Saturday, July 30, 2005


A special Saturday edition. Why? Because I feel like it.

--> It's an absolute joke that I have to watch the NHL Draft unfold on the internet. While I would love to sit here and work over ESPN for this, it's the NHL's mistake. ESPN doesn't get a free pass, though. They knew a month ago that this deal was coming and that the league had targeted today (July 30) for their draft. Instead of looking into the possibility of televising the draft, they went ahead with fishing (yeah, I said "fishing"), the WNBA, a rerun of the U.S. Open of Competitive Eating (I wish I were making that up...not only are they showing it, but they already showed it once!), and whatever else they're putting on TV today instead of the draft. From the sounds of it, our local Fox Sports Net affiliate (North) isn't picking it up, either, so I'm left in the dark (belated kudos, by the way, to FSN North for airing the draft lottery, even though I didn't know it was coming). I'll follow it online, but I wish it were on television.

That said, the NHL is also partially to blame. They've been dragging their feet on a cable TV deal, which should have been done this week. I don't know if they're reluctant to take the table scraps ESPN is offering, or if they're waiting to see if Comcast is serious about developing a cable sports network. Part of that cable deal could/should have been the rights to the draft. For fans trying to regain their passion for the game, and for fans that never lost that passion despite the lockout, this is a slap in the face. It's another example of a missed marketing opportunity for Gary Bettman's minions.

--> As for the draft itself, look for some kid named Sidney Crosby to go first overall to Pittsburgh. If you don't follow hockey, you may not have heard that name before. Think about the hype given to LeBron James before he was drafted by Cleveland. Well, Crosby has gotten similar pre-draft hype. He could be a franchise-saver in Pittsburgh. 18-year-old American Jack Johnson should go second overall, though my boy Eklund is now saying a trade could be in the works where the Anaheim Mighty Ducks take New Jersey native Bobby Ryan second overall, while Philadelphia moves into the third spot to take Johnson. The two would then somehow swap picks, because the Flyers really like Ryan (Philly, by the way, picks 20th, so they would have to move up), and the Ducks really like Johnson, who projects as a Scott Stevens-type defenseman. The Minnesota Wild pick fourth. The Wild are tight-lipped, but say they know who they want. Conventional wisdom suggests that the Wild would want either Johnson or Ryan, but it's uncertain what they would do if both players went off the board in the first three picks. I'll post more on the draft as it happens, and I'll also talk about the local/regional talents that come off the board this weekend.

--> In a move that surprised almost everyone, Green Bay WR Javon Walker reported to training camp on time Wednesday, and he took part in the first workouts of camp yesterday. The Packers didn't expect Walker to show up, given that he and his slimeball agent Drew Rosenhaus spent the bulk of the offseason threatening to hold out over Walker's desire for a new contract. In the end, it sounds like common sense won out, with Walker telling the assembled media Friday afternoon that he decided he was better off reporting to camp and letting things work themselves out. In other words, Walker believed he had no chance of getting his new deal done anytime soon, and holding out would only make his situation worse, as he could be fined $6,000 a day for every day he missed. When you "only" make $515,000, that $6K a day starts to add up in a hurry.

--> No matter the motivation, I'm glad Walker showed up. I'm also glad he appears to have worked out any potential differences with QB Brett Favre. Favre had taken a couple of direct shots at Walker and (especially) Rosenhaus through the offseason, saying that it was wrong to hold out when you have a signed contract. Favre and Walker spoke after Walker arrived at camp, and both said that any differences had been worked out. Favre made it clear that he never said anything personal against Walker (he didn't), and said he was thrilled to have Walker in camp. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that the overall reception for Walker was positive. It will remain positive as long as Walker is giving the necessary effort, and I don't doubt that Walker will do that throughout the season.

--> The Vikings are underway with practice as of today. I wanted to take a moment to give a belated tip of the cap of new owner Zygi Wilf. When the morons in Mankato that run this training camp theme park thing decided that an admission fee would be required to get into practice, the fans were incensed. And they should have been. Not only is it incredibly stupid to charge an admission fee to watch practice, but in doing so, the morons in Mankato were inviting scouts of other NFL teams to watch those practices. As long as practices are free, scouts cannot attend them. But if teams choose to charge admission to practice, scouts can attend on their own free will. Wilf saw this, realized the potential implications, and unlike the insincere jerk who owned this team before Wilf, Zygi did something about it. The first major move of Zygi's regime was to tell the morons in Mankato that he would pick up the tab for training camp, paying them the money they were expecting to get from admissions so fans could attend for free. It might be a small gesture, but Wilf has now done more in the few weeks he's owned the team than Red McCombs did in seven years. It must be a good feeling for Vikings fans to know that they may now have someone geniune at the top of the organization.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

BlogPoll: Rivals

The newest BlogPoll Roundtable comes from The Blue-Gray Sky, a blog dedicated to Notre Dame football. I'll leave the jokes for when it's actually football season and Notre Dame is trying really hard to not suck again this year.

The questions:

1. Who are your rival(s)? For a Wisconsin fan, this question is pretty easy. The Badgers have the Paul Bunyan Axe, the trophy they sometimes share with the Minnesota Gophers. The last couple times that the Badgers have played in The Biggest Piece of Crap in College Football, the Gophers have stolen the Axe, but Bucky has won it back the following year in Madison, as the Gophers go into shock from having to play in a real college football stadium. The Golden Rodentia and Bucky probably have a more intense rivalry in men's hockey these days, but the football rivalry got a permanent dose of heat when Darrell Bevell forgot what color his team wore, and proceeded to throw five interceptions in a 28-21 loss to the Rodents at The Biggest Piece of Crap in College Football back in 1993. The loss ruined any shot Bucky had at the national title, and they had to settle for a Rose Bowl win over UCLA as J.J. Stokes couldn't hold on to the ball, and Wayne Cook forgot that his team was out of timeouts when he slid in the open field on a late scramble.

The other primary rival would be Michigan. Michigan is fun, because it's that team that you know your team can't beat, but you can't wait to play them, either. Michigan is the flagship football program in the Big Ten, and it sucks when they're not on the schedule. Ohio State is okay, too, especially considering that Bucky has won three straight in Columbus, including two straight trips where they came back from double-digit deficits to win.

2. Size up your chances in your rival games this year. This is pretty straightforward. The Badgers have to play the Gophers at The Biggest Piece of Crap in College Football on October 15. The silver lining is that the Gophers will be coming off their annual loss to Michigan, which has led to quite the hangover the last couple years. Another silver lining is that the Gophers defense really sucks, so the Badgers' 1975 offense should have some success. However, Bucky is 0-2 in their last two visits to The Biggest Piece of Crap in College Football, so I'm not optimistic.

I'm not optimistic that Wisconsin can beat Michigan at home, but upsets do happen, especially when Michigan is playing their first road game (they've lost their last five of these). Hopefully, if it happens, the fans will refrain from trying to kill one another after the game. The Badgers don't play tOSU this year.

3. If you could start up a new rivalry with another team, who would it be? I'd love to see Wisconsin get their cracks at Notre Dame. I know the Irish already play half the conference, but it would be cool to see Barry Alvarez get his shot at them, too. Then again, what fan in the country doesn't want to see their team kick the crap out of Notre Dame?

I'd also love to see Wisconsin get involved with any of the three I-A service academies. I'm not sure I have a preference, but obviously Air Force is the most successful of the three academy programs in recent years. There's something special about playing a game in Colorado Springs, Annapolis, or West Point.

4. Overall, what do you think the best rivalry in college football is? Back to the service academies I go. I love Michigan-tOSU, Alabama-Auburn, Harvard-Yale, Oregon-Oregon State, Michigan-Notre Dame, Florida-Florida State, Oklahoma-Texas, Texas-Texas A&M, and others. But nothing touches the tradition of Army-Navy. If Michigan and tOSU ever suck in the same season, you'd have four people watching their game on ABC. Same goes for Alabama-Auburn, Florida-FSU, etc. But Army-Navy was still cool, even when the teams had two wins between them, and even when Army was trying like hell to avoid an 0-13 season. Not many rivalries have that kind of drawing power. Nothing beats the large groups of uniformed cadets and midshipmen that are in the stands, cheering their heads off. Nothing beats the two teams gathering at midfield after the game to sing the alma mater of the winner. I'd pay $100 to see tOSU players singing "Hail" after they got it handed to them by Michigan.

5. Lastly, game trophies. What are the best and worst rivalry trophies out there? I'll start with the cool trophies. I'm biased, but Paul Bunyan's Axe has to be right up there. It's a freaking cool trophy, and the visual that comes from the winning team parading around the stadium with it never fails. Well, it usually doesn't fail. In 2003, Rhys Lloyd of Minnesota hit a field goal on the last play of the game to beat Bucky, and he was the first one to grab the trophy off Wisconsin's sideline. Under no circumstances should a kicker ever be allowed to touch a major trophy before any of his teammates do.

Any version of a Victory Bell is cool. The boot that Arkansas and LSU play for is rather new, but looks cool. I believe it's Carleton College and St. Olaf out of the nearby MIAC in Division III that play for a freaking goat of some sort. Cincinnati and Louisville play for the Keg of Nails. Missouri and Iowa State hook up and play for a telephone. Can you imagine busting your tail for 60 minutes for the right to carry a telephone around the stadium? SMU and TCU play for something called "The Iron Skillet". That could make for some entertainment if Vince McMahon wrote for the rivalry. You could have the team that's defending the skillet lose, and then when the winning team's captain goes to retrieve it, someone from the losing team could hit him in the head with it. Alas, they don't allow Vince McMahon to write such things. Sports could be so much more entertaining...

Monday, July 25, 2005


I'll spare you the lame "I'm holding out for more money from the Blogger people" jokes. That would be a waste of space and time, and way beyond my morals. Or something.

Drew Rosenhaus is a scam artist. He could take John Navarre and make him out to be Peyton Manning. And he'd have Navarre hold out in the process. At some point, he will take on the project of convincing Lamar Gordon that he is Ricky Williams, minus the excess marijuana in the glove compartment.

Rosenhaus, labeled a "super agent" by many who are in the business of covering the NFL, has dominated offseason headlines like no other agent before him. Rosenhaus has a bit of an ego - this is the same guy who once tried to convince everyone he was the guy they made "Jerry Maguire" after - and he isn't afraid to have his clients hold out of camp to get what they want.

With training camps starting as early as this week, the attention has fallen on Rosenhaus, who has as many as ten clients who are unhappy with their contracts, and who may consider holding out to pressure teams into redoing those deals. Among those players is Washington free safety Sean Taylor, who signed his current deal last year. Taylor had a fine rookie season, but got himself arrested in the offseason and could very well be facing jail time. That's just the guy I want to give a huge raise to, so I'm sure Daniel Snyder is all over that idea.

Another unhappy Rosenhaus client is Indianapolis running back Edgerrin James. James has one year left on his current deal. If he plays it out, he'll make $8 million this season. But he might not play it out. There are rumblings he could hold out for a long-term deal.

The catch? James signed his current contract four months ago.

Then, there's Philadelphia wideout Terrell Owens. By now, I'm guessing most of you that follow the NFL know about the plight of poor TO. First, his stupid agent forgot to submit paperwork that would have made Owens a free agent after the 2003 season. After that, the 49ers tried to trade him to Baltimore. The deal was done, but Owens wasn't happy. His agent was a moron, and the league was racist for trying to make him play for the Ravens. He whined and groveled until the league stepped in and allowed Owens' agent to work out a trade and a new contract with Philadelphia. The league smoothed it over with the Ravens and the deal happened. Owens signed seven-year deal worth $49 million, despite pleas from the union that the deal wasn't good and that Owens shouldn't sign it.

After a huge season, Owens fired his longtime agent and hired Rosenhaus. Shockingly, the calls started coming from Owens and Rosenhaus for a renegotiation. Owens "outperformed" his contract, Rosenhaus said, and the two were going to seriously consider a holdout after one year of a seven-year deal.

After the Owens story broke, Green Bay wide receiver Javon Walker saw dollar signs. After a rather quiet first two years, Walker broke through in his third year in the league, something wide receivers are prone to do. He made his first Pro Bowl and had his first 1,000-yard season. He decided to follow Owens' plan to get his deal redone with the Packers; he fired his agent and hired Rosenhaus. Walker, by the way, has two years left on the deal he signed before his rookie season.

While one could argue that Walker deserves a new deal, the Packers have made it clear that they are not going to renegotiate a deal when a player has multiple years left on that deal. They held their ground with Mike McKenzie last year, eventually trading him to the Saints (where he is considering another holdout this year!). And it appears they are going to hold their ground with Walker. On Walker's behalf, Rosenhaus uncorked this gem last week on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel:

"In every other profession it goes on. But people want to nail the athletes (because) they have a contract, and they make millions of dollars. It's all relative, baby. It's OK for Tom Cruise to make $50 million a movie? But a guy who risks his life can't get paid a decent wage? B.S. I'm not standing for it."

Now, I've heard a lot of things said about pro athletes that stretch the truth, or use words or phrases that could be possibly be considered inappropriate. Never before can I recall an athlete or agent for an athlete using the phrase "risks his life" to describe what said athlete does for a living. I'm not overly sensitive to the language we use in this time of war, but it strikes me as wrong in every way for someone to use that phrase to describe a football player, given what hundreds of thousands of our men and women are doing overseas right now.

So the Packers will miss Javon Walker "risking his life" at the start of training camp. I'm sure they'll "survive" without him.

Oh, yeah. One more thing. Hilariously, Rosenhaus has taken to blaming Brett Favre for the team's reaction to Walker's request for a new deal. Favre, if you haven't heard, has ripped Walker publicly for holding out, saying it's a selfish move and not a good way to do business.

So...he's wrong?

Rosenhaus has tried to refer to Favre's contract issues in the past. Strangely, no one has been able to find any. Favre has never held out, and Favre has never threatened to hold out. When people talk about public figures making up things to support their stance on an issue, this is what they're talking about. Rosenhaus has talked multiple times about nonexistent contract issues involving Favre, and I'll guarantee you that there are some out there stupid enough to believe it. And there are probably some out there that are stupid enough to believe that Favre's stance on Walker is the reason why the team won't renegotiate, as if all pro sports franchises are like the Lakers and allow star players to run the whole operation behind the scenes.

Oh, and Owens says it's okay that people hate on him, because "people hated on Jesus".

I'll give Walker credit for one thing: He's keeping his mouth shut.

He has an agent that, like him or hate him (and I think I've made my feelings clear), is more than willing to take all the public heat on behalf of the player. Rosenhaus has turned everyone against him, and he has distracted many from the fact that it is the player who hires the agent and supposedly makes all the final decisions - not the agent. Rosenhaus works for these guys, and outside of the fact that his behavior and his public comments do nothing but turn most of the football-following public against the players, he's doing a bang-up job for them.

The truth is pretty simple. Athletes hire Rosenhaus when they want to get a big contract done. He gets the deals done, in most cases. Teams know the intent of a player when they hire Rosenhaus (I'm going to get taken care of, and I am willing to hold out if I don't). Some agents will do everything they can to keep their athletes from holding out. Holding out can take a toll on a player's reputation, and it can take a toll on that player's body, because it's hard to stay in "football shape" working out at the local gym. The number of players who have hurt themselves with lengthy holdouts (Jamal Anderson, Antonio Freeman, Dorsey Levens, Philip Rivers, Don Majkowski, and Kellen Winslow come to mind immediately) is staggering.

This is too difficult a game to play at that high a level, and in this uber-competitive football world, there aren't many athletes who can hold out of camp and come back without hurting themselves. And most of them will only hurt themselves. The teams will survive. Some will thrive.

In fact, I'm on record: If Owens doesn't play for the Eagles this season, then it will be Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid (along with Jeff Lurie, I guess) hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at Ford Field in February. Write that down. Actually, you don't have to. I just did.

Quick hits

--> If you go to now, you can see my preview of the Big 12 Conference. The previews up now are the ACC, Big East, Big 10, and Big 12. Still to come are the other seven Division I-A conferences, plus a quick look at the small crop of Independents. Look for those between now and mid-August. After that, we'll get fired up on with our NFL preview for 2005.

--> The frenzy has already started in the NHL. Philadelphia has decided to buy out the contracts of John LeClair and Tony Amonte, Phoenix will buy out Brian Savage, and the Detroit Red Wings, who needed to make some moves to get far enough under the cap to be a factor in free agency, are going to buy out Derian Hatcher, Ray Whitney, and Darren McCarty. Buying out McCarty had to be a particularly difficult decision for the Wings, who watched as he showed some serious skill while also serving as an enforcer of sorts over the years. McCarty was one of those character guys who should have little trouble finding a new home if his price isn't too high. His price was too high, though, for the Red Wings, considering the new salary cap.

--> I'm intrigued by one of the possible rules changes in the NHL. The idea is to have linesmen be able to waive off any icings that come from attempted passes. It seems like something teams might abuse, but it's an interesting concept. Personally, I prefer the idea of punishing any team that ices the puck by preventing them from making a line change during the subsequent stoppage.

--> The shootout is now a reality in the NHL. I don't like it, but I'll suck it up and deal with it. Shootouts are akin, to me, to deciding a long-running baseball game with a home run derby, or ending a football overtime with a field-goal kicking contest. That said, the NHL put together a competition committee, and staffed it with folks who have played and/or coached in this great game a lot longer than I have even been alive. Sometimes, even if you don't agree with the judgments of others, you have to respect their experience and understand their viewpoint. The committee (the owners and many players seem to back them up on this idea) decided that the shootout would add an element of excitement to the game, and could help lure in fans who don't see any attraction in games that end in ties. I disagree with the judgment and the conclusion, but I will withhold actually judging the idea until I see it on the ice.

--> The baseball trading deadline is approaching this weekend. Seriously, why is A.J. Burnett such a hot commodity? Aren't the Orioles (or anyone else) better off going without a trade than bringing in a guy like this? Burnett is approaching 30, and he has done very little to tap into his tantalizing potential. He has a live arm and very good stuff, but he has a history of arm problems and doesn't consistently throw strikes. Why give up promising prospects on the off-chance that Burnett will suddenly find himself after he gets overpaid in a long-term deal?

--> NFL training camps are opening. There is more to come on this, including thoughts on Drew Rosenhaus and the Holdouts, a band coming to a stage near you - since none of them appear interested in playing football.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Is this the day?

For those who refuse to believe that the NHL has finally ended their lockout until they actually end their lockout, today could be the day to believe.

Numerous sources, including Canadian sports network TSN and ESPN The Magazine hockey guru E.J. Hradek, are reporting that a new collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and its players could be announced as early as lunchtime today.

The deal, for those of you that have avoided recent lockout news, includes a hard salary cap, with a ceiling just under $40 million and a minimum payroll in the $20-25 million range. Player salaries will not exceed 54 percent of league revenues, so the players would benefit if league salaries increased.

This is, of course, good news for NHL fans, who were left dismayed and disgusted when the season was cancelled by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman last winter. At the time, Bettman had warned the union that the deal they turned down was a better deal than any deal they were going to get in subsequent negotiations. It turns out Bettman wasn't kidding. This deal is remarkably worse for the players than what was offered before the cancellation, and it shows that Bettman and the owners were able to maintain a hard-line negotiating stance once the season was called off.

It is not yet clear when this agreement will be announced. What has been reported is that Bettman and the league are planning to announce rules changes and a league marketing campaign around the time of the formal CBA announcement. The league needs to re-connect with its loyal fans while also finding a way to generate interest among people who either like the sport and don't watch the NHL, or might not have ever given the sport a chance.

Reported rules changes range from relatively simple moves such as adopting no-touch icing, tag-up offsides, and the removal of the center-ice red line for purposes of allowing the two-line pass, to more drastic measures like much smaller goalie pads, only allowing goalies to play the puck in designated areas or risk a two-minute penalty, and preventing teams that ice the puck from making a line change during the subsequent stoppage in play.

Some players have spoken out against the deal, but many of them seem to have accepted that they are better off taking this deal and getting back on the ice than they are trying to fight for a better deal while risking the loss of more games. Other players have ripped union leadership for allowing Bettman to cancel the season, only to see the players get a much worse deal than the one they left on the table in February.

For the league, this has been a complete fiasco. An entire season was lost, marking the first time in North American sports history that a pro sports season had been called off due to a labor dispute. To make the PR even worse for the league, the NBA reached agreement on a new CBA days before there was any real threat of a lockout.

Assuming that today is the day (and it looks like it is), it isn't just the day that the NHL announces an end to what is now a 301-day lockout. It's also the day the NHL begins the long road to recovery, as they try to bring their fans back. It will be very interesting to see how the league goes about revitalizing hockey fans.

NOTE: Since this was posted, the league and union have announced an agreement in principle on a new CBA. The deal will be voted on by the NHL owners next Thursday, July 21, and by the players next Tuesday, July 19. We'll have more details on the actual deal once it becomes available, but it is safe to say that the players were taken to the cleaners.

Monday, July 11, 2005

College football preview

You can find my 2005 college football preview at:

The link is on the bar on the right side of this page.

Currently up and running are previews of the ACC and Big East seasons. I hope you enjoy, and please stop long enough to add your feedback while you're there.

We will have a new entry on this site later today or tomorrow.

Hope the summer has been good to you so far, and I hope you can stand this ridiculously hot weather we have here in the Northland.

Friday, July 01, 2005


It was hardly an unexpected development at midnight on Friday, as the lack of a budget agreement plunged the state of Minnesota into a historical partial government shutdown. The politicians that run this state were unable to reach agreement before the Senate inexplicably adjourned at 9:30pm on Thursday evening, 150 minutes before the deadline to avoid a shutdown.

For those who don't live in Minnesota, I apologize for putting you through this rant. For those that do, feel free to leave your comments and discuss the situation, but please try to do so in a more civilized tone than what we've heard from our "leadership" so far, both in the days leading to this shutdown and in the hours since the shutdown took effect.

I'm going to start by throwing out a few thoughts from the "leadership". We'll start with the head clown:

Governor Tim Pawlenty (Republican) - "I am stunned by the naked cynicism of the Democrat strategy. When it came to crunch time, they left. When the services Minnesotans rely on to meet their needs and help them, when the jobs of the state employees were on the line, the Democrats turned and left tonight, when the people needed them the most.''

Pawlenty's henchmen, House Speaker Steve Sviggum and Senate Minority Leader Dick Day, to their credit, have been more silent than the governor. On his weekly radio show, Pawlenty made the Democratic "leadership" in Minnesota sound like they were only worried about bouncing Pawlenty from office in 2006, when he is expected to run for re-election.

It's sure nice to know that the governor is worried about present-day issues and not something as trivial as a potential re-election campaign. Don't worry, Timmy. If you decide to run for re-election, Karl Rove and his Beltway buddies will do everything in their power to get you re-elected so you can run for Vice President in 2008 or 2012. They like you. They really like you. In the meantime, though, it might help those valued re-election chances if you worried about the thousands of state workers who are sitting at home drinking iced tea and catching up on their favorite soaps (or golfing, or mowing the lawn, or whatever else comes to mind).

Maybe they're getting ready to file for unemployment in case the "leadership" doesn't get a deal done in the next couple weeks.

On his radio show Friday, Pawlenty blamed the Democrats, uttering more phrases like those quoted above, and saying whatever it took to absolve his Republican friends of responsibility for this embarrassing situation. It's all the fault of those evil Democrats. Our party is the party of good. Our party would never put this great state in a situation like this.

As a popular Twin Cities radio personality is prone to saying, that's a bunch of "B as in B, S as in S".

The reality is that not nearly enough work was done on the budget until it was too late. Not nearly enough substantive talk happened before it was too late to get a deal done. Not enough reasonable compromise was offered before it was too late. Pawlenty thinks he has the power here, but he's wrong. He's the centerpiece. He's the leader. He's the one most affected by this shutdown, because it ultimately falls on his shoulders that a deal didn't get done.

Even with that in mind, though, it's far from being all Governor Pawlenty's fault, no matter what Donkey Dean or his henchmen try to make you believe.

Donkey Dean (Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson) and the Senate "leadership" adjourned almost three hours too early on Thursday. While one could argue that those three hours wouldn't have mattered in the end, we'll never know, because the Senate apparently decided it was no longer worth the effort. Donkey Dean, who has been quite outspoken in his distaste for Pawlenty's politics, was joined by House Minority Leader Matt Entenza in speaking out against Pawlenty's agenda and his offers for compromise.

Johnson and Entenza, it seems, are too busy trying to make Pawlenty look like the one at fault. I haven't heard either one of them take any of the blame for what's happened. In fact, that's quite the common thread among the "leadership" in this state. None of them seem to think it's their fault, even though it is. I expect some disagreement among legislators of rival political parties. They have different views on how things should be done, but in the end, they all have to work together. These guys haven't done that.

It's doubly frustrating for Minnesotans, because the legislature went into special session for the ninth time in eleven years. Perhaps it's time for the state to remove the per diem that the politicians get during special session. Make them work for free, and get rid of the (albeit quite small) incentive they have to let their work lag past the late May deadline for the regular session. Perhaps it's time to fall back on an idea first made public by Pawlenty's predecessor in the governor's mansion, Jesse Ventura. Maybe it's time to cut the fat and remove the headaches by going to a unicameral legislature.

With both sides bickering and thousands out of work and wondering when they'll be allowed to go back, and thousands of travelers looking for places to stop and stretch their legs/get a quick snack/check a map/use the bathroom because the rest stops are all closed, the unicameral legislature idea, once written off as ridiculous by many, is starting to look pretty reasonable.

For the time being, here's a way to solve the budget crisis in about a half-hour:

1. Put Pawlenty, Sviggum, Day, Donkey Dean, and Entenza in a room. Allow them to bring whatever written materials they deem necessary, along with their laptops and plenty of paper and pens.

2. Duct tape their mouths shut.

3. Make it clear that none of them will eat, drink, sleep, use the bathroom, or be able to talk until a budget deal is done.

4. Leave the room, lock the door, and wait about 25 minutes. The deal will be done and everyone will suddenly be getting along a lot better.

Hey...nothing they've tried has worked so far. Might as well think outside the box.