Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Jim Souhan is an educated man and generally accepted as a good and skilled writer and columnist. Thus it is for these very reasons, in my opinion, that no one should believe anything he writes in the aftermath of the column he wrote for Sunday’s Star-Tribune in which he all but called University of Minnesota Head Football Coach Jerry Kill a cripple and all but said he should be fired. No, don’t believe he has any regrets or he sincerely has warm feelings for Kill after he suffered another sideline seizure in the Golden Gophers’ home contest against Western Illinois last Saturday, because he does not.
What Souhan wrote first time is the way he truly feels. Anyone who has listened to him on his radio show or have read his columns in print or blogs online knows full well of his rants and snarks against the Gopher football program, college sports in general or the NCAA. Anyone who works alongside Pat “Who Are We Going to Rip Today?” Reusse at the Strib, anyone who works in the sports media culture of the Twin Cities, which regard the U’s athletic programs as stationary targets in order to fire poison gas shells at, knows Souhan is lying through his teeth, which he no doubt was gritting and grinding when he had to write two follow up blogs trying to explain what he really meant because his bosses were tired seeing their email in-boxes filled with outraged messages and canceled subscriptions. Not to mention getting letters from epilepsy foundations expressing dismay at Souhan’s apparent attitude towards persons with this disability.
Usually when one writes an apologia one says the words “I’m sorry” in it. Souhan may well have regrets, but so do a lot of people. Saying “I’m sorry” is a lot tougher and it was not something he could bring himself to do. Because he’s not sorry. He feel’s Kill’s health is a and whether he can effectively lead the Gopher football program is a legitimate question (and it is) and the manner in which he wrote is exactly the way Twin Cities sports writers express their opinions about the University of Minnesota athletic department. Saying Kill has as many seizures as Big Ten wins is par for the course. He’s written or said plenty of other nasty things about the U over the years as have Reusse or Bob Sansevere or Tom Powers or Joe Soucheray and any other sports columnist in the Twin Cities not named Sid Hartman since the 1980s. Why would he act any different in this case? He doesn’t care about Jerry Kill or his health or how it effects the program because he doesn’t care about the program, unless it has done something he believes he can write a column against. How many Minnesota football games has he attended over the years? Or basketball games or hockey games for that matter? You could be in the Al Shaver Press Box at a Golden Gopher hockey game during the Final Five in the Xcel Energy Center and see rows of empty chairs, the ones reserved by Twin Cities media outlets who never go to the games unless something really big was happening. Let’s face it, the Twin Cities is a pro sports market and the media treat it that way. Besides, anyone who had sincere feelings towards his fellow man would not write lines such as “a middle-aged man writhing on the ground.” This ugly attitude is what Gopher coaches and players and fans have had to deal with from the Twin Cities media for many years. Unlike other big city markets whose attitudes towards local college teams is indifference with a few exceptions here and there, the Twin Cities media treats the U like one who shoots fish in a barrel. Now granted, Minnesota has provided said writers with plenty of ammunition and plenty of fish since 1967 but in this case Souhan went to the barrel, loaded his shotgun, aimed for the fish and instead hit his foot. What a bad shot.
To further show how insincere Souhan is we must look at his original column (the one in which he truly expresses his real feelings because they were the first things out his mind, not something pulled out grudgingly to save his job). First of all it’s a stupid column. Any attempt by the U to fire Kill knowing full well what his medical condition was when they hired him would be a violation of Federal law (and knowing Minnesota, state law as well). The resulting lawsuits which would then happen, not to mention the fairly sizeable buyout which would also have to be paid, would put a nice dent in the U’s athletic budget. Then of course if Kill was fired it is doubtful his incredibly loyal staff would simply step up to take his place. More than likely they would leave with him leaving the program with a China Syndrome-like meltdown which would be worse than what happened to it in the 1982 and ’83 seasons (The Gophers started the 1982 season 3-0 and went 1-18 over their next 19 games under then coach Joe Salem, including an 84-13 blasting by Nebraska in 1983, the worst loss in school history). Then you have the fact Souhan treated Kill’s condition as a medical problem one could simply solve with better diet and exercise rather than what epilepsy actually is, chemical imbalances in the brain which causes seizures that, in some cases, medication cannot control. Granted some of Kill’s seizures have come with the stress of a football game but they can also take place if he was simply playing chess too. That’s why he cannot drive a car. This is not Rick Majerus eating himself to death. As an educated man, Souhan should full well know all these things and not write them. But as I’ve stated before, when there was big game to be hunted in his crosshairs, Souhan pulled the trigger even if he forgot to aim first.
Finally, Souhan being a skilled writer by reputation, also knew he could express concerns about Kill’s health and how the U should deal with it without being a jerk. Because it is legitimate to ponder whether Kill’s health can hold up trying to turn around the football program, because Kill himself has asked the very same thing. It is reasonable to wonder whether Kill’s health is hurting recruiting. It is worth pondering whether Kill moving upstairs to coach from the pressbox would be better for his health and the image of the program. All of these things can be written about without being nasty. Souhan knows this as well anyone. He chose not to do so for the reasons I mentioned above. And in making this choice, in the words and phrases and sentences he constructed and put together in his first attempt, he condemns himself to what he really believes and no amount of “regrets” or “I didn’t mean to” are believable from him. Because for the first time there was an actual backlash by people, not just Gopher fans but ordinary people, to a poison pen column by a Twin Cities sportswriter. Without it he would have acted in the same arrogant manner he did to complainers on his Twitter feed after he wrote the column. If you really want to know if Souhan’s sincere or not ask him what he would think of his own words if they came from an athlete or coach? What would his column say about them? Would he think such words sincere or not?
And if one still wonders if Kill’s health is affecting the program negatively, one points out in a similar situation in Kill’s first season, the Gophers lost to New Mexico State. This time around, the Gophers turned around a 13-7 deficit into a 29-13 win without Kill on the sidelines (nor much of a passing game). It may not be much considering the opponent, but it is progress nonetheless.
If the University of Wisconsin football team does not play another non-conference game west of the Mississippi River, that’s fine by me. Of course then UW goes and schedules Hawaii for a trip to Honolulu down the road but maybe by then Western referees will have cleaned up their act and not be the notorious homers reputation has them being. Hopefully the Pac 12’s official reprimand of its officials for their conduct in costing UW a chance at a game-winning field goal last Saturday will begin the process. Maybe. That being said, the only thing think I could think of as the game ended was Russell Wilson trying to stop the clock against Oregon in 2012 Rose Bowl. Same thing.
At some point, maybe midway through the season, the Vikings will replace Christian Ponder at quarterback with Matt Cassel. And when this happens the Vikings will again have another drafted quarterback go to waste, which forces them to rely on aging or never-were free agents to bail them out. The Vikes’ drafted Wade Wilson in 1981 and he became the starter by 1987 and led the team to the NFC championship game. Then he got hurt and was traded to the Saints and Minnesota had to use Rich Gannon, Sean Sailsbury, Jim McMahon and Warren Moon as stopgaps. The Vikings drafted Brad Johnson in 1991 and he helped get them to the NFC title game in 1999. But then he got hurt and replaced by Randall Cunningham. Instead of keeping Johnson, they traded him away to the Buccaneers to give the starting job to Cunningham. Johnson led the Bucs to the Super Bowl and Cunningham got hurt and Minnesota needed Jeff George to save them. Minnesota then drafted Daunte Culpepper and for a time he did OK, until Randy Moss was traded and he had no one to throw to and had to run for his life most of the time. He got hurt and the Vikes’ needed Gus Ferotte, Todd Bouman and Spurgeon Wynn (notice the quality of back-ups getting worse) and even Brad Johnson again to fill in the gaps. The Vikes’ traded Culpepper and drafted Tavaris Jackson in 2006. But Jackson fell far far short of even the second round status the Vikings tabbed him at and so Kelly Holcomb, Brooks Bollinger, Sage Rosenfels and Brett Favre were called in to save the day. Now we have Ponder, a first round pick at No. 12 and yet the Vikings have had Joe Webb and probably Cassel by Week 8 to fill-in either by injury or through bad play. Notice a pattern here? And said coaches who had to deal with these QB problems, whether Jerry Burns, Denny Green, Mike Tice and Brad Childress, either quit or were fired. Will Leslie Frazier be the next in line?
The Packers are still one of the top teams in the NFC, but they’re clearly behind the 49ers and probably the Seahawks as well given their defense cannot stop those teams from scoring at will against them. With Aaron Rodgers in his prime, it behooves Green Bay in future drafts or free agency to find those impact players on defense who can stop a Colin Kaepernick or Russell Wilson or he’ll never get back to the Super Bowl.