Sports expectations in Land of 10,000 Lakes should fall

The Vikings are now done, so let’s turn to Gophers women’s hockey.

Gopher Women's Hockey vs. North Dakota

Ian Larson

Gopher Women’s Hockey vs. North Dakota

Josh Katzenstein

As someone who has not lived in Minnesota my entire life, I feel I can offer a relatively objective opinion on the state of Minneapolis-based Minnesota teams. I hate to bring up the Vikings so soon after a devastating loss (full disclosure: I was born in Ochsner Hospital in New Orleans âÄî IâÄôll do my best not to gloat), but I knew the game was over when I heard every Vikings fan say they would win. The purple and yellow bandwagon was at capacity as soon as the Vikings made the playoffs last season. It continued to grow, even converting some Green Bay Packers fans with loyalties to Brett Favre. (Side note: IsnâÄôt it a cardinal sin in sports fandom to abandon your team for a division rival?) But when the Vikings made the NFC Championship, the wheels fell off. The instant something looks good, Minnesota fans try to make it more than it is. This is a classic sports mistake; some call it a jinx. Bring it back to the Gophers. Many expected the Minnesota football team to dominate at TCF Bank Stadium in 2009. It didnâÄôt. Many figured Eric Decker would have a big season. He had one until his injury, which nobody could see coming. However, he was injured just a week after a friend told me he expected Decker to be taken in the first round of AprilâÄôs NFL draft. Religious principles aside, sports fans must at some point realize that a higher power exists to punish the overconfident. Never have I seen fans back a Gophers team more than the 2009-10 menâÄôs basketball team. Minnesota made the NCAA Tournament last season, kept its core players intact and added some top-level recruits. But this team was doomed when the same friend who made the Decker prediction said Minnesota would make a deep tournament run. (I have to apologize to the state of Minnesota on my friendâÄôs behalf. He is actually from New York but has played a more crucial role in the outcome of Minnesota sports than Gary Anderson.) Since that basketball prediction âÄî made after the win over then-No. 12 Butler âÄî the Gophers have dropped out of the top 25 and suffered through two three-game losing streaks. Their most recent streak includes a pathetic loss to Indiana âÄî winner of just one Big Ten contest a season ago âÄî and two games against No. 5 Michigan State . On the heels of suspensions, ineligibility and my friend, the menâÄôs basketball team is crashing at an alarming speed. Head coach Tubby Smith is trying to pick them up, but, as he pointed out in regards to Al Nolen being ruled academically ineligible last week, these guys are responsible for their own lives (he more or less said that he wonâÄôt pull a Clem Haskins and find people to take the playersâÄô tests). The Minnesota menâÄôs hockey team, meanwhile, began the season ranked No. 8. The hype was rampant thanks to all-star recruits and, of course, Jordan Schroeder coming back. Naturally, my friend predicted them to bounce back from last season. They havenâÄôt so far. Meanwhile, three in-state rivals are currently ranked in the top 10: Minnesota-Duluth, Bemidji State and St. Cloud State, a team that just polished off a sweep of the Gophers and put their hopes for a late postseason push in serious jeopardy. In all likelihood, the unranked Gophers need to win more than half of their remaining games to earn an at-large NCAA Tournament berth and may need to win the WCHA Final Five to feel safe. The Twin Cities apparently are not at the center of the State of (menâÄôs) Hockey this year. If Minnesota fans want something to cheer about, look no further than the womenâÄôs hockey team. The Gophers ladies have lost three games all season and have yet to lose a game to another team from Minnesota. They are ranked No. 2 in the nation. The only team ahead of them is Mercyhurst, who took the top-ranked Gophers out of the 2009 NCAA Frozen Four. Head coach Brad Frost has a strong team with talent young and old. The team has an opportunity to play for a national title on home ice in March. Not surprisingly, the women have flown under the radar while Minnesota fans intently watch the menâÄôs hockey and menâÄôs basketball teams, but they appear to be the stateâÄôs best chance at a championship in 2010. Oops, did I just jinx it? Now that the VikingsâÄô season is over, maybe fans will turn to the stateâÄôs best chance at sports glory in 2010. But when theyâÄôre down, donâÄôt call it a comeback. DonâÄôt say they will win. Sit back, relax and let fate take its course.