Double The Cities, Double The Pain

The Seventh Circle finally gets to Minnesota.

In the course of doing The Seventh Circle Podcast over these last four months, we’ve covered a number of places that’ve seen more than their fair share of sports heartache. As a Cleveland fan myself, I insisted that we start there — our long and well-documented history of misfortune includes a number of events that earned title status: The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, etc.

Some other challengers have risen to the occasion, but there’s always something to soften the blow. The Houston Texans have given their fans a lot of pain, but there’s two Rockets titles and an Astros crown in recent years. The Baltimore Orioles are hot garbage every year, but the Ravens have been consistently good for their entire existence.

Well, a challenger to Cleveland’s throne has finally arrived, though, and just like in Game of Thrones*, this threat comes from the icy north.

(*I have never watched Game of Thrones and do not know if this reference makes sense)

Sports fans in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul — and their state at large — have shed enough tears over the last 28 years to fill more than a couple of those 10,000 lakes. Joe, Virgil and I explore this in depth in EPISODE 16: WELCOME TO MINNEAPOLIS, the first half of which is available now. It’s such a big topic that we had to split it into two — the second half will publish on Wednesday.

Some highlights!

Overall:

Since 1991, despite having a team in all four major North American men’s professional sports (save for a brief hiatus in hockey), no Minnesota team** has even made the final game/series of a playoff, let alone won a title. That’s (by my math) 101 seasons without playing on the biggest stage, despite some very close and painful calls. Such as!

Hockey:

Minnesota’s a hockey town, obviously, right? It hasn’t always worked out.

  • Halfway into their second season, Bill Masterson — the player who had scored the first goal in franchise history — suffered a fatal head injury in an on-ice collision, the only such death in NHL history

  • The team struggled through the 1970s, until they merged with the Cleveland Barons. They made a Cinderella run to the Finals in 1991, but lost.

  • Then they moved to Dallas, and almost immediately won the Stanley Cup there.

  • Expansion Wild came on in 2000-01 season. Most generic franchise name in sports? Alternate choices in the naming contest were “Northern Lights”, “Voyageurs”, “Blue Ox”, “Freeze”, and “White Bears”, all of which are the names of since-banned alcoholic energy drinks.

  • They’ve retired one number in their 19 seasons: that of “the Fans”, which they did a month into their first season. That’s just sad.

Basketball:

The Timberwolves’ history includes such highlights as:

  • They were hugely popular from the start, drew 1 million fans in first season playing in Metrodome.

  • Nearly moved away six years after they were founded because the owners couldn't pay the mortgage on the arena 

  • Almost became the New Orleans Rhythm, until owners blocked the sale/move.

  • Drafted a surefire Hall of Famer in Kevin Garnett, then got sanctioned heavily for trying to subvert the salary cap for Joe Smith. Hamstrung by this, they squandered his prime, only to see him win a title in Boston.

  • Drafted two point guards with back-to-back picks in the 2009 NBA draft in Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn. The third point guard drafted? You guessed it: Steph Curry. And then they had to wait two years for Ricky Rubio! He wasn’t worth it.

Baseball:

The Twins have the city’s only men’s titles, having won the World Series in 1987 and 1991. BUT:

MLB tried to contract them. Not even really necessary! Bud Selig just hated them, I guess?

In reality, it was an obvious ploy in labor negotiating and in getting new stadiums built, but it showed the especially disdainful way in which MLB conducts itself. It wasn’t even “you’d better build a new stadium, or another city might come along with a better offer.” It was “maybe if you build a new stadium we won’t axe a 102-year-old franchise”. 

Also, for a while there they lost to the Yankees every year in the playoffs. I wonder what’s happening with them right now?

Football:

Hoo, buddy. There’s a whole episode’s worth here, and we get into it in depth on the podcast. But we needn’t say more than this:

Happy Monday. If you’re not a Minnesota sports fan, it could be worse.

(**the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx have won four championships this decade. You should follow the WNBA because it’s good, but also because, as this situation illustrates, it might be your only hope).

Scott Hines (@actioncookbook)