Minnesota Wild Just Make Ya’ Want To Poop! And How Will The College Athletes Union Movement Come Out?

Marc Elliott

HIBBING… Just about three Friday eves ago, I was seated at the dining room table. Across from me was my five-year-old granddaughter, little Jewel Annie, and we were preparing to play our favorite card game, War. I’ve never been much for board games or cards, so I’ll sheepishly admit that this is about the only card game I know. My little buddy is a spitfire. Her grandma was a gymnast—petite, strong and athletic—and her mom is built the same and so is she. She is high-energy, not shy, and usually whatever is on her mind comes right out of her mouth.
I am shuffling the deck, and she and her little brother, the three-year-old Wyatt “the Big Wy-guy,” have been downing ice-cold chocolate milk this evening like they own a dairy farm. So I mentioned to my little buddy that she and the Wy-guy seem to really like the chocolate moo juice. She said, “We love it, Grandpa, and it makes you poop!” Well, I’m not quite sure how you would respond to that, except that in trying not to bust out laughing, I was smiling so hard my cheeks were sore. On a side note, Jewel Annie’s rules for War are that you put your card down first and then she holds her hands under the table while she searches for a card to beat the one you put down. She is like 495-0 in games played.
The “makes you poop” comment stuck with me, though. After the Minnesota Wild got slapped around by the Vancouver Canucks and the mad professor-coach John Tortorella, and then a couple of nights later got the snot knocked out of them by the St. Louis Blues, (5-2 and 5-1 butt-kickings), the first thing I could think of after the final horn went off, mercifully ending the total beat-down by the Blues, was that the Wild just make me want to poop. You know, it’s not like they have a wild card play-off spot all sewn up. Rather, I can see now that they are going to be hanging on for dear life until the final buzzer of the final tilt, and even then may not make it into the Stanley Cup tourney.
Last week I said the Wild would go 5-5 in the last ten tilts to finish up with 95 points and a wild card spot in the tourney. I thought they would beat the Canucks, I didn’t have them besting STL, and I gave them a thumbs up against Phoenix down in the desert. They had a miracle third period against the Yotes last night to get a 3-1 win and ended up 1-2 in those games for 2 of 6 points. Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov had a huge night against the Yotes. They are now down to 7 games to go: at home versus the Pengwah, Bruins, STL and Nashville, and on the road against the Kings, Blackhawks and Winnipeg. I am looking at a 3-4 finish for 93 points. The only thing is, can that get them in?
The Yotes have been a hotter club lately than the Wild have been. Even the Dallas NorthStars have been having a better go of it. Phoenix is now 6-3-1 in their L10 and the NorthStars are 5-4-1 and coming on. In fact, they went to the Gateway City last night and beat the Blues 4-2. Not many teams have done that this season. STL is 26-6-4 at home this year. The Wild aren’t bad at home either, with a 23-9-5 home record, but they are under .500 on the road.
Can the Wild hang on and get in? I see a 4-4 finish for the NorthStars in their final push for a 91-point finish. I see a 4-3 finish for the Yotes for a 92-point finish. So my Western Conference final has the Wild in 7th, Yotes in 8th, and the NorthStars finish on the outside looking in at the 9th spot and heading for a tee time. Now, any deviation or faltering by the Wild opens the door for either of those two clubs to step up. Vancouver would have to win their remaining 6 tilts to obtain 91 points and a shot at getting in. Honestly, the best I see for them is 2-4. No one else has a shot after those clubs. The Wild are in total control of their destiny. Can they finish the job?
THERE HAS BEEN DISCUSSION for several years regarding monetary compensation for collegiate athletes. Points have been made regarding how much revenue some of the big programs in football and basketball actually bring in for their respective schools, and that the players should receive some sort of share of those funds. It has been countered that the athletes are getting compensated in the form of the monetary value of their scholarships, room, board, meals, and the like. There are those involved who say they are OK with investigating the possibility of paying the players, while others are dead set against it.
Some student athletes at Big Ten member school Northwestern University decided to test the waters by going to the National Labor Relations Board regarding unionizing as athletes. The NLRB surprised a lot of people intently following this case by ruling that the players met the criteria necessary to be considered employees of the university, in that the acceptance of an athletic scholarship constituted a form of payment in exchange for work—that they were transfers of economic value.
Peter S. Ohr of the Chicago office of the NLRB wrote, “While it is true that the players do not receive a paycheck in the traditional sense, they nevertheless receive a substantial economic benefit for playing football.” Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney is against compensating players and rails against those who act as if the players get nothing because they don’t receive any compensation in currency. Swinney stated, “To say these guys get nothing totally devalues an education. It just blows my mind people don’t even want to quantify an education.”
I am not certain how this will turn out, but I am certain that the matter is gaining critical mass and will land squarely on the debate table sometime very soon in a higher court of law. I will write more on this in the future. Stay tuned…. PEACE

Marc Elliott is a free lance sports opinion writer who splits time between his hometown in Illinois and Minnesota.