Column: 2005 in review

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 29, 2005

Jon Laging, Sports Columnist

It’s been a fascinating year, as most years are, not necessarily one for the ages as far as Minnesota sports are concerned, but interesting nonetheless.

One surprising revelation this year was evidence that the Federal government was listening in. That phone calls had more than two parties on the line. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to wonder if this type of privacy invasion leads to judging whether they are bad calls or good calls; good Bush or bad Bush calls. I don’t think George Bush would sanction such a thing, but as the years roll by it’s not hard to imagine a future federal big-wig listening in and using the information gathered. Sort of like Big Brother is watching you. I hope this never happens. I want to be judged by God, not Dick Cheney.

Our sports year is winding down and while we had a few bright spots on the landscape, it was mostly dismal. The Minnesota Gopher basketball team exceeded all expectations and in so doing may have saved Dan Monson’s job. They made the NCAA Tournament. They weren’t expected to go any further and they didn’t, but it was a step in the right direction. The Lady Gophers did well and made the Sweet 16 in their NCAA Tourney. More about them in the future.

Our Minnesota Twins, after a preseason buildup in which both Sports Illustrated and ESPN baseball guru Peter Gammons expected them to be in the World Series, proved that Terry Ryan was human and Ron Gardenhire didn’t have all the answers. As the season wore on Gardenhire grew petulant and stressed and Ryan sat on his hands.

Ryan’s Express got off the tracks. A number of things contributed to the Twins struggling to finish over 500. Mostly it was due to the lack of hitting. Shannon Stewart, Jacque Jones and Lew Ford hit below their average. Torii Hunter was out for close to half a season. The Twins never did find a good hitting second baseman or shortstop. Michael Cuddyer did not hit or field well at third base. Matthew LeCroy did not provide much help, but the biggest disappointment was Justin Morneau. The promising slugger did not slug and while he retains promise, the promise has lost some of its luster. The Twins finished last in the American League in hitting and it’s amazing they did as well as they did.

The Minnesota Timberwolves had a similar meltdown. They were expected to battle the San Antonio Spurs for the conference title and instead did not make the NBA playoffs for the first time in nine years. And while the Twins had a number of culprits, the Timberwolves could point to two. Latrell (The Scorpion) Sprewell and Sam Cassell Both contributed strongly to the previous year’s success and this year’s failure.

Glen Mason’s Minnesota football Gophers had a year like most years under Mason. They were a representative Big Ten team and went to a mediocre bowl. However, like Camelot they had a brief and shining moment. They beat Michigan. A really bright moment for the Gophers and their fans. They beat Michigan.

Another bright moment came when Gopher center Greg Eslinger received the Outland Trophy for best college interior lineman in the nation. He is a Minnesota native and proved that Minnesota can raise good football players.

You know, as I look back on the year, it doesn’t seem all that bad. I know the Twins and Timberwolves had bad seasons, but to put it in perspective, all of our teams had winning records.

So I guess I can’t kick. Still, it would have been nice to crown a champion. It’s been a while, not since 1991 have we won it all, but that’s what 2006 is for.

Next week: The Minnesota Vikings