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Lynx keep dream alive

One of the greatest joys over my 38 years as a journalist who has weathered the test of time has been watching the growth of the WNBA and locally covering the Minnesota Lynx.

I have a great appreciation for the business of sports, and believe me it’s a business in which you find out who you can trust. You also find out in time how some in the business are quick to climb on the backs of dedicated professionals.

The Lynx keep climbing the ladder. They have established a standard of greatness, and all the other sports teams in town should be taking note.

Mainstream media throw much of their attention at the Vikings-Twins-Gophers-Wild and Timberwolves in that order. They have larger followings, and more macho men go to their games. In many ways the Lynx are treated and covered by some as if they are the secondary story.Basketball image

We are in a unique time. It’s an election year, and we are about to potentially elect a woman as U.S. president for the first time in history to lead the most powerful nation on earth. Women at one time could not vote and had no rights in this country, and Black women were treated unfairly due to both race and gender. But as the old saying goes, “They’ve come a long way.” The WNBA, a platform that allows women, and predominantly Black women, an opportunity to compete and shine, is now in its 20th year.

The Lynx are trying to win back-to-back WNBA titles. Sunday’s remarkable 85-79 win at Los Angeles was a test of character and the will of this great team.

With four Olympic starters and the WNBA Coach of the Year Cheryl Reeve, they are indeed a talented group. Superstar Maya Moore excelled with 31 points and nine rebounds, while Lindsay Whalen made back-to-back buckets to break a 69-69 tie.

Sylvia Fowles and her game-high 13 rebounds, Seimone Augustus slashing inside, and Rebekkah Brunson doing all the dirty work grabbing loose balls and rebounds — what a team. What heart they have collectively. I know something about winning championships. You have to impose your will and desire to win for it to happen.

The Lynx have beaten Los Angeles four times in seven regular season meetings and Finals. Thursday night, at the construction site called Target Center, the Lynx will try to grab another piece of history by going back-to-back as champions.

Good luck, Lynx, and thanks for showing the big boys how it’s done.

Vikings fly high into the bye 5-0!

Could 2016 be the year of the Vikings? U.S. Bank Stadium seems to have cast an iron will with focus and determination on this team. This in a season in which no fewer than five starters have been lost to injury; quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (season), Adrian Peterson (eight weeks), left tackle Matt Kalil (season), defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (to be determined), and tackle Andre Smith (?).
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has the pulse of his team, and he has this group believing in his system and leadership. No excuses! Sunday’s convincing 31-13 win over AFC South-leading Houston improved the Vikings to 5-0.They are the NFL’s only unbeaten team.

Photo’s By Steve Floyd

Photo’s By Steve Floyd

Quarterback Sam Bradford has been sensational. In many NFL circles he’s been the NFL’s MVP. His quarterback rating has been 100+ in all four starts for the Vikings. Bradford has thrown six touchdown passes in the four games with zero turnovers. He feels the team has taken on a different identity since Peterson’s injury against Green Bay.
Combined, the four quarterbacks of the teams defeated in the first four games — Green Bay (Aaron Rodgers) Carolina (Cam Newton), New York (Eli Manning) and Houston (Brock Osweiler) — have four Super Bowl Championship rings. And Newton was last year’s Super Bowl runner-up and league MVP.
“It feels great. Obviously you could not ask for a better start, especially with the bye week coming,” Bradford said. “To go out there and play the way we have and be 5-0, I think we’re all excited about it.”
Bradford was sharp again Sunday against Houston, completing 22 of 30 for 271 yards and two touchdowns. Stefon Diggs, the Vikings’ leading receiver, did not play because of injury. No problem — Adam Thielen stepped up with the biggest game of his career, seven receptions for 127 yards and a touchdown. Running back Matt Asiata combined for 101 yards rushing and receiving and a touchdown.
Defensively, the Vikings are playing as if the legends Carl Eller, Alan Page and Jim Marshall, “The Purple People Eaters,” are still playing. The Vikings have held opponents this season to 16-14-10-10-13 points in five games. Dating back to 2015, including the playoffs, the Vikings have held opponents to 17 points or less in nine straight games.
The last team to score 20 points or more against the Vikings? Arizona 23-20. That’s the best defensive streak in team history dating back to 1975-76. The defense has been lights out, forcing 11 turnovers and leading the NFL in sacks with 19.

The Vikings have now won eight in row dating back to last season, their longest winning streak since 2002. Since Zimmer became head coach in 2014, the Vikings have 103 sacks; only Super Bowl Champion Denver with 105 has recorded more.

Photo’s By Steve Floyd

Photo’s By Steve Floyd

“We have a lot of leaders on this team,” said Everson Griffen. “Our whole job is to go out and execute and prepare. We work hard and prepare during the week. [With] the coaches’ preparation and putting us in the right position, we go out and execute and do our job.”
The Vikings are unbeaten because they are winning in all areas — offense, defense and special teams. They are also winning the field position game, forcing opponents to drive 80 yards or more.
Former Gopher Marcus Sherels is playing like a Pro Bowler on special teams. He returned his second punt of the season running 79 yards for a touchdown Sunday to give the Vikings a 24-0 first-half lead.
“It feels good so far,” said Sherels. “We’re taking everything week to week and game by game, but we’re off to a good start and it feels good,”
The Vikings are outscoring opponents 30-0 in the third quarter. Now they get a week off with the bye. When they return, they hit the road to finish the month October 23 at Philadelphia and Monday night October 31 at Chicago.

USA wins 41st Ryder Cup!

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USA finishes the task and secures the 41st Ryder Cup at historic Hazeltine National convincingly 17-11 over Europe. For 20 years the United States has bitten the bullet, losing eight of 10, six of the last seven, and three in row.

Ryder Cups calls for special measures. Indeed! U.S. captain DFitzbeatsquareavis Love III, a task force, and team sports psychologist Bob Rotella together were part of the two- year plan, and they all worked carefully with each player and their unique personalities and egos. Apparently it worked.

It also helped to play well and have as vice-captains Bubba Watson, Tiger Woods, Tom Lehman and Steve Stricker. Bam! USA! USA! It also took the largest and most voice-tress crowds in Ryder Cup history, over 50,000 fans each day, some of whom crossed the line of sportsmanship and international goodwill.

European players were subjected to much harsh, dirty American heckling and over-the-barrier taunting. The PGA of America on Sunday, in an unprecedented measure, issued a public zero-tolerance warning for vulgar or profane language directed at players.

Great entertainment and over-consumption of alcohol by some led to over-the-top behavior. On Saturday morning, foursome fans started singing the national anthem in a frenzy during the Patrick Reed-Jordan Spieth match with Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera Bello. Spieth and Reed had their hands over their hearts and a four-hole lead at the time. The irritated Europeans Garcia-Rafa and Bello responded and rallied to square the match.

The hungry, talented Americans started fast on Friday morning, going 4-0 in the four matches. In 12 previous Ryder Cups when the U.S. team led 4-0 after the morning matches, the U.S. had gone on to win the Cup. The last time it happened the late Arnold Palmer was team captain in 1975.

Make that 13-0 now even though the Europeans rallied in the morning and afternoon Saturday matches to tie at 6½ to 6½. The U.S. team led 9½ to 6½ going into Sunday, the 12 singles matches needing just five points to capture the Ryder Cup.

Photo by Mike Croke

Photo by Mike Croke

Reed was the United States star; he electrified the crowds; he is 6-1-2 in his career in the Ryder Cup. He led the Americans, going 3-1-1 this week, securing 3½ points and beating Fed-Ex Cup Champion Rory McIlroy Sunday in a great match. They traded punches over 18 holes throwing birdies at each other.

But it was the last U.S. player selected to the team, Davis Love’s captain’s pick Ryan Moore, who rallied to clinch the Ryder Cup, beating Lee Westwood of Europe. “To be able to contribute that last point, it was huge,” said Moore. “It was tough. I thank Davis Love so much for giving me the opportunity. I wanted to be here to do what I could do. I love match play, the environment. I felt like I could help get them some points.”

It was truly a team effort. Every player on the 12-man team contributed at least one point to secure the victory. Veteran Phil Mickelson, who sparked change, played well in his 11th Ryder Cup. Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka were both 3-0. Sunday’s victory was the largest margin of victory for a U.S. team since 1981, when a Dave Marr-captained American team won 18½ to 9½ in England.

“I’m just proud of these guys,” U.S. captain Davis Love III said. “They had a lot of pressure on them for the last two years. I’ve never seen a team come together like a family like this.”