December 16, 2016

Fixing the NFL’s Thursday Night Football problem

Filed under: Football, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

At 1500ESPN, Matthew Coller suggests a (pretty obvious) solution to the NFL’s ongoing problem with Thursday Night Football:

On Nov. 20, the Minnesota Vikings had the type of game that turns a season around: A 30-24 win over the Arizona Cardinals at US Bank Stadium. On Nov. 24, they were on the road playing on national TV against the Detroit Lions. The Vikings lost a hideous, good-thing-you-didn’t-pay-to-watch-that-one game in the Motor City by three points. The game essentially cost them a shot at winning the NFC Central.

It’s hard to take that result seriously.

There are several lenses in which we can look through when discussing the misguided way the league has implemented Thursday games. The first is player safety. Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman recently attacked the hypocrisy of the league claiming the game is safer, then pushing players back on the field without proper time to heal.

He wrote on the Player’s Tribune:

    I just don’t understand why the NFL says it’s taking a stand on player safety, then increases the risks its players face by making them play on Thursday, before their bodies are ready.

    My Seahawks teammates and I are playing in one of the last Thursday night games of the season this week, so we’re one of the last teams to be exploited in 2016. One of the last to be taken advantage of. One of the last to get the middle finger from the NFL.

    But as long as the NFL is using that same finger to count Thursday Night Football dollars, I don’t think it really cares.

The solution seems so easy. Why can’t TNF begin in Week 5 and have the schedule set up to give the two teams the previous week off? Bye week. Thursday night. Then 10 day break until the next game.

That scheduling tweak would almost certainly make a huge difference for the individual teams assigned to the TNF slot: it’s like a mini-bye-week.

December 12, 2016

Vikings beat Jaguars 25-16 to keep playoff hopes (barely) alive

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:07

I knew I wasn’t going to be able to watch Sunday’s game even if it was broadcast in the Toronto area, as I’d promised to head down to Burlington to bring my mother to our place for the holidays. This means my Twitter feed was completely empty of my traditional game-related tweets on Sunday afternoon (you’re welcome, guys).

After dropping two games to the Detroit Lions, the Vikings are looking at a wildcard rather than the NFC North title to get them into the post-season. Even getting the wildcard pretty much requires the Vikings to win all of their remaining games (and still will likely need some help), which will be a challenge with an offensive line consisting of a hay bale, a regional champion mannequin challenge player, a scarecrow, a mime with a nasty makeup-related skin condition, and young Bobby McFarlane (the backup right tackle at Our Lady of Hopeless Causes High School in Mankato, MN). Honestly, it’s a genuine miracle that Sam Bradford is still alive at this point in the season … and keeping him alive for the last quarter of the season will be a double miracle.


December 7, 2016

NFL time is weird

Filed under: Football, Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Dave Rappoccio on the least likely event that just apparently happened in the NFL:

What I think is funny is an irony that I don’t think anyone else has picked up on yet. Andy Reid, a coach with quite possibly the worst reputation for time management on final drives, now effectively, in a way, holds the record for fastest game winning comeback drive in an NFL game.

It is. It’s the fastest. The only way a comeback can be faster is if the exact same thing happens but the guy runs to the endzone slightly faster. There is no way to score a faster comeback. Extra Points or conversion attempts do not take time off the clock. Effectively, the Falcons, despite scoring the go-ahead touchdown…were never actually ahead. When the clock started again, the Chiefs had the lead. The Falcons lead was maybe a minute of real time, but in game time sits in a weird vacuum between dimensions, never to be found. This is the fastest game winning drive in NFL history, and the man who owns it couldn’t call a timeout properly if his lunch date depended on it. Andy Reid, a man who is so baffled by clocks he’s still trying to understand how daylight savings works, owns this record. This might low-key be the most amazing thing that happens all year. Sometimes football can deliver in ways you’d never expect.

December 2, 2016

Great defensive effort wasted in Vikings loss to Cowboys, 17-15

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:41

The Dallas Cowboys visited Minnesota on Thursday night, bringing their NFL-best record and a ten-game winning streak. They left town with their streak still intact, but it came down to the last minute of the game to secure the win.

With Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer resting at home after emergency eye surgery, special teams co-ordinator Mike Priefer was acting head coach, to allow offensive co-ordinator Pat Shurmur and defensive co-ordinator George Edwards to concentrate on their respective areas of responsibility. The Vikings got a few key players back from injury, with wide receiver Stefon Diggs and cornerback Terence Newman both suited up for the game.

The game was very close from start to finish, which meant that minor miscues could have huge ramifications on the scoreboard. I missed most of the first quarter, but my Twitter feed provided all the “T.J. Clemmings is garbage” content during that time to assure me that things were back to their putrid normal on the offensive line. Cowboys quarterback phenomenon was shown to be merely human through most of the game, and his biggest contributions to keeping drives alive were on scrambles (aided by some pretty blatant holding on the offensive line, especially against Brian Robison).

Both of the Cowboys’ touchdowns came after a minor glitch gave Dallas an opportunity and they were able to capitalize. Other than that, the Vikings defence kept the lid on all game. One was a mistake in coverage, as Harrison Smith was too aggressive in covering Dez Bryant, and the second was a fumbled punt by Adam Thielen deep inside Viking territory.


November 30, 2016

Minnesota’s generous (hidden) gift to six government-appointed MFSA officials

Filed under: Football, Government, Sports, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Minnesota taxpayers contributed nearly half of the costs to build the new stadium that the Minnesota Vikings call home (“one of the largest public subsidies ever given to a sports facility”). The state government appointed a six-person board to negotiate the state’s share of the costs. Now, it comes to light that those six people get free luxury suite tickets to not only Viking home games, but every event held at the stadium:

Six government appointees, including the son of a vice president, who negotiated how much public money would be spent building the Minnesota Vikings’ new football stadium get free access to luxury boxes for all events in the stadium.

Which, you know, might call into question how hard they really negotiated for the taxpayers on that one.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that the six members of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA), the quasi-government agency created in 2012 to oversee the public subsidies for the building of U.S. Bank Stadium, get free tickets to two lower-level luxury suites for all events held there. Even though taxpayers covered more than half of the cost of the $1.1 billion stadium, which opened earlier this year, the public is being kept in the dark about who occupies those 36 seats and the adjoining luxury suites during Vikings home games and other events.

The team claims that the suites are used for “marketing purposes,” but the Star-Tribune‘s investigation found that family and friends of the board members are usually in attendance too.

Maybe the best part of the story is the moment when two members of the MSFA board (chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen and executive director Ted Mondale) try to justify their sweet, free, and secret perk by arguing that they “work long hours on game days and spent long nights negotiating on behalf of taxpayers during construction of the building, so having friends and family there is reasonable.”


For anyone who isn’t part of this special cadre of insiders getting special access to the suites for free would have to shell out more than $20,000 for season tickets in similar suites at the stadium. Since the six members of the MSFA board also have access to the suites for all other events at the stadium, the actual value of their seats is in excess of that figure.

The whole thing raises ethical questions since public officials in Minnesota are not allowed to receive gifts, including special privileges or access not otherwise available to the general public. That gift ban has a loophole allowing public officials to accept such special freebies if it’s part of their official duties.

As I wrote back in 2012:

As you’ll know if you’ve read the blog for any length of time, I’m a big fan of the Minnesota Vikings, despite never having lived there or even visited the state. I’d be very upset if they became the L.A. Vikings. But I also totally sympathize with Minnesotans who don’t want their taxes being used to give corporate welfare to the billionaire owner of the football club. Pouring money into facilities for professional sports teams is one of the very worst ways to use tax dollars, as the lads at Reason.tv explain:

November 25, 2016

Vikings fall short (again) against the Lions, 16-13

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:37

The Vikings played the early US Thanksgiving game at Detroit yesterday and were in reach of a win in the final minute of the game, but a rare interception of Sam Bradford gave the Lions the win instead. With top wide receiver Stefon Diggs on the sideline, Bradford depended on getting the ball out as fast as humanly possible to Adam Thielen, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Kyle Rudolph, as the patchwork line lost yet another starter with center Joe Berger out with a concussion (and a hip injury to backup tackle Jeremiah Sirles).


November 21, 2016

Vikings beat visiting Cardinals 30-24

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:48

With the CFL’s Eastern and Western conference finals being played, there was no Canadian broadcast coverage of the Arizona Cardinals visiting Minnesota that I could access, so I had to follow the course of the game on Twitter. Many Vikings bloggers were billing this game as a make-or-break for the Vikings season after enduring a four-game losing streak and yet more injuries on the offensive line. It would be especially important because the team is playing again on Thursday in Detroit. Another loss and a short week before facing the Lions at home was probably going to be too steep a hill to climb.

During the pre-game introductions, a Fox sound technician had an unwelcome encounter with the Vikings defence:

Despite the violence of the collision, he was able to continue working after the hit, and had a brief cameo during the halftime coverage.


November 16, 2016

Vikings release kicker Blair Walsh

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:59

The Blair Walsh Project has finally come to an end. I’m sorry to see him go, but I believe the Vikings made the right decision, if a bit later than many fans might have liked. Walsh had a brilliant rookie season after being drafted in the sixth round of the 2012 draft and was rewarded with a big contract (for a kicking specialist, anyway), but his missed kicks, blocked kicks, and miscues since the playoff game against Seattle finally forced the team to release him. Jim Souhan says it was a mistake for the team to give him as many chances as they did:


November 14, 2016

Vikings drop fourth straight game to Washington, 26-20

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:48

I don’t know who all the guys wearing the purple jerseys on Sunday were, but they sure didn’t play like the team that won five straight games to start the season. The names were (mostly) the same, but the effort just didn’t match what the Vikings had been doing earlier in the season. There were a few individual performances that stood out (Diggs, Thielen, Bradford), but many who just seemed to be sleepwalking through most of the game (Barr, Alexander). There were, of course, more injuries during the game (Long, Rhodes, Kendricks) and those still not playing due to injuries in earlier games (Sherels, Floyd, Munnerlyn), but the team just didn’t seem to have the same passion they had to start the season, and the responsibility for that falls on the coaches.


November 7, 2016

Vikings suffer first home loss to Detroit, 22-16

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:15

It was not a pretty game to watch, but it did have enough drama to keep watching to the end. As a rule of thumb, any time the fans on Twitter are bitterly complaining about the officiating, their team is losing … and I saw a lot of complaints about the refs on my Twitter feed during the game. Of course, if Blair Walsh had been able to convert an extra point, the game wouldn’t have gone to overtime. The Walsh death-watch may be back on the table in Minneapolis after Walsh missed and had a field goal attempt blocked (and the replays looked as if it was going to miss the target even if it hadn’t been blocked).


QotD: American sports

Filed under: Football, Humour, Quotations, Soccer, Sports, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

If Football is Handegg, then Soccer is Divegrass. Basketball is FlopDunk, Hockey is IcePunch, and Baseball is CrotchGrab.

Dave Rappoccio, “Soccer Rules!”, The Draw Play, 2015-04-01.

November 2, 2016

Norv Turner resigns as Vikings offensive co-ordinator

Filed under: Football — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 11:30

As I mentioned in the game wrap-up post the other day, rising fan dissatisfaction with the Vikings’ predictable play-calling was putting some pressure on offensive co-ordinator Norv Turner. In the news this morning, Turner has offered his resignation to the team and will be replaced on an interim basis by tight ends coach Pat Shurmur. Jim Souhan reacts:

Norv Turner’s resignation is surprising in terms of its timing. It is also a logical development.

Turner took over from the oft-criticized Bill Musgrave and could not match Musgrave’s offense either in terms of running efficiency or pass protection.

He could not match Musgrave’s creativity in using Cordarrelle Patterson.

He couldn’t protect either Teddy Bridgewater or Sam Bradford.

And his willingness to allow failing offensive tackles to lose two games without helping them was likely to lead to Norv’s departure, whether by his choice or coach Mike Zimmer’s.

Pat Shurmur will take over as the Vikings’ offensive coordinator with the knowledge that he needs to improve offensive line play, protect the quarterback and improve both running and short-passing efficiency so the offensive line and Bradford don’t have to run so many plays in obvious passing situations.

If nothing else, Turner’s departure should mean we’ll see fewer seven-step drops for Sam Bradford … behind this offensive line, he was literally taking his life in his hands every time he dropped back. A lot more quick release pass plays will help Bradford stay on his feet.

November 1, 2016

Vikings drop embarrassing game to the Chicago Bears, 20-10

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:18

Nobody really expected the Vikings to go undefeated in 2016, but the loss last week to Philadelphia was supposed to be the exception, not the blueprint for following weeks. On Monday night, the Vikings looked like a struggling 1-5 team, not a 5-1 team that was briefly the last undefeated team in the NFL. There were a few good individual performances, but overall the team looked flat and uninvolved. The offensive line was its usual hot-mess self, demonstrating an inability to pass block (allowing five sacks and a multitude of hits on Sam Bradford) or run block, but perhaps the most shocking development was the ineffectiveness of the defensive line. The defensive line has been the bedrock strength of the team this year and they just didn’t get pressure on Jay Cutler. The best run defense in the league gave up nearly their average yards per game on a single early run by rookie running back Jordan Howard.


October 31, 2016

It’s called “Next Man Up”

Filed under: Football, Health — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 15:44

In the current edition of ESPN Magazine, Tim Keown talks to members of the Minnesota Vikings about what happened to Teddy Bridgewater. It’s hard reading:

THE MEN WHO agree to talk about what happened do so reluctantly. Their eyes invariably drift to the spot in question: the grass practice field, somewhere near the 30-yard line, right hash. It happened with the offense heading north, 22 men on the field, no contact allowed.

They won’t talk about what the injury looked like, out of respect. These are men who long ago came to terms with the inhumanity of their game. They laugh about concussions and broken bones as a defense mechanism, the way an electrician might laugh with his buddies about getting a jolt from a faulty circuit. Occupational hazard.

But this is different. They close their eyes and wince, the image flashing in their minds. They shake their heads reflexively, as if they can dislodge the memory and evict it from their brains. They watched Teddy Bridgewater go down on that field on Aug. 30, his left leg separating at the knee, during the first minutes of a Vikings preseason practice. Every time they think about it, every time they stand near this field and close their eyes, they see it again.


Minnesota’s coach, Mike Zimmer, canceled practice. NFL teams never cancel practice. The game never stops. In a way, it’s a repudiation of Next Man Up to send everyone home — an acknowledgment that some injuries transcend the transactional. Sometimes, even in such a brutal world, circumstances dictate that the next man can’t reasonably be expected to step up, at least not right away.

“It happened at the beginning of practice, and obviously Coach made the right call to cancel,” Vikings quarterbacks coach Scott Turner says. “We weren’t going to get anything done that day.”

At his first news conference after the injury, a still-shaken Zimmer said his team would mourn for a day and move on. If anything, this meant his players needed to recommit to the mission. “No one is going to feel sorry for us, or cry,” he said. “I’m not going to feel sorry for us either.” He said he’d spoken with his mentor, Bill Parcells, for advice on how to deal with the trauma his team experienced. He said he spoke with his deceased father “in spirit.” As he continued, the coach in him drained from his eyes. He transformed from functionary to human being, and when he was asked a question about grieving — a question that somehow seemed utterly appropriate — Zimmer paused and looked down. After a deep breath, he looked to the sky as his lower lip quivered. “My wife passed away seven years ago,” he said. “It was a tough day. The sun came up the next day, the world kept spinning, people kept going to work. That’s what we’re going to do.”

In my early twenties, I had a knee injury — nowhere near as serious as Teddy’s — and to this day I can’t watch replays of leg injuries that the networks seem to always want to show as often as they can. It doesn’t just upset me, I get nauseous and have to look away. Later in the article, Keown mentions that there are no images available of Bridgewater during that practice, despite the fact that NFL teams film just about everything that happens at team events. I’m very grateful that those images are being kept from the public.

October 26, 2016

Zim Tzu on the faceplant in Philly

Filed under: Football, Humour — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:22

After every Vikings game, the Daily Norseman‘s chief Zimologist analyzes the finely crafted koans of Zim Tzu to tease out the finer, hidden meanings of the otherwise inscrutable and mystical words of the Vikings head coach. This week’s press conference followed the “game” that was “played” in Philadelphia against the Eagles:

The Vikings warrior poet/head coach dispenses his profane words of wisdom.


That’s not a word or emotion a warrior poet takes lightly. It’s an emotion that if channeled properly can be used effectively, but if allowed to go unchecked leads to one’s own destruction. Rage most assuredly didn’t overcome the Vikings in Philadelphia did so much as incompetence did … but in the aftermath of the Letdown at the Linc rage is what consumed Mike Zimmer.

[ED NOTE: Also, if you’re a fan of The Walking Dead, don’t read the first paragraphs that has asterisks, or the asterisks, because I give away a spolier. And rage is what you will feel if you haven’t seen it yet. Also, bad language warning.]

And the warrior poet harnessed it, allowed to to grow into a fireball of genius on Monday, and will use it to light a fire under the asses of the Minnesota Vikings next Monday in Chicago. And it is a fire that will metaphorically burn Chicago to the ground once again, if Cubs rioters haven’t already done so. Because there is nothing Mike Zimmer can’t harness and ultimately use to his advantage. Not. A. Fucking. Thing.

Because he is Zim Tzu: High Septon Of Mankato, Eviscerator of Titans, Maître Fromager, Spinner of the Charlotte Web, Beanstalk Chopper, He Who Implodes The Lone Star, and Warden Of The North.

And speaking in front of the Great Unwashed Poletariat of the Free Press is the ultimate in rage control, as the questions they ask make you want to snap necks and go all Negan on Glenn. But you can’t. You must harness that rage, focus it like a laser, and aim it at your next opponent.

And that’s where we come in, The Greatest Blog In The History Of The World.* We take your rage, and unleash it for you.** We are Negan, we wield the baseball bat, and we give you some eye popping results.***

*Maybe a slight bit of hyperbole here

**We really don’t as we have undergone no formal training to do this. Is there formal training to do this?

***I don’t watch The Walking Dead so if you just read a spoiler HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA not sorry because this was a good joke and I warned you up top.

So what do we do in the channeling of rage?* It’s quite simple, really.** We take Mike Zimmer’s weekly day after the game press conference and interpret the true meaning of words that come out of his clenched jaws.***

*This is a rhetorical question as we literally do nothing.

**Writing sophomoric jokes is actually hard, man.

***We literally do nothing close to that. It’s just all made up, stupid shit. I’m stunned it’s as popular as it is, tbh.

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