As we continue to be stuck inside a sports-less world, the conversations we have about our favorite teams continue to go down a weird path. In one such conversation with a friend of mine, he mentioned how the 2020 Twins season was the most ‘Minnesota Sports’ season ever.
When I asked what he meant, he explained his phrase. A ‘Minnesota Sports’ season is when a team comes into the seasons with some sort of expectations but disappoints in brutal fashion.
These things could range from a trade that doesn’t work, a team that doesn’t capitalize on their window or one where everything just goes straight to Iowa.
The usual reaction of the fan base in these seasons is ‘Ah, Minnesota sports…’ which got me thinking. What is the most “Minnesota Sports” season of all-time?
10. 2020 Twins
For years, Twins fans have been begging their front office to do something a contender would do during the offseason. Sign a big free agent. Make an aggressive trade. Improve your team instead of relying the players on the roster to do it for you.
To the surprise of many, the Twins actually did that this past offseason. The Twins added several arms to their rotation and doubled down by handing Josh Donaldson the richest free-agent contract in franchise history.
The issue here is we may never see what this team will look like on the field. With the COVID-19 pandemic snuffing out every sport on the planet, baseball is trying to find a way for a shortened season, but the proposed 50-50 split in revenue has most of the players, like Blake Snell, saying “No thanks, bro.”
Maybe after all of the moves this offseason, the Twins would have just been swept by the Yankees again. But it would have been nice for that to actually happen rather than assume that was the case.
9. 2003 Vikings
In the second year of the Mike Tice era, things looked to be off to a great start. The Vikings started 6-0 on the season and everything seemed to be going their way including a Randy Moss lateral to Moe Williams that was a microcosm of how good things were going.
But then the Vikings lost six of their next nine games to set up a win-and-in playoff scenario in the Week 17 finale against Arizona.
While Green Bay was destroying the Broncos at home to get in with a Vikings loss, Minnesota just need to stop Arizona on a 4th and 24 to get into the playoffs. Instead, Josh McCown found Nathan Poole and…”NOOOOOO!!!”
Poole’s game-winning touchdown sent the Vikings home and the force-out rule that made the catch count was eliminated in 2008.
8. 2011 Twins
Heading into the 2011 season, life was pretty good for the Twins. They had just moved into Target Field the season before and although they were swept by the Yankees (Surprise!), the defending AL Central champions had most of the pieces back for another run.
However, the group didn’t have the same effectiveness they enjoyed the year before. With a 41-48 record at the All-Star break, the Twins sat 6.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers for first place. Despite a manageable deficit, things went south in a hurry.
The Twins compiled a 22-51 record in the second half of the season including a 13-41 mark in August and September. Their manageable deficit had turned into a 32-game crater by season’s end and the Twins decade-long search for starting pitching began.
7. 1989-91 Vikings
While a majority of the seasons will be solo entities on the list, this stretch for the Vikings is one that some will recall as “The Herschel Walker Years.”
After Mike Lynn pulled off the deal to acquire Walker from the Dallas Cowboys, many thought that a Super Bowl was coming in the near future. Plus with a quirky clause in the deal, there was no way the Cowboys would release the scrub players to obtain higher draft picks.
Actually, they did and while the Cowboys wound up getting eight draft picks in the deal to build their dynasty, the Vikings went 24-24 in Walker’s three years in Minnesota with one epic meltdown from Jerry Burns. Walker never hit the 1,000-yard mark in Minnesota and left for Philadelphia after the ’91 season.
6. 1996-97 Gopher Men’s Basketball
While most of the seasons on this list actually exist, this one doesn’t have that same benefit. Most Minnesota sports fans will speak glowingly of this team which featured five NBA players and compiled a 31-4 record on their way to the Final Four.
But that glory didn’t last long as a cheating scandal forced Minnesota to vacate the season. While fans still have memories of Bobby Jackson and Sam Jacobson, there’s no official record which is something that resembles peak “Minnesota Sports.”
5. 1991-92 North Stars
In the spring of 1991, the North Stars went on a run that would signal a team on the rise. With Mike Modano, Dave Gagner, and Brian Bellows leading the way, the North Stars went all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals before losing to Pittsburgh in six games.
Of course, hockey is a strange sport from year-to-year and the North Stars’ progression wasn’t linear. While the trio continued to put up points, goaltender Jon Casey saw his goals-against average balloon from 2.90 to 3.48 and the North Stars were bounced in the first round of the Norris Division playoffs.
4. 1992 Twins
Much like the North Stars, the Twins had the look of a team that was going to contend in the American League for a while after winning the 1991 World Series. With most of the team back in 1992, the Twins looked like a contender surging to a 55-34 record on July 17.
The Twins’ three-game lead in the American League West didn’t last for long as they went into a tailspin that saw them limp to a 35-38 record the rest of the way. A 90-72 record wasn’t good enough to win the West and with no Wild Card spot to save them, the Twins couldn’t capitalize before fading into obscurity for the rest of the 90’s.
3. 2004-05 Timberwolves
The early 2000s were a time to behold for Minnesota sports fans as even the Timberwolves got in on the action. With most of the 2003-04 team that reached the Western Conference Finals returning, reigning league MVP Kevin Garnett and his running mates Sam Cassel and Latrell Sprewell were ready to go on a run.
Instead, the Timberwolves did Timberwolves things. Sprewell balked at a contract extension because he needed to feed his family and Cassel played in just 38 games.
After getting off to a 25-26 start, Kevin McHale fired Flip Saunders and led the team to a 19-12 record under his watch, but it was too late and the Wolves have one playoff appearance since.
2. 2016 Vikings
After winning the NFC North title in 2015 and having their season come down to a miss by Blair Walsh (an honorable mention for this piece), the Vikings were looking forward to what Teddy Bridgewater could do in his third season.
One wrong step in a practice put an end to that as Bridgewater nearly lost his leg and the 2016 season was off and running. A panic trade for Sam Bradford helped the Vikings start the season at 5-0, but things went sour from there.
Offensive coordinator Norv Turner resigned after a loss in Chicago and in the same game, Mike Zimmer nearly lost his eye from a play sheet that caught the wind. The offensive line was a complete disaster and the team nearly slid off the runway in Appleton before being eliminated from playoff contention against the Packers…on Christmas Eve.
1. 2010 Vikings
But as bad as the 2011 season was, nothing could compare what went down in 2010. Coming off an appearance in the NFC Championship Game, the Vikings successfully recruited Brett Favre for one last season to try to get to that elusive Super Bowl. Then all hell broke loose.
Favre couldn’t recapture the magic that fueled the Vikings in 2009 and even bringing in Randy Moss couldn’t save this trainwreck. Moss was offended by the catering brought into Winter Park, so Brad Childress cut him and was fired several weeks later.
As the Vikings fell further out of playoff contention, the symbolism continued as the roof of the Metrodome collapsed.
The Vikings would have to play a home game against the Giants in Detroit before playing their final game at TCF Bank Stadium. Favre would get smashed on the frozen turf and fade away into the sunset.
But, hey…Minnesota sports!