Sports Commentary

Puck Talk: Twins legend speaks out
By Eric Nelson
Fall/Winter 2003
The Kobe Bryant circus is under way.

Reporters from ESPN to Entertainment Tonight have swarmed on tiny Eagle, Colo. like locusts. Gawkers and fans show up just to be part of the surreal scene and rumors swirl like Rocky Mountain snow flurries.

Kobe, meanwhile, faces the biggest challenge of his life. Bigger than guarding Tracy McGrady. Bigger than trying to click with Shaq. Bigger than winning three straight NBA titles.

Kobe must win over a jury, something Twins legend Kirby Puckett also had to do when he went on trial for sexual assault charges.

"I don't feel anything," Puckett said when asked about Kobe's situation. "I wasn't there with Kobe. Nobody knows what happened but Kobe and the lady. Things are going to unfold. I'm not quick to jump to judgments."

Puckett was eventually acquitted of sexual assault, but not after his good name had been smeared and his reputation dragged through the mud.

"If I wasn't Kirby Puckett, I wouldn't have been in that situation I was in," Puckett said. "I think we all know that. It's unfortunate that it happened, but I got through it."

Puckett believes Hennepin County prosecutor Amy Klobuchar came after him because of his icon-like status in Minnesota. Reel in a Puckett, and Klobuchar has a trophy fish to brag about in the legal community.

"I think Miss Klobuchar overreacted,” Puckett said. "I think she used very bad lack of judgment at that time. She wasn't there and didn't know what happened. Amy Klobuchar, I think she jumped to conclusions. I thought you were innocent until proven guilty. They never gave me that opportunity and then when it was all said and done, nobody said a word about it."

Now that Puckett's legal troubles are behind him. it would be nice if the Twins brought him back in some capacity. After all, the Twins do play at 34 Kirby Puckett Place.

The spark plug: AC Delco should get Shannon Stewart to pitch its products. Without Stewart's second-half spark, there's no way the Twins make the post-season. Signing Stewart should be a top priority for Minnesota this off-season.

Hey Red McCombs!: If you're so concerned about Purple pride and that Viking tradition, then why haven't you retired Chuck Foreman's number 44 and put him in the Metrodome ring of fame?

Aloha: Vikes left tackle Bryant "Mt." McKinnie better get used to Hawaii, because I have a hunch he will play in many Pro Bowls.

Just asking: Who talks more smack, Jeremy Shockey or Chris Hovan?

Hey T. Denny Sanford: Thanks for the $35 million jump-start for a new Gopher football stadium. Let's hope our clueless leaders in St. Paul don't blow this opportunity to finally get the Gophers back on campus in an open-air stadium.

Budget boys: Let's also hope the powers that be don't skimp on the new facility. Yes, it is wise to not spend needlessly, but it is also unwise to cut corners and clip coupons just to save a few bucks. Build the stadium right and there won't be cries for a new one in 20 years. Don't be penny-wise and dollar-foolish.

Jim-dandy: Ex-Gopher coach Jim Wacker will be missed. Wacker actually thanked me once for doing an interview at a U of M practice. Wacker's politeness ran counter-clockwise to most major college or pro coaches who view the media as annoying gnats.

Wild luck: Good thing the Minnesota Wild got this season's NHL All-Star game instead of next. With labor troubles on the horizon, there might not be a next NHL season.

Hey John Henry Williams: RIP means rest in peace, not rest in pieces.

Enough is enough: Someone tell the shameless self-promoters at ESPN to stop hyping Playmakers. The only thing more annoying than those never-ending promos, was Rush Limbaugh on their NFL pre-game show.

Full houses: The Metrodome is one of just six multi-purpose stadiums in the USA and Canada. Miami (Dolphins/Marlins), Oakland (A's/Raiders), San Diego (Chargers/Padres) and Toronto (Argonauts/Blue Jays) are the others. The list shrinks next season when the Padres move into brand new Petco Park.

Must read: Twin Cities sportswriter Joel Rippel has a new book titled, "75 Memorable Moments in Minnesota Sports." Published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press, this is the perfect holiday gift for fanatical sports fans.

Bryce is right: If a trip to Utah is in your future, check out Bryce Canyon National Park. I recently hiked Bryce and found the scenery to be spectacular. Odd, reddish-colored rock formations make it seem as if you're on another planet.