Surprise! Surprise? Surprise!?

Oct 23, 2012 at 9:26 am

The word surprise has a simple meaning in Webster’s Dictionary.  But when it comes to sports, it has as many meanings and emotional ties than just about any word I can think of.  Just check down the football list in Minnesota and you go from glee to glum and all with the use of the word surprise.

Surprise #1:  The Minnesota Vikings.  3-13 last season.  Already 5-2 and only one half game behind Chicago in the NFC North.  You knew AP and Percy would be good.  You knew that Ponder was likely to be a bit better.  You knew that Jared Allen would be a force on the d-line.  But the defense as a whole, especially the secondary, has been a massive surprise this season.  With their schedule, the Minnesota Vikings are a viable playoff contender down the stretch.  Wow! What a surprise!

Surprise #2:  The St John's Johnnies.  At 3-4 and only 1-4 in the MIAC, St Johns is in a rare position of not being a factor in the conference or nationally.  The past couple of seasons have seen the Johnnies drop a bit, but with three games left in the season, just trying to finish over .500 is left to be decided.  And the surprise of surprises is a small grumbling about the coach, one of the most beloved and the most winning coaches in football history.  Are you kidding me?  Even traditional powerhouses cycle through a rough stretch now and then.  And before you know it, they are right back in the mix.  And when – not if – that happens, it will not be a surprise.

Surprise #3:  The SCSU Huskies:  Surprises in football don’t necessarily need to be from a season.  They can be from a game.  That is the surprise that likely will keep the Huskies out of the NCAA tourney this season.  Northern State 28 and St Cloud State 27.  A shocker and surprise result from Saturday the 20th.  The Huskies were riding a 4 game win streak, including a road win over the then-unbeaten Wayne State, and, of course, the unbelievable win on the last play over then-#2 UMD.  Well it was the last play that doomed SCSU.  A hail mary pass for the Wolves snatched a fifth straight win from the Huskies.  SCSU can still finish 8-3 but will need a lot of help to get into the NCAAs.  If they miss, it would be a big surprise.  If they get in, it would be a big surprise.  So again, surprises on both ends of the emotional spectrum.

And finally, surprise #4:  The Apollo Eagles:  A program mired in a 22 game losing streak including the first 5 games of the season this year.  But they seemed differen,t even in defeat.  They were competing and “coming close.”  And surprise, it finally ended with a narrow victory on the road at Sauk Rapids/Rice.  But the Eagles surprise was just beginning.  A win over arch rival Tech, the first since 2003, was followed by a road win over Fergus Falls.  The Otters only needed a win to secure the Central Lakes Conference title.  So surprise, surprise, the Eagles are hosting a playoff game and are favored to move into the Sectional semi’s. 

It’s what makes sports fun at any level.  The unknown factor, good or bad, known as “ the surprise.”

Don Lyons

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