Minnesota Sports Time Machine

August 9, 2011

After seeing the movie “Source Code”, in which Jake Gyllenhall’s character travels back in time to try to undo a tragic event, SI.com’s Joe Posnanski wrote an interesting blog post with a list of sports moments he’d try to alter if time travel was possible. It immediately got me thinking about the Minnesota sports scene and what events I would change to help alleviate the suffering local fans have endured over the years. There is so much to choose from. I mean, the Vikings could populate a top 50 list all alone. So, where to start?

First, a important hypothetical ground rule. You can’t just wish for a different outcome to a game or a play. In this little fantasy, you could warn Gary Anderson not to miss a critical field goal to the left, but that wouldn’t ensure the ball would go through the uprights.

After careful consideration, here’s my list. A note: On rare occasions, sports truly are life and death. That became a reality 10 years ago when Vikings offensive lineman Korey Stringer died from heat-related issues during training camp. Let’s all agree that changing what happened that day would top any list. In fact, it ranks so far ahead of everything else that I won’t even include it in this list of far less important moments.

10- Talk the Twins into re-signing David Ortiz – I had no problem with the Twins letting him go at the time. But nobody knew he’d turn from oft-injured underachiever into a superhero named Big Papi. His big bat and bigger personality may have powered the Twins back to a World Series.

9- Let Chilly Visit Green Bay – The Vikings were so smitten with Brad Childress, they offered him a head coaching contract before he could make a scheduled interview with Green Bay the following day. We subsequently suffered through five years with my least favorite coach in franchise history (Les Steckel wasn’t around long enough). Man, I wish he was the Packers coach.

8- Keep KG – Given what the Timberwolves received in a trade with the Boston Celtics for superstar Kevin Garnett, I’d rather see him still on the team today.

7- Introduce Bud Grant to the Prevent Defense – Thanks to the original “Hail Mary” pass, the Vikings lost a heartbreaking NFC Championship in 1975 to the Dallas Cowboys on a long, last-second toss from Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson. The Vikings didn’t employ a conservative defense, instead covering Pearson with a single defender with help from a late-arriving safety. People complain that Pearson pushed off, but it never should’ve come to that. There should have been four defenders in the end zone ready to knock the ball down. I was too young to remember, but a win in the Super Bowl that year would’ve changed the face of the franchise.

6- Tell Clem not to bend the rules – Gophers basketball was never bigger than in 1997, when the squad made it to the NCAA Men’s Final Four. Then it all came crashing down because a U of M basketball staffer was writing term papers for players. Head coach Clem Haskins was quickly gone and so was competitive hoops for years.  

5- Kill the Joe Smith deal – For some reason, the Timberwolves decided to risk their future to make an illegal contract promise to Joe Smith, whose play on the court was about as average as his name. The NBA essentially gave the Wolves the death penalty by taking away five first round picks. Those draft choices could’ve put the team over the top in the short-term and helped stave off the team’s long-term collapse.

4- Keep the 12th man out of the huddle – The 2009 NFC Championship will be remembered for Brett Favre’s backbreaking interception with the score tied and the Vikings so close to winning you could taste it. But the only reason a pass play was ever called was the inane penalty for having too many players in the offensive huddle. If there is no penalty, I’m convinced Ryan Longwell would’ve kicked the Vikings to the big game.

3- Convince Denny to take a knee…in the first half – When it comes to the infamous 1998 NFC Championship game, people focus their anger on Gary Anderson’s missed chip shot and Dennis Green’s decision to take a knee and run out the clock instead of trying to score at the end of regulation. I’d convince Green to sit on the ball with just seconds remaining in the first half instead. The Vikings were primed to go to the locker room with a comfortable 20-7 lead, but Green got greedy. A sack and fumble recovery for the Falcons, followed by a quick touchdown pass, changed the momentum significantly.       

2- Convince legislators to build a stadium for the North Stars – Sure, we have the Wild. But we ended up building a new stadium anyway. And many fans have never shared the passion for the Wild that they did for the Stars.

1- Stop the Herschel Walker trade – The Vikings gave up an unprecedented number of draft picks and players to acquire Walker from the Dallas Cowboys in hopes he’d lead them to the Super Bowl. Herschel turned out to be average at best and the Cowboys turned a bad team into a dynasty with the ransom they received. Even more troubling is the fact that the Vikings remained competitive for years following the deal and would have been true championship contenders if they would’ve just kept their players and picks.

Well sports fans, what would you add to the list?