These were the top five happenings that I had a chance to consume in 2018. They are presented in reverse order of magnificence.
5. Minneapolis Armory, Aug. 24: Minneapolis welterweight Jamal James was headlining a Premier Boxing Champions event at this terrifically remodeled arena. A preliminary heavyweight bout featured Curtis Harper and an inexperienced Efe Ajagbu. Harper looked at the sculpted younger fighter, considered his modest payday and left the ring before the bell. As he took the elevated walkway, the crowd responded with equal parts laughs and jeers.
4. Siebert Field, June 3: The Big Ten champion Gophers were holding an NCAA regional and playing UCLA in the winner’s bracket. They rallied late, then Micah Coffey won the game with a double in the bottom of the 10th. One night later, the Gophers pounded UCLA to advance to a Super Regional for the first time. The little ballpark was jammed and Gophers baseball had been rediscovered.
3. Maturi Pavilion, Dec. 7: The Big Ten champion and No. 2-seeded Gophers were playing host to Oregon in the NCAA volleyball round of 16. They won the first set in routine fashion, and then came the second. On and on it went, in breathtaking fashion. After an overturned point, Oregon won 41-39, sparking the Ducks to an upset. But that second set … it was epic.
2. Target Field, Sept. 12: Willians Astudillo, the swing-first rookie, singled home a run to give the Twins a 2-0 lead over the Yankees in the seventh. Max Kepler followed with a gapper to left-center and there went Astudillo, hair flying, running as hard as any player had ever run, to score with a slide. “I wanted to show that chubby people run, too,” La Tortuga (The Turtle) said.
1. Lighthouse Tiki Bar, Jan. 14: I found this Vikings hangout on a cold day on Fort Myers Beach to watch the Saints playoff game. Some attendees were part of a bachelorette party from Minnesota. Bridesmaid Kenzie Weber was psychotic in her Vikings fandom and collapsed to the floor moments after Keenum-to-Diggs. Turned out it simply was a case of too much delirium.
Read Reusse’s blog at startribune.com/patrick.
• Timberwolves 112, Denver 106 (OT), April 11. The Wolves returned to the playoffs on the last night of the regular season at Target Center. It was a hellacious game and included a great performance from the now-unloved Jimmy Butler.
• Mind-boggling display of overwhelming defenders by the Gophers’ 6-9, 400-pound freshman right tackle, Daniel Faalele, in past several games. Keeps progressing and the Aussie’s a top-five pick in the 2021 NFL draft.
• Interviewing Mike Smith on his formative days as a young star at Canterbury Downs three decades earlier, and then watching him ride Justify to victory in the Belmont Stakes for the Triple Crown.