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Maybe my suspicion is incorrect, and maybe the NFL’s Central Division is not the wasteland I believe it to be. If I’m wrong, then the San Francisco 49ers have a great chance to win Sunday’s Super Bowl.
Ah, but if I’m right, and if the Central’s best teams are strictly middle of the road — sorry Vikings and Packers fans — then the Kansas
City Chiefs will capture the Super Bowl while we’re all sitting back and pondering which game-day snack is our favorite.
Jimmy Garoppolo could be a miracle-worker for the 49ers, but remember, my picks in the NFC were Seattle beating Green Bay and New Orleans beating the Vikings, and frankly I think New Orleans was the strongest team in the NFC at the end, and I watched Seattle go to San Francisco and beat the 49ers on a fantastic Russell Wilson finish. With both of them out of the way, though, the 49ers were able to play — and soundly thrash — the Vikings, and then the Packers to reach the Super Bowl.
While Garoppolo and the 49ers are very good, they rank fourth overall in total yards, but only 13th in passing yards while standing second in rushing yards. Kansas City, meanwhile, has the incomparable Pat Mahomes, who is not completely incomparable, because the likes of Russell Wilson and Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers do compare with him.
But Mahomes and the Chiefs trailed upstart Tennessee 21-0 after one quarter of their AFC title game, then Mahomes took over and led the Chiefs to outscore the Titans 51-10 thereafter for a 51-31 victory. With the season on the line, Mahomes connected on 23 of 35 passes for 321 yards and five touchdowns, without an interception.
Nothing is certain, and I’m just hoping it’s an exciting game. We’re already planning alternative activities just in case the game’s
highlight is the halftime show. We can watch J-Lo and Shakira, then vacate the premises.
DOGS RULE WARMTH OF BEARGREASE
There was some drama involved before Ryan Redington of Skagway, Alaska, returned to Minnesota’s North Shore and captured the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. It was a personal triumph for Redington, whose family history was mostly spent at Alaska’s legendary Iditarod. But Redington came to the North Shore and won the 2018 race, and when his team took off to build a substantial lead in the 2019 Beargrease, it looked like domination for the Alaska team. But no matter how great the owners, mushers and trainers are to the dogs, the dogs rule in sled-dog racing. And with the finish line virtually within reach, Redington’s dogs simply decided they weren’t going to run any more, and they blew the big lead and the victory.
That didn’t happen this year. Redington’s dogs took off fast from Billy’s Bar on the Jean Duluth Road on Sunday, crowded the early leaders, and once they moved into the lead, they just kept on going. By Tuesday, they left the final checkpoint first and were never headed, finishing about 4:30 Tuesday afternoon at Grand Portage.
Not only that, but runner-up Keith Aili took second running dogs from Redington’s kennels. Ryan Anderson was third, Martin Massicotte of Quebec was fourth, and Colleen Wallin was fifth. The dogs, trained to compete by pulling sleds, were leaping around excitedly at the start, which was attended by the largest crowd I’ve ever seen at the Beargrease start. We generally head up to the first checkpoint, where the dog teams cross the Jean Duluth Road at the Zimmerman Road intersection and disappear into the woods on the groomed trails. The dogs seem to enjoy the cold, and there were concerns that the warm, mid-20s temperatures might hinder the dogs from their normal pace. It didn’t appear to. And there were a large number of mid-distance racers entered as well, with Erin Shouweiler leading a sweep of the top four spots by women mushers.
THIS WEEK’S QUIZ: The new high school that will combine Virginia with Eveleth-Gilbert will be called Rock Ridge, which is totally fitting
because it will be on a ridge, in the land where iron mining created a rich hard-working heritage. Their nickname will be the Wolverines. So
this week’s quiz is: Has anyone ever seen a Wolverine in Nor