Let’s Ponder over Manning

Does anyone else hear Peyton Manning’s name being thrown around and automatically think the Minnesota Vikings should pursue him?

Let’s make like Tim Tebow and Christian Ponder the idea for a second.

Actor Rob Lowe has been tweeting that his “sources” are telling him Manning is retiring. Unfortunately, due to the ridiculous routine of the sports media these days, all sports writers have to pounce on the loudest internet sensation rather than simply writing, “Rob Lowe is an actor. When I start appearing in movies is when you should look to him for sports reporting.”

If Spike Lee starts tweeting about sports rumors, the New York Knicks will win every championship and not just in basketball. I wouldn’t believe President Obama if he started Chicago-related sports rumors and he’s got the CIA on his side…maybe Ozzie Guillen was dropped by the Chicago White Sox, so the CIA could actually understand the recordings on the phone taps…that’s a column for another day.

Archie Manning, Peyton’s father, has already squashed any rumors about Manning retiring, saying he probably would have heard before Lowe if that were the case. Imagine that; a person’s family hearing news regarding their life before Twitter and Facebook.

Why are people’s first reaction when something big happens, “Wow, I have to put this and my feelings on the internet”…another column for another day.

Back to finding Minnesota a quarterback.

The Colts are cleaning house. They’ve fired head coach Jim Caldwell, who has worked with Manning since 2002, and GM Bill Polian. It smells like Manning could be shopped with Andrew Luck on the horizon in Indianapolis.

Although three neck surgeries in 19 months will make it difficult for Manning to twist his head to see which defensive player the Vikings offensive line has allowed into the backfield, as long as Manning has his brain and arm, he’s worth every penny.

In a worse-case scenario, Manning doesn’t do well, but Ponder has someone to learn from. In a best-case scenario, Manning and Adrian Peterson run into Doc Brown and use the DeLorean to bring the Vikings back to relevance.

It’s a huge risk, and with the NFC North being a Jay Cutler injury away from having three teams in the playoffs this season, it may not be worth it in the long term. But one can dream.

Then again, one can nightmare too. Imagine having to watch Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Adrian Peterson and Peyton Manning all sitting because of injuries. That sounds like a sitcom. “Law and Order: DL and IR Unit.”

Readers may reach Daily Globe sports editor Chris Murphy at 376-7328

When it comes to sports, in 2012, I will…

It’s that time of the year where we all tell ourselves we’re going to do the stuff we didn’t do the previous year, only to push those things off to the side until next year. It’s the glorious denial season.

In sports, just as in life, there are those things we forget to appreciate or, more importantly, put too much thought into.

This year will be different.

Here’s a Sports New Years Resolution list from which we all can gain:

  • If a player is not good at a sport, I will not use his personality to make myself think he is better than he is, no matter how much the sports media rams it down my throat.
    Tim Tebow is not a good quarterback no matter how much of a good guy he seems to be.
  • Grinder is another word for unathletic. I will not use it when referring to players who are actually talented just because they are short.
    David Eckstein and Nick Punto are “grinders” because they aren’t good at baseball. They only look like they are hustling because they aren’t as good as the talented players. Dustin Pedroia is called a “grinder” because he’s short and balding, but is actually incredibly athletic and a great baseball player.
  • I will remember that a walk is as good as a single and there are baseball statistics that are more important than home runs, RBI and average.
  • I will remember that most NBA players came from college, so arguing college basketball is better is like saying minor league baseball is better than major league baseball.
    More entertaining doesn’t mean better quality. A faulty playoff system (the NCAA tournament) may be more enjoyable, but the NBA playoffs is better basketball and provides a more proven champion.
  • I will remember to not be surprised when an athlete gets caught doing steroids or something illegal.
    Remember high school? Those same people who used to pick on you in high school now have millions of dollars. What do you expect?
  • I will remember to assume all college coaches are doing something horrible when recruiting athletes, which is a mixture of the ridiculous rules of the NCAA and these coaches trying to keep their jobs.
    Whether they are doing something morally wrong or allowing something morally wrong to happen is a completely different story.
  • I will remember that “clutch” does not exist. There are too many factors and small nuances to a sporting event to put everything on the final plays.
    If someone else did their jobs earlier in a game, someone else wouldn’t have to be “clutch” and shouldn’t be glorified or scolded because of it.
  • I will remember the BCS is an extremely filthy system and puts money in the pockets of people who don’t need it, while destroying an amazing sport and leaving millions of fans with an empty feeling upon seeing a team celebrate a championship.
  • As someone who has covered literally every high school sport imaginable, I will always remember to treat every sport with respect.
    Just because an athlete is doing something you don’t understand or something you can‘t do doesn’t make something not a sport.
  • I will remember to dig up some dirt on the Harlem Globetrotters, so fellow Daily Globe editor Joe Froemming and I can start a band called the “Daily Globetrotters” without being sued.
    A feature on the Globetrotters cheating in games could be coming soon. I mean, come on. You can’t use a ladder in a basketball game.
  • Coaches, who shall remain nameless, have told me I sound scary when answering my phone.
    I assure you; I am not scary and will answer in a more delicate tone…unless deadline is approaching.
  • Despite the cynicism and everything listed above, I will remember to some day play catch with my son and/or daughter and teach them about every sport.
    And I will go to every sporting event they want to participate in because sports themselves are a beautiful thing when all outside factors are taken away.
  • Finally, as someone who is more than 500 miles away from his family, I’ll remember to tell my family how much they mean to me more often. And, of course, hug my mother more (insert “awww” here).

The NBA: Where demanding trades to play with your friends happens

What happened to wanting to beat the best in order to be the best, rather than joining the best in order to beat the rest? Chris Paul won’t go to the Boston Celtics, but will go to the Los Angeles Lakers or the Los Angeles Clippers and Dwight Howard wants to go to the New Jersey Nets, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers or the Orlando Magic and won’t go to the Chicago Bulls and I won’t go to Cleveland because it isn’t a real city.

Let’s stay away from the fact that only in the NBA can players literally pick and choose what team they are sent to (see Carmelo Anthony) outside of free agency and look at the problem.

Major League Baseball has prospects. This means when a player is going to become a free agent at the end of the season, if his team is not in contention right before the trade deadline, his team can then trade him for younger talent to a team in contention that is willing to rent him for a few months, knowing full well he’ll bolt at the end of the season for free agency, for the chance to win a championship and the circle of life goes on for both teams.

The NBA doesn’t have anything like that, basically because every team makes the playoffs, so no team with a superstar is out of contention. When a superstar is going to be a free agent at the end of the season, a team either has to pay up, trade him to a team he will sign an extension with, because no team is going to trade draft picks and players for one season, meaning it has to be of the player’s choosing, or watch him walk into free agency. Essentially, a player in the NBA is a free agent the season before his contract ends. This puts the player in the driver seat.

Delving deeper into the problem, we see the conundrum for a team with a superstar demanding a trade to a certain team. Clearly, the team on the other side of the trade is going to lowball for the superstar because they can tell the superstar’s team, “Hey, we can either give these mediocre players to you now or give you nothing and sign your guy after the season is over because he wants to come here.”

It’s a terrible snowball affect.

What can be done? Besides having these players not go public with what teams they want to be traded to and actually shut their mouths and act like professionals? I have no idea.

Half the battle is the public knowing where these players want to go and realizing, “Wow, I wonder why Dwight Howard wants to go to New Jersey with Deron Williams…”

That is when it starts clicking for fans. They realize Paul wants to go to the Lakers to play with Kobe or go to the Clippers to play with Blake Griffin and he doesn’t want to go to the Celtics because Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce are on their last legs and in a year or two, he’ll be alone, as the face of the franchise.

This, along with offering guys like Nene $65 million, is the reason the NBA had a lockout. The stars are all on eight teams and the smaller market teams can’t pay anyone decent because mediocre players are getting $65 million and those smaller market teams can’t afford to be bad for years, because their fan base isn’t strong enough, and banking on water-downed drafts thanks to the one-and-done rule in college basketball.

It all smells of disaster.

Unlike in the early 2000’s, the superstars like Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul are very marketable, but, with the holding hands and winning championships with each other, one has to miss the bad boy superstars that turned fans away in the early part of the last decade.

Aside from what people suggest, it takes two stars to win a championship in the NBA, but is it worth selling your soul and taking away all the competitiveness of sports to get paired with that other star?

Editor’s Note: Thanks to my friend John Mlinarcik for the title idea.

Gosh darn Tebow

WORTHINGTON — Does anyone else wish they could ask Indiana Jones to borrow the ark of the covenant to make a quick phone call to God, so we could find out once and for all he/she/it does not care about sports?

Then, as if we were back in grammar school calling our best friend’s crush, we could do three-way calling with Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow and have God repeat what he/she/it just said.

Not sure Tebow would appreciate being in anything which requires the description “three-way,” but one can assume he wouldn’t enjoy hearing sports are indeed useless in the bigger picture of life.

Chicago Bears defensive end Israel Idonije summed things up perfectly at his football camp for elementary kids in the south suburbs of Chicago this summer.

“This is what life is really about,” Idonije said while helping some elementary school kids learn how to catch punts. “Football is a platform; it’s a game. You play as long as you can and you move on.

“It doesn’t define your life.”

Football is indeed a game. Sports are games.

These athletes aren’t saving lives while on the field, so please, to Tebow and all other athletes, stop bringing religion into the game.

God doesn’t say, “No way!” and call his/her/its friends to tell them an athlete pointed to the sky or thanked him/her/it after a game.

Imagine if a Muslim athlete thanked Allah or if a Satanic athlete thanked Satan and pointed at the ground.

How quickly would the outrage come now that someone was bringing up a different religion?

Sports are entertainment and just as we roll our eyes when actors or actresses start preaching about one of their beliefs, simply because they have the stage, we should do the same when an athlete thanks God.

It’s disrespectful to religion to think the main factor of a person’s beliefs actually cares about the outcome of a sporting event.

It’s also outrageous to have young children watch sports and have their beliefs in religion be affected by actions during the game and in interviews after the game by athletes.

And, media outlets, please stop glorifying Tebow by saying he is rallying the Broncos to victory if you aren’t going to mention the fact he had to rally the team back because he hadn’t shown up in the early quarters.

The Broncos had one first down in the first half of their 35-32 win versus your Minnesota Vikings.

The score was 15-7 at half. Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder had more touchdown passes for the Broncos than Tebow did in the first half.

Perhaps if Tebow had shown up early, the Broncos wouldn’t have needed a last-second field goal to defeat a depleted Vikings team.

This isn’t ragging on Tebow, but rather the public eye when it begins cheering for something for the wrong reasons.

Tebow seems like a good human being, but we’ve been wrong about seemingly good human beings in sports before (see Tiger Woods or Joe Paterno for more evidence).

Tebow is a seemingly wholesome guy, who is a bad to mediocre NFL quarterback. No more. No less. 

Perhaps people will see that some day.

God-willing.

Worthington, meet Chris Murphy

Hello, Worthington.

My name is Chris Murphy or, as I’ve been known since third-grade basketball by all human beings outside of my family, Murph. I will be your new Sports Editor.

I’m a 25-year-old from the south side of Chicago and a graduate from the University of Illinois with a degree in journalism, so there’s a good chance I hate every team you cheer for, except the University of Minnesota, which I just recently learned does in fact have athletics.

Who I cheer for, or, better yet, what I think, doesn’t matter. What does matter is my belief in journalism. It is something I don’t take lightly. I’m in love with the ideal that people deserve to be informed and have an obsession for being the one to pass on the information. It is a belief I would die for.

Go to blogs — where the loudest writing is dubbed the best — for graffiti disguised as news or watch as attention-grabbing know-it-alls, dolled up in makeup like actors and actresses, try to speak over one another in a quest to tell you how to think on Fox News or MSNBC.
Come to newspapers for information, stories that will shock you, move you, make you laugh and bring you to tears.

Sports journalism is no different. Every field, team, athlete, coach and locker room has a story, and it is my job to bring those stories to you.

I have loved sports ever since I brought a deck of baseball cards to show-and-tell in kindergarten when I was 5 years old. For the last 2½  years, I’ve combined my love of sports with my obsession of bringing people stories, covering sports for the Chicago Sun-Times Media Company at a wage no human being could live on, but earning experience no amount of money could equal.

I’ve moved more than 500 miles from the most important woman in my life (my mom), along with the most important people in my life (my family and friends), and suffered a casualty of one of my best friends of the last 13 years (my acoustic guitar) on the ride here because I believe in journalism.

I’ve brought a combination of my two obsessions to you, Worthington. What do you have for me?

Feel free to contact me with questions, concerns, information or hatemail at cmurphy@dglobe.com. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be the tall guy who can’t take my eye off the beauty of Lake Okabena because I’m used to nature being surrounded by humongous buildings and thousands of tourists. I’ll also probably be that guy that drives like a (fill in expletive here) from the city.

Sincerely,
Your Sports Editor

P.S. Nick Punto was and is a disgrace to baseball, Kevin Garnett was and is one of the softest big men of all time, the Timberwolves and the Vikings are useless outside of having Kevin Love and Adrian Peterson on my fantasy teams, the Blackhawks are better than the Wild and the closest thing you’ll come to enjoying a World Series as a Minnesota Twins fan this century is watching my 2005 Chicago White Sox World Series DVD.
Let the hate mail begin.

My farewell to Worthington and the Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON — When you’re attending sporting events around the area this winter, you may notice that there will be a little less ginger in the room.

Sure, people in Worthington have already gotten used to having a little less ginger around with Brandon Berger having taken his talents to St. Olaf College. I was happy to keep up the ginger representation in his place, but now I’ve reached my time to leave as well.

After a mere 14 months on the job here at the Daily Globe, I recently decided to continue my career at the New Ulm Journal. This will be my last week on the job.

I’ve had a lot of great experiences during my time in this particular region of southwest Minnesota, and at a time like this it seems only appropriate to thank some of the people that have made my first-ever job a really memorable one (I’ll see how many thanks I can get in before they start playing the background music and yank me off of the stage).

First of all, I’d like to thank Ryan McGaughey for taking a chance on a culturally confused 22-year-old fresh out of college. After coming in as nothing more than an aspiring journalist, I feel that I’ve taken great strides during my time at the newspaper.

Most of the credit for turning me into a real journalist is due to Aaron Hagen, who withstood all of my growing pains and has been a great editor and teammate. I know we rarely choose our colleagues, but I certainly feel I got lucky having had Aaron beside me. The sports section’s recognition by the Minnesota Newspaper Association as the best small-town daily sports section in the state is a true credit to Aaron’s awesomeness.

I also was lucky to work with the section’s part-time crew, all of whom share the last name Knutson. Les, Lucas and Lance — it was a pleasure working with you, I know it’ll be hard to get used to working without you. And Lucas, I’m glad you’re better at picking football results than you are in predicting AL MVPs, though I applaud your faith in Delmon Young.

The final sports guy I have to thank is photographer Brian Korthals. I came to this job only vaguely aware of how to properly use a camera, and having the help of a pro like Brian has left me now as a capable photographer. Thanks also for introducing me to Azteca. There will be no shortage of memories from that place.

To night editor Joe Froemming, we share a special bond that can only be formed by jumping into a frozen lake together in the middle of winter. What were we thinking?

To all my other colleagues — whether you knew me as that kid spouting crazy things from the sports desk, as the guy that stocked the candy dish, or even if you didn’t know me at all — thanks for putting up with me for the past 14 months.

Most of all, I’d like to thank all of the coaches I worked with, the athletes I wrote about and all of the parents and family members that appreciated my coverage. Without your support, my job would have no meaning. My biggest hope is that in doing my job I was able to help you document the memories you all created on the field, on the court, on the ice and on the course (and various other settings). I really enjoyed getting to know a lot of you. I hope someday you will see my name in print again — if I do get famous, I’ll always remember that my journey started right here at the Globe.

A special thanks to whoever sent me the Jackson County Central T-shirt. I still have no idea who you are. Here’s to hoping for the Huskies to go a step better this year and take home a state girls’ basketball title. Sorry Gingie won’t be there to document it.

My departure marks only the final step in a big turning point for the Daily Globe sports section. Starting next week you will have both a new sports editor and new sports reporter to get used to (as Aaron mentioned in a column a few months ago, he will be staying at the Globe, though in a different role).

However, you will still see a number of stories with Knutson bylines, so I hope they are able to give the section at least some continuity.

As someone that grew up in five of the world’s major cities (six if you want to include St. Paul), living in southwest Minnesota was a new experience for me. My biggest philosophy for myself is to fill my life with as many different experiences as I can, and I’m glad that I took a chance at a whole new experience in moving here. I foresee my life taking many more twists and turns before I settle down, though if I follow the same path as my dad, I will never reach a point where I settle down for good.

I am pretty sure that I have absolutely no German heritage (just Norwegian and various strands of British and Irish), but I’m hoping I feel as at home In New Ulm as I did here.

Rugby World Cup 2011 recap

AUCKLAND, N.Z. — Over the past month and a half, there has been a World Cup going on that some of you may have been completely unaware of.

OK, let’s face it — I’d be surprised if any of you have been following the 2011 Rugby World Cup, which has been taking place in New Zealand. The final was held in the early hours Sunday morning against host New Zealand — better known as the All Blacks — and surprise finalist France.

Before giving you the result, I’ll give you a brief synopsis of the action throughout the tournament, which began Sept. 9 with the All Blacks earning a 41-10 victory against Tonga.

Although there are 16 countries that took part in the Rugby World Cup — including both the USA and Canada — there are really only a handful of nations that ever stood a chance of making a serious run at the title. The group stage of the tournament took up almost the first month of competition, but it really was little more than a formality.

There are nine national teams that stand head and shoulders above all other rugby-playing nations. There are the Six Nations teams in Europe (England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, France and Italy) and the Tri Nations teams in the southern hemisphere (New Zealand, Australia and South Africa).

Of the eight teams to make it through the group stages, seven of them were either from the Six Nations or the Tri Nations. The lone surprise team was Argentina, who upset Scotland in Pool B.

Since the pool stages usually are a breeze for the top nations, the real competition doesn’t start until the quarterfinals. With the All Blacks heavy favorites to win the entire tournament playing in front of the home crowd, they really only had to win three pressure-packed games to win their first World Cup since the inaugural tournament was played in 1987.

In the first quarterfinal, Wales overcame rival Ireland by a 22-10 score to earn a place in the semifinals. The result was a small upset since Ireland had won all four of their pool-play matches, including against Australia.

In the second quarterfinal, France beat England 19-12 in another mini-upset. As the founding nation of the sport, the English always get upset when they lose in the World Cup (the same goes in the soccer World Cup) — especially to a team such as the French, with whom they share centuries of animosity.

Defending champion South Africa (the Springboks) faced off against Australia (the Wallabies) in a blockbuster affair in the third quarterfinal. It was an intensely close game, but in the end the Wallabies upset the Springboks to move on to the semifinals.

In the final quarterfinal, the All Blacks brushed aside Argentina 33-10 to set up a semifinal against arch-rival Australia.

In the 24-year history of the World Cup, only five teams — New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, England and France — have ever made it to the final. Wales was hoping to become the sixth team to do so when it faced off against France in the first semifinal.

Although favored in the game, the Welsh fell victims to an early red card and were beaten 9-8 by the French, sending Les Bleus to their third final. France lost in the final to New Zealand in 1987 and to Australia in 1999, so was bound to get a shot at revenge against whoever won the other semifinal between the All Blacks and the Wallabies.

The semifinal against Australia was the first big test of the tournament for New Zealand, but the All Blacks played a phenomenal match to earn a 20-6 victory and set up a rematch of the 1987 final against France.

The All Blacks had already beaten France in the group stage, but had the weight of four-million fans on their shoulders to win their first World Cup since 1987. Since the Rugby World Cup is pretty much the only thing a vast majority of the population of New Zealand is truly passionate about in the world, 24 years is a pretty long drought.

Before the final, however, Australia matched up with Wales in the third-place game, where the Wallabies solidified their place as the No. 2 ranked team in the world with a 21-18 victory.

I stayed up until 5 a.m. on Sunday following the final online, then spent Sunday afternoon watching the delayed broadcast on NBC.

It was hardly the game that anyone expected, with the heavily-favored All Blacks struggling against a gritty French defense.

New Zealand scored a try in the first half (worth five points), but missed the conversion (worth two points) and also missed two penalty goals (worth three points each) to take only a 5-0 lead into halftime.

The All Blacks changed their kicker in the second half and finally converted a penalty goal to take an 8-0 lead early in the second half, but France responded minute later with a try and a successful conversion to narrow the lead to 8-7.

The rest of the game was a series of tackles, scrums, rucks and mauls, with New Zealand hanging on for an emotional 8-7 victory, setting off a nationwide celebration that is still probably going on strong as you read this column (even if you’re reading this column as late as the year 2014, the party is probably still going on!).

If this account of the Rugby World Cup piqued your interest, stay tuned for the 2015 World Cup, which will be in England, and the 2019 World Cup, which will be in Japan.

I know that I will be going to at least one of them in person — I regret very much not being able to go down to New Zealand this year to watch this year’s rendition.

Sports adventure in Texas – Aussie Rules football national championships

Like Paycheck, I will be heading to Texas this weekend for a weekend of celebration surrounding an athletic event.

While I wish I was able to be in Cuero to see another dominant Paycheck performance in the Great Gobbler Gallop, Part II (hopefully not to be known as “Ruby’s Revenge”), I will instead be 110 miles northeast of Cuero in the state capital — Austin.

I won’t be alone. Australians and Aussie culture enthusiasts from all around the U.S. and Canada will converge on Austin for the United States Australian Football League national championships.

I’ve been a member of the Minnesota Freeze Aussie Rules football team for two years now and this will be my second trip to nationals.

Last year the event was held in Louisville, Ky., where the Freeze lost in the Division II championship game against Calgary. This year, the team will be looking to go one step better and win its second Division II title.

I’ve written about Aussie Rules football (known in Australia simply as “footy”) in this space enough in the past that you’ve probably heard about the Minnesota Freeze before, but here’s a refresher, just in case.

The Freeze were founded about seven years ago, roughly a decade after the USAFL was created. There are teams in most major cities in the country, with teams playing in four different divisions.

Division I includes teams such as New York, Denver and Seattle, while Division II includes teams such as Minnesota, Kansas City, Dallas and Philadelphia. Newer teams — such as Des Moines and Portland — play in the lower divisions, with some larger teams also entering their B sides in a lower division.

As you may expect, a lot of the growth of footy in the U.S. has involved ex-patriot Aussies that now live and work here. On the Freeze we have a number of Aussies, but we have a far greater number of players that were born and raised in America that picked up the game on their own.

A large proportion of our team is made up of graduates of St. John’s University that studied abroad in Australia together, including our captain, Tiger.

The Freeze practice in South Minneapolis on Saturday mornings, and when I was living in St. Paul I somehow happened upon a practice one day. Having spent my formative years in the world capital of footy — Melbourne, Australia — it has always been my favorite sport, so I of course took an immediate interest in the club.

Working a daily newspaper sports shift and living 180 miles from practices has put a cramp in my ability to stay an active part of the team, but I’ve made the best of the situation. Aussie sports and an Aussie outlook on life go hand in hand — no worries, mate!

I’ve made trips all across the country to show my commitment to the club this summer, and there was no way I was going to miss nationals.

As a 23-year-old bachelor living in the countryside I don’t have a lot of needs in life, but I certainly need footy.

This weekend I’ll relish being able to hang out with footy enthusiasts from all around the country, drink more than my fair share of Aussie beer and eat authentic Aussie meat pies (flaky hand-sized pastries filled with minced meat and gravy that you completely smother with tomato sauce — aka, ketchup).

In past columns, I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on the lack of current success in the Minnesota sports scene.

While I know there certainly will be some Minnesotan glory in Texas this weekend (go Paycheck!), here’s to hoping a motley group of Minnesotan footy players can bring Minnesota some glory on the footy field, too.

Hopefully by the time you are reading this we have a WNBA championship to celebrate as well — go Lynx!

 

Paycheck has restored Minnesota pride

WORTHINGTON — Minnesota pride has been restored.

With the Twins on track for a 100-loss season, the Vikings off to an 0-2 start after a pair of abysmal second halves and the Gophers losing football games to powerhouse teams such as New Mexico State, there has been little to cheer for recently in the Minnesota sports landscape.

At least that was the case before Saturday.

In a little over 27 seconds, Minnesota sports fans were finally given something to cheer about.

True, Paycheck’s victory against Ruby Begonia in King Turkey Day’s Great Gobbler Gallop didn’t draw quite as many viewers as the average Vikings game, but with the Minnesota sports-scape in a state of despair, our little turkey gave us an unforgettable performance.

According to sources available on the day, Paycheck ran the second fastest recorded time in the history of the event.

Although the head-to-head matchup won’t officially end until the pair of turkeys square off again at Turkey Fest in Cuero, Texas, Paycheck’s lead of well over three minutes should be a safe bet to hold up for the overall title.

Paycheck has been so fast over the past two years that it almost hasn’t been fair.

Spectators who eagerly anticipate the race throughout the year have only seen Paycheck in full racing action for a total on one minute and four seconds over the past two years combined after Paycheck’s winning time of 37 seconds in last year’s Great Gobbler Gallop.

It’s ironic that Paycheck can achieve glory for the state of Minnesota in 27 seconds, whereas it has taken an agonizing 154 games so far for the 2011 Twins to sink the state to the bottom of the ranks of baseball respectability.

Although Paycheck’s victory probably hasn’t resonated much further than Worthington and the immediate surrounding area (unless Liz Collin made mention of it on a WCCO newscast, which I unfortunately forgot to check out), perhaps Worthington’s victory will spread throughout the state.

It wouldn’t be the first time something has started in Worthington and had a state-wide impact. Our current governor is the descendant of a famous Worthington resident (the same man who lends his name to the historic Dayton House), and in Matt Entenza we had another candidate in the last gubernatorial election that actually hailed from the city.

Also, Mayor Al Oberloh — apart from being known for having perhaps the biggest beard of any mayor of any town in history — has risen to state-wide prominence as the president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities.

Already in the wake of Paycheck’s victory we have seen the Minnesota Lynx win their first ever playoff series, which may lead to the state’s first championship in a professional sport since the 1991 Twins won the World Series.

OK, the Lynx were good even before Paycheck’s victory, but who’s to say that the team didn’t catch wind of Saturday’s race and use it as inspiration to gain the edge against the Silver Stars in Tuesday’s elimination game?

I won’t go so far as to say that Paycheck’s victory will have any effect on the Vikings righting their ship (after all, their most recent collapse came one day after the race) or will prevent the Twins from finishing the season with an 18-game losing streak, but at least we can be proud knowing that Minnesota sports have at least one thing to be proud of in an otherwise very bleak period of the state’s sports history.

Who ever first thought to race turkeys?

No matter whether you’re much of a race fan during the rest of the year, during Turkey Week there is no denying that racing is king.

Whether you’re more inclined to participate in or watch the Turkey Trot or to line 10th Street to watch our Paycheck defend his title against Ruby Begonia, racing is as much a part of the week’s festivities as anything else.

As humans, it seems that any time there is the slightest possibility of a race taking place, we seize the opportunity with great passion and gusto.

The impulse to race has been passed through our genetic material seemingly ever since we were first able to stand and walk on two legs.

The idea competing against an opponent in a test of speed has taken a number of different forms throughout human history.

In the ancient Greek olympics, men would test their speed and endurance against each other without the use of any enhancements — even clothing.

As the centuries passed, humankind also found time to create sports out of racing different species of animals.

Races involving animals have taken many forms, with some done in tandem with a human rider — such as was done in the horse-drawn chariot races in ancient Rome and in modern day horse racing — and some with the animal racing on their own, such as in Greyhound racing. Even as kids we sometimes find and race our own animals, though usually on a much smaller scale such as with snails and turtles.

When humans developed the appropriate technology, racing started to attain speeds prevoiously unheard of, creating modes of racing that remain popular today with all different kinds of automotive racing.

However, of all the different types of racing in existence, who ever thought of the idea to race birds?

Our turkey race is surely a true experience to be had, though to be honest it is far more about the camaraderie between Worthington and the town of Cuero, Texas, than about any serious high-stakes racing.

There is very little about the race that is too formal or scientific — how can you take something completely seriously when you have grown adults chasing turkeys down main street with paddles?

True, there are probably few experiences that can be compared to a turkey race. There are other forms of bird racing in existence, such as pigeon racing — I learned everything I know about the sport from Animal Planet’s special series involving Mike Tyson — but there aren’t any others that come to my mind.

My inner child secretly wishes that races existed with people riding ostriches or emus, but I’m pretty sure such an idea exists only in cartoons and fantasy.

I can’t even begin to imagine people trying to chase an ostrich or an emu down main street with paddles — there definitely would be a few more hospital visits than would be worth it.

The ultimate in the racing of land birds would have been to see a moa in action, though this former giant inhabitant of New Zealand is now long extinct.

However, if the science from Jurassic Park becomes a reality and we some day are able to bring back extinct species, knowing human nature we’d probably find a way to race almost any species.

Until that time, we’ll have to settle for racing the descendants of the dinosaurs when the prized turkeys Paycheck and Ruby Begonia race on Saturday.