"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)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Wilfs promote Spielman but really, so what?

Holy flow chart, Batman, what's going on with the Vikings? In a decision that I suspect was a response to public pressure, the Vikings at least tried to make it clear there is a person in charge.
Previously the authority was dispersed. It was called "management by committee." It was derided as such.
Two points: The Vikings had darn well better respond to public pressure because they're being taken to the altar with the Minnesota legislature. The Wilfs of the Vikings say a new stadium is a must. Their masters in the NFL help orchestrate. It's a well-oiled process that serves to twist arms.
Second point: The Wilfs' decision appears cosmetic. They promoted Rick Spielman to where he seems to have the reins. He crawls out from under the wreckage of a 3-13 season.
The organization is amazingly intact considering how the team's on-field fortunes are so bad, we couldn't do any worse if we had an expansion team.
Many people fear if the Vikings left for Los Angeles, we'd get an expansion team within a few years, and expansion teams tend to be woeful at the start.
"Woeful" describes the Vikings now.
My biggest concern about getting an expansion team would be that we're running out of good team nicknames. Some have been burned up on teams that went belly-up (the Muskies) or left (the Lakers). Why was Los Angeles allowed to wrest "Lakers" away from us (the name, I mean)? That name belongs to us the way "Jazz" belongs to New Orleans, not Utah.
The women took the name "Lynx." The list is really getting whittled down. Someone somewhere has a list of remaining candidates that might seem decent. I'd like to see it.
When the Timberwolves were created, the runner-up name was "Polars," remember? "Timberwolves" was a name begging to be shortened, so why bother? The Tampa Bay Devil Rays became "Rays." We became "Wolves" or "T-Wolves."
Woeful as the Vikings team is, they have the premier Minnesota sports team nickname. It was inspired by a fallacy or fraud: the idea that Vikings came out here.
Even if the Runestone is "real," it wasn't necessarily brought here by the type of explorers represented by Hagar the Horrible. It wasn't the Vikings as depicted at the end of the Mel Brooks movie "History of the World Part I." Remember? There was a "Viking funeral" as part of the faux preview for "History of the World Part II."
(The best part of that clip was "Jews in Space." Was that a takeoff on the Muppet Show's "Pigs in Space?")
The man who is perhaps the leading proponent of the Runestone's authenticity says the Runestone was created post-Pagan. These explorers weren't like Hagar.
We still have fun with the Vikings imagery. The real Vikings pillaged. That's sort of what the football Vikings do as part of the NFL and its 400-pound gorilla stature in the entertainment business.
Right now we're on the threshold of "wild card weekend." The NFL product will be on the tube all weekend. The Vikings aren't making news by being in the playoffs. They're making news in the standard "hot stove" fashion. The Wednesday, Jan. 4, edition of the Star Tribune trumpeted the move. I grabbed the house paper at McDonald's to digest what was going on.
A companion made quick note of the size of Spielman's photo on page 1C. This was just a photo of a guy talking and it was huge, not even cropped at the sides. Has a photo of Mark Dayton ever run this large? I suppose one reason is that the Star Tribune can't sell as many ads as before, so they have to "stretch" content.
I would estimate that I buy the Star Tribune twice a month, Saturday only, and I'm trying to phase that much out. The skids have been greased for newspapers. The best place to follow the Vikings, by far, is the 1500 ESPN website, which I have linked on my site. Tom Pelissero is the fellow to read there. But I still stumble onto the Star Tribune now and then.
On January 4 the Strib was feeding our insatiable - their perception - appetite for Vikings news, even with the team reeling. There was that huge photo of Mr. Spielman. Not a hair was out of place - just like Mitt Romney. This news was over-hyped.
Officially Spielman was "promoted" to general manager. He had been vice president of player personnel. But titles make my head spin. Or make me want to reach for the aspirin bottle.
There was a hint of cynicism in Dan Wiederer's article because it said the move was "rubber-stamped." A mere formality, I would translate. A sop to the critics who maintained the Vikings system was a maze of confusion.
Is Spielman truly in charge now? Well, he has no discretion on hiring and firing of the head coach. Coach Leslie Frazier, who ought to be totally on the hot seat, will answer to the Wilfs (Zygi at the top). The Wilfs aren't football people, they're business people.
(Doesn't Zygi look a little like a straight man in a Three Stooges short?)
There's something to be said for a football boss with total autonomy. The Vikings still don't have that. It still seems to me to be a collaborative mess.
And the Wilfs are quite distracted by the stadium matter. It must seem like pulling teeth for them to get that through. We all know they'll succeed. Lemmings, we are.
We have bridges that fall into the river but we can't risk losing a football team. My generation, the boomers, ought to be revulsed by such a state of affairs. But we got old and got money. Worse yet, a lot of us became Republicans. Neither the Republicans nor Democrats are going to risk having the feared Vikings departure laid at their doorstep.
So at least we can feel confident keeping the "Vikings" name. Can you imagine cheering for an NFL team with any other name? Try to think of some. It's hard.
Maybe that's the best argument the stadium supporters could put forth: "We've run out of nicknames." And, "Fighting Sioux" won't do (LOL).
Actually, after digesting the coverage of this move in the 1/4 Strib, I wondered if the media had been taken for a ride. The announcement almost seemed like a nominal move.
"The decision-makers are the same," Mark Craig noted in his column.
Spielman has to conform to what Frazier wants. Coaches come and go. Coaches are always desperate to "win now" otherwise the ax could fall.
Coaches sometime prefer veterans too much whereas the better long-term thinking would have the raw younger players out there more. With Frazier not having to worry about Spielman, the coach could fall into the trap just cited. Coaches like veterans because they are known commodities and basically "know the ropes." I would suggest there's also a "good old boy" angle.
Did Frazier seek Donovan McNabb because the seasoned McNabb fit into sort of a "comfort zone?" How can you say no to Donovan McNabb? Problem is, players enter physical decline. McNabb certainly helped sink the Vikings' ship. But Frazier still has the reins. Spielman will have to adjust to him.
If there are arguments, everyone will go running to the owners. The owners' expertise is in real estate, not football. The owners are fixated on a new stadium, to better enrich themselves. And every day we take another bite.
The NFL doesn't care which teams win or lose. Some win, some lose and in the end, everyone is happy. The losers can lick their chops over the draft. The Vikings will pick third. The NFL is a big gravy train in which teams scrap for the playoff spots but everyone makes money. Congratulations.
In recessionary times we shouldn't defer so much to them. We should shake our heads over an absolutely huge photo of Spielman's face on page C1 of the Strib. This is a man who brought the legendary A.J. Feeley to Miami.
Are the Vikings guaranteed to fail? No team in the NFL is guaranteed to fail. With some luck the Vikings could pick up some new players who could mesh and win. Ditto all NFL teams. But it's uphill with the Vikings, to be sure.
Are we ready for Timberwolves-level mediocrity? Minnesota's boomers would be thrown into catharsis. We aren't ready for a "Viking funeral" like in the faux Mel Brooks preview clip, in which a Viking takes off his hat and we find the horns are actually growing on his head and aren't part of the hat!
What of the Metrodome? James Lileks had a good point when he said maybe the Vikings should sign smaller players to "make the Metrodome seem bigger." That's levity of course.
God will punish us for prioritizing opulent new sports venues, one for each team, at the same time we can't totally trust bridges. The new Vikings stadium might be a "bridge to nowhere."
Enjoy all the NFL football this weekend. The Vikings play only in our fantasies now, here in the midst of this "brown winter."
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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