One special moment

My wife and I have two sons. Carson just turned 4 and Caden is just two months away from turning 7.

Since Caden was about 18 months old, he’s been able to replicate a pretty solid golf swing. Ever since then, I’ve been anxious and cautious about taking him out for a round of golf.

I’ve read too much about Earl and Tiger Woods. It’s not that I don’t want my son to become successful. I do. In golf? That’s up to him. I’ll try to guide him as well as a 10-handicapper can, but he’s 6. Two years ago, we started him in junior lessons at the Meadows in Moorhead. Several times we spent time together at the practice greens of courses in the area. Earlier this year, we walked over to Edgewood on a couple Sunday nights to chip and putt on the green behind the driving range.

For a while, that was enough. Caden hits the ball perhaps 40 yards and loves to take the pins on the practice green out, even when he chips. So we made up some “holes” hitting from different locations about 30 yards away from the practice green to simulate a real golf hole.

My friends all urged me that it’s time to take him to a course. For a few weeks, I wasn’t real sure his pace of play. He likes to be distracted by a) weeds in the grass. b) numbers on golf balls. c) just about everything else but walking to the green to putt.

But I knew it was time. I absolutely didn’t want to rush him. I never picked up a golf club until I was almost 10. I remember those days when my opening hole of 165 yards forced me to go around a small pond halfway to the hole. I surely did not want him to get frustrated walking 9 holes and be overwhelmed, even at a short course.

 

But Thursday night came along and it was better than I imagined for him. He marched to every shot, sometimes ran. He enjoyed taking the pins out, using the golf ball washer, finding broken tees to use and hitting some really solid shots. For me, I enjoyed it, too. He didn’t get frustrated. He simply didn’t care.

He was impressed by his own shots. He seemed impressed with mine. (Although he didn’t even turn around when one of my tee shots zipped past the hole – he was focused in on finding more tees.)

I was pretty impressed by his 6 on one hole (Talk about shooting your age) and his demeanor. Always a smile. I couldn’t help but remember what I felt like when I started this great game. It was really fun.

The gorgeous evening – double rainbow included – was simply a wonderful walk for a father and his son. We be doing it again for years. In a couple years, we’ll even have a threesome.

Lawmaker fails to see the bigger picture

Maybe you’re a fan of the NFL, maybe you’re not.

Maybe you’re a fan of the Minnesota Vikings, maybe you like the Chicago Bears.

Still, statements like the one Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, threw out Monday night bothers me. A lot.

“Why should the state of Minnesota contribute to a stadium for a billionaire who could pay for it himself?”

It’s a ridiculous argument. First, the NFL’s wings spread wider than any other professional sports league in the US. The Vikings, the lovable losers that they historically are, provide entertainment to thousands upon thousands of living rooms each Sunday.

They help fill bars. Yes, probably even the Choo Choo Mill Bar & Grill in Grove City. They help area merchants sell team apparel. Yes, even Scheels in Fargo. They motiviate the region’s teenagers to enjoy athletics, stay out of trouble or dream of their first high school touchdown.

The trickle down doesn’t stop there. The team generates work for concession workers, ushers, parking attendants, trainers, police, security, field workers, hotel workers and thousands more, most of whom reside in the state.

Let’s consider the media impact. The team drives television, radio and print advertising, which in turn, helps keep regional businesses in operation, as well as yours truly and hundreds more who disseminate the team’s news.

There’s several more reasons why having an area team in the NFL is meaningful. But to say the state should refrain from funding a new stadium is a slap at the state’s residents who have ever watched the Purple play.

Urdahl’s comment is short-sighted, especially considering the Twin Cities is a major market. It’s a blanket statement that doesn’t apply to all businesses. If this is the case, no city in the state would provide incentives or tax breaks for businesses with millionaire owners willing to relocate in their towns.

Urdahl did vote for the stadium bill.

Still, he has to come up with something better. One size doesn’t fit all. And it certainly doesn’t fit here.

Without the Vikings, I lose my Sunday entertainment and my convenience store loses out on the $10 I dropped for soda and chips.

Yes, it’s a drop in the bucket. But it’ll rain hard. I hope these legislators carry umbrellas.

 

The towel has been thrown

When most other quarterbacks are perfecting the back-shoulder throw, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Donovan McNabb went into Sunday night’s game as a master of the front-foot throw.

So, I started charting his passes Sunday night.

A high throw here, a behind throw there and several worthless completions later, I gave up. Did it really matter anymore that he hit Bernard Berrian between the numbers and he played “hot potato” with it, or that he threw to the feet of Visanthe Shiancoe? No.

Or would it have mattered if he hit Percy Harvin on an 80-yard fly route when the game was out of hand in the third quarter? No.

The Vikings are quite simply, the most boring team to watch in the NFL, even with the most explosive player in the league in Adrian Peterson.

McNabb is too soft-spoken to realize his faults and appears to lack a commanding presence on the team. Head coach Leslie Frazier has lacked putting anyone on notice. When he threatened to look at every flaw on the team after the loss to Kansas City, he changed nothing.

Arizona lost the next game more than the Vikings won it.

So they play lifeless in Chicago and now switch gears at quarterback at Christian Ponder. I doubt that was a move of a permanent change (still TBA, however) than it was to protect McNabb from further embarrassment with his mom in the crowd.

I’ve watched 30-plus years of Vikings football. This might be the worst year ever. And considering last season has been viewed as a complete collapse – even the dome caved in – we’re only six games in and there’s 10 more games of worthless viewing to come.

Watching crews clear snow from TCF Bank Stadium last season was more enjoyable to watch.

 

 

 

 

He’s still loud and proud

With the Minnesota Vikings sitting at 1-4 heading into Chicago, I figured it was time to check on how Bruce Cusick, one of the Vikings public address announcers and emcee for several team functions, is doing these days.

If you haven’t heard them yourself, there’s apparently been a lot of “boos” being vocalized by the patrons of Mall of America Field. Even with the team blowing out Arizona last week. Fans are begging for a change at quarterback and a winning streak.

Cusick says this season reminds him a bit of last year by having high expectations, but says he’s totally enjoying what he does at team events and Sunday afternoons at the dome, which has been sold-out for every game during his time with the team.

“I always have fun,” he said. “You know, being a Vikings fan since I was a kid in the ’60s, having this job has been a blast.”

One of the changes this year in head coach Leslie Frazier’s first full season is introducing individual players onto the field before a game, something former head coach Brad Childress elected not to do the past few seasons.

Cusick says he’s enjoying those moments with the fans and players on the field.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Favre goes live

This clip was being shared around my Facebook circle yesterday. It’s Brett Favre and his college football broadcasting debut.

Somehow I’m not surprised, given how he always said a lot while saying very little when he was being interviewed. Being on live TV, I would think, can be much more difficult than people think. As some comments said, it wasn’t a complete failure …

Check out this review on rivals.com

Third-down problems killing Vikings

There was a time, yes, there was a time when a first-down conversion on a third-and-4 for the Minnesota Vikings was almost automatic.

The Vikings have employed various third-down backs that excelled in those situations, the last being Chester Taylor before he signed with Chicago.

The Vikings led the league in third-down conversion percentage in 2003 and 2004. From 2003-2010, 2004′s 50.6 percent clip for the Vikings is the second highest behind Indianapolis’ 53.7 percent in 2006.

There’s a reason why the makeups and general philosophies of NFL offenses blend together among all 32 teams. It works. If you stray from simply shoving the ball down the defenses throat, you end up grabbing your own.

Quarterback Donovan McNabb doesn’t have the luxury of playing with a normal third-down package. That’s part of the reason why the Vikings converted just 5 of 14 third downs on Sunday and are just 36 percent for the season. If Visanthe Shiancoe isn’t open, it appears there’s no other options available to him. That includes taking off himself in pursuit of a first down.

In past seasons under OC Darrell Bevell, the team relied heavily on third-down screens and quick slants. In 2009, Brett Favre helped the Vikings convert 44.7 percent of third-down plays. While good, it’s not great; but when that team was winning games week after week, the stat can become mute when you’re simply protecting the ball before punting it away.

This year’s flavor hasn’t found a way to keep moving the chains. Right now it’s a two-man offensive show with Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin. Good teams have at least five ways to pick defenses apart.

The Vikings are not a good team and it’s really no surprise. The holes in this team were there before the season began and are only increasing in size after each passing week.

If you remember, the team went “all-in” last season and lost. In poker, that means you’re out of chips and you hit the rail.

There is absolutely no reason why McNabb shouldn’t be benched sometime next week. (Head coach Leslie Frazier told the Star Tribune after the game “No, no” on a QB change.) Still, I don’t think that completely locks the door on giving Christian Ponder the ball for a series or two (or five) against the imploding Arizona Cardinals next week.

I’d rather see Ponder win or lose against the Cardinals than to see McNabb (playing throughout) head into Chicago with an 0-5 team only to exit 0-7 after the following Green Bay game.

It’s ridiculous to think McNabb’s passing is better than Ponder’s throwing and running ability at this stage of the game. If it isn’t Ponder, then Frazier has to consider the last Vikings QB to win a game: Joe Webb.

Fourth-down play telling for Vikings

This is the Vikings in the second half:

What’s important to note from Sunday’s game against the Lions is that the Vikings blew at least one blocking assignment on the fourth-and-1 failed run by Toby Gerhart.

Rookie tight end Kyle Rudolph couldn’t seal the corner in time, allowing a Lions player to get into the backfield to grab Gerhart from behind, limiting his push for the first down.

The down block by guard Steve Hutchinson, who appeared to be Gerhart’s lead blocker, was probably enough to get the first down. But Gerhart got his legs tied up by two Lions players ripping around the edges and appeared to lose all his momentum for a second effort into the line.

There’s been a lot of chatter about not giving Adrian Peterson the ball here in this crucial situation. That one can be debated all week. Vikings coach Leslie Frazier defended the play call, but the failed execution of not sealing the edges doomed this play.

While the season so far is a universal failure, one can zero in on this play as a reason why the failures are mounting.

Patience is laughable for Vikings fans

Ponder: Verb: Think about (something) carefully, esp. before deciding or concluding.

Christian Ponder: First-round draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings.

Patience: Something head coach Leslie Frazier is stressing today.

No, it’s not all Donovan McNabb’s fault after Minnesota handed Tampa Bay a 24-20 victory Sunday. You can start with the mental mistakes, including Phil Loadholt’s false start penalty on 3rd-and-3 on the first drive of the second half. That lead to Adrian Peterson getting flagged for holding and a subsequent punt that put Tampa Bay’s starting position in Vikings territory.

Two plays later it’s 17-7 and the comeback is on.

But if fans are urged to be patient, where’s the urgency on the behalf of the Vikings?

Don’t go thinking 0-2 is a surprise. It isn’t. The fact of the matter is the team has yet to claim an identity, to be able to compete, something it really hasn’t done since the rock-em, sock-em NFC title game two seasons ago.

Fox’s Jimmy Johnson said during halftime that Tampa Bay QB Josh Freeman can play from behind. Now make that eight of his 14 victories having led the Bucs from being tied or behind in the fourth quarter to wins.

Patience. Ha. Fifty-one seasons of patience. Fifty-one seasons with roughly 10 of them painful enough to ask your doctor to draw another face on the hospital’s pain chart.

All this pain. I need a timeout.

Speaking of which, a timeout is designed for a strategy switch, a momentum breaker or to stop the clock. Frazier treated all three of his team’s timeouts like rollover minutes on a cell phone plan. He didn’t even bother to help his bending defense snap back into place before LeGarrette Blount’s 4-yard TD run with 31 seconds left put Tampa Bay in the winner’s circle.

Does Ponder get a look sooner than later? With the Vikings likely heading to an 0-5 start, it’s possible. McNabb may have missed open receivers before tucking it in on a 2nd-and-goal from the 6 late in the second quarter. While his career TD/INT rate is 2 to 1, there’s no reason to not hold back – this game or all season.

McNabb has yet to open it up offensively. His longest pass play of the day was a screen that Toby Gerhart caught 3 yards behind the line of scrimmage before running for a 42-yard gain.

Every game in a 16-game season is scrutinized right down to the blade of fake grass in between the 42 and 43 yard lines. We surely didn’t expect a 2-0 start, just don’t make us think for a moment that it should be.

Be prepared for a long season, Vikings fans

If Sunday’s 39-yard passing performance reminded you that Brett Favre is still retired, you’re not alone.

The Minnesota Vikings clearly do not have enough weapons besides their $100 million man.

Is Donovan McNabb the answer? Maybe. He’s still quick enough to step up in the pocket and take off. But the Vikings don’t need a running quarterback, they need someone who can throw it.

How difficult was this game? Remember, this was against the Chargers, not the NFC North, where having a pass rush and earning victories remain synonymous. The worst is yet to come.

The Vikings need to identify a big-play receiver on the outside. Bernard Berrian? You’ve had your chance for three seasons. You’ve simply dropped the ball. You are paid, and generously to the tune of $1.9 million, so coming back to an underthrown ball on a critical down should be well within your skill set. Oddly, you’re playing for a contract here and you had zero catches. Let’s look again. Yes, still zero.

That means Bill Musgrave’s offense really was tailored for you.

The Chargers, without a true kicker, found a way to win. Change the plan. Stack the box. Who are the Vikings going to go deep to? That’s right, a run is coming. Stuff it. Improvise, and send your punter out for a 40-yard field goal and nail it.

If this would’ve been a game that meant something – and it doesn’t because the Vikings aren’t going anywhere anyway – the outrage would be tremendous.

Losses, even in the season opener with a 7-0 lead, remind me now of the Twins’ year. Let’s just get it over with. A lot of money and time is being wasted.