The Streak, The Juice, The Legend


It finally happened. For the first time in nearly two years – after three or four Sioux Falls Stampede hockey games, nearly twenty Sioux Falls Skyforce games, a Minnesota Timberwolves vs. New York Knicks exhibition game (where Minnesota was considered the home team) and two Timberwolves vs. Indiana Pacers games (at the Target Center) I finally witnessed the home team lose.

It’s true. Our streak – The Streak — has been snapped. Kerrie and I picked up some hockey tickets from her parents and watched the Sioux Falls Stampede Hockey Club lose to the Waterloo Black Hawks 6-2.

The Streak was broken, and it wasn’t even close.

The Stampede – a team that started off the year with a blistering 27-3 record, gave me my first (and last) journalistic experience for the Argus Leader, and was the first team to actually clinch a playoff spot this year — lost horribly to a team that is barely in the playoff chase. After a first half that included a 16-game winning streak, the Stampede has lost 8 of their last 13 games.

In other words, I was due. I hadn’t planned on going to the game until earlier in the afternoon. I should have known that it was going to spell trouble for The Streak.

This has come at the wrong time. There are those who say a streak should be broken before the playoffs, that a loss can bring the team back to earth – a “good loss.” You know what? That’s bull – there’s no such thing as a good loss. You want to go into the playoffs riding high. If the Pittsburgh Steelers would have experienced a “good loss” this past year, do you think they’d have won the Super Bowl?

I could hardly sit through the game. With the score 4-1, the Stampede scored for the last time. I thought we’d be able to come back – The Streak depended on it, so it was bound go happen.

Waterloo then scored two more times in the last four minutes. I never wanted to leave a game early more in my life than at that point. Kerrie said, “We’d better get used to this kind of thing.” No. I never want to get use to watching the home team lose.

The one thing that we have going for us is that this could be an inconsequential loss. Really, hockey has only taken up a very small part of this loss. The basketball streak is still alive, and since we’re round ball fans first and foremost we may be able to weather this horrible luck. Since moving back to Sioux Falls we have yet to witness a Skyforce loss. Not one. Regular season, playoffs; it didn’t matter, when we attend the game, the Skyforce win.

That we didn’t really start attending Skyforce games until the 04-05 season (their championship season, as it turned out) is immaterial – we’re still proud of our streak, our “home-team-always-wins” basketball streak.

Sure, it’s put me through hell every time I go to see the Pacers in Minneapolis, where The Streak dictates that my Pacers will always lose if I’m in attendance. The Streak – which, since Kerrie has attended a couple more Stampede games and one more Skyforce game, is truly is more hers than mine – sometimes sits like a weight around my neck. It was meant to be snapped, yes, but not at such a crucial juncture in the Skyforce’s season.


We’ll see how well The Streak can recover from this.

While we’re on the subject of sports, I wanted to make some comments about the new book on Barry Bonds: Game of Shadows: Barry Bonds, Balco, and the Steroids Scandal That Rocked Professional Sports.

Sports Illustrated has an excerpt of the book in its newest issue, and it’s available online. So I read it. It’s good. It kept me enthralled. Captivated. And I’m not a huge baseball fan.

The book chronicles Bonds’ rise from All-Star to “The Best in the Game,” a throne he captured thanks (allegedly) in part to BALCO – an organization that supplied Bonds with the necessary steroids and supplements to keep him going. Here’s the deal about the excerpt I read: there’s nothing new about any of this. There is not one piece of information, aside from the jealousy that Bonds apparently had for Mark McGuire during the historic 1998 home-run race, that I haven’t heard before.

The difference is that this is the first time it’s all been put together in one place. The research is incredibly detailed, using sources around the league and throughout Bonds’ life to document the long road from “skinny all-around star” to “overblown, angry power-slugger.”

The excerpt, as any good excerpt should, got me thinking about reading the entire book. As I said, it’s all old news, but when it’s put together in such an easily accessible package it really seems like something special. I don’t care one way or another about Bonds’ steroid use, but I do care about his denial of everything. Yes, it was not against the rules when he juiced. No, he’s never tested positive for steroids. Yes, this book seems to throw some undeniable evidence at Bonds.

This book could be more important than Jose Canseco’s book Juiced, where he came out as the first person to tell the truth/exploit his foibles in novel form. Bonds is being tried in the literary sense, and his only defense is to deny it more.

Anyway, this is more for everyone to check the book out, not to go on and on about Bonds. Read the excerpt on Sports Illustrated’s website and decide for yourself whether to believe the author or to believe Bonds. Either way, you’ll find the article to be rather fascinating.

Finally, a word on Kirby Puckett.

I never knew him well as a player (though I do know that his Twins beat the Cardinals, my team at the time, in the 1987 World Series), but I do know what he meant to Minnesota sports. Puckett was the champion, the one Hall of Fame player that actually brought a trophy back home to the state. Sure, the Vikings made it to four Super Bowls. Yes, Kevin Garnett brought winning basketball to the state. But no one exemplified the true spirit of champion: a humble, yet powerful presence that always translated into wins.

I’m not an expert at baseball, but I do recognize the 1991 World Series as the single greatest sports spectacle in Minnesota history. Kirby’s homer in Game 6. Jack Morris in Game 7.

Minnesota Sports lost its ambassador Tuesday, well before his time. His health had deteriorated, his eyesight forced him to retire, and an errant lawsuit derailed his popularity for a while, but Kirby Puckett will always be remembered in Minnesota the way Colorado remembers John Elway – as the more important sports figure of all time.

As a man that transcended sports and became a cultural icon.

Long live his memory.

This was lovingly handwritten on March 8th, 2006