Almost a year ago, I made my first trek to Marshall as the sports editor of the Independent.
Friday felt like that first day: the landscape was hit with a blast of bad winter weather, turning the surrounding area into Hoth from "Star Wars," and forcing me to contemplate trading my car in to buy a snowmobile.
A year later, I have gained an appreciation for sports like volleyball and wrestling as I still learn about each area high school.
And a year later, it seems like the Minnesota pro sports scene has hardly changed.
Last January, the Minnesota Vikings were riding high in the playoffs, knocking off the Dallas Cowboys and preparing to punch their ticket to the Super Bowl against the New Orleans Saints. Then a 12th man penalty and a horrendous interception later, the gut-punch feelings associated with Vikings fandom returned.
The 2010-11 season started with the similar dizzying high of the playoffs. Favre, Adrian Peterson, the defense, they were all back. The Vikings were hungry and ready to head to the next Super Bowl. Then the injuries set in, then Favre regressed, then Randy Moss came in, then Randy Moss left, then Brad Childress got axed. The air in the Metrodome, figuratively and literally, was out of the stadium.
And now, the 2011 Vikings have to hinge their hopes on Leslie Frazier, who becomes another Vikings assistant coach who becomes the head man of a team. Hopefully, Frazier can be more Tony Dungy, Mike Tomlin or, to an extent, Brian Billick. Just as long as he's not Mike Tice.
Before coming to Marshall, the Minnesota Twins were fresh off a predictable crushing in the American League Division Series to the New York Yankees. Then the Twins got a baseball cathedral in Target Field, a clutch slugger in Jim Thome and a resurgence from guys like Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano. And in a new building, the Twins fell in the same predictable fashion, losing to the Yankees - again - in the ALDS.
The Minnesota Timberwolves were always the enigma. There's enough talent to give you a passing interest: Kevin Love putting up double-doubles that haven't been seen since the 1980s and Michael Beasley's crusade to prove he's not a bust. And there's always Darko, who's a joy to watch if only because he's able to stay employed.
With all the losing, you can't help but feel sympathy for Love, who made himself untradeable after his 30 point, 30 rebound game. In a few years, he'll be great in the post for the Miami Heat.
Finally, there's the Wild, who remained the most unwatchable team in Minnesota. Whether it's Jacque Lemaire or Todd Richards coaching, the team is just boring to watch. The difference was Lemaire could get the team in the playoffs, if you were fortunate enough to stay awake during the regular season.
It's been an interesting year in trying to learn about sports in Southwest Minnesota. But it's comforting to know that the pro sports stay constant in the things they do, or don't do.