In late June and July, Vikings players scattered across the continent to train on their own in anticipation for training camp and the season.
Trae Waynes might have picked the most interesting place to work out.
Waynes and good friend and high school teammate Melvin Gordon spent Fourth of July weekend in Las Vegas, where they got a chance to train in the gym of undefeated world championship boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr.
While Mayweather was not present, Waynes said it was a thrill to lift weights, run on the treadmill, wallop a punching bag and do other exercises in the personal gym of one of the greatest boxers of all time.
“That’s something you see on TV,” the rookie corner said. “Actually being there was a cool experience because not a lot of people can do that.”
Waynes has never met Mayweather. “I met his bodyguard, though.” He said he was able to use his connections to get hooked up at the gym.
“Fortunately he was nice enough to open his gym for us,” Waynes said, adding, “I would love to meet Floyd. I don’t think there’s a fight he’s been in that I [rooted] against him. He’s a great fighter, a great athlete.”
In a Hot Take World, those of us who prefer more nuanced and measured approaches sometimes have to wade through a lot of shouty nonsense and clickbait headlines before finding the needles in the massive media haystack.
The Washington Post recently had one of those smart stories — the kind that really provide some depth to a discussion — on the future of ESPN and pro sports on TV as a whole. The premise: There have been a lot of gloom-and-doom pieces about ESPN lately, motivated by the company’s cost-cutting edict and the money being lost every time someone drops cable. (The subscriber base has dropped by more than 3 million in little over a year, a startling number that means every minute of the past year, six people have dropped from the base).
But amidst the gloom-and-doom there are larger questions. Namely: Could ESPN actually be better-positioned to survive the carnage better than others … and is the real story about what pro leagues might do with their televised content in the future? Some passages and information I found particularly interesting:
*Regarding what might happen in an unbundled world — one without cable or with enough cable-free households to really make a la carte a thing — there was this:
Michael Nathanson, senior research analyst at Moffett Nathanson, estimates ESPN would actually have to charge about $36 monthly in an unbundled world, but he thinks the network would still get more than enough customers. The sports networks really threatened by a move away from cable, according to Nathanson, are ESPN’s competitors Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports, both on a recent list he compiled of the 10 most expensive cable channels not among the most viewed.
“If everyone gets weaker, the bottom end of the market would get weaker, and (Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports) therefore would probably have less conviction to get into bidding wars with ESPN … for these sports rights,” said Nathanson.
A couple of interesting things there. First, $36 a month? That’s ludicrous. I don’t care how much I like sports. I’m not paying that. (It also makes something like Sling TV seem like a bargain, though that’s a very early trial and certainly subject to pricing change as the market shifts).
Second: The point that FS1 and NBC Sports would be in danger is a salient one. While both have positioned themselves nicely with some key contracts (particularly in soccer) and could shift more of the over-the-air programming from their parent networks to the sports-only cable channels, it is stands to reason that they are both far more vulnerable to a cable-less world. If you are only going to pay for one a la carte sports channel, which one is it? Probably ESPN.
*The cost-cutting is coming in an area in which ESPN feels like it can take hits — namely, the talent and not the TV product:
The departures of Bill Simmons, Keith Olbermann and Colin Cowherd have come when, according to The Hollywood Reporter, ESPN has been told to trim $100 million from its 2016 budget and $250 million from the 2017 budget. ESPN disputes these numbers, but let’s say they’re accurate. Yes, $100 million is a lot of money. But when your annual budget is in the neighborhood of $6 billion (and probably more) $100 million represents less than 2 percent of the overall pie. And ESPN is far from the only cable network looking to trim.
ESPN has a long track record of letting high-priced talent leave. ESPN does not have a long track record of letting competitors corner the market on live sporting events. The network has recently relinquished rights to some events — the British Open, U.S. Open golf and, according to a Monday Sports Business Journal story, the French Open — but with ESPN locked into deals with America’s major sports leagues for the rest of this decade, the sports cable landscape should stay relatively stable until the early 2020s.
Those are good numbers to keep all of this in perspective. That said, it does dovetail into a larger point that there will come a time when all of the massive TV contracts are up … and at that point, the major U.S. leagues — all of whom have their own channels, streaming means, etc — could wield a pretty big hammer.
The biggest threat to ESPN, and its competitors, is a scenario develops in which sports leagues can make more money televising their games themselves than they do now selling their television rights to the highest bidder. That day could come, analysts think, but not this decade.
Not this decade is a long enough time for us to forget about it for a little while, but we’re already halfway through the 2010s. I can’t shake the feeling that the pro sports on TV bubble — which is the thing really driving all the crazy money in pro sports in general when you consider what’s happening to the NBA salary cap and how much every NFL team makes before selling a single ticket — is exceedingly fragile long-term.
Everyone has a choice about whether they get cable, but once you unbundle, it becomes a far more conscious decision. And if this piece is correct, sports channels won’t find a feeding frenzy among thrifty millennials.
Maybe ESPN is in the best shape to ride it out, but make no mistake: the storm is coming.
For a week or so, Mike Priefer doesn’t mind being the second best special teams coach in Mankato.
That’s because he’s got a soft spot for the top dog in that department: Chuck Priefer, former Packers, Chargers and Lions special teams coach, not to mention the 74-year-old father and best friend of Mike Priefer.
“I like to work him, make sure he is coming here and he’s not going to eat for free,” Mike joked Monday when asked about his father’s annual visit to Mankato. “He’s going to make sure we are working him. He does a great job obviously; his experience is invaluable to me. He is my father; he was the best man in my wedding. We are very, very close.
“Just his experience and his knowledge, I tease him all the time that he’s forgotten more football than I know and a lot of times it’s true. He helps us with the specialist, we watch tape together and different ideas we swap back and forth. He’s a great mentor for me.”
The two also talk by phone during the season.
“We’ll chat every now and then,” Mike said. “He understands our schedule. I think the best time, when he was coaching in Detroit and it was my first coordinating job in Kansas City, we would talk for about an hour every Tuesday, just swapping ideas.
“He would have a chance to watch my tape, I would watch his tape and we would swap ideas and talk about different teams and personnel. Even now, he’ll get a chance, he’s the biggest Vikings fan out there, and so he will watch out games and critique us a little bit and try to help me out.”
Chuck coached 30 seasons, including 17 in the NFL. Mike is gaining on him heading into his 22nd season overall, 14th in the NFL and fifth with the Vikings.
So, did they ever stand on opposite sidelines on game day?
“One time,” Mike said. “I was the assistant special teams coach of the New York Giants and he was the special teams coordinator for the Lions. It was in Giants Stadium and I don’t want to tell you who won.”
It was in the early 2000s. Chuck’s Lions won.
“That game was really hard on my wife,” Chuck said.
The family met for dinner the night before at Chuck’s hotel.
“My mom wouldn’t tell us who she was going to root for until that night,” Mike said. “Finally, she said, ‘I’ve thought it over and I have to root for our paycheck. My own mother didn’t root for me.”
Mike was joking. Chuck laughed as his son put a hand on dad’s shoulder and joined in.
On most mornings, we walk you through what’s going on with the Vikings.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— Get to know veteran cornerback Terence Newman, who sure as heck didn’t come to Minnesota just to be a mentor.
— Vikings coach Mike Zimmer will miss today’s practice to be with his ailing father. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner will run things.
— Left guard Brandon Fusco is settling in at his new position, while also trying to quickly develop chemistry with left tackle Matt Kalil.
— Jarius Wright talked about the latest injury to friend and fellow 2012 draft pick Greg Childs, saying he worries about his long-term health.
— The Vikings are trying to figure out where to play rookie lineman Austin Shepherd, but Zimmer says he’s “a guy that kind of knows how to play.”
AROUND THE NFC NORTH
— Packers tight end Andrew Quarless was devastated by the recent death of his daughter at birth. He has now returned to the Packers.
— Haloti Ngata, the big defensive tackle the Lions acquired in a trade with the Ravens, is on the non-football injury list with a strained hammy.
— Freed from the passive and possibly outdated Cover Two defense, the Bears are going to get aggressive under John Fox and Vic Fangio.
TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE
The Vikings are holding their second night practice of training camp tonight from 7:15 to 9:15 at Blakeslee Stadium. The walkthrough is at 10:30 a.m.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
It’s going to be interesting to see how many offensive linemen — and which ones — make the 53-man roster. Matt Kalil, Brandon Fusco, John Sullivan and Phil Loadholt are locks. Mike Harris, the starting right guard right now, appears to be in pretty good shape, too. And then you have youngsters T.J. Clemmings, Tyrus Thompson, Austin Shepherd and David Yankey. Throw in veteran Joe Berger, Eden Prairie’s Carter Bykowski and maybe even second-year center Zac Kerin and it becomes a crowded group. A recent draft pick or a semi-surprising veteran might not make the squad.
I make a grocery list every week. Actually, it’s pretty much the same list. I keep it on my iPhone — a list of staples I generally need to buy every week. Then I can add things to it, but the base list stays the same. You could argue I should remember it by now, but I almost always bring my daughter with me. It’s a thing we do. She’s fun, but she’s a major grocery distraction. It’s good to have a reminder.
So: it’s a good system, but it’s pretty boring. If I was going to really liven things up, I would probably do this: turn the grocery list into a weekly ranking of things I’m most excited to buy. That list, too, would be kind of static. For instance, ham would almost always be near the top; bread would be a bottom-feeder. But I buy enough different things every week that a grocery power ranking of sorts could be intriguing.
Why is this? Why does a list become so much more interesting when, instead of just writing a bunch of things down in any order, you make it a RANKING and assign value? Probably because we all have the desperate need to compare and feel valued — to have winners and losers. As such, a list of all the running backs is BORING. But a list of the top 10 running backs in the NFL, even if it’s just the opinion of an SI.com writer trying to fill a slow day, is EXCITING.
And so: Here’s Doug Farrar’s list of the top 10 running backs in the NFL. Go ahead and click the link. Then keep scrolling. And scrolling. Did you find Adrian Peterson yet? No? Keep scrolling. Did he leave AP off the list completely!? What an outra- … no, there he is. Number 10. Number 10? Number 10. What do we think about that? Well first, here’s part of what is written:
The great unknown. Should Peterson be higher on this list, given his amazing career accomplishments, and the fact that he ran for nearly 1,300 yards in 2013? The year off due to off-field issues will have some wondering about his conditioning, while others will say that it gives him a new lease on life from a physical perspective. One thing’s for sure: Peterson turned 30 in March, and that’s a bad place to be for any running back. The Vikings re-worked his contract in late July — they’re giving him $20 million guaranteed, so they certainly believe that he’s still got it.
So Farrar seems conflicted about where he puts Peterson, but not enough so to put him above the likes of Lamar Miller and Justin Forsett — guys who could be labeled as pedestrian or at least not nearly as accomplished as Peterson.
Then again, it does seem to be a list refreshingly grounded in foresight instead of hindsight. If anything, ultimately it’s a reminder of what an unknown this 2015 version of Peterson is — and what a fascinating case study about rust, motivation and the sands of time this will be.
I welcome your comments on Peterson’s spot on the list and what would be in your grocery store top five.