Knight Errant

The disappointing nature of Minnesota’s pro sports teams

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The disappointing nature of Minnesota’s pro sports teams

The four major pro sports teams in Minnesota have consistently let Brooks Carver down, so he is begging for a change.

The four major pro sports teams in Minnesota have consistently let Brooks Carver down, so he is begging for a change.

Logos, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons

The four major pro sports teams in Minnesota have consistently let Brooks Carver down, so he is begging for a change.

Logos, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons

Logos, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons

The four major pro sports teams in Minnesota have consistently let Brooks Carver down, so he is begging for a change.

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If someone had told me in September that the Minnesota Vikings would finish the season with a 8-7-1 record and miss the playoffs, I would have laughed.

After ending last season with a 13-3 record and a trip to the NFC North Championship and the famous “Minneapolis Miracle,” Vikings fans were feeling optimistic about 2018-2019. During the offseason those championship beliefs were reaffirmed after the team had signed Pro-Bowl quarterback Kirk Cousins. They had finally filled the void of the position that had been the scapegoat for all of the Vikings’ issues since the Randy Moss and Daunte Culpepper days.

After many long years of torment, things were finally looking good for Vikings fans. They had their new stadium. They had their franchise QB. They had their defense.

It was Super Bowl or bust for the Vikings.

However, as Minnesotans, we should have known better.

The Vikings finished the 2018-2019 season with a record of 8-7-1 and missed the playoffs.

Losing is nothing new to Minnesota sports fans. To truly sympathize with us, one would have to look back at all the years of pain and suffering that Minnesotans have had to endure to understand. So I decided to reopen a few old wounds and take a look back at the failures of each of MN’s professional sports franchises.

Whatever day that is, no matter how far down the road, Minnesota sports fans will continue to support their teams through thick and thin. Our over-the-top pessimism is actually just an extent of how deeply we care about our teams. ”

— Brooks Carver

As a little bit of background for those lucky enough to not have to deal with constant torture from their respective teams (I envy you), but Minneapolis is not a great “sports town” like Chicago or Boston. Of the four major professional sports teams, only the Twins have won a championship. And that was almost 30 years ago. Since then, no Minnesota team has really come close since. Among cities with at least three major sports teams, Minneapolis currently has the longest active championship drought (and championship appearance drought) in all professional sports.

It should be noted that the Minnesota Lynx have won four championships in their 20 years of existence, but this story will be focusing on the Twins, Wild, Vikings, and Timberwolves.

Since that 1991 World Series, the Twins have been to the postseason eight times and have only won one playoff series. During the 2000’s the Twins were able to put together strong regular seasons, winning the AL Central division six times in eight years, but they never seemed to be able to make it past the Big-Market New York Yankees. Even in 2006 with the AL Cy Young (Johan Santana) and MVP/batting champ (Joe Mauer) they still managed to get swept in the first round. In recent years, it seems like the Twins don’t even care about winning anymore. With an owner who is reluctant to ever cough up the money to go after that “big name” free agent or make that “blockbuster” trade, fans are bored and attendance numbers at Target Field are decreasing year after year (with a small exception made in 2017).

Oh, and by the way, they let ten-time All-Star David Ortiz leave for the Red Sox in 2003.

Next we have the Minnesota Wild. After the departure of the fan-favorite Minnesota North Stars in 1993, Minnesota was left without an NHL team. Yes, there actually was a period of time where self-proclaimed “State of Hockey” was without an NHL team. Anyways, the Wild were an expansion team founded in the year 2000 and, similar to the Twins, have not been able to carry over their regular-season success into postseason. In 2017, the Wild set their franchise record for regular season points and they STILL lost in the first round. They are currently one of the only four NHL teams to have never appeared in a Stanley Cup Finals. Even the Las Vegas Golden Knights (a team that didn’t even exist two years ago) have accomplished more in the postseason than the Wild ever have.

The third team on this list is the Minnesota Vikings. Tied with the Twins for the longest-tenured MN team, the Vikings have been making fans frustrated for almost 60 years now. They actually did win the NFL Championship in 1970, but sadly, it was one year before the NFL-AFL merger and the Super Bowl era.

Despite their recent playoff misfortune, the Vikings have at least been to a Super Bowl. Four Super Bowls to be exact. They went played in Super Bowls IV, VIII, IX, and XI (four times in seven years) and lost each one.

That alone has to be one of the most embarrassing stats in all of pro-sports.

Those four Super Bowl losses have given the Vikings the reputation of being one of the NFL’s “cursed” franchises. Now, I do not consider myself to be a very superstitious person, but this team constantly has me doubting myself. Is there really any other way to describe this team’s endless history of bad luck? Blair Walsh’s missed field goal. Teddy Bridgewater’s knee. Starting the season 5-0 and finishing 8-8 to miss the playoffs. “Bountygate.” The roof of our stadium collapsed for crying out loud.

And all that’s just the recent history.

These next few years, the Vikings do have some reasons to be optimistic with the impressive play of Minnesota-native Adam Thielen and the promising, young, defensive core. But as Deadspin writer Drew Magary said: “Knowing the Vikings, they will do everything in their power to humiliate anyone stupid enough to cheer for them.”

I saved the team I am most attached to for last. The Minnesota Timberwolves. As a season ticket holder, I have watched the Wolves up close as they blow leads, fire coaches, and disappoint fans all around the Twin Cities.

We fans have held up our end of the bargain, and now we expect something in return. Please. We are begging you.”

— Brooks Carver

Since the team was founded in 1989, the T-Wolves have played a total of 2,330 games and currently have the worst winning percentage at 0.397. In their 30 seasons of existence, they have only made the playoffs nine times. (Over half the teams in the NBA make the playoffs).

Eight of their nine playoff appearances are all thanks to one man. Kevin Garnett.

If the Wolves had not drafted Garnett with the 5th overall pick in 1995 NBA draft, there is a very real chance that the Wolves would still have zero playoff appearances to this day. Garnett lead the T-Wolves to eight consecutive playoff appearances from 1997-2004. He was also the only player to ever win the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award while playing for the Timberwolves.

Then KG left.

In 2007 offseason, Garnett forced a trade to the Boston Celtics. Just 11 months later, Timberwolves fans had to watch their franchise player win the NBA Championship in Boston.

There are a number of factors that contribute to the Timberwolves’ continuous deficiency. One of these factors is the team’s location. Minneapolis does not attract nearly as many free agents as towns like Los Angeles or New York. If you follow the NBA, you probably know that free agency is crucial if teams hope to be successful. Minnesota’s failure to lure talent to the Twin Cities is most likely due to the state’s incredibly cold weather and humdrum ambience.

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In addition to consistently being the team with NBA’s worst attendance and winning percentage, the Timberwolves are also notorious for their bad luck in the draft. Just in the last decade, the Wolves have missed out on a myriad of generational talents and future All-NBA players. Superstars like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Russell Westbrook, Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, DeMarcus Cousins, Paul George, DeMar Derozan, and most notably, Stephen Curry could all be suiting up in Wolves jerseys while running up and down the court at Target Center. Instead, Wolves fans had to watch guys like OJ Mayo, Derrick Williams, Wesley Johnson, and Jonny Flynn lose game after game with no end in sight.  

The misery that Minnesota sports fans have to put up with compared to other cities is unparalleled. The teams somehow find ways to fall short of the already-low expectations leaving us fans wondering why we even bother in the first place.

However, despite all of the disappointment and failure, we keep coming back. We still tune in every Sunday to watch the Vikings, and we still drive downtown on the coldest winter nights to watch the Wild and the Wolves. All while clinging to the hope that one day, we will be able to watch as Zach Parise raises the Stanley Cup above his head or the Twins dogpile on the pitcher’s mound after the final out in the World Series. Whatever day that is, no matter how far down the road, Minnesota sports fans will continue to support their teams through thick and thin. Our over-the-top pessimism is actually just an extent of how deeply we care about our teams. We fans have held up our end of the bargain, and now we expect something in return. Please. We are begging you.

 

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The disappointing nature of Minnesota’s pro sports teams