Good riddance, decade of the steroid.
Hopefully, a day comes when I don’t look back on the 10-year stretch from 2000-09 as the decade of the steroid. But there remains a gray area between what was accomplished on the field and what we can believe to be true of those who accomplished it.
Was it real? Do we care if it was?
I’ve always thought the essence of sports is that fans should be able to see athletes doing things were all capable of doing had we put our minds and bodies to it while we were younger.
That belief came under attack this past decade, since I’m guessing the majority of sports fans would say they’re not willing to shave years off their lives to improve on the field of play. Of course, if many of these fans were in the position that pro athletes are in, with millions of dollars on the line, they’d probably change their tune.
The "cloud of suspicion" seems to hang above many of the great athletes of today, most notably in baseball, but not exclusively to it. There were even whispers of Tiger Woods when it came to light he was connected to a doctor who’d been tied to performance-enhancing drug use.
Also this decade, we saw the four major sports teams in this market continue to chase but not secure a championship. It’s now been 18 years since a major pro sports team in Minnesota won a title, quite a feat for a market with teams in all four leagues.
For the Minnesota Vikings, their chase for an elusive Super Bowl title continues. In the past decade, the death of Korey Stringer and the "Love Boat" scandal rocked the team.
But their story for the decade remains incomplete. Despite recent struggles, Brett Favre is leading an 11-win Vikings team into an NFC playoff field full of teams not playing their best football.
The Minnesota Timberwolves finally had their breakthrough this decade, as for the first time in franchise history the team advanced past the first round of the NBA playoffs and reached the conference finals in 2003-04. The Wolves have yet to play in another playoff series.
Kevin Garnett rose to superstardom during the decade for the Wolves, winning an NBA MVP award. His trade to the Boston Celtics may have given the Wolves some young talent, but it also stripped the franchise of its identity. One look at the crowds during a TV broadcast proves that.
Garnett won his title in Boston, and famously said, "This is for everybody in ‘Sota." FAST FORWARD to 50-second mark
The decade also saw the return of the NHL to Minnesota in 2000, as the Wild saw the puck drop for the first time.
It has not been a noteworthy decade on the ice for the Wild, though I contend their unlikely run to the Western Conference finals in 2002-03 remains the most exciting playoff run a team from the state went on during the decade.
For the Twins, they found a formula this decade of how to do a lot while spending a little. While they may not have won a World Series, their five AL Central division titles can’t be overlooked. During the 1990s, that was a feat hard to imagine.
The Twins produced such stars as Johan Santana, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer during the decade. Fans in the Upper Midwest played host to a Cy Young winner and multiple AL MVP winners.
Some may bicker that if the team spent a bit more, they could better position themselves to contend for a championship. Can’t argue with that. But this is a franchise that year-in and year-out contends in its division.
It’s been quite a revival for the franchise during the decade. The Twins were nearly contracted at the start of the decade, and by the end of it they’d secured a new outdoor stadium set to open next season.
But the biggest story for regional sports fans was the death of Kirby Puckett, who died one day after suffering a stroke in 2006.
Puckett, whose baseball career was cut short when he developed glaucoma in one of his eyes, saw his image struggle in the public eye following his retirement. He was arrested in 2002 and charged with groping a woman in a bathroom. The following year, Sports Illustrated had an unflattering story under the headline, "The Rise and Fall of Kirby Puckett," which documented some of his off-the-field troubles.
In his later years, he disappeared completely from the public. His death remains for myself and others as one of those moments that you remember exactly where you were when you heard the news.