure it out because, in the end, you are just hurting yourselves.

The first star goes to that over-achieving group of Minnesota Twins we so affectionately call “piranhas.” I classify that group as Jason Bartlett, Nick Punto, Luis Castillo, Jason Tyner, and Lew Ford. They were one of the main culprits for the Twins finishing under .500 for the first time since 2000.

In 2006, they led that remarkable surge to a division title by batting .289 for the season. In 2007, their average was exactly 30 points lower. But they can sure field the heck out of the ball.

So there it is. Another year without championships, division, or conference titles. Oh well, we can’t see half of the games on TV anyway.

Go to my sports blog to talk about your favorite moments from 2007 in DC area sports.