Wins and losses | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

Wins and losses

Cam Newton was the winner of the Heisman Trophy, the Twins were not winners in the winter meetings/off-season and the Vikings, regardless of how they do against the Giants, are winners now that the ship has been righted.


The Heisman vote was a loss for those who take the ideals of the award seriously. Yes, Newton is by far the best college player in the nation. But, if you read the Heisman "bible," the description of what the award is all about, that's not the only criteria. In fact, the main criteria, the first sentence of the description of what the Heisman winner should be, reads something like "the award shall go to the individual who most embodies the spirit of the Heisman and college football." In other words, the award should go to the best person, not necessarily the best player.


Newton's off-field woes have been well documented. In the most recent "incident," while his father is mostly to blame, I'm guessing Newton isn't completely innocent. And even if he is, the situation is not good for college football. So according to the Heisman criteria - the first sentence of that criteria - shouldn't that eliminate Newton from serious consideration?


The NCAA hasn't helped matters. First, it quietly suspended Newton for a day, then just as quietly reinstated him the next day. The NCAA has opened up a huge can of worms and is just as much to blame as any party in this mess. And it is a mess. And while Newton is the best player and has tried to move forward and put the ordeal behind him, it has been an ordeal. And according to the Heisman folks, that's not what this award is about.


The Twins won't get any awards for their off-season efforts as of late. And while I'm glad they don't blatantly overpay players like, say, the Nationals and Red Sox - and, ultimately, the Yankees after all's said and done - this off-season, the Twins continue to play "small ball." Their version of activity is moving a couple of washed up utility players for a couple prospects. The Twins big wigs contend that signing some of their current players and getting Justin Morneau back from injury is the equivelant of several big signings. Well, it's not.


What bothers me the most with the Twins' tight-fisted ways is they continue to play the small-market card when it comes to signing new players. But when Target Field opened last year, they proclaimed that it signified the Twins' entry into the big time. And they were right. The Twins packed the place every game - and then some. It wasn't unusual for the Twins to draw 41,000-plus for a home game, which is astounding considering the place only seats 39,500.


The operative word here is seats. Prior to the opening of Target Field, the Twins lauded, among other things, the roomy corridors at the new stadium. It obviously wasn't long before they figured they could make some extra cash on those wide expanses. The result was standing-room-only "seating." And it was great. Of the handful or so games I attended, most were in standing room only. About 1,800 such "seats" were available at nearly $30 a crack for all of the Twins homes games. Over an entire season, that adds up to more than $4 million. That's between-the-couch-cushions found money. Where's that cash going - and the money the team made hand over fist every game at the new stadium? Not toward trying to bolster the roster.


Target Field makes the Twins a big-time team. They need to start acting like it. The Tigers and the White Sox - the Twins' two biggest rivals in the division - have made major upgrades this off-season. The Twins typically do the least amount possible to contend. The only chance they'll go anywhere is if Morneau stays healthy all year and has the type of season he did when he was named MVP, that at least one of these prospects has a big year and that, somehow, a pitching staff that was mostly void of a true No. 1 starter in recent years will suddenly find that guy, and in a big way. If all of that doesn't happen, the Twins will be lucky to win the division. And if they do, it will be the same old exit as in previous years. This isn't the cute little team of the past. That ship has sailed.


But even with the early exits, at least watching the Twins has been enjoyable in recent years. Watching the Vikings? Not so much. But that's changing now that Brad Childress is gone and Leslie Frazier has taken over. Is Frazier the man for the job? Too early to tell. But Chili was never the man for the job. How he ever got it remains a mystery.


As the offensive coordinator for the Eagles - the job that supposedly served as the springboard for the Vikes job - he never called the plays. He was known more as T.O.'s babysitter than he was a coach. And that showed with the vikings. How do you take a team that was 9-7 under Mike Tice, a coach who was given nothing by owner Red McCombs, and go 6-10 the next year for owner Zygi Wilf, who gave you everything you wanted? Yes, they improved to 8-8 the next year - still worse than Tice's record his last year - and 10-6 the next year, when they were whipped by those Eagles in the first round of the playoffs - at home. Yes, last year, the Vikings again improved under Childress - to 12-4 and advanced to the NFC championship.


But they won in spite of Childress. And that they lost in the NFC championship, with what may have been one of the Vikings' best teams ever, was all about Childress being in over his head. Too many players on the field in the closing minute of regulation in the NFC championship? Unbelievable. And such blunders were the norm under Chili.


Zygi has no one to blame but himself for giving Chili that extension early last season, when Childress still hadn't proven a thing. I was beginning to believe the conspiracy theories - that Wilf and Chili were working together to destroy the franchise in an effort to move the team. What other explanation could there have been for their countless blunders? And I'm not even talking about personnel missteps like the Randy Moss debacle. The coaching alone was enough to fuel the conspiracy theories.


But after they let Mike Tomlin get away and kept Childress, continuing a long tradition of holding onto a bad coach while losing a bright, young assistant coach (i.e. Dungy, Bilick and Tomlin), I think the Vikings might finally have gotten it right with Frazier. But it will take a lot to make up for what Chili and Zygi have put Vikings fans through for the last five years. Another well-disciplined effort against the Giants on Sunday - or whenever they're able to play, what with the Giants being stranded in K.C. Saturday night because of the storm - will go a long way toward that end. Win or lose.