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Patrick Reusse: As fans return to seats, so does giddy anticipation
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Patrick Reusse: As fans return to seats, so does giddy anticipation

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FORT MYERS, FLA. — There was never a temptation to get on the MyPillow Man for Gov 2022 bandwagon, even though there were times when the current officeholder, Tim Walz, came off as something of a Grinch when keeping the reins tight on COVID-19 restrictions for Minnesotans willing to listen.

The inconsistencies were always traced to “following the science,” rather than what seemed the more accurate, “Hey, we have to try something.”

On Friday, Walz came out giddier than Uncle Wiggily on roller skates, considerably loosening restrictions and stating, “We’re winning and this thing is coming to an end.”

This happened to be the anniversary of a shutdown of sports leading the way for much of America to go into hibernation.

Utah’s Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus on March 11, the NBA announced late that night it was halting its schedule and we followed suit.

“We” being America, except perhaps for Dana White and UFC, which really doesn’t qualify as civilized activity.

I don’t want to overlook Walz’s devotion to following science, but when it comes to Minnesota, the current sports scene might have filled the governor with such hope that he said:

“Ah, what the heck, let’s allow some people to watch.”

As of Friday morning, there was no true bad news to be found among our sports entities. That might not be accurate individually for a young man such as Richard Pitino, but what the heck?

He’s going to get to walk away with another $1.7 million for underperforming in eight seasons as the Gophers men’s basketball coach, and the university’s hoops fandom will wind up with a coach who has a much better chance to win a road game.

I’ll take most anybody, although intrigue is building for Dennis Gates, the 41-year-old coach who miraculously turned around Cleveland State in his second season.

Beyond the Barn, what’s not to like?

I mean, only a few hours before Walz loosened the cinch on the saddle, the Timberwolves played their most impressive game since beating Houston in one game in the 2018 playoffs.

New coach Chris Finch had a guy go 6-of-7 on three-pointers. Lad named Nowell; not too familiar with him, but it’s great to know we now have a coach willing to tell his players, “When you’re shooting threes and they’re not going in, stop; when you’re making ‘em, keep shooting.”

The Wolves also have this advantage: As the Wild and the Twins are announcing ticket limits, they can answer the question, “Do you have enough tickets to sell?” with, “more than.”

The hottest tickets in town are going to be those 3,000 the Wild initially will be selling. The world — and especially Woodbury — waits for the opportunity to see Kirill Kaprizov live in person.

And that’s not all. Sources inform me that we finally have an explanation for the surprising success of coach Dean Evason’s athletes:

“They’re good, even in goal.”

As well as the Stanley Cup playoffs that might be bringing thousands to St. Paul this summer as pokes of vaccine continue to build, there’s also a strong possibility that in the near future a Minnesota men’s team could be winning the NCAA title.

The Gophers or Minnesota State Mankato — either one.

Meantime, the Lynx have reloaded to the point Maya Moore’s annual announcement that she would not be playing in the WNBA this season was greeted more with a shrug than the original shock, and the soccer team, Minnesota United FC, has added to a squad that reached the MLS semifinals — semifinals, right? — in the two-pronged season of 2020.

Vikings? We’ll wait on that, although I’m excited to watch Coach Zim fret over a new kicker. That’s always a riot.

And after watching bits and pieces of the Twins (because that’s what exhibition games have been so far — bits and pieces), we cynics can stop conceding the American League Central to the White Sox.

Chicago’s still the favorite, only because of the Twins’ uncertainty over the ability of third baseman Josh Donaldson, center fielder Byron Buxton and perhaps new shortstop Andrelton Simmons to maintain manageable health and start 130-plus games.

Donaldson looks like a beast making contact. Everything is leaving well over 100 miles per hour. Simmons will be golden at shortstop. Buxton is the Twins’ most valuable player when he’s in the lineup.

Right now, Kenta Maeda and Jose Berrios have the look of a big two, with viable options following them. I’ve been wrong before (please don’t remind me of 2016), but this team looks worthy of excitement to me.

And I’m convinced Gov. Walz agrees. He put the limit at 10,000 for a ballgame … TEN thousand.

Thank you, Uncle Wiggily.

Patrick Reusse writes for the Star Tribune

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