Wednesday, September 29, 2010

NFL Picks Week Four: In Which I Travel To Beautiful Minnesnowta

Don't worry. It'll only be October when I set foot in the great state of Minnesota this weekend so snow seems highly unlikely, though Saturday night's predicted low of 33 degrees does bring it within the realm of possibility. I suppose bringing my Northwestern hooded sweatshirt will now seem necessary.

Regardless of the weather, however, I'm awfully excited for the next trip in my journey, which, given how annoyed I am that Gary Ablett (The Genius!) showed up Friday night's Grand Final replay by announcing that he's taking his considerable footy skills up to the new Gold Coast club, is coming at just the right time. Seriously, what kind of economic system allows an expansion team to poach the best player in the league? It would be as if a new NFL team was allowed to offer a huge contract offer to Peyton Manning. And it's patently absurd.

I'm late to the Aussie Rules fandom bandwagon, but it's still a shame that my chosen team won't be seeing plays like this or like this from the best player on the ground anymore. At least I can take some solace in the fact that he's only 14 months older than me and he's already lost all of his hair.

But I digress. I only hope Geelong doesn't wind up experiencing the precipitous downfall Southampton FC did when I started following the Saints in 2002.


So yes. I'm going to Minnesota this weekend which I am enormously excited for. Now when I originally booked this trip I noticed that it would take me through the final weekend of baseball's regular season, and that it might possibly cause me to miss some crucial Mets games as they came through the final drive of the pennant race.

Man, what a hoot that idea was, huh?

Well, fortunately for me, the Mets dramatic fall from grace this season, replete with all the zany scandals, disappointing free agent signings, dubious player behavior and curious personnel decisions, is just about done. And it doesn't look like I'll be watching any of it. That may be just as well. The 2010 season has proven to be nearly as frustrating and disappointing as any of the last three were, with the team falling in a matter of weeks from potential dark horse to complete punch line. Literally.

As it stands, I will likely be missing a three-game collapse that will spell the end of Jerry Manuel's managerial tenure and, in all likelihood, the Omar Minaya era. The results of that era have been mixed to be sure, but what could have been a prosperous run that should have included a World Series win in 2006 -- or at least an appearance -- will instead likely be remembered for frustrating free agent signings and remarkable collapses down the stretch in 2007 and 2008.

Fortunately, I'll be in Minnesota and missing the end of that gong show. And that isn't the only reason to be excited for my trip to the North Star State. For one I'll be seeing my good friend Litterman. For another, I'll be seeing beautiful new Target Field on Friday night, where the Minnesota Twins will send Carl Pavano to the hill in a bit of postseason preparation against the Toronto Blue Jays. Originally I had been hoping the Chicago White Sox would keep the AL Central race close enough that the Twins might have a chance to clinch the division title while I was in the stands. Unfortunately, Minnesota's been too damn good since the All-Star Break and that hope went out the window. Instead I'll have to explore and appreciate the stadium with little regard for the action on the field since it's essentially meaningless.

Still, I'm excited. This trip will mark team No. 36 as my long, arduous journey continues forging forward from one stop til the next. Besides, I'll get to ask the locals if they're actually already ramping up for the inevitable need to find a new home for the Twins a few decades from now.

The other major stop of the weekend will be at the University of Minnesota, where the Gophers will be playing one Northwestern University. As NU shoots to start the season 5-0. While this a normal brand of excitement all in and of itself, the game has an added bonus in that it will a) be the first time I've seen my Wildcats in person in three years, which is much too long, and b) it will be at Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium, which, while a few years old, is supposed to be a tremendous facility, or at least as good as a college team can hope for this day and age. All in all, I should have a pretty fun 50 hours in Minneapolis.

Plus, it'll keep my mind off that disaster the Giants were involved in on Sunday afternoon last week. And no, disaster isn't too dramatic a description. But speaking of the NFL, disasters and me...

Last week: 6-10-0
Season: 19-25-4

NY GIANTS (-4) over Chicago***
ATLANTA (-7) over San Francisco
NY Jets (-6) over BUFFALO
Cincinnati (-4) over CLEVELAND
GREEN BAY (-15) over Detroit
TENNESSEE (-7) over Denver
ST. LOUIS (+2) over Seattle
Carolina (+14) over NEW ORLEANS
Baltimore (+2) over PITTSBURGH
Houston (-4) over OAKLAND
Indianapolis (-9) over JACKSONVILLE
Washington (+7) over PHILADELPHIA
SAN DIEGO (-9) over Arizona
New England (-1) over MIAMI

And there you have it kids. When I return Sunday night I will be ready to watch the Giants fluster me again, and I will be one step closer to the end of the line. Minnesota here I come.

***I will never learn.

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