"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)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Morris Legion baseball succumbs to EV-W

Congratulations to Eden Valley-Watkins and its top-notch pitcher in American Legion baseball. Righty Hayden Wilner was in the zone Saturday (7/28) in the climactic phase of District 7 Division II play. His success was at the expense of our gallant Post #29 crew.
Double-elimination tournaments can be cruel! A team appears to reach the apex only to be turned back twice at the end. This is the fate that befell the Morris Legion team this past weekend. The site was Montevideo.
Morris had carved out its share of success there, going into the deciding Saturday chapter. Morris was coming off a 6-0 win that had Jacob Torgerson showcased in a way that spelled "ace." Flashback: Torgerson pitched a perfect game during the spring high school season.
But Saturday was a day for EV-W's Wilner to own. His performance might suggest a touch of controversy. This is because of the arguably loose limits for innings thrown in a day. Wilner tossed a complete game (seven innings) in the 5-2 win that EV-W achieved at first.
The two teams would take the diamond again in a winner-take-all confrontation for No. 1. You would think that a seven-inning complete game would be plenty for a teenage pitcher's arm in a day. But out strode Wilner to the mound again. He would be permitted to throw five more innings. In my opinion that's too much, especially when you consider the break between games and how the pitcher's arm might stiffen a bit and have to get loosened again.
It's not my decision to make, so Wilner was back at it for the second game. He pitched his full five innings that he was allotted. He was relieved by John Bautch for two innings. Bautch kept the EV-W momentum intact as he allowed no hits and no runs.
Eden Valley-Watkins repeats as the district champion. Now they're on to the state Division II affair which is set this coming weekend.
EV-W had to overcome a setback in the first round of the district "Final 4" when they were beaten by host Montevideo. They rebounded with wins over BOLD and Montevideo to earn the right to face top seed Morris on Saturday.
A consolation for Post #29 is three players getting named all-tournament: Jacob Torgerson, Mac Beyer and Tanner Picht.
Eden Valley-Watkins won the first game 5-2 Saturday. Morris trailed 1-0 after three innings but fell into a hole in the fourth when EV-W struck for three runs.
EV-W added a run in the top of the fifth before Morris broke through for two runs in the bottom, taking advantage of some EV-W fielding lapses. So it's not like they were suddenly knocking the cover off the ball vs. Wilner.
Neither of the runs that Wilner allowed were earned. He struck out five batters, walked three and allowed four hits in his seven innings.
Morris pitcher Chandler Erickson worked the full seven too and his control was fine with zero walks. But he did allow ten hits and five runs of which four were earned. He set down three batters on strikes.
The line scores had EV-W with five runs, ten hits and two errors, and Motown with two runs, four hits and one error.
Four Morris batters each had one hit: Torgerson, Erickson, Tyler Henrichs and Jordan Staples. Picht and Staples scored the Morris runs.
Travis Linn went two-for-three with a double and RBI for EV-W. Mitch Geislinger also went two-for-three for the victor and knocked in two runs.
The weather of late has been hot, so it was no routine challenge for hurler Wilner to take that deep breath, warm up and then step onto the pitching rubber for game #2 Saturday, with the state berth at stake. He sure came through.
He might have been even more commanding this time around. He had to be, considering his team scored but one run. That one run held up in the 1-0 Eden Valley-Watkins triumph. The run was scored in the very first inning when Kevin Kramer singled off Mac Beyer, stole second and came home on a single off Brendan Ashton's bat.
Little did the Morris athletes realize this one early run was going to make the difference. But it sure did, as Wilner and then reliever Bautch slammed the door, giving up just two hits between them. Wilner fanned three batters and walked one. Bautch had a row of zeroes after his innings pitched.
Beyer pitched gamely and effectively the whole way for Post #29. He struck out four batters and walked none in his six innings. He allowed eight hits and the one EV-W run. Such numbers would spell "win" on many days indeed.
Offensively Chandler Erickson and Jordan Staples each went one-for-three.
Ashton had a super showing at bat for the victor with three hits in as many at-bats and the decisive RBI. Indeed, Ashton had a super district tournament, on fire with 12 hits over the five games his team played. In one stretch he reached base 13 times over 14 plate appearances.
Can he and his mates parley such stellar play into state? We'll start finding out on Friday. The first test for EV-W will be the District 3 champion in a game set to be played bright and early at 9:30 a.m. Friday (8/3) in Sacred Heart.
Can Wilner's resilient arm re-charge? We'll find out.
Morris 6, Montevideo 0
Jacob Torgerson was in control on the mound, firmly, in the winners bracket final game on Thursday, July 26. He allowed just three hits. If only this tournament weren't double-elimination!
Post #29 wouldn't be able to survive the subsequent challenge from Eden Valley-Watkins.
Torgerson zeroed in on the strike zone, issuing no walks. His task was made easier by some Montevideo fielding miscues when Morris was at bat. Monte committed four errors while Motown executed flawless fielding. Torgerson fanned three batters.
The losing pitcher was Jordan Thompson. Three of the six runs that Thompson allowed were unearned. The Morris bats connected for ten hits off him.
Tanner Picht was on the attack with three hits in four at-bats including a triple and double. He scored two runs. Torgerson helped his own cause - sorry for using that old cliche - with two hits in four at-bats.
Chandler Erickson drove in two runs and scored two while going one-for-three. Mac Beyer doubled and drove in two runs while enjoying a two-for-three outing. Bryce Jergenson went one-for-two and Andrew Rentz one-for-three.
Three players went one-for-three for Montevideo: Joe Bednar, Tanner Lindemann and Austin Hoehne.
What a summer of memories for Morris Legion baseball Post #29! Good luck to Eden Valley-Watkins in state.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Irondale band enlivens Big Cat Stadium

It was a joy to see a high school marching band fill Big Cat Stadium Friday for an exhibition. These musicians were from the Twin Cities area, so the pastoral atmosphere of Morris must have seemed therapeutic to them. At least that's my bias.
We may be rural but we boast two of the most awe-inspiring man-made things you'll see anywhere: our wind turbines. Those magnificent structures provided the backdrop for the Friday night event. People filed into the big Cat Stadium bleachers to view something other than football.
We say "hats off" to these student musicians who work so hard to create something dynamic.
I didn't notice that many Morris faces in the audience. I assume many of the people were here from the band's home which is Irondale High School. It seems this performance event was promoted in a hurried way with lots of word of mouth and institutional emails.
The late starting time of 8:30 p.m. might have held down turnout. But considering the intense heat of late, the 8:30 start was probably justified. These days that's only a half hour or so before my bedtime.
We in Morris don't get exposed much to marching band music anymore. This institution, once a staple of West Central Minnesota parades, has gotten whittled down through the years. Kudos to the Hancock school which organizes its musicians for a July 4 performance every year. They do surprisingly well considering how limited their commitments are.
Years ago I'd tap people on the shoulder and suggest it'd be nice to have the Hancock band come over here and play in the Prairie Pioneer Days parade. What great spice that band would provide. I was told it would be too hard for all those kids to keep setting aside time for this as the summer progressed. But what a wonderful gesture it would be on behalf of the Hancock community, so we could all realize, lest there be any doubt, those kids excel on more levels than sports!
Being at Big Cat Stadium reminded me that it's the grandiose home for our football teams. It was so nice to see kids out on that field doing something so much healthier than playing football or hockey.
I played in the Morris High School marching band in the early 1970s. The institution was still pretty strong then. Comparing that experience to what I viewed Friday, I was reminded of how I've aged. We can assume musical tastes are going to change from one generation to the next. We never thought of using electronic amplification for anything.
You might wonder: With so many brass instruments out there, why on earth do we need electronics? Old fuddy-duddies like me always ask stupid questions, I guess.
When I was a kid, our elders winced at "Band on the Run" with Paul McCartney. If you went out to the bowling alley, you'd hear McCartney's "Jet" played over and over on the jukebox.
As the music unfolded Friday night at Big Cat Stadium, I realized I had become one of those clueless elders. I didn't like it at all, but that's just me. The kids were "into it" and that's all that matters. Some of the electronically projected sounds were loud and irritating to me. The music sounded decidedly "modern" and edgy. Well, good for them. They doubtless win awards doing this.
We left early so I can't make sweeping judgments. Maybe they played more conventional stuff later. What I heard struck me as just weird. It's a far cry from when our MHS band would play "All the Things You Are" as the Homecoming queen was brought out each fall. Music with a melody! No amplifiers.
Big Cat Stadium was a perfect place to appreciate a spectacle like what was presented Friday. I should mention these kids weren't literally "marching" as in a parade, though they were certainly in motion much of the time. This wasn't like marching down the street with a drum major like Scott Groth (Class of '71) leading the way. I assume the Irondale band does this sort of thing. But this outstanding unit bills itself as a "competitive field show band."
The Marching Knights compete in Minnesota and Iowa and in the Super Regional competition in St. Louis MO where last year's show,"How to survive a zombie attack," took eighth out of 51 bands in competition. Wow!
Even though the band's musical tastes go over my head, I must bestow an A-plus. The Knights' stay in Morris was a deliberate effort to "get out of town" for a week to focus on learning and to refine the competitive field show they present in the fall. This is year 2 for Irondale to come here. They seem fully pleased and let's keep the welcome mat out!
A little more background: The Irondale Marching Knights involve more than 110 members and represent Mounds View School District #621. Irondale High serves Arden Hills, Mounds View, New Brighton and Shoreview.
The Knights strive for excellence in music and marching through hard work, dedication and the pursuit of quality performance. The program provides opportunities for members to develop leadership, teamwork, interpersonal growth, goal-setting, time management and self-discipline.
A hearty congratulations to this enterprise.
Football will soon be moving back into Big Cat Stadium, and the sport seems now under a cloud because of the rapid awareness in the public of the often horrific health consequences of the sport.
"Let there be music" instead.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Seeing-eye doubles win for Morris Post #29

Morris 2, BOLD 1
So much hinges on pitching in the sport of baseball. A solid pitching job, according to long-ago Twins manager Sam Mele, "makes my job a lead pipe."
It was Mac Beyer striding out to the hill to handle the Post #29 pitching assignment on Tuesday (7/24). Yes, Tuesday. The Monday edition of the (very fallible) West Central Tribune reported that this game would be played on Thursday. I relied on that information myself. I was enlightened Tuesday evening at DeToy's Restaurant when I ran into Carrie Melchert who pointed out the Legion was playing that night.
"What?" I said (or thought).
But I shouldn't have been surprised. The sports department of the Willmar newspaper is often off the mark. Any time that newspaper reports schedule info, you should confirm it somewhere else.
Mac Beyer was masterful against BOLD Tuesday. He was backed by errorless fielding by his mates. The Post #29 line score was two runs, three hits and no errors.
BOLD was held to one run while rapping six hits and committing one error. Yes, BOLD outhit Morris 6-3 so Morris had to maximize its opportunities.
Morris met BOLD at Montevideo in the initial game of the District 7, Division II American Legion Final Four.
Beyer was matched against BOLD hurler Jake Marcus. BOLD has a special nickname for Legion play: "Mudhens." I believe that's the Toledo, OH minor league nickname.
A mudhen in the world of nature is a coot, right? A bird that has found Lake Crystal to its liking? A bird that duck hunters pass on? A bird that often "skips" along the water as it laboriously seeks to become airborne?
"Masterful" describes Beyer's pitching but it might also be associated with Marcus' work. After all, Marcus tossed a three-hitter in a losing effort.
Morris certainly needed to squeeze maximum advantage out of its opportunities. It was mission accomplished for Post #29.
The decisive run came in the bottom of the fourth. You might say Morris got some luck. A pair of doubles dropped barely into fair territory, off the bats of Tyler Henrichs and Bryce Jergenson. Morris seized a 2-1 lead and held onto it, backed by a confident Mac Beyer on the mound.
BOLD was the first team to lead in this game, 1-0 when one inning was done.
Marcus blanked Morris over the first two innings before giving up a run in the third. That run came in when Jacob Torgerson laid down a squeeze bunt, allowing Lincoln Berget to race in from third. So the score is tied 1-1.
Those doubles in the fourth spelled the difference, allowing Morris to stay in the winner's bracket and hope for more success.
Beyer may have given up more hits than Marcus but he kept the BOLD bats pretty subdued, as five of the six BOLD hits were singles. He walked no one. And as stated earlier, he was backed by errorless fielding. He fanned three Mudhen batters.
Marcus scored the only BOLD run. He came in on a single by Logan Sandgren.
Tanner Picht made a vital fielding play for Morris in the second. There were two Mudhens on base when Picht stretched out and made a diving catch in center, robbing Zach Remillard.
Marcus struck out four batters in six innings pitched. He walked three and allowed three hits and two runs (earned).
Three different players had the Morris hits: Henrichs, Jergenson and Berget. Berget's infield single in the third set the stage for Morris' first run. He stole second, then advanced to third on a pickoff try gone awry. Perched at third, he then came in on Torgerson's bunt.
Marcus had a two-for-three line in BOLD's boxscore. His teammate Riley Kramer had a double in the sixth but couldn't advance further.
The Willmar newspaper reports that Morris will play Montevideo in the winner's bracket final at 7:45 p.m. tonight (Thursday, 7/26). Monte beat Eden Valley-Watkins 4-3.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, July 23, 2012

Legion boys ascend to District 7 "Final Four"

Everything came up roses for the Morris American Legion team in Region 1 play of post-season.
It was a busy weekend for the Morris crew. They played in the land of the world's largest mallard - Wheaton - and turned back Brandon-Evansville (in a rout) and Wheaton. Prior to these games was a win over Hancock, reviewed further down in this post.
The three games showed Morris excelling in a manner expected of a No. 1 seed. They'll take all these credentials into further post-season play which resumes on Thursday, July 26.
Now the Post #29 crew is in the District 7 "Final Four." Their foe on Thursday will be BOLD in a game set to start at 5:15 p.m. at Montevideo.
Morris thumped Brandon-Evansville 14-2 Saturday in Wheaton. Morris exploded out of the starting gate, scoring five runs in the first inning followed by three in the second and six in the third. The two B-E runs were scored in the third.
The Morris line score was a glittering 14 runs, 12 hits and no errors. The B-E bats were held to two hits.
Morris squared off against Wheaton in the championship game. The Sunday affair had Chandler Erickson performing most smoothly on the mound for the eventual victor. Erickson gave up no hits through the first five innings. Wheaton got untracked for three hits and a run in the sixth but could score no further in this game.
Post #29 could savor the 5-1 win and start looking ahead to further exploits. Their line score in the Wheaton game was five runs, eight hits and one error. The Wheaton numbers were 1-3-1.
Morris had a sheen of superiority through its three games in Region 1. Post #29 outhit its foes 27-12 and outscored them 27-7.
Morris 8, Hancock 4
Morris was designated the No. 1 seed for Region 1 play and performed up to that status Thursday (7/19). Morris notched its 16th win of the season on the strength of an 8-4 score.
The success came in spite of five errors, compared to zero by the opponent who was Hancock.
Morris seized its opportunities like when Jordan Staples found a pitch to his liking in the sixth inning. This was probably the big blow of the game: a double that cleared the bases. It created some cushion that seemed to put Post #29 on its way to advancement.
Not only did Hancock earn a higher grade in fielding, they were even with Morris in hit production. Each team had seven hits. So it was a case of Morris maximizing its opportunities.
Those Hancock pluses looked for a time like they might bring victory. Hancock led 2-0 after three innings. Morris finally pounced with its bats in the fourth to the tune of a four-run rally. Hancock inched forward with one run in the sixth that made the score 4-3, but Staples fueled the decisive Morris "mo" in the Morris half of that frame.
Seasoned hurler Sam Mattson pitched the whole way for Motown. He struck out seven batters, one for each of his seven innings, walked just one and gave up seven hits and four runs (three earned).
Taylor Holleman was unable to hold the lead for Hancock. He pitched five innings and gave up six hits and five runs, all earned, before giving way to Austin Steege.
Holleman struck out two batters and walked three. Steege got roughed up in his one inning, allowing three earned runs and one hit. He did strike out three batters but also walked three.
Let's take a look at the offense. Steege had a two-for-four showing for Hancock. Pat Schaefer had a two-for-three boxscore line with an RBI and run scored.
Collin Cunningham had a hit and a run scored. Luke Schwarz went one-for-four and Brandon Shaw one-for-three with a run.
Staples had that key hit but Jacob Torgerson appeared to be just as important in the Morris offense. Torgerson had a hit in each of his at-bats. He stole a base, drove in three runs and scored two.
Mac Beyer went two-for-three with a run scored. Tyler Henrichs crossed home plate twice and had a hit. Bryce Jergenson added a double to the mix and drove in a run.
And then there's Staples, who had those three key RBIs while going one-for-three, his hit a two-bagger.
MACA football schedule announced
We can frown over the placement of home games on the 2012 Morris Area Chokio Alberta Tiger football schedule. For example: one home game in the first four. And, of the four regular season home games, one is on a holiday weekend - Labor Day - and the other in MEA week (Wednesday).
I invite you to read more about this and other football-related stuff in my current post on my "Morris of Course" site. Please click on the permalink below. Thanks for reading - B.W.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Joe Paterno statue, issues it kindles

(Image from Denis Leary's Facebook page)
We in Morris have our own special sense of what excessive sports zeal can do. We had our goalpost incident in which a young man from the Pacific Northwest got killed. It happened when UMM was retiring its old football facility.
Now we have Big Cat Stadium which is like a monument to our love of football. A flat grassy piece of land isn't good enough anymore.
Our sports zeal resulted in pain at the micro level (a small Midwestern college). So micro, the major media outlets weren't able to obtain any images of the incident in the days following, not even a still. We seemed like Mayberry.
Out in Happy Valley, or State College or whatever the place is called, we're talking macro. A huge deal is being made of whether the bronze statue of Joe Paterno should come down, Saddam Hussein-style.
The late coach, who finally found escape from this tempest through death, is in a pose with a finger elevated as if checking the wind direction. From a block away it might look like he's flipping the bird.
What I suspect he's doing is proclaiming "number one" which is the ideal that is synonymous with America. We believe in a laissez faire economy in which there are winners (a small percentage really) and losers (about whom it was written "The majority of people lead lives of quiet desperation").
Should the statue come down? I might ask why such a monument is called for in the first place. The larger issue here might be college campus iconography.
There are many great coaches who would never be considered for something like this because they don't stay in one place. They aren't lesser coaches for having moved around. You could argue it's healthy for professional people to move around. Doesn't it promote accountability?
People who stay in one place can build sort of a fortress around themselves, covering up problems because of their intense familiarity with their surroundings. I have always heard bank employees are required to take vacation time. That's because once they're gone a while, we might unearth any "funny stuff" they've been doing.
Let's see, Paterno was the Penn State University head football coach since the Pleistocene Epoch, or something like that. Weren't some (rational) people already making an issue of him staying so long, even without knowledge of the, uh, "embarrassment" that later came out?
Barack Obama in his usual sage way commented that "systems are more important than individuals." He cited this as a prime lesson to take away from the Sandusky/Paterno mess.
Jerry Sandusky never admitted wrongdoing or shortcomings or whatever you want to call it.
Is Paterno to be vilified? Given his choices, he did the wrong thing. But we can ask "were the choices too extreme?" He could cover up the mess or expose Sandusky to condemnation of the kind reserved for the very worst human beings, perhaps even to a violent death at the hands of prison inmates.
Oh, but he deserves it? We might say we wouldn't shed any tears over Sandusky's suffering and fate. But what if we should more properly view people like him as sick? I have written before that this man may have been born with a sexual compulsion over which he couldn't exercise judgment.
We don't like to discuss it, but aren't people born with all sorts of sexual compulsions? Bernard Goldberg once wrote about how "people are notorious for lying about their sexual behavior." He was writing about trying to get information from people about how they might have come down with AIDS.
Most of us cringe at the mere topic. We debate about whether gay people are "born" that way. But really the whole matter seems shrouded in mystery. It was really cruel for God to create us this way.
The media tell us in regard to those missing girls in Iowa that there's a huge number of sex offenders in what seems a fairly small area there. How many are there in West Central Minnesota? My goodness, how do all these people get in such serious trouble? How can they continue leading anything like a normal life? But they do, I guess.
What if Paterno had faced a "third option?" What if he could have revealed Sandusky as a man with a problem, someone who needed confinement and segregation to ensure he couldn't victimize anyone else, but who could still be treated as a human being, getting the kind of compassion we extend to people who simply have problems?
Paterno and his fellow PSU bigshots might well have been amenable to this. Instead they faced the polar extreme of choices. They choked in the face of that, choosing the no-go option of cover-up.
They saw a lot of good that Sandusky was apparently capable of doing, and they couldn't stomach simply turning him over to be crushed by society, to be rendered a non-person really.
Yes, it was a mistake. But perhaps we need to refine our vision a little, being less inclined to throw people deemed undesirable into prison as if this really accomplishes anything.
There is precedent with the mental health field. Whereas we once warehoused many mentally challenged people in a place like that Fergus Falls facility - kids in Morris used to tease each other by saying "they're going to send you to Fergus" - today these sufferers have become separated out based on diagnosis and treated appropriately. They're in group homes.
People are increasingly questioning prison. It's bad news for Appleton which rolled the dice by building a big prison. But it might be good news for society. Absolutely condemning someone is becoming a last resort.
Sandusky is being punished for doing something that 99 per cent of us wouldn't consider doing. So maybe he has a problem.
Sex is a realm of mystery and anguish that too few of us wish to confront. We point fingers at misbehavior while perhaps concealing our own philandering. It's a laboratory of lies.
In Sandusky's case, serious intervention is needed because he has innocent victims. But Paterno and those other Penn State heavy-hitters had extreme choices: cover up the problem and hope it goes away, or throw Sandusky to the wolves and watch him be devoured.
And now we're left debating a statue. The statue isn't a big deal. It should just be a formality to have it come down.
All Paterno did was build an entertainment machine using the model of gladiators. It's a sport suddenly controversial because of the severe physical punishment imposed on its practitioners. We might see football fade quickly as a result of countless families making private family decisions not to have their sons exposed to such drastic health risks.
The Paterno empire and its gladiators will fade into the history books.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The national anthem and musical challenges

How many of you think the national anthem is kind of an ordeal to be endured before the start of a sports event?
Don't you groan if the chosen performer chooses a slow tempo? Does it grate at you if the performer seems self-absorbed, as if the audience really is riveted on this particular musical interpretation?
If you're a trumpet player, you know there's a spot toward the end where the lead guy reaches up to a somewhat high note. Do you as a listener cringe as that spot nears, in anticipation of that climactic note and wonder if that player can intone the note cleanly, or if, as Del Sarlette would put it, there is a "fah. . ."
I have written before that most musical instruments are archaic. If they didn't already exist, they wouldn't be invented today.
Why should there be a physical challenge associated with playing an instrument? Why must you "let spit out" of a horn? In an earlier time we faced these sober realities. Today we have electronics.
We ought to be able to execute music the way we type on a computer. Technology is supposed to help us overcome unreasonable physical challenges.
The trumpet requires "chops." The precise term is "embouchure." Jimmy Stewart used this latter specialized term in a movie. Playing a director, Stewart turned to his trumpet soloist (played by the same actor who was "Alfalfa" in "Our Gang") and said "How's your embouchure?"
I remember playing in a trumpet trio for a fashion show at the old elementary auditorium in about 1970. The guy next to me, as a gag, said just before the first note, "your zipper's open."
I was really just along for the ride in that trio. I was the youngest, looking up to "the real deal" whose name was (is) Terry Rice. Terry was a band star in the same sense as a thousand-point scorer in basketball. Another was Renee Schmidt on flute.
I remember Renee being showcased in a concert at the 1968 gym, before the high school auditorium came into existence. I remember being seated up in the bleachers. Remember, the gym was supposedly a step down from the eventual auditorium we got. But it was nice in those bleachers being able to look down on the whole band.
The gym was so well lit and airy and open in atmosphere. The later auditorium seemed dark and stuffy. Worst of all, you could only really see the front row of musicians.
Terry Rice was almost perfect as a trumpet player. His Achilles heel might have been the national anthem. I can claim to be a witness to a Terry Rice "mortal" moment. He was playing the national anthem all by himself before the start of a Minnesota Vikings basketball game at the UMM P.E. Center.
We've all heard of singers getting lost with the lyrics halfway through that ordeal of a song. Terry was his usual masterful self until the last few notes. His mind just seemed to go blank. It was like he forgot what key he was in or something. Happens to the best of us, Terry.
The national anthem is a bear of a song to perform partly because of a wide vocal range. A singer should probably have the lyrics in front of him/her. "Meathead" of "All in the Family" didn't like the song because it "glorifies war."
I think it's very curious we have to be dragged through a rendition of this before every sports game. Maybe during wartime such patriotic fervor has to be whipped up. We're not genuinely in wartime now, that dreary police action in Afghanistan notwithstanding.
We occasionally hear calls for replacing the Star Spangled Banner. We think of this when we hear Mitt Romney's rendition of "America the Beautiful." He may not be a prizewinning vocalist but we can be struck by the comparative simplicity of the song.
It might be easy for someone disapproving of Romney to mock his performance. Actually you're asking to be mocked when you just hold up a microphone and sing without accompaniment. I consider his singing to be quite passable. Now let's see the tax returns.
I remember Larry Storch on "Laugh-In" playing the role of Americus Vespucius, the early explorer. "Americus" is the basis for "America." Storch presented an alternate history. He asked his crew to join him with singing this neat new song, honoring the new-found country. Only it was "Vespucia."
What if. . .
Ronald Reagan talked with reverence about the song "Born in the U.S.A." but it seemed he hadn't explored the lyrics. Only the title suggests it's a real patriotic song. (Cheech and Chong sang "Born in East L.A." to the same melody.)
Lee Greenwood renews his celebrity status every few years when America is dealt a crisis. His "Proud to be an American" gets trotted out, he gets interviewed on Fox News etc.
"Battle Hymn of the Republic" is a fine patriotic anthem. It came to be associated with the North with the end of the Civil War, as opposed to "Dixie." I'm told bands in the Deep South played "Dixie" to counter the national anthem for many years.
Jim Bouton in "Ball Four," writing about the "rebel" nickname in the South, asserted "Why don't they let that stuff die with their grandfathers?"
Shall we let the Star Spangled Banner die in favor of a simpler tune, with less war imagery? Listening to Mitt Romney sing (and I'm not mocking) makes us wonder.
A person of average or below average musical ability ought to be able to handle it. And if you're still playing trumpet, make sure you let the spit out. Arrrgh.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Legion wins 15-0, Eagles win 16-2 and 11-1

Legion: Morris vs. Hancock
A recent headline on this website announced that Tanner Picht was "on a tear" with his baseball talents. I could use it again.
Student athlete Picht, who doesn't have to worry so much about being a student this time of year, was quite the athlete on Tuesday, June 10. He was on a tear in a big Morris Legion baseball victory over Hancock.
Picht connected for two doubles each of which drove in two runs. He rapped a single that was also good for driving in two runs. Add 'em all up and you have six RBIs next to Picht's name in the Post #29 boxscore.
The offense was alive indeed on this night of entertaining summer baseball. Morris crushed Hancock 15-0. The RBI parade was joined by Andrew Rentz, Mac Beyer and Bryce Jergenson.
In all there were 15 hits resonating off the Morris bats. The super impressive line score also included zero errors. Post #29 aims to parlay this quality into the post-season.
The Hancock hits were produced by Luke Schwarz, Bryan Shaw and Brett Kellner.
The one sidedness of the game held it to five innings. Jacob Torgerson pitched for four of those, picking up the win. He allowed just the three hits, struck out four batters and walked none in a sharp performance. Rentz pitched the other inning, striking out one batter, walking two and allowing no hits.
The Hancock pitching was done by three: Justin Miller (tagged with the loss), Collin Cunningham and Phillip Schaefer.
Morris came out of the starting gate to score two runs in the first, then surged forward to score four in the second, five in the third and four in the fourth.
This was win No. 11 of the summer for the Post #29 crew.
Tom Holland had a hit in his only at-bat, scored three runs and stole a base. Rentz had a double, scored a run and drove in one. Picht's dazzling boxscore line was three-for-three with four runs scored, a stolen base, those six RBIs and two doubles.
Beyer had a double as part of going two-for-four and drove in three runs. Torgerson outdid Picht if you look at the hits alone, as he pounded out four hits in as many at-bats, plus he drove in three runs.
Lincoln Berget went two-for-four with two runs scored. Brody Bahr had a hit in his only at-bat, stole a base, scored two runs and drove in one. Bryce Jergenson went one-for-four.
Jordan Staples didn't have a hit but he scored two runs and stole a base. Chandler Erickson was hitless but scored once.
Town team update
It's nice when you score in double digits and the opponent scores in one. Not only do you win, you can relax a little.
The Morris Eagles town team had this luxury on July 8 and 11. The Eagles pushed their season record to 12-5 (11-3 in league) with one regular season game left.
Eagles 16, Montevideo 2
The hit parade couldn't have been more decisive in the 7/8 win over the Montevideo Spartans at Monte. A 4-1 game after three innings gave way to the eventual Morris rout. Much of the momentum was gained in the fifth with a five-run rally.
In all there were 23, yes 23, hits by Morris in this win. Makes for a pretty interesting boxscore.
Nate Haseman looked very steady on the mound. He picked up the pitching win with his five-inning stint in which he struck out one batter, walked two and gave up five hits and one run which was earned.
Matthew Carrington and Craig Knochenmus each did some mopping up with one inning pitched. Knochenmus set down two batters on strikes.
Two Eagles each pounded out four hits. Kirby Marquart went four-for-six with two runs scored and two RBIs. Ryan Beyer had a four-for-six line with two runs and three ribbies.
Leadoff man Jamie Van Kempen had three hits in five at-bats, scored a whopping five runs - that's the leadoff man's job - and drove in one.
Three other Eagles each had three hits: Eric Asche, Brett Anderson and Jacob Torgerson. Asche scored a run and was an RBI machine with five. Anderson had a run scored and an RBI. Torgerson scored two runs and drove in one.
Knochenmus had one hit, scored two runs and drove in one. Carrington went two-for-four with a run scored.
Torgerson had a triple and a double. Marquart and Asche contributed doubles. Anderson stole two bases while Van Kempen and Beyer each stole one.
Eagles 11, Appleton 1
The Eagles took control early in the July 11 game at home vs. the A's. There was one run in the first inning, four in the second and two in the third, while Appleton failed to score until the fifth.
The Morris line score was a lively eleven runs, 13 hits and one error.
Nathan Gades got the pitching win, fanning seven batters in his seven innings. Craig Knochenmus tossed a hitless eighth inning.
A look at the Morris offense shows Mitch Carbert with the hot bat as he connected for four hits in five at-bats. Mitch scored two runs and drove in one.
Eric Asche went two-for-four with two RBIs. Tanner Picht had a two-for-four line with two runs and two RBIs.
Jamie Van Kempen, further down in the lineup on this day, came through at two-for-four with four RBIs and one run. It was Dusty Sauter at the top of the lineup. Dusty had a hit and two runs scored.
Knochenmus had a hit and a run scored. Brett Anderson went one-for-three with two runs scored.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, July 12, 2012

All-Star Game then and now: major contrast

We got to see the wonderfully gifted Roberto Clemente too rarely on TV.
I was scanning the sports section at McDonald's this morning and realized the baseball All-Star Game had been played. The article emphasized the very low TV ratings the game got.
All-star games aren't the spectacle they once were. It's because of overexposure (or saturation). Watching the best players of the game on a single evening doesn't bring the same kind of thrill as in the boomers' youth.
We got to see the Minnesota Twins on a pretty regular basis. What we might easily forget is that a lot of those telecasts were mediocre by today's standards. We couldn't assume there would be a center field camera position. Such a position enables you to see the pitcher from behind (zooming in naturally). It's the only way to really appreciate major league baseball on TV. It's a given today.
So is the presence in the booth of broadcasters who give a thorough and sophisticated analysis of what's going on. Today's televised games assume the audience has a well-developed grasp of baseball.
In the boomers' youth, there would be a lot of vacuous banter supplied by the likes of Halsey Hall, who we all loved for sure, but it was a style appealing to a lot of casual observers - a broad audience not attuned (necessarily) to the fine points of the game.
Herb Carneal described the games in an endless workmanlike way. Poor Herb stayed at the dance too long. It seems to be a common pitfall of people involved in (and with) big-time sports. They can't walk away.
The All-Star Game was cause for circling a date on the calendar when I was a kid. I remember persuading the family to arrange a trip to visit relatives so I could get excused from an evening marching band rehearsal, as a way to get free to watch the All-Star Game. I watched that game on the tube in Glenwood. It was the year Reggie Jackson hit that long home run in Detroit.
We were thrilled by the All-Star Game because we couldn't see a lot of these players very often. It was the days of the "big 3" television networks. Not that there weren't more channels than that, but it was a whole different media ecosystem.
We'd read about players like Pete Rose, Carl Yastrzemski and Juan Marichal. But our best hope for seeing these guys, really, was on NBC's "Game of the Week" with Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek. That and the All-Star Game, or of course the World Series in October.
I still remember the theme music NBC used at the start of each World Series telecast. Years later the music to open Monday Night football created a similar thrill among fans.
If the Game of the Week billed an upcoming matchup involving the Pittsburgh Pirates, we knew we could see Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell.
The problem with the Game of the Week was that it was in fact just one game in a week involving just two of the 20 (and later more) major league teams. I always felt NBC (under Gowdy's influence?) had a bias toward showing the Boston Red Sox.
The American League then never seemed as exciting as the National. An aura of fascination always surrounded the National League because those teams never played the Twins. There was some marketing sense behind all this. Scarcity (or the perception of scarcity) is an important element in marketing. This is a big reason why the creative community tried to push SOPA and PIPA into law. They lost on that.
We began to see a revolution in television when Ted Turner's Superstation enabled us to see the Atlanta Braves on a regular basis. The Braves went through a phase of being "America's Team." (I borrowed that term one year to describe the Hancock girls basketball team, in the print media, and probably caused some gnashing of teeth among Morris people).
Out of the blue we could watch Ralph Garr, nicknamed "Road Runner III," do his thing for the Braves on TV. These guys weren't just names in the paper anymore, not just names in the stat listing in the Sunday Star Tribune.
More and more we could see these guys on TV and eventually just take it for granted like kids do today. So the All-Star Game today seems a yawner. There seems no need for it. It comes and goes and I'm not aware.
Change seems the only constant. So I'm not sure it's wise to plan a new Vikings stadium that won't open until 2016. A lot can happen between now and then.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Morris Legion plates 12 runs, downs Glenwood

The Morris Legion boys breezed in Monday (7/10) action, gaining a healthy lead within the first four innings and then applying a cushion. That cushion was to the tune of six runs in the fifth. All that offense spelled a comfortable win over Glenwood.
Morris pounded out nine nits in achieving this 12-2 win.
Click on the permalink below to read about the Morris Legion team's July 5 and 6 games. July 5 brought a win over Brandon-Evansville while the 6th had a loss vs. Osakis. This post is on my companion website, "Morris of Course." Thanks for reading. - BW
Morris scored in every inning: three in the first and one each in the second through fourth before that big six-run fifth.
There was no need to play any more than five innings. "The rule" (ten-run rule) came into effect, or else Morris would almost certainly have achieved double digits in hits. Glenwood was held to three hits.
The line scores also show Morris with two errors and Glenwood with three. This savory win was No. 10 on the season for Post #29 against four losses.
The sixth inning saw eleven Morris batters come up to bat. The first eight of those reached safely, spelling headaches for Glenwood.
It was a nice evening to be the Morris starting pitcher. Sam Mattson, who usually doesn't even need such generous support, got it. He pitched the full five for the win. He fanned six batters and walked three while allowing three hits and two runs (earned).
Trenton Berg was tagged with the pitching loss. Andrew Amundson and Zack Samford also pitched for Glenwood.
Berg had a one-for-three showing offensively, stole a base, scored a run and drove in one. Amundson and Sawyer Thompson had the other Glenwood hits.
Let's look at the Morris offensive contributors: Tom Holland scored two runs and stole a base while going two-for-four. Tanner Picht crossed home plate and stole a pair of bases.
Mac Beyer smacked the ball around as is his habit, recording a double and triple, scoring two runs and driving in one. Jacob Torgerson had a hit, a run and an RBI.
Bryce Jergenson connected for two hits, scored a run and drove in two. Lincoln Berget contributed a run scored and stolen base.
Jordan Staples doubled, scored two runs and stole a base. Brody Bahr had a run and RBI. Chandler Erickson went one-for-three.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, July 7, 2012

How a futurist might adjust sports thinking

Sometimes we wonder if nothing is what it seems. We look at big-time sports and figure it must be heaven on earth to be a "household name" in sports.
People who are able to climb that ladder can find it's a jungle. The media create the fantasy world.
Sports is an escape for us, we greatly relish. We expect our heroes to deliver the goods. We seek euphoria. Don't we all feel a "rush" when tuning in for the first prime-time Vikings game of the fall?
There are hopeful signs we are awakening to some of the more sober realities. We can see the unreasonable power that a successful Division I college football program can obtain.
This pathetic case of Jerry Sandusky shows how intoxicated people can get with football success. Fault has been found all the way to the top of the ladder in Pennsylvania. Many individuals are going to be dragged through this the rest of their lives. Football simply gained too much power at Penn State University. People were fearful of revealing anything scandalous.
Successful football brings prestige and more importantly money. Joe Paterno came to be seen as a saint. Granted, his program wasn't always setting the world on fire toward the end. There was some grumbling but not enough to threaten the patina of saintliness "Joe Pa" had acquired. He had "dug in" with his regime.
The common sense of having him retire at a reasonable age got vetoed. That's because the world of sports can seem other-worldly with its power. We are waking up slowly and beginning to ask more questions. We learned in the Sandusky case that the emperor has no clothes. The glory that is Penn State football, or was Penn State football, looks like a pathetic illusion.
I am undergoing my own personal transformation. I have had some fun writing about the apparent shortcomings of U of M Gophers football. These shortcomings can be easy to document by the usual standards. The answer now isn't for the U to see if it can become like Penn State or other powerhouses.
The U recently announced a new athletic director but I found it interesting we didn't see the kind of fanfare or "buzz on the street" we might normally expect. Frankly I can't tell you this guy's name as I sit here writing this (at 4 a.m. on the morning after the Fourth, accompanied by my mug of caffeinated beverage and the sleeping dog).
Having a non-winning college football team seems not such a big deal now. Now maybe we're wondering: Should we even be "playing the game" any more? When I say "the game" I mean the timeworn treadmill of big-time sports - the heroes, money and ethos of winning.
We have seen how power corrupts. The Sandusky matter was pushed aside for a long time. What if he had been in a losing program?
We had a coach in Stevens County who was likely caught belatedly for the same reason. I could erase "likely." A person of high standing who works downtown, when asked why that matter was attended to belatedly rather than in response to earlier suspicions, had two words: "He won."
We can look at Penn State and see the familiar model being followed. When you win, this sheen of greatness forms around you. Winning coaches can of course be very Machiavellian. The real world of "success" can be a dirty and petty world.
A writer who once profiled Sandusky's "Second Mile" charity said he privately wasn't that impressed. He described it as "joyless" and found this curious. But it didn't come through in his writing. He expressed regret about that and admitted he was really expected to generate a "puff piece." It was no situation in which to pen an expose unless you could really put your finger on something incriminating.
Journalists can cower at the feet of these sports figures. Newt Gingrich talks about "the elite media" but he really overestimates us. We (in the media) live in a gritty world in which we have to deliver the goods like everyone else. We have bosses.
And somehow we're all in awe of big-time sports and its winners, ready to kiss the ring. Except, maybe not so much now.
We have peeled away the pathetic veneer of power and concealment at powerful Penn State. At the same time, revelations about head trauma in football are changing our very perception of that sport.
I am wrestling with my own conscience. The world may not be waiting with anticipation to see what I'll do on this website. But I have to wonder if I should ever write in the standard way about football again.
I have been as guilty as anyone buying into the fun aspect. This fall we are all going to be tested on that. Do we really want to be so entertained by these gladiators?
All of those players, whether high school or pro, are taking discernible risks with their health future. It's far worse than the occasional torn ACL. Even that type of injury should give us pause.
Football players can't always be mended so they're "good as new." And the head problems might not even reveal themselves immediately. We're learning that the routine hits players experience in the typical game take a toll.
So what are we to make of this, as Morris Area Chokio Alberta Tiger fans? Can we really show up at the local stadium with typical enthusiasm this fall? Should we just strive to be in denial?
I have found it fun the last couple of years coming to home games and generating coverage for the new media. It would seem so easy for me to just do that again.
The reason "business as usual" is hard is that I have a curious mind. You might say I'm an intellectual (such a trait being defined by curiosity, not by innate intelligence). So when reports crop up about how we've been underestimating head trauma in football, I pay attention and then I research.
There is one inescapable conclusion: Anyone who gathers knowledge about these head issues would give football a complete "thumbs down." No excuses.
We can't just shake our heads and say "oh, but we love football."
I will have a hard time returning to the Big Cat Stadium sidelines. I won't say here and now that I won't. I'm too insignificant to have any effect on the debate.
I'd like to say I like the community spectacle of football but that's part of the problem. It's a little enthralling. The people sitting on their fannies aren't endangered. We must be sure the boys who play the game are informed.
But the problem is, if they are fully informed, the majority of them wouldn't choose to play.
It looks like we need to tone down sports in our society. In an ideal world, maybe it would be best to have intramural boys and girls volleyball in the fall and intramural boys and girls softball in the spring. I don't know if it would be fast-pitch softball but it would have to be the kind where the offense has a chance.
Intramural? Hey, it's easy to envision. The competition would be intense, participation might be higher than it is now, and you might be surprised how many fans would turn out. Costs will be lowered through no travel.
Former Morris school board member Les Lindor once said "I don't see why the teams have to travel so far." What a refreshingly frank statement.
In the winter we could preserve the traditional varsity model for sports. Basketball seems reasonably safe and is obviously popular. Gymnastics and swimming are healthy but don't draw many at-large fans. I have reservations abut wrestling because of the weight loss aspect, and also because forfeits can spoil a lot of the fun.
Of course, varsity sports in winter means traveling in winter conditions. But winter seems an ideal time for sports because outdoor activities and exercise are limited by weather.
Hockey? I have never understood the appeal of hockey, try as I might. I "went along with the crowd" in contributing money for the construction of Lee Center. It was the thing to do.
I am disturbed that so many boys seem to like the violence of hockey. The "penalties" don't seem to be much of a deterrent.
In the spring, I would think most boys would prefer softball over baseball. It seems an easier and more pleasant game to play.
I offer all these thoughts as a futurist. I think we all need to question our long-held notions and enthusiasm about traditional sports.
We need to question the elite model of college sports. A lot of that can trickle down to high school.
We need to move on like the Robby Benson character in the movie "One on One." For a long time that movie looked dated because of its, well, deconstructionist stance with sports - a typical view from the 1970s.
Annette O'Toole co-starred. At the end we see the two lovebirds having fun playing with some ghetto kids, with Benson having walked away from his scholarship and the "bad guy" head coach. Remember Benson's "red hot poker" line? Preceded by words that wouldn't be appropriate for sharing here?
What goes around comes around. Now I'm beginning to see that closing scene as perhaps reflecting current logic again.
Let's stop feeding the monster. We might have erred in pushing for the construction of Big Cat Stadium here in Morris.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Eagles cruise past Monte, Legion tops Wheaton

Town team: a win total of ten
The Morris Eagles aren't having to work up a sweat in this horribly hot week for the July 4th of 2012. They are in a schedule hiatus.
They played on Friday, June 29, and reached the ten-win plateau with a 14-2 home triumph over Monte. They will resume on Sunday, July 8, at Montevideo to wrap up the home-and-home set.
Click on the permalink below to read about the Eagles' win and loss on June 22 and 23. The win was over Dumont and the loss to Starbuck, both on the road. This post is on my companion website, "Morris of Course."
The Morris crew is enjoying the July 4 holiday with a 10-5 overall season record and 9-3 showing in league. Just three games remain in the regular season. Where does the time go?
Can we get a reprieve from the intense heat? Can we ever complain about winter again?
Eagles 14, Montevideo 2
The Eagles wasted no time asserting themselves in the June 29 win. They gained a 6-0 lead over the Montevideo Spartans in the first inning.
The Chizek Field crowd had much to feel content about, as Morris added one run in the second inning and three in the third before Monte finally got on the scoreboard with two runs in the fourth.
But Morris kept rolling forward with three runs in the bottom of the fourth. The fourth was the only inning in which Monte scored.
The Morris line score showed 14 runs on 13 hits and zero errors. The Monte numbers were 2-8-2.
The Morris scoring began with a Ryan Beyer opposite field double. With two outs, Monte agonized as their pitching just couldn't find the strike zone. There was a skein of six walks pushing in four runs - not too entertaining for the fans even though the Morris lead was growing. Kirby Marquart applied the final flourish in this rally with a run-scoring single.
Matthew Carrington wielded an RBI bat in the second to push the lead to 7-0.
The third inning saw Beyer hit the ball into the left-center gap to push a run in. An error and a ground out made the score 10-0.
The Morris onslaught continued in the fourth with Marquart smashing an opposite field double off the scoreboard in left, driving in two runs. The run total grew to 13 with an Eric Asche RBI single.
The final run came in the fifth when Marquart connected for an RBI single, building his RBI total on the day to four.
All this scoring made it almost certain pitcher Carrington would get the "W" by his name. Indeed he got it - his sixth win of the season. He fanned five batters, walked none and scattered eight hits in his five innings.
The win assured Morris of the #1 seed for the Canvas Division of the Land o' Ducks League playoffs.
Leadoff hitter Dusty Sauter was a perfect four-for-four and scored three runs while driving in one. He stole two bases. Marquart had the fine boxscore line of 5-2-3-4 (at-bats, runs, hits, RBIs). Beyer's line: 4-2-2-2.
Asche went two-for-three, scored a run and drove in two. Carrington had a hit to complement his pitching work. He scored a run and drove in one.
Brett Anderson didn't have a hit but he scored two runs and drove in one. Nathan Gades had a 2-1-1-1 line.
Nate Haseman pitched two innings of relief, striking out two batters and allowing no hits or runs.
Legion baseball: Morris 4, Wheaton 2
Morris Post #29 prevailed in a suspenseful road game on Thursday, June 28. The opponent: Wheaton.
What made the difference was a three-run Morris rally in the top of the eighth. (That's extra innings.) The game extended past the usual seven innings because of a 1-1 deadlock.
Morris scored one run in the second inning and Wheaton plated a run in the bottom of the seventh. Morris pitcher Sam Mattson looked like he was owning this game for an extended time. He didn't allow a hit until the seventh when Wheaton got that tying run in.
So it was anybody's ballgame after seven innings in spite of Mattson's commanding pitching.
Wheaton had the most capable Tanner Kirkeide on the hill. Mattson and Kirkeide worked the distance for their respective teams.
Kirkeide might have kept pace with Mattson but an error hurt his cause in the eighth. Tanner Picht of the Post #29 crew led off by reaching on an error. He seized his opportunity and stole second. Tyler Henrichs zeroed in on a Kirkeide delivery and spanked a single to center. In came Picht.
A passed ball got Henrichs over to second. Mac Beyer pounced on a Kirkeide delivery that was to his liking and doubled to left. Jacob Torgerson singled to center, allowing Beyer to score and polishing off this decisive three-run rally.
Wheaton managed one run in the bottom of the eighth.
Kirkeide was the hard-luck loser.
Winner Mattson had a nice harvest of strikeouts, eleven, in his eight innings on the hill. He walked just one and allowed four hits and two runs (both unearned). Kirkeide fanned three batters, walked one and allowed five hits and four runs (three earned).
Post #29 entered the weekend with a 5-1 sub-district record and 8-3 overall W/L numbers.
The line score vs. Wheaton was four runs, five hits and six errors. That latter stat needs some downsizing. Wheaton scored its two runs on four hits and committed two errors.
Tom Holland went one-for-three and stole a base. So did Tyler Henrichs. Jacob Torgerson finished two-for-four and Mac Beyer one-for-four.
I'm told the Legion boys are playing at home tomorrow night (Thursday, July 5, 7:30 p.m.).
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Seat belt ticketing in Morris unreasonable

You may have heard of the city where you could go to jail for having an overdue library book. So there's another reason to discard the print media.
Such a law might have helped us justify the new jail the county commissioners tried to establish here. I think we're still pretty safe if we have an overdue library book.
Supporters of the draconian law might say "well, be sure to return your library books on time." It's a good idea. There are lots of good ideas that should guide our lives. The question is how much to enlist law enforcement to push all of them. One such idea is to wear your seat belt.
It was once just a good idea. Was there really a public outcry or push to get the cops to crack down on motorists with this? Was it really organic, rising from the grassroots?
Would the Morris city council and mayor, on their own and minus any outside influence, really put the local Barney Fifes to work turning on the flashing lights and pulling over people for "no seat belt?"
Of course not. 
Maybe you're the type who might say, "well, you should wear your seat belt." Just like "you should return your library book."
As for the law enforcement crackdown, which we have apparently had in spades here in Morris, some might say "well, you had it coming." I would characterize such people as exhibiting "learned behavior." Should we wear our seat belts? Well, of course we should, if for no other reason than we'll get pulled over and ticketed if we don't.
Because we really have no choice, we have learned to buy into the necessity of it. We have learned to lecture other people about it. Our normal sense of logic becomes suspended.
You have to ask yourself: Where is the sense of proportion here? What kind of driving are you doing? Under what conditions? We're a small rural community here, thank goodness, in which the Andy of Mayberry crowd would feel comfortable. Driving in broad daylight with safe road conditions would appear to be nearly 100 per cent safe.
But it's not 100 per cent? We start taking risks when we get out of bed in the morning. You could slip on a banana peel. Seriously, do we need to put some local Barney Fife to work turning on his lights, pulling people over, causing passers-by to gawk, just because someone isn't wearing a seat belt? Doesn't your common sense tell you there's something, well, out of proportion here?
The Morris Police Department is vigilant. Someone told me a meals on wheels volunteer got ticketed. I got ticketed. I was taking the family home from the Senior Community Center. Goodness knows who may have passed by me as I was pulled over on the side of the road, with the policeman's flashing lights behind me.
I'm 57 years old and have spent most of my life not concerned with seat belt use. Until getting the ticket neither I nor family members had ever worn them. Nearly all our driving is the slow, leisurely, around-town kind, in daylight.
Maybe in the winter, when it gets dark early, we're on the road when darkness arrives, dining out most likely. How do the Barney Fifes go after seat belt scofflaws after dark?
I find it kind of creepy that police officers are staring inside our vehicle all the time. They can spend their time on more serious offenses.
I saw a local Barney Fife parked along East 10th Street a few days ago. I had my seat belt on. I stared at him as I drove by and he seemed to have an awkward look on his face. I thought about stopping and shouting "are you looking for someone?"
I wanted to tell him to go and try to ambush people in a more affluent part of Morris, like maybe out at the addition by the dam. Those people can handle the fine - triple figures - easier than people in north Morris. But I just drove on. 
You cannot win a confrontation with a police officer. You cannot show up a law enforcement person. So don't even try. They will preach that the law they are enforcing is totally justified. But are all these mandates really pure as the driven snow? Of course not.
Let's look at seat belt. Where did it come from? Public opinion was solidly against such a mandate at one time. What caused the shift? It was money and Federal blackmail. You see, carmakers were scared of a requirement to install air bags because of what they saw as prohibitive cost. Car prices would shoot upward.
Into the picture steps Elizabeth Dole. She was the quintessential bureaucrat/politician. In a world of deal-making, she offered a deal. The air bag rule would be withdrawn if states representing 2/3 of the population passed seat belt laws by April 1, 1989.
Carmakers seized the opportunity and began feverishly lobbying the states for seat belt laws. It would have been illegal for the Department of Transportation to do such lobbying. The lobby "Traffic Safety Now" was created.
But of course it was all about money. It wasn't the will of the people, it was the will of lobbyists. Let's salute the dollar sign.
The Federal government awarded huge grants to states in a push to elevate seat belt awareness and use. The money covered enforcement efforts that put countless Barney Fifes to work. Grants to states are a plum. Ticket revenue shot up, making state officials salivate.
"Money's honey, my dear sonny, and a rich man's joke is always funny."
And, a police officer's dictum on seat belts is of course totally grounded in logic. Except we allow motorcycle operators, bicyclists and pedestrians to be all over the place, far less protected than anyone in an automobile who isn't wearing his/her seat belt. I met one of those three-wheel motorcycles this morning (as I was on bike). Erwin Anderson tools around in one of those golf cart-like contraptions. Seems pretty fragile.
Look at that awful accident involving the Thymians recently.
Getting seat belt laws passed was still no easy matter. In most states it had to start out as a "secondary" offense. The public wouldn't have accepted it as primary - it would have been considered a joke.
When I was pulled over, on May 31 in Morris, it was a primary offense.
What kind of world are we living in? Where is our sense of proportion? Or as the late Rodney King once said, "Why can't we all just get along?"
Why was King lionized? What great gestures did this idiot ever perform for society? He was simply in an incident that showed how police can become overzealous. So the public does accept that this happens, i.e. that police can get overzealous.
Any Barney Fife who enjoys racing around our quiet little town, intensely staring into vehicles to check for seat belt, has to be a little creepy. I have lost all respect for the Morris Police Department. I'm concerned that any motorist can be stopped simply on suspicion of no seat belt.
Chief Beauregard, get a hobby.
There is a fundamental loss of freedom here - an unwanted intrusion by government into the personal lives of citizens.
Air bags ended up being required anyway. There was the hope auto insurance rates would be lowered. But were they really?
We can refuse a health recommendation. But politicians can force motorists to use a health care device - seat belt - against their will under threat of punishment.
There are many things we can do to try to promote safe driving. Make sure your tires are properly inflated. Our family does 99 per cent of its driving in daylight. That's very safe. Good roads are an element too.
Minnesota seat belt enforcement is draconian and irritating. It's an unjust blanket that gives us pause.
I am a Democrat and I believe in the legitimate application of government and laws. But measures like seat belt ticketing remind me that the tea partiers and libertarians aren't always off base.
There is nothing wrong with voluntary seat belt use.
Let's view all this as cautionary. Tourism is sought here. Let's not be akin to a "speed trap."
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com