Archive for Jacob Wandersee

Dear Kobe

Dear Kobe,

 

From the moment

I started crumpling up a piece of paper

And shooting imaginary

Game-winning shots

In my 1st grade classroom saying “Kobe

I knew one thing was real:

 

You helped me fall in love with the game of basketball.

 

My love for the game is deep and I’ve given it my all -

From my mind & body

To my spirit & soul, to be like you.

 

As a six-year-old boy

Deeply in love with basketball

I watched you run out of the tunnel,

Inspiring countless young fans

To run out of their own tunnel someday.

 

And so we ran.

Millions of kids ran up and down every court

After every loose ball like you.

You took pride in your hustle

And gave the game your heart;

We wanted to be just like you.

 

We watched you play through the sweat and hurt

Not just for the show or the challenge

But because BASKETBALL was you.

You did everything for the game

Because that’s what you do

When something makes you feel as

Passionate as basketball made you feel.

.

You crushed a ten-year-old boy from Minnesota’s dream in 2004

And I’ll always remember that.

But it doesn’t seem to matter at all right now.

You gave your entire life to basketball.

Your heart was in the game

Your spirit is a part of the game

The world mourns as they have to say goodbye.

.

It’s not OK.

Nobody was ready to let you go.

We ache for your family

And hope they can find some peace

And can remember and cherish every moment you had together.

You were a husband and a father

You gave all that you had.

.

Just know that despite being gone too soon

You inspired millions of kids across the world

To spend hours alone in the gym

Carrying their basketball with them wherever they go.

To pretend there is :05 seconds on the clock,

Ball in our hands

5 … 4… 3 … 2 … 1

Kobe

.

Respect to one of the greatest of all time,

Jacob Wandersee

 

 

Vikings Fall Flat Again

Saturday wasn’t the performance that any fan was hoping to see from our Minnesota Vikings. After an emotional win on the road against the 13 win New Orleans Saints, it seemed that anything was possible.

The truth is that it was.

It is really easy to get caught up in wins and losses as a fan of a team. And to be fair, why wouldn’t you? There is no metric that measures success better than wins and championships. For Vikings fans, it does get frustrated being one of the most successful teams in terms of wins and the least successful in terms of championships.

However, the reality is that at the end of the day, 31 teams go home wondering what they are going to do to finally get over the hump to take home the title.

If you played that game against the San Francisco 49’ers ten times, the Vikings would probably win three or four times. If you simulated the NFL season from the beginning, there are probably five scenarios where the Vikings come out as Super Bowl champs.

So what can we really be upset about? Yes there are many improvements that can and should be made. They also have the worst cap situation in the league and will need to discuss the futures of Everson Griffen, Xavier Rhodes, Riley Reiff and many more. They will need to replace multiple coaching positions, most importantly the Offensive and Defensive Coordinator positions.

However, in any league of any sport at any level, you just want to have a seat at the table. The Vikings won 10 games this season, a successful season by any metric. They made the playoffs, something that only 12 of the 32 teams are able to do. They won a first round game, meaning that for this season, they were one of the best eight teams in the league.

The Vikings had a seat at the table. They had a chance to make some noise, rack up some wins, and finally get over the hump. Just because they faltered in a tough game doesn’t mean that the team was a complete failure.

Minnesotans are quick to play the “Woe are We” card when it comes to our fandom. We pretend that we are the only fans who have experienced troubling seasons and devastating losses. Other than the New England Patriots, most fan-bases are right there with us saying the same things that we do.

The Cleveland Browns haven’t made the playoffs since 2002. The Seahawks were one yard away from beating the Patriots. The Ravens won 13 games this season and got demolished by the Titans.

It is incredibly hard to sustain greatness and even harder to win a Super Bowl. It takes a lot of luck, skill and good timing. So far, those stars haven’t quite aligned for the Vikings, but they still have a seat at the table.

Vikings Move on to San Fran

If you paid any attention to the media last week, you would’ve noticed that virtually nobody gave the Minnesota Vikings a chance to beat the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome last weekend.

On one hand, that seems fair to me. The Superdome perhaps provides the greatest home field advantage in the league, Drew Brees is one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history and no 13 win team had ever been eliminated in the wild card round of the playoffs. Add in Kirk Cousins, who has always struggled to win big games and a strong case can be made.

On the other hand, I was partially confused by everyone being supremely confident that the Saints would pull through. The Vikings talented roster seemed to be vastly overlooked going into that game. Most experts looked at the team down the stretch and the abysmal performance against the Packers and didn’t think they would be capable of winning a playoff game.

What they didn’t predict was the impact that a mostly healthy Dalvin Cook could have. They didn’t predict that Kirk Cousins wouldn’t shy away from the pressure and would out-duel Brees. They didn’t predict that the Minnesota defense would step up in a way that they hadn’t all season in order to stifle the Saints offense. They didn’t predict that Mike Zimmer would out-coach Sean Payton.

The NFL playoffs are simply exciting. Everything rides each week on one game, one play and one decision. The best regular season team doesn’t always come away with the victory. All you need is an invitation to the party and anything can happen. A three game winning streak can send you to the Super Bowl.

The Vikings have another tough opponent coming up and a similar narrative has already been laid out. The experts are saying virtually the same things as last week and giving the Vikings about the same chance to win.

Maybe the experts didn’t learn their lesson.

The San Francisco 49’ers are obviously a great team. They bring a top line defense to the table to go with a balanced offensive attack, relying on running the ball and giving quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo plenty of space and time to throw. In many ways, they are built in a very similar way to the Vikings.

I would expect to see a very similar game this week to the game we saw last week. Tough defenses going to battle against offenses that are trying to grind out a win. As with most games, this week will be defined by big plays and turnovers. If Minnesota plays like they did against the Saints, there is no reason to believe that they can’t win this game.

Last week, all Minnesota Vikings fans were waiting for the other shoe to drop. We all had to be thinking the same things. Brees is going to win this game. Now we won’t win the coin toss. They’re going to call offensive pass interference aren’t they?

The Vikings have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL, a solid quarterback and a great coach. Maybe, just maybe, this year can be different.

 

Vikings Throw Away Final Two Weeks

After the Los Angeles Rams lost to the San Francisco 49’ers on Saturday evening, it guaranteed a spot in the playoffs for our Minnesota Vikings. After a Seattle Seahawks loss, Minnesota did still have something to play for this past Monday night.

A home matchup with the Green Bay Packers meant a few things locally. A chance at a division championship. A chance to retain bragging rights. A chance at the 5th, 3rd or even 2nd seed. A chance to head into the playoffs playing some good football. A chance for positive momentum.

Well, as I’m sure you well know, literally none of those things happened Monday night in a 23-10 loss.

The Vikings offense looked awful from the start of the game. The defense attempted to do their part, causing three turnovers and constantly giving the offense a short field to work with. However, the offense looked like they had just come from another planet and had never played football before.

The Vikings finished with 139 total yards. By total, I mean for the entirety of the game. In 2019, where the New York Jets are the worst team in the NFL in yards per game averaging 273.1, the Vikings were able to muster an embarrassing measly 139 yards.

Without Dalvin Cook or Alexander Mattison, we were told that we wouldn’t miss a beat with Mike Boone in the starting role. The Vikings finished with 57 rushing yards total. The Vikings had 7 first downs, only crossed the 50 yard line on a drive once and threw an interception on the next play of that drive.

The Vikings were out-smarted, out-gained, out-muscled and simply out-played in all facets of the game.

So what does this mean going forward? Minnesota is locked into the 6th seed and will likely be travelling to either Seattle or New Orleans for a road playoff game.

If this week is any sign of foreshadowing, we might as well throw our TV’s through the window now.

The Vikings will probably rest anyone in week 17 against the Chicago Bears who is banged up in an attempt to get healthy for the playoffs. Players like Dalvin Cook, Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Adam Thielen and many others can use the week off to hopefully right their bodies and turn this thing around.

The last thing I want to touch on is Kirk Cousins. He got a lot of blame for his performance on Monday (16-31, 122 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT). While that isn’t anything to write home about, the Vikings certainly need to get back to playing in a way to give him a chance to succeed.

The Vikings rely on a steady running game, an effective play-action game as well as screens, bootlegs and roll-outs to get Kirk comfortable. None of these things happened against the Packers.

The Vikings will finish with double-digit wins and a playoff berth, not a bad place to be at all, especially considering their 8-7-1 record last year. However, they need to right the ship quickly as a tough playoff matchup is approaching. They need to prove they can win a big game. If they can’t, this offseason might get very, very interesting.

 

Vikings Eyeing Playoffs

After a one year hiatus from the playoffs, the Minnesota Vikings are likely to make their triumphant return this season. Needing a win against either the Green Bay Packers or the Chicago Bears OR a loss in either week by the Los Angeles Rams, it is all but a guarantee that Minnesota will be playoff bound.

For contradictions to this statement, please watch the 2018 season finale against the Bears or the 2003 finale against the Cardinals, but I digress.

Anyway, this season has gone about as well as Vikings fans could have hoped. With tough losses against the Packers, Chiefs and Seahawks (along with one extremely ugly loss to the Bears), Minnesota has shown that they are a capable playoff team. Although they haven’t had any exceptional wins to brag about (other than the Cowboys on Sunday Night), they have been able to beat the teams that they need to beat in order to remain relevant.

With just two weeks remaining, the likely scenario is that the Vikings end up in the 6th seed in the NFC, as the NFC is abnormally loaded on the high end. The Seahawks, Packers, 49ers and Saints all boast 11-3 records and will be a problem for the Vikings in the first round.

There isn’t really an ideal first round matchup for Minnesota unless they can squeak into the 5th spot to play the NFC East Divisional winner. The Vikings would certainly be favored in that game against either the Eagles or the Cowboys. However, a road game against the Seahawks, Packers, 49ers or Saints would be a much tougher battle.

To maintain hope for a 5th seed spot or even possibly still the NFC North division crown, the Vikings need to go 2-0 in the final two weeks. That is simply the expectation.

It begins with a home game against the Pack, where the Vikes are actually 4.5 point favorites. Minnesota is 6-0 at home and they are actually a better team in many statistical categories relative to the Packers. It is always scary to play Aaron Rodgers, but I like the Vikings chances as long as they don’t give the Pack a 21 point head start again.

If the Vikings lose to the eliminated Bears in week 17, our playoff run might as well end there.

So how did we get here? 

Colin Cowherd has time and time again said that Minnesota has the most talented roster in its entirety in the NFL. Although that wasn’t shown through the Pro Bowl selections (Dalvin Cook, Danielle Hunter and Harrison Smith), the Vikings have had many players step up this season.

Kirk Cousins has been huge all season long. He currently is 10th in the NFL in passing yardage to go along with his 25 TD’s and 5 INT’s. Before some injuries to Dalvin Cook (and hopefully injuries that he can recover from), Cook was the leading rusher in the league, now having fallen to 7th. Stefon Diggs is 8th in the league in receiving yards and Adam Thielen is finally back from his hamstring injury and looks to be healthy for the playoff stretch.

The defense has also been solid across the board (sort of *cough Rhodes cough*). Linebacker Eric Kendricks is the highest rated linebacker in the league according to ProFootball Focus. Danielle Hunter is tied for 3rd in the league in sacks. The rushing defense is 8th in the league while the passing defense has fallen to 20, but we won’t get into that now.

The fact of the matter is that the Vikings do have one of the most talented rosters in the entire league, but at the end of the day, the game will largely fall on the shoulders of one man. Kirk Cousins. Cousins has been phenomenal all season long, but now it is time to see if our $84 million man can do it when it matters most. It starts with breaking his 0-8 Monday Night streak against Green Bay this week.

Gophers Historic Season Sputters

When it seemed like the whole world was open to the Minnesota Golden Gophers Football team, the door was quickly and forcefully slammed shut. Sitting at 9-0 after one of the biggest wins in the past 50 years, going 2-1 was all that was needed to put a confident stamp of approval on this season.

The Big 10 West title and a Big 10 Championship game appearance were in play. The Rose Bowl would be almost a surefire outcome. The College Football Playoff was a legitimate aspiration.

However, the Gophers didn’t really even come close to getting the job done. After getting destroyed in the first half by Iowa, Minnesota tried to claw back. However, it was too late and their effort fell short in a 23-19 loss.

Then, they beat Northwestern. Congratulations.

Last week, Minnesota finally got it’s wish. After clamoring, complaining, begging and prodding online, College Gameday decided to make its first appearance at the University of Minnesota to witness the #8 Gophers battle the #12 Wisconsin Badgers for a trip to the Big 10 Championship.

Even in the snow, the event was a serious success. The crowd was electric. The signs were pretty good. The ratings were the highest for the season.

If only the game could have been that successful.

After a 3-and-out by Wisconsin, the Gophers hit on their second play from scrimmage, a 51 yard bomb from Tanner Morgan to Rashod Bateman through the wind and snow. Everything was coming up Maroon and Gold.

For the rest of the first half, the Gophers were stifled. They went into the break down 10 to 7 and it seemed that it was going to be a defensive battle. Wisconsin however, had different plans. Racking up 453 yards of offense, the Badgers went on to route Minnesota in the 2nd half to the tune of a 38-17 final score.

The Badgers left the snowy turf with the Axe along with all of the Gophers postseason dreams.

It is difficult to put this season into perspective. As I’ve talked about in previous columns, this season was historic in so many ways. However, it is easy to look past that and think about the two awful performances from the team in the games where it mattered the most, with everything on the line.

PJ Fleck has proven he can recruit. PJ Fleck has proven he can build a successful culture. Now, it is time to prove that he can coach a big game.

I hate using the argument that a coaching staff or team was unprepared. I can’t imagine the amount of hours PJ and his staff put into building a plan to beat Wisconsin and neither can you. However, there was something about their games against Iowa and Wisconsin that simply didn’t add up.

A combination of questionable play calling, scheme and game theory (like punting on 4th and 1 on the opponents 35 yard line with a 7-0 lead at home?) seemed to destroy Minnesota in the two biggest games of the season.

PJ has proven that he is the right coach for this university. He has breathed life into a football team that has largely been forgotten by this state. But there is still work to be done. Minnesota has had one-off successful seasons in the past, but now let’s see them build something more.