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

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Football and our Minnesota state of mind

The Minnesota Vikings dislodged the Gophers as Minnesota's prime football attraction in the 1960s.
The Gophers were "your father's football team." Cal Stoll had the unenviable task of trying to keep the Gophers relevant.
Bud Grant grew into one of the most heroic figures in Minnesota history. He was a tragic hero, of course, because the Vikings lost four Super Bowls. Losing is bad enough in and of itself, but the Vikings seemed outclassed in all four.
Oakland in particular dismantled the Vikings. Oakland was coached by John Madden who had a bigger than life presence on the sidelines. He carried that trait to the broadcast booth.
Thanksgiving didn't seem the same without him doing analysis of a game. He seemed so genuine, not just about football but about life. His fear of flying made him seem human too. Even a big hulking football guy can have primal fears.
My mother pays hardly any attention to football but she remembers Madden as coach along the sidelines. He and Pat Summerall as broadcasters had chemistry as effective as Martin and Lewis. Summerall had a deadpan way of setting up Madden for his profound or funny comments.
In the arena, Madden and his quarterback Ken Stabler eviscerated the Vikings.
The four Super Bowl losses had a profoundly stunning quality for Minnesotans. The Vikings were so impressive in the regular season. They were "Purple People Eaters," snuffing out opposing offenses with decisiveness.
Carl Eller had a sort of movie monster image. I once asked a friend why Eller seemed particularly ominous, and the friend observed that it was the way Eller's arms sort of "dangled" from his side as he closed in on the opposing quarterback or a trapped runningback.
Alan Page was a hugely idiosyncratic player because he was scholarly, reaching heights with that quality that would humble many full-time scholars. In his football prime he was awesome.
But then he fell out of that prime partly because he wanted to take care of his body and his health. He wanted to lose weight. There was friction between him and Grant.
With whom do you take sides when both guys seem almost Olympian with their attributes? As long as the Vikings were winning, we could admire both.
The Vikings' first Super Bowl season was distant in my eyes. They played on a TV network we didn't get, because we out on Northridge Drive didn't quite have "cable" yet.
I remember suggesting to a friend we go snowmobiling on the day of that first Super Bowl, and the friend sort of being speechless at how I could overlook the game.
The NFL owners at that time sure had the goose that laid the golden egg. The whole world would slow down for their games. Why didn't it happen prior to the '60s? I think the answer is pretty clear: the quality of the TV picture.
The strides made by television made it progressively easier to appreciate football.
For a time we had the AFL and NFL. The AFL was destined to be absorbed by the NFL. In the meantime it didn't hurt that the AFL gained legitimacy. Our Vikings helped that process considerably by losing to the Kansas City Chiefs on that day when I probably went out snowmobiling by myself.
Vikings fans have been reminded of that Super Bowl in just the last few days. Our quarterback in that seminal year of success was Joe Kapp. He had an uncanny way of generating success, helped of course by a superb supporting cast. Remember how he'd occasionally throw a "jump pass?" His passes were known to wobble.
The Vikings should have clobbered the Chiefs. Instead it was Hank Stram, the rather verbose Kansas City coach, who came out looking superior, even using a horribly un-PC expression to deride the Vikes ("Chinese fire drill").
The AFL was buoyed in an even bigger way when the New York Jets beat the Baltimore Colts in such a huge upset, cynics couldn't help thinking "something might be up."
Kapp should have brought a Super Bowl ring. If he had, we might continue thinking warmly of him despite his current behavior which is right out of the Jerry Springer program. Only there were no "bouncers" there. This was a real fight and not a Hollywood one.
The Hollywood fights involved those smacks to the cheek, feigned, with sound effects. Real fights aren't as fun to watch. Kapp and an old Canadian Football League rival went at it, during some sort of banquet event.
We learn that Kapp has a history of this. He even "went at it" in his Vikings days with a teammate, Lonnie Warwick, who played middle linebacker. That fight isn't as well known as Billy Martin vs. Dave Boswell.
My, those were different times. The pay in pro sports was far less than today. So players were responding to more primal urges when taking the field, like the urge to simply show superiority or to impress women. Today the money, lawyers and agents keep everyone in line much better, with occasional exceptions (e.g. Plaxico Burress).
Kapp and his rival are in their 70s, a stage in life when fighting can't be excused on any grounds.
The quarterback for the other three Minnesota Super Bowl teams was Fran Tarkenton. Tarkenton was an original Viking and then left for a time for New York (the Giants). He made a return in a ballyhooed acquisition, but many of us may have forgotten that his first year back in Minnesota was not impressive. It took time.
He lost three Super Bowls at a time when Minnesota was still playing at Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington.
The old "Met" continues to recede in our memories. Coach Grant never liked it because it was built for baseball. He said the Vikings always seemed like the "other" tenant.
Fans were known to attend in snowmobile suits. They were also known to keep warm by consuming certain types of liquid refreshments, which according to legend were actually passed along rows. I never attended a football game at the Met so all I have to go on is legend.
I imagine there were a few frozen toes there. But we wax nostalgic.
Now of course we're told the Metrodome has faded into obsolescence. Our New Jersey owner says we must have a new stadium. But he has a loser on the field.
The media are likening this year's Vikings team to 1984 when the infamous Les Steckel had his fling. The Star Tribune just ran an old photo from then. My only reaction was: How could men tolerate such tight-fitting pants back then? Wasn't it hard on the genitals?
I don't think 1984 was like today. I think we knew it was just an aberration, that the Vikings would rebound and bring us glory again.
Today is different. With the Vikings ownership on the verge of pouting over our hesitance in writing a check for a palatial new stadium, I'm not sure the commitment is there to right the ship.
As I have speculated before on this site, the Vikings could fall into prolonged mediocrity like we have seen from the Detroit Lions. Or, right here in Minnesota with the Timberwolves of hoops.
We lost to the Atlanta Falcons by ten on Sunday (11/27). It was a typical game for a chronic loser. We weren't blown out but you could sense what the outcome was going to be. Afterwards the analysts point out some "might have beens."
Get used to that.
We put a runningback on a pedestal: Adrian Peterson. At the time he got his contract juiced up or extended or whatever, I shook my head. I argued with someone who acted all fired up about it. I said "hey, the NFL has changed and it's a quarterback's league now."
Gone are the days when you sought someone like Walter Payton and pitched the ball to him 35 times in a game.
Not only is it a quarterback's league, the players are so punishing now, like missiles, that a workhorse runningback is going to get worn down rapidly.
The idea in the NFL today is to just have a stable of reliable runningbacks who mainly just don't hurt you.
Peterson has been known to fumble and that's very bad news. We shouldn't be surprised. It has been pointed out that the runningbacks who consider themselves "stars" work very hard to get that extra yard or two on a carry, and this is where many fumbles happen. "Just hold on to the d--n ball."
What point is there for Peterson to even play anymore this year?
The '84 Vikings had three wins. At present we have two.
The Vikings did have a window for success this year. It didn't have to be a lost season. Chicago without Jay Cutler is totally doomed. A task force should be formed in the Windy City to see why they can't seem to acquire a passable backup quarterback, as opposed to the kind of QBs you see in the second half of pre-season games.
Those Lions are looking like they were a flash in the pan earlier in the season. Tampa Bay and their quarterback Josh Freeman are regressing. That just leaves the Packers streaking away.
But the Vikes could have made a bid for a wild card. Just not with Donovan McNabb.
Our long cold winter will be without either the Vikings or Gophers doing anything in January. The Gophers go into hibernation very early. It takes talent not to get a bowl bid when you're in the Big 10. And yet our coach Jerry Kill got his contract enhanced. While Illinois' Ron Zook got fired.
I'll be fascinated come Sunday to see Tim Tebow bring his Denver Broncos to the Metrodome. At a time when "sameness" seems to characterize the NFL product, Tebow's Denver Broncos are boldly going where others hesitate. The option offense?
Tebow is 5-1 as a starter and it's an endearing story, of a guy considered inartful as an NFL player but who seems to have incredible intangibles along with an abiding religious faith that brings some mocking.
I don't necessarily admire "God squad" Christians but I admire the quality of going your own way and being yourself. Tebow is striving to prove his critics wrong and I applaud him. I hope he overwhelms the crumbling Vikings come Sunday.
Let's ignore Zygi Wilf trying to twist our arms. Let's take a long hard look at the Metrodome and realize what a reliable, sturdy "survivor" this has been as a sports venue.
We "need" a new stadium? Please let's not be lemmings.
Let's not be impulsive in following Wilf whose business instincts could overwhelm us. Let's not be impulsive like Kapp getting into a fight. Let's step back and take a breath. And enjoy Christmas.
Postscript: There's another angle to this coming Sunday's game I wasn't aware of, until I received an email from friend Greg Cruze of Cold Spring. He sent this email in response to (a skeptical) one I shared on the Vikings.
Greg says: "I think people are slowly waking up to the fact the Vikes are on a significant downhill slide, as you mention. I hope it isn't anything like Detroit, but you never know. Regarding Denver, I find myself more interested in them. As you may know, one of the starting receivers is Cold Spring's very own Eric Decker. My daughter went to high school with him. He's been a big part of Tebow's success. No doubt there will be a busload of Cold Spring-ites on their way down to the dome this weekend."
Raise the roof, Cold Spring-ites!
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, November 28, 2011

Women's 83-67 win highlights hoops

Game #3 of the young season went mighty well for the UMM women's basketball team. Playing in the MIAC/UMAC Challenge, the Cougars took command vs. St. Catherine's ("St. Kate's"), building a 24-point lead twice en route to an 83-67 win. The action was in St. Joseph.
The success got UMM back on a more upbeat plane after the loss they were dealt by St. Benedict.
Emily Mehr was a productive Cougar with her 20 points. She was one of four in double figures, joined by Jenni Noordmans (13 points), Alyssa Silva (12) and Karlee Erickson (11).
The Cougars were superior in shooting proficiency, posting a 45 percent stat from the field compared to 36 percent by the foe.
St. Kate's did have the advantage in rebounds, 42-37, but turnovers hurt them and were readily exploited by the Cougars. The St. Kate's turnover total was 21.
It was St. Kate's scoring the game's first field goal but that was hardly a prelude of things to come. The Cougars followed with eleven straight points. A Kelsey Erickson freethrow gave UMM the nine-point lead.
St. Kate's wasn't down for the count just yet. They actually wrested the lead away from UMM, and the game took on an even complexion for a while.
Karlee Erickson gave some spark, making a "3" with 2:21 left in the first half to make the score 33-30 with UMM up. From there, the Cougars asserted themselves to keep the edge, even pulling away. The Cougars were buoyed by runs of ten and nine straight points.

Back on home court
Game #4 of the season had UMM matched against an imposing Jamestown College Jimmie team on 11/22. The home court wasn't enough to help UMM overcome the foe. Playing on the Jim Gremmels floor, the Cougars were bested by the Jimmies 80-60.
Jamestown was imposing with a large front court and an aggressive defense. Those strengths held UMM down quite noticeably in the first half, when UMM managed just 31 percent shooting. UMM would end the game at 40 percent.
The halftime score was 49-27.
The Jimmies are one of the most highly regarded teams in the NAIA. Their two post players took a toll on UMM as they combined for 23 points. UMM had futility in the paint, getting outscored there 40-18.
One plus for UMM was all 12 players getting playing time, and especially encouraging was that all 12 scored.
The Cougars showed a much better caliber in the second half but obviously too much damage was done by then.
Alyssa Silva (from Maple Grove) scored a team-best eleven points. Montrose's Kendra Wykoff put in ten. UMM was close in many stat categories.

UMM men dealt defeat
The UMM men's basketball team didn't fare any better in the 11/22 action vs. Jamestown. There was a nightmarish seven-minute stretch in the second half in which Jamestown seized the decisive "mo." The Jimmies won this game 80-64 on the Gremmels court.
The Cougars were in this game most of the way, leading by five midway in the first half and being within one early in the second. UMM's fortunes quickly sank with a 22-1 run by the suddenly-focused Jimmies.
UMM actually had a shooting advantage, 48% to 46%.
Derek Schmidt (from East Grand Forks) spurred UMM's offense out of the starting gate as he scored the first eight UMM points. Hancock's Brendon Foss made a pair of freethrows to give UMM a lead. A Jeremy Burns (Fall Creek WI) jumper made the score 19-14 with UMM looking good.
But Jamestown enjoyed a 6-0 run and seized the lead for the rest of the game.
Schmidt finished the night with 15 points, the same total as teammate Zach Meyer, a Cottonwood product.
The Jimmies led 38-31 at halftime. The Cougars enjoyed a burst at the start of the second half, getting within one with the score at 38-37. But the Jimmies were about to find that game-deciding momentum.
Click on the link below to review the University of Minnesota-Morris debut basketball games for 2011 - a 1-1 start for both the men and women:

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

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanks to Minnewaska, we loved Thanksgiving

I'm writing this on Friday which in my childhood was called "the day after Thanksgiving."
Common sense suggested it was a good time to visit a store or two. We knew such stores (or the mall in "Alec") would be a little abuzz. What we didn't seem to find necessary was to give the day a name.
Giving it a name would seem like an affront to Thanksgiving. Giving it a name would almost seem like creating a false idol. After all, what would we be celebrating? The mere pull of commercialism?
There's nothing wrong with making more rounds at the stores than usual in the weeks leading up to Christmas. But the term "Black Friday" suggests that it's some sort of duty for us to get out and spend money on the day after Thanksgiving.
A big issue this year was whether it's appropriate for Black Friday to seep into Thanksgiving itself. Why are we seriously discussing this?
Shouldn't we accept that Thanksgiving be left alone to be celebrated as intended? Can't the "doorbusters" wait just one more day?
I appreciate that some people are willing to work Thursday at hospitality functions and some restaurants, because that's where some families celebrate part of Thanksgiving. I'm sure many people in Morris are eager to race to "Alec" on Friday.
But it wasn't easy to find dining accommodations on Thursday.
The "buzz" started spreading several weeks ago that there would be no public dinner at the Catholic Church this year. That left a void for our family.
I awoke Thursday morning at least feeling some sense of serenity for the holiday. Feeling my typical need for caffeine in the morning, I ventured out. As I approached McDonald's I noticed another motorist pulling into the drive-up lane there, in vain. It was closed.
The parking lot which once would have had activity due to Coborn's, might just as well have had tumbleweeds blowing across. I'll write again that Coborn's leaving has left a gaping void in our community.
If Paul Martin reads this, he gnashes his teeth. Sorry Paul but I don't see "consolidation" as a happy trend. I'm surprised it hasn't happened more with hardware here.
Coborn's probably would have been open all day Thanksgiving. That was their spirit. If you woke up in the middle of the night realizing you were out of dog food, you could make an emergency run, perhaps with your pajama bottoms on, and avoid getting a dirty look from your dog in the morning.
Neither McDonald's nor DeToy's were open Thanksgiving. One really had to grope. Yes there was Prairie Inn, but that's an establishment that serves alcohol so we usually have that crossed off our list. We're not prudes but it's just our practice.
Thanks to Paul Martin, Willie's was open for part of the day. I bought a Star Tribune in order to see who Patrick Reusse's "Turkey of the Year" was. It's Zygi Wilf, owner of the Vikings, who certainly shows the Black Friday spirit of commercialism.
Only rarely do I grab a table near the entrance of Willie's. It's an interesting place from which to watch people. My breakfast there was the obligatory towering cup of caffeinated beverage and an Almond Joy candy bar.
Very soon I was joined by another individual who normally can be found at McDonald's in the morning. We thought up a nice practical joke: to have eight or nine people agree to park their cars just outside McDonald's on Thanksgiving morning, just to give the impression it's open, and then watch people stream in. People might get so ticked, the cops might come along and take down license numbers.
Then we thought of another practical joke, to put out a box and accost Willie's shoppers by saying we were conducting some sort of "fundraiser," as is often done at the Willie's entrance. What would we be fundraising for? We'd think of something.
Often I pass on these fundraisers because you never know where this money really ends up. I mean, someone is going to end up walking out the door with it. You read in the paper about these things going awry. It can't happen in Morris? Oh, lots of things can happen in Morris.
I was aware that a community supper has been served at Minnewaska Area High School the past few years. When all else fails, check "Google." On Wednesday I went online at the Morris Public Library and in an instant could confirm that a community meal was "on" for this year, overseen by the Pope County Ministerial Association.
Bless them for continuing to do this.
My father is a 1934 graduate of Glenwood High School. He had never been in the new school so I thought it perfect that we arrange to do our Thanksgiving dining there.
One of my father's choral compositions, a patriotic one, provided the theme for the 1953 Glenwood High School yearbook. Wouldn't it be neat if we could show up for that class' presumed 60-year - gulp! - reunion a year and a half from now? Where does the time go?
That class' yearbook unabashedly promoted "Ike" as president (Dwight D. Eisenhower). That was the spirit of that time. America was feeling postwar relief and prosperity. I would be born two years later at the height of the "baby boom."
The people in charge of the Thanksgiving meal at Minnewaska Area thought of absolutely everything. It gets a grade of A-plus.
Not only was the food ample, the spirit of the holiday emanated throughout.
John Stone stopped by to take photos for the "dead tree" media. That's a routine I did a zillion times here in Motown. I remember getting volunteers to pose by the dessert table at Assumption Catholic Church.
I can't imagine why the community meal was canceled here this year. I don't think it was lack of volunteers. I remember one year, Pastor Jarvis made the rounds just offering to fill water glasses, and he joked that there were so many volunteers, he ended up in this very niche specialty!
I learned from the TV news that Alexandria had a big community meal for Thanksgiving. It doesn't look good for Morris to have lost this asset.
One theory I have heard is that too many people were ordering the takeout meals who were really just freeloading. In theory these meals were for seniors or shut-ins. But that's just in theory.
I cringed watching the Channel 9 news and hearing the "Black Friday" term several times. The term has been elevated to the same level as Thanksgiving, a state of affairs we would have found shocking when I was a kid.
When I was young, a feeling of serenity prevailed on Thanksgiving, like the world suddenly slowed to a crawl, and then the next day we definitely considered shopping but only as a common sense type of thing. Treating Friday with reverence by giving it a name might have seemed asinine.
And it doesn't end there. Saturday is "Small Business Saturday." What's the point? We can shop at these businesses anytime. And isn't there "Cyber Monday" too, a day that seems to contradict the spirit of Saturday?
Commercialism has come to mesmerize us. We're supposed to beat down doors to get our mitts on all these new electronic gizmos.
Somehow when I was a kid, we all survived with nothing more sophisticated around us than land-line telephones and clunky TVs hooked up to "cable" (if even that).
Today we have to get an Ipad or Smartphone. We simply must race to these stores on Friday. The 'doorbusters" await us.
Maybe at some point Moses will come down from the mountain and smash the tablets before us. Maybe he'll do it at the Star Tribune which presented a notorious editorial a few days ago rebutting and seeming to scold those Target employees who wanted Thanksgiving to stay clear as a holiday.
"Black Friday" advances like the movie "Blob" to usurp Thanksgiving itself. There is some pushback, thank goodness. But the Star Tribune buys right into the big business/Republican boilerplate lines about how "you should just be thankful to have a job."
Let them eat cake, to be sure.
An op-ed writer suggested last week that the "Norman Rockwell" portrayal of Thanksgiving was becoming myth. So few people stayed idle all day anymore, we're told.
Well, I was fortunate as a kid to be in a family that was "Norman Rockwell" all the way, spending Thanksgiving with relatives, enjoying a home-prepared turkey, and being in no hurry to accomplish anything tangible.
Many of our relatives have passed on. We're not so inclined to spend the day at home, even though the dog would love some turkey "scraps" from the table.
So we went to Minnewaska Area and were 100 percent happy doing so.
Thanks, Pope County Ministerial Association,.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Morris resident remembers awful blizzard

(This post is part 2 of 2.)
Ever wonder why The Greatest Generation has such an easy-going air and rolls with the punches so well? Their ranks are thinning but they still stand as an example. They show us how to arrange our priorities.
Step into a time machine and go back to November 11, 1940. The Great Depression had been horrid. We were coming out of that in fits and starts, but adversity was still plentiful. Jobs remained scarce. Same with disposable income.
The modern conveniences we take for granted in rural areas were not a given. We're talking electricity, telephones and running water.
So it was a heckuva time for an historic blizzard to blow in. But just such a scenario unfolded on November 11, 1940.
Just think of all the people whose lives would change in the next couple years because of WWII. We were watching that conflict from afar then. There was a huge movement to remain as spectators. That attitude would change abruptly with the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
It was about one year prior to Pearl Harbor that Minnesota got swept over by the most tragic blizzard ever.
Was it actually the worst blizzard? Absolute statements are hard to make, but in light of how Minnesotans lived in 1940, minus many of the resources of today, it stands as the worst. Even the best wool hunting clothes could leave us feeling wet and cold.
Today we take for granted our synthetics and water-resistant items.
In so many ways we didn't have the assets of today to fend off the dangers of Minnesota's harshest weather. Many people were killed.
The year 1940 grows more remote in time. We are blessed having Betty Waage in our midst who can recite specifics.
Sherman and Betty Waage are members of my church in Morris: First Lutheran. They have come to our home two or three times because they offer to make personal visits to people 90-plus years of age on occasion of their birthday. What a wonderful gesture to people whose mobility is usually greatly reduced.
My father is 95. He still gets around thanks to yours truly, but it's a challenge.
My father once shared his own stories about the Armistice Day Blizzard and I should have written it down. His mind today is OK but many specific memories of those long-ago times have faded.
Betty was 13 years old at the time of the fateful storm. She was the oldest of six children.
"This storm was different," Betty recalled in the book "All Hell Broke Loose" by William H. Hull. She recalled bitter cold and a "swirling wind" that impeded one's breathing.
The family lived seven blocks from main street in Morris - "the outskirts of town," as she described it. The family needed to get groceries and coal for the cookstove. The stove was a source of heat for the kitchen and entry.
Betty and her father trekked out in the storm, getting some protection from buildings. On the way back that protection became insufficient. She recalled "the full force of the wind" unleashing itself, making it uncertain where the road even was.
Her father said "let's turn back." Betty spotted some lilac bushes where she recalled playing, so her orientation was restored and she insisted they could proceed on.
"Somehow we had to make it," Betty said.
With half a block left, there was no assurance this trek would be completed, when along came a neighbor in a vehicle. The neighbor had the father and daughter get in, affording relief from the absolutely piercing cold.
Betty and her dad made it to their front door, bringing great relief for mom who was with the small children with limited supplies. There was no phone in the home. There was an unreliable radio.
They checked on the chicken shed as soon as the weather allowed. Snow was ubiquitous, packed everywhere, and certainly the chickens must have expired, they felt.
There was "a loud squawk," Betty recalled. They removed snow with their hands, ultimately to find the chickens had miraculously survived.
"We were thankful also that we were all alive and survived that storm," Betty told author Hull. "For me, it was an experience that I will never forget."
The chapter in which Betty gave her story was called "Seven Very Tough Blocks to Walk." One shivers when looking at the chapter name that follows hers: "Sheep Stuck to the Ground at Backus."
Hull's bock was copyrighted in 1985.
Weather forecasting was a primitive proposition in 1940 compared to today. Hull pointed out that road-clearing vehicles were likewise far less developed and plentiful. There was no interstate highway system.
It's important to emphasize that the nature of clothing was an impediment. Today we have "heat efficient and water protective outerwear," Hull pointed out. Also, "modern airlift capabilities."
Houses didn't afford a good enough defense and in many cases there was no central heating. Insulation could be quite deficient if it existed at all. Rural areas had special challenges even during good weather.
Antifreeze was expensive. So, many people opted for alcohol in auto radiators. But if applied too soon on the calendar, "it could overheat and boil away and be lost," Hull wrote.
Betty and her father benefited from the caring neighbor in the vehicle. But such gestures weren't necessarily the norm, contradicting the notion we might have about "the good old days," Hull observed. Many who could have shared did not.
I have written before about "the old oaken bucket principle" in which we think surely the people of past eras lived a richer life. But if we spent some time in 1940, we'd surely decide to hop in that time machine and plop back to the present.
"All Hell Broke Loose," to recite again the title of Hull's book, and about a year later we'd be pulled into WWII with its unspeakable tragedies, even though good prevailed over evil.
Hull noted he could only share a portion of the blizzard stories he collected, due to the space limitations presented by the book. I hope all the stories he gathered are still preserved somewhere. Because today we have the Internet.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, November 21, 2011

Our winter begins mildly, unlike in 1940

(This post is part 1 of 2.)
I awoke yesterday (Sunday) knowing the world outside would be white as a signal of the season. The snow had a glistening quality as the morning progressed. The atmosphere was enhanced by no wind.
This was positively the best way to usher in winter. The snowfall didn't seem as heavy as weather forecasts had suggested.
Those rumbling plows could stay in the garage, it seemed. They'll get plenty of use later unless we're supremely lucky and can avoid the staggering snowfall. Wishful thinking, no doubt.
In Minnesota we adjust to the new season in a seamless sort of way, not making much of a production about it. As Scandinavians (predominantly) we have a reserved nature. We sometimes do arduous things without acknowledging much.
The trait is represented in the phrase "it's no big deal."
We approach winter with resignation, saying "it's no big deal."
Thanks to the mere dusting of snow we got Saturday, the arrival of winter 2011 really does seem like no big deal.
We make sure our winter wardrobe is assembled. The shovels or snowblower are to the ready. Then we go to the diner and ask "how much snow are they predicting for (whenever)?"
The word "they" in this context has a curious meaning in our daily parlance. It belongs in an urban dictionary - an Upper Midwest Scandinavian urban dictionary. We'll be ready for the weather regardless of what "they" say. We always land on our feet, us Minnesotans.
We accept the travails imposed by winter and then peel off our outerwear in spring as if nothing happened. After all, "it's no big deal."
In journalism there's a saying: A dog biting a man is no story, but man-bites-dog equals story. We don't cover all the successful landings at the airport. In my lengthy print media career I never placed much significance in the first snowfall. Others around me always felt it was something that had to be photographed, somehow.
For me, only a harsh blizzard would have spelled "man bites dog." Saturday's snowfall was quite the routine matter, so I'm not sure how I could come up with some sort of distinctive photo.
I have become longer of tooth since those print media days. Getting older makes one wish winter would just stay bottled up somehow. It's a wish we hold in vain.

Going back in time
The classic man-bites-dog year for first snowfall was 1940. It's in the history books as hugely significant. Heavens, there was no Weather Channel then.
In our household (and I suspect others) the Weather Channel is a default one to have on. When nothing else seems acceptable and even the ESPN channels have such topics as child rape - not very palatable - we turn to the Weather Channel and its "forecasts on the 8's."
The evening tornado specials are neat. What an asset this would have been in Minnesota in 1940. Winter arrived with a sledgehammer-like force. We've seen nothing quite like it before or since.
It was given a name: the Armistice Day Blizzard. I'll use capital letters out of respect and deference to God's awesome force with nature.
There seemed enough adversity in the world then. The Second World War was raging in Europe. We were still largely spectators but I'm sure there was an uneasy anticipation about our slide into that conflagration.
The America Firsters led our drive to stay out. Charles Lindbergh had a controversial involvement with that. Lindbergh stuck his neck out in several ways that stigmatized him in later years.
The Axis and Allies were squaring off. Congress voted a huge naval building program in 1938. We pledged neutrality in 1939. But there was a concerning "cash and carry" policy that got assets into the hands of our preferred side in the conflict - the "good guys." The Lend-Lease act in 1941 accelerated that trend - a slippery slope to war.
War arises when politics breaks down. It has been called "the congress of adolescents."
The late 1930s were a time of seeing the civilized means of conflict resolution dissipate. 1940 was marked by a flurry of events. A series of spring invasions made some sort of U.S. response seem unavoidable. FDR pledged to help "the opponents of (conquering) force."
In fact we'd have to wield a mighty big hammer ourselves. Our military grew in its resources. No one remembers that "the draft" began as the Burke-Wadsworth bill. We surely got the draft - in retrospect an inevitable and necessary development, but to my generation in the 1970s a hellish abomination.
FDR won a third term as president - considered controversial - by beating Wendell Willkie in 1940. In that November, the U.S. seemed on the threshold of war and although it's never related in Memorial Day speeches, Americans desperately wanted nothing to do with it. The "Firsters" had huge gatherings.
Minnesotans in 1940 had been through a mild autumn. The suggestion of snow got deer hunters excited. A dusting of snow would be in their interests for tracking. Even duck hunters saw advantages with the white.
We arrived at Armistice Day, a term that has since been retired. It had been a dry year. But the sheer force of God was about to release itself in the elements. First there was misty rain. Sleet began cascading down - no big alarm felt.
Minnesotans did expect snow but in the "no big deal" category.
The day was Monday, November 11, 1940.
Some more historical context: When people talked about "the big war" then, it was World War One. I had the privilege of writing about some WWI veterans in my print media career. Examples were Thore Mathison and Earl Eames. I photographed at least one reunion. I remember vets like Rosie Garberick and Roy Woolridge and others whose names have faded in my aging mind.
(I also remember Roy in a skit to re-create, in mock fashion, the wedding of Mr. and Mrs. Perry Juergensen for an anniversary at the Eagles Club. I believe Roy was the minister. The bride was a man dressed in drag. You can't forget stuff like this.)
There comes a time when veterans of a war fade away. It's important to encapsulate those memories.
The late Del Holdgrafer made sure a proper grave marker for a WWI veteran was restored in Donnelly. Holdgrafer was the salt of the earth, embracing humanity and treating money almost as an inconvenience. The likes of him will ultimately guide humanity past the icebergs of Wall Street greed and the false idols of profits/wealth foisted by the Republican Party. I digress.
The day of weather infamy, about a year before the real "day of infamy" as proclaimed by FDR, wore on with wind becoming a nuisance and then a hazard. Gusts stretched into the 60s (MPH). That's the kind of wind into which you walk backwards.
If only that had been the biggest inconvenience on the day. Drifts appeared with suddenness. At 3:30 p.m. the visibility was down to nothing.
Our normal Minnesota resilience with such things was not going to be good enough. People found shelter wherever. Stalled cars blocked roads. Offices became bedrooms. (I've experienced that.)
People knew it was bad but they couldn't be certain yet just how bad.
Obviously our communications resources then couldn't hold a candle to today.
The snowfall over a 24-hour period ended up an all-time record in Minneapolis. The temperature plunged to six degrees by Tuesday morning. All of Minnesota and in fact a big swath of the country felt God's weather sledgehammer.
The death toll in the Midwest ended up at 52. It was an onslaught of winter that inaugurated the season like in no other year, so we ought to feel blessed by the gentle nature in which snow arrived in 2011. Plus there's no world war brewing.
Let's count our blessings.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, November 19, 2011

It's snowing, and UMM hoopsters are battling

The swirling snow outside today (Saturday) is enough of a sign we're into winter. Another big sign is the UMM basketball athletes racing up and down the court.
The UMM men and women both had a 1-1 start. Things went great in the opener for both teams. They both hosted North Central, the Rams, on November 15. Both showed a winning flourish at the Jim Gremmels court.
For the men, success came by an 87-79 score.
Brendon Foss continued his athletic exploits from the football season, putting in a team-high 16 points. Brendon is a football receiver, often catching passes from his brother Derrick. Both are former Hancock Owls.
Ben Hoidal from Forest Lake was right behind Brendon with his 15 points. East Grand Forks product Derek Schmidt contributed ten points plus he snared seven rebounds. UMM had a 39-34 rebounding advantage.
It was the Rams getting an early lead by a margin of seven. UMM then seized momentum with a 23-12 run. Wisconsin product Jeremy Burns gave UMM the lead with a three-pointer at the 13:04 mark.
The Cougars were clearly in the groove as the second half unfolded. There was a 10-3 run building cushion on the scoreboard. The cushion swelled to 20, 65-45, at the 11:29 mark. Brodie Raymond of St. Peter connected from three-point range to put the lead at 20.
The Rams weren't rolling over, though. They showed their mettle getting back within six points within the last minute. Fans looked up at 83-77 numbers on the scoreboard.
UMM needed to bear down to put this one away, and bear down they did by scoring four of the last six points. The final horn sounded with 87-79 numbers on the scoreboard and the UMM crowd savoring win No. 1.
The Cougars were humbled in their second contest, bowing 66-44 on the road to the Cobbers of Concordia. UMM managed an early lead but faded, as too many shots bounced off the rim. UMM's first half shooting stats were a cold six of 23 (26 percent).
This game was played on 11/17.
A Jeremy Burns three-pointer did give UMM a 7-2 lead, but Concordia proceeded to take command with a 10-1 run. The Cobbers led by as many as 17 points in the first half, and by 16 when the halftime horn sounded.
Brendon Foss finished with eight points as did Zach Meyer (from Cottonwood) and Derek Schmidt.
Kyle Bruns (from Brandon) found the range for six points. UMM was quite outdone in team field goal percentage: 55 percent for Concordia and 33 percent for the maroon crew.

The women's story
The University of Minnesota-Morris women launched the new season following pretty much the same pattern as the men.
First there was a pretty convincing opener win. The Cougars turned back the North Central Rams 77-45.
The Cougars looked smooth on the Gremmels court, scoring 42 points in the first 20 minutes. In that same span the Rams scored a mere 15.
Kendra Wykoff from Montrose made a three-pointer that pushed UMM's lead to 27 in the first half. Wykoff came off the bench to turn in her heroics. She would end the night as UMM's top scorer with 25 points.
Emily Mehr from Aitkin poured in 18 points and collected eight rebounds. (I wonder if Emily is a daughter of one of the Mehr boys I remember from bygone days at UMM. One of them actually got a shot at pro football at quarterback with the Vikings.)
Jenni Noordmans from Hancock scored ten points. Jenni and the Foss brothers are part of a very pleasing Stevens County connection in University of Minnesota-Morris athletics.
UMM shot field goals with 42 percent success in the 11/15 win. Former Benson Brave Abby Fragodt snared eight rebounds. UMM made eight three-pointers half of which were contributed by Wykoff.
Wykoff went four of eight in those long-rangers, and in overall field goals this sparkplug Cougar went nine of 15.
UMM's freethrow numbers were 13 of 18. They outrebounded the Rams 43-30.
The Cougars were brought back down to earth in their second game, getting outclassed by St. Benedict as part of the MIAC/UMAC Challenge. Alas this scoreboard story was 78-43.
This game was played on 11/18.
The Blazers of St. Ben's enjoyed an 8-0 run at the start of the second half, a half in which they outscored UMM 41-18. The Blazers enjoyed an 11-0 run in mid-half.
Emily Mehr with her 13 points and seven rebounds gave some stability for UMM. These were team-leading stats.
Wykoff, who we should note is just a freshman, put in eleven points and she made two of the team's three three-pointers. But three-pointers as a whole were a down note for the Cougar cause, reflected in three-for-20 numbers.
In freethrows the team was ten of 19.
The Blazers made almost 50 percent of their field goal tries. UMM languished at 25 percent.
All in all the early indications from UMM hoops are that an exciting winter lies ahead.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Deception needn't be part of learning

One of the many famous lines from the movie "Airplane!" was Robert Stack saying "No, that's just what they'd be expecting us to do."
The loony gang in the control tower was steering heroic pilot Robert Hays in. All of a sudden here's the Stack line that could have been taken from a cowboys and Indians movie.
No, the idea wasn't to deceive the snakebit and love-smitten Hays character (Striker), it was to guide him in. Fortunately the script guaranteed he'd make it. Stack (as Rex Kramer) was just aping a cliched movie line.
In like fashion, the "Druids" of the college liberal arts, beginning in the 1970s, stirred the pot. I offered up the "Druids" term two weeks ago, actually taking it from a book by George H. Douglas. That post and this one might be considered inspired by the contrarian academic, author of "Education Without Impact." He's associated with the U of Illinois.
Douglas wrote about "the poisoning of the humanities." He talked about how the process developed with liberal arts being put on the defensive.
(I use "liberal arts" as roughly a synonym of the humanities. The problem with referring to humanists is that it conjures up "secular humanists" which is a very particular breed.)
On the defensive? How? It happened when society put the natural sciences and math on a special perch. Well, society has the right to do that.
Science and math would surely uplift us.
No way we can dispute that, but isn't there room to enjoy a good Charles Dickens novel? Well yes, but the "new Druids," according to Douglas, couldn't even teach Dickens the same way anymore.
We could read Dickens and find such fare to be an absolute treasure, minus any dissection. But "no, that's just what they'd be expecting us to do."
The humanities were determined to ape the sciences. They had to probe mysteries and find solutions. They had to develop a body of thought and language that only "the initiated" could understand.
New "isms" came into being.
I remember a faux intellectual teaching me when I was a senior in high school, when I should have been learning how to wash my clothes instead of writing about the Puritans. The teacher, who I considered an abomination, liked to correct "misconceptions." That's what these people do, identify the CW (conventional wisdom) and then try to portray it as myth.
Only the "Druids" have the true knowledge. What they're really trying to demonstrate is that they're like the scientists.
The real scientists, of course, know what they're doing - no feints necessary.
Many of the power brokers in the liberal arts wander aimlessly like the Stack character, spouting nonsense that might be from "Airplane." It's mumbo-jumbo from people who fancy themselves theorizers.
The theory and jargon take over, rendering as almost an afterthought the beauty of classics. The idea is to demonstrate specialized thinking.
The "stepchildren" of this movement, according to Douglas, were the deconstructionists. Members of this camp declared that theory is everything. The sheer conceptualizers would rule. The literary text itself could seem to evaporate into the ether.
The academic emerged as the one with the big ideas. Literary texts might inspire or at least justify such ideas. But the authors themselves weren't necessarily among the anointed ones.
I remember years ago - heck, this was probably the late 1960s - someone mentioned that our University of Minnesota-Morris was offering a course in the poetry of Robert Browning. This individual then sniffed: "Robert Browning probably couldn't get accepted at UMM."
Get the idea? The post I wrote a while back on college art courses from hell is in line with my theme today. (My education posts might be said to constitute a series, though not yet book length.)
As I reported about that art teacher who foisted all that horse hockey, he died living a subsistence life, having left (been forced from?) academia years earlier.
This was at St. Cloud State University. I wouldn't want to besmirch UMM by suggesting this fellow taught here. He was a Druid proudly claiming to have an exclusive lens with his insights.
They'd say: "Forget what you think you might know."
You had to be guided into a special circle, as if at a certain point you'd have your blindfold ripped off and see academicians surrounding you holding symbolic maces.
But of course it was all a charade.
Sometimes people who behave like Caesars in their palaces are just profoundly insecure. Don't be fooled by the airs projected by many in academia. Many of these souls are scared.
The offending strain of professors embraced (or were receptive to) Marxism in college. I doubt that's true anymore, because hasn't this school of thought been pretty well buried? From my viewpoint it has been, but heaven knows what continues to go on in ivory towers.
I suspect there's more accountability in higher ed. today - there darn well better be - but tenure can still provide a pretty strong shield.
Does anyone doubt that UMM has concerns about PZ Myers being an unnecessary lightning rod? I've seen it all, so nothing about him would cause my jaw to drop. I've heard about the eucharist.
Douglas reported in his book "Education Without Impact" that deconstruction has spread to - would you believe? - architecture. (I should note the book is copyrighted 1992.)
Is this how we got that oddball UMM science auditorium built? You know, with the aversion to right angles? Why not the straightforward and professional method?
To repeat the Robert Stack character: "No, that's just what they'd be expecting us to do."
Deconstructionist thinking seeped into architecture schools whereas the real workaday world of architecture wasn't fooled much, except to carry out the wishes of the oddballs when the oddballs came forward with the money, like at UMM.
Not that we were alone. Oh, the 1970s. What an aberration.
I studied mass communications at St. Cloud State. I tried respecting the oddball stuff because I had to.
Professors wield power. I was complimented once for writing an "indirect lead" in a feature article assignment. In other words, I had written some opening paragraphs that gave no clue what the article was going to be about. This was avant garde.
Such stuff won smiles in the classroom.
But the worst offender was probably my "photojournalism" teacher, initials L.C., from whom I took two classes. (I use quotes because, what really is "journalism?")
To this day I can feel haunted by the offbeat standards of this character who had a beard and dressed informally. We weren't to take pictures that made clear sense. There were these elusive "artsy" standards we had to try to adhere to. And if we could capture some of them like butterflies in a bottle, then we'd get a good grade.
My generation was starting to get wise to this stuff as I was completing college. I remember two sharp exchanges. First, we were getting some of our work critiqued when it was all assembled on a bulletin board. The professor looked at a perfectly cute photo of a little kid on Santa's lap, furrowed his brow and then turned to us saying "Don't take pictures like that."
The student who took it spoke up immediately, sharply, saying "why not?"
The professor sort of groped for words but ended up saying something to the effect this was a cliche photo. I guess we were always supposed to be looking around for the Pulitzer Prize. What a travesty.
On another occasion this professor, speaking outside of photography, said the evening news on TV represented "free advertising" for professional sports leagues. He saw pro sports as big bad greedy businesses. (Actually professors of his ilk used the word "bourgeois" a lot.)
This too drew a sharp retort from a student. I remember this classmate, a big, burly and personable guy who wasn't fazed for an instant by these airs. He spoke up sharply: "The reason those scores are reported on TV is that people want to know them."
The emperor has no clothes.
The photo professor would say "don't even publish a posed photo and whatever you do, don't use a photo where someone is looking at the camera and smiling."
He might have been Robert Stack as Rex Kramer, saying "No, that's just what they'd be expecting us to do."
I remember one classmate, initials J.M., who I think was hurt by a lot of this drivel. He worked at two community newspapers before basically being tossed from the profession. I know because he told me.
My career lasted a lot longer. But eventually I reached the end of the road too.
Today the corporatists are truly the kings. And buildings are built with right angles.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

We keep feeding beast known as football

The Monday night football game wasn't much of a promo for the new Vikings stadium. We are in the midst of a typical shakedown where somehow or other the citizenry will subsidize an opulent new facility.
A flat piece of ground and some bleachers used to be good enough. Each new generation of stadiums gets more elaborate. Jerry Jones of Dallas is leading us toward outright theme parks. These are shrines to a sport that up until now has had us infatuated.
That infatuation has always been suspect. It's the reason why now the Penn State scandal is front and center. A man who should be treated as nothing more than a creep, processed through our criminal justice system, is treated as a celebrity albeit a notorious one.
NBC News sought him for an interview. This was the ultimate "get," as they say in the media industry. There might have been some high fives at the NBC offices. Then Bob Costas composed himself and directed questions at the creep.
Why do we care so much about the creep? He was a fixture connected to one of the most storied college football programs. He had proven himself a winner.
Winning is a cornerstone of the American culture. We need to learn everything we can about what makes winners tick.
Had the creep been a coach in a program that hadn't distinguished itself, the media glare wouldn't be there.
It has been said of Clem Haskins that he lives much better today, as a somewhat disgraced former coach, than if he had followed all the rules. He won but he had to be edgy doing so.
Living on the edge is like investing in the riskiest stocks. Or, as they say, absolute power corrupts absolutely. We get bored quickly with losers. We say we care about integrity but we want to see winners.
Our attention span has never been so fragile. Our culture has conquered boredom in a way that never could have been imagined a couple of decades ago. It's a mixed bag as a result. Our instant gratification nature makes us reject losers and losing like never before.
We build up this shrine for football and then worship there. And then we sit aghast when disgusting things are turned up in some of these programs.
At the risk of showing age prejudice I'll say the Penn State football program was run by a very old man who increasingly wasn't capable of acting in much more than a ceremonial role.
Aging can be an unkind process. It's especially unkind for people who lack (financial) means. Heavens, Joe Paterno never would have lacked means. It's not an affront to suggest someone like him retire.
Paterno was at the top of a supremely powerful organization and money machine that did nothing more than entertain people by running over the opposition or tackling them with abandon.
We are learning that Penn State football was way too integral to the stature of its community. When you have a stadium that holds 100,000 in an arguably remote part of the state, something seems out of kilter.
Imagine if the University of Minnesota were located in, say, Redwood Falls. The location makes it harder than it should be for this institution to sustain itself. It's an unfair position.
Jesse Ventura once said St. Paul must have been laid out by drunken Irishmen. How did things develop in Pennsylvania where a huge institution like Penn State ended up so isolated? I don't know if Irishmen were involved but the inebriation part applies.
It's 4:34 a.m. as I write this and MSNBC drones in the background, touting the "exclusive" Bob Costas interview with the wrongdoer in the PSU scandal. And I won't say "alleged" either.
Right now the creep is talking about "horsing around" in the shower. Why are we so anxious to even hear this guy's voice?
He's famous because he's associated with a winner. Winning is vital to Penn State and to State College PA because a high profile is deemed so necessary there.
It's 4:38 a.m. now and I'm listening to Herman Cain try to talk about Libya. I find that far more agreeable than listening to the creep.
If Penn State University were connected to a very large and diverse city it could benefit from the synergy of power. The college and city would have shared interests. But by being in "the rolling hills of Pennsylvania," as it is described (which sounds very nice), the institution falls into a desperate pattern of seeking attention in the most direct and primal way.
And this isn't done through scientific research. It isn't done through scholarly inroads. It's done through winning football games.
Paterno was allowed to become a godlike figure there. His cognitive abilities toward the end weren't up to the task anymore. Now, the scandal has left him crushed in its wake.
As the weeks pass and he suddenly comes to realize how truly mortal and unimportant he is, I hope he realizes that the only way to salvage any of his legacy is to "come clean." He should have a catharsis.
The truth likes sunshine. We all feel cleansed when ultimately just telling the truth. Surely he knew more about the "bad guy" in all this than he has admitted so far.
Seriously, I think his best defense, even legally, would be based on generation: "I'm 84 years old and I grew up in a time when this offending behavior was sort of behind a cloud, it was taboo to talk about it directly, and we all just sort of moved on without intervening."
It's rather lame but it might be the best he can do. He can surely live with himself by just telling the truth.
Here's another major aspect, one which I haven't even heard experts on HLN elaborate on yet: The firm action of coming down on Jerry Sandusky had to be taken immediately. It had to be taken when the first allegations began floating.
That sounds obvious but think deeper: As soon as the slightest step is taken to cover up or delay, that cover up has to be maintained lest the higher-ups themselves get the ax. Well they certainly have gotten the ax now.
It reminds me of a historical reflection I read about WWII once. Hitler had to keep fighting because he had no choice. Had he just stopped fighting (what we would desire), well, the other world powers would have come to get him.
The cover-up at Penn State, once it started, had to be continued. Fortunately the house of cards came down.
We are left with the problem of an institution having disproportionate power where it is located. Visualize the 100,000-seat stadium in the "rolling hills of central PA." Doesn't the Metrodome hold just half that? And it's in Minneapolis?
Beaver Stadium must be a shrine to something bigger than football. There is an incestuous relationship among too many of the influential people there, people who owe so much to that shrine.
Look at the judge who just let Sandusky walk. Sandusky is totally free - no ankle bracelet and no money needed up front. The judge was connected to his "charity."
Can local politics be overcome to see justice done?
Our best ally in this, ironically, is the media in spite of its attraction to the salacious details. The truth likes sunshine.
Maybe when it all becomes known, we can rethink our obsession with big-time football. Maybe when Hank Williams Jr. asks "are you ready for some football?" we can sometimes answer "no."
Poor Hank. He was just saying what he thought his Fox News hosts wanted to hear.
Fox News may not be what it appears to be. We learn that Barack Obama is the "Wall Street president" so how, really, can conservatives take much issue? Maybe in an odd sort of way, Fox News is giving President Obama "cover."
I'm glad I wasn't ready for football last night (Monday, 11/14). The Vikings lost to the Packers 45-7. Boomers may be realizing for the first time that the Vikings can be a dull chronic loser.
Will we say "uncle" as Zygi Wilf twists our arm? Will we just fork over the money or allow more gambling which is just a regressive tax that hurts the less well off?
By succumbing to the temptation of increased gambling, are we courting the spectre of "Pottersville," that disturbing place in "It's a Wonderful Life" where everything has gotten corrupted thanks to the quintessential Republican, "Mr. Potter?"
Let's pray that we can keep our healthy perspective.
But I'm not betting on it.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Penn State scandal consumes our attention

George Will has talked about "coach centrism" in college football. We have to wonder, now that we've seen the spectacular fall of Joe Paterno at Penn State, why the coach seems so central to the fortunes and perception of a college football team.
Why do we invest so much in these people? Why do we allow them to become so bigger than life in so many instances?
Perhaps I have fed the beast myself with my recent posts showing skepticism about U of M Gophers football. Maybe I have laid too much at the doorstep of the head coach.
The pertinent question to ask is: Why can't college football be more of a basic test of the athleticism of the two teams? Why do we depend so much on celebrity head coaches who make chessboard moves, live like workaholics and seem to carry the whole emotional banner of their region?
Why have we allowed "coach centrism" to progress so far, an 84-year-old man like Paterno felt last week like he could browbeat the board of trustees of his school into his desired decision? Is there anyone among us who didn't think that was totally pathetic?
Paterno had his veneer of power stripped off. He looks most human and most vulnerable now.
Was he clinging to power as a way of perpetuating a cover-up? Was he afraid that if new people swept into the Penn State football office, they might discover some very uncomfortable truths?
I have always heard that bank employees are required to take vacations, not because it's good for their welfare but because if they're gone for a while, any 'funny stuff" they might be doing with money might come to light.
The Penn State football establishment may have been trying to suppress the scandal of a pedophile in the ranks because the disclosure would have done too much damage. That's actually the more charitable assessment.
We all understand PR aims. The darker and more cynical assessment has to do with "code of omerta." I have seen this on the (very) micro level. I would say that in the late 1980s, we saw it in Morris.
Coaches and staff always close around their own. It's a little like the mafia. Thank goodness we're micro.
Penn State University has been dragged into a cesspool that makes other colleges breathe a sigh of relief they can stay distant. All of a sudden here in Minnesota, our Gophers look pretty admirable, never mind that many of us boomers will go to our grave only imagining what those maroon uniforms would look like in Pasadena come January 1.
Thank God we can stay distant from the horrible circumstances surrounding Penn State football. Not only is it sordid, it has all the ingredients that make it become a mega story in the media. I mean, we're into Terri Schiavo/Chandra Levy territory as I write this, at 5 a.m. Saturday morning, Nov. 12.
Penn State is supposed to play Nebraska today in Happy Valley - what an ironic name. So fluid is this story, I'm not even certain the game will happen. Paterno's firing happened at a late night news conference.
The people running the cable TV news networks realize they have to stay fixated on the story. They arrange for panels and experts to assess, never mind these people don't know all the facts in what is unfolding as a complicated legal matter.
News consumers will "click around" to find the most current (or salacious) discussion of all this stuff happening.
As I write this, "Fox and Friends" is coming on the screen (Fox News Network) and sure enough, the Penn State fiasco is topic No. 1. There are no real fresh bulletins. They're recycling the stuff about Mike McQueary, that poor young man who will never escape his association with this. He reported an incident but apparently didn't do enough.
How many of us can honestly say we would have done more in his position? Don't you think human instincts would take over? Wouldn't we fear being tossed aside as "knowing too much" and losing out to the awesome power continuing a cover-up from the top?
My instincts tell me McQueary is a fundamentally good person. He isn't a household name like Paterno. He feared the wrath of God "getting involved."
It took the trustees to finally cut Paterno down to size. Even that seemed kind of excruciating. Reportedly the governor had to get involved.
The governor had to tell the trustees "do the right thing." Such an ethos can be foreign to a mafia-like institution and its code of omerta, I guess. An educational institution shouldn't have to be dragged kicking and screaming, but keep in mind there's lots of money involved.
Big-time college athletics is all about money. Is this the kind of environment where a whistleblower like McQueary, a lower-echelon pawn, can feel comfortable asserting himself?
In hindsight the answer might be "yes." But we're learning that an excruciatingly long cover-up may have been perpetuated. Paterno has hired a criminal defense attorney. Isn't it interesting how human and small he seems now?
The trustees found the sun would rise in the east the next morning. The birds would sing, at least to the extent birds this time of year sing.
I find myself thinking about the majority of the 40,000 students - and I thought St. Cloud State was big - at Penn State just living their normal routine as students, focusing on their next exam etc.
I was curious about what exactly "Happy Valley" denotes. Because, Penn State is located in State College, PA. You don't suppose that's a company town, do you?
I learn that Happy Valley is a "colloquialism for the State College area."
I have heard about State College all my life and assumed it was a suburb of a metropolis like Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. Finally I got out a map and learned no, State College is dead at the center of Pennsylvania, a fair distance from any other big population center.
While we're researching background, let's look into "Nittany Lions," the nickname. "Nittany" comes from a Native American term meaning "single mountain."
Governor Tom Corbett appears to be a hero thus far. He called the rioting Paterno supporters "knuckleheads."
All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't save some very big bigshots at Penn State. President Graham Spanier became ex-president, removed by the board.
"Off with their heads" was also proclaimed in regard to Tim Curley, athletic director; and Gary Schultz, who had a long administrative-sounding title. Curley and Schultz are charged with perjury.
The trustees called the bluff of Paterno in a move that seemed really gutsy when it happened, but in a short time seemed like no big deal.
Strip a man of his power and he looks most mortal in short order. Paterno can't move the chess pieces around anymore. He's checkmated.
But even that is too generous. His fall may continue to where he's just another desperate criminal defendant, making chess moves with his attorney just to protect his own rear end.
There is quite the shrine to big-time college athletics at Penn State: a stadium that can hold 100,000-plus fans. You think money doesn't rule with something like this?
You think McQueary wouldn't be scared to death asserting himself in such a manner that either he'd be "rubbed out" - remember the code of omerta is associated with the mafia - or put the wheels in motion for an enormous scandal?
McQueary was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, or so it seemed. "Coach centrism" means coaches assume almost godlike proportions. Pundit George Will doesn't like that.
Coaches want large rosters so they can apply the most esoteric strategies, using just the right players at the right time. This model must have developed because it's what the fans want and like.
The stadium actually holds 106,000 fans, I'm reading here, and it's called Beaver Stadium for reasons that don't jump out at me. It's like "Happy Valley" and "Nittany Lions," terms that you have to look up.
Penn State plays Nebraska at home today, providing there's no sudden cancellation. Then they go on the road to Ohio State and Wisconsin - thank goodness not here to Minnesota.
We much prefer our problem of losing to NDSU over the cesspool of scandal at Penn State.
The villain is of course Jerry Sandusky. A commentator last night said Sandusky probably has a "brain disease." But he's out on bail. A book by him was still for sale at the Penn State bookstore as of last night. What a person to mount a massive coverup for.
Remember the Jim Tressel (Ohio State) tattoo scandal? How quaint.
Sandusky is the mother of all scandals, to revive the words of the late Saddam Hussein, or (most likely) his creative translator.
It's sickening for three reasons: 1) It stains an otherwise virtuous institution, 2) It reinforces the deficiencies of "coach centrism," and. . . Oh, I've forgotten the third reason. (OK, this is topical humor related to Rick Perry, the sometimes brain-dead Texas governor. I'd better explain this for people who might read this years from now.)
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, November 10, 2011

UMM achieves winning mark in UMAC play

Derrick Foss puts up a pass in the October 1 game at Big Cat Stadium. (Photo by B.W.)

The UMM Cougars' November 5 game at Big Cat Stadium was a "crowning achievement." It was the finale for 2011 and it had Crown College, the Storm, as the opponent. A win would put the Cougars at .500 for the season (overall).
The home fans enjoyed a 21-14 win. It ended in a dramatic way with UMM mounting a goal line stand.
Crown got a last-gasp chance to at least tie the score due to a turnover. A fumble was recovered by the Storm's Adam Helvie, allowing the Storm's offense to go to work with two minutes left - ample time.
The UMM fans who were gathered on this windy day endured stress as the Storm executed 15 plays - wow! - aiming to exploit that turnover. They came within a hair's breadth. The official put the ball down at the one yard line.
En route the Storm had to convert on two fourth downs, one of them requiring ten yards to get the first. Crown had a 14-yard gain to overcome fourth and ten. Was this an irresistible force?
Finally, with the ball at the one, we'd all find out if Crown's clawing away would be rewarded with the score. A whole series of downs awaited. Crown spiked the ball on first down. Bryce Molden of the Cougars broke up a pass on second down. The clock shows two seconds left.
Crown's fortunes would ride with Amos Schmidt, tailback, who was handed the football. Caleb Forstrom and Shane Johnson made the stop. It was logical for Schmidt to get the ball - maybe too logical? He had carried the ball 24 times previously for 104 yards. Keying on him made sense.
Forstrom and Johnson made sure there'd be no overtime or sudden loss. It was a climactic and exciting way for the 13 UMM seniors to see their career come to a close. UMM finishes the 2011 season above .500 in the UMAC.
Crown led first in this game and then UMM answered with a Garrett Mensing four-yard scoring scamper. Dan Garrigan, the signal-caller coping with the wind factor, passed to Brendon Foss on the conversion. So UMM is up 8-7.
Later, Foss was on the receiving end for six points on a 14-yard hookup from Garrigan. The Cougars led 15-7 at halftime.
Foss finished the day with four catches for 39 yards, and his eleven TD catches on the season left him one shy of the season record.
Garrigan was efficient passing, completing six of his nine attempts for 62 yards vs. the wind.
Leandro Dower, who is a regular cog in UMM's offense, had the unfortunate fumble that allowed Crown to make its last-ditch bid. Dower scored on a 62-yard run early in the third quarter. It was his sixth TD of the season. On the day he eclipsed 100 yards again, the fifth time this season he has done so.
He charged forward with the football 22 times. He's sort of a barometer of UMM success, as the team went 4-1 on the days he rushed for a hundred-plus.
Forstrom came to the fore with UMM's defense, posting a career-best 12 tackles (six solos). Cody Hickman came through with a career best 19 tackles. Hickman's season total: 106. Forstrom's: 77.
UMM's final league record: 5-4.

Win on 10/22
Part of that surge was the 28-24 win over Presentation on October 22. Battling in Aberdeen, SD, the Cougars were down 24-21 late and needing some clutch success.
Florida product Garrigan carried the ball into the end zone from the eight. Now UMM had its first lead of the game. The time remaining: 4:45. Earlier in the fourth quarter, Garrigan connected with Hibbing product Devon Johnson on a 34-yard TD pass, completing an 80-yard drive.
Garrigan and Derrick Foss shared the quarterbacking duties. Together they passed for a hefty 271 yards. Garrigan completed six of ten attempts and Foss posted eight of 17 numbers. The Foss brothers of Hancock - Derrick and Brendon - combined to produce UMM's first touchdown in the first quarter.
The second quarter saw Derrick pass to Chris Peterson (from Fertile, MN) for a five-yard touchdown. The Foss brothers showed their chemistry again on the two-point conversion, getting the score tied 14-all. Brendon Foss finished the day with eight catches for 184 yards.
Forstrom showed punch in the UMM defense, accumulating nine tackles (seven solos).
Dower was formidable carrying the football, posting his third straight game over 100 yards. He rushed for 68 yards in one drive.

10/15 home success
The October 15 assignment for UMM was to play Eureka here. Playing their most complete game of the year, the Cougars built a 28-0 lead at halftime and went on to win 40-7.
The Red Devils were no match for the Cougars. Minneapolis product Dower broke loose for a 48-yard touchdown run to get UMM going. The momentum picked up in the second quarter, decisively, as UMM scored 22 points in the quarter. The Cougars struck for six on three straight drives.
Derrick Foss plunged into the end zone from the two. Derrick passed to Brendon for 16 yards and a score. Garrett Mensing found lots of daylight on a 40-yard scoring run. Indeed there were lots of chances for the UMM crowd to cheer in robust fashion, cheers that for sure could be heard back at the campus mall.
Dower rushed for 134 yards on the day. Mensing's rushing yardage totalled 104.
Derrick Foss rolled up 177 passing yards. Brendon Foss had five pass receptions for 91 yards and a score.
The Cougar 'D' was stubborn, allowing a mere 76 rushing yards. Red Devil quarterback Sam Durley was held to 16-of-40 passing numbers plus an interception. Hickman did much to thwart the Red Devils, posting ten tackles (four solos) and forcing a fumble.
Six different Cougars scored including Danny Kernan whose pass-catching was showcased on a 50-yard TD in the third quarter. Derrick put the ball up on that crowd-pleaser.
Dustin Spohn scored on a nine-yard run late in the fourth.

Dome appearance on 10/29
The Cougars had the privilege of playing in the Metrodome, Minneapolis, on October 29, but were humbled at the hands of Greenville. UMM stayed in this one for a while, getting the score tied 7-7 but in the end it was Greenville winning 59-14.
Dower had his streak of 100-yard rushing games stopped, as on this day his total was 58. He made his presence felt with scoring runs.
Freshman Hickman had a tackle for loss of 12 yards and six solo stops. He posted a career-best 17 tackles. Shane Johnson had two interceptions.
UMM fans can tuck away lots of special memories from the 2011 campaign which had cooperative weather (best that can be expected, even with some wind) for the home games.
Click on the link below to read about the Cougars' games #4 through #6 in the 2011 season:

Click on the link below to read about the Cougars' first three games of 2011:

Yours truly has enjoyed putting together summary material and taking some photos throughout the exciting 2011 fall.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, November 7, 2011

Soccer field press box continues strides

It's a sign of my advancing years, I guess, that I still consider soccer to be a "new" sport at UMM.
I remember soccer's first year when I took it upon myself to cover the team for the local print media. No one asked me to do it.
I remember sitting down with my spiral notebook and taking notes with the first coach, Chris (Christian) DeVries, a guy who frankly struck me as not very personable or ingratiating.
There was a learning process where I became familiar with the jargon and stat abbreviations. I boned up at least to the degree I could produce a passable journalistic product.
I imagine my writing could be looked up in "the archives," as they say. But this is print media stuff which is continually falling in our media hierarchy.
In the future we'll expect archived material to be online. Otherwise it might as well not even exist. So much for the 26 years I spent in the print media.
It's also a sign of my age that I remember vividly when the University of Minnesota-Morris had no real sports information department. It either didn't exist at all or existed in name only. This covered many years.
I'm not sharing this to sound negative but to show how much our world has changed.
Countless young people had a rich experience in UMM athletics when the sports information department was threadbare. Such an asset simply wasn't deemed a high priority.
Soccer began as a women's sport here. It came alive in that open space to the west of the P.E. Center.
We now have men's and women's teams and the growth isn't over. No college program is supposed to stand pat. There is a never-ending race to get more resources, more attention and a growing constituency.
I'm happy for any new amenity that UMM can obtain. What troubles me, though, is how some people describe these things as filling needs, as if we'd have some woeful deficit without them.
For much of my life UMM didn't even have a student center. Now we have a student center that is inaugurating a new coffee bar called "Higbie's."
How did past generations of UMM students get by without such amenities?
Looking macro, how could we even exist without such things as Smartphones and Ipads? Well we certainly did. And while we can view all the new stuff as helpful and enriching tools, I doubt we should look upon them as essentials.
Or am I just showing my age again?
The communications tech tools that have created a Jetsons-like universe around us, have made us feel we must, absolutely must carve out a niche for ourselves in the virtual world. This applies to institutions as well as individuals.
So it's no wonder that something as seemingly frivolous as a soccer "press box" is discussed in urgent terms now. It's something we "need." And excuse me, but I may have shown my age again with the "Jetsons" reference.
The current issue of the University Register proclaims that a press box is indeed becoming reality at UMM.
The whole point of this post I'm writing is irony - the irony of an institution that once had a nominal (if even that) sports information department now deeming it necessary to have a press box for an arguably obscure sport.
It's an amenity. It's something tangible. It's something UMM can boast about and rightfully so. But darn it, it's not "necessary."
Institutions make the "necessary" argument to get funding. All the more power to them if they succeed.
Frankly, I'm surprised UMM is making strides like this in a time when we hear a lot about retrenchment and restraint in the public sphere. We see headlines about how so many college graduates are finding it tough parlaying that degree into rewards in the outside world.
We see headlines about the apparently staggering debt many students acquire in getting those sheepskins. We hear how the debt might make future generations more skeptical about stepping on campus. But if UMM can get more funds for amenities, it must mean some influential people somewhere think colleges will keep attracting swarms of young people.
In the most parochial sense, we in Morris must be glad the expansion trends continue.
We learn from the Register article that the press box was "sold" not just for media purposes. The selling job has to cover as much ground as possible. The article by Zak Forde, a most enterprising young writer, explained that the press box serves as a shelter and storage facility right on site that will have safety advantages.
In other words, an injured player can be attended to in an optimal way rather than relying on the P.E. Center which of course is just a stone's throw away.
It reminds me of when Sam Schuman was arguing for the new football stadium and pointed out that the existing facilities had "no bathrooms."
Well. . . Porta-potties were of course there, and the P.E. Center right next to the field of course had ample facilities. How often do fans even feel "nature's call" during a game, and if they do, how could the porta-potties not fill the bill? They do for We-Fest.
But the selling job rolled on. It's a jungle out there with colleges competing to get "the most toys," but I had thought it slowed with our more austere times, you know, since 2008.
It looks as though the spigot is at least still partially on. I'm not sure we've seen the worst of the austere times yet.
Forde, who is assistant to the editor in chief - what a caddy-sounding title - reminds me of when I was his age and sitting at a typewriter. Like Forde, I sought to be quite descriptive and employed some of the techniques of fiction writing.
There was nothing fictional about the content, it's just that we paint pictures with our words, using embellishments that wouldn't be necessary to just report facts.
I take my hat off to Mr. Forde. He has some rough edges just like yours truly once did, perhaps trying too hard to be a "good writer" when occasionally we should take a deep breath and just insert a short, direct sentence. We need to pause to make sure we're getting to the point.
There is a fine line. We must constantly ask ourselves if we're getting off track with our flourishes.
Once the proper discipline is established, it's the epitome of good writing. My idol in this regard is Tony Horwitz. I would suggest that Mr. Forde obtain a book by the eminent non-fiction writer.
None of this is to suggest I have achieved perfection today. My formative years are behind me so you'll have to take what you get.
I cut my teeth when Woodward and Bernstein were doing their thing. So I developed cynical tendencies. If you want a better grasp of this mindset, check out the movie "Capricorn One."
We're told the new press box will be a recruiting tool. Forde quotes a coach saying we'll be able to recruit "quality student athletes." We wouldn't want low-quality student athletes, would we.
Forde writes about the "mere aesthetic appeal" of the new building - certainly better than looking at porta-potties, I guess.
The press box will afford the best in web-casting. What if a student from the 1980s stepped into a time machine, whizzed to the present and heard about "web-casting?"
But this is part of the new virtual fabric of how we define ourselves and make our stamp in the world.
Forde quotes a coach talking about the "key recruiting value brought when out-of-state students' families know they will be able to watch them play without having to spend considerable time and money coming to Minnesota repeatedly."
Of course we do want fans here. Morris has begun a concerted push to attract tourism. I imagine we don't really care about the tourists per se, we care about their money.
We had a tourist infusion here on Friday, 11/4, with the high school football playoff game between BOLD and Paynesville. It was at that still-new Big Cat Stadium which Schuman and others were successfully able to sell. The indoor bathrooms surely ensured that we have now joined civilization.
Further down the road for UMM: the renovation of "Louie's Lower Level."
I'm old enough to remember the original "Louie's Lower Level." I remember the original dean of UMM, Rodney Briggs, coming here once and saying this name had been stolen from another college. I wished he had finessed his story a little.
The beat goes on with infrastructure additions and improvements. That's all for the better as long as young people continue to view college as a good buy.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Beware brightly colored serpent's eggs

Anyone who thinks all high school graduates should be "college ready" is nuts.
We put our young people through 13 years of more or less mandatory public education. It's a long slog and it should make you pretty civilized.
At its end, the young adults should pause and take a deep breath. They have been through 13 years of being infused with knowledge in varying ways. The idea of starting up a new ladder beginning as a college freshman, should give them pause.
There was a time in this country when college was an elite proposition. There was a refrain about "how difficult it was to get into college."
Our leaders in business and government were expected to have a college pedigree. That's what it was: a pedigree.
The societal tremors of the 1960s included a rejection of that. It was a time of breaking down boundaries and promoting access to life's goodies.
In principle this was fine. It was fine to be revulsed by the idea of the privileged elite having an escape hatch from mandatory military service during war. Dick Cheney got multiple deferments.
We wanted the "land of opportunity" phrase to become quite literal. Because of the obvious privilege symbolized by college - how it seemed like a ticket from life's unpleasantness - there was a push to spread it around.
But any time a scarce commodity becomes less scarce, its value diminishes. This probably first sunk in when I read a book by Harvey Mackay. Mackay wasn't writing about education, he was writing about marketing. A businessman can be a pretty good all-purpose guru.
Many young people ought to ask themselves if four more years of "education" really serves a purpose. Are they really looking at it as a "rite of passage?" Are they just buying into the egalitarian or utopian notion that no one should "drop out of the race."
Is the notion just a reaction to a system where a privileged elite seems to step into leadership positions? You know, from the likes of Ivy League insitutions? Is it really necessary to dislodge such a system by its roots? Isn't it futile?
Maybe in the '60s we embraced drastic thinking - dreaming - but naivete abounded.
America with its defects was fundamentally good. Ronald Reagan helped guide us back to that way of thinking.
So, college for all? I would say no. But we still hear the refrain sometimes.
Indeed, there are those who judge the quality of high school education by whether it prepares all the kids for college. That's nutzoid. Anyone should realize the "long slog" I cited is a very long time to be fed, well, something.
I have written on this site about a college art teacher I had, who epitomized the fad of deconstruction in the 1970s. I didn't include the name of this now-deceased individual. He was part of a broad group of teachers I recall from that time.
I wrote about him because he was the worst, not that there weren't some other serious offenders.
I was lucky enough to come across a book once that shared about this phenomenon. It was a godsend because I could see that this learned author could "call a spade a spade."
I had an ally.
He's George H. Douglas, author of "Education Without Impact." It was copyrighted in 1992. He's identified as professor of English at the University of Illinois (Urbana).
I read "Education Without Impact" with fascination. The sub-title is "How our universities fail the young."
I have given away the vast majority of books in my personal collection for our public library's annual sale (mid-July). But I held on to this tome by Mr. (or Dr.) Douglas.
I hope he's still alive and contributing his constructive criticism. The chapter in which he writes most directly about my grievance is called "The New Druids and the Poisoning of the Humanities."
My goodness, what came over the humanities in the 1970s? The seeds were planted in the 1960s.
The humanities should be a place of joy. It should uplift and illuminate.
But Douglas argued it is the humanists "who have most eagerly and carelessly fallen for all the cheap-tinsel intellectual fads that have come down the road, have glutted themselves on the latest manifestations of junkthink, have written the most bloated and bombastic prose."
He described many intellectuals in the arts as "the most clannish, introspective and obscurantist in the academic zoological garden."
OK, how? (And BTW, this is the first time in my life I've ever typed "obscurantist.")
How did this come about? Let's cite the animal instinct of survival for one thing. The huge ascendancy of the sciences put the humanities on its heels, when it really needn't have happened.
We will always value the humanities. But academia is a jungle where jealousies, back-stabbing and the like flourish in as raw a form as you can find.
Douglas cites "a sense of loss" felt by the humanists.
"The scientists are in the saddle," he wrote.
The humanists were uncomfortable in their subordinate role. It wasn't enough to enjoy the novels of Charles Dickens or like fare. Professors might frown on such "desultory and enjoyable reading," to use Douglas' words. They wanted to be like the sciences where complex mysteries were solved and an esoteric tongue used.
Moreover they came to embrace deconstruction. Douglas likens them to "the Druids" with their "serpent's eggs, brightly colored, giving off smoke and hissing sounds, used to scare away the timid and the uninitiated."
Because Morris MN is a college town, a liberal arts college town no less, some of this seeped into our high school curriculum here. It was a chore poring through a lot of this.
When a classmate of mine tried citing an item in "American Heritage" magazine, she was scolded. We were to totally dismiss such reading fare, this teacher who prided himself on being college-like, told the student.
"It's superficial," the teacher sniffed.
One thing is for sure: You can't win an argument with these people. This was a truly oddball teacher who was self-absorbed and he surely should have been fired.
There was little accountability back then. There is more now, fortunately, and less tolerance I'm sure for the oddball tastes of which I write.
In my post about the art teacher, a man who went on to die in abject poverty, long out of his teaching profession, I wrote that college students in the 1970s were encouraged to dismiss everything they thought they knew.
Here are Douglas' words: "You had to cast aside everything that had once been cherished or provided the underpinning of culture."
He gives an extensive background how this pattern set in, which I won't review because of the brevity (relative) I'm seeking here.
Many boomers probably "played this game" and moved on, having no hesitation henceforth reading the likes of American Heritage.
Or "America's Civil War," a magazine a stack of which I have in the basement as a treasured resource. It's just like American Heritage. Which is to say it approaches its subjects directly, thoroughly and honestly, not with any hoity-toity airs of ponderous condescension.
Douglas called all that stuff a "blight."
I feel sorry for many impressionable students for whom the dreck may have stuck. Maybe I didn't attend church for 35 years of my adult life because of influence from academia.
Would the likes of PZ Myers, UMM instructor, look upon me with a sniff and scorn if he saw me walking up those steps at First Lutheran Church? Would he view me as some sort of curious specimen?
Of course church is nothing but a regressive opiate of the masses, right?
The professors who espouse this and who have been receptive to Marxist political thinking have a right to their opinions. If they want to stop by the Eagles Club on Friday night and air their opinions at a table where ears are available, fine. They'd fit right in with all the other foolishness.
What these people do not have a right to, is a state-supported tenured teaching position where they can build an inflated sense of their importance and influence young minds. It's the state that is ultimately responsible.
I sense the problem isn't nearly as bad as in the 1970s, but it's still out there.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com