It's the time of year to be thankful. And if you're a Minnesota sports fan, that means you really haven't had a whole lot of cheer this year.
So, as a public service as the holidays approach, I thought I would take a moment or two to pen a (more or less) tongue-in-cheek look at what some people around our state have to be thankful for this holiday season. And, don't forget, they're thankful in part because they get paid even when they fail, which is a luxury you and I can't claim.
OK, here we go.
Ron Gardenhire, somehow still the manager of the Minnesota Twins -- What's Gardy thankful for? Well, Terry Ryan and Jim Pohlad, for two. He's got a general manager who appears to be bulletproof as his boss and a penny pinching owner who's got more money than Hank Steinbrenner and is taking the profits from Target Field and not, as promised, reinvesting them in the team. He's also thankful that he's in the only major media market that not only wouldn't demand the dismissal of a manager who has lost nearly 300 games over the last three seasons, but would give such a manager a two-year contract extension. Have a turkey leg, Gardy.
Christian Ponder, somehow still an NFL quarterback -- He's thankful that Leslie Frazier doesn't really see that of the three options he's got, he's not the best one.
Zygi Wilf, bewildered Vikings owner -- He's got 975,000,000 reasons to be thankful. And since we're paying for every one of those reasons, he ought to be thankful. The Vikings' "share" will be paid from fans through personal seat licenses, through money the team would pay the NFL anyway, and through sponsorship money that will eventually be passed along to consumers by the corporations that buy the rights. Happy Thanksgiving, Zygi. And happy holidays to you.
Glen Taylor, long-suffering owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves -- He's thankful for Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic. The three are finally healthy all at the same time and that means the Wolves are, at long last, decent again. They are an entertaining team to watch offensively and will only get better. When was the last time you could say THAT about a Minnesota team? Any Minnesota team?
Josh Harding, vastly underrated goaltender for the Minnesota Wild -- He's thankful for finally getting a chance to show what he can do. Battling multiple sclerosis is one thing, but doing it while posting one of the best goals-against averages in the NHL is quite another. Minnesota is a better team when he is in the net (which has actually been the case for more than one season now) and it's good to see one of the league's genuine good guys finally getting his day in the sun.
The entire UMD athletic department -- They're thankful for the best fall season in memory. All but one of the school's fall sports teams qualified for NCAA post-season play and, as of this writing, the volleyball and football teams are still active. The women's soccer team reached the national quarterfinals for the first time ever, the volleyball team beat defending NCAA champ Concordia-St. Paul twice and earned the right to host the Super Region tournament, and the footballers are in the national championship hunt for the sixth season in a row. Not bad. Not bad at all.
The Minnesota Gopher football team -- They're thankful for being able to remind the state's sporting public that they exist. The great run the team enjoyed after Jerry Kill's leave of absence put the team back in the state's imagination again for the first time in over 40 years. That's a good thing -- the state's only Division I football team ought to be in the limelight. And they've probably got a better quarterback than the Vikings. Ouch.
The Cloquet football team -- Thankful for success. Lots of it. And so are we. Thanks for a great season, gentlemen.