Posts pertaining to the Minnesota Vikings.

Vikings make decisions, right or wrong

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By Larry Fitzgerald
May 3, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

When you miss the playoffs and you don’t even have a number-one pick in the next Draft, it can lead to dire straits, slumped shoulders and limited optimism. The NFL Draft can be a life-changer.

As ex-Minnesota governor turned actor, Jesse Ventura said, “I ain’t got time to bleed.” Not when you’re hosting Super Bowl 52. The Vikings continue to move forward, leaving the painful memories of a blown 5-0 start and third-place finish behind.

General Manager Rick Spielman made the best of a tough position. He identified the Vikings’ needs and desires in the Draft and worked his plan. Only seven offensive lineman were drafted among the top 64 players. That’s a record low.

Since 1961, no NFL Championships in Minnesota, Green Bay, Chicago (been there, done that) or Detroit with one playoff win since 1957. The Vikings believe they are close to being a championship football team. They were 8-8 in 2016 and have not been in this position since year four for Head Coach Mike Zimmer with zero playoff wins, Dennis Green in 1992-96. Green made the playoffs four straight years, yet the Vikings were 0-4 in the playoffs.

The Vikings went into last weekend’s Draft without a number-one pick knowing they had eight picks starting with number 48 of the second round. Spielman traded with Cincinnati to move up to number 41 and take Dalvin Cook, the gifted junior running back from Florida State.

Dalvin Cook carries the football for Florida State

Minnesota Vikings draft choice Dalvin Cook

“We’re very excited to get the quality of running back we were able to get,” Spielman said. “As we looked and he kept coming down the board, we felt that he was just too talented of a player not to take a swing and try to go up and get him. We feel that we have great value for where we were able to land Cook in the second round.”

He’s the highest drafted running back the Vikings have taken since Adrian Peterson in 2007. In three years, he rushed for 4,484 yards and 46 touchdowns, averaging 6.5 yards per carry. He’s versatile with 5,399 all-purpose yards, a game-breaker and a deep threat out of the backfield.

Character is important. Cook has been a follower. You ask why he was available and dropped in the Draft.

Questionable choices raised character issues at Florida State. The Vikings believe they did their homework into his background and history. Time will tell if they were right or the teams that passed on him were wrong.

Spielman and company obviously worked hard adding depth and wound up drafting 11 players total over the weekend.

They include center Pat Elflein (Ohio State), defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson (Iowa), linebacker Ben Gedeon (Michigan), wide receiver Rodney Adams (South Florida), guard Danny Isidora (Miami), tight end Bucky Hodges (Virginia Tech), wide receiver Stacy Coley (Miami), defensive end Ifeadl Odenigbo (Northwestern), linebacker Elijah Lee (Kansas State), and cornerback Jack Tocho (North Carolina State). All the players will be in town this week at Winter Park for Mini-Camp.

This Draft can best be described as risk-reward. The Vikings have added several talented young players with lots of potential.

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: Cold and snow make for one cool MLS opener in Minnesota

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By Eric Nelson
March 15, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS -Sports Nuggets from the snowy Twin Cities…

Minnesota Loons MLS soccer team at TCF Stadium in Minneapolis

Minnesota Loons take the field

•Flakes and Loons: Minnesota United’s first-ever MLS game in the Twin Cities was a dud on the scoreboard. Atlanta United FC thumped Minn U 6-1 Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium. But in every other way the match was epic. The snowy day produced great visuals in the venue and on ESPN2. Snow and soccer are a rare combination, but thanks to the Minnesota elements, this historic match was a unique snapshot in time for Minnesota sports fans…

•Crowd Count: The attendance was an impressive 35,403 – the largest soccer turnout in the Land of Lakes since 1984 when the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Minnesota Strikers played before 52,621 at the Metrodome. According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the temperature was 20 degrees, tying the 2013 MLS Cup in Kansas City for coldest game in league history…

MLS fans in the snow at the Loons home opener

Minnesota United fans at the home opener

•Slow Start: Minn U (0-2) has clearly struggled this season. In games against Portland and Atlanta the Loons have been outscored 11-2. Meanwhile, Atlanta – also an MLS expansion team – won its first-ever match. The snowy pitch did not deter F Josef Martinez who scored three goals for AUFC…

•Quality Opponent: It’s a good news, bad news scenario for the Minnesota basketball team. The good news is that the Gophers (24-9) are a 5th seed in the south region. The bad news is they face a solid opponent in 12th seed Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders are 30-4 and have won back-to-back CUSA titles. They are led by F Jacorey Williams (17.3 points per game and 7.3 rebounds per game), F Reggie Upshaw (14.5 ppg and 6.8 rpg) and G Giddy Potts (15.8 ppg and 5.5 rpg)…

•Quick Trip: The game tips off at 3 pm CT Thursday at Bradley Center in Milwaukee. It’s only 337 miles from Minneapolis to Milwaukee on I-94, so Gopher Nation should be well represented in Wisconsin…

•Purple Defections: The NFL is a revolving door league as players are always coming and going. Minnesota lost a couple of former top draft choices to free agency as WR Cordarrelle Patterson (Oakland) and OT Matt Kalil (Carolina) signed with other teams. Kalil was the fourth choice in the 2012 NFL draft and made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. However, that was his pinnacle moment for the Vikings. In four other seasons, Kalil’s productivity dropped off because of injuries and sub-par play. Patterson, meanwhile, was a first round selection in 2013 and played in two Pro Bowls. He was very good on kickoff returns and punt coverage, but below average at wideout…

•Publicity Hounds: Give the NFL credit – the Shield has a knack for staying in the news cycle year-round. March used to be dominated by NCAA hoops, the NBA, NHL and MLB spring training. But, thanks to free agency, the NFL garners plenty of attention, stealing headlines from those other sports…

•Tasty Golf: Twin Cities restaurant mogul Wayne Kostroski has come up with another creative way to aid those in need. Kostroski – who started taste of the NFL during Super Bowl week – is staging the first-ever Taste of the Master Chefs in April. Kostroski has lured some of the top chefs on the globe to Augusta, GA for the Masters golf tournament. It’s a charity event, with all of the proceeds going to the Salvation Army of Augusta. Tickets cost $150. For more info go to www.tasteofthemasterchefs.com

•Fab Four: The NCHC’s fourth annual Frozen Faceoff starts Friday at Target Center. Western Michigan plays 2nd ranked UM-Duluth at 4 pm followed by North Dakota and top-ranked Denver at 7:30 pm. The defending champion Fighting Hawks won the Frozen Four last season and their appearance means plenty of No Dak fans will invade the Twin Cities…

•Pioneer Spirit: Denver (28-6-4) has won 13 games in a row and is paced by D Will Butcher, who is one of 10 players up for the Hobey Baker Award…

•Puck Stopper: Bemidji State G Michael Bitzer is also a Hobey Baker finalist. Bitzer is the WCHA player of the year and led the Beavers to their first-ever conference title and MacNaughton Cup. Bitzer had a sparkling goals against average of 1.40, a WCHA record…

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: Chad Greenway’s trademark was consistent, solid production

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By Eric Nelson
March 8, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS -Sports Nuggets from the breezy Twin Cities.

•Solid Career: Minnesota Vikings, LB Chad Greenway was as dependable as a Maytag and as reliable as a sunrise. During his 11 seasons in Minnesota, Greenway played in two Pro Bowls, had 1,334 career tackles (4th most in Vikings history), 19 sacks and 11 interceptions. Greenway’s trademark was consistent, solid play. He wasn’t the flashiest player, just somebody you could count on each week. Greenway – who retired on Monday – grew up in South Dakota, played at Iowa and settled in Minnesota. He is the consummate Upper Midwest guy…

Chad Greenway sacks Cam Newton

Chad Greenway sacks Carolina’s Cam Newton -October 2013

•Coast to Coast: My favorite Greenway moment came in 2015 at TCF Bank Stadium against San Diego when he intercepted a Phillip Rivers, pass and huffed and puffed his way 91 yards for a touchdown. During the pick 6, Greenway had a convoy of Minnesota blockers who escorted him to the end zone…

•Good Fit: There is plenty of speculation about where former Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson might wind up. Just a hunch, but Seattle could be a good landing spot for AP. The Seahawks are one of the NFL’s top teams, but have not been the same since Marshawn Lynch retired in 2015. As good as QB Russell Wilson, and the Legion of Boom defense is, the Seahawks lost some swagger when Beast Mode left. AP might be able to give the Seattle running game a jolt…

•Classy Exit: Getting cut in the NFL can be a bitter and traumatic experience for some players. But not for WR Torrey Smith. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, when the 49ers cut Smith this week, he went on Twitter looking for an organization where he could donate his beds and tables. Smith also put up an Instagram post thanking everyone in the SF organization – including the 49ers front office, chefs, janitors PR department and equipment staff….

•Slippery Floor: I have been to three of the coldest games in NFL history, saw Minnesota and the LA Rams play in the Mud Bowl, was at a Raiders-Vikings pre-season game delayed by lightning, sat through a Super Bowl in a Miami monsoon, watched Minnesota and Iowa play in a Kinnick Stadium blizzard, and have seen the Twins play in rain, hail and snow. Now I have also been to an NBA game postponed because of weather. Monday night’s Portland-Minnesota match up was cancelled due to unsafe playing conditions. Because of mild temps, the ice under the court was melting and caused condensation on the floor. The game will be played in April…

•Cali Chaos: The NBA’s most dysfunctional team is the once powerful LA Lakers.  Jim and Johnny Buss were blocked last week in their coup d’é·tat attempt to remove sister Jeanie from her position as Lakers part-owner and president. Jeanie kicked Jim and GM Mitch Kupchak to the curb a couple weeks ago and replaced them with Magic Johnson

•Loss Angeles: This is bizarre stuff even for Hollywood. The Lakers have become a very public soap opera and lack the stability they had under Jerry Buss. The Lakers (19-45) are at the bottom of the Western Conference and have the second worst record in the Association…

•Ticket Update I: The Minnesota Twins are offering a new ticket option for the first two months of the 2017 season. The spring ballpark pass gives fans the ability to attend all games in April and May for just $99 – except for opening day. To purchase the new Spring Ballpark Pass go to www.twinsbaseball.com/springpass…

•Ticket Update II: According to StubHub, the cheapest ticket for Sunday’s first-ever MLS game in Minnesota is $19.98. Atlanta United plays Minnesota United at 4 pm at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis…

•Frozen Pitch: The forecast for Minneapolis on Sunday is 30 degrees with snow showers. We will see if the cold weather gives Minn U. an advantage over their fellow expansion team from Georgia…

•Popular in Portland: The Portland Timbers are one of the most successful franchises in all of MLS. The Timbers – who defeated Minnesota United 5-1 on Friday – have a passionate fan base. The Timbers season-ticket waiting list is 13,000 and the team is hoping to get approval for a $50 million expansion project at Providence Park. According to FOX Sports, the Timbers have sold out every regular-season and playoff home game since joining MLS, a streak of 108 games. Providence Park’s capacity is 21,144. The Timbers won the MLS Cup in 2015…

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: The Adrian Peterson-Minnesota Viking divorce was inevitable

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By Eric Nelson

February 28, 2017

GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the home of the Pillsbury Doughboy…

• Business Decision: The Minnesota Vikings divorce from Adrian Peterson was as predictable as a Kim Kardashian break up. Everyone saw it coming and no one is surprised it happened. This was purely business for the Purple. No way the Vikings were going to fork out $18 million to a RB who will be 32 on March 21…

•AP’s Legacy: The decision means that Minnesota has cut ties with one of the greatest players in team history. In 10 years AP ran for 11,747 yards and 97 touchdowns. His pinnacle season was 2012 when he gained 2,097 yards, had 12 TD’s and was NFL MVP. Making those numbers even more impressive is that AP suffered a major knee injury late in the 2011 season…

•Potential Landing Spots: AP is now an NFL free agent and will be pursued by multiple teams. Houston, the NY Giants and Tampa Bay could court him. But don’t discount, Dallas, Green Bay, Seattle or even Minnesota…

•NFL Nightmare: The worst-case scenario for Viking fans would be AP playing for the Packers. How devastating would it be for the Purple Nation to watch him go to Green Bay and lead the Packers to Super Bowl LII at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis..?

•Change of Fortune:The Minnesota Gopher basketball team was historically bad last season. The Gophers finished 8-23 overall and 2-16 in the Big Ten. HC Richard Pitino appeared to be in over his skis and his future in Minnesota was foggy at best. But, something remarkable has happened in Dinkytown. The Gophers (22-7, 10-6) have won seven straight games and have morphed into a top tier Big Ten team. Believe it or not, Minnesota is almost assured of going to the NCAA Tournament – which didn’t seem possible when season started…

•Trending Up: Pitino will likely win the Big Ten coach of the year award, which is remarkable considering that he was on a scorching hot seat when the season started and there was speculation about his job status. Now Gopher fans are hoping Pitino isn’t lured away to another program because of his recent success…

•Instant Impact: Freshman Amir Coffey is already one of the top Gopher players. Coffey is averaging 12.2 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists per game…

•Crowning Wins: It was a Minnesota sweep Monday night against teams named the Kings. The Wild won over the Los Angeles Kings 5-4 in overtime at the Xcel Energy Center, while the Timberwolves knocked off the Sacramento Kings 102-88 in Northern California…

•Fantastic Finish: Mikael Granlund scored the game winning goal just 12 seconds into OT, when he knifed through two LA defenders and put the puck past Kings G Jonathan Quick. Granlund leads the Wild with 20 goals and 56 points this season…

•Global Game: The once all white, mostly Canadian NHL is much more diverse these days. According to the LA Times, there are 16 blacks and players from 20 different countries in the league this season…

•Playoff Chase: Despite being 12 games south of .500 the Timberwolves (24-36) are just 2 1/2 games behind Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot in the NBA Western Conference. Minnesota has not been in the postseason since 2004 when the Wolves lost to the LA Lakers in the conference finals…

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Thomas U. Tuttle

Hope Springs Eternal…

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by Thomas U. Tuttle

A Couple of Thoughts

Adrian Peterson took his last hand-off for the Minnesota Vikings last year, and it’s a sad goodbye that is being played out in the press and behind the scenes. AP is owed serious money ($18 million for 2017) that the Vikings are not going to pay and the story should reach a conclusion in the next week, or two weeks at the latest.

There’s a major cap-hit upcoming that the Vikings are unwilling to take, and that’s going to prompt this near-immediate action. One may recall that Peterson made his big money in 2014 despite being suspended for the severe paddling of his 4-year old son, an event whose repercussions cast the Purple in a bad light; and was perhaps made more grievous when AP’s response was that the league (and to a lesser extent, the team) was coming down on him unfairly.

Minnesota General Manager Rick Spielman spent much of his recent exclusive press conference saying things like “Adrian will always be a Viking” when he wasn’t talking about the plethora of quality running backs available in this years draft. Folks, that is what you call the handwriting on the wall of Peterson’s career in the Twin Towns, a tenure that was spectacular, if now sagging to the finish line.

The powerful running back doesn’t believe he’s done yet, and the great competitor in him is determined to finish his NFL run on a higher note. No doubt he would like to compete for a Super Bowl championship in the twilight of his grand career. New York’s football Giants could be a landing spot for Peterson (at less money), as they have created salary cap space with a couple of high-profile player releases. The Giants came close in 2016 and a healthy AP could seriously assist Eli Manning’s pocket survivability.

He’s going to be 32 the next time he “suits up and shows up” on the Gridiron. A lot of hits have been rained upon Peterson’s phenomenal physique (maybe the most athletic and pound-for-pound powerful build this journalist has ever seen in any locker room). But time waits for no man, and it won’t wait for AP. The big business of the National Football League spares no one. It will be interesting to see where Peterson plays this fall. One thing is certain – it won’t be in Minneapolis.

 

ON THE BASEBALL FRONT, the Minnesota Twins are into the exhibition season down in Fort Myers and looking for improvement just about everywhere – which should be the case regarding a team that lost 103 games. With the notable exception of Brian Dozier (who hit 42 home runs, played excellent defense, and may be the best second baseman in the game) this is a team that needs to get better ASAP in every department.

The good news is that I believe they will show solid growth this year, and will provide Twin Cities baseball fans with some exciting baseball along with an additional 15-20 wins. When you are at rock-bottom, the only direction one can look is up. And so it is with Minnesota and its cast of underachievers, a number of whom should be ready to break out.

I’m talking about the speedy Bryan Buxton finally playing up to his billing, like he did in September of last year (he hit 13 homers between AAA and the Bigs). What a catalyst he could be at the top of the line-up, setting the stage for Dozier, Miguel Sano and Joe Mauer et. al. Bux needs to cut down on his strikeouts and show more general discipline at the plate – which he should, with skipper Paul Molitor working with him daily this spring.

The Twins have brought a bunch of old-timers down to camp, including Torii Hunter, Mike Cuddyer, Dave Winfield (for several days, he resonated big-time with Buxton) and a few others. Jack Morris will be around for the pitchers, along with Bert Blyleven. After last year, its all hands on deck for 2017! Molly is encouraging these guys to communicate and contribute as they see fit, within his guidelines.

I say, great! Let’s get Sano rolling and playing a solid third-base with about 30 homers and 30 doubles…the man has good-buddy David Ortiz written all over him! Max Kepler is the best-hitting German in the world – and he can play Major League Baseball. Kennys Vargas will finally emerge, and Jorge Polanco will turn into a major league shortstop, and  Jason Castro will be the answer at catcher…

Hey, spring training is for dreamers! But the Twins do have some talent to work with. Ervin Santana needs a little more luck than last year to win a cool 20 games, and Kyle Gibson is ready to shed his youth and man-up on the mound. Phil Hughes should be on a short-leash but could succeed, and let’s see Jose Berrios finally live up to his potential.

I’m in Florida soon, and will report back after watching a few ballgames. As of this writing, the boys have dropped their first two spring training outings. Mauer and Dozier haven’t played yet and spring games don’t count any more than wedding cake at a divorce. Yet, believe me, Molitor is watching things like a hawk. That HOF’er and World Series MVP takes 103 losses personally, and it’s not going to happen ever again.

In fact, just like 2015 when Las Vegas had the Twins to win 70 games, plus or minus, and they won 83 – LV has Minnesota at 70 again, which would mean they would lose 90+ games. Head to the bank! Those suggested betting numbers are not going to happen, and my money is headed out west on Minny. They will be a .500 club at least. Without my upcoming visit to Florida in hand, I nonetheless see improvement at every defensive and offensive spot, as well as the mound.

Yeah, call me a dreamer… but I’m not the only one. Bottom line; I just don’t believe they are very far from being a decent-to-good MLB team. An updated report in a couple of weeks.

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Larry Fitzgerald, Sr.

Vikings’ playoff hopes gone like a fart in the wind

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By Larry Fitzgerald
January 6, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

In covering the NFL and the Vikings all these years since 1978, I feel the disappointment and frustration of Vikings fans. The purple pain cuts so deep because expectations were sky high for this team. Not since 2003 when the Vikings started 6-0 under Mike Tice and also missed the playoffs have the team’s prospects looked so hopeful.

Tice’s Vikings finished 9-7; this year’s team was just 8-8. And this season again, like 2003, fell into the hands of Green Bay. The Packers rallied then as they did this season to win the Division with a 10-6 record.

After mauling the Bears Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium 38-10, the Vikings finished 8-8, losing eight of their last 11 games, just 2-4 in the NFC North and 5-3 at home. Injuries were a big part of the reason why, no doubt. But injuries are like missed free throws — you can’t use them as a scapegoat.

This is professional football. All 32 teams start with $127 million, and you have to build a competitive team.

People pay big money to be entertained. Try asking some of the 66,000 season ticket Vikings fans, many of whom paid thousands more for tickets and seat license fees in 2016 for the Vikings experience at U.S. Bank Stadium than they paid for any season in team history.

It’s over, folks. 5-0 — get over it. Just like that, like a fart in a wind storm, the Vikings finished third in the Division behind 9-7 Detroit and 10-6 Green Bay, who both qualified for the playoffs. Those playoffs start this weekend with the Wild Card games as 9-7 Detroit, the NFC sixth seed, travels to 10-5-1 Seattle to play the NFC West Champion Seahawks.

The Packers (10-6), who rallied after losing four straight games and allowing 30 points in all four losses to win the NFC North and winning six straight games, will host the 11-5 New York Giants on Sunday.

The AFC games are 12-4 Oakland at 9-7 Houston and 10-6 Miami traveling to 11-5 Pittsburgh. The other four playoff teams earned first-round byes as Division champions with the best records in the AFC, 14-2 New England and 12-4 Kansas City, and the NFC teams 13-3 Dallas and 11-5 Atlanta.

 

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: The LA Rams better hope first impressions aren’t lasting impressions 

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By Eric Nelson

January 2, 2017

GAMEDAY GOLD

 

LOS ANGELES – Sports Nuggets from La La land…

•Quick Honeymoon: It didn’t take long for the Los Angeles Rams to ruin a good thing. The Rams return to So Cal after a 20 year absence was a disaster as they finsished with a 4-12 record. The Rams were the NFL equivalent of an  earthquake, wildfire and mudslide combined – which doesn’t play well in Los Angeles. Their 44-6 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at the LA Coliseum was an embarrasing punctuation mark to their inaugural season. If first impressions are lasting impressions, then the Rams are in trouble with their fan base…

•Star-less Power: To garner support in LA, teams have to win and win with style. The Rams accomplished none of that this season. Rookie QB Jared Goff and marquis RB Todd Gurley generated little against Arizona because the Rams offensive line was physically dominated by the Cardinals defense. Arizona had seven sacks and Goff (120 yards passing) and Gurley (40 yards rushing) did not have a Happy New Year…

•Early Exit: So Cal sports fans have a reputation for arriving late and leaving early to games. On Sunday many left in the third quarter because they could not tolerate the Rams ineptitude. The announced crowd was 80,729, but there probably weren’t more than 55,000 in the Coliseum at kickoff, and it was more like 30,000 by midway throught the fourth quarter. Maybe the Rams did Missouri a favor by leaving St. Louis…

•Losing Zip Codes: It doesn’t matter if the Rams are playing in the Gateway City or Tinsletown, losing has been their trademark in the new millenium. They have not made the playoffs since 2005 and have only been in the post-season five times since Y2K. The franchise has been in free fall mode since their pinnacle moment – a 23-16 win over Tennessee in Super Bowl XXXIV on January 30, 2000…

•Sticker Shock: The Rams better start winning ASAP if they want fans to pony up money for their new $2.6 billion playpen that opens in 2019. They will soon be asking for PSL deposits just to reserve the right to buy tickets for the tajmahal. Those could cost north of $50,000 per seat – which does not include the tickets. That won’t cut it in LA where there are countless entertainment options. Forking out big dough to watch a sub-par NFL team is not high on the priority list when there is a desert, mountains, ocean and tons of cool things to choose from…

•Rain Proof: The venue is under construction and will be located in Inglewood, CA. The facility will have a glass roof which makes no sense because So Cal weather is spectacular most of the year. Of course, you can’t take a chance that a rare raindrop will fall on the big wigs who will be the only ones who can afford to go there. The stadium will host Super Bowl 55, and the way the Rams are going they will be lucky to get tickets to the game, let alone play in it…

•Throwback Stadium: The Rams temporary home is the historic LA Coliseum, which opened in 1923. Despite its current shortcomings – lack of luxury suits, distant sightlines and aging infrastructure – it is a treat to see games at the Coliseum. Any venue that has hosted two Olympics, two Super Bowls, the Beatles, JFK, Billy Graham and many other major events is worth seeing…

Los Angeles Coliseum

Los Angeles Coliseum

•Postcard-Like: There are fabulous panoramic views of downtown Los Angeles, the San Gabriel Mountains and other So Cal sights from the upper levels of the Coliseum. The iconic Hollywood sign is even visible from parts of the stadium…

Los Angeles skyline from the LA Coliseum

Los Angeles skyline from the LA Coliseum

•Trendy Team: On New Year’s Eve, I saw Los Angeles defeat San Jose 3-2 in an NHL game at Staples Center. This is the Kings 50th season and thanks to their recent Stanley Cup success they are more popular than ever. Los Angeles was part of the NHL’s second six, joining the league in 1967 with the Minnesota North Stars, Oakland Seals, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues…

•Minnesota Salute: One thing you can’t miss when seeing an event at Staples Center are all the championship banners for the Kings, Lakers and Sparks. Even the Minneapolis Lakers have a banner in the arena, which salutes their five NBA titles in the Twin Cities…

•Trendy Spot: If future travels take you to So Cal, check out LA Live. Located just a couple blocks from Staples Center, it is chockfull of bars, restaurants and nightclub spots. There is even an outdoor skating rink that made for a festive holiday scene…

 

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: Green Bay stuffs some coal into Minnesota’s Christmas stocking

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By Eric Nelson
December 24, 2016
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

GREEN BAY – Sports Nuggets from Titletown…

• Heat Wave: It was downright balmy in Green Bay on Saturday as the temperature reached 37 degrees. The not-so-frozen-tundra was partially sunlit and there were probably a few fans wishing they brought sun screen. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Vikings were probably wishing they didn’t make the trip. A convincing 38-25 Packers win and a jet mishap was simply coal in the Purple’s stocking. No happy holidays for the Vikings this year, as they have now lost games on Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve…

•Still Slinging: Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers – who was buried by critics earlier this season after some sub-par performances – proved he still has game. Rodgers gave out some early Christmas gifts to the Lambeau Field crowd of 77,856 by throwing for 347 yards, four touchdowns and running for another, as the Packers (9-6) won their fifth straight game to set up a winner take all NFC North showdown next week in Detroit…

•In Synch: Jordy Nelson caught two of Rodgers touchdown tosses and finished with nine catches for 154 yards. After a sluggish start this year, the Rodgers-Nelson tandem is clearly clicking, which is bad news for opposing defenses…

•Cal Connection: Rodgers last TD toss was a 13-yard-yard laser to Richard Rodgers in the fourth quarter. A Rodgers to Rodgers hookup always makes California fans happy, because both guys played college football for the Golden Bears…

•Purple Punch: As for the Vikings (7-8), they are officially toast and out of the NFC playoff picture. It’s never a good sign when the team jet slides off a snowy Wisconsin runway the night before they play the Packers, and it’s never a good sign when a team barely shows up for a game they have to win. But that has been the case for two consecutive weeks…

•Carved Up: Last week it was Indianapolis rolling to a 34-6 win in Minneapolis, this week it was Green Bay goring the Vikings once vaunted defense. Minnesota has allowed a whopping 72 points in two critical games. Defensive breakdowns in crunch time are a major reason why the Vikings are out of the playoff picture…

•Free Fall: Minnesota’s final game is on January 1 against Chicago at US Bank Stadium as they try to avoid a New Year’s day loss and an 0-4 holiday record. The Vikings need a win just to finish 8-8 – which is hard to believe considering that they started 5-0 and were the NFL’s last undefeated team this year…

•Cartoon-Like Numbers: The bright spot for the Vikings was WR Adam Thielen who had 12 receptions for 202 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately for Minnesota, Thielen’s day was purely cosmetic as Green Bay controlled the game for most of the day…

•Rare Event: The Saturday match up was only the third time Minnesota and Green Bay have played on a Saturday in the regular season. The previous two were 1973 and 1991…

•License to Win: I spotted a Wisconsin license plate on the drive to Green Bay that said, NFL13X – which of course is a reference to the Packers 13 world championships…

•Middle Town: I also discovered on the trip that Cadott, WI is equidistant between the equator and the North Pole. If Santa touches down in Cadott hopefully his sleigh won’t slide off the runway…

 

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