Notwithstanding the football Gophers’ upset win over Washington State in the relatively meaningless Holiday Bowl, this has been a dreadful year for a Minnesota sports fan. I don’t know why, or if this is at all peculiar to Minnesota, but pessimism has been my normal state since I moved there, and it has carried over to my non-resident fandom. Maybe it’s because the Vikings never won the Super Bowl, because Gary Anderson missed the kick, because Brett Favre’s pass was intercepted, because the Twins always fall to the Yankees, because the Gophers can’t compete with the Ohio States of the Big Ten or because the Timberwolves are the Timberwolves, I don’t know. Every community has its share of heartbreaks – think of Buffalo’s four Super Bowl losses, the Cubs’ hundred years without a championship, or Cleveland’s general misery before 2016 – and for every winner there are dozens of losers; so my view may be more the norm than I admit. But the fact remains that I expect every comeback to fall short and every draft choice to be a disappointment.
The Twins, as noted previously, set a team record for futility this summer. The only cause of optimism is the fact they have a new General Manager, although that fix usually takes several years to produce results. Their young superstars-to-be, Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, had better start living up to their hype or the future will be bleak. The Vikings started the fall miraculously, going 5-0 with, first, a backup quarterback then a dominant defense. They gave away a game to the Lions and, seemingly, their confidence and their season unraveled from there, at first slowly and now precipitously. The T-Wolves excited their fan base with the prospect of a new, proven coach guiding three 21-year-old athletic phenoms. Things might be rough at first, but surely this bunch would start to deliver on its promise. Instead, they have held big leads in almost every game only to fall short at the end; and as we know, it is only the last five minutes of an NBA game that really matters. I am less invested in the U of M’s football team, but they, too, were a tease: holding second-half leads over the likes of Penn State, Iowa and Wisconsin and finishing with a respectable 9-4 record, but without a “signature” win. There is an NHL team currently on a winning streak, but I can’t follow every sport and, except for three years reporting at Harvard, hockey has never interested me.
Perhaps I should file for divorce from Minnesota, now that I no longer live there. If Santa Barbara had a team, maybe I would, but I doubt I will ever identify with Los Angeles – the New York City of the West Coast. The Minnesota scene is still manageable, and I enjoy the StarTribune sports section each morning, so I expect I will stick. I just wish there were more fellow fans out here to commiserate with.