Here are three Minnesota sports stories that seem totally absurd.
MINNEAPOLIS, MN, September 15 - As Timberwolves preseason workouts enter a third day, one question haunts the team: where is Anthony Edwards?
He’s not at practice. He’s not on social media. If the team knows where he is, they aren’t telling.
Does he want a trade? Does he want a new contract? Is he in jail? Is he trapped under something in a forest? Have search parties been organized?
This is the third time that Edwards, the team’s most exciting player, has failed to show up for training camp. Once was due to legal problems, but the second time, his absence was never completely explained; Edwards showed up 35 games into the season, and was returned to the starting lineup soon after, even though the reasons for his absence - and subsequent suspension - were never publicly revealed.
When asked directly where Edwards was, head coach Chris Finch told reporters, “We’re focusing on the people who are here,” which provided no helpful information of any kind.
FORT MYERS, FL, February 18 - Toby Gardenhire is putting in the work.
The St. Paul Saints manager is not the manager of the Minnesota Twins, and while he’s well-respected, no one expects him to be the manager of the Minnesota Twins this season.
But after the firing of manager Rocco Baldelli, the sudden resignation of interim manager Jayce Tingler, and the absence of Twins front-office head honchos Derek Falvey and Thad Levine… well, there was simply no one else left to lead the Twins.
Gardenhire, and a skeleton staff of coaches, are leading the Twins through workouts, and waiting to see how long they’ll be managing the major-league team. Until they know, it’s “business as unusual.”
Players, some of whom have worked with Gardenhire before, seem to be resigned to what seems like it could be a meaningless preseason. “It is what it is,” said shortstop Carlos Correa. “I didn’t know Toby that well before, but we’ll all have to band together and do what we can this season, and be ready if and when a new manager is hired. Look, no one is going to save us, all right?”
Falvey and Levine, who sources have indicated may be trapped on a fishing boat in the Caribbean, have not put a priority on hiring a new manager this offseason. As a result, the Twins are the only team in the major leagues without a permanent manager, or any sense of what their next offseason moves might be.
(CORRECTION TO THE BELOW: New MNUFC general manager Khaled El-Ahmad has been on the job and working since mid-December, but is still awaiting his visa so that he can work in the United States. So forget the part about him not making decisions. I regret the error.)
EAGAN, MN, August 10 - The Minnesota Vikings are on the field. Practice has started; plays are being installed; new players are getting their first looks in purple. New general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah probably can’t wait to see it for himself. Adofo-Mensah, who was announced as the team’s new general manager early in the offseason, has yet to officially begin his role as general manager, or speak with any of the team’s players. Over the past few months, the Vikings have drafted players, signed free agents, and let players walk, all under the aegis of longtime executive vice president Rob Brzezinski, who had previously taken a backseat in football-related decisions to other front-office personnel. With Adofo-Mensah - who has never worked directly in an NFL front office or been a GM in the NFL - yet to begin his tenure as GM, though, Brzezinski was forced into a player-focused role. “We don’t feel like we’re behind other teams at this point,” said owner and chairman Mark Wilf. “The offseason is an overrated time, for NFL teams.”
Do these fake made-up stories seem absurd? Of course! But they are happening, right now, to Minnesota United FC.
Star player Emanuel Reynoso is AWOL again, for the second straight season, and one can only assume that the Loons will get sick of it and suspend him - or send him elsewhere - much more quickly than last year.
New Chief Soccer Officer Khaled El-Ahmad, officially announced in November, has yet to actually start his new job. The team’s off-season decisions have been made by former GM Manny Lagos, who was supposed to be moving into a role focused on community engagement, rather than making any on-field decisions.
Not only has El-Ahmad not hired a new coach, interim coach Sean McAuley quit weeks ago, leaving Cameron Knowles - who has been the manager of MNUFC’s development squad for the past two seasons - as the man in charge.
The team’s offseason moves have been underwhelming, with the top transaction being a loan move for Costa Rican international midfielder Alejandro Bran, who if nothing else will bring a lot of dumb name-based puns to the Loons. (“Bran keeps midfield regular for MNUFC.”)
If any one of these stories was happening to any other team in town, fans would be rioting. These stories seem absurd because they seem unimaginable.
An NFL team without a GM? An NBA superstar that’s disappeared? An MLB team that hasn’t bothered to hire a coach?
An NHL team - well, I take that back. The way things are in St. Paul right now, you can imagine any and all of this happening to the Minnesota Wild.
Because it’s not one of the traditional big sports in America, soccer tends to get something of a free pass when it comes to coverage. Things fly under the radar, or get explained away by pretending that soccer is just different somehow - that because there’s a “transfer window” instead of a trade deadline, or because it’s normal to sell players rather than trade them, or that the salary cap consists of made-up money and loopholes and nonsense, then none of the normal rules apply.
When you’re a soccer fan, some of this comes with the territory. But if you put on your fan hat, so to speak, from any other team, you begin to realize just how absurd a situation the Loons have put themselves in.