March Madness makes NCAA a bundle!

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By Larry Fitzgerald
March 15, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

When do the athletes — most of them Black — get their fair share?

 

Many years ago my mother, Sally Fitzgerald, taught me how to value a dollar. “Practice trying to save 25 cents out of every dollar,” she said. “It’s a great financial strategy — it challenges you to keep an eye on your money.”

My biggest disappointment in seeing former President Barack Obama leaving the White House after eight years was that no investigation of the NCAA was done. If Black Americans were ever to receive reparations in this country, that is the pool of money to take it from. I thought the government could dive into the NCAA pool and try to go about rewarding us as a people for slavery.

Everyone gets all excited about March Madness and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. It’s all about the seeding. The NCAA selection committee had many questioning its seeding. Defending Champion Villanova (31-3), Kansas (28-4), Gonzaga (30-1) and North Carolina (28-7) are all number-one seeds.

Billions of dollars are generated over the next three weeks with 68 teams playing to the Final Four in Phoenix and eventually a National Champion. The Gophers (24-9) are back in the NCAAs as a number-five seed Thursday in Milwaukee versus Middle Tennessee. Middle Tennessee pulled a huge upset last year as a number-15 over number-two Michigan State.

The Big Ten gets seven teams led by number-four Purdue and number-seven Michigan, the regular season and tournament champs. Wisconsin is seeded number eight — how is that? They beat the Gophers twice and finished ahead of Minnesota, Maryland, Michigan State and Northwestern. Yes, for the first time ever the Wildcats are in the money.

I have always been curious where the money goes that’s generated annually by the NCAA. I have long referred to them as the most corrupt organization in sports. That opinion has not changed.

College football and basketball generate enormous amounts of money for the 300 Division I programs across the USA. The wealth gets lost in athletic budgets funding the other sports teams and individuals and million-dollar salaries to primarily White coaches.

Universities and the television networks work hand in hand with the sponsors — apparel and shoe companies. Good to see Samuel L. Jackson, Charles Barkley and Spike Lee in those Capital One NCAA-themed spots.

Yes, I was hoping that former President Obama, because he loves sports, would have poked into this growing gravy train of wealth generation, especially considering that the majority of the labor force is Black players under the guise of amateurism.

When the great Jackie Robinson broke the race barrier in sports during the spring of 1947, White America did not see us as human, much less as equals. Major League Baseball called it an experiment, remember? However, they knew we could play.

We as a people were segregated back then, spending our hard-earned money supporting the Negro Leagues. Our dollars were unified then and went around in a big circle within our community.

Nobody gave a hoot about the NCAA tournament in the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s. Not until the late 1960s did the growth spurt begin. It’s still growing, the enormous wealth is staggering, and we don’t get a dime.

Sure, a handful of players get drafted each year first-round to the NBA, and others get their educations and start careers. But believe me, 60 to 70 percent of these thousands of athletes never overcome this.

That’s why my excitement is tempered watching the games. I have all these questions, and the NCAA says the exchange of a free education (scholarships) is fair compensation. I’m no Johnny come lately. I have seen where the Wild goose went.

I have echoed these sentiments before. We are supposed to be happy with what we do get. It’s a vicious cycle that has gotten out of control. When, I ask, are we ever allowed to touch the ceiling?

 

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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Thomas U. Tuttle

Start the Madness

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by Thomas U. Tuttle

It’s that time of year again for basketball fans, tourney time, those giddy days of intense college hoops known as March Madness – which leads, for a select few teams, to April gladness (or sadness). Yes, the semifinals take place on April Fools Day (the 1st) with the finals on the 3rd, all in Phoenix Arizona.

The usual suspects are at the fore, as expected. Duke looks tough, although inconsistent at times and with a wildcard star (Grayson Allen) who tends to act out crazily on the court (check out the videos of his purposely tripping players during regular season contests). Kansas, Villanova, North Carolina and Gonzaga are the top seeds in each region, with all but Gonzaga (in my opinion) a threat to win the tourney.

Much has been made of the fact that no dominant teams have emerged this year as heavy favorites to make a title run. Defending champion Villanova (who won a title-game thriller last year) comes in at 31-3, but similar to Gonzaga, doesn’t get tested on a week to week basis like several of the other contenders. North Carolina looks good to me, but two of their losses are to Duke and they looked bad in those defeats.

The Big Ten is represented well, with seven teams at the party but most of those unlikely to dance for long – I don’t envision a scenario where a team from the Ten makes it to Phoenix, unless Michigan continues to astound as it did to close the season. Or if Wisconsin’s underrated and eighth-seeded senior squad gets hot right now and uses a perceived lack of respect to get rolling.

Minnesota is a good club this year, but will miss Akeem Springs (injured against Michigan State and out for the duration) and has a tough opener against giant-killer Middle Tennessee State. They knocked out a two-seed last year (MSU) and bring back a number of starters from that squad. A Gopher win probably brings them Butler, always solid and a victor over #1 seed Villanova earlier in the season. The sweet-sixteen is doable, but getting there is going to require strong, consistent play for it to happen.

My alma mater Northwestern has made the tournament for the first time, which you have been made aware of by throngs of NU media alums. Stephen Colbert, Julia Louis Dreyfus, Brent Musberger, Michael Wilbon, Christine Brennan, Etc…Etc… There has been a lot of attention paid to the Wildcats accomplishment – too much, and I can’t fault anyone for being exhausted by the Cat mania. Hey, I’m an alum and I’m tired of all the blather regarding this squad. Yes, I’m proud they knocked off Maryland and didn’t back into their first NCAA tourney, but the hammering by Wisconsin in the semi’s of the Big Ten tournament was discouraging – and a big reality check. The Cats play Vanderbilt and should be one and done.

Minnesota goes off at 100-1 odds in Las Vegas to win the tourney, while Northwestern lists at 300-1. Hey, are you kidding me? While the Gophers could somehow pull off a surprise or two, and Northwestern could conceivably win a game, I’d make the odds something like 1000 to one for the Goph’s and maybe 10,000 to one for the Cats. It ain’t happening and for anyone who thinks it will, I’ll take your money.

A few years ago, when Minnesota made their run to the semifinals under Clem Haskins and (unfairly) had to forfeit the season, I put $20 on Arizona’s Wildcats to win the whole thing – back in November. When I showed up in Nevada to watch the final four, I put a few more dollars on AZ to win it all. They did, and I was paid well both ways. What fun, and I owe eternal gratitude to my buddy “Hondo” in Tucson who saw that train coming.

This year, Arizona is back, and they are good. I’m going to stick with them to take me back to the promised land. I like UCLA, too, but not quite as much. My thinking is that the number-one seeds are not going to win it this year – not like last year, when they all showed up strong. The exception is North Carolina, who might be ready for this despite the disappointing Duke defeats. Those bad losses could be a motivator for the Tar Heels.

And Duke Blue Devil head-case Grayson Allen can really play – if he stays under control and provides the leadership his team thrives on, Duke could pull off something special.
But count me among the Wildcat backers – just not Northwestern’s breed of basketball Cat. The Arizona Wildcats to win it at home in Phoenix.

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Gophers’ miracle season continues

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By Larry Fitzgerald
March 8, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

Do you believe in Miracles? Wow — from 8-23 last year to 23-8? Richard Pitino is just 31-31 the last two years, I remind you, as Gophers men’s basketball coach.

This is his fourth season, and just like Minnesotans, some fans are worried the famous name Pitino, son of legend Rick Pitino of Louisville, will have teams knocking down the door trying to lure him away from Williams Arena. While appearing on Emmy Award-winning TPT Almanac last Friday, I was asked by co-host Eric Escala if the Gophers might lose Pitino because of the team’s success.

After getting smashed at Madison Sunday 66-49 and having their eight-game win streak end, the greatest turnaround season in the country will in my view still land the Gophers and Pitino in the NCAA tournament. This would be his first trip to the NCAA men’s tournament and the Gophers’ first trip to the dance since 2013.

That was the same year Norwood Teague became athletic director and quickly fired legendary former NCAA championship coach Tubby Smith. Smith reached the NCAAs three times in six years and beat number-one Indiana at Williams Arena the only time in school history. Smith led the Gophers to the field of 32.

(Photo courtesy of Larry-Fitzgerald.com)
Nate Mason drives Gophers to NCAAs

Minnesota is a privileged institution. White coaches get contract extensions for what Smith accomplished while Smith was run off campus by a guy like Teague, a predator disgraced and fired on sexual harassment charges that usually land people like that in jail. But being privileged has its benefits.

You see, people around here think they know, and they don’t know squat. They think Minnesota basketball is comparable to North Carolina, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan State and UCLA. They think the only Division One basketball program in Minnesota is all that. Let’s be clear: It’s not.

Ten times in 105 years the Gophers have reached the NCAA tournament. Remember, three of those NCAA trips were vacated because of academic fraud charges under Clem Haskins. Having said that, I do like this year’s team. Pitino has done a really solid job worthy of earning him the BIG Conference coach of the year. He’s got my vote, and I’m a voter.

The Gophers play with heart. They play together like they enjoy each other, and they lead the nation in blocked shots. They started 15-2 losing five in a row and then reeled off eight straight wins. They beat BIG Conference champion Purdue on the road. They have been in five overtime games and are 3-2. They rebound well, and they are deep.

Junior Nate Mason might be the best guard in the conference. Freshman Amir Coffey has really played well — he’s likely the BIG Freshman of the Year. This is a young team that grew up fast.

The BIG Conference has not gotten much national respect this year. Just three teams have even cracked the AP and USA coaches polls — conference champ Purdue is number 13, Wisconsin number 24 and Maryland number 25. Michigan State, Indiana, Michigan and Illinois are down by their standards.

The 11-7 Gophers have earned a bye in the BIG Men’s Tournament set for Washington, D.C. this week for the first time ever. I think they will be a tough out and could receive a five seed in the NCAAs. Pitino did a good job not just coaching but cleaning up some of the disciplinary issues from last season. This is a good defensive team.

 

 

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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Larry Fitzgerald, Sr.

Tracy Claeys: Gopher scapegoat

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By Larry Fitzgerald
January 11, 2017
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

Usually leadership at NCAA Institutions like Big Ten schools with 45,000 students comes from university presidents. Not at Minnesota, where President Eric Kaler has done his best recently to bungle the important role of the athletic program.

He places academic achievement as his number-one priority, and in many ways under his watch he has undermined the importance of the athletic program, which drives the revenue streams for university athletics.

It’s been called dysfunctional: The clear incompetence and laxity of administration leadership have pushed the Gophers to the verge of being a national joke. Last week, Head Football Coach Tracey Claeys was fired after becoming the first Gophers football coach to win both of his first back-to-back bowl games.

Claeys took over after previous head coach Jerry Kill resigned because of health concerns during the 2015 season; Claeys was his top assistant. In his first full season, he led the Gophers to a 9-4 season with the second-most wins by a Gopher team since 1905, including the 17-12 win over Washington State in the December 27 Holiday Bowl in San Diego.

former Minnesota Golden Gopher football coach Tracey Claeys

Tracey Claeys

When Claeys became head coach, the University did not have a full-time athletic director because Kaler dropped the ball. That was on the heels of longtime respected athletic director Joel Maturi resigning.

Kaler has long been casual in his support of Gophers athletics, and it shows. He has burn scars to prove it. Kaler hired a search committee to find his next AD, which is a sure sign of a president with a lack of commitment to his athletic program and one of the key reasons why the Gophers have not been in the Rose Bowl since 1961.

Norwood Teague was the guy recommended by the committee to the uncommitted Kaler, and he hired him from Virginia Commonwealth. Teague was supposed to elevate the athletic program and was believed to be a great fundraiser.

The first thing Teague did three years ago on arrival was fire as men’s basketball coach the highly respected Tubby Smith, one of the best coaches in college basketball. Smith had won an NCAA Championship at Kentucky before taking the Minnesota job. After six seasons, he was fired.

Three times Smith led the Gophers to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Smith beat UCLA in the NCAA tournament in his final win, and during the year even upset number-one Indiana at Williams Arena for the first time in school history. Never before in 100 years of Gophers basketball had the men’s basketball coach reached the NCAA tournament three times in six years.

Teague proved in short order that he was in over his head. He was fired after it was discovered that he was a campus sexual predator, harassing women administrators and media females with sexual advances. It was one of the most embarrassing and expensive mistakes in school history. The program has become a laughing stock in college athletics thanks to President Kaler.

For two years, the U of M athletic program has been without a full-time AD. Richard Pitino was hired by Teague to replace Smith. After three years and zero NCAA appearances, last year the young Pitino was 8-23, the worst season in school history.

Not until last fall was Mark Coyle hired as full-time athletic director. He is not the best communicator according to some. He did not hire Claeys, and it showed — he recently barbecued him in a news conference and fired him last week after the football team in September had four Black players accused of sexual misconduct with a female student.

Claeys suspended the players for three games because the university has a student code of conduct policy that allows Title IX investigators to launch their own independent investigation even after university and Minneapolis police had conducted an investigation into the alleged assault of the woman using video and audio of the sexual act captured on tape by the players. No charges were filed.

Three weeks ago, 10 Gopher players were suspended by the university after the Title IX report was issued. The football team’s remaining players announced a planned boycott of the Holiday Bowl game, demanding the 10 players be reinstated. Thirty-six hours later, after meeting with Coyle and reading the 82-page Title IX report, the players withdrew their boycott protest.

After his players announced their planned boycott, Claeys tweeted his support of their right to protest, not of the actions of the accused suspended players. The confusion of Claeys’ support angered some. Coyle used the opening to fire Claeys and hire his own guy, P.J. Fleck, who led Western Michigan to a 13-1 season and a trip to the January 2 Cotton Bowl.

Fleck will make $3.5 million a year over the next five years while the suspended Gopher football players await a hearing on their fate and suspensions. Kaler still has job, and his mistakes are evident. His lack of leadership and poor decision-making are clear and are costing this university a small fortune.

 

 

 

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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Larry Fitzgerald, Sr.

Coach Richard Pitino on his Gophers

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By Larry Fitzgerald
December 8, 2016
GAMEDAY GOLD

 

Truth in disclosure: Since Tubby Smith was fired unfairly three years ago by Norwood Teague, the ex-Gophers athletic director, I felt so strongly about how bad that decision was that I stopped covering men’s Gophers basketball. Last year was the worst year in school history at 8-22.

Two weeks ago I ended my protest by covering the Gophers vs. Arkansas at Williams Arena. They won. Before that game, I sat down with Richard Pitino (RP), now in his third season as head coach.

MSR: Congrats on a great start to the season!

RP: Thanks, it’s been a kind of quiet, challenging start to the season.

MSR: The Gophers are better. They are 7-1 and play New Jersey Institute of Technology next at Williams Arena. How are you selling your program and the keys to it?

RP: I would hope that when you talk about playing for the University of Minnesota, you’re obviously talking about a tremendous college experience. And tremendous opportunities outside of basketball if you get your degree from here with all the Fortune 500 companies. To play in the Big Ten if not the best one of the best basketball conferences. And to play in front of our loyal fans.

You talk about all those things. You talk about style of play and the commitment to getting these guys better on and off the court. And, hopefully, winning follows that too. You’re constantly talking about those things with our guys. Our guys love going to school here.

I think that’s kind of an underrated thing here. And they love playing in this arena as well.

MSR: Your dad Rick, head coach at Louisville, is a Hall of Fame coach. Is your goal to achieve some of the things he’s accomplished over the years?

RP: I’m 34 years old and I’m new at this, and to try and mirror a Hall of Famer’s career would make me pretty unhappy. I try to take it day by day.

Richard and Rick Pitino

Like father, like son?

I’ve been provided a tremendous opportunity to be the head basketball coach at a great school a Big Ten school, at a young age. I’m just trying to get better every day and pour myself into our team, my family, and do my best there. The whole trying to be like your dad…you really don’t think about those things.

MSR: Much was made of recruiting and the number of talented in-state high school players that got away from Minnesota. You did get one of the best in Amir Coffey. Can you talk about that?

RP: What’s difficult about local kids is you can’t take them all. You only get 13 scholarships, and you have to identify with the ones that you need. Amir was a guy that we needed. It was extremely important to get him.
It’s early, obviously, but he’s playing well. When you get a local kid and it works — and hopefully it does continue to work — that might be the best local recruiting tool that you can have. We’re going to continue to try and do our best and put him in the position to succeed.

I know the fans locally, they love him if you can see a local kid have success.

MSR: You have a more physical team in 2016-17. Is that what you wanted?

RP: Yes, we’re a much bigger team. If you look at our team, we’ve got more size [with] Amir at 6’-7” at the three spot. That helps. Your four spot is bigger. Reggie Lynch is bigger. That helps in defensive rebounding, and that puts pressure on the defense when you can play inside to out.

I don’t know too many teams in this league if you’re not big that are going to win. If we stay healthy — knock on wood — we’ve got the size to compete. I really do like our size a lot.

Richard Pitino in action court side

Minnesota Gophers head coach Richard Pitino

 

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: Colin Kaepernick takes a stand by taking a seat

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By Eric Nelson
August 30, 2016
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the sports-centric Twin Cities…

•Rip city: From coast to coast and all across the USA, critics are banging on Colin Kaepernick like a piñata. The 49ers QB is being ripped for not standing during the national anthem at Friday night’s Green Bay-San Francisco game in Santa Clara, CA. The haters are entitled to their opinions and I understand some of their venom, but they are also missing the point…

•Taking a stand: By taking a seat Kaepernick has taken a stand – and it is perfectly legal. The Constitution gives him that right and the NFL does not mandate a player standing while the Star Spangled Banner is being played. Kaepernick won’t stand because he says the US historically has oppressed African-Americans and other minorities. Hard to argue with that. It’s a fact. Hard to argue that a certain segment of the population feels like the system is stacked against them. That’s a fact too…

•Chill out: I am not sure why some people are so freaked out by this. It’s okay to disagree with Kaepernick, and maybe there is a better way to get his point across. But, he has the right to sit. I applaud Kaepernick for taking a huge PR risk and standing up for his beliefs. There will be repercussions, but Kaepernick doesn’t care. He wants to get his message across. What’s popular isn’t always right and what’s right isn’t always popular…

•Sports gridlock: Minnesota fans have plenty of sporting choices this Thursday. Winnipeg takes on St. Paul at CHS Field (7:05 pm). The Chicago White Sox and Twins battle at Target Field (7:10 pm). The LA Rams and Vikings play the first ever NFL night game at US Bank Stadium (7 pm). And Oregon State goes against the U of M at TCF Bank Stadium (8 pm)…

•Game train: Each of those venues is connected by the Light Rail green line. Technically it is possible to take the train from event to event, and sample parts of each game…

•Choices, choices: This sports cluster forces fans to make choices on which event to attend. The Vikings pre-season contest will command the most attention – especially with Tuesday’s unfortunate injury to QB Teddy Bridgewater. But don’t ignore the Beavers-Gophers game, which kicks off the U of M football season that is filled with hope and promise. The Saints, of course, are a first place team, while the Twins are irrelevant…

•Raising the bar: U of M fans are hoping that their team can finally have a break through season and win 9 or 10 games. If it doesn’t happen this year, it might never happen. The Gophers don’t play Michigan, Michigan State or Ohio State – three of the top teams in the Big Ten. Minnesota has a favorable schedule and needs to pounce on this opportunity. The Gophers goal should be winning the Big Ten West…

•Trending down: Oregon State is one team Minnesota better beat. The Beavers were 2-10 last season and lost their last nine games. Oregon State’s only wins were against Weber State and San Jose State…

•Tundra showdown: Unranked Wisconsin has a tough challenge in week 1. The Badgers play 5th ranked LSU at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field on Saturday…

•Dak does Dallas: Tough break for star-crossed Cowboys QB Tony Romo who is out with a back injury. Rookie Dak Prescott now gets his chance sooner than expected. Prescott was outstanding at Mississippi State and has Cowpoke fans excited because of his pre-season success…

•Trending down: The Twins continue to spiral downward. Minnesota has dropped 11 straight games after Monday night’s loss at Cleveland. The last place Twins trail the first place Indians by 25 1/2 games in the AL Central…

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SPORTS NUGGETS: Jose Altuve and Brian Dozier are little giants

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By Eric Nelson
August 16, 2016
GAMEDAY GOLD

MINNEAPOLIS – Sports Nuggets from the home of Scotch Tape…

•Second to none: Last week fans in Minneapolis got to see two of the top 2B in MLB. Houston’s Jose Altuve and Minnesota’s Brian Dozier treated Target Field crowds to some impressive baseball. Both guys are solid with the bat and the glove, and are proof that size does not matter in sports…

•Little giants: Altuve had a couple of four hit games for the Astros against the Twins and leads the majors with a .362 batting average. Despite being a smallish 5-6, Altuve has 19 home runs, 73 RBI and has scored 86 runs. Altuve is a legitimate MVP candidate. Meanwhile, Dozier has plenty of pop in his bat too. Dozier is only 5-11, but has become one of MLB’s top power guys in the second half of the season. Dozier has 26 home runs and has hit a tater in three straight games. Dozier already has 101 career home runs in four seasons…

•Bad idea: There has been recent speculation that the Twins might peddle Dozier, because he has value on the trade market. Let’s hope the Twins are not that foolish. Dealing Dozier would be a major mistake and send the wrong signal to a fan base that has seen too many stars leave Minnesota and excel in other cities…

•Peachtree showdown: Next up for Minnesota is a two-game series against Atlanta at Turner Field beginning Tuesday night. The Twins (47-71) have the worst record in the AL and the Braves (44-74) have the worst record in MLB…

•Party-time: Get ready for the MLS in Minnesota. On Friday night Minnesota United is throwing a party at CHS Field to formally announce that the MLS is coming to the Twin Cities next season. A new soccer-specific stadium will be built in St. Paul and the team will play at TCF Bank Stadium or Target Field before it opens…

•Ram-packed: Even the suits who run the shield had to be blown away by the turnout for the first NFL game in Los Angeles in 22 years. The Dallas-LA Rams game at the Coliseum drew 89,140 fans. The game even had a Hollywood ending as the Rams rallied for a 28-24 win…

•Win with flair: Because they are a novelty, the Rams are currently the trendy team in LA. But, they better win games, and do it with a Tinsletown flair, or the honeymoon will be quicker than a Kim Kardashian marriage. Losing does not go over well in So Cal…

•Show Me State support: Meanwhile, St. Louis is still coming to grips with losing the Rams. KMOX Radio in St. Louis is trying to ease the sting by broadcasting Kansas City Chiefs games this season. The Chiefs and Rams play Saturday night at the LA Coliseum…

•Double defections: As odd as it seems, LA and St. Louis do have one thing in common – both cities have lost two NFL teams. The Raiders and Rams both left Los Angeles and the Cardinals and Rams bolted St. Louis…

•Borton’s book: Former U of M women’s basketball coach Pam Borton has written a new book titled, “On Point.” It is a motivational book designed to give readers a game plan for success in business, sports or anything else. Borton coached the Gophers for 12 seasons and took the team to the NCAA Final Four in 2003-04…

•Golden sendoffs: If this really is the last time we see Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt perform in the Olympics, then we should all give thanks for being able to witness their greatness. From Beijing to London to Rio de Janeiro, these superstars have wowed fans across the globe…

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