It was three years ago (August 11, 2003) that Herb Brooks, 66, was killed in an auto accident. He was a friend for many years. In 1980, shortly after he had coached the “Miracle on Ice” win over the Soviet Union, I asked him to speak at the banquet for the Minnesota high school all-star football players. Even though Brooks was in demand and commanding large speaker fees, he wouldn’t accept any payment for being the featured speaker at the banquet.
Dark Star talking about Red McCombs’ conservative spending while owning the Vikings. “Red McCombs was not the greatest owner who ever lived. He was one of the great car dealers of all time.”
Here’s a prediction the Packers will have the NFL defensive newcomer of the year in former Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk. Whether you like the “cheeseheads” or not, you have to admire Hawk’s ability to cover the field and deliver a blow. The Packers ranked seventh in total defense in the league last season but with ace defensive coordinator Jim Bates gone the guess here is that the performance slips. And don’t think a lot of Packer fans are happy to see erratic Brett Favre return at quarterback, preferring to see the legend retire and a replacement developed.
Bill Lester, executive director of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, wasn’t interested in applying for the new position supervising the Twins baseball stadium. His passion is multipurpose facilities such as the Metrodome and the executive director position of the Minnesota Ballpark Authority is initially only for three years.
Condolences to KFAN talk show host and Canterbury Park announcer Paul Allen on the recent passing of his mother Shirley Smith.
Geoff Young, the new Gopher men’s tennis coach, is the son-in-law of Coldwell Banker Burnet president Robin Peterson. Her daughter Dana is married to Geoff and they were the women’s and men’s tennis coaches at Denver University. Peterson’s son Derek, playing for Apple Valley High School, lost in the Class AA state tennis finals last spring.
Bob Knight, the Texas Tech basketball coach, while in town for a fund-raiser this week, said on WCCO Radio that Star Tribune sports columnist Sid Hartman is the best ever at what he does.
Prep school, college and now the NFL has taken Minneapolis’ Larry Fitzgerald far from home. Still, Fitzgerald spent the off season here before heading back to Arizona to play for the Cardinals and former Viking coach Denny Green. In a summer interview Fitzgerald said “Minneapolis is always home. I will be here from April to the end of July every year.”
Fitzgerald grew up on the south side of the city and through his sportswriter father Larry met Green. It was the elder Fitzgerald who asked the coach if his son could be a Vikings ball boy. In that role young Larry received a tutorial on being a receiver from Vikings receivers including Cris Carter. Randy Moss helped, too, but Fitzgerald said Carter had the most impact noting that Carter was more vocal and instructive.
Fitzgerald learned his lessons, applied his natural gifts, starred at Holy Angels and the University of Pittsburgh, and made the NFC’s 2006 Pro Bowl roster as a wide receiver after his second season with the Cardinals. He has three more years on his contract with Arizona. And then?
“I hope in the next few years I can work out an extension with the Arizona Cardinals,” Fitzgerald said. “That would be great.”
The Vikings? “If that’s what happens I would be more than happy to play at home,” he said. “I have been a huge Vikings fan since I was a child. That would definitely be a dream come true for me but I am enjoying my time in Arizona with coach Green. He’s a great coach and great man. . . I love playing for him.”
Fitzgerald’s dad, and his mom Carol, who passed away a few years ago, insisted that Larry adopt a humanitarian view toward life and be involved with community work. “I have a big heart,” Fitzgerald said in thinking about his mom. “ If I see someone struggling or in need I am never gonna let that go. I am going to go out there and help somebody because it’s kind of the way my mom was. Even if she did not have the resources she would find somebody who did to help people out in the community.”
Wally’s Choice, with over $427,000 in career earnings, is closing in on Blair’s Cove’s all-time record of $533,528 for Minnesota bred race horses. Owned by Wally and Joyce McNeil, and Canterbury Park Board Chairman Curtis Sampson, the horse will race at Canterbury Park on August 20 and September 3, and in November will race in Oklahoma. Wally, known to many as “Wally the Beerman,” said if his horse remains healthy the earnings record may well be broken before the year ends.
Involved with ownership for 11 years, McNeil said there was no predicting Wally’s Choice would be such a success story. “You never know with any horse how good it’s going to be. He’s got a big heart (Wally’s Choice is a come from behind performer). He’s one of those freaks, a once in a lifetime type of horse.”
It’s a crap shoot to predict whether a horse will become a winner but Wally’s Choice’s granddad, Storm Cat, sure has credibility. The Kentucky based Storm Cat earns $500,000 when he sires a live foal.