Simons Says...




Thursday, April 7, 2011

It’s not the Titanic:
There’s nothing like spring in Minnesota. Everywhere you look, snow is melting, people are coming out of their winter igloo’s to enjoy warmer weather and sports are in full bloom.

This week, the Master’s headlines the weekend ahead unless you are a baseball nut. In that case, you are sleepless waiting for the Twins home opener down near Block E at Target Field. In addition, the Frozen Four is center stage at the Xcel Energy Center and in the end; College Hockey’s Kings of the Ice will be crowned. On the pro side of the fence, hockey and basketball are headed to the playoffs after a long regular season.

All week, I’ve said little and listen a ton to the various opinions surrounding the Wolves and the Wild. Both teams have had disappointing seasons, both have (just this week) changed flagship radio stations and both are eager to keep their fan base happy and growing while improving mightily over the off season.

I’m pulling for both. If you are a sports fan (or even if you are not), you better understand how blessed we are to have all 4 major sports. The NBA Wolves, the NFL Vikings, the NHL Wild and our MLB Twins make the Twin Cities one of just a few major American cities to have the “Big-4”. Add to that roster other franchises like the Lacrosse Swarm, the soccer Stars and the WNBA Lynx and there are plenty of teams to support. Bottom line, we truly have great fans who get behind all the teams, in good times and recently, in harder times.

I miss spring playoffs a great deal. There’s nothing like the start of baseball season meshing with the post season being played out for winter sports teams. Add to that, the “talker” that’s created when your team (like our Wolves and the Wild) misses the playoffs. Frankly, I’m a bit surprised by the venom that’s kicked out by some of the critical; whether they are “fans” or rather disengaged viewers or watchers.

I’ll admit, some criticism is warranted. Heck, teams (from coaches, to players to administrators and staffers in between) are pretty hard on themselves. No one’s more critical than those doing the battling and there’s deep disappointment among the team.

Sitting and chatting with a few fans at the Phoenix-Wolves game, they are surprisingly optimistic. Who knows what will happen in the off season but most expect the talent on the team to be upgraded. One fan, Joy, continues to bring her boys (big basketball fans) to games and dismisses the notion that the Wolves have become irrelevant. Ben (who was sitting with a business associate at the game) said, despite the late season swoon, he bought season tickets and will be back next season. “Basketball is a good buy now and although I’d like to see them win a few of these games, they are also playing a lot of teams with playoffs on the line so it means as much to them as it does us. I will be back.”

There’s work to do for sure. The day after the regular season ends it’ll be time to roll up the sleeves and make it happen. That will be the only message fans need for the time being.

Gimme’ that mail:
There were plenty of notes (and few with venom) regarding the Wolves and recent blogs @ SimonsSays:

I share your optimism about the direction and improvement the team is making. What is your opinion about the role A Randolph might have? He doesn't seem to have the bulk and strength to be a true center. Do you think Beasley could play at SG which would allow Randolph to be a SF? It would create matchup and defense problems for other teams. They would then only be a good draft pick and FA signing away.

Keith M.

Keith thanks for the note. Interesting thoughts but one thing is clear, I like the possibilities that Randolph brings to the Wolves. He’s getting good minutes since his arrival from NY. All in all, Beasley has had a season on which he can build and a much better year that he had in Miami before the trade. I like it when #8 can go 40 minutes give the team a double double and, as he did in New Jersey the other night, dish out 7 assists too. In my opinion, the Wolves badly need a couple of strong contributing veterans in the paint and three or four additions to be a team that competes night in and night out.

Another letter to my SimonsSays MAILBAG at rod@gameontvmn.com. This from Will in Marshall:

“I’m a big Twins fan as well as a Wolves fan and I think (Kevin) Love is as important to the team as (Joe) Mauer is to the Twins. Are the Wolves trading Love?

Will, if I was a betting’ man, I’d put my chips down with NO. That would be counterproductive to say the least. No, Love is a foundation player to this team and one on which to build around. What a magnificent year for the young all star from UCLA. No, they’ll keep Love as long as they can. Great player, great contributor and most importantly, a very good person who gives back.

Time to pick:
It was a very special taping of GameON! the other day with basketball in full focus. We gave fans an up close and personal opportunity to meet and talk hoops with the Lynx at a special Women’s Final Four Championship game viewing party on April 5th! That was the night of the Women’s NCAA title championship (congrats Texas A & M) and GameON! talked hoops, Maya Moore and team Lynx with Head Coach Cheryl Reeve, the Hopkins HS basketball championship team and Macalester’s Ellen Thompson who is also the MIAC Coach of the Year. GameON! airs Sunday at 11AM exclusively on FOX9 and all episodes can be viewed at our website, www.GameOnTvMn.com.

By the way, with picks 1, 4, 13, 14 and 26 in Monday’s draft, these are nervous and exciting days around Target Center for the Women's team. The 2011 WNBA Draft is just around the corner on Monday, April 11. Minnesota holds the top pick in the Draft for the second time in franchise history and they will pick University of Connecticut forward Maya Moore.

There will be a draft day party at Hubert’s beginning at 1:30pm and there will be season ticket holders, Lynx staffers and many fans on hand. The draft starts at 2pm our time this Monday.

Solid:
Wolves players spend a lot of their time and energy giving back to causes in which they believe and it was nice to run across this information this week. As you know if you read this blog, I’m a fan of big Darko Milicic and now even more of one.

Darko is raffling his 2004 NBA Championship Ring along with an All Expenses Paid Trip to a 2011 NBA Finals Game to benefit The Zorana & Darko Milicic Fund For Children With Life Threatening Diseases. The raffle will run from April 6, 2011 through May 26, 2011.

As the story goes, last summer Darko and his wife Zorana came across an article in a National Serbian newspaper about children suffering from Batten's Disease (a terminal childhood disease) and those kids were in desperate need of medical treatment to save their lives.

Darko and Zorana reached out to the families and contributed the resources to fund the critical medical treatment and travel for four children suffering from Batten's disease. The children traveled to China and received stem cell treatment that has improved their quality of life and chances for survival.

As new parents themselves, they were deeply moved and have committed themselves to helping families unable to pay for critical medical care. All this led to the establishment of the Zorana and Darko Milicic Fund for Children with Life Threatening Diseases to support their efforts.

All proceeds of the NBA Championship Raffle will benefit their fund and in turn will be allocated to hospitals and organizations addressing life threatening childhood diseases such as the Batten Disease Support & Research Association among others. You can get involved by visiting this site to purchase raffle tickets ($2 per ticket).

AND WATCH FOR:
Thanks for the e-mails and the uptick in communication from you out there. I very much enjoy getting those and next week, we’ll share some more of your FAN thoughts in our SimonsSays mailbag. Until then, keep your chin up and see you Sunday on GameON! I’d love to have you out to one of our live GameON! Tapings this next Tuesday at Courtside Bar and Grill in Anoka on Jackson Street. More details and guest listings on our redesigned show website (www.GameOnTvMn.com)