GRAND RAPIDS — I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving, 2020 Edition. I guess it’s tempting to focus on everything that is going wrong in the world today, but Thanksgiving is one of those days where we are reminded that our blessings far outnumber our trials, the good far outweighs the bad. Even in this politically charged, Covid rampant world, we have a lot to be thankful for.
I’m thankful for so many things – heading the list is the ability to inhale and exhale! I’m thankful for my family and for all of the people who have been a part of my life: coworkers, students, fellow coaches, and friends. I’m thankful for my little dog and partner in crime, Ollie. I’m thankful for all of you who read this column. I’m especially thankful that Ted Anderson has allowed me to contribute to your paper.
Erma Bombeck once said about Thanksgiving: “Thanksgiving – the day we spend a lot of money, do a lot of work and spend 18 hours preparing a meal that is devoured in between 12 and 15 minutes – coincidentally, the exact length of a football halftime.”
I remember many Thanksgivings where after the meal was eaten, men would be sprawled out on the couch or kicking back in the recliner or relaxing on a spot on the floor to catch the annual Turkey Day football game. Before the third quarter was over, eyes would be closed, heads would be back, and mouths would be open, serenading the others in the house with a chorus of snores.
That probably didn’t happen this year with smaller gatherings. COVID put a damper on our family traditions; it’s put a damper on our sports viewing, our social gatherings. I think when this crisis has passed, we will all appreciate those gatherings more, and we will relish to a greater extent the company of family, friends and neighbors. We will sit in stadiums with smiles on our faces, anticipating real live competition with real crowd noise, nothing piped in.
I didn’t watch any football on Thanksgiving Day; I missed the annual thrashing of the Detroit Lions. I took a nap instead.
But, before dozing off, I read an article which rated how each state’s professional football team would fare if its roster was made up of entirely home-grown talent. Guess which state came in last, 32nd out of 32 teams? Yup, Minnesota.
We would have some great receivers with Larry Fitzgerald, Gino Capelletti and Adam Thielen. Milt Sunde and Matt Birk would be better than average offensive linemen and Bronko Nagurski a bruising fullback. Steve Walsh would be the home-grown (St Paul Cretin-Derham Hall HS) quarterback and Chip Lohmiller the kicker. With Walsh at quarterback armed with his 66.4 quarterback rating, those Pro Bowl receivers would probably not have too many opportunities to catch the ball. The defensive unit would have a couple of studs – linebackers Jim LeClair and James Laurinaitis, but it would be very weak in the secondary.
It got me thinking how our other sports teams would fare if made up of only home-grown talent. The WNBA Lynx wouldn’t be able to put a team on the floor; only three Minnesota ladies have made it to the WNBA – Lindsey Whalen, Rachel Banham and Kenisha Bell.
The Minnesota NBA entry would probably rate toward the bottom as well. Kevin McHale and Mark Olberding of Melrose would be starting at the forward spots with Randy Bruer getting the nod at center. Hibbing’s Dick Garmaker, an eight-time NBA All-star, would start at one of the guard spots and Minneapolis North’s Kahlid El-Amin at the other. Joe Pryzbilla, Mark Landsberger and Cole Aldrich would be the top reserves. Not a real strong crew.
The Minnesota NHL entry would be near the top with so many outstanding players on the roster. Phil Housely, Neal Broten, Zach Parise, Dave Christian, Blake Wheeler, Matt Cullen, Reed Larson, Jamie Langenbrunner, Aaron Broten, Joel Otto, Tom Kurvers, Matt Niskanen, Paul Holmgren, Henry Boucha, Mike Antonovich and Jim Johnson would make Minnesota tough. Add Mike Peluso into the mix for a little enforcement and throw in goalies Jon Casey and old school Frank Brimsek, Minnesota would be stingy on defense as well.
The Twins would have a decent roster, with Joe Mauer, Terry Steinbach, Kent Hrbek, Jerry Terrell, Paul Molitor, and outfielders Jim Eisenrich, Roger Maris and Dave Winfield. Pitchers Charles “Chief” Bender would be the ace of the staff which would include Jack Morris, Dave Goltz, Jerry Koosman, Nick Anderson, Glen Perkins and Tom Niedenfuer. Tom Kelly would manage. Five (assuming Mauer) Hall of Famers – not too shabby.
Well, I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving – however you celebrated it this year. In the sports realm Minnesota sports fans have a lot to be thankful for; the Twins won back-to-back Central Division titles, Kenta Maeda finished second in the Cy Young race and Nelson Cruz picked up another Silver Slugger Award. The Vikings’ Justin Jefferson looks like he’ll be an All-Pro receiver for years to come and the Timberwolves got Ricky Rubio back. The Wild drafted perhaps the best player in this year’s draft, Austrian ace Marco Rossi.
But best of all? What you should be most thankful for? You live in the greatest place on Earth- Northern Minnesota, God’s Country.