It's a good thing that February is the shortest month of the year.
The Super Bowl is nearly two weeks in the rear view mirror. Baseball is still a month and a half away from playing a meaningful game. The NHL and NBA are still slogging through the remainder of their long regular seasons. March Madness is...well, not until March.
So what's a Minnesota sports fan to do to pass the time at the proverbial sports water cooler until things pick up again? Well, allow us to assist you. While we understand that the most exciting thing about sports in February is usually March 1st, here are some interesting stories going on both locally and nationally to tide you over:
Wild playoff run: The guys over at the Target Center have been out of the race for months now, but our team in St. Paul is right in the thick of it. The Wild have scuffled this week, leaving them in 10th place in the West as we speak. However, they're only three points out of hosting a first-round playoff series and they have played fewer games than most of the teams ahead of them. With key players like Guillaume Latendresse set to return from injury soon, expect the State of Hockey to be in contention until the end.
- T-Wolves still suck, but K-Love rules: Yes, the Wolves are dead last in the Western Conference. They have yet to win a division game this season. Our NBA squad is decidedly more entertaining this year, but the standings still scream "same old Timberwolves". On the bright side, hey, check out that Kevin Love guy! He's on 42 straight double-doubles and counting! He's the first player from Minnesota not named Kevin Garnett selected to the All-Star game since Sam Cassell in 2004! (He's the first Minnesota player to participate in any part of All-Star weekend since Gerald Green was in the dunk contest three years ago.) So...yeah, don't worry that the team isn't making any progress...just pay attention to our rebounding machine! Stats!!
- Speaking of K-Love the All-Star: The NBA All-Star game is this weekend. While the All-Star games of all four major sports leagues are a complete joke at this point, this weekend's festivities are a must-watch for one reason: Blake Griffin in the Dunk Contest. I know I'm tuning in to see Blake Superior do his best NBA Jam impression on Saturday.
- The L Word: No, not the show on Showtime. The lockout. The deadline is the first week in March, and unless there is exponential progress in the negotiations between players and owners, it's gonna happen. Which means the NFL Draft will still happen, but free agency comes to a halt without a Collective Bargaining Agreement. It's pretty obvious that the Vikings could use some outside help after the past season's debacle. The longer this thing goes, the worse it is for everyone involved, especially us fans. (I refuse to even think about the possibility of no fantasy football in September. What the heck will I do at work?!)
Pitchers and catchers report, but all we care about is the first baseman: The Twins have begun their annual warm-up in Fort Myers. There are rumors swirling about a possible Fransico Liriano trade and facts about a missing Pavstache, but all eyes are focused on the health of one Justin Morneau. The effects of his concussion last July have lasted longer than anyone could have anticipated. If the Twins are going to have a chance of breaking through the first-round playoff barrier, they'll need a healthy and productive Morneau. Speaking of first basemen in the news...
Pujols creating a distraction by trying to avoid a distraction: If you've turned on ESPN or sports radio in the past two weeks, you've heard about Albert Pujols' contract dispute. He wants 10 years and $300 million. The Cardinals are close on the years, but not the money. Pujols thinks that by imposing a deadline that just passed, he's going to avoid all the distractions of contract talk. Now I know that Phat Albert is arguably the best player in baseball, but he can't be the smartest if he thinks that's the case. He does realize it's 2011, right?
- Tubby taking heat, Gophers on the bubble: As I type this, the Gophers have just lost at Penn State and dropped to 6-8 in the conference. This is Tubby Smith's fourth year at the helm of the Gophers--which means that everyone on the team was recruited by him--and yet Minnesota is still mired in mediocrity. His team was ranked in the preseason, and as of right now they might not even make the NCAA Tournament. Injuries have hampered the team all year to be sure. But there have been serious grumblings that this may be Tubby's last year in Minnesota, and if the Gophers repeat their recent history, those grumblings will only get louder.
- If all else fails, how about a lacrosse game? If you're bored with the same old same old, the Minnesota Swarm have five home games this season, including one this Saturday. By all accounts, the games are a blast to attend. With constant action and about 20 goals scored a game, it's definitely worth checking out. Don't know a thing about LAX? No worries--here's a quick guide to the basics.
See? February isn't all doom and gloom in the sports landscape. Hang in there, and you'll be filling out brackets in no time!