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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: The Colorado Rockies and Minnesota Twins have flipped the script

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By Eric Nelson
May 17, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the Minneapple....

•Turnaround Teams: Two of MLB’s early season surprises began a three-game series Tuesday night as Colorado knocked off Minnesota 7-3 in an interleague matchup in Minneapolis. After disappointing seasons in 2016, the Rockies (25-15, 1st place NL West) and Twins (19-16, 1st place AL Central) have flipped the script. Not many baseball pundits saw this coming because Colorado was 75-87 last season and Minnesota was 59-103…

•Rock Stars: Colorado’s top players are 1B Mark Reynolds (.317 batting average, 12 HR and 33 RBI), P Antonio Senzatela (6-1, 3.31 ERA) and P Greg Holland (17 saves). They are key cogs on a Rockies team that has baseball fans in the Mountain Time Zone excited about something besides the Denver Broncos..

•Ballpark Bargain: According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Oakland A’s are selling monthly ballpark passes in June for $19.99. Detroit, Houston, Minnesota and Milwaukee have sold similar packages for much higher prices…

•Play Ball: The St. Paul Saints open their regular season Thursday night when they host the Gary SouthShore Railcats at CHS Field. Popular Saints P Mark Hamburger is back with the team. Hamburger had 12 wins in 2016, which was tied for first in the American Association…

•NCAA Snub: Someone please explain how the top-ranked Minnesota Gopher softball team can’t get a number one seed in the NCAA tournament? The Gophers (54-3, 25-game winning streak) should be opening the tournament in Dinkytown – instead of Tuscaloosa, AL where they play Louisiana Tech (37-22) on Friday. This omission is purely comical…

•NFL Snub: It’s as clear as the Montana sky that Colin Kaepernick is being blackballed. There are currently 111 quarterbacks in the NFL and Kaepernick is not one of them. The 29-year old Kaepernick – who started five seasons in San Francisco, had playoff success and took the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII – can’t get a job. Meanwhile, Trevoyne Boykin, Case Keenum, Kevin HoganBryce Petty, Jake Rudock and other guys with far less accomplishments are in the league. There is clearly something fishy about this…

Colin Kaepernick

•NFL Politics: Of course, the roots of this exclusion go back to 2016 when Kaepernick took a stand by taking a knee during the star spangled banner. It was Kaepernick’s personal protest against police mistreatment of African-Americans. Kaepernick became a lightning rod, despite having no record and doing nothing illegal. All he did was exercise his constitutional right to free speech. Now Kaepernick is toxic and the league looks incredibly hypocritical because there are plenty of guys with rap sheets who are playing…

•Seattle-Bound: According to the Seattle Times, Seahawks HC Pete Carroll is exploring the possibility of bringing in Kaepernick or Robert Griffin III to back up Russell Wilson. If Kaepernick does get another chance it will probably be with someone like Carroll, who lets his players express emotion and opinion as long as they produce…

•Saluting Sylvia: Congrats to Minnesota Lynx star Sylvia Fowles, who will have her number 34 jersey retired by LSU this season. Fowles was an All-America player for the Tigers and is a three-time Olympic gold medalist. Seimone Augustus – who also plays for the Lynx and went to LSU – already has her number 33 jersey retired by the Tigers…

September 24, 2015: Minnesota Lynx Slvia Fowles (34)

•Rare air: Fowles will become the 12th LSU athlete or coach to have his/her jersey retired, which includes Pete Maravich and Shaquille O’Neal

•Splitsville: ESPN is breaking up Mike and Mike. Beginning in 2018 Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg will have new roles with the network. I say boo to this. Mike and Mike have been a solid tandem since 1998. They mix information with entertainment (infotainment) and it works. They are critical without being personal and they don’t have egos so big they need zip codes like other folks in the broadcasting business. If it isn’t broke why fix it? ESPN whiffed on this one…

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: It’s a pinnacle moment for Minn U against Sporting KC

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By Eric Nelson
May 10, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the Land of Loons...

•Signature Win: It took Minnesota United just 10 games to produce a pinnacle moment in their inaugural MLS season. Minn U blanked Sporting KC 2-0 at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday, getting goals from Abu Danladi and Christian Ramirez, and a shutout from GK Bobby Shuttleworth. SKC (18 points) is an MLS powerhouse and is tied for first in the Western Conference with FC Dallas. The much-improved Loons (11 points) have two wins, 1 draw and 1 loss in their last four games…

•Oh Canada: On Saturday Minn U battles another top-tier club as the Loons play Toronto FC in Canada. Toronto is on top of the Eastern Conference and has an MLS-high 19 points…

•Shock-Off: It was a stunning finish in Minneapolis Friday night. Joe Mauer hit his first career walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning against Boston giving the Twins a 4-3 win. The game-winning tater produced some rare emotion from Mauer, who pumped his fist into the air as he circled the bases. It was one of the most unlikely endings I have ever seen at Target Field…

•Hick Ups: NY Yankees CF Aaron Hicks is off to a sizzling start. Hicks is batting .338 with six home runs and 16 RBI, and making the Twins look silly for giving up on him…

•Well-Written: USA today MLB columnist Bob Nightengale recently wrote an outstanding article on the 1992 Los Angeles riots and the impact the violent uprising had on the city, the nation and sports in the wake of the Rodney King verdict.

•Job Hopping: The Vikings have hired Tina Holmes as Chief of Staff and Strategic Advisor. Holmes has spent the last four years in a similar role at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota…

•Eight Ball: It’s looking more and more like the NBA Finals will be the sequel to the sequel. Cleveland and Golden State have already logged a pair of four-game playoff sweeps and are both 8-0 this post-season. The Cavs and Warriors are on an apparent collision course to meet in the Finals for a third straight season…

•Tip-Off Time: The Minnesota Lynx open their WNBA season Sunday night at 6 pm against the Chicago Sky. The game is at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, which is the Lynx temporary home this year while Target Center is being renovated…

•Juggernaut: Congrats to the U of M softball team. The 3rd ranked Gophers (51-3) won their first Big Ten title since 1991 and have a 22 game winning streak. Top seed Minnesota plays Northwestern or Purdue in the Big Ten Tournament on Friday in Ann Arbor, MI…

•Giving Back I: Minnesota Vikings LB Eric Kendricks will present a $20,000 check to The Sheridan Story on Friday at Westview Elementary School in Apple Valley. The Sheridan Story runs weekend food programs at more than 140 schools across the Twin Cities. The funds were raised in Kendricks’ “Sacks for Kids” campaign last season, which asked fans to pledge money for each Vikings sack…

•Giving Back II: The annual Taste of the Vikings charity event is Wednesday June 14 from 6:30-10 pm at US Bank Stadium. Second Harvest Heartland and Land O’Lakes are the main sponsors, which raises awareness and funds to combat childhood hunger. Minnesota players, coaches and alumni will be participating…

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: Chuck Foreman has Hall of Fame credentials

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By Eric Nelson
April 5, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the home of Wheaties...

 

•Overdue Honor: It’s unbelievable that Chuck Foreman is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The greatest RB in Minnesota Vikings history has HOF stats and deserves to be part of the galaxy of stars in Canton, OH. It’s a miscarriage of NFL justice that Foreman hasn’t already been inducted into the Hall…

•NFL Trailblazer: Foreman was the first great multi-talented back in NFL history. He was a trend setter who paved the way for guys like Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk. Number 44 could run with power and speed, and could also catch the ball like a wideout. Foreman was remarkably gifted and his signature spin move made opponents dizzy. He was clearly one of the most exciting players in the 1970’s…

•Impressive Resume: Foreman’s career stats are comparable or better than other HOF backs such as Gale Sayers, Terrell Davis or Floyd Little. In eight seasons he ran for 5,950 yards, had 350 receptions for 3,156 yards and scored 76 touchdowns. Foreman also played in three Super Bowls and five Pro Bowls…

•Purple Apathy: Unfortunately the Vikings are not pushing Foreman for the HOF. This makes no sense and needs to change. Foreman was a key player on the outstanding Minnesota teams of the 1970’s. Without him the Vikings would not have made three Super Bowl trips in four years (1974, ’75 and ’77). Foreman’s impact on the Viking offense was huge and he elevated the play of Fran Tarkenton, Ahmad Rashad, Sammy White, Ron Yary and other Minnesota stars. It is mind-boggling that the Vikings do not promote him as a legitimate HOF candidate…

•Good Start: It’s only one game, and there are 161 left to play in a marathon regular season, but Minnesota’s 7-1 opening day win over Kansas City was a positive first step. The Twins had sputtering starts in 2015 (1-6) and 2016 (0-9), so any kind of positive mojo is good. The Twins had not won a season opener in nine years

•Ace-Like: P Ervin Santana was brilliant on the mound and got the win. Santana limited the Royals to just one run and two hits in seven innings. The Twins hope this is a precursor to the kind of season Santana is going to have…

•New Era: The LA Dodgers celebrated their 60th year in So Cal on Monday as they crushed San Diego 14-3. It also marked the beginning of the post-Vin Scully era. The legendary Scully retired last season and no longer vividly describes the action from the Dodger Stadium broadcast booth. According to the LA Times, Scully spent the day paying bills, going to the post office and washing his car…

•Singing the Blues: They would never admit it publicly, but my guess is that Minnesota would like to avoid St. Louis in round one of the NHL playoffs. Facing Blues coach Mike Yeo is a can’t win proposition for the Wild. As a higher seed Minnesota is expected to knock out St. Louis and it would be embarrassing to lose to Yeo – who was unceremoniously dumped by the Wild last season…

•Smart Move: NHL players will not be a part of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. This was bound to happen and makes sense from the NHL’s standpoint. Why shutdown your product in the middle of the season for three weeks and subject players to possible injury on the Olympic stage? A lot of NHL players are unhappy with the decision, but it is logical from the owners perspective…

•Pioneer Spirit: Denver’s Jim Montgomery is the winner of the 2016-17 Spencer Penrose Award, presented annually to the Division I Men’s Hockey Coach of the Year. Montgomery is the first NCHC coach to win the honor in the conference’s four-year history. Denver (31-7-4) has the most wins in college hockey and has reached the Frozen Four in 2016 and 2017…

•Soccer Salute: Minnesota United finally cracked the win column. The Loons won their first-ever MLS game last week, knocking off Real Salt Lake 4-2 at TCF Bank Stadium. Christian Ramirez (two goals) and HC Adrian Heath were named to the MLS week 5 team of the week. Minn U (1 win, 1 draw, 3 losses) plays at Dallas (2-1-0) on Saturday night at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX…

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Eric Nelson

SPORTS NUGGETS: Despite what the NCAA says, Minnesota played in the 1997 Final Four

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By Eric Nelson
March 30, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the home of Post it Notes…

• Eyewitness Account:  I don’t care what the hypocritical NCAA says, the Minnesota Gophers played in the 1997 Final Four. I know because I was in Indianapolis. I saw a quartet of teams – Minnesota, Arizona, Kentucky and North Carolina – play at the RCA Dome. It really did happen. That is why Gopher fans should celebrate the 20-year anniversary of Minnesota’s only trip to the Final Four – despite the fact that the NCAA wiped out the achievement because of an academic fraud scandal…

• Revisionist History: The ’97 Final Four run remains the pinnacle moment in U of M basketball history. But, the power-hungry NCAA airbrushed everything connected with that team from the record books. In their warped world, all those magical memories never happened and Minnesota forfeited every win. Cheating is wrong and the Gopher program suffered because of it. However, erasing  history makes no sense…

• Invisible Season: Of course, this is how the almighty NCAA operates when a school cheats. The Gophers are just one of many programs who saw their athletic accomplishments vanish in the wake of a scandal. USC’s remarkable run with Reggie Bush and Pete Carroll was expunged from the record books because of violations. Same with Michigan’s famed Fab Five. The penalties were doled out long after the NCAA profited from packed venues, huge television ratings and media attention generated by those schools…

• Money-Ball: Did the NCAA refund Minnesota fans who bought tickets to games that were forfeited? Did they return money to folks who snapped up Wolverine caps, Bush jerseys, Gopher jackets, Final Four pennants and other souvenirs associated with tarnished programs? No way. Those checks got cashed…

• Just Asking: Why can’t the Oakland Raiders share Levis Stadium with the San Francisco 49ers? Yes, the Raiders and 49ers are polar opposites. Yes, they are Mars and Venus when it comes to organizational philosophies. But Santa Clara is a lot closer to Oakland than Las Vegas. The NY Giants and Jets co-exist in the NJ Meadowlands, despite being an NFL odd couple, so it can be done. Besides, it would be good for Santa Clara to get a guaranteed 10 extra NFL dates in their $1.3 billion venue…

• Greener Pastures: For those of you keeping score at home, three NFL franchises have relocated in the past 14 months. The St. Louis Rams moved to Los Angeles in 2016. The San Diego Chargers moved to LA earlier this year. Now the Raiders are off to Vegas…

• Desert Digs: The Raiders new Las Vegas playpen will be a $1.9 billion, 65,000 seat retractable roof stadium. There will also be end zone windows that open and provide panoramic views of the strip. Too bad Minneapolis did not have this kind of vision with US Bank Stadium. Minnesota should have a roof that opens and shuts – not another dome…

• Super Stage: Look for Las Vegas to get a Super Bowl in the future. The NFL likes to reward cities who build new stadiums or renovate old ones. Just ask Arlington, TX, East Rutherford, NJ, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis or Santa Clara…

• Oakland Exodus: When it comes to pro sports, Oakland will soon be a one-team town. The Raiders are moving to Las Vegas in 2019 or 2020 and the NBA Warriors will cross the Bay Bridge and move into a waterfront arena in downtown San Francisco in 2019. The MLB A’s will be the only team left…

• New Digs: Like the Raiders, the A’s have wanted a new stadium for years. Now they have some leverage. We will see if Oakland builds the A’s their coveted new ballpark…

• Sputtering Start: No one is happier to see April come than Minnesota United. It was nothing but March sadness for the Loons in their first month of MLS play. Minn U (0-3-1) was outscored 18-6 and has given up the most goals in the league. The Loons host Real Salt Lake (0-2-2) on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis…

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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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