Just as we all got our hopes up as Minnesota sports fans, things got back to reality for many of our local teams as the calendar changed to January 2016.
There are three guarantees in life, especially if you’re a Minnesota sports fan: Death, taxes and your favorite team giving you the metaphoric gut punch in a big game. Some do that, while others like the Timberwolves and Gopher men’s basketball team don’t give fans much hope from the start. At least not in their current state.
It sucks when your favorite team loses. It sucks even more when your rival advances and oh yeah, we’re waking up to subzero temperatures and dangerous wind chills on a regular basis. Welcome to January and the Minnesota sports abyss. How long until the Twins report to spring training?
Here are four reasons why the Minnesota sports scene is currently “Loserville USA.” To make a long story short, Minnesota’s three professional winter teams and the Gophers men’s basketball team are a combined 4-22 in January.
Vikings Deliver Gut Punch To Fans In Playoff Loss
The Vikings finally won a big game on a national stage in Green Bay to win the NFC North Division title in early January. We all know what happened after that. Blair Walsh’s missed field goal in the closing seconds of the Vikings’ 10-9 loss to the Seahawks in the NFC Wild Card Playoffs was almost inevitable for fans. He made three other field goals before going “wide left,” which before that game solely referred to Gary Anderson’s miss in the 1999 NFC title game.
The latest miss was just another gut punch to Vikings fans, and it’s yet another reason why Minnesota fans take a fatalist approach to sports. It won’t change until they win a playoff game or make a big play to change that trend.
Timberwolves Are 1-9 In January
The Timberwolves were never expected to be a playoff team this year, not after the death of Flip Saunders and Sam Mitchell taking over a role he was never intended to be in. But even their latest slide has local fans frustrated. The Timberwolves started January with eight straight losses before beating Phoenix on Sunday. In their latest effort Tuesday night, the Timberwolves had an early 17-point lead at New Orleans, only to give it back and then some. The Timberwolves lost 114-99. That’s a 32-point swing. They are one of the worst perimeter shooting teams in the NBA and need that threat to supplement Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. While still an incredibly young team, the Timberwolves should be better and more competitive than 13-30.
Wild Have Lost 4 Straight, 7 Of 9 In January
The Minnesota Wild struggling in January is as predictable as water being wet. And lately with our subzero temperatures, that’s actually tougher to accomplish. The Wild has lost four straight games and seven of its past nine. They’ve been shut out in two straight games and managed just 15 goals in nine January games. You can talk about goaltending all you want, but you need offense to win games.
The Wild is currently fifth in the Western Conference with 52 points. They’re in solid position for a playoff spot, but that’s not good enough for local hockey fans. The expectations are higher in St. Paul, and the pressure is on for the Wild to make a playoff run.
Gopher Basketball Hasn’t Won Since Dec. 16
The most die-hard Gopher men’s basketball fans knew this would probably be a tough year with seven freshmen and sophomores on the roster. But it’s been a long time since this program has been as bad as it is now. The Gophers head to Michigan Wednesday night with a 6-12 record, including an 0-6 mark in Big Ten play. They haven’t won since beating Chicago State on Dec. 16. Their 0-6 Big Ten record includes consecutive 25-point losses at home to Northwestern and at Nebraska. But they’ve had positive games, albeit in losses, to Michigan State and Indiana.
Gophers fans won’t be focused on Selection Sunday this year, but a good recruiting class coming in and two transfers being eligible next year has fans excited for the future. And isn’t that the motto of Minnesota sports: “There’s always next year.”
So until our local teams do something to change the tide, Minnesota sports can and should be considered “Loserville USA.”