Zim Talks Division, but Goals Bigger
A Saturday notes column kicking off with the Vikings.
Linebacker Ben Gedeon told Sports Headliners Mike Zimmer has talked to the Vikings this week about how the team can clinch the NFC North Division title and a playoff spot by winning Sunday against the Panthers, but then the coach added, “There are a lot bigger goals than just winning this week.”
Gedeon said the team reacted to Zimmer’s words by being quiet and professional. A steady approach reflects their coach. “I think that’s one thing you see with him is he is pretty consistent week to week and I think the message every week has been, ‘We haven’t done anything yet and…not looking too far ahead in the season,’ ” Gedeon said.
The Vikings have won eight consecutive games and with their 10-2 mark have the opportunity to finish the 16-game schedule with the best record in the NFC. They could have home field advantage throughout the payoffs and advance to the Minneapolis Super Bowl on February 4.
Zimmer was asked why some teams are better able to handle success than others. “I think it’s human nature. Some guys get full of themselves and go from there. Everybody is telling them how good they are and they listen.
“But it goes the other way, too. Everybody tells you how bad you are and you listen. It’s really human nature to back off of things.”
Defensive end Brian Robison, now in his 11th pro season, said he’s not surprised by the Vikings’ success. The team knew during the offseason the things that needed attention but realized the potential was present for success, he said. Included on the to-do list were how to handle “critical situations” in games.
A big year could have been derailed by the loss of starting quarterback Sam Bradford early in the season, but Case Keenum has impressed not only his teammates but NFL followers from coast-to-coast. Robison said he isn’t surprised by the performance of Keenum who came into the NFL in 2013 and has been with multiple teams before signing with Minnesota as a free agent this past offseason.
“I’ve known Case for awhile and I thought he’d been a good quarterback for a long time going back to his Houston days and even when he was in St. Louis,” Robison said. “I just think Case got caught up in a situation where he never really got that real opportunity and he was able to do it this year. He’s a smart player and he’s done some things for us this year that have helped us win ball games.”
The Vikings have used the same caterer for Friday locker-room buffets during their winning streak.
Vikings fans have been turning out in large numbers at away games this fall including in Landover, Maryland where a team spokesman estimated there were 5,000 to 10,000 cheering for Minnesota. The Skol chant prompted boos from Redskins fans in Landover. Historically, there have been large turnouts of Vikings fans for away games in Arizona and Florida.
“Get Inside the Game,” the interactive fan experience scheduled January 27-February 3 at the Minneapolis Convention Center as part of Super Bowl week activities, will charge admissions of $35 for adults and $25 for children 12 and under. Fans can experience NFL games via virtual reality technology, run a 40-yard dash against NFL players on a giant LED screen, obtain autographs from NFL players and learn football skills at clinics.
Twins general manager Thad Levine told Sports Headliners he doesn’t believe the franchise’s experience with Tsuyoshi Nishioka is a factor in negotiating with other Japanese players. Nishioka came to the Twins directly from Japan and failed with Minnesota before returning home. Now the Twins have interest in standout pitcher Yu Darvish, the native of Japan who is a free agent.
Levine said to his knowledge Darvish and his representatives won’t be affected by Nishioka’s experiences with Minnesota. He also said he didn’t think the history with Nishioka impacted the thinking of Shoehi Otani who eliminated the Twins and other teams before committing to the Angels.
Otani, often described as the Babe Ruth of Japanese baseball, is both a hitter and pitcher. Levine referred to him as a “significant prospect” who compares favorably with the best pitchers to come out of Japan.
Gopher junior Jordan Murphy, who has started the season with 10 consecutive double-doubles, isn’t projected to be selected in the two rounds of the 2018 NBA Draft, according to a mock listing by Nbadraft.net. Gary Trent Jr., the freshman at Duke and ex-Apple Valley star, is projected as the No. 15 selection in the first round. J.P. Macura, who played at Lakeville North and is a senior at Xavier, is predicted as a second round selection and the No. 55 pick.
Paolo Uggetti, writing December 6 for Theringer.com, said the Timberwolves starting lineup through 19 games logged more minutes than any other NBA team. Coach Tom Thibodeau used his starters 484 minutes, or 145 more than the No. 2 Pistons. Thibodeau, dating back to his first NBA head job with the Bulls, has long been known as a coach who likes to use his regulars for max minutes.
Dick Jonckowki said sportswriters LaVelle E. Neal and Charley Walters, along with ex-Gopher Jim Carter and former North Star Lou Nanne, will roast ESPN 1500 talk show host and Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse on January 26 at Mancini’s Char House in St. Paul. The luncheon is sponsored by the Minnesota Minute Men and Jonckowski will emcee.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Lynx star Lindsay Whalen, 35, is thinking of retirement after next season. The Minnesota native could be considering her post-playing career options. She will serve as a Timberwolves analyst for eight games on Fox Sports North starting with Tuesday night’s telecast of the 76ers game.
Whalen’s coach, Cheryl Reeve, speaks to the CORES lunch group January 11 at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Bloomington, 1114 American Blvd. Reeve has coached the Lynx to four WNBA championships in the last seven years. More information, including reservations, is available by contacting Jim Dotseth, firstname.lastname@example.org. CORES is an acronym for coaches, officials, reporters, educators and sports fans.
Dorothy McIntyre, the former executive with the Minnesota State High School League, has a new book called Two Rings: A Legacy of Hope. She co-authored the novel with Marian Bemis Johnson. McIntyre previously helped write a book about the early years of girls high school basketball in Minnesota.