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Imagine just this once that you were a sports media person, with an infinitely accessible press pass, and it was Thursday night as you arrived in the Twin Cities. Here are your options:
• The Minnesota Vikings, fresh from christening their new $1.1-billion stadium in downtown Minneapolis, engage the Los Angeles Rams at 7 p.m. in their final exhibition game;
• About eight blocks to the West, the Minnesota Twins, trying to prove they have not de-emphasized baseball this season, will take on the Chicago White Sox at 7 p.m. at Target Field in game 134 of a loooooonnng season;
• No place to park? How about going over by the University of Minnesota and taking the light rail downtown? Oops, can’t do that. The Golden Gophers play their first game of the college football season against Oregon State at their home stadium, starting at 8 p.m.;
• You could always go downtown St. Paul, have a nice dinner, and then take a longer light-rail ride from Lowertown. Oops! Can’t do that, either. The St. Paul Saints are playing Winnipeg at 7 p.m. in their boutique ballpark.
• Well, maybe you could stay home in Duluth and catch UMD’s football opener. Oh wait a sec. The Bulldogs open on Thursday night, all right, but they’re playing at Southwest Minnesota State.
If that’s not enough to clutter up anybody’s event calendar, there’s always the State Fair, also going on Thursday all day, as well as continuing through Monday. And St. Scholastica, our resident Division III powerhouse, will wait to Saturday to open the football season, at St. John’s.
Catch a fire
The Duluth Police slow-pitch softball team was primed and ready for its 10th annual game against the Duluth Fire Department, a charity event that always is fun to watch. Well, it’s been less fun to watch for fire folks, because the policemen had won the first nine games in a row. Think of the cops as sort of a Twins team in reverse.
Last week at Wade Stadium, the teams started out with a scoreless inning, and the police edged ahead 1-0 in the second. Then the roof fell in, if there had been a roof. The cops scored seven runs in the third to take an 8-0 stranglehold on the game. Another year, another game, another police victory, right?
Not quite. The firemen broke through for three runs in the top of the fourth, then had one of those amazing innings where every ground ball went through the infield, and every fly ball got past the outfield, and a few of the ground balls bounced off infielders. When the police finally got the third out, the fire guys had scored 10 runs to vault into a 13-8 lead.
It was so startling to umpire Scott Lyons, who, rumor has it, used to be police chief of our fair city, that he couldn’t even inspire the cops to come back. It became 15-8 in the seventh, and a police rally closed it to 15-12 – but they play a full 9 innings in this one, and it came down to the last of the ninth, when the cops put together a 5-run rally before, as they say, the fire was put out. Firemen won 18-17 to add a dramatic twist to next year’s renewal of the rivalry.
Vikings win again
Imagine how neat it would be if Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, seemingly an all-business guy who can be grouchy when the media pesters him too much, was willing to play a prank on the reporting horde. Let’s say that just before the Vikings played an exhibition at Seattle, Zimmer decided that it would be best to play backup Shaun Hill his first start, and not even play starter Teddy Bridgewater.
In this fabricated scenario, Zimmer could reel in the media when they pestered him about why Bridgewater didn’t play. Then he holds him out of practice the next two days, and advises him to just throw short passes when he resumes workouts. The columnists and radio-tv guys go properly crazy assuming Bridgewater’s shoulder is hurt and he couldn’t play.
Now it’s game time, to open the big $1.1-billion playground for its first game, and Bridgewater strolls out on the field and fires a bunch of passes – short, medium and long – varying the velocity but not the accuracy. One sequence, he throws three long passes in a row, up the right, up the left, and over the middle. Touchdown.
That last part really did happen, with Bridgewater 12-16 for 161 yards and the TD, and the Vikings win 23-10 over the San Diego Chargers, who undoubtedly read all the stuff about sore-armed Bridgewater unable to throw hard.
Nah. It couldn’t happen that way. Would be hilarious, though, if Zimmer and Bridgewater pulled off the prank of all time on the media wolves.
Nothing much good can happen when a team loses 10 straight games, going 0-forever on the road trip, but scoring 21 runs in three games in Toronto was impressive, even though it earned the Twins only three straight losses.
In the third one, the power-laden Blue Jays turned Josh Donaldson loose, and he socked three home runs in a 9-6 finale to the series. Twins were up 5-2 when Donaldson got his first, and it wasn’t out of reach until the eighth when Donaldson hit a scorching line drive over the center-field fence for his third homer of the day. As Donaldson circled the bases, the hats came flying out of the stands.The Toronto fans threw baseball caps of all forms out onto the field. You can’t fool them – they know a hat trick when they see one.
That might have been the highlight of the road trip, although there wasn’t much competition.