In this period of #NoSports, I have been watching a number of classic replays of games that have either been broadcast or I have specifically searched out on YouTube.
It started with a severe sadness with the loss of the NCAA Tournament. This created a longing in my heart to watch college basketball games. So I sought out games played by the 1996-97 Gopher team who reached the Final Four. I watched both games from the second weekend of that 1997 tournament. The double overtime win over Clemson and the win over UCLA in the regional final were both fantastic games.
This journey took me back and reminded me just how much I enjoyed that particular team. That team was so well balanced, they had depth at every position, they passed so well and they were just so much fun to watch.
Also, this team was in the prime of my fandom days. I was a freshman in college and I followed every minute of this team. I was at the Barn to see them beat Iowa (2nd in Big 10 that year) and I was in Kansas City for their first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
Watching this team play again brought back so many memories and it got me to thinking that this was perhaps my favorite individual team of any that I root for. Which begged the question (nailed it)...what are my all-time favorite individual teams?
Now, I am a Minnesota rube. I’ve always appreciated certain other teams (Florida Gators, New York Mets,
Green B...just kidding), but Minnesota teams always took precedence. I’ve always been a Gophers/Vikings/Twins/Timberwolves fan, so those are really the teams I’m limited to for this exercise. And while a championship “should” move a team to the top of the lis, it may not. Factors such as my age and what sport it was, among other highly subjective factors weigh in here.
Those 325 words are probably 324 too many to get to the list of my favorite individual teams of my lifetime. Please share yours in the comments below.
1 - 1997 Gopher Basketball
I talked about this team above a little bit. But man was this team fun to watch. Bobby Jackson was incredible, Sam Jacobson was a freak of nature, the bench had great scoring and the starting big men (Courtney James and John Thomas) were beasts in the middle who played off each other beautifully.
The first team in Gopher history to make the Final Four and nothing was going to stop this group. Until Eric Harris separated his shoulder in the Clemson game and was just not himself by the time they got to Indianapolis for the Final Four. Kentucky’s press was just too much for the Gophers. Shooting just 3/16 from three (Jacobson and Lewis combining for 0/9) and 26 turnovers ended the Gopher dream season.
2 - 1998 Minnesota Vikings
Another team that just had that “special” feeling to it. A team that really was only going to not win the Super Bowl if they beat themselves. Which they did. I firmly believe that had this team won the Super Bowl (like they were supposed to) they are talked about as one of the all-time great teams. This Vikings team was to offense what the 85 Bears team was to defense.
But the crash and burn after that Gary Anderson missed field goal was a tough one.
Regardless of the outcome, that team and that season was a fun ride. Some great characters on that team and for the one season, it was an electrifying team.
3 - 1991 Minnesota Twins
Finally a team that actually won something. This team, far less than the teams above, was lacking a collection of great personalities. Kirby Puckett was obviously larger than life, but so much of this team were just guys who did their job. Greg Gagne,
Gary Gietti, Scott Leius, Mike Pagliarulo, Shane Mack, Kevin Tapani, Scott Erickson and Brian Harper were great; but not exactly thrilling personalities. This team
The drama of the 91 World Series was epic, culminating in that Jack Morris classic Game 7. (which I watched again last week). I was at Game 1 and likely would have been at games 6 and 7, had I not chosen a weekend retreat.
The 87 team was the first championship in decades for a Minnesota fan, but I was in 3rd grade and didn’t really grasp it. This 91 team was the one that I was behind.
4 - 2003-04 Timberwolves
And back to the list of teams that were good enough to win a championship but for whatever reason, failed to do so. The 04 Timberwolves brought it all together for that one year. And once again, it was an injury to the point guard that likely kept them from winning an NBA title.
But after several attempts of getting together a group of three elite players and the right complimentary players, this group finally paid off. Sam Cassell, Latrell Sprewell and Kevin Garnett led this team to 58 wins and the top seed in the Western Conference.
But they fell to the Lakers in 6 games, missing out on the franchise’s best opportunity at a championship. But the end does not necessarily mean that it wasn’t a fun ride throughout the season.
5 - 2019 Gopher Football
The best team I’ve seen in my lifetime of Gopher Football fandom. I was there for every home game and a trip to Iowa. Once again, this team didn’t win the Big Ten nor did they earn a trip to Pasadena. But that win over Penn State and the season capping win over Auburn were fantastic.
The 2019 team was a blast to watch. I could conceivably move them ahead of the Wolves, but I’m letting nostalgia reign here. I won’t forget the elite offense and the big plays by the defense. Recency places this team at the forefront of my memories, but perhaps the hope that the coming years will be like this or better are also contributing to this lower ranking.
Very excited for next year, but I won’t forget 2019. Even if this program continues to improve, this team will be remembered for laying the foundation of success.
There’s my list. Kinda sad that there’s only one championship in this, but these are my favorite individual teams. No hockey, but I’ve never really been a passionate hockey fan. These are the teams I’ve most closely followed and cared about.
What are yours? Likely you are not all Minnesota rubes, so include whatever your favorite teams are and why.