If you're not from there, you think the Midwest is composed of interchangeable parts. A CNN graphic last weekend showed heavy snow in "Minneapolis, Wisconsin." An ABC studio host told a freezing correspondent in Minnesota: "Sorry about that, Chicago!" When people ask if Marquette University is in Michigan, and I tell them my alma mater is in Milwaukee, they sometimes say: "What's the difference?"
The main thrust of a raging storm that dumped snow in parts of the Midwest over the weekend moved north of the border Monday, but the United States will still feel some of its effects in the form of rain, snow or frigid temperatures.
Nearly every day for the past 20 years someone has told me, "You have the best job ever." And while sportswriting has never felt like hard labor -- except when I tried to interview Carlton Fisk -- it is not, nor will it ever be, the best job ever. The best job ever is the one I got at 13, called up in September to the big leagues, signed to a one-figure deal by the Minnesota Twins.
The Minnesota Twins opened their 2010 home season this week in a brand new ballpark. Target Field replaced the Metrodome, which had been home to the Twins for 28 years. By beating the Red Sox 5-2 on Monday, and winning two of three in the series, the Twins opened their new home with a good start. Still, many are wondering whether Target Field can match the advantage that the Metrodome provided the Twins.
Imagine that Major League Baseball instituted a new rule for the postseason. Only the home team may use signals to put on plays, such as from the third-base coach or dugout. What about the road team? Too bad. Just chalk it up to home-field advantage.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Jerry Jones' voice was as raw as the disappointment in the Cowboys' locker room after a 34-3 loss to the Vikings on Sunday in the Metrodome. A postseason of promise had been buried beneath three turnovers, two missed field goals and a suffocating Minnesota pass rush. It was enough to make onlookers wonder if Jones might re-evaluate the status of head coach Wade Phillips and the qualifications of quaterback Tony Romo, who appeared skittish in the pocket long before the Vikings pass rush took control.
Even though dome teams historically don't fare all that well in the postseason, they still possess a significant advantage. The reason playoff home games are coveted is not because of travel or the familiarity of the field, as some would have you believe. It is all about the noise. And the noise level is more pronounced in domes, and in particular the Superdome and Metrodome, than any of the other venues in the NFL.
Lost amid the drama of Brett Favre's return to Lambeau Field on Sunday was that a very important game in the NFC North was lost almost exclusively because of poor coaching and game-planning by the Packers. The failure to have a better plan in place to help out young offensive tackles was inexcusable. Perhaps worse was the decision to continue kicking deep to Vikings return man Percy Harvin.
MINNEAPOLIS --- About forty-five minutes after Mariano Rivera induced the weak groundout from Brendan Harris that ended this American League Division Series, a few Twins fans lingered in some hidden corner of the Metrodome, testing, for one last time, the stadium's acoustics. "Let's go, Twinkies!" they yelled, their voices echoing throughout the ballpark, well after workers had dug up home plate and had begun to pull the advertisements down from the outfield wall. It was the last time that those words will ever be shouted here.
1. Boston's offense looked anemic in Anaheim, but the truth is that the Red Sox have had a mediocre offense on the road all year. They hit only .257 away from home this season -- 27 points worse than they hit at Fenway Park -- and their slugging percentage was 80 points lower. They scored three runs or fewer on the road 33 times and were 4-29 in those games. They had a losing record (39-42) overall on the road.
Back in the day, the Thing That Wouldn't Leave was John Belushi, in a classic Saturday Night Live skit about a rude slob who plants himself on the neighbors' couch, raids their refrigerator, dials long-distance and sent his castmates into screams of mock terror. It was all done to -- da-dah-DAH! -- blaring sound effects and ominous voice-over, parodying those vintage '50s sci-fi trailers.
NEW YORK -- Near the end of the Yankees' one-hour-and-45-minute workout on Tuesday, as workers swept and power-washed new Yankee Stadium's concourses in anticipation of its first-ever playoff game on Wednesday evening, a driving, drum-heavy rock song blared over the ballpark's P.A. system. Some quick Internet research revealed the song to be something called Uprising, by a band named Muse. "Rise up and take the power back," the singer bellowed melodramatically, while the Yanks shagged fly balls and took batting practice. "It's time the fat cats had a heart attack/ You know that their time's coming to an end/ We have to unify and watch our flag ascend."
With all due apologies to TNT -- the sister station to TBS that will broadcast Tuesday's one-game American League Central playoff game between the Tigers and Twins and the ensuing Division Series that awaits the winner -- we can say this about the mediocrity that has been the majors' weakest division the past two years: they know drama. For the first time in baseball history, a division or league will require an extra regular-season game to decide its champion for the second straight season. Unfortunately, these two races have been notable as much for the flaws of the teams that survived as for the pennant race excitement that they've produced. While the other seven postseason teams all finished with a win total north of 90, either the Twins or Tigers will sneak in with 87, the fewest by a division winner in three years. In fact, the two teams that will face off in what is really, truly the last regular season game at the Metrodome have arrived at Game 163 because they were so
As team sports go, the regular-season collapse is a phenomenon unique to baseball. After all, there isn't much sense getting too worked up over whether a team blew its chance to be the No. 8 seed in the NHL or NBA playoffs, or one of two wild cards in each conference in the NFL.
MINNEAPOLIS -- This is why they wanted him. This is why they went out and got him. For the kind of moment that came on Sunday, and the kind of play that seemingly only he can make. And no, I'm not talking about Greg Lewis in this case.
1) The Twins have played the entire season in a narrow window of mediocrity. They never have been more than three games better than .500 and never worse than six games below .500. Their first baseman and their third baseman are hurt. But here they are with just 16 games left in the season and they still could be a division champion, especially with seven of those games against first-place Detroit, starting on Friday. Really, it's only by virtue of the lousy play of the Tigers that Minnesota has hung in the race.
MINNEAPOLIS -- As you walk around what will become, in eight short months, the Minnesota Twins' custom-built home and the major league's newest ballpark, your glance keeps drifting upward and, as if Bedford Falls were one of the Twin Cities, you start to hear Jimmy Stewart pitching woo on a stroll past picket fences:
Lost amidst the buzz of the recent Jay Cutler-to-Chicago trade is the lack of an experienced starter at a critical position for the other top contending team in the NFC North. Yes, I am talking about the Minnesota Vikings but no, I am not focusing on the quarterback position like everyone else. The Vikings should be almost as concerned about their center as they are about the guy who will eventually take snaps from him.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Neither the White Sox nor the Twins were supposed to be participating in a pennant race this season. It's an expectation to which both AL Central teams have spent the past month living down.