"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Vikings keep fans energized with QB pick

There was a time when baseball spring training symbolized "hope springs eternal." Today I think it's the NFL draft.
The list of drafted players with each team projects so much hope. Virtually all these guys look good "on paper." They seem so fresh and ready to impress.
They will be put through a meat grinder of course. Many will turn out to be just average. And of course many won't make the grade.
You can't make sweeping judgments about the young men taken by the Minnesota Vikings. The list is topped by a quarterback. You can't beat that for juicing the PR.
And PR is mighty important right now with a new stadium apparently on the horizon.
It's not a done deal yet, so it's of prime importance to get the fan base excited.
The purple fans are now buzzing about Mr. Christian Ponder.
Anyone with a 3.7 grade-point-average and who got his undergraduate degree in 2.5 years and his Master's before his senior season, all while excelling in Division I football, will be called "Mister" by yours truly.
The Vikes chose Ponder with the 12th pick in the first round. Many fans did react with skepticism. I have read one NFL expert refer to Ponder as "a poor man's Chad Pennington."
Not real promising words.
But the fact is we don't know the young man's full potential yet. There will be a relief factor with Brett Favre and his annoying idiosyncrasies gone. Favre was never a true Viking anyway.
Tarvaris Jackson was a high draft pick but he wasn't a first rounder, and he was dubbed a "project" right away.
Actually I think Jackson still has potential to succeed in the NFL. There's a rumor that Seattle might be interested in him.
The year he was benched in favor of Gus Frerotte, he apparently was expected to beat Green Bay in Green Bay and then beat Peyton Manning. He almost did beat Manning. And he probably would have, had Visanthe Shiancoe not dropped a key pass.
He moves quickly and releases the ball quickly. I wish him well.
The Vikings were due to take a first round quarterback this time around. I'm not thinking about needs, I'm thinking about the fact that the year 2011 ends in identical digits: "11."
The Vikings chose Tommy Kramer in 1977 and Daunte Culpepper in 1999.
I'm sure it's pure coincidence but Glenn Beck could probably make something of this. Just imagine him standing by his blackboard. His wild theorizing somehow comes to mind here. Fox News is phasing out this conniving self-promoter. (I don't know why the ax can't fall immediately.)
But back to football: Mention of Kramer and Culpepper brings back a wealth of memories. Kramer is my age and I can't help but think of him as a tragic story. I sort of take it personally that he didn't rise to the top. He could have ended up like Joe Montana.
The Vikings of that era weren't paying top dollar to get the kind of talent needed to rise to the top. Kramer's lifestyle didn't seem to facilitate the best results either. He definitely had his moments. His talent was never in dispute.
Culpepper never had me feeling upbeat. They said he was like "a linebacker playing quarterback." There's a reason why guys who are built like linebackers play linebacker.
From his very first pre-season game, I felt Culpepper moved too sluggishly and made decisions too sluggishly. The presence of Randy Moss gave him a little heyday.
Now we have Christian Ponder and we're all abuzz about his possibilities. He comes from Florida State where they have a Native American nickname. It's not an issue there like at UND, where the "Fighting Sioux" name saga has become neverending, tired and pathetic.
As if an athletic nickname should be so godawful important. A rich benefactor had this institution at his mercy over this matter. It was a benefactor who once got sanctions for celebrating Hitler's birthday.
I guess money really does talk.
Ponder's Florida State Seminoles weren't torn apart on this matter. It's a placid matter there, although from a distance one could still raise concerns. I notice an Indian arrowhead on the side of the FSU helmets.
Many NFL observers, including the one who gave the Pennington quote, see Ponder as a draft "reach."
Quarterbacks were popular in this year's draft. Three were taken in the top ten picks. Then came Ponder at No. 12.
Choosing a quarterback early is truly a roll of the dice. Many highly-touted QBs fail, some miserably. We all remember the big discussion over whether Ryan Leaf or Peyton Manning should be the top pick.
Remember JaMarcus Russell?
I can't confirm what I'm about to say, but I think the Vikings wanted a white quarterback. That's a mean thing to write but it's a thought that crossed my mind, and when you write online you should share all your honest thoughts.
The Vikings are in a sensitive time when they need to sell the idea of a new stadium, so they need to connect with the prevailing culture of the fan base. White people define the prevailing culture of the Upper Midwest.
We already have a non-white head coach.
Is it a stretch for me to suggest that race consciousness exists in the NFL? Why then do we have the "Rooney Rule?"
I remember "Dark Star" saying a few years ago (during his 'CCO Radio heyday) that the NBA was the only truly colorblind league. I think the NFL is getting closer to that now.
We were not there when Daunte Culpepper was quarterback. People who were inclined to criticize Culpepper sharply felt a little defensive.
Dennis Green was the non-white coach in that era. He was a lightning rod at times. I would suggest that to the extent Green drew derision, it wasn't because of race but because of personality issues. I could phrase the latter less diplomatically if I wanted to.
Remember Green, Dan Barreiro and the "chicken-fried Moses" comment? The Star Tribune had to research that to make sure it wasn't racist. It wasn't. Green could be chippy.
Current Strib columnist Jim Souhan thinks Ponder might be too fragile for the NFL. Ponder has had a right shoulder separation. Let's also throw in bruised triceps, a ruptured bursa sac (requiring draining and surgery) and that feared "C" word: "concussion."
"I think I was mislabeled as injury-prone," Ponder said.
If he gets hurt, can the Vikes really go with Joe Webb for a time?
There's another quarterback whose name escapes me right now. Wait a minute, it's Rhett. Rhett Butler?
Whatever, the Vikings might be ill-advised just crossing their fingers about Ponder staying healthy. Certainly they are crossing their fingers about getting a new stadium built.
People my age have to sigh because we remember when the Metrodome was shiny new. It was touted as the solution to all our problems. People seem to like it.
But it doesn't feed the money cow of the NFL well enough.
There is a new generation of NFL stadiums, begun by Jerry Jones in Dallas, that gives opulence and excess new meaning. I have to wonder if it's a bridge too far. I think a lot of fans have this question at the back of their minds.
The Metrodome has been popular. We shouldn't dismiss it so routinely.
We're looking at three weeks left in the legislative session. A partnership is in fact forming. The key piece was Ramsey County.
It looks like the site is going to be the old Army Ammunition plant in Arden Hills. George Carlin - RIP - would have appreciated this. Carlin always got laughs when noting that football was played in places like "War Memorial Stadium," compared to the peaceful tone of baseball.
Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett says "we've made a lot of progress," and then he broke into singing "The Shadow of Your Smile."
OK, I stole that joke from Christopher Gates of "Daily Norseman."
How will the Vikings do with Christian Ponder? Can a raw rookie with question marks really outplay the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford?
OK, Stafford is injury-prone and he plays for the snakebit Lions. But Matt Millen has been gone from the Lions for a while now. The Lions may be ready to roar.
Green Bay and Chicago appear very stable.
The Vikings? It's a roll of the dice.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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