Sunday, January 31, 2016

Slow motion riders fly the colors of the day....

The Northern Alliance Radio Network rolls on this weekend as I will be on the air for my weekly program The Closer. The 1-hour bonanza begins at 2:00 PM Central Time.

At 2:15, Salem-Twin Cities promotions guy Ross Brendel will check in to discuss a fantastic Patriot event taking place in March. Just a hint: a quartet of national Salem personalities whom you hear on AM 1280 during the week will be coming to town. 

Then at 2:30, political wonk Matt Mackowiak will join the broadcast to give his own recap of last Thursday's GOP presidential debate as well as preview Monday's Iowa caucuses. 

So please give me a call at (651) 289-4488 if you'd like to weigh in on any of the topics I plan on addressing. You can also text comments/questions to (651) 243-0390.

You can listen live in the Twin Cities at AM 1280 on your radio dial. In and out of the Minneapolis-St Paul area, you can listen to the program on the Internet by clicking this link, or check us out via iheart radio

Even though I have a face for radio, there is a UStream channel where you can watch the broadcast, if you so desire. Check it out here.  

And if you're so inclined, follow along on Twitter at #narn or "Like" our Facebook page.

Until then.....


Friday, January 29, 2016

GOP Presidential Debate: Part VII

The final GOP presidential debate before Monday's Iowa caucuses seemed to be highly touted for which candidate was not there.

To summarize, this debate broadcast on Fox News Channel was the most substantive one yet and there was also a refreshing lack of insults and ad hominem attacks (Huh. I wonder why it was so different this time).

With that, here's my brief take on each candidate:

Jeb Bush: This was the most energized performance of Bush's campaign. No surprise given he was often beaten down by what-his-name's bombast, so it was obvious Bush was less skittish Thursday. While he has no shot in Iowa, Bush has been rising in New Hampshire and still has significant financial resources via his Super PAC. No, Jeb! will not be the GOP nominee in 2016 but he seems to have bought himself some extra time.

Ben Carson: It was refreshing that Carson didn't complain about being the last candidate to have an opportunity to speak. But once again seemed disengaged at times. At one point there was a YouTube question being aired featuring a young lady who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico. Upon completion, the moderator said "Dr. Carson, .....that one's for you." Carson's reply of "Oh, great" had a tone of him being awakened from a nap. I've said it often that Dr. Carson is an admirable figure but he's in over his head here. Time to move on.

Chris Christie: The New Jersey governor resorted to his old playbook of chiding how U.S. senators can quibble over semantics and cut deals and blow hot air in subcommittees, whereas executives actually have to lead. He also reiterated a story he's shared previously about his wife Mary Pat being in the area of the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001 and how it solidified his commitment as a prosecutor. He also touted his record of entitlement reform, a subject which has been woefully lacking in these debates. Christie has no shot in Iowa but needs a top 3 performance in New Hampshire in order to justify his presence in this race.

Ted Cruz: It has been Cruz and what's-his-name in the top two spots in Iowa for some time now. Since what's-his-name was such a thumb sucker and decided not to show for this debate, Cruz had a golden opportunity to vault into the top spot. As has been the case previously, Cruz often went past his allotted time. And he was once again put on the defensive for his insistence that he wanted the "Gang of Eight" immigration bill passed 2-1/2 years ago only to now say his amendment was a "poison pill" used as an attempt to kill it.

Cruz's shining moment was when he was asked a question regarding a statement by Iowa's very popular governor Terry Branstad, who feels Cruz is being bankrolled by "Big Oil." Obviously such an affiliation flies in the face of the state's prolific ethanol industry. Cruz emphasized all natural resources should be cherished and that the government shouldn't be picking winners and losers, so no subsidies for anyone. Cruz needed that, as he had been scuffling up to that point (though it probably won him no points in Iowa). Overall Cruz was good, but his post debate interview with Megyn Kelly was fantastic. As such, people questioned why Cruz wasn't that assertive during the actual debate. I still don't know if Cruz will prevail in Iowa, but he may drop to third given (spoiler alert) Marco Rubio's solid performance.

John Kasich: One of the few (if not only) GOP candidates to say he would not strike down the Iran nuclear deal on day one of his presidency. Doubled down on that Thursday. Really no other Kasich moments stood out to me.

Kasich seems emboldened by endorsements from several New Hampshire newspapers, so he'll stay in the race at least through NH. A waste of time if you ask me.

Rand Paul: Sen. Paul had some nice moments, specifically on the disproportionate incarceration rates for drug crimes committed by minorities as well as addressing the out-of-control national debt (again, a subject discussed way too infrequently). He also called out Cruz for wanting it both ways on immigration.

It was obvious Paul had the most boisterous contingency among the audience. Unfortunately for the junior senator from Kentucky, it hasn't translated into any meaningful poll numbers.

Marco Rubio: Another commanding performance despite getting perhaps the toughest question of the night. The Fox moderators played a video montage of three different Rubio appearances where he seemed to take multiple positions on immigration, from being adamant against legalization, then for a path to legalization and then for a path to citizenship. I felt Rubio adequately answered those concerns (so too did a focus group) and the plan he has going forward.

Rubio's ace in the hole is he has consistently polled the best among GOP candidates vs. Hillary Clinton. He was smart to continue to emphasize that point, since many do not want a third Obama term. And his immigration stance actually plays better in a general election than in the Republican primary process.

Rubio doesn't have a realistic chance to win Iowa, but a second place finish would be huge. That seems to be a realistic possibility after his performance Thursday evening.

At this point, it's a three person race between Rubio, Cruz and what's-his-name.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Something to listen for

If you've ever watched football on TV (college or pro), you've undoubtedly seen some violent hits. And when a defensive player makes a jarring tackle on a ball carrier, the announcers at times use such phrases as"lit up" or "blown up" to describe the offensive player's fate.

So if a certain Defensive End from the University of Illinois makes an NFL club within the next year or two and lays on one of those heavy hits, such phrases may sound like some very unfortunate puns. I can just hear someone like Joe Buck exclaim "And Peterson gets blown up by Jihad Ward!!" 

I guess now would be the time for all NFL announcers to start working some new catch phrases into the vernacular, eh?


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Threat or promise?

The long standing mantra of "There's no such thing as bad publicity" will be put to the test this week.

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump abruptly announced here Tuesday that he would not participate in Thursday’s scheduled debate, escalating his off-and-on feud with Fox News Channel and throwing the GOP campaign into turmoil.

Trump’s assertion, which his campaign manager insisted was irreversible, came less than one week before the kickoff Iowa caucuses. He once again defied the conventional rules of politics, and used his power and prominence to shape the campaign agenda and conversation.

So far, Trump’s untraditional moves have only expanded his support, but his threatened boycott leaves him open to criticism that for all his tough talk he is ducking face-to-face confrontations with his opponents and scrutiny from the Fox moderators.

The GOP race for Iowa is very tight at this moment, a story line that, in and of itself, is very compelling. Despite that, what are most political observers talking about this week? Trump's shenanigans. That's why I question whether this supposed bad publicity for Trump will at all hinder him.

I honestly have no idea why Trump is doing this. Could this all be a calculated move in an attempt to gain more publicity (perhaps even some sympathy) since Iowa is not in the bag for him? Or is it that Trump is so ego maniacal that the thought of moderator Megyn Kelly not offering to kiss his ring being willing to concede his sheer genius is just too daunting for him? I saw one national poll Tuesday which indicated his support in the GOP field topped 40%! If anyone has earned the right to go into a venue with extra bravado and an "I don't care what you think of me" demeanor, it's Trump.

On the bright side, a debate without Trump means the other candidates (let's face it: Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and maybe Chris Christie are the only legit players remaining outside of Trump) will have an opportunity to engage in a substantive (yet still spirited) discussion of the issues. I'm OK with that.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

If I accomplish nothing else this year.....

.....I can lay claim to getting a social media "hashtag" trending at a big time social event.

This past Christmas Eve, my friend (and reigning Miss Minnesota) Rachel Latuff became engaged to her longtime boyfriend Brad Betterley (the wedding will take place in August).

While posting on Facebook some photos of Brad being fitted for a tuxedo last weekend, Rachel threw out a few hashtag phrases to accompany said posts. In my own comment on that thread, I casually came up with a phrase of my own, to which Rachel replied "best hashtag ever! Stealing!!" I basically told Rachel it was all hers.

Within the next few minutes, the following post popped up in my Facebook timeline:

The fact I'm a social media geek combined with getting a shout out from Miss MN herself had me all like:

This social media stuff at weddings is dramatically different from back in 2000 when my wife and I placed those disposable cameras on each table at our wedding reception. The hope was our guests would be inspired to take candid photos. Yeah, that didn't go so well.


Monday, January 25, 2016

Bullet proof

I've probably said it hundreds of times regarding this election cycle, but conventional wisdom in 2016 is no longer...uhhh....conventional.

For instance, when "Republican" presidential candidate Donald Trump (whose consistently large lead in the polls is still beyond confounding) makes this claim.....

"I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters."

.......and it doesn't dominate a news cycle for more than 48 hours, you know it's a whole new ballgame.

By the way, do you believe such a statement is more indicative of how arrogant and crass Trump is or how firmly entrenched his supporters have their collective heads in the proverbial clouds?

I'm inclined to believe it's a combo platter.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Somebody's gonna come undone. There's nothin' we can do.......

It's NFL championship game Sunday, so why not get the afternoon started with the Northern Alliance Radio Network? My 1-hour program The Closer gets started at 2:00 PM Central Time.

You'll notice that I will eschew my usual format for choosing bumper music (not that many of you know what that is anyways) by paying homage to Eagles' founder Glenn Frey. I will also weigh in with my perspective on Frey's career.

At 2:30, author/columnist/friend of the NARN Katie Kieffer will check in. We'll discuss the latest in the GOP presidential race, specifically Katie's belief that the Republican "establishment" and "elites" (or are they one in the same?) are looking to undermine Donald Trump's candidacy.

So please give me a call at (651) 289-4488 if you'd like to weigh in on any of the topics I plan on addressing. You can also text comments/questions to (651) 243-0390.

You can listen live in the Twin Cities at AM 1280 on your radio dial. In and out of the Minneapolis-St Paul area, you can listen to the program on the Internet by clicking this link, or check us out via iheart radio

Even though I have a face for radio, there is a UStream channel where you can watch the broadcast, if you so desire. Check it out here.  

And if you're so inclined, follow along on Twitter at #narn or "Like" our Facebook page.

Until then.....


Saturday, January 23, 2016

2015 NFL Playoffs: Conference championship games

New England Patriots (-3) at Denver Broncos: Naturally this is being billed as "Brady v. Manning XVII." Through the first 16 matchups, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady holds a decided edge with an 11-5 record. However, it's 2-2 in the postseason, including a 2-1 advantage for Peyton Manning in conference title games.

The real story here is will the Broncos' top ranked defense be able to slow down Brady & Co.? When Brady, TE Rob Gronkowski and WR Julian Edelman are all in the lineup, the Patriots have yet to lose this season. In fact, the Pats haven't lost a meaningful game with those three on the field since November 2014 in Green Bay (the Pats' loss in the 2014 regular season finale was meaningless since they had the #1 seed in the AFC sown up).

Last week, injured Steelers' QB Ben Roethlisberger threw for over 300 yards against the Broncos despite being without his top WR and top RB. The Broncos' D absolutely has to make some big plays against the Pats' offense since it appears noodle-armed Manning is a shell of what he was just two seasons ago.
New England 27 Denver 21

Arizona Cardinals (+3) at Carolina Panthers: Carolina's vaunted defense (#6 in the NFL in yards allowed) has begun to show cracks lately having allowed nearly 400 yards per game over the past four contests. They have the daunting task of slowing down the NFL's top offense (in terms of yardage) in this one.

Arizona QB Carlson Palmer threw two interceptions against the Packers last week, and it could have easily been five. If Palmer can limit those mistakes, the Cards have a great shot. And while the passing game is benefiting from a rejuvenated Larry Fitzgerald, the run game leaves a lot to be desired.

Carolina quarterback Cam Newton is being touted by many as the 2015 NFL MVP. He'll definitely have to play like one if Panthers are to win. Carolina would also be greatly aided by another strong performance from RB Jonathan Stewart. who last week against Seattle looked fresh after missing the final three games of the regular season. Anything to keep the Cards' offense off the field would go a long way towards helping the Panthers make their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.
Carolina 21 Arizona 17

2015 Postseason record: 
Straight up: 6-2
Against the spread: 3-5


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Three certainties

There are three things in this life which are certain to take place.



People who believe that a dusting of snow constitutes a "major storm" will be mocked by Minnesotans. Mercilessly.


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Quick Hits: Volume CXXIV

- In a presidential campaign that has defied all logic and conventional wisdom, why should Sarah Palin endorsing Donald Trump for President come as any surprise?

Yes, logic and common sense in this cycle died long ago. And if you believe National Review columnist Jim Geraghty, the Tea Party Movement has also assumed room temperature.

Trump’s an odd figure to win the heart of a public figure once so synonymous with the tea-party movement. He boasts of the influence his money has bought him with politicians, including Charlie Crist, Arlen Specter, and Harry Reid, some of the movement’s biggest enemies. He supported the TARP and auto bailouts and praised socialized medicine. He’s currently touting ethanol subsidies to the rafters in Iowa, and his tax plan would increase the deficit by $10 trillion, according to the Tax Foundation. The day the Tea Party debuted, he praised Obama as “a champion.”

And yet, here we are. The woman who became the Tea Party’s biggest star is officially behind Trump. How did the movement come to this? Why is it so marginal compared to the heights of its power in 2009 and 2010? Is it even a coherent political force anymore?

One thing that continually amazes me is how those who worked to get Republicans elected in the recent past were lectured by the likes of Palin et al that it's better to lose on core principles than win while compromising them. It's quite obvious that Palin and her ilk have abandoned that strategy. What's scary is they probably don't even realize it. This all about sticking a proverbial thumb in the eye of the GOP "elites."

- Suppose comedian Jeff Foxworthy became offended if a fan asked him if he found a car while mowing his lawn. How about if said fan also asked "Hey Jeff, if your porch collapsed, would it kill 5 dogs?" One would question whether Foxworthy should be so indignant given he's made a fortune on sharing similar anecdotes.

Yes, those are obviously fictional accounts. However, I'd have to say that this incident is pretty analogous to what I conveyed above.

- I've seen plenty of buzz on social media regarding the Netflix TV series Making a Murderer. It's a documentary about a man named Steven Avery, who was exonerated on a rape charge after serving 18 years in jail. After exposing corruption in the Manitowoc County, Wisconsin sheriff's department, Avery was then charged (and ultimately convicted) with murdering photographer Teresa Halbach. The crux of the issue is the same department that bungled Avery's rape case should not have been allowed to investigate the Halbach murder.

I personally have not indulged in this mini series, but Breitbart writer John Nolte did so recently and seemed to believe that filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos either omitted or woefully under-emphasized some key facts.

This is what the documentarians did not want us to know:

1. The bullet found in Avery’s garage came from Avery’s .22 rifle and contained Halbach’s DNA.

2. Handcuffs and leg irons were found in Avery’s home (a trailer), and Steven Avery admitted to purchasing them (for his girlfriend).

3. The mysterious key to Halbach’s car, the key that seemed to appear out of nowhere, has DNA from Avery’s sweat on it. You can plant blood, hair, and fibers. You cannot plant sweat.

4. Avery’s sweat DNA was also found on Halbach’s vehicle.

5. Using a false name, Avery specifically requested Halbach take the photographs of the vehicle he wanted to sell.

6. On three different occasions, on the day she was murdered, Avery not only called Halbach, he twice attempted to hide his identity using a *67 feature.

7. Brendan Dassey’s mother reported that, per her son, the large bleach stains she saw on his jeans on the night of the murder came from helping his uncle clean the garage floor, where the .22 bullet was found. The documentary makes a very big deal out of the lack of forensic evidence at the murder scene (the garage) but tells us nothing about the bleach stains.

8. Halbach’s cell phone was found in the burn pit. Slate explains why it matters that this crucial piece of evidence was left out by the filmmakers:

The issue of the cellphone is especially problematic. The series implies that whoever accessed Teresa Halbach’s phone on the day she died (which both Halbach’s brother and her ex-boyfriend admit to doing) might have been involved in her murder. But anyone with physical access to Halbach’s phone would have also been able to access her voice mail. Is that why this piece of evidence was left out?

9. Per a cellmate, while in prison, Avery openly fantasized about building a torture chamber for women.

10. Avery has a very troubling history of sexual violence. Slate again:

What’s more, at the time of Halbach’s disappearance, Steven Avery was being investigated for the alleged 2004 sexual assault of a teenage female relative, who claimed that Avery threatened to “kill her family” if she told anyone about it. Worse, Dassey alleged in a phone call to his mother that in the past Avery had touched him in places that made him “uncomfortable.” Stachowski claims that Avery beat her repeatedly, and Penny Beerntsen, who mistakenly identified Avery as her attacker in the 1985 rape, says that Avery called her up shortly after his exoneration, asking for money to “buy a house.”

11. Teresa Halbach had been out to Avery’s place in the past to take photographs and didn’t want to go back that day because he had once answered the door wearing only a towel.

One general sentiment I've witnessed is a belief that corruption in the Manitowoc legal system and the guilt of Avery & Dassey are mutually exclusive. As such, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker felt compelled to respond to pleas from viewers who wanted the two convicts pardoned.

It seems that this series could do just as effective a job of accurately depicting the shenanigans in Manitowoc County while also broaching the damning evidence used to convict the accused. Emphasizing the former while barely (if it all) addressing the latter would give one the impression of this being a propaganda series.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Glenn Frey: 1948-2016

If there's one venue which triggers memories more than most, it's music. Whenever I listen to Sirius XM radio channels '70s on 7, '80s on 8 or '90s on 9, I recognize the vast majority of the tunes being played. My favorites are the ones which help me remember at which point I was in life when said tunes were hits.

When The Eagles released the album Hotel California, I was in second grade. Sure, I was too young to understand the lyrics of the title track as well as other hits such as "Life in the Fast Lane" and "New Kid in Town." Nevertheless, the guitar riffs, drum beats and keyboard licks were immediately identifiable. And while I couldn't name one band member, I was able to easily ascertain that there were different lead singers at the helm for "Hotel California" and "New Kid...."

It was the early '80s when I really started to appreciate music and the artists who performed it. It was this time frame when I often heard radio DJs introducing tunes from "Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey." Frey had success with his solo work, often faring much better with tunes from TV and movie soundtracks. "The Heat is On" from the film Beverly Hills Cop and "You Belong to the City" from the TV show Miami Vice were both Top 5 hits. And thanks to classic Twin Cities rock stations like 92 KQRS, I was able to indulge in Frey's work with The Eagles. To this day, I still have two of The Eagles' greatest hits albums plus Frey's first three solo albums all on cassette. Yes, those were played on heavy rotations during my 30-minute commute to college in the late '80s/early '90s.

Despite Frey's 1988 album Soul Searchin' not having the same tremendous commercial success as, say, his soundtrack work, two of my favorite Frey tunes came from that album. For many many years, I fantasized about having the pipes to sing "True Love" to that special lady in the same vain as Frey belted it out. 

And while it may sound a tad corny, the song "Livin' Right" actually does give me a little extra juice while I'm exercising.

When The Eagles reunited for their Hell Freezes Over tour in 1994, I tried in vain to tickets when they made a stop in the Twin Cities. After not partaking in any of their handful of stops in Minneapolis/St. Paul over the next two decades, a high school classmate (and fellow Eagles enthusiast) strongly encouraged me to check out the band at a scheduled Target Center appearance. I didn't immediately jump on tickets when they went on sale in the spring of 2013 as they just seemed so darn expensive. As September 18, 2013 (the date of the actual concert) arrived, my high school pal Lisa asked if I was attending. I told her I was not. She then implored me to scour Stub Hub for some cheap tickets since this may be the last opportunity to ever see the band live. Lisa's persistence paid off as I was able to find an "obstructed view" ticket for about $95. Turns out, my view wasn't all that bad.

Here's a brief clip from that night, featuring the classic Eagles tune "Take It Easy" with Frey on lead vocals.

I hadn't really thought about it until that evening in September 2013, but Frey had been a significant part of my life's soundtrack. That fact was further emphasized when I learned of his death via the Eagles' Facebook page.

It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of our comrade, Eagles founder, Glenn Frey, in New York City on Monday, January 18th, 2016.

Glenn fought a courageous battle for the past several weeks but, sadly, succumbed to complications from Rheumatoid Arthritis, Acute Ulcerative Colitis and Pneumonia.

The Frey family would like to thank everyone who joined Glenn to fight this fight and hoped and prayed for his recovery.

Words can neither describe our sorrow, nor our love and respect for all that he has given to us, his family, the music community & millions of fans worldwide.

Cindy Frey | Taylor Frey | Deacon Frey | Otis Frey

Don Henley | Joe Walsh | Timothy B. Schmit | Bernie Leadon | Irving Azoff

Even though Frey is no longer with us, his 4+ decades of work will always be here. But it sure would have been nice to hear the entire gang (Glenn, Don, Joe, Timothy et al) in person just one more time.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

It was 1989. My thoughts were short, my hair was long....

The Vikings season is over and today may be the coldest Minnesota Sunday in some time. Sounds to me like the perfect day to sit by the fire with some hot chocolate while indulging in The Closer. The one hour festivities begin at 2:00 PM Central Time.

Speaking of the Vikings, I may take a short segment to discuss what I feel is a bright future despite a heart wrenching playoff loss last week.

I will also discuss the special primary election which took place in MN Senate District 35 (my home SD) as well as last week's GOP presidential debate.

So please give me a call at (651) 289-4488 if you'd like to weigh in on any of the topics I plan on addressing. You can also text comments/questions to (651) 243-0390.

You can listen live in the Twin Cities at AM 1280 on your radio dial. In and out of the Minneapolis-St Paul area, you can listen to the program on the Internet by clicking this link, or check us out via iheart radio

Even though I have a face for radio, there is a UStream channel where you can watch the broadcast, if you so desire. Check it out here.  

And if you're so inclined, follow along on Twitter at #narn or "Like" our Facebook page.

Until then.....


Friday, January 15, 2016

2015 NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round

Kansas City Chiefs (+4) at New England Patriots: A lot of folks are recounting Week 4 of the 2014 season when the Chiefs crushed the Pats 41-14 on Monday Night Football. It was that evening that some even went so far as to declare the Patriots dynasty effectively over.

Four months later, the Patriots were hoisting their fourth Super Bowl championship in the Belichick/Brady era.

No doubt the Chiefs are the hottest team in the NFL right now having won 11 consecutive games, including last week's 30-0 playoff win over Houston. On the other side, after a 10-0 start to the 2015 season, the Patriots have been downright lackluster, losing 4 of their final 6 and falling to the #2 seed in the AFC.

To me it's pretty simple. If Pats' all world Tight End Rob Gronkowski is healthy, he can't be stopped. But Gronk is battling knee and back injuries going into this game and is listed as "questionable." I'm sure he'll play but his effectiveness may likely be limited. QB Tom Brady suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 17 against Miami, so that too is definitely a concern.

It's hard to pick against a team that has been rolling for the past three months but it's also difficult picking against an elite coach and QB at home in the playoffs.
New England 21 Kansas City 20

Green Bay Packers (+7) at Arizona Cardinals: The Cards appear to be the most well balanced team remaining in the postseason, ranking in the Top 5 in yardage both offensively and defensively. However, they've suffered some key losses on D, losing Safety Tyrann Mathieu and LB Alex Okafor to season ending injuries. Nevertheless, the Cardinals defense will still prove to be more formidable than the Redskins' unit which the Packers were able to overcome last week.

Further hurting the Packers' chances is WR Davante Adams being unable to play due to a sprained MCL. While QB Aaron Rodgers has the ability to make others better around him, it's hard to so when he has little time to throw the ball. The Cards pounded Rodgers and backup Scott Tolzien for nine sacks 3 weeks ago in a 38-8 shellacking. I don't expect this game to be that lopsided again but I also don't believe it'll particularly close.
Arizona 35 Green Bay 21

Seattle Seahawks (+1-1/2) at Carolina Panthers: This is a rematch of Week 6 where the Panthers rallied from a 9-point deficit with less than four minutes to go to beat Seattle 27-23. The Hawks fell to 2-4 after that game and showed very little resemblance to the team which had been in the Super Bowl the past two seasons. But from that point on, Seattle finished the regular season 8-2 and then eeked out a win over Minnesota in last week's NFC wildcard game.

While being downright stingy defensively the first 13 games of the season, the Panthers' D has begun to show some cracks. They allowed an average of 388 yards of offense over the last three regular season games.

In trying to get a handle on this game, I look at the fatigue factor. Seattle traveled to Minneapolis last week and were able to grind out a tough win in miserable conditions. The team then flies back to Seattle, spends a few days there, then travels clear across country to Charlotte, North Carolina. Meanwhile, the Panthers have had time to rejuvenate the past two weeks and are remarkably healthy for this late in the season.
Carolina 20 Seattle 13

Pittsburgh Steelers (+7-1/2) at Denver Broncos: At full strength, the Steelers' explosive offense would have a tough task going in to Denver and beating the team with the #1 defense in the NFL. But when QB Ben Roethlisberger is unable to even throw the ball in practice due to a bum shoulder and his top RB (DeAngelo Williams - foot injury) and top WR (Antonio Brown - concussion) are both out for this game, "unlikely to prevail" would be an understatement.

The most intriguing aspect of this matchup is Broncos QB Peyton Manning starting his first game in two months. While Manning looked OK in the regular season finale against the San Diego Chargers, it remains to be seen how he'll fare in a full 60 minute contest. Brock Osweiler, who usurped Manning as starter the last seven games of the 2015 season, has a bum knee and is considered "questionable." If neither Manning nor Osweiler are available, it would be down to a rookie quarterback by the name of Trevor Siemian. That would be.....interesting.
Denver 28 Pittsburgh 14

Postseason Record:
Against the Spread: 2-2
Straight Up: 2-2


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Over early

The Minnesota state senate district where I reside held its primary election Tuesday to find a replacement for resigning senator Branden Petersen.

Two months ago the Republican delegates in SD 35 (of which I am one) voted to endorse activist (and, for purposes of full disclosure, my friend) Andy Aplikowski. However, Andy would have to overcome a GOP primary challenge from Jim Abeler, who served 16 years in the MN House before opting to run for U.S. Senate in 2014 (he was soundly defeated in that race's Republican primary). 

Over the past several weeks I was asked by a number of my local political friends how I felt the campaign was progressing and if I had any sense of who would prevail. I always uttered the obvious retort by saying "It depends on turnout." That and the fact Abeler never had to win votes in Andover, which is a much more conservative part of the Senate District. If we can turn out enough people there to effectively offset purplish Anoka (Abeler's hometown, where he consistently dominated by 3 to 1 margins in prior elections), Andy might have a chance. 

In the end, turnout in SD 35 was a paltry 10% of registered voters and Andy won ruby red Andover by a mere 3%. 


For the record, Abeler moves on as the Republican candidate in the special election February 9 thanks to a 61% to 39% win in the GOP primary. 

Low overall turnout and Aplikowski not dominating conservative Andover certainly were two main reasons Abeler prevailed. But perhaps the most significant factor was the open primary. Since there was only one Democrat candidate, there was no need for a lot of Dem voters to turn out and vote DFL. However, lefty voters know full well that SD 35 will not elect a Democrat in a general election, so a lot of Dems likely crossed over and voted in the GOP primary. As such, the lefty sentiment would clearly lean towards Abeler (who, in his MN House career, often voted to significantly increase spending) over the more conservative Aplikowski.  

Regardless, Andy has nothing to hang his head over. The amount of work he put into winning the party endorsement as well as the number of doors he knocked in bitterly cold weather in an effort to contact voters was remarkable. While I find it highly unlikely Andy will ever run for elected office again, I know he will always be a champion for conservative causes. And any campaign he feels is worthy of his time will have the hardest working volunteer they could ever find. 


Sunday, January 10, 2016

All too familiar

I've been a fan of the Minnesota Vikings for nearly 40 years now. Yes I've experienced some utterly devastating losses by my favorite NFL squad, particularly in the postseason. The NFC championship games of the 1998 and 2009 seasons immediately come to mind.

Oh, and the 1975 divisional playoff game at home vs. Dallas (aka the "Hail Mary" game)? Ugh.

The 1987 title game loss was tough to stomach, too. As was the 2003 regular season finale.

Well, you get the point.

In the immediate aftermath of Sunday's 10-9 wildcard playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks, all those aforementioned hideous defeats came to mind. As such, the obligatory pity party among my fellow Vikings fans commenced. When your team's kicker comes on for a 27-yard field goal attempt with 26 seconds remaining, you have to feel good about your chances, especially since he hit two of 40+ yards earlier in the game. So when Blair Walsh badly shanked wide left the potential game winner, many of us Vikes faithful (after collective shrieks of "NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!") threw up our hands and accepted this as our lot in life.

Nothing better illustrated the fans' post game vibe than the following Venn diagram:

While it was difficult to put things in its proper perspective in the immediate aftermath of such a tough loss, I was still able to feel good about the Vikings' immediate future. Besides, I had no delusions about them making a Super Bowl run this season (but it would have nice to gauge where they are had they been able to take on the 13-3 Arizona Cardinals next week).

I'm not lying when I say I feel optimistic going forward. It's clear that coach Mike Zimmer has put his stamp on this team in that they're in almost every game due to solid defensive play. Even better is the "D" is relatively young, so there's ample opportunity to become more formidable the next few years. And while many Vikings fans lament the offense not throwing the deep ball much due to QB Teddy Bridgewater's perceived limitations, we need to remember he's only 23-years old. This idea that quarterbacks are supposed to be the caliber of Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers the millisecond they make their first NFL start (or even within their first 2-3 seasons for that matter) is not realistic. While I'm certainly not guaranteeing 100% that Bridgewater can lead the Vikings to a Super Bowl, I believe he has the skill set, demeanor and intellect to be a very good NFL QB. And with the kind of defense Zimmer develops, a "very good" quarterback is  more than sufficient.

But for the next week or two, I won't be overly critical of my fellow purple & gold faithful for expressing regret and sadness over what might have been.


And when you smile for the camera, I know they're gonna love it....

It's frigid outside but the it'll be nice an toasty in the Patriot bunker this afternoon. So grab some hot chocolate, sit by the fire and enjoy today's edition of The Closer. The one-hour gab fest begins at 2:00 PM Central Time.

For the entire program, I will have guest co-hosts! Yes, my friends Julia Erynn and Kate Wilson will sit in to discuss politics, pop culture and anything else that may be on their minds. Heck, if all goes well I may cede the last segment or two to check in on the Vikings playoff game!

So please give us a call at (651) 289-4488 if you'd like to weigh in on any of the topics we plan on addressing. You can also text comments/questions to (651) 243-0390.

You can listen live in the Twin Cities at AM 1280 on your radio dial. In and out of the Minneapolis-St Paul area, you can listen to the program on the Internet by clicking this link, or check us out via iheart radio

Even though I have a face for radio, there is a UStream channel where you can watch the broadcast, if you so desire. Check it out here.  

And if you're so inclined, follow along on Twitter at #narn or "Like" our Facebook page.

Until then.....


Saturday, January 09, 2016

2015 NFL Playoffs: Wildcard

Kansas City Chiefs (-3) at Houston Texans: After a 16-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 6, the Chiefs' record stood at 1-5. A week later, the Texans trailed the Miami Dolphins 41-0 at halftime. They would go on to lose that game 44-26, falling to 2-5.

Since their respective low points, Kansas City closed out the 2015 season with 10 consecutive victories while Houston won 7 of its final 9 contests.

Look for this to be a defensive struggle as neither team features explosive offenses (an obvious statement given that Alex Smith and Brian Hoyer are the starting quarterbacks). Both teams feature strong defenses with the Chiefs ranking #7 in total yards allowed while the Texans are #3 overall. Look for a big game from Houston's all world DE J.J. Watt. That'll be the difference.
Houston 20 Kansas City 17

Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) at Cincinnati Bengals: This is not your father's (or grandfather's) Pittsburgh Steelers. Their six Super Bowl titles were won largely on the strength of good defense. But the 2015 Steelers rank third offensively in total yardage, thanks to QB Ben Roethlisberger and a trio of dynamic wide receivers, led by Antonio Brown (1.834 yards receiving and 10 TDs in 2015). However, Pittsburgh is pretty much one dimensional as their top running backs, DeAngelo Williams (foot injury in Week 16) and Le'Veon Bell (torn MCL in Week 6), are not available this game. Their third leading rusher? Backup QB Michael Vick with 99 yards.

In his 13 seasons as Bengals head coach, Marvin Lewis has had only three losing campaigns. He is arguably the best regular season coach in franchise history. But in the playoffs? 0-6. With quarterback Andy Dalton still sidelined with a bad thumb, A.J. McCarron will once again get the nod. In three starts since replacing the injured Dalton, McCarron has been solid. However, the postseason is a whole different atmosphere. And he also has the unenviable task of leading Cincinnati to their first playoff win since 1990. McCarron should have ample opportunity to put up good numbers against the NFL's 30th ranked pass defense. But will it be enough? I'm gonna roll the dice and say "yes."
Cincinnati 27 Pittsburgh 23

Seattle Seahawks (-5) at Minnesota Vikings: The Seahawks dealt the Vikings their most lopsided loss this year, a 38-7 shellacking at TCF Bank Stadium. In fairness, the Vikes' defense was severely undermanned due to the injuries of starters Linval Joseph, Anthony Barr and Harrison Smith. However, the Minnesota offense didn't score a single point while compiling a feeble 125 total yards. QB Teddy Bridgewater was under duress all day, including getting sacked four times.

In his fourth season at the helm, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson had perhaps his best all around season. While being dismissed as a "caretaker" his first couple of seasons, Wilson threw for over 4,000 yards and 34 TD passes in 2015. However, Seattle doesn't have a proven running game as Marshawn Lynch will not play despite being 50-50 a couple of days ago. And Thomas Rawls, who racked 101 yards in the regular season game versus the Vkings, is out for the season with an ankle injury. Ah, but that 'Hawks defense? Yeah, they're still good. They allowed the fewest points in the NFL this season as well as allowing the fewest rushing yards. No doubt that NFL rushing leader Adrian Peterson will have his work cut out for him.

While I don't believe Seattle will rack up the kind of yards offensively as they did in Week 13 against the Vikes, their defense seems to be back at that Super Bowl caliber level. While the Minnesota defense (when healthy) is itself a solid unit, it just can't match Seattle's.
Seattle 17 Minnesota 10

Green Bay Packers (+1) at Washington Redskins: I honestly don't recall Packers QB Aaron Rodgers enduring such a stretch of futility as he has displayed over the past 10 games or so. I can't tell if he has a nagging injury that is not being revealed or if he's become a little gun shy playing behind a porous offensive line. The potential good news there is it appears Tackle David Bakhtiari will return this week, though how effective he'll be is anyone's guess. I do see an opportunity for RB Eddie Lacy to have a good game, especially since the Redskins allow 4.8 yards per rush, which ranks 31st in the NFL.

Prior to the 2015 regular season, Washington head coach Jay Gruden basically staked his coaching career on the arm of quarterback Kirk Cousins, making him the starter ahead of what was once the franchise QB in Robert Griffin III. It turned out to be the right move as Cousins threw for 4,166 yards and 29 touchdowns. While Green Bay's defense is stingy against the pass, it appears they are once again without the services of Cornerback Sam Shields, who is still overcoming a concussion he suffered a while back. The Redskins may look to establish a running game given the Packers allow 4.5 yards per carry, which is 29th in the league. RB Alfred Morris ran for 100 yards in Washington's regular season finale, so perhaps he was just getting warmed up.

I don't see Green Bay making a deep playoff run but I believe they're the better team in this matchup.
Green Bay 31 Washington 24


Thursday, January 07, 2016

Meanwhile, back at MN 02......

The race for Minnesota Congressional District Two is one to keep an eye on since it's essentially a "toss up" this election cycle.

As such, news earlier this week from the Dem side in CD2 has really caused a stir.

The race to replace John Kline as representative of Minnesota’s Second Congressional District took a surprise turn Tuesday when Dr. Mary Lawrence, one of the leading contenders for the DFL nomination, withdrew.

For the moment, Lawrence’s withdrawal leaves Angie Craig of Eagan facing only token opposition for the DFL nomination, unless Lawrence’s withdrawal induces other DFLers to enter the race.

Political handicappers have long favored Craig to win the DFL endorsement for the seat, but Lawrence, who is wealthy and was viewed as able to raise substantial campaign funds, seemed headed for a primary challenge.

Officially, Lawrence said she was suspending her campaign, despite the fact that she feels that she could win a primary, because a primary campaign would be expensive and divisive within the DFL, reducing the chances of a DFLer winning the seat, which has been held by Republican John Kline since 2002.

While Kline typically won this district handily, President Barack Obama won CD2 in both his elections (a 2% margin of victory in 2008, less than 1% in 2012). And given we're in a presidential election year, turnout in this state will likely favor Democrats. That said, I am curious to know how voters in CD2 will react to Ms. Craig being endorsed by uber lefty Congressman Keith Ellison (MN-05) as well as uber pro abortion group EMILY's List. Again, you can argue that CD2 may lean Democrat this cycle but it sure as heck ain't Minneapolis.

On the Republican side, yet another candidate entered the fray.

Darlene Miller, President and CEO of Permac Industries in Burnsville, announced today she will run for Congress in Minnesota's Second Congressional District.

In a press release announcing her campaign, Miller said "ObamaCare, taxes, over-regulation, and deficit spending are crushing our country and killing the jobs that help the middle class."

"Working families and small businesses need Washington to get out of the way and I look forward to fighting for them in Congress," said Miller.

Miller joins a crowded field of other Republican candidates, which includes David Gerson, John Howe, Jason Lewis, Pam Myhra and David Benson-Staebler.

In an interview today, Miller said she would run in the Republican primary and will not abide by the endorsement of the Republican Party for Congress.

Nice of Ms. Miller to not leave any wiggle room.

Prior to Miller's entrance into this race, I was hard pressed to see any of the other GOP candidates being formidable in the general election. Yes, I know Lewis is articulate and knowledgeable on the issues. However, the fact he doesn't live in the district will (fairly or unfairly) continue to dog him. That and he's running in an R+2 district, which may not be amenable for someone with his far right/libertarian-ish bona fides.

I guess I'm eager to see what Miller brings to the table. If nothing else, a general election matchup of two accomplished women who have never held elected office would be very appealing for political observers.


Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Quick Hits: Volume CXXIII

- It's been rumored for about a year now that MN state senator Dave Thompson (R-Lakeville) would not seek reelection in 2016. Last month I strongly suspected he was giving the vibe of an elected official who had decided to move on.

It was made official Tuesday.

In a statement, Thompson said he was moving to Charlotte, N.C., at the end of his current term, where he will open a new office for Renters Warehouse. He is currently vice president and general counsel for the company.

“Serving in the Minnesota Senate has been an honor and a privilege,” he said in the statement. “I was in awe the day I entered the Capitol to take my oath of office for the first time, and I have never taken for granted the faith and trust placed in me by my constituents."

The fetching Mrs. Carlson and I had the privilege of getting to know Dave over the past couple years, due in large part to our strongly supporting his 2014 gubernatorial candidacy. Unfortunately, Thompson did not even attain the endorsement of MN GOP delegates at the May 2014 endorsing convention. He chose not run in the primary election, abiding by the party endorsement.

With Thompson not being elected governor in 2014 and now moving out of Minnesota in 2016, my home state is a two-time loser.

- Upon conveying a new set of executive orders in an attempt to "curb gun violence," President Barack Obama teared up when thinking of the children (particularly that youngsters killed December 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT) whose lives were taken via gun crimes.

Look, I'm not going to pretend I know whether or not Obama's emotions were genuine. Heck, I'll even grant that his sorrow was legitimate. But it marks a stark contrast to the demeanor he gives off when American citizens are killed as a result of jihadist terror or when border agents are murdered with guns the feds allowed to get into the hands of smugglers.

Just sayin'.....

- Of the 67 state senate districts within Minnesota, I would venture a guess that the district where I reside (SD35, comprised of Anoka, Ramsey, Andover and northern Coon Rapids) has to be in the top 10 if one were to rank from most conservative (1) to least (67).

With a special election coming up to replace resigning state senator Branden Petersen, the Star Tribune weighed in on whom they'd like to see prevail in the GOP primary this coming Tuesday the 12th. Former House member Jim Abeler, whose voting record reads more like that of a pro life Democrat, has been given the Strib's blessing over my friend (and Republican endorsed candidate) Andy Aplikowski. Not really a surprise at all give that it's....well.....the Star Tribune.

It's pretty clear what the Strib is insinuating here:

With no party registration or loyalty pledge as an impediment, any qualified District 35 voter can cast a primary ballot.

Translation: Abeler is as close to a Democrat as you'll get in SD35. Here's your chance to make it happen, DFLers.


Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Monday, January 04, 2016

How Sweet It Is!!!

For the first time since 2009, the Minnesota Vikings are NFC North Division champions!!

It wasn't easy and it wasn't pretty, but the Vikes defeated their bitter rival the Green Bay Packers 20-13 in Lambeau Field last night. That win also broke the Pack's 4-year stranglehold on the division.

The Vikings will now host the Seattle Seahawks next Sunday while Green Bay travels to Washington, D.C. to take on the Redskins.

A few thoughts/factoids:

- Before the season I predicted the Vikes would win 9-10 games, which would be good enough for a wildcard berth. The 11 wins and a division title exceeded my expectations slightly.

- The Vikings went undefeated on the road (3-0) against their NFC North foes. That matches their road win total against those same three teams in the previous six years combined (3-14-1).

- For the first time since the NFC Championship Game at Metropolitan Stadium on December 26, 1976, the Vikings will be hosting an outdoor playoff game.

- About a month ago, the Vikings suffered their worst loss of the season when the Seattle Seahawks came to town and thumped them 38-7. The early line has Seattle as a 5-7 point favorite over the Vikings. While I do not believe the Seahawks will give a repeat performance (the Vikings will be much healthier on defense), they look poised to make a third consecutive trip to the Super Bowl given their play over the past 10 games. I'll have my official prediction this weekend.


Sunday, January 03, 2016

I am older now, I have more than what I wanted.....

It's the inaugural show of 2016 for The Closer! I had a blast in 2015, so let's hope 2016 brings us even more fun and frivolity. Today's one-hour broadcast kicks off at 2:00 PM Central Time.

Some of the topics I plan on addressing include the Donald Trump delusion, Bill Cosby being brought up on assault charges and the attempts by certain individuals to coerce NBA star LeBron James into standing up for their cause.

So please give me a call at (651) 289-4488 if you'd like to weigh in on any of the topics I plan on addressing. You can also text comments/questions to (651) 243-0390.

You can listen live in the Twin Cities at AM 1280 on your radio dial. In and out of the Minneapolis-St Paul area, you can listen to the program on the Internet by clicking this link, or check us out via iheart radio
Even though I have a face for radio, there is a UStream channel where you can watch the broadcast, if you so desire. Check it out here.  

And if you're so inclined, follow along on Twitter at #narn or "Like" our Facebook page.

Until then.....