The final word: Our pro sports stink

Unfortunately, it’s no longer possible to deny the millennium is upon us.
As we count down the last days until we all die, people have already stockpiled emergency rations to prepare for the worst disaster in human history.
People are scurrying to finish their civil defense shelters. Grocery store shelves will be bare soon, leaving those who procrastinate to feast upon the leftovers: “Squeeze n’ Swallow”, “Gulp n’ Blow,” and even canned eels as supplements for what could be low levels of niacin and riboflavin among the few survivors.
If any consolation can come out of all this, it’s that the Minnesota sports-lorn can have itself a good, hard laugh. For in these last few months of the 20th century, Minnesotans have been treated to nothing short of comic relief. Forget Whoopi Goldberg and Carrot Top, these sports franchises can’t wait to extinguish the tragic comedy known as 1999.
Vikings: Oh, how the mighty have fallen. “Mighty,” of course, is a relative term. In this case it refers to a 15-1 team in ’98 that was exposed against Atlanta in the NFC championship game.
No matter, this year’s team was supposed to learn from its mistakes, and, at the very least, a Super Bowl appearance was a gimme.
Having the most productive offense in NFL history and losing in the conference championship game should have told Dennis Green something about his defense.
He didn’t get the message.
He hasn’t gotten the message since 1995, when the Vikings had a choice in the draft between one Warren Sapp from Miami, and Derrick Alexander of Florida State. Sapp had a minor drug charge on his record, Alexander didn’t. Green and Co. chose Alexander.
Oops.
They got two first-round draft picks for Brad Johnson. What were the two things the purple needed following the Atlanta loss? An impact cornerback and an impact defensive lineman.
After all, this team was a couple plays short of the Super Bowl. Common sense should have dictated that a team that close to the big game won’t get over the top with a quarterback prospect, no matter how good his potential.
That quarterback being Dante Culpepper.
They passed on a defensive end from Florida named Jevon Kearse, who now resides in Tennessee. For those wanting to know whether or not that one worked, compare Culpepper’s and Kearse’s stats for the season.
They never got Champ Bailey or Chris McAlister. They hardly tried.
Dimitrius Underwood, the warrior, went AWOL. There goes the second first-round pick for Johnson.
Green must be Norv Turner’s best friend.
The Vikings defense is a byproduct of Dennis Green. Five games after investing $25 million in Randall Cunningham, he’s sitting on the pine. Jeff George’s play will create more contract havoc in the offseason, forcing a decision on Cunningham.
Defense wins in December and January. No offense is good enough to win a Super Bowl by itself.
In the Vikings’ case, no resurgent offense might be enough to get into the playoffs.
Ask Tampa Bay head coach and former Vikings defensive coordinator Tony Dungy. They took Sapp right after Alexander. You better believe their defense is for real.
Lost: Defense capable of absolutely nothing more than competence. If found call Winter Park.
Timberwolves: Not many thought things would be this bad. The Woofies relived the glory days of the early and mid-90s last Saturday night.
The sight: Target Center.
The victim: Golden State.
The result: A loss of cruel and hilarious proportions.
It’s not merely that they were up by 20 in the first half and lost by 28. It’s more than scoring just 76 points against the third-worst team in the league. It doesn’t just stop at scoring 21 of those 76 points in the second half — the third lowest output in league history.
This franchise was supposed to be beyond those days of 60 losses and locker room turmoil.
Now 7-11 after losing their sixth consecutive game, don’t be surprised if Kevin McHale and Flip Saunders start playing the market. No one is safe anymore.
You have problems when a rookie — who has been out with a knee injury — is the only player willing to take the ball to the basket consistently. This being the case, Kevin Garnett and Co. are nothing more than a defensively inconsistent, miserable-rebounding, soft, jump-shooting team.
Look for Terrell Brandon and Anthony Peeler to become focal points of trade talk. At times Brandon is a quality point guard, but his style of play will not and cannot lead a team deep into the playoffs. I’m willing to bet that both McHale and Saunders saw some of these problems last season, but couldn’t risk losing him over the summer and getting nothing in return.
Right now they’re looking for the receipts.
Twins: General Manager Terry Ryan’s name wasn’t mentioned much at the winter meetings. Maybe if his budget wasn’t so comparable to the Daily’s he could have concluded the team’s offseason purge by resigning Mike Trombley.
There goes a near-extinct species: a Twins pitcher who could pitch.
At least this team didn’t have to wait until the last year of the 20th century to exhibit itself as a team with no present or future.
Glen Mason: With all apologies and congratulations to the Gophers football team, gunslingin’ Glen is pumping iron.
You’re right coach, the team’s celebration of a bowl game since 1986 should be all about the players.
As the new man with the golden gun at the ‘U’ you do have a right to flex your muscles for a pay raise equal to your Big Ten foes.
But your dogged defiance and stubbornness with the media pushed things too far. No one’s trying to bring you down coach, but you can’t fly off to Chicago to meet LSU officials, and then meet with Michigan State officials here and then refuse to discuss it.
It’s within reason for you to test the water as a means of forcing University President Mark Yudof’s hand. It is not within reason to meet with other schools and then claim that the media is blowing things out of proportion.
You’ve done a great job coach, but you pushed yourself into the well.
Happy New Year Minnesota, let The Minnesota sports world rinse with 2000 and spit out 1999.

Mark Heller covers women’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]