The Minnesota sports fan I feel the worst for

If it wouldn’t have been snowy and icy and all around awful this morning, I would have gotten a picture.

But I found the Minnesota sports fan that I feel the absolute worst for on my commute this morning.

As I pulled up to the stoplight at Winnetka Ave. and Highway 55, there was a Chevy Malibu in one car ahead of me in the other lane. It had a vanity license plate which read simply:


No, I’m not making this up. I couldn’t make that up if I tried. Now I like the NBA. I am one of a cast of many that split a pair of Timberwolves season tickets. I find some of their young players interesting. I think they should have been better this season, but I do think there are some good parts there.

But I can’t, for even a split-second, imagine a world in which I would consider a license plate with a Wolves reference on it.

Can you imagine the kind of lines that guy gets when he pulls into a crowded parking lot? Even mild-mannered me might say something to him. After all, the Wolves have the worst record in the Western Conference and the second-worst in all of the NBA.

But I guess I have to give him credit for being loyal. After all, the Wolves are about to complete their sixth consecutive losing season. In that stretch (since the beginning of the 2005-06 season), they are a combined 143-338

And he supports that team every time he gets in his car. Wow.


A funny golf story

This one landed in my inbox today complements of my friend Dan.

The Golfer
He left  home around 8:30 to play golf with his friends. 
On the way  out the door, he answered his wife’s “What time will you be home?” question with
“Probably  around 1:30 – I’ll have lunch at the club.”
1:30 came  and went, 3:00 passed, 6:15, still not home.
Finally at  about 7:00 PM he rolls in the driveway, leaves his clubs in the garage, and  presents his wife with a pizza, and begins the apologetic story.
“We  finished our game about 11:30, had lunch and I started home, when alongside the  road I saw this attractive girl with a flat tire on her car.  I stopped to  help, got the tire changed, and looked around for a place to wash my  hands. 
She  offered money, but I refused, so she suggested that I at least allow her to buy  me a beer. 
She said  there’s a tavern just up the road, and they have a restroom, you can clean up a  bit. 
I agreed  to stop, we had a beer, then another beer, then a couple more, and I realized  that this girl was not only pretty, she was very friendly, and a good companion  to spend time with. 
Before I  knew it, we were in the motel next door having sex. 
And that  is why I am so late getting home.”
His wife  looked him right in the eye and said
“Don’t  bullshit me — you played 36 holes, didn’t you?”

Eight hours in the car to play golf? Crazy or genius?

This crazy idea started with a Facebook post from They posted Wednesday afternoon that there are now some golf courses opening in the Des Moines, Iowa area. I followed that up with a stop at that indicated a Saturday forecast of a temperature in the mid-50s with sunny skies.

I haven’t played golf or hit a golf ball since a Christmas Eve round in Arizona. I am pretty much dying to play. I can’t deny that for even a second.

And I’m going to come clean. After seeing the forecast, I immediately emailed two friends of mine to see if they wanted to experience a scenic drive down Interstate 35. One can’t do it as he has plans. The other one is spending the weekend in Palm Springs (and, yes, I used profanity upon hearing that news).

At that point, I started really thinking about this. The best option might be the Tournament Club of Iowa, which is between Ames and Des Moines. It is 241 miles from Golden Valley to Polk City, Iowa. Google maps says it is a four-hour drive. That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I would probably be looking at 3.5 hours at least.

The golf course, which I played once several years ago, is pretty good. The spring rate of $44 isn’t bad.

The longer I’ve thought about it, the more I’m leaning toward staying close to home and hitting balls here. If I had somebody to drive with, I would probably do it. But I’m not sure that I want to make the drive by myself. Also, I have to be back in the Twin Cities by 4 p.m. on Sunday, making a two-day trip more of a challenge.

So as much as I want to play my first round of 2011, I’m going to have a rare moment of being responsible. If it was Mason City or Albert Lea, I would probably do it. OK, I would certainly do it. Instead, I’m going to hit balls at least once and maybe twice. I’m going to try to work off some of the rust.

And then hopefully we’ll see some courses a little closer to the Twin Cities open next weekend.

Two reads in honor of tonight’s start of the NCAA tournament

If you didn’t know, the newly expanded NCAA men’s basketball tournament begins tonight. These two stories won’t help you win your bracket pool, but it will get you up to speed and make it appear as if you’ve been watching ball all season.

Do you know what three-goggles are? What started in the NBA has made it to the college game. And I’m guessing that flashing the three-goggles will be this year’s version of popping one’s jersey. So, you had better read this story from The Wall Street Journal on the latest trend.

And while I know that CBS considers Jim Nantz, Clark Kellogg and Steve Kerr to be the voice of the tournament, that is a bunch of hogwash.

The voice of the tournament is none other than Gus Johnson. I mean did you hear him scream “COLD BLOODED” after Washington guard Isaiah Thomas dropped the three-pointer to beat UCLA in Saturday’s Pac-10 championship game?

Anyway, here is a good New York Times story on Gus. It talks about his excitment level, his creative way of calling games and his background. I’m not going to lie, I will sometimes watch a game strictly because Gus is on the mic. He just has so much fun. After you read the story, make sure you check out Gus Johnson sound board.

In the words of Gus, it is “pure”.

Awesome hockey hair video

For you non-Minnesotans, the high school hockey tournament here is kind of a big deal. The big class pretty much sells out the arena where the Minnesota Wild play, games are on TV and get pretty decent ratings.

And while the whole idea of hockey hair seems like it might be a cliche, here is some pretty good video proof that big and long hair is still alive and well.

This is worth a watch and should generate at least a chuckle.

New Golfweek classic/modern rankings

If you pay even a slight bit of attention to golf, you know that everybody is in the ranking game. Golf Digest has been in the game for a long time. Golf Magazine has their own rankings. Even business journals do ridiculous rankings based only on course ratings (and are kind of worthless in my estimation).

My favorite rankings, however, come from Golfweek. The weekly publication’s biggest two rankings are its listing of its top 100 Classic courses and top 100 modern courses. I like these because classic courses and modern courses are two totally different animals. For a Minnesota example, how exactly do you compare Interlachen Country Club, which was built in the early 1900s and Spring Hill Golf Club, which is around 10 years old? One was built when technology didn’t exactly allow for a lot of earth moving, the other during a time when dirt was so easily moved that visual deception is part of the designer’s game.

I, personally, am a fan of classic courses. I love how they fit pretty naturally into the earth. I like that in many cases controlling your golf ball is as important as attempting to overpower the course. I like that classic courses are much more walkable and very few are cart-path only or feature long green-to-tee walks.

The other cool addition this year is that they also ranked the next 100 modern courses and the next 100 classic courses. So we essentially have 400 courses ranked.

For my Minnesota friends, here are some findings:

Courses on the Classic list:

52. Interlachen

61. White Bear Yacht Club

72. Minikahda

93. Northland

147. Somerset

172. Golden Valley

176. Woodhill

On the modern list:

59. Spring Hill (making its debut in the rankings)

83. Hazeltine National Golf Club

115. Windsong Farm Golf Club

What I’ve played:


17. Pinehurst No. 2

52. Interlachen

58. Lawsonia (Links)

70. Pine Needles

72. Minikahda

78. Rolling Green (Pa.)

93. Northland

101. Kirtland Country Club

136. Idle Hour Country Club

147. Somerset

159. Mid Pines Club

172. Golden Valley

176. Woodhill

188. Lake Merced


12. Muirfield Village Golf Club

46. Blackwolf Run (River)

58. Paa-Ko Ridge

59. Spring Hill

77. Kapalua Plantation

80. Briggs Ranch

83. Hazeltine National Golf Club

85. We-Ko-Pa (Saguaro)

88. Cog Hill #4 (but prior to recent renovation)

93. Valhalla Golf Club

109. Harvester

115. Windsong Farm

172. Sugarloaf Mountain

176. Musgrove Mill

It has been four long months

Four months ago — on Nov. 7, 2010 — I played my last round of Minnesota golf. It was a fairly pleasant day. It wasn’t warm, but it also wasn’t stocking cap golf.

To say that I want to tee it up again is a serious understatement.

I recently came across these photos on my digital camera from that weekend (they were actually taken on Nov. 6) and thought I would share a few. The pictures are from Southview Country Club in West St. Paul, a very fun classic course that is nearly 100 years old. Many of the holes were designed by architect William Langford.

I love The Jerome

It was the end of February 2006 when I received the email. I was still covering college basketball and knew way too much about way too many teams.

The email came from my friend Dave Curtis, then of the Orlando Sentinel. And it was about one of the craziest/greatest pools I’ve ever been a part of. In a newsroom, there are always pools going on. When I was an intern at The Phoenix Gazette in the summer of 1994 when O.J. Simpson began the white Bronco chase, there was a pool. You put in a buck and had to guess time of capture and dead or alive.

Since then, I’ve been in pools about college hockey, NASCAR, junior college basketball and the NIT.

But The Jerome is the greatest thing ever. What is it? Named after backboard-shatterer Jerome Lane, you basically you have to pick the winner of every men’s basketball conference tournament.

In 2007, my friend Dan Wetzel wrote a column about the awesomeness of The Jerome. He summed it up like this:

The Jerome is a tournament pool for the truly deranged NCAA follower – mostly, in this case, sportswriters armed with too much useless information and too little of a real life. It requires picking the winners of all 30 conference tournaments and, through various bonus points, churns out a champion who truly should be ashamed of his knowledge of the sport.

It’s basically your NCAA office pool on steroids.”

I can honestly tell you that aside from the “the golf course is opening for season,” the arrival of The Jerome email is one of my favorite days of the year.

This week is filled with championship games in a bevy of generally obscure leagues. Monday night we’ve got championship games in the Colonial Athletic Association and the MAAC. On Tuesday we get the Horizon League title game and a bunch of early games in other leagues.

Maybe it sounds crazy, but it is fun to get excited by the fact that Wofford reached the SoCon title game. Or that you get screwed over by Coastal Carolina losing in the Big South semis (I learned the hard way that you just can’t trust those Chanticleers.).

Anyway, the event has grown from small to now more than 180 people. There is no money exchanged. It’s all about pride and talking trash. The group is interesting. I don’t know nearly as much about hoops as many of these folks — there’s even a former coach turned TV guy in the field who coached in the NCAA tournament. It is very fun.

Picks are made in two waves. One for the tournaments that started this past week and another for ones that start this week.

Here are my early picks. I appear to be very much in the middle of the pack so far.

America East: Boston U – in the championship game
Atlantic Sun: Belmont – WINNER
Big Sky: Northern Colorado – in semis
Big South: Coastal Carolina – lost in the championship game
Colonial Athletic: George Mason – I knew I shouldn’t have trusted the CAA top seed. Lost in the semis
Horizon: Butler – in the title game
Metro Atlantic: Rider – ousted by the very hot Iona in the semis
Missouri Valley: Missouri State – lost in the championship game. Should’ve known better than to pick Valley top seed
Northeast: Long Island – In the championship game
Ohio Valley: Austin Peay – bounced in the semis
Patriot: Bucknell – In the championship game
Southern: Wofford – In the championship game
Summit: Oakland – In the semis
Sun Belt: Florida Atlantic – got bounced early in an upset.
West Coast: Gonzaga – In the semis

Now excuse me, I need to break down the rest of the conferences. I don’t want to finish last.