"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

Focus of pride in Morris MN: our school! - morris mn

Focus of pride in Morris MN: our school! - morris mn
Our school in Morris is a hub of community activity and enrichment. (B.W. photo)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Does UMM need The Register anymore?

The University Register newspaper is available at City Center Mall on Morris' main street. It's the student newspaper of the U of M-Morris campus. It's free.
I often grab a copy if I see a new issue is out. Most often it isn't worth the trouble to bring it home.
By far the most effective news source for the U of M-Morris is the official UMM website. That website has no "dead tree" (paper) counterpart. It sprouted and has grown and flourished online. I don't think anyone complains that there is no paper version.
Of course, if you want, you can use the "print" button on your computer and print off as many pages as you want, if that's what turns you on. But who needs that?
And for that matter, is there any real need for a "dead tree," ink-on-paper student newspaper?
We live in a new communications universe. The brilliant young minds of the University of Minnesota-Morris are certainly attuned to that.
The campus paper seems like a relic of a bygone time. When I was a kid it was called the Vanguard. It had another incarnation as the "C.C. Writer" (initials standing for campus and community).
The Register has been around for a while now.
We also had an oddball entry in the campus "dead tree" reading scene, called the Counterweight. It trumpeted conservative political views.
A retired UMM administrator told me that the Counterweight was sold to UMM on the basis of the Register being too left-leaning (politically). We were bemused by that. He also told me that "outside money" was involved.
What, from right wing political causes? I'm shocked.
I have actually viewed the University Register as being quite bland. I have never perceived it as pushing left wing thought, at least not to the extent it gets a reputation.
College youth are supposed to be a little receptive to left wing thought anyway. It's an idealistic phase in our lives. We're supposed to believe a little bit in the potential of government to help people and ameliorate the lot of the needy.
With time we learn life isn't that simple, but there's nothing wrong with going through that more idealistic phase.
The Counterweight took exception. Fine. There's room for all kinds of opinions. What we don't need anymore is for forests to be chopped down for these publications to be bundled and physically distributed.
UMM's own website sees no need for a paper component (unless you just want to press that "print" button). So why should anyone else?
It's tradition, I suppose. We assume that a college campus should have its "newspaper." As with all legacy things, it's tough from an emotional standpoint to yank it.
Except that I really don't think it would be tough.
UMM students, of all people, are ready to establish their communications orbit within the electronic media. The campus paper seems like just a curiosity. Whatever positive things it offers could be gleaned online.
And it can do negative things. This is what I noticed when I picked up the December 2 issue.
"Wow," I thought, as I read the headline "MCSA votes down the 'Green Dorm.' "
MCSA is student government. The headline was too hard-edged. Student government does not have the power to nix the Green Dorm which is a high-priority building proposal by UMM's administration.
The article reported that "the administration wishes to bring a strong presentation of the plan for approval by senior University officials and the Board of Regents."
I hope none of those suits ever came across the December 2 edition.
The headline put a cloud over the Green Dorm for reasons that still aren't clear to me. The article could have elucidated. It didn't.
Oh, but it did advise readers to check the MCSA website the next week. There we could read the meeting's minutes (after they were approved) and learn the identities of the persons voting "yes" and "no."
It was a 9-9-3 vote (on proposed endorsement) and thus failed.
So there you have it: a dead tree publication steering people to the Internet where they could get all the blanks filled in. So why couldn't the Internet be the vehicle for the whole process? No need for a blunt, almost misleading, headline in a physical product that is placed in stacks around the community.
No opportunity to revise, correct, clarify or soften. It's permanent.
Which in the old days was the way it had to be. Newspapers were the Fourth Estate. Woodward and Bernstein saved the Republic (well, not really).
Newspapers were bastions of honesty and virtue, except of course that they're owned by people who have an agenda just like we all have an agenda. And it's not necessarily synonymous with virtue.
Today, the desperation of many newspapers just to survive probably clouds their judgment on a lot of things. So don't give me the virtue argument.
Woodward and Bernstein and their adventure were an aberration anyway. You don't cover the local sewer commission meeting by thinking you're like Woodward and Bernstein, or Hunter Thompson.
The press in its printed form had its heyday but we're moving on.
Online journalism is a rigorous meritocracy. The wheat gets separated from the chaff. People want helpful information and they'll find it where it exists. We're not left to shake our head at a foggy article on an MCSA meeting.
We can demand more and we'll get it.
When all else fails, read the official meeting minutes. This applies to all levels of government. The City of Chattanooga (Tennessee) has recently tried to get its legal notices posted online only, relieving them of the cost of dealing with a newspaper.
There has been talk about this option all over the USA. Often there is foot-dragging with fundamental change like this. We should have had smoking banned from restaurants ten years earlier. Someday legal notices will be online only and it will seem like the most natural thing in the world.
If UMM were to cease having a dead tree campus newspaper, I think the whole place would take it in stride. Let a few copies be preserved in a museum.
I saw an old Vanguard taped to a window there once, and there was a photo of a female student who looked like she stepped out of an Austin Powers movie!
Update: We learn in the December 9 University Register that the MCSA reversed course and endorsed the Green Dorm. But in neither article do we learn much about why the student representatives voted the way they did.
There were arguments about process and communications. But there had to be more to it than that, right?
Certainly the merits of the proposal had to weigh in. I'd be very curious to read about that. The paper gave no such satisfaction.
I stated in an email to a UMM administrator that this whole tussle over the endorsement of the Green Dorm came off like "a parody on student government."
Was that an accurate or fair view? I don't know. Maybe I could learn more online.
I'm glad the Counterweight is now dead.
Maybe the Register ought to meet the same fate.
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, December 27, 2010

Of bears, winter, fairy tales and "car clumps"

Bears hibernate in winter and maybe they have the right idea. Looking back on the past year, certainly the visit by a bear in Morris was a highlight. Someone decided to call him "Fluffy" and it caught on.
I actually think that "Fluffy" ended up going to that big bear's den in the sky (not to be confused with the old Bear's Den in Johnson, MN - "where the pavement ends and the west begins").
I think someone did a job on Fluffy like what Sarah Palin did to that poor caribou on that reality TV show. Even people who say they appreciate hunting probably are disgusted by seeing a beautiful animal in the remote wild suddenly dispatched by the opportunistic politician.
Marv Levy was an NFL coach who said publicly that he didn't appreciate hunting. Asked to elaborate, he said it was a mismatch. The game are no match for the hunters and all their tools and resources. What satisfaction is to be taken?
Levy emphasized that he didn't mean to be harsh toward hunters. He wasn't campaigning to make any of it illegal. He was just talking in terms of his gut perceptions. He was a very successful coach.
I continue to believe we were told a little fairy tale about "Fluffy." He wandered out of town and was happy ever after?
He "probably went back to where he came from?" Those were the words chosen by our city manager.
A black bear in town would seem to be a pretty serious matter. And in fact it was treated that way by the city manager's listing of agencies who had people on the scene here.
Why were all these professionals involved if the intent in the end was to just let the bear wander off? It would seem like a waste of time for those individuals. I'm assuming that the bear did not in fact wander off, into the night as it were. There would be too many liability issues for one thing.
If this was a domesticated black bear that had gotten loose, perhaps it could have been captured and transported away. And if that happened, there would be no problem with local officials reporting this to the local corporate media and having the story shared.
Dispatching the bear was a problem. He was on Facebook. Daycare kids had reportedly flocked to the scene. Gawkers congregated.
I speculated at the time that this episode would make great fodder for the "Andy of Mayberry" TV show.
If the bear had to be dispatched, I think there would have to be some plausible deniability. Barney Fife - excuse me, Chief Beauregard - would have to be able to go to the local media and tell the story the public could digest. No Sarah Palin with a bolt action rifle.
The bear would come down from the tree or be coaxed. This would happen in the dead of night with the gawkers in bed. The bear would in fact amble a block, or two, or three, but never leave the view of the most concerned officials.
In the meantime, certain other officials, the ones who would later meet with the media, stayed behind, the idea being that what they didn't know wouldn't hurt them. These people could say they never saw the bear being shot. And they'd be right.
There was a prevalent rumor at the time that it was "the DNR's bear." I'm not sure what exactly that meant, but if true, the DNR controlled the final outcome. Meanwhile the local officials could talk about the bear just "leaving town," as if he had just been kicked out of a bar or something.
Oh, it was a fun story. I strongly doubt its accuracy. I think the Sarah Palin-type scenario was almost certainly true.
We are in the dead of winter now. Christmas is just past and New Year's beckons. I'm a little disappointed that our University of Minnesota-Morris is closed for as long as it is. It went stone cold quiet beginning on the weekend before Christmas Eve. And since it's a full fledged semester break, the activity there won't resume shortly after New Year's.
And even when the activity resumes, along comes the three-day weekend for the MLK holiday that quiets the campus again. It's a bit much, in my view, and I'd feel more comfortable seeing a tight little break basically between Christmas and New Year's.
It's a wonderful little campus and it should be buzzing for most of the winter. It shouldn't be in hibernation like a bear.
Lately, we have seen the winter phenomenon of "car clumps" on cars. You know, those ugly mixtures of snow, ice and dirt that collect just behind your car tires, making you want to kick them off.
You never know how hard or soft they might be. You might stub your toe. Sometimes the clumps develop annoyingly close to the tires, seemingly 1/16 of an inch or so. So the potential for contact with the tires is there, when you turn. And this in fact can happen, audibly.
Sometimes you'll see these clumps in parking lots, having been kicked off. How unsightly they are.
Because it's uncertain whether they're hard or soft, you can never assume you can just drive over them. They are truly a part of the winter reality that helps define who us Minnesotans are.
The movie "Fargo" showed the William Macy character frantically applying the scraper to his windshield in a scene. It must have seemed curious to lifelong southerners. The Macy character (the type of car salesman I think we've all come in contact with in our lives) could just as well have been kicking off car clumps.
Groundhog Day is a celebration very symbolic of winter. We learned background of this in the Bill Murray movie of the same name. We learn that winter with all its disadvantages has its vital place in the sequence of our lives. Like hibernation with bears.
At least we know that the groundhog isn't dispatched. Murray would have a hard time doing that anyway, based on his problems with gophers in "Caddyshack." The gophers survived.
I doubt that Fluffy was so fortunate.
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, December 23, 2010

It was a busy Tuesday in prep sports!

Boys basketball: MA-CA 57, LQPV 43
The holiday break has arrived with the MA-CA boys having a definite feeling of "mo." The squad has been a little streaky thus far, with two wins to open the season, then two losses and now three straight wins. They went 2-0 in the Wahpeton Invite and resumed action Tuesday (Dec. 21) at Lac qui Parle Valley.
There was never any doubt about the outcome Tuesday. Coach Mark Torgerson's boys built a 20-point lead at halftime. Morris Area Chokio Alberta cruised in the second half and ended up winning 57-43. They now have a 1-1 conference record to go with their 5-2 overall numbers. Lac qui Parle is having a sub-.500 campaign.
The Tigers were led in scoring by Mac Kampmeier and Cole Riley each with eleven points. Alex Erickson, who had both of the Tigers' successful three-pointers, scored ten. The Tigers were two of ten in the long-range shooting department.
In total field goals they were 23 of 48, and in freethrows the stats were eleven of 18.
Riley Ahrndt and Travis Rinkenberger each put in six points in the winning effort. Other scorers were Eric Riley (5), Ethan Bruer (4), Cody Cannon (2), Brody Bahr (1) and Dan Tiernan (1).
Ahrndt and Cole Riley led in rebounds with eight and seven respectively. Erickson delivered six assists, and Cannon had two steals.
Eric Paulson stood out for the losing team with a very sharp shooting eye, as this Eagle sank five three-point shots. Paulson finished the night with 21 points.
In other boys basketball action of interest locally, Benson beat YME, Montevideo thumped Paynesville and ACGC got past BOLD.
Morris Area Chokio Alberta boys basketball is on Maxpreps:

http://www.maxpreps.com/high-schools/IdZz3zpLQEmFULYqjJwnSg/morris-tigers/basketball/home.htm

Girls basketball: MA-CA 52, LQPV 51
Tuesday was exciting on the home court for the MA-CA girls, who beat Lac qui Parle Valley with a dramatic flourish. Erin Schieler made the most memorable shot. This Tiger drained a shot with eleven seconds showing on the clock, giving coach Dale Henrich's squad the lead by one. All they had to do was survive the last few seconds, and this was accomplished as the Eagles misfired on their last two shot tries (from the lane).
The final buzzer sounded with the Tigers triumphant 52-51.
Coach Henrich might have been wringing his hands a little over his team's turnover problem in this game. But the winning outcome negated much or all of that disappointment. The turnover stat was 25.
Ball-handling might get a little more focus now, but in the meantime the Tigers can enjoy the holidays with a .500 record both in conference and overall (2-2 and 3-3). The season had begun on a more downbeat note.
Schieler's dramatic last shot capped a night in which she poured in 19 points. Let's continue down the scoring list: Hannah Sayles (9), Sarah Kuhn (8), Beth Holland (6), Erica Domnick (3), Shadow Olson (3), Holly Amundson (2) and Katie Holzheimer (2).
The Tigers made three shots from three-point range, in five tries, and Olson had two of those successes. Sayles had the other.
Kuhn attacked the boards for ten rebounds and she was followed in that department by Domnick with eight and Schieler with six. Olson set the pace in assists with three.
Three Tigers had two steals each: Natalie Johnston, Amundson and Kuhn. Schieler complemented her 19 points with five blocked shots.
The Tigers made 20 of 60 field goal tries and were ten of 21 in freethrows.
Jen Kack led the Eagles in scoring with 12 points.
Another WCC-South game played Tuesday had Paynesville defeating Minnewaska Area 46-38.
Check out the Morris Area Chokio Alberta girls basketball page on Pheasant Country Sports:

http://www.pheasantcountrysports.com/teamschedule.php?yid=1011&tid=1159&sid=1230274

Girls hockey: MBA Storm 7, LDC 2
Tuesday night was hockey night as both the MBA girls and boys teams glided onto the ice. The girls highlighted the action with their 7-2 win over Litchfield-Dassel-Cokato at Benson.
After a 1-1 stalemate in the first period, the MBA girls took over. They outscored LDC 4-0 in the second period and 2-1 in the third.
The Storm girls can enjoy the holiday break with a shimmering 8-2 record.
The LDC Dragons scored the first goal Tuesday after which the MBA scoring got going, first with a goal by Sam Falk with Kelly Mahoney and Monica Lindblad assisting.
The four MBA goals in the second period were scored by Sara Rajewsky (Sam Falk assisting), Sam Falk (S. Rajewsky and Dani Schultz assisting), Sam Falk again (Lindblad and S. Rajewsky assisting) and Schultz (S. Rajewsky and Mahoney assisting).
MBA polished things off in the third period with goals by Sam Falk (power play, Mahoney and S. Rajewsky assisting) and Kelsey Rajewsky (Schultz assisting).
The dueling goaltenders were Brooke Falk for Morris Benson Area and Kati Hanson for the Dragons. Falk's save total was 28 while Hanson posted 36 saves.
Check out the official website for MBA Storm hockey. It's new:
http://www.mbastorm.com/

Boys hockey: Little Falls 5, MBA Storm 1
There was a turnaround in the boys hockey game played Tuesday night. Things looked upbeat for the Storm boys after one period of play as they led 1-0. But the visiting Little Falls Flyers seized the momentum after that.
The Flyers quieted the home crowd at Lee Center by outscoring the Storm 1-0 in the second period and 4-0 in the third.
All that adds up to a final 5-1 score with the Flyers prevailing (flying).
Luke Schwarz scored that first period goal at 6:08 with an assist from Kelly Enquist. Little Falls' Luke Majerle struck with a second period goal to tie the score.
Which way would the momentum swing now? The Flyers' way, as Mitch Gregory, Sam Rydeen, Mike Holthaus and Joey Hanowski sent the puck into the net to humble the Storm, who nevertheless came out of the night with a season record over .500.
Andrew Fath had 38 saves as the Storm goalie. Mike Stumpf had 12 saves as the Little Falls goalie.
The Flyers' win was their fifth total. They outshot MBA 43-13 in getting win No. 5.
The MBA Storm have some business to complete before January dawns. There's anything but a hiatus for the holiday period as the Storm boys have a three-day commitment for the Northern Lakes Tournament. Dates for this action are December 27-29.
Viva Morris Benson hockey for 2010-2011!

Wrestling: MAHACA 51, YME 27
The MAHACA wrestlers wrapped up the pre-holidays phase with a satisfying 51-27 win over Yellow Medicine East in the Paynesville Triangular.
There was a string of MAHACA wins beginning at 152 pounds. That string began without drama as it was a forfeit that had Tiger Tim Ostby getting his arm raised.
Connor Metzger fought to a 4-3 decision triumph at 160 pounds. Wade Ehlers got his arm raised via forfeit at 171 pounds.
The rest of the dual had the Tigers taking command with wins by fall. Ryan Beyer at 189 pounds pinned his foe in 5:10. Joel Harrison got his opponent's shoulders pinned to the mat in 1:26. Big Zach Gibson crunched his foe, getting a fall win in 1:26 which reflected the way he exceled in the Cass Lake Invite.
Travis Ostby won by forfeit at 103 pounds. Evan Nelson lost by fall at 112 pounds. Dillon Johnson was decisioned by his foe at 119. Myles Smith won by fall at 125 pounds.
Seth Nelson and Jerid Berning were dealt losses by fall at 130 and 135 pounds. Jordan Thooft won by disqualification at 140.
The Tigers forfeited at 145 pounds, and then the skein of success begun by Tim Ostby unfolded, delighting the MAHACA fans who made the trip. Nothing can beat a pin at the top of the weight ladder.
Morris Area Hancock Chokio Alberta wrestling is doing well keeping nearly all of the weight classes filled with well-prepared competitors.

The Minnesota Vikings beat:
It's starting to feel like "Groundhog Day"- remember the movie with Bill Murray? - where each week we hear about Brett Favre being physically challenged and apparently unable to play. After all this dire news, we hear at game-time that this fossil of a quarterback is ready to play again.
But here's the question now: "why?"
The Vikings are out of playoff contention. There is no logic whatsoever behind playing him. It isn't in the Vikings' interests at all.
But. . .
It's in the interests of the NFL to keep Favre high-profile, because the Vikings were booked for several prime-time games and Favre remains good box office compared to the alternative. Also, by keeping the Vikings marketable (for the present), the league feels it has a better chance of selling a new stadium to the lemmings here (i.e. the Vikings faithful).
Rookie quarterback Joe Webb would only be interesting if he plays well and wins. It's possible, but it's too risky (from the league's standpoint) to allow that.
Favre is "box office" and he must play even if he's semi-handicapped or needs to be loaded with painkillers or steroids to perform.
I understand the league's thinking on this. But I certainly don't endorse it.
I'm waiting for the morning when we don't wake up to Sonny and Cher singing "I've Got You Babe" on the radio.
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

MA-CA boys sweep foes in Wahpeton Invite

MA-CA boys basketball set the tone for an especially contented holiday season with a 2-0 showing in the Wahpeton Invite (NDSCS). The success began on Friday, Dec. 17, with a nail-biting 66-60 win in overtime. Coach Mark Torgerson's boys outscored the Breckenridge Cowboys 12-6 in that OT extension, sealing the advantage.
More success was in store Saturday when the opponent was Fargo Davies. The Tigers built their early-season record to 4-2 with a win by five, 74-69.

Tigers 66, Breckenridge 60
Tyler Roske was a chief standout in this win that allowed the Tigers to creep back over .500. Roske had both of the Tigers' three-point shot successes, a department where the team numbers were two-for-eight.
In total field goals the Morris Area Chokio Alberta numbers were 26 for 61. In freethrows: 12-for-15.
Roske was at the top of the individual scoring list with 20 points. He also had three steals.
Cole Riley joined Roske in double figures scoring with ten points. Riley Ahrndt and Mac Kampmeier each put in eight, and Alex Erickson had seven. The scoring list also included Cody Cannon (4), Dan Tiernan (2), Eric Riley (4) and Travis Rinkenberger (3).
Cole Riley worked the boards for nine rebounds and Kampmeier collected seven. Erickson set the pace in assists with six.
The Tigers led 33-26 at halftime but got outscored 28-21 by Breckenridge in the second half, thus the score got deadlocked. The teams gamely took the court again for overtime. The Tigers seized the kind of momentum they enjoyed in the first half, to put this game in the win column by the final margin of six.

Tigers 74, Fargo Davies 69
Alex Erickson emerged as a prime contributor for Morris Area Chokio Alberta boys basketball Saturday. Erickson burned the nets for 19 points versus the North Dakota foe. He and Dan Tiernan each made a shot from three-point range.
Total field goals saw the Tigers make 24 of 54 attempts, and in freethrows the squad was busy with 24-for-32 numbers.
The Tigers led at halftime 29-22.
Erickson was joined in double figures scoring by Mac Kampmeier with 13 and Cole Riley with ten. Roske kept on making his important contributions, putting in eight points on this night, and Riley Ahrndt had seven.
Scorers also included Cody Cannon (6), Dan Tiernan (3), Eric Riley (3), Ethan Bruer (3) and Travis Rinkenberger (2).
Kampmeier and Cole Riley led in rebounds with ten and eight respectively. Cole Riley and Erickson each delivered four assists to lead there, and Erickson and Roske led in steals with three each.

On the wrestling beat:
It was great for yours truly seeing long-time coach Al Hendrickson and wife Dolora at DeToy's Restaurant in Morris Sunday. I discovered it was a day of celebration as it was Al's birthday!
Hendrickson coached the wrestling Tigers through many memorable campaigns. In those days Hancock was a rival. So were the Road Warriors of CACG.
Times change and today the Morris, Hancock and Chokio-Alberta communities are together in wrestling. The accepted initials are "MAHACA."
I can't be totally sure if the program goes by "Tigers." These things get complicated and change too fast for me.
As I have editorialized before, I believe that all athletic programs that are based in Morris should just be called "Morris Area." This would be nice for casual fans who have a hard time keeping track of all this. We all know that the Morris area includes some wonderful smaller towns.
The Morris Area Hancock Chokio Alberta wrestling team made the long trip Saturday for the Cass Lake-Bena Tournament, a long-time schedule highlight around the holidays. It's a veritable mecca for prep wrestling and this year included 36 teams.
Big Zach Gibson rolled past five opponents while dropping just one bout. Zach took charge in his wins, getting four of them by fall en route to finishing third at his weight.
Tim Ostby was another high-achieving MAHACA athlete, placing fifth at 152 pounds. Ostby had a 5-2 day including three pins.
There were two Ostbys carrying the MAHACA banner. Travis Ostby was at the bottom rung of the weight ladder (the little guys) and he had a 1-2 day with his win coming by fall.
Evan Nelson vied at 112 pounds and placed eighth, winning three bouts and dropping three. Two of Evan's wins came by fall.
Jordan Thooft had a 2-2 day at 140 pounds with pins accounting for both wins. Connor Metzger went 3-3 at 160 pounds with two of his wins coming fall style. Ryan Beyer at 189 pounds won one bout and dropped two.
Other Tigers vying on the mat were: Dillon Johnson (119 pounds), Aaron Wehking (125), Seth Nelson (130), Jerid Berning (135), Wade Ehlers (171) and Joel Harrison (215).
MAHACA as a team had a middle of the pack showing, tying with Detroit Lakes for 20th place. Fergus Falls had the distinction of taking No. 1 in this very large and talent-filled collection of teams.
The holidays can be a trying time for the weight-conscious wrestlers, but surely they can enjoy the season to the hilt with the rest of us!
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Morris Benson skaters show high caliber

MBA girls 8, Luverne 0
The Morris Benson girls smothered host Luverne in a Saturday, Dec. 18, prep hockey game, prevailing 8-0.
A lot of the smothering was done by Dani Schultz. The accomplished Storm skater sent the puck into the net four times. She accounted for the first three goals of the game as the Storm asserted themselves en route to upping their season record to a glittering 7-2.
The shutout was accomplished by stalwart goalie Brooke Falk, whose save total was 16.
Schultz's first goal of the night had Sam Falk and Sara Rajewsky assisting. Schultz scored with a Rajewsky assist to put MBA up 2-0. Schultz's third goal was an unassisted job and it came at 3:45 of the second period.
Kelly Mahoney scored with an assist from Sam Falk at 5:54.
Rajewsky scored a shorthanded goal as the MBA momentum continued into the third period. Schultz assisted.
Schultz was back at it with a goal at 4:08 with an assist from Mahoney. Sam Falk sent the puck into the net with an assist from Mahoney at 6:10, and Kayla Benson scored the final goal, assisted by Sam Falk, at 13:44.
Autumn Wentzel was the Luverne goalie and she had 28 saves.

MBA boys 3, Luverne 2
The complexion of the game changed quickly when the Morris Benson boys battled Luverne Saturday. The pivotal stage was late in the second period.
MBA had to come from behind in this non-conference puck battle at Luverne. Come from behind they did.
Lifted by the back-to-back unassisted goals by Ethan Ratliff-Crain and Kelly Enquist, literally seconds apart, Morris Benson defeated Luverne 3-2.
The Storm overcame being outshot by the Luverne skaters (34-17).
The Storm carved out an early lead as Luke Schwarz found the net at 8:19 of the first period, assisted by Kelly Enquist. Luverne treated their home ice fans to a burst of momentum as Jonny Solam and then Jackson Frankenhoff scored.
Those decisive unassisted goals by the Storm followed. First it was Ratliff-Crain tying the score with his goal at 12:22 of the second. Luverne hardly knew what hit them as Kelly Enquist scored unassisted moments later (12:28), and now the Storm were in position to go home happy with a win.
There was no third period scoring.
Andrew Fath picked up 32 saves as the MBA goaltender. His goalie foe was Kendall Meyer whose save total was 14.

MBA girls 6, Detroit Lakes 1
The Storm flew up and down the ice on on Friday, Dec. 17, showing their trademark sharp execution. The Storm assumed control in this 6-1 home triumph over Detroit Lakes. The MBA fans at Benson cheered.
Brooke Falk put up a wall in goal and nearly achieved a shutout. Detroit Lakes' Callie Johnson got the puck past her to thwart the shutout hopes, in the fifth minute of period #3.
The MBA momentum built slowly, as the score stood 1-0 after one period of play. Dani Schultz scored that MBA goal unassisted. Schultz has been a prolific scorer and against DL she had a goal in each period.
It was Sara Rajewsky opening the Storm's second period scoring. She got an assist from Schultz and put the puck in the net at 2:17. Then it was Schultz showing her scoring wizardry again, scoring unassisted at 3:34.
Rajewsky was back in the scoring spotlight with a power play goal that included an assist from Monica Lindblad. Rajewsky found the net again at 15:11, scoring power play-style with an assist from Hanna Lindblad.
Schultz scored the only MBA goal of the third period, at 2:43, assisted by Rajewsky, and these two Storm skaters could each boast a hat trick on the night.
The score was 6-0 and the hoped-for shutout finally slipped away with that Johnson goal (Brianna Seebold assisting).
Goalie Falk had 24 saves in her nearly-perfect effort. Detroit Lakes goalie Veronica Roy finished with 23 saves.

MBA girls 6, LPGE-WDC 0
There were tons of highlights in the MBA girls' December 14 win over LPGE-WDC. Goalie Falk slammed the door completely in this game. Falk had 22 saves on the Long Prairie ice.
Meanwhile Dani Schultz showed a commanding offensive flair on her skates, scoring four goals in the Storm's 6-0 win.
Schultz gave MBA a 1-0 lead which was the score when the first period ended. Her goal was unassisted and came at 2:40.
Schultz also scored the second MBA goal and this came at 14:39 of the second period. Assists were chalked up by Sara Rajewsky and Morgan DeHaan.
MBA put some distance on the scoreboard with 4-0 dominance in the third period. Sara Rajewsky scored with an assist from Schultz. Schultz scored assisted by Kelsey Rajewsky, Sara Rajewsky put the puck in the net assisted by Hanna Lindblad, and Schultz wrapped up the night's scoring with a goal that included a Kelly Mahoney assist.
Sarah Holm worked in goal for LPGE-WDC and her assist total was 44.
The initials of the foe stand for Long Prairie Grey Eagle Wadena Deer Creek.

MBA boys 12, Sleepy Eye 2
The Morris Benson boys skated onto the ice on Tuesday, Dec. 14, to face Sleepy Eye from southern Minnesota. The action was at Benson and it was a night for the home team to shine.
The MBA boys assumed a 4-0 lead in the first period and went on to win 12-2. They outshot the Indians 54-12.
It was the conference opener for MBA and the conference is the Southwest.
Luke Schwarz scored on a power play to put the Storm on their way. Kelly Engquist and Ethan Ratliff-Crain supplied assists.
Brody Gimberlin put MBA up 2-0 as he achieved his first varsity goal, assisted by Tanner Picht and Mac Beyer. Ratliff-Crain scored with an assist from Beyer, and Tyler Hansen rounded out the MBA scoring in the first period with an unassisted goal.
Hansen was destined for a hat trick on this night. He also reached the significant plateau of 100 career points. The Storm onslaught continued unabated in the second period with four more goals to zero by a stunned Sleepy Eye team.
Hansen stayed in the groove as he scored the first two. Gimberlin contributed an assist on the second of these.
Jordan Staples, a defenseman, achieved his first varsity goal, benefiting from a crisp pass from Tristan Michealson. Ratliff-Crain put MBA up 8-0 in unassisted style.
It was Isaac Berens opening the Storm scoring in period #3. Isaac got assists from Ratliff-Crain and Schwarz.
Jake Huston sent the puck into the net with assists from Picht and Gimberlin. Picht came on with a flourish late, striking twice with short-handed goals to finish MBA's ample scoring on the night. Huston assisted on the second of those.

Alexandria 4, MBA girls 2
The Morris Benson girls led 1-0 at the end of the first period in their Tuesday, Dec. 7, game against the host Alexandria Cardinals. But the Cardinals surged in the second period, outscoring the Storm 3-0 in the process of handing the Storm an ultimate 4-2 defeat.
Cali Kragenbring was a force for the Cardinals as she scored two goals and picked up an assist. Alexandria has a record well over .500 thus far.
Abby Daly scored the goal that gave MBA that 1-0 lead in the first period (1:59). Sara Rajewsky assisted.
MBA went into a scoring slumber in the second period while Alex goals were put in by Claire Illies, Shely Iverson and Kragenbring.
Dani Schultz scored an unassisted goal, shorthanded, for the Storm at 9:31 of the third.
Kragenbring finished the night's scoring with an unassisted power play goal for Alex at 11:37.
Brooke Falk had 53 saves in goal for Morris Benson Area. Alexandria's Stephanie Drown had 12 saves.
Viva Morris Benson Storm hockey for 2010-2011!
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, December 17, 2010

The most endearing version of "Silent Night"

I'm not sure I can tell the kind of Christmas story that will get you misty by the time I'm done. I do have a candidate. There's an irony in that the situation I'm describing happened outside of Christmas on the calendar.
The family of an elderly man invited me to a gathering at the Villa of St. Francis, as it was called then (WWV today). He resided there and he was going to be the center of attention. Perhaps it was a birthday but I can't remember the circumstances.
This gentleman's mental acuity had deteriorated. But, people with these afflictions can surprise you sometimes. Anyone knows this full well who has been a caretaker.
I was invited because of my role in the local news media then. But I knew the people well enough that I didn't consider my role to be detached at all. Actually I hardly ever felt detached from people in this community.
When you think of being surrounded by family, what time of year might come into your mind? Christmas, naturally.
The time of year for the Villa event was distant from that, but as this wonderful and patriotic man, a World War One veteran, was surrounded by all these loving people, he broke into singing "Silent Night."
Nobody could have cared what the calendar said. I can close my eyes and remember exactly how he intoned those opening phrases.
Such a memory provides the basis for Christmas, the trappings of which are all around us now. We don't require the material aspects.
Our family attended a church youth Christmas program Wednesday evening. I'm reminded what a musician friend shared with me once about such events - that when you get to second grade and younger, the kids don't really sing, they "shout." Totally charming of course. Musical precision is hardly a prerequisite.
Update: I've decided there's no reason why I can't report here the name of the man in my little recollection. He's Thore Mathison, RIP. A grandson is named for him. I wrote a feature article on him as a WWI veteran once.
Thore called me up a few days after the article appeared and invited me over to his house for lunch. He lived alone at the time.
I remember that he saw no combat in The Great War (as it was called for many years) but was a culinary specialist - "peeling potatoes," as he put it.
It's important to preserve those memories while you can.
Our family is at a point now where we're "de-cluttering," getting rid of "stuff" accumulated over years past. There's no need for anything new now.
So rather than focus on gifts, we attend a Christmas Eve church service - our church offers three - have a nice meal, enjoy some Christmas-themed media and retire for the night.
I think the best Christmas music CD we have came with a box of Chex breakfast cereal. It's a collection featuring several artists. The artists were well-known but I don't think I had heard any of these recordings before.
There are several treasures like Gladys Knight (with the Pips) singing "Away in a Manger." And Mario Lanza singing "Silent Night," and Perry Como singing "O Holy Night."
I suspect that the Lanza and Como names increasingly don't register with young people. Maybe not even Gladys Knight. Como was a "crooner." He stood out in the early days of television. He had a reputation of seeming totally relaxed all the time (affectionately mocked by some of his entertainment peers).
Lanza was an opera style singer featured in several movies in the 1950s. Gladys Knight is a very familiar name to the boomers, and let's not forget those "Pips."
To think that I could get such a wonderful collection of songs with breakfast cereal; it truly made the communications tech revolution hit home with me. When I was a kid you had to shell out several dollars (when "several dollars" seemed like a lot more) for music on a vinyl record.
Our family always watches a VHS tape of The Little Drummer Boy with Greer Garson narrating. Garson was a big-screen actress from a bygone time.
"Drummer Boy" was an annual TV special when I was a kid. It ceased to be seen after a few years. The strong sacred focus might have been a bit much for a U.S. population that was becoming more diversified.
The explosion of VHS tapes and DVDs meant we could see "Drummer Boy" again.
Ditto for "Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol," a TV special that introduced me to the Charles Dickens story when I was a kid. It didn't seem to surface in the early years of tapes and DVDs. Then, to my absolute delight, I saw it displayed at the Coborn's store here as a DVD. I was so delighted I thanked the store manager, Dean Mithun.
Jim Backus was the voice of Mister Magoo. You'll remember Backus as the rich guy character in "Gilligan's Island." His wife was "Lovey" (not to be confused with the Chicago Bears coach, who is preparing to bring his team to the quite inhospitable setting of TCF Bank Stadium this coming Monday for what will be an interesting spectacle, hopefully with no concussions resulting from a playing surface that will be hard).
There's probably a tinge of political incorrectness with Mister Magoo today. The character seems to poke fun at visually challenged people. Boomers, who grew up with that cartoon character, are pretty indifferent about that.
By the same token, I was never bothered by Johnny Carson's "Dear Old Aunt Blabby" character. Did this poke fun at older people? If it did, I certainly don't think it was in an offensive way.
She had a "thing" for Ed McMahon, remember? Her cane could be a little dangerous. I remember a spokesman for a senior group actually coming out and saying he wasn't bothered by "Aunt Blabby."
I have a DVD that includes two Jack Benny holiday specials from the 1950s. The New Year's Eve program is a treasure and it has become an Eve tradition with our family.
Unfortunately the Christmas special has a problem with dated attitudes - political incorrectness as it were. You can't "spin" this humor as with Aunt Blabby. It gets humor from the idea of someone committing suicide.
You see, the picky idiosyncrasies of the Benny character grated on a store clerk (played by Mel Blanc who was once the voice of Bugs Bunny). We hear a gunshot at the very end. Not funny. I watched it just once.
I bought the Benny DVD at Coborn's too. The Coborn's building today is as cold and desolate as the dead of winter here on the prairie. It's sad.
I think the community of Morris would be better served by two modest-sized grocery stores than one super-duper one. No business that functions as a monopoly is ever going to be managed as sharply as a business with competition.
Coborn's was a true focal point on the north end of Atlantic Avenue. For it to be abandoned is a tragedy. But hey, we have a new courthouse! Please hold your applause.
I smiled when I heard Elena Kagan, during her Supreme Court nomination process, saying she was probably in a Chinese restaurant on Christmas Day. She's Jewish.
I remember making a trip to Alexandria one year to see a certain ballyhooed new movie on Christmas Day, and becoming nearly desperate to find a restaurant first. Yes it was Christmas Day, but in contemporary times we don't expect the world to reach a standstill for holidays.
Surely Alexandria would have a restaurant open.
(. . ."And don't call me Shirley." - Leslie Nielsen RIP).
Alexandria is a "micropolitan" community. But as I drove along, everything seemed as bereft of activity as the Morris Coborn's building.
I began to worry about where I could even stay warm before the movie. The movie theater, I suppose. Hey, they used to have pinball machines there!
But it didn't come to that. "Thank the Lord," I thought to myself as I passed a restaurant with cars parked outside. It was a Chinese restaurant.
I have never appreciated Chinese food so much. There were quite a few customers there.
When I was younger, I never would have taken a jaunt to Alex by myself. Our family had relatives living close to us much of my life.
We always got together for the major holidays, taking turns hosting - sometimes here in Morris and sometimes in Glenwood where my uncle was a well-known banker but lived a most humble life in terms of his house and general lifestyle.
He and his wife never had children. They "adopted" Glenwood as their family.
Like my parents, he and his wife had grown up in the Depression. They were most thankful for the essentials. They had outdated appliances. They never purchased cable TV.
Their house on Christmas Day could seem like the most peaceful place in the world. We would take a walk in the afternoon and find the surrounding neighborhoods to be so totally still and at peace. How therapeutic in our otherwise frenetic world.
Time passes and our relatives in Glenwood passed away. Their house is the place I'll always think of when hearing the Christmas song "I'll be Home for Christmas. . .If only in my dreams."
The last Christmas they were alive, I visited them alone as there was some illness in our family. I made a run to Lowry in the company van that day and continued on to Glenwood, which was probably not according to Hoyle.
(My old boss, Jim Morrison, might be reading this but I think the statute of limitations has expired.)
That company later sold out to non-local interests and today it's a totally corporate organism. The company rules are probably chiseled on stone tablets today. It's not like Mayberry anymore.
This has been a secret until now, but I also used to drive the van to the Burger King in Alexandria when there was a long delay in getting the newspaper printed in Lowry (Quinco Press). Delays were common in connection with "bulldog" editions which jammed up the printing schedule for holidays.
How many other secrets do I have? Is using the copier to make covers for your class reunion booklet OK? I think there were worse transgressions than that at the old Morris Sun Tribune.
I'll never forget that last Christmas Day when I visited Glenwood - the looks in our aging relatives' eyes - they were barely able to stay at home on their own anymore - when they saw me, unannounced.
"I'm Brian," I said loudly. With aging people you have to assert obvious things sometimes.
Howard and Viola were so delighted and we had such a lively and memorable visit at the old dining room table. Viola was able to prepare some coffee and snacks. They appeared to have no other commitments that afternoon.
These were the most special Christmas moments possible.
"If only in my dreams. . ."
Maybe Thore could have sung that too.
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

MA-CA girls beat Minnewaska, boys bow

MA-CA girls 42, Minnewaska Area 35
The snow flies as I write this, so we can be thankful that weather wasn't a factor with Tuesday night prep sports. Heaven knows it's wreaking havoc with the Minnesota Vikings. They appear to be moving mountains, as in mountains of snow, to get TCF Bank Stadium ready for Monday. Hopefully there's something in this for the U of M.
The Morris Area Chokio Alberta girls basketball Tigers got their first win Tuesday. Fans at the home gym were delighted to see the energized Tigers outscore the Lakers of Minnewaska Area. The Tigers beat the rival Lakers by seven, 42-35. Coach Dale Henrich most surely wore a smile afterwards, along with the whole team.
The Tigers came out of the night at 1-3 and would like to parlay the newfound success to at least a .500 record soon. They might do that if they play like in the second half Tuesday. After trailing 22-18 at halftime, MA-CA upped its caliber of play, prodded by coach Henrich, to outscore the Lakers 24-13 the rest of the way.
The Lakers came out of the night still seeking their first season win.
Erin Schieler and Erica Domnick were key individuals boosting the Tigers Tuesday. Schieler scored a team-best 16 points and stood out in steals with four. Domnick put in 14 points and collected a team-best eight rebounds.
The Tigers made 16 of 45 shots from the field and were one of three from three-point range. Hannah Sayles had that three-pointer success and she finished with seven points. Beth Holland scored four points and Sarah Kuhn one. Kuhn collected six rebounds. Shadow Olson dished out three assists. The Tigers were nine of 15 in freethrows.
Kaylee Jacobs led Minnewaska Area girls basketball in scoring with 12 points.
Here's a link to the MA-CA girls hoops schedule page on Pheasant Country Sports:
http://www.pheasantcountrysports.com/teamschedule.php?yid=1011&tid=1159&sid=1230274

Boys basketball: 'Waska 59, MA-CA 57
The boys basketball story wasn't so rosy Tuesday. The MA-CA boys also played the Lakers and this game, obviously, was on the road. The Tigers in fact have only one home game on the December slate and it has already been played.
The road wasn't an accommodating place for coach Mark Togerson's Tigers Tuesday, as they were defeated 59-57. It was nip-and-tuck all the way through as the halftime margin was just two points with 'Waska up.
This was the second straight loss for the Tigers who had opened their season with two wins.
The final moments of Tuesday's game were marked by suspense as Minnewaska Area committed a turnover that opened a door of opportunity for MA-CA. The margin was three points at the time. The Tigers came up short in trying to shake the scoreboard deficit.
Shane Bosek did a lot to keep MA-CA separated from victory as this talented Laker put in 28 points. Teammate Brady Johnsrud scored ten.
Minnewaska Area boys basketball came out of the night with an unblemished record (3-0).
Cole Riley supplied much of the offensive fuel for Morris Area Chokio Alberta boys basketball, with 19 points scored. Alex Erickson made the only successful three-point shot for MA-CA, and his point total was 14. Tyler Roske added six points to the mix. Eric Riley and Mac Kampmeier each put in five. Riley Ahrndt had four, and Ethan Bruer and Dan Tiernan had two each.
Check out the Tiger boys basketball page on Maxpreps:
http://www.maxpreps.com/high-schools/IdZz3zpLQEmFULYqjJwnSg/morris-tigers/basketball/home.htm

And here's a link to the MA-CA boys hoops schedule page on Pheasant Country Sports:
http://www.pheasantcountrysports.com/teamschedule.php?yid=1011&tid=1158&sid=1230274

-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Boys beat winter storm but fall to LP-GE

LP-GE 53, MA-CA Tigers 39
The Tigers went cold shooting from the field in game #3 of the young season. The consequence was their loss #1 of the season. The Tigers had won twice prior to their Friday, Dec. 10, game at Long Prairie-Grey Eagle. On the plus side, they were able to get this game in, as Mother Nature was stirring up some pretty intense winter weather for the weekend. On the negative side, MA-CA was dealt a 53-39 defeat by the Thunder.
How sub-par was the Tigers' shooting? They made just 14 of 56 shot tries from the field, translating to 25 percent.
Cody Warner led the Thunder's winning effort with 18 points. The Thunder came out of the night at 3-0 while MA-CA sported 2-1 numbers.
Mac Kampmeier and Cody Cannon each scored nine points for Morris Area Chokio Alberta.
The Tigers trailed by six at halftime (24-18).
It was a frustrating night for MA-CA from beyond the three-point stripe. They didn't hesitate shooting from long-range but the ball clanged off the rim often. Alex Erickson made two three-point shots and Dan Tiernan made one, but the team numbers were a disappointing three of 18.
Erickson had seven points on the night. Tyler Roske scored four, Tiernan and Eric Riley put in three each, and Cole Riley and Ethan Bruer had two each.
Kampmeier went up to snare five rebounds as did Cole Riley. Erickson dished out two assists. Cannon and Erickson each stole the ball twice.
Morris Area Chokio Alberta boys basketball will visit 'Waska tonight (Tuesday, Dec. 14) and play Breckenridge Friday at NDSCS (Wahpeton) with game-time set for 6 p.m.

Girls basketball: YME 46, MA-CA Tigers 30
The MA-CA girls were also able to get their game in Friday, while signs of a winter storm were picking up. The effects of the storm (much more severe to the east) would eventually cause a collapse of the roof of the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
The Friday, Dec. 10, girls basketball action had the Tigers of MA-CA squaring off against the Sting of YME.
The Tigers found victory elusive in their first three games of 2010. On Friday the outcome was a 46-30 loss to the Sting. Emily Baker of Yellow Medicine East was a force that coach Dale Henrich's Tigers had a hard time containing. Baker put in 13 points while collecting eight rebounds, as her team kept its early-season record perfect at 3-0.
The Sting led 20-13 at halftime.
Sarah Kuhn scored eight points in the losing cause for Morris Area Chokio Alberta. Kuhn also had two assists and four rebounds.
Hannah Sayles and Kelsey Loew each scored five points. Three Tigers each put in four points: Erin Schieler, Erica Domnick and Beth Holland. Schieler went up to block six shots.
Sayles stole the ball three times. Kuhn and Holland each dished out two assists. Kuhn and Schieler each collected four rebounds. Kuhn and Loew each sank a three-point shot, a category where the team numbers were two-for-six.
In total field goal shooting, the MA-CA numbers were eleven for 34.

Girls hoops: Benson 61, MA-CA Tigers 59
Coach Henrich's crew made a strong bid to win in its Tuesday, Dec. 7, contest against Benson. But those hopes were dashed when Brave Emma Peterson made a shot in the waning moments. That shot was decisive as the Benson Braves came away with a 61-59 win over the MA-CA girls.
Peterson was an awesome force for Benson at the Tigers' gym. She connected three times from three-point range as she built her point total for the night to 31 points.
Tiger Erica Domnick scored a bushel-full of points too: 25. Hannah Sayles did her part keeping the Tigers highly competitive, putting in eight points and snaring nine rebounds. Sayles made two three-point shots while teammates Schieler, Loew and Shadow Olson each made one.
Sayles built an assist total of six. Domnick matched Sayles' rebound total of nine.
Schieler, Olson and Kuhn each scored five points. Loew put in three points while the following Tigers had two each: Elizabeth Helberg, Natalie Johnston, Holly Amundson and Beth Holland.
The Tigers led at halftime, 28-27. They fought to try to hold that advantage but Emma Peterson's prowess on the court proved too much to overcome.
Morris Area Chokio Alberta girls basketball will host 'Waska tonight (Tuesday, Dec. 14) and visit BOLD for Thursday action (7:30 p.m.).

The Minnesota Vikings scene
This may be uncharted territory. The Minnesota Vikings have always lost occasionally, as all NFL teams do, but they have never been stuck in prolonged futility. Last night (Monday), the Vikings looked like more than just an NFL team losing a game. This is a team that has lost its heart.
Was this team so dependent on a 42-year-old quarterback that it hopelessly crumbles without him? Zygi Wilf never expected this. Monday night was "Night of the Living Dead."
The Vikings look to be on the verge of descending to a level like where the Detroit Lions have been. If it can happen to Detroit, it could happen to us. Basketball's Timberwolves have sort of set an example. Sorry, Kevin McHale.
The Vikings weren't even able to execute the fundamentals of the game in the second half. Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson looked at times like he was playing a sandlot game. I had been rooting for that young man, but he blew his chance Monday. We could have signed Chris Weinke and he could have played with a higher caliber.
Except that the whole Vikings team seemed to be sleepwalking.
A lot of the tickets were given away for free in Detroit Monday, and I'm not sure those fans even got appropriate value. A TV commentator noted that the game had the feel of a pre-season game.
I think it's just sinking in how profoundly embarrassing the collapse of the Metrodome roof is. A stadium built to withstand the elements got done in by the elements.
There was no quick contingency plan either. The Vikings and the league seem to be scrambling today (Tuesday).
The very professionalism of the NFL seems challenged.
If Minnesota can't make a firm commitment (and soon) to a new stadium, maybe the league really will allow the team to move to California.
I hate to see the team twist arms to get a new opulent stadium in Minnesota. But like crime, death and taxes, such things continue to go on.
Whatever the facility issues, the Vikes will have to start with a clean slate. Leslie Frazier's coaching honeymoon ended with a resounding thud.
Maybe "Chilly" wasn't the problem.
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, December 13, 2010

Don't worry, Hubert, it's not your Dome anymore

One of the "manly" things about football, tradition holds, is that it's played under nearly all conditions. Fog and snow are mere inconveniences. A muddy field makes for some fun highlights to watch later. There is really only one true impediment: lightning.
Well, you can make that two: an indoor facility that can't hold together under heavy snow. Our Metrodome turned into a calamity over the weekend.
The late Hubert Humphrey might be smiling in the grave, glad that his name is no longer associated with it. (At least, I never hear it referred to that way anymore.)
Mall of America Field at Metrodome could not be protected from the elements. Even though the Dome was built precisely for that purpose. . .
The news came as a surprise to me because the snowfall out here wasn't that great. We battened down the hatches for something worse but it didn't happen. It was merely a blustery and cold weekend.
We learned that the Twin Cities situation was much worse. The Metrodome became a mountain of snow. The team that was set to play the Vikings couldn't get here.
I'm glad that West Central Minnesota was spared such desperation. We at least hoped we could enjoy our blustery Sunday by watching our beloved purple people on the tube.
Would Brett Favre play? That was the question we thought would be weighing on our minds. Not whether the Dome would be done in by snow. The game ended up being postponed a day.
It has been forced out of Minnesota, too, to Detroit.
Maybe we really are a "cold Omaha."
I hope the perpetual mediocrity of the Detroit Lions franchise doesn't rub off on us. I suppose we're the "home" team. How many fans will a game like this draw, when for all practical terms it's a neutral site?
Should we feel embarrassed?
I'm embarrassed that the Vikings and the NFL might actually be happy about the situation. They're happy because they can crow now about the obvious need for a new Vikings stadium. It's odd that the TV cameras were running, positioned just right, and with the lights on, when the Metrodome roof gave in. The mountain of snow on top cascaded in.
You don't suppose this video would zoom around the Internet, do you? It might even compete with the piano-playing gerbil.
Big-time sports truly has us citizens in the corner. We can't live without it. Everyone knows that Los Angeles is courting teams. So everyone had better accede to the corporate demands for facilities and amenities.
Jerry Jones set the new standard in Dallas. He and his ilk are on such a pedestal, "60 Minutes" deemed it appropriate to interview him for Sunday's show. It was plugged as Jerry Jones being asked what it feels like to lose. He has poured money into a state of the art NFL stadium.
The big screen there is worth the price of admission, they say.
Why this course? The reason is that it's harder to get people to come to stadiums for games. The TV viewing experience has improved considerably over the last decade.
I had to laugh one year when there was a big rush to purchase new wide-screen TVs just in time for the Super Bowl, but the Super Bowl was played under rainy conditions that made the picture lousy anyway. That generation of TVs is probably obsolete by now.
I'm on the sidelines, refusing to buy any tech stuff because of its ridiculously rapid obsolescence. I use public computers like at the Morris Senior Citizens Center where I am now. It's Monday. Kickoff time is hours away.
The facilities at the Morris Public Library are terrific too. Kudos to chief librarian Melissa Yauk for keeping that system updated, and in general running a right ship.
The fellow sitting across from me at the Senior Center for lunch spoke classic Minnesotan when he said "you know, that Metrodome roof falling in, that's a heckuva deal, isn't it?"
A heckuva deal.
I'm not sure Jerry Jones is such an exemplary model for us to follow. Texas often seems like an aberration in our union. It seems to nurture institutions and people with such unbridled bluster and hubris. It was the home of Enron, the spectacularly crooked company.
It was the home of the SMU football program that got the "death penalty" from the NCAA. I recall Doug Ehlers of Morris encouraging me to place a bet on the "Mighty Mustangs" prior to one of my trips to Las Vegas.
Texas doesn't even seem to appreciate the importance of subtlety. It's the state that gave us George W. Bush, whose brazen determination is Texas-sized.
If we're so mesmerized by pro football that we accept blowhard Jerry Jones as an acceptable feature subject on "60 Minutes," the corporate interests are truly in the saddle. But was there any doubt? Their cries for continued "tax cuts" for the well-to-do have us under a spell. How much longer?
My (frequent) waitress at DeToy's Restaurant is a Dallas Cowboys fan. I didn't ask her if the "60 Minutes" interview was a must-watch. Certainly this is a trying season for her. The Cowboys deflated early-on.
We learned that Jessica Simpson maybe wasn't the jinx after all. Quarterback Tony Romo has ended his relationship with the glamorous blonde. So, no point in arranging for a stand-in impersonator in the stands - a ploy that seemed to work.
Romo is hurt and out of action anyway. His replacement is 38 years old.
I discovered Sunday that my waitress/acquaintance doesn't spell her name the assumed way. In the past I have typed "Felicia." No. In a Christmas greeting display at the restaurant, her name is presented as "Felixia." Wow! That must be a generational thing.
As an old newspaper writer, I should have known that you never assume the spelling of anything. The wonderful thing about writing online is that standards are relaxed and you can simply fix mistakes. There's no permanent record on paper to haunt you. Writers all prefer the new way.
Felixia is a psychology major at UMM from Elk River.
The Metrodome roof has proven vulnerable before. In the late 1980s, the roof began descending under the force of a thunderstorm. I was there! I remember we all felt rather scared for a few moments. I could just see our local headline: "Morris newspaperman among casualties in Dome collapse."
I regret that I never attended any Vikings game at the old Metropolitan Stadium (Bloomington). You could argue that was the real "manly" experience. And I think the test of manhood was to stand in a row of fans clad in snowmobile suits, passing a bottle of booze amongst themselves.
Wasn't it a booze bottle that was thrown toward a referee after the famous Drew Pearson catch? (Yes, Felixia, Drew was a Cowboy - congratulations.) Mark Mullaney was tackled on that play. Aren't tackles the norm in football? Not when Mullaney is a defensive lineman.
Referees are reluctant to call holding on a play like this at game's end. The recently-deceased Hal Scott was bold enough to make a strong editorial statement about this on the evening WCCO TV news.
That was the glory days for the 'CCO TV crew with Dave Moore at the helm, Bud Kraehling doing weather, Scott (with his loud sportscoats) doing sports and the left-leaning Al Austin doing the "editorial comment." (One could just imagine Floyd R. Turbo, the Johnny Carson creation, doing his "rebuttal," clad in the red hunting jacket.)
Moore himself was to the left politically. The left had a much firmer position in the media then. But those were the days when we could name a new stadium after Democratic Party icon Hubert H. Humphrey.
Why were we willing to do that?
Well, sonny, those were different times.
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, December 10, 2010

What's in a name? Let's analyze, for schools

What is MAHACA? Are we supposed to pronounce it like a word? It reminds me of the word that got Republican politician George Allen in trouble and paved the way for James Webb to get elected.
Anyway, MAHACA are the initials that denote the wrestling program that represents Morris. I assume it's headquartered in Morris although I'm not Mr. Almanac when it comes to all this.
Education today is highly fluid with kids moving around for both educational and sports purposes. That's good and it's probably also necessity.
When it comes to presenting sports to the public, though, you should use terminology and communicate in a way that Mr. Average Citizen can grasp.
Marketing? Well, if you're charging admission for something you're marketing. You're getting money put in the coffers. So the point I'm making, is that maybe our school leaders in Minnesota should make a new resolution to simplify terminology.
For example, no more MACCRAY.
We are into the new winter sports season now, and I find it cumbersome to refer to our basketball teams as "Morris Area Chokio Alberta."
We have the wrestling example that I cited at the start here.
My source for the names I cite here, is the Pheasant Country Sports website. I learn there that the swim program is referred to as "Morris Area Minnewaska Area."
The gymnastics program is titled just "Morris Area." Maybe that's an error. Or maybe so many towns got involved, it got ridiculous. If that's the case, congratulations on having the light bulb go on over your head.
The central point I'm making is that names of schools should be snappy, logical and convenient. The only problem is that some toes would have to be stepped on.
A lot of the elongated or ungainly names came about because of political sops. Entities that represent combos of separately named communities have to be oh so careful. At least, this is the way it has been up to now.
I don't think the emotions associated with identity issues are as strong as they used to be. I think if all of the home basketball games are going to be played in Morris, the programs could just be called "Morris."
How about that? "The Morris Tigers." Just like it used to be.
It's understood that the Morris programs accommodate some families outside of District #769. People in the immediate area would fully understand this.
As for people not in our area, why confuse them with an awkward construction: "Morris Area Chokio Alberta?" It doesn't roll off the tongue, does it.
And why is the word "Area" curiously inserted in the middle? Well, locally we know why - because District #769 goes by the "Area" name while C-A is still on its own (albeit with some pretty strong challenges, I assume). It almost seems redundant, though.
If the Morris school deems it proper to use the word "Area," maybe that goes far enough. Chokio and Alberta are in the Morris area (small "a"). Again, everyone in the immediate area knows all about the Chokio and Alberta communities, and Herman and Cyrus etc. We love all of them.
Non-local people really aren't going to care how these sports teams are referred to. People in the Twin Cities who check outstate ("greater Minnesota") sports reports are done no favor when they have to sift through names like MACCRAY.
It has been said that the people who populate the Twin Cities came from outstate. It would be nice if they could stay connected through a naming system that registers with them, rather than names that might be of places on Mars.
Maybe at the state level, a policy should be encouraged of having schools be named for the town where the high school is located.
Don't pussy-foot around and be afraid to offend people. I have found that these emotions can be hot but for only a short time. People are happy to "move on" in due time.
There is always one generation of parents that might cry bloody murder, but I have found through years of being close to school activities that one generation gives way to the next, and the departed generations sever their ties pretty quickly.
"Oh, I don't get up to the school much anymore since my kids graduated" etc.
The current generation is attuned to the present. And I don't blame them. The only people who might complain about that are sports coaches who took a team to state, say, five years ago and who find that the current "crop" of parents couldn't care less. They just want results now!
I've seen this phenomenon firsthand. Ah, humanity.
I think it's presumptuous for the high school in Barrett to be known as "West Central Area." There are a lot of communities in West Central Minnesota and the school with that name has no special status relative to the others. According to my suggested policy, the school would become known as Barrett High School.
An outrage for the other towns involved? No need to fuss, it's just a school name.
I was inspired to write this post by confusion that has surfaced with online prep sports reporting platforms. These platforms have a lot of potential for providing a great PR service on behalf of prep sports. But all the consolidation, pairing and naming issues, fluctuating from one season to the next, give them a real challenge.
I notice that Maxpreps has a page set up for "Chokio-Alberta Morris Spartans" boys basketball. And, a Morris coach informs me that the "Minnesota Basketball Hub" website has the Tiger boys playing in the Pheasant Conference. It's supposed to be West Central of course.
That coach and I have both sent emails trying to get these situations straightened out.
Notice that I used the term "Tiger boys." That's because I didn't want to bother with "Morris Area Chokio Alberta." I'd really just like to say "Morris boys basketball." OK, "Morris Area boys basketball." Ditto with the girls.
Has the time come when we could make a change like this without too much fur flying? Even if a little fur flew, my educated opinion is that it wouldn't last long. I think we'd all breathe a sigh of relief.
Town identity issues aren't what they used to be. The communications revolution has opened up vistas that leave us feeling far less confined. Many of the key businesses in our small towns are owned by, or have their strings pulled by, entitites whose offices are located far away, where the people couldn't care less about town names (beyond their utility).
Really, being concerned about town identity issues is so 20th Century.
Please, let's retire the MAHACA initials for Tiger wrestling. I can't even state for sure what the initials all stand for, although I could guess. If someone like me can get confused - someone who pays more attention to sports than most - heaven help the general public.
We're just playing games with these politically contrived constructions. Let's get over it!
What's in a name? Let's take a closer look as we answer that question. A school or team name shouldn't be an "inside" thing.
Where is BOLD High School? Wherever it is, let's name it after that town etc.
In "the old days" i.e. when I was young, there was a very popular bumper sticker that read "Where the h-- is Bird Island?" (Dashes weren't used.)
Today I'd like to ask "Where the h-- is BOLD?" I'd happen to know, but there are a lot of people who wouldn't. Let's help them out. Ditto for MACCRAY and other such unwieldy names.
(Footnote: Locally customized bumper stickers and T-shirts were a novelty when I was young but they are ubiquitous today. Cyrus did a copycat thing with the bumper sticker but they used "heck" instead of the more raw word.)
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Tigers beat Ortonville, MBA falls to LDC

Boys basketball: MA-CA 59, Ortonville 49
The MA-CA boys took care of business on the road Tuesday. In fact, if I'm reading the schedule correctly, there's only one home game in December and that game has already been played. The Tigers are road warriors in December and it's a mantle they wore comfortably Tuesday.
Playing at Ortonville, in non-conference action, coach Mark Torgerson's squad downed the Trojans 59-49. They're now 2-0. It was Ortonville's season opener.
Mac Kampmeier came to the fore with his play as he put in 15 points and collected seven rebounds. Eric Riley was the other double figures scorer with eleven points.
Cole Riley showed a determined brand of play and this Tiger scored eight points while collecting ten rebounds. Alex Erickson and Cody Cannon each put in seven points, Dan Tiernan scored six, Tyler Roske had three and Travis Rinkenberger two.
Shane Lindahl spurred the host Trojans in the losing cause, scoring 15 points.
Morris Area Chokio Alberta took command in the first half, assuming a 33-24 lead.
The MA-CA shooting stats from the field were 21-for-52. From three-point range the numbers were three of seven with the successes by Eric Riley, Roske and Cannon.
Erickson dished out five assists.
Morris Area Chokio Alberta boys basketball will travel to play Long Prairie-Grey Eagle Friday.
Area hoops fans are noticing that Brooten-Belgrade-Elrosa is getting a reputation as a scoring machine. On Tuesday the BBE boys rolled past Melrose 95-84. In their previous game, the Jaguars crushed KMS 107-22 with the score looking like a typo. They'd better be careful because scores like this can stoke a controversy.
Also Tuesday, Montevideo beat Marshall by a more typical score, 66-62. Hancock was humbled at the hands of Benson 77-41. Minneota beat YME 59-51, Kimball beat ACGC 62-51 and New London-Spicer pounded Paynesville 80-41.

Boys hockey: LDC 9, MBA Storm 3
The MBA boys strapped on the skates for game #2 of the season Saturday. As in the opener, the site was the Benson ice. Morris Benson Area skated into action against Litchfield-Dassel-Cokato.
The Storm was (were?) coming off an encouraging 4-3 win over Willmar. Game #2 would not prove as favorable. The LDC Dragons jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first period. This set the tone for this humbling night for the Storm as they were dealt a 9-3 loss. It was LDC's second win in as many games.
The game had barely gotten underway when LDC sent the puck into the net. Sixteen seconds had ticked off when Brandon DeWolf scored.
Quinn Impola was an important early contributor for the Dragons too. Quinn chalked up three assists in that first period. The second period saw him come to the fore more as he scored a goal.
The score was 7-2 when two periods were done.
It was Jake Huston scoring the first Storm goal of the night at 6:08 of the first. Tyler Hansen picked up an assist.
Then in the second period, Ethan Ratliff-Crain scored the Storm's second goal, assisted by Luke Schwarz. Hansen scored the Storm's third and last goal at 8:00 of the third. Brody Gimberlin picked up an assist.
The battling goaltenders were Andrew Fath of the Storm and Derek Sherman for the Dragons. Fath's save total was 28. Sherman chalked up 19 saves.
LDC outshot the Storm 37-22.
Morris Benson boys hockey will visit Windom for a 3 p.m. contest Saturday.
The Morris Benson hockey schedules (varsity) are conveniently available on Pheasant Country Sports.
http://www.pheasantcountrysports.com/

-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, December 6, 2010

We want our jobs to have virtue, but. . .

Vince Bugliosi once wrote about the general level of incompetence around us. His purpose was to help us understand why the prosecution in the O.J. Simpson murder trial seemed to stumble. We shouldn't be shocked, he pointed out.
The famed prosecutor/author pointed out how lawyers have to "think on their feet," and how no two cases are alike.
He asked us to think about the kinds of incompetence we see around us all the time. He talked about contractors who specialize in one thing but who have to be called to come back and get a particular job right.
Let's cut lawyers some slack.
Fair enough, but lawyers get compensated well.
I'm surprised these days when I see indifference or incompetence. I say "these days" because unemployment is high. Everyone says you should be darn thankful to have a job. It's not the kind of economic climate where you expect to see slackers. But it does happen.
I recently dined at a local pizza restaurant, or at least attempted to dine there, and left after an unreasonably long wait. The waitress explained that "a couple of people didn't show up for work."
Bad timing. It was Friday night. Even with a magazine in my possession and my reading glasses at the ready, enough was enough. Kudos to the waitress who was friendly.
We are supposed to covet jobs and yet some people don't seem properly motivated. It makes me ponder the whole concept of work.
I have been out in the wilderness for nearly five years without a true job.
I'm not sure how much true respect you win having a job.
You work because you have to. I'm not sure it bestows any special virtue.
I do know that many of the big wheels in corporate offices don't seem to possess any special virtue. They don't have any special respect for the working class.
It's all about profit margin. When we as a society decide that Wall Street is going to be central to our lives, this is what we buy into. Nobody seemed to argue with it for a long time. People are reluctant to argue with it now.
We see media reports about the growing gap between rich and poor. But there's no real outcry.
People shrug about extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich.
A Senate candidate who questions the established model of Social Security almost gets elected.
Is it a case of people wanting to sympathize with the rich because we might end up there someday? Or is it a case of common folks being so pummeled and humbled by the business world, we accede to its agenda?
Common folks used to have a fighting spirit. We protected our sanctuary.
Today many of us join the ranks of the tea party. We rail about "European style socialism" as if it's a fate almost worse than death.
The thing I fear is that this argument, so representative of the tea party fabric, might actually be a cover for an undertone of racism. We have a non-white president.
There are aspects of the president's background that unnerve some people. I would argue that those aspects are a red herring.
Too many of us appear to be judging the president not with an objective eye to what he's doing.
I recall the infamous Star Tribune headline, "Parents wary of Obama speech." All the president wanted to do, was give a generic type of pep talk to the nation's youth at the start of the school year.
There was fear that he might project a political agenda. What, politics from a politician?
Even if he subtly reflected an agenda, we must remember he's the elected president of the United States.
The righties will have a chance to vote for Sarah Palin two years from now. We'll see how that goes. In the meantime, we'll all struggle philosophically over whether the very wealthy people should be allowed to stay protected behind a type of barrier.
The rallying cry for that seems strong. But I'll remind you: Barack Obama actually was elected president. Demonized as he is in so many quarters, he won.
The broad populace really isn't wary of him, the tea partiers' whining notwithstanding.
The tea party is regressive. Analogies are dangerous but let's just think about the Confederacy. The Confederacy has a romantic aura about it. Re-enactors prefer being Confederates. Confederate-themed artwork is the most valuable.
There is a very popular country music group called "Lady Antebellum." I was shocked when first hearing that name, because I knew as a Civil War enthusiast that "antebellum" is a term that denotes the pre-Civil War South.
The past is shrouded in a romantic mist. But it's "gone with the wind" as the movie title (and book) proclaimed.
We'll be fortunate if the tea party has the same fate. But right now these people have a fair amount of traction. At its origination it had some positive elements. But then too many of the crazies joined in.
Let's shift from macro to micro: At some point, I will probably have to attempt to re-join the workforce.
My previous gig was in a profession that went into a sudden and rapid tailspin due to technology. Technology and globalization have emerged as huge influences with the U.S. workforce. It seems we cannot even fight them.
But when Labor Day weekend comes, let's try to keep our spirits high. It's a holiday with no formal observance in Morris. Maybe that says something. Many people simply leave town on holiday weekends. It's a bookend holiday for the end of summer. With some luck you'll at least get a home football game that weekend.
I once attended a Catholic Church service in St. Louis Park on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. I was the guest of a high school friend. I remember the priest talking about work from a spiritual perspective.
There are times when a spiritual push is certainly helpful for getting through the daily grind.
The high school friend is the same one who introduced me to Catholic bingo when I was young. I experienced this American institution at the fellowship hall (basement) of Assumption Church. I once asked him why the church had no problem accepting non-Catholics playing bingo, while apparently turning them away for communion.
"We'll take your money for playing bingo," he said with a laugh.
I have seen the sobering aspects of the world of work many times over.
A bounty hunter who I once heard interviewed, said the distinguishing trait of criminals is that they "can't take the 9 to 5 grind."
Hopefully one can resist any impulse to become a criminal. But those words rang with genuineness to me. A former general manager of the Minnesota Twins said there are lots of great athletes out there, but the ones who become big leaguers are the ones who can take on "the daily grind."
Women campaigned for years to have equal footing in the workplace. But I could have told them all along it's not all that it's cracked up to be.
A Monday morning status meeting must be a lot like getting waterboarded. Everyone is so cordial with each other but half of them would like to be at each other's throats.
A WCCO Radio personality was once giving advice to a young person on career choice. The advice was "pick something you like, because there will be days when you hate that."
I was in a career that I thought I liked. In the end that didn't do me any good.
Regarding work, forget about the virtue. You can even put the spiritual perspective at arm's length. It's just bare necessity. Watch your back at all times. Remember that the bean counters in some distant place probably hold your fate.
Try to keep your faith in people despite all this.
I still have faith in pizza! Hey, maybe there's a line of work. . .
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, December 4, 2010

MA-CA boys, MBA skaters win openers

Boys basketball: MA-CA 79, Osakis 52
The weather outside was frightful, yes, but it wasn't quite bad enough to cause postponement of the MA-CA boys' season opener Friday.
Midday, the smart money would have been on postponement. But the schools showed an intrepid attitude and gave a thumbs-up.
MA-CA was the host school and Osakis was the visitor. Osakis has the quite neat "Silverstreaks" nickname. But they weren't streaking very effectively Friday night here. The MA-CA boys celebrated season opener night with a flourish, winning 79-52.
The fans deserved the "intrepid" description too.
By halftime this game seemed over. Coach Mark Torgerson's Tigers had built a 40-21 lead. Maybe the weather outside wasn't so frightful after all.
Balanced scoring is always a nice thing to see so early in the season. The Tigers definitely had this attribute Friday. There were five in their ranks who broke into double figures scoring. Alex Erickson took team-best honors with his 16 points.
Riley Ahrndt put in 13 points, while ten each were scored by Eric Riley, Dan Tiernan and Brody Bahr. The Tigers shot with an encouraging 59 percent from the field.
Their eye was reliable from three-point range too, where they sank five of 12 tries. Erickson accounted for three of those long-range successes and Tiernan the other two.
The team's freethrow numbers were six of eight.
Mac Kampmeier attacked the boards for eight rebounds, leading the team. Cole Riley snared seven and Riley Ahrndt five.
Three Tigers each dished out four assists: Travis Rinkenberger, Cole Riley and Dan Tiernan. Kampmeier stole the ball twice.
Other Tigers scoring in addition to the five in double figures were: Cody Cannon (3), Sam Mattson (2), Cole Riley (5), Ethan Bruer (2) and Mac Kampmeier (8).
The top Silverstreak scorers were Joe Roggenbuck with 12 points and Mitch Herzog with eleven.
Morris Area Chokio Alberta boys basketball will play at Ortonville on Tuesday evening, Dec. 7.

On the ice: MBA boys 4, Willmar 3
The MBA Storm boys hockey team was to have opened the new season Tuesday, but even an intrepid spirit wasn't enough to get this game in the books as the weather was just too bad.
If it's this bad at the beginning of December.. .
The game was postponed to Thursday and the Storm was (were?) primed to show a winning flair. Despite getting outshot rather convincingly by Willmar, the Storm had the edge in the numbers category that counted most: the score.
It's always a plum to notch a win over a school the size of Willmar. MBA could savor a 4-3 win over the visiting Cardinals. The game was played on the Benson ice.
The Storm seized the lead and never fell behind. But fans had to wait until the second period to see any goal-scoring.
Tyler Hansen scored at the 3:38 mark of the second period. Then, Willmar got the score knotted as Zach Streed sent the puck into the net at 10:16. Kelly Engquist put the Storm up 2-1 with a goal at 14:21, and the period ended with MBA up 2-1.
Each team scored a pair of goals in the third period. Hansen scored again at 6:56. And Luke Schwarz got the puck in the net unassisted at 14:50.
The dueling goalkeepers were Andrew Fath of the Storm, who finished the night with 42 saves, and Derek Baker of the Cards whose save total was 19. Fath showed special poise in the pivotal closing stages of the game.
Willmar's defense had some turnovers that took a toll for them.
MBA was outshot by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. Coming out on top on the scoreboard was most savory for Morris Benson hockey, as this was a renewal of a Section 6A rivalry.
Truth be told, it always feels good beating Willmar.
Morris Benson boys hockey will visit Windom for a 3 p.m. game on Saturday, Dec. 11.
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Watergate needn't be revived by Hollywood

The movie "True Grit" has been re-made and it looks promising. The preview clips show Jeff Bridges in a role that could be award-winning for him. He reprises the role made famous by John Wayne.
Look for him with his horse's reins in his teeth so both hands are available for his pistols.
Re-makes are all the rage.
Hollywood could do us a favor by not re-making "All the President's Men." It was a successful movie that revealed the process by which the Richard Nixon administration crumbled.
It was a movie that featured the best of Hollywood including Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman. Redford and Hoffman played Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, respectively. It was a detective movie that had newspaper reporters as the detectives.
You can never rule out the re-make of a successful movie. But I doubt this movie's storyline would really be entertaining in the year 2010. It would drag us through a story line in American history that is so forgettable. It was avoidable.
The best way to have avoided it, would be to have a president who just had the basic scruples to not allow certain bad behavior. The reason we have lawyers is that we can't rely on people's basic scruples. We need laws to keep our darker side in check.
Watergate even gave lawyers a bad name for a while. Many of the principals were associated with that profession.
Watergate was even bad for the newspaper business.
The heroes did in fact appear to be newspaper people. But this is not a role that is proper for them. Journalists came out of Watergate with this delusion that it's their role to take down wrongdoers.
Heaven help us if that's true. They are no more capable of donning a cape than I am of winning a piano competition. (I played trumpet.)
The political system just needs checks and balances. Something was out of whack leading up to Watergate. We had a president who had been in the political system too long. He thought he owned it.
It's a common human failing.
Richard Nixon was vice president under Dwight Eisenhower for eight years. He was barely denied the presidency in 1960 and became bitter because of that. He became convinced that politics was a blood sport.
Nixon wasn't caught doing anything unseemly in the 1968 campaign. He beat our own Hubert Humphrey in perhaps the most tumultuous year in American history. He campaigned like a conservative but governed far more like a centrist.
It's always wise to campaign like a conservative.
I can't imagine any scenario by which Nixon could have lost in 1972. But for some reason, maybe because 1960 had left him cautious and cynical, he went scorched-earth. He was caught.
Let's debunk: It wasn't the genius of any newspaper reporters that brought him down. The reporters were pawns on the chessboard. They were manipulated.
The real players were power figures through the myriad hierarchies in Washington D.C.
Pat Buchanan has called Woodward and Bernstein "stenographers."
They had plenty of legwork to perform, of course. In the end they put enough pieces in the puzzle together to cause (or reveal) the spectacle of Watergate.
They worked the rotary dial telephones. They rapped on doors. They talked to all kinds of people who today would probably be revolted by the thought of talking to a reporter.
Reporters circulated with fewer impediments then. They were allowed to wear those "capes" to a certain extent. Not today. People feel empowered to manage their own communications universe.
Perhaps we have forgotten how weary we became of the term "Watergate." The truth of the scandal came out in dribs and drabs. Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974.
It was good for the truth to come out. It was wrong for newspaper reporters to have that superhero sheen.
Regarding the latter, I think the legal profession decided "no more of that." Lawyers had a black eye and were going to get the ship righted on their own terms. Quite proper.
Reforms were initiated. Legal professionals could ferret out the truth in the future, or take the lead. (The terms "lawyers" and "politicians" are pretty interchangeable.)
It was no more healthy for young writers to be influenced by Woodward and Bernstein than for young artists to be influenced by Jackson Pollack. Woodward and Bernstein were Beltway animals. It'a a different planet from America's heartland.
The face of "journalism" began changing in ways that couldn't have been foreseen. Technology showed that journalism could take many forms. It's evolving as we speak.
It's a more enlightened world we now live in. There's more sunlight, yes, even with "Wikileaks."
The Washington Post limps along the way all newspapers are limping along. Paul Gillin of Newspaper Death Watch has said that Watergate is the worst thing that ever happened to journalism. Because it made reporters feel like they should be celebrities.
Bernstein is able to go on Larry King because of Watergate. He was quoted recently on the Poynter Institute website saying "the system worked" in Watergate. It certainly did for him. It was dysfunctional by the germane criteria.
The reporters needed luck to come through as heroes. There was drama that comes through great on the movie screen. But in the real world we don't need such drama.
Bob Woodward writes a treadmill book every couple of years. He and his "sources" all know how the (Beltway) game is played: Let's reflect on the (predictable) conflict, turf battles and personality issues that arise in D.C., get some quotes that include expletives and sell books.
"All the President's Men" was a truly significant book. Nice catchy title too. The fact that it would be parlayed into a movie allowed Woodward and Bernstein to do a "high five" if they chose.
A remake of that movie is probably a no-go. It would revive such a ridiculous chapter in American history.
We don't even want to get our young people thinking about how such cynical machinations are possible. The late Leslie Nielsen could have at least made the Nixon character funny.
It all began with the arrest of five men for breaking and entering at Democratic National Headquarters. The date was June 17, 1972.
Less than a month after that, I was having my evening meal on the roof of the then-new Kennedy Center. I couldn't have imagined all the intrigue that was unfolding in connection to Watergate, a stone's throw away.
I'm not sure if the term had general circulation yet. But the Washington Post was quite surely on the trail. I know because I have a back issue from then.
I was already interested in the media so naturally I was going to tuck the Post under my arm.
I kept the July 11, 1972, issue all these years because I'm in a photo that appears in it. I was in a musical group that also included Joan Force, whose personal web page is linked in the right-hand column on this blog.
Joan is a lifelong Iowa resident. Force is her maiden name so that's how I knew her. Today she's a top-notch trumpeter with the Eastern Iowa Brass Band of Cedar Rapids.
The musical endeavor we shared in 1972 was special. You could tell the Kennedy Center was new because the land immediately surrounding it was scruffy, not landscaped. Its public debut was in September of the previous year.
Richard Nixon could have had a grand second term, perhaps blemished only by a too-late exit from Viet Nam. But his hubris sank him miserably.
My July 11 Washington Post has a front page article co-written by Bob Woodward and a collaborator who was not Carl Bernstein. I have always been vaguely aware that not all of the Watergate articles were Woodward-Bernstein projects.
Woodward worked with Paul Valentine for the July 11 article. Located at the bottom of page 1, the fairly prominent headline is as follows: "GOP says 'bug' hearings would hurt campaign."
Here's the first sentence: "The committee for the re-election of the president said yesterday that civil court hearings in connection with the alleged break-in and attempted bugging of Democratic headquarters here could cause 'incalculable' damage to President Nixon's campaign."
The cat and mouse game was on.
A whole array of names entered the news as the snowball rolled downhill: Hugh Sloan, Bernard Barker, G. Gordon Liddy, Jeb Magruder, Donald Segretti - enough for an extensive series of trading cards.
By October of 1972, the FBI concluded that the Watergate break-in was part of a massive campaign of political spying and sabotage on behalf of officials and heads of the Nixon re-election campaign. It's amazing that so many high-ranking people got their hands dirty. One would expect a little more finesse.
Extracting the truth was like extracting teeth until we finally reached the point where Nixon, badly deteriorated in his state of mind, left the presidency.
Normally, significant historical episodes make good movie material. We've already had "All the President's Men."
We're best off leaving that whole mess in the past now. Let's just enjoy good old-fashioned westerns like "True Grit."
-Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com