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Vikings win eighth straight

Apparently the Vikings were just testing the waters in 2016, starting 5-0 the first year of U.S. Bank Stadium. The team went through a lot losing both Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson to injury and Mike Zimmer having several eye surgeries; the team missed the playoffs.

Photo Steve Floyd

Photo Steve Floyd

After going 11-5 in 2015 and losing that heartbreaker 10-9 to Seattle in the playoffs, General Manager Rick Spielman stayed the course, throwing huge contracts at defensive stars, Pro Bowlers Linval Joseph, Everson Griffen and Xaxier Rhodes — over $100 million in guaranteed money.

Joseph has locked down the middle of the Vikings defense. Griffen leads the NFL in sacks and has been defensive player of the month. Rhode’s is a physical shut-down cornerback. To contain Atlanta’s Julio Jones to two catches and 24 yards after he went for 253 yards and two TDs last week is impressive.

This organization has scars from a history of close calls. Head Coach Mike Zimmer has made the tough decisions, shaking up his coaching staff while guiding the Vikings through his theme.

In 2016 it was no excuses, then the 8-8 season after the injuries and Norv Turner’s abrupt exit mid-season. This team came back in 2017 refocused on getting back after the chase for a title.

After beating defending NFC Champion Atlanta 14-9 at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, the Vikings, with four weeks remaining in the regular season, have the NFC’s ticket to Super Bowl LII in their grasp with eight wins in a row, now the longest in the NFL and tied with Philadelphia 10-2 for the best record in the NFC.

Quarterback Case Keenum, the NFC offensive player of the month, was 20-25 for 227 yards and two touchdowns, out-dueling Matt Ryan, the 2016 NFL MVP. The Vikings win streak is the longest since 1998 when Dennis Green led the team to 15-1 and eight straight wins. The last time a Vikings team was 10-2 was 2009 when Brad Childress was head coach. They started 10-1. That team had Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice, eventually losing the NFC title game at New Orleans in overtime.

This Vikings team has won five straight road games for the first time since 1974. This week the Vikings travel to Carolina to play the 8-4 Carolina Panthers and Cam Newton in pursuit of their ninth straight win. To think this team has lost starters Sam Bradford and Dalvin Cook and not blinked is remarkable. It speaks to leadership, mental toughness, and a unit committed to each other.

With so many teams winning consistently in 2017, there’s no time to look back: New England 10-2, Vikings 10-2, Pittsburgh 10-2, New Orleans 9-3, Los Angeles 9-3, Carolina 8-4 and Seattle 8-4. It’s December — winning is paramount. This is a true team strong in all areas.

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

Timberwolves looking good!

Believe it: As we close out the month of November, the NBA has already played one quarter of their season. It’s not a Major League Baseball (MLB) 162-game marathon. It’s the next best thing — 82 games mid-October to late April.
This is the earliest start to an NBA season ever with not as many dreaded back-to-back games. The hometown Timberwolves are 12-8 at the quarter mark, their best start to an NBA season since 2005-2006. If not for a hiccup or two, they could be 14-6.

Timberwolves’ President Head coach Tom Thibodeau Photo: Steve Floyd

Yet many observers and critics locally are already complaining about this and that, saying the team should be playing better. Tom Thibodeau, the team’s second-year president and head coach, is doing his best to get this talented group to be more consistent, to play harder, smarter defensively, and above all to play for one another for 48 minutes.

The new additions Jimmy Butler (16.3), Taj Gibson (9.6) and Jeff Teague (13.5) have blended in nicely with Andrew Wiggins (18.8) and Karl Anthony Towns (20.6). They have, however, struggled primarily against the Eastern Conference teams.

They have played eight games against the East teams and are just 3-5 while going 9-3 against the powerful Western Conference. That includes losses to NBA Champion Golden State and San Antonio on the road.

It’s been 13 straight very cold years of missing the playoffs, and I firmly believe that this group will make the playoffs in 2018 and challenge the big boys in the playoffs. Obviously, we have a long way to go. Talented Washington is in town this week (Tuesday) at the marvelously renovated Target Center.

From a business standpoint, business is good for the Timberwolves. Attendance is up; they average over 16,000-plus fans a game. The product is much better. This is an exciting team to watch, also frustrating at times, yes, because you see the potential is unlimited.

Beyoncé Confirms Timberwolves looking good!

 

These are slam-dunk days for NBA owners. Team values are soaring thanks to media deals and sponsorships with TNT-ESPN-ABC networks to the tune of nine years and $24 billion. Every team in the NBA except Brooklyn made a profit last year. Average franchise value has increased to $1.25 billion per team. That’s up 13 percent from 2016.
Before renovating Target Center to the tune of $150 million, the Timberwolves franchise was worth $720 million. So that’s why all the smiles. Things are looking skyward for the league and the Timberwolves.

I stress patience — it all depends on the Timberwolves staying healthy and focused and continuing to buy into Coach Thibodeau’s unrelenting message and Butler’s and Gibson’s leadership. You read it here first: The Timberwolves are looking good and are on the come.

 

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.

College system exploits amateurism!

I have had issues over many years with the NCAA. They are headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, and they answer to no one. They run college athletics, and the millions and billions of dollars generated annually are earned on the backs of amateur athletes.

The recent scandal that hit college basketball brought down one of the biggest names in college basketball history, Louisville’s Rick Pitino. This should be a lesson to all that the NCAA gives all the authority and power in college athletics to the coaches.

It varies in football, but it’s the head coaches who make the really big money, four to six million dollar contracts per year. And the players are all amateurs, student athletes; the four-year scholarship rides are the rewards or compensation for the players. But that’s where the exploitation of the athlete begins.

The athletic programs are built to generate revenue from donors, alumni, ticket and game sales, and marketing of sports apparel — hats, shirts, jerseys, etc. There is also the sale and marketing of games on radio and network TV. This is pure exploitation managed by a corrupt NCAA with no oversight.

The stronger the school’s brand and athletic programs, the larger the following. The sports organizations like FOX, ESPN, Turner, Learfield Sports and others build their businesses around the conferences and bowl games and tournaments, and before you know it they are generating hundreds of millions of dollars on the major sports like baseball, football and basketball. This concept works and has for many decades because the schools never have to worry about unions or labor costs.

In professional sports, the team owners place values on franchises. Then rich owners buy in, and that allows each organization the chance to succeed. Each league has a talent pool of players and athletes that comes from the college draft and free agency. The Pitino scandal was created by coaches doing shoe deals with players who project to be stars or high draft picks after one, maybe two years of school and who have contracts with the shoe company agents.
The contracts that the sports shoe companies make with the schools always go through the head coaches. The players never see any of the shoe contract money until they become professional players.

The coaches get the compensation from the shoe companies because the NCAA does not allow amateur athletes to receive funds. Only the member schools and their coaches and the NCAA can benefit from the generation of revenue from games, gifts, tickets, shoes and other apparel, etc.

In recent weeks Georgia Tech and UCLA made huge financial deals with China to stage games in China and expose the programs to Chinese culture. Three UCLA basketball players were arrested and charged with shoplifting.
As bad as that is to have three American players caught stealing in a communist country, both schools after the games decided to leave the players accused of shoplifting in China, abandoning them to the hands of Chinese authorities. This exposes why this system of corruption is out of control and wrong and has to stop. It took President Donald Trump, who just happened to be in China at the time, to intervene.

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.