"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)

Friday, November 30, 2012

A Paul Revere-like ride out here in 1866

The image (from Panoramio) shows a building at Sam Brown Memorial Park, Browns Valley.
The idea of warning people about something from horseback is romanticized. We might have Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to thank for that. He wrote about "Paul Revere's Ride."
Remember the final scene in the noteworthy 1960s movie "The Russians Are Coming?" The town drunk, having spent much of the movie trying to chase down a horse to get on it, is finally on his way. This of course is after the matter at hand has been decided. In a tattered parody of the Revere ride, he shouts "the Russians are coming!"
We laughed because of course drunks were funny then. The "town drunk" was a staple on "Andy of Mayberry" ("Otis," who locked himself into the jail for a good night's sleep).
We're more enlightened now. We're also past the Cold War. So "The Russians are Coming" is a dated movie on multiple counts. Brian Keith was the gruff police chief, remember? Jonathan Winters was in his prime.
Paul Revere's Wikipedia page became sort of a battleground after Sarah Palin talked about the horseman in a cockeyed way. She said Revere made his ride to warn the British we had guns. Politicians of her stripe - the "crazies" as Chris Matthews might call them - tailor their rhetoric for gun rights. History shouldn't be a casualty.
We here in western Minnesota can take great pride in how a Revere-like ride once unfolded. It's quite the story. It goes back to the very raw early days of settlement here. Chapter 1 of Morris area history is the Wadsworth Trail. I have written two previous posts on this, one on each of my sites. There is more that can be related.
When I say "chapter 1" I mean that literally, because it's my understanding there never were any permanent Indian settlements in the Morris area. Never mind the script for the Morris Centennial program in 1971; that was a generic script with Morris names and landmarks penciled into the blanks.
We can presume meadowlarks and burrowing owls presided here before the 1860s.
War was like a scourge on all of America in the 1860s. Whole libraries can be filled with books about the Civil War. Odd and sad, because we as a society would be better served focused on peacetime, not war. But maybe war was God's harsh hand in dealing with us and our sin - slavery at the forefront.
The Civil War was devastating beyond words. But there was a conflagration in the interior of the U.S., right here in Minnesota, in 1862, every bit as savage and tragic as anything out east.
Minnesota did send soldiers to the Civil War. Oh boy, did we ever. The "First Volunteers" had a big role at Gettysburg. It was almost like a suicide mission. They had to block a hole vs. advancing Confederates from Alabama (the "Alabamians").
Here's what happened in Minnesota: We had the U.S.-Dakota War. It was a bloody six-week-long confrontation. Hundreds of lives were lost on both sides. At the end we saw the horrific (even if carefully weighed) execution of 38 Dakotas. That biggest mass execution in state history was ironically and tragically on the day after Christmas.
The year 1862 was when God was like a scythe with lives lost in the Civil War's Battle of Antietam. Ditto what happened in Minnesota with our particular conflict.
Four years later there was still much nervousness about potential for more conflicts between Indians and settlers. Thus we had the dramatic ride of a fellow named Sam Brown, who I'm sure Palin never heard of. The ride was longer and maybe even more dramatic than Revere's, so certainly the talent of poet Longfellow could be applied.
The Upper Midwest was in its infancy for settlement. So we weren't much into the annals of culture yet.
Brown had a horse brimming with vitality. He rode through the night and all the next day in April of 1866. This was the year after the Civil War ended. The Wadsworth Trail was just getting started. The trail led to Fort Wadsworth near Sisseton. Named for a Civil War general (and not Henry Wadsworth Longfellow), the fort later got the name Fort Sisseton.
Sam Brown was the son of Major Joseph Brown who inspired the town name of Browns Valley.
Sam was an Indian agent in the Fort Wadsworth District. He was a scout in the Dakota Territory. Unfortunately the level of tension between Indians and whites was still very high. A fellow scout brought word to him one day that danger might be afoot. Merely spotting some "Indian tracks" prompted this.
Those tracks were pointed toward the Minnesota territorial line. Ergo, Mr. Brown had to mount his steed and put out word! He donned his buffalo skin suit. He located his most reliable pony. He rode toward the Elm River scouting station. This was a distance of 60 miles.
Quotes from Sam are recalled in the terrific book by Ethelyn Pearson, mother of retired Morris High School teacher Larry Pearson. Ethelyn's book is called "It Really Happened Here." She located quotes from Sam Brown and shared them:
"I left about sundown and before I had gone very far, darkness was upon me. The country was a wild, level plain, almost trackless, but on account of the darkness, I felt safe from ambush. The gait was terrific, both for horse and for me, but I dared not slacken the pace.
"About midnight I reached my destination, having covered the 60 miles in five hours. I immediately went to the chief of scouts and quickly explained matters, but imagine my mortification when he told me there was no longer any danger of a raid, that the Indians who had been sent north as peace messengers must have been the ones whose tracks were seen in the vicinity of Fort Wadsworth."
Yes, fears dispelled
Brown made his ride with visions of an actual invasion. He aroused settlers. He sent a letter to St. Paul.
The news of "all's quiet" was good to be sure.
But Brown couldn't help but feel some embarrassment. He had to return to Fort Wadsworth to tell a different story. He obtained a fresh horse. What intrepid horses these were. Brown had no real rest before starting back. His horse was fresh but he probably wasn't.
Again, quotes from Brown as shared by wonderful author Pearson:
"There was no moon and no stars. The North Star peering through the clouds had guided me on the way over. There was nothing to chart my course but flashes of lightning. A storm was certainly coming. I tried to keep ahead of it by riding desperately.
"At breakneck speed my pony and I flew along over the James River flat, as level as a barn floor. In a few minutes the storm was upon me. It nearly unhorsed me, with rain, piercing and terrific. This soon turned to sleet and snow. Death was staring me in the face. The roar of the storm, the inky blackness of night, gave way to grim thoughts. Would I be lost or frozen? Waylaid or scalped, then left for the wolves?
"All thoughts combined terrified me. I managed, somehow, to keep the wind to my back and push on. My pony was tough and game. I galloped in driving rain, sleet and snow, through slush and mud. Even swollen streams. Sometimes (the horse) would slip and slide on frozen places or break through soft ice and throw me in the water. This happened twice. Fortunately I had fastened my hair lariat to the saddle, with the other end to my belt.
"At daybreak I saw I was at the foot of Coteau Hills and rode to the top. Now I found landmarks: Hawk's Nest and Buzzard's Roost. I knew I was 25 miles from the fort and 15 miles from my route. I was shivering, cold to the bone, and all but given up.
"I gave the pony the reins. It jogged along at its own gait, picking its own way. I reached the agency at 8 o'clock that morning and rolled off the pony in a heap. It turned out I'd gone 150 miles since I left the day before. I staggered to the stockade gate, falling headlong through the door of the house. I lay in a stupor for hours. When I regained consciousness, I told the commander to stop preparation. My great adventure had turned out to be a wild goose chase - a false alarm."
(end of quoted material)
Hmmm, "Buzzard's Roost." Sounds like a good name for a Louis L'Amour novel.
Pearson's book is copyrighted 2000. I'm not sure if copies are still available. I bought mine as a Christmas present one year.
Pearson prompts memories
Larry Pearson was a genial and highly capable industrial arts instructor at MHS. He and Aaron Des Jardins were industrial arts stalwarts.
We might also remember Bob Brimi at the junior high level. Brimi is absolutely famous in the memories of boomer-age alumni of MHS. He's famous for having applied pretty rigid discipline. Despite that, we never developed any real dislike for him because we could see that underneath his prison guard exterior, he had a heart of gold!
Brimi worked for a time with a teacher last name of Erickson - first name escapes me - whose wife taught home economics. Mr. Erickson died suddenly. His death was a lesson in mortality for all of us at our tender age.
I'm not sure to what extent MHS really has industrial arts anymore. I've heard of robotics. The art discipline has stretched out quite a bit. But the days of "shop kids" as a discernible element in the student body may be gone.
Some of us applied "shop kids" in sort of a teasing way but that of course was unfounded and ridiculous. Boys will be boys.
A shop kid might get in trouble in a dozen ways and dress in a somewhat unkempt way (as if I should talk), but then he'd turn around and construct an exquisite grandfather clock under the tutelage of Pearson, Des Jardins, Brimi or Erickson.
I can still point to the rooms at the "old school" which is now decaying into pathetic ruin by East 7th Street. It was once a community hub. Now it's home to pigeons, bats and goodness knows what else. It needs to be torn down, soon.
Wingerd's book explores
The relationship between Indians and white settlers wasn't always turbulent. Much to the contrary, the co-existence was rather smooth for a good two centuries before Minnesota became a state (in 1858). This is the assertion of Mary Lethert Wingerd who visited the Morris Public Library several months ago.
Wingerd teaches at my alma mater of St. Cloud State University. I don't think she mentioned her teaching affiliation. I don't think teachers there are brimming with pride about this affiliation due to a campus history that includes such things as students torching dumpsters for Homecoming. President Earl H. Potter III has solved this. There is no more Homecoming.
Wingerd argues in her book "North Country" (available at our library) that for those two centuries prior to statehood, "natives and Europeans maintained a hesitant, largely cobeneficial relationship."
We saw intermarriage, kinship and trade. It seemed a racially hybridized society.
Really? I recall Wingerd talking about this in a context of myth-debunking.
To be frank and blunt, I'm always suspicious when an academic person talks about "dispelling myths." I suspect they set out with an agenda to do that because it makes them feel special as academics. It gives them an important niche - a reason for being.
What sort of organized law existed out here in those remote days, pre-statehood? Minus the discipline of true law, I question whether any society or culture can be judged truly safe or passive.
That's my opinion and I'm asserting it. Never mind that I might have been horsing around at St. Cloud State when I might have been more studious.
Wingerd asserted that the "peaceable kingdom" as it were, broke down in the 1850s due to "western expansion of U.S. capitalism and violation of treaties by the U.S. government."
Eventually there was war. Out east and here, there was war. A scourge on the land? Punishment for slavery and the roughshod treatment of Indians? We can ponder at length.
Fort Wadsworth/Sisseton carved out its place in western Minnesota history. The wild ride of Sam Brown was a dramatic if dead-end chapter. Thanks to Ethelyn Pearson for keeping it preserved.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Wolverines topple Grand Meadow for No. 1

QB Damon Gibson shares in that championship feeling at Mall of America Field, Minneapolis. Ethan Chase is #62. (Minnesota State High School League photo, from WJON-St. Cloud site)
Austin Maanum gets the handoff for CGB vs. Grand Meadow. Photo by Dan Hinrichs of The Examiner.
CGB 40, Grand Meadow 22
The Clinton, Graceville and Beardsley communities are basking in the well-deserved glow of a state championship. The hard-working student athletes of CGB garnered it. The Metrodome in Minneapolis was the site for this, Friday (11/23).
The Wolverines of CGB and the Superlarks - love that name - of Grand Meadow took the Mall of America Field. Kickoff time was 10 a.m. The action was televised. At stake was the state nine-man championship.
"Black Friday" seemed a world away as the fans of the two vying communities anticipated the kickoff. Prep athletics was a far more virtuous cause than "Black Friday," the latter having been satirized nicely by Jimmy Kimmel ("It's Black Friday, Charlie Brown").
Could the CGB machine continue rolling forward? They certainly rolled through the semis as did Grand Meadow. Only one of these fine teams would have its arm collectively raised in victory.
The Wolverines worked to the triumph, savoring the final score of 40-22. And the recipe for that success? It was largely "big plays." What a weapon that can be.
The teams felt each other out for a time. This would be no cakewalk from start to finish for CGB. But they certainly turned on the jets toward the end of the first half. A pair of touchdown runs turned a 6-0 game into a healthy 20-point CGB advantage.
Jason Montonye, who earned superlatives from the TV announcers, gave much of the push. Montonye scored the first two CGB touchdowns, first breaking loose on a 51-yard run early in the second quarter, and then exploding from 49 yards away with 1:22 left in the half. So the score is 12-0.
The defense forced the Superlarks to punt with under a minute 'til halftime, then it was Austin Maanum's turn to excel carrying the football. This was like a knockout punch: a 73-yard run on the first play after the punt. Montonye took over again for the two-point conversion. CGB has high proficiency with two-point conversion plays.
Fans looked up to the scoreboard and its 20-0 score. It must have been a shock to the Superlarks and their fans who a week previous enjoyed 60-plus points in the semis win over South Ridge.
CGB was stopped on its first possession of the second half. The Superlarks then demonstrated they might be finding some of that offensive magic again. They mounted a lengthy drive into CGB territory. But a fourth down situation arose. It was a pivotal moment as Grand Meadow tried a pass at the CGB 16. It was incomplete!
So CGB's offensive troops resumed their offensive positions. They did so with resolve to run the ball with authority. They indeed accomplished just that, covering 84 yards in seven plays. Quarterback Damon Gibson scored this CGB touchdown, running 39 yards. The score now: 26-0.
The Superlarks picked up offensive momentum as this game drew toward its end but it was clearly too little, too late. Landon Jacobson caught a screen pass from Trenton Bleifus and scored on a 61-yard play. Bleifus found Collin Jacobson on a pass for two on the conversion. The score is 26-8 and CGB made sure the Superlark fans didn't get their hopes elevated too much.
Montonye turned on the jets on a kickoff return. He sprinted 82 yards to get that "touchdown" signal from the refs again, putting CGB over 30 points - familiar territory for them.
CGB had one touchdown left in them. It was Austin Maanum reaching the end zone on this final TD for the Wolverine cause. Maanum brought pride to the blue as he scored from the two. Montonye succeeded on the conversion play to elevate CGB to the 40-point plateau. The score as it stood now said more about the game's complexion than the final score.
Grand Meadow was able to add some points before it was all over. Mike Ojulu showed proficiency catching the football for touchdowns.
Bleifus had a decent morning passing the football as he connected on 18 of 28 attempts for 217 yards and three touchdowns. Ojulu had four receptions for 44 yards and a pair of scores.
CGB was a machine for producing rushing yardage on this day, surprising no one. They nearly reached 400 rushing yards. Maanum's output: 185 yards and two touchdowns. Montonye's output: 126 yards and two touchdowns. Signal caller Gibson came through with 69 rushing yards and a score.
The Wolverines outgained the Superlarks, 393 yards to 264.
The state championship is the highlight chapter in a pretty long history of gridiron impact by teams from that area. Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley was state runner-up in 2008. C-G (without Beardsley) reached state in 1993. Graceville by itself - remember the Shamrocks? - reached state in 1979 and 1982. The '86 fall saw Beardsley-Valley in the state picture.
Grand Meadow has been in state five times. The Superlarks finish 2012 with a 12-2 record.
CGB had an undefeated slate and can boast a final 13-0 record.
CGB is at the top of a mountain now; there's no higher they can climb. Playing on Mall of America Field, home of the Vikings, was a plum experience.
Reflecting on the championship game, defensive end Ethan Chase told the Star Tribune "we had a game plan and everyone executed it."
Chase had quite the memorable day, sacking the quarterback three times for 32 yards in losses. He was a cog in limiting Grand Meadow to 55 first half yards.
Montonye commented to the Star Tribune that "our offensive line was great. You could have driven a truck through those holes."
A hearty congratulations to Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley football, the blue crew, for the 2012 title season. Click on the link below to view a photo album of the title game from The Examiner, with photos by Dan Hinrichs. You'll see an arrow on the first photo, and you click on it to advance. You'll see some ads along the way.
Click on the link below to read The Examiner's game coverage.
Click on the link below to view the CGB football page on Maxpreps:
I invite you to read my Thanksgiving post for 2012 which is on my companion website, "Morris of Course." Click on the permalink below. Thanks for reading. - B.W.
Viva Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley football for the unforgettable fall of 2012. Where does the time go? I still think of Damon Gibson as a little kid.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

CGB to vie for championship Friday (11/23)

Damon Gibson, CGB's No. 9, calls the signals in the state semis win. Photo by Dan Hinrichs of The Examiner.
Let's have a toast for the Wolverines of CGB who are very much alive in the football firmament as Thanksgiving time arrives.
The Wolverines are considered No. 1 in state nine-man. On Friday (11/23) they'll get to affirm that status for real in the Twin Cities.
Minnesota prep football continues to reach its apex each year at the Metrodome. That facility may be fading toward its end as a big-time sports facility. But it's still the home of the Vikings who make it truly big-time. The Vikings' home turf is where the blue-themed CGB unit will seek to cap its rise on Friday. All the marbles will be there for the gathering.
The state championship game will have CGB matched against Grand Meadow (12-1 record). Fans will be on edge of seats at 10 a.m. Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.
Forget about "Black Friday!" The day is one for student athletes to shine under the Teflon roof. Yours truly remembers covering the MAHS Tigers, C-A Spartans and UMM Cougars there. Those are special memories. And I fail to see why the facility has to be pushed aside in favor of the new Vikings stadium.
The surging Wolverines improved to 12-0 on Friday, Nov. 16. Their task on that day was to get past Goodridge/Grygla-Gatzke, the No. 7-ranked team. It wasn't close. The Wolverines worked to a 38-8 win in this semis clash.
There's no secret how CGB asserts itself past foes. It's a good old-fashioned running game. Opponents know this and they still can't do anything about it.
Quarterback Damon Gibson is proud to talk about that running game. He's a junior student-athlete and he put the first points on the board for CGB Friday, getting in from the one.
Gibson also lauds the "team" aspect of how it all comes together.
Gibson's score was the first of four running touchdowns for the blue crew in the first half. Meanwhile the opponent was totally dormant.
This was a suspense-free game as CGB built a 32-0 lead in the first half. The running game was predictably reliable. It churned out 189 yards in that half, of the game-total 363.
Jason Montonye was a cog carrying the football, finding the end zone on runs of four and 13 yards. He picked up his third touchdown early in the fourth quarter on a 13-yard scamper.
It's hard to anticipate how the CGB running attack will come at you. The Star Tribune quoted Montonye citing "so many (rushing) weapons."
And those ballcarriers can find mighty inviting holes in front of them, thanks to an imposing "O" line. "Huge" describes it. Montonye called that line "the heart and soul" of the team.
It was a junior, Austin Maanum, who completed CGB's first half scoring work. Maanum scampered into the end zone from the six with less than a minute 'til halftime.
Maanum's first half work was 15 carries for 100-plus yards. When the four quarters were done his stats were 25 carries for 180 yards. He was quoted in the Star Tribune article (by Ron Haggstrom) saying "if we sustain and hold our blocks, we're an explosive team." He continued: "When we jump on a team like we did in the first half, it's tough to come back against our defense."
Shall we refer to the opponent as "GGG?" GGG was not without a reputation for offensive potential. Opponents are wise to keep an eye on senior Daniel Polansky. He has credentials, as he entered the semis game with 2,454 yards this season. He wasn't nearly such a potent force in the face of the CGB defense. He was tamed, rushing for just 46 yards on ten carries. He did break free to make a 20-yard touchdown catch from junior Hunter McMillin in the third quarter.
CGB quarterback Gibson, who I seem to recall from when he was a little tyke, exudes optimism going into the Friday climax at the Dome.
CGB fans hope to feel "home sweet Dome" as they watch Gibson call the signals for the supremely confident but focused Wolverines. Gibson says "we're a well-oiled machine. It's going to take one heck of a team to beat us."
Grand Meadow would appear to be a team commanding respect. My, they rolled up 61 points in their semis success which was versus South Ridge. Grand Meadow advanced with a 61-6 win, so they're not likely to feel fazed taking the field vs. CGB.
Grand Meadow has the quite appealing "Superlarks" nickname. As for the CGB nickname, it's the same as for the insurgents in the "Red Dawn" movies. I say "movies" plural because the re-make is about to be released, and the trailer makes it clear that "Wolverines" continues to be the rallying name.
The Metrodome is quite the different setting from where the CGB Wolverines play at home.
A trademark of the Graceville facility is the lack of lights, or at least that's the way it was when I made trips there as a media person. That 4 p.m. starting time was quite appealing for me. As a photographer it was a godsend. My, you can actually see all the action crystal clear, all so well-illuminated. Compare that to the MACA Tigers who wear black uniforms and play at night!
I loved that Graceville field. Mostly I was there to photograph the Hancock Owls but I might have made a couple trips to cover the C-A Spartans. The Spartans are no more, having been absorbed by Morris.
It's nice to see Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley continuing to field a solid and successful program. And maybe by the end of Friday, they can proclaim being No. 1! Good luck, boys.
CGB runs the ball with abandon but they're familiar with the passing game. Granted they didn't turn to it often in the semis. But Gibson completed four of five pass tries for 90 yards. He connected with four different receivers.
The Wolverines succeeded on two-point conversions to go with all four of their first half touchdowns. Each of the CGB first half possessions ended in a touchdown.
The defense was hardly second-fiddle. The Wolverines applied the clamps, restricting GGG to 56 total yards (just 12 rushing) in the first half.
GGG's only touchdown was scored late in the third quarter. Hunter McMillin passed for that score.
Polansky had four catches on the day but his rushing output was much less than what his team needed.
GGG closed out the season with a 10-2 mark.
The Wolverines are aiming for perfection and the once in a lifetime celebration of a state championship. All eyes will be on the Mall of America Field come Friday. It's a far more exciting and fulfilling way to spend the day than to join in with the Black Friday hordes.
Click on the link below to view a slideshow of the CGB semis game with photos taken by Dan Hinrichs of The Examiner. You'll see an arrow on the first photo, which you click on to proceed. You will have some ads come at you.
Click on the link below to see the roster for CGB football, fall of 2012, from the Maxpreps website. 
Viva Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley football, the Wolverines, for 2012!
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, November 17, 2012

MN weather vagaries, culture and "red Jello"

Remember Darrin Nelson?
The attempts at snow have been feeble and pretty much unsuccessful so far. We awoke to a light blanket one morning and then it disappeared.
We might be on the verge of another winter where we can be thankful we didn't plunge a bunch of money into a new snowblower. That's kind of sad: how, when we buy an expensive snowblower we find ourselves rooting for the kind of avalanches of snow that can be a real pain.
I'm hoping for a mild winter but with an asterisk. We don't want a mild winter to be a reflection of destructive climate change. Hurricane Sandy might have been a wakeup call for the latter.
Here in Morris we seem relieved of the kind of catastrophic events that cause state governments to give marching orders to insurance companies.
California wildfires? We just watch them on the TV news. (They always look the same, don't they?)
The Gulf Coast has calamities galore. If it's not hurricanes it's oil spills. Much of this travail reaches far inland.
And then out east, we see that the most populated and influential part of our country can fall into a siege vs. the weather. It humbled GOPer Chris Christie so much, he had to accept being photographed shaking hands with Barack Obama. Republicans like Christie, so full of caustic thoughts and rhetoric that push buttons with their constituencies of ignoramuses (ignorami?), got more humility on election day.
We don't have fire ants here in West Central Minnesota. What do we have? We have an occasional miserable winter.
The national media derided us about this in the days when the Vikings played outdoors. There was a myth we were sort of a cultural backwater here in Minnesota. California was cool while we were stuffy and boring.
Example? Remember when Darrin Nelson was the Vikings' first round draft choice? It's getting distant in time now.
One of the purposes of my online writing is to remind of some interesting past cultural episodes in Minnesota. Like for example, when many in the media and general public thought "Bombo Rivera" was funny. The gentleman played for the Minnesota Twins. It was during a period of decline for the franchise before the Metrodome was built.
Remember how the Metrodome was supposed to solve all our problems?
Anyway, Rivera toiled with the Twins at Met Stadium as that facility was slowly turning into a bucket of rust. That venerable facility had served its purpose: attracting major league baseball here. It was the last in a particular generation of baseball stadiums. The insatiable appetite of sports team owners was going to demand something new. Is there any possibility this sounds familiar to you, based on current doings with the new Vikings stadium? A hint: "seat licensing."
Another hint: Mark Dayton the obsessed and shallow governor who let the stadium drag him along. DFLers are supposed to be smarter.
Bombo Rivera was basically a Triple-A level of ballplayer who got his shot in the majors under Gene Mauch. With a little luck he might bat for a decent average. Beyond that he didn't offer much.
Many among us, particularly of the young and smark-aleck variety (i.e. young boomers), became entranced by his first name. Bombo! We thought of bombs of course.
Even the Star Tribune got drawn into this angle. The Strib wouldn't appreciate me dredging this up, but I remember a headline after the season opener one year: "Bombo, Twins bomb Seattle."
How far we've come. The idea of finding humor in a non-Anglo sounding name is so monumentally politically incorrect today. Look at the infusion of "international" players into the NBA. We think nothing of names that would have seemed so out of place in 1950s TV sitcoms.
"Bombo" is a perfectly acceptable, non-eye opening name considering the player's background.
So what was Darrin Nelson's problem? Why was he so sullen and angry about joining the Minnesota Vikings as our first round draft pick? I hope most boomers like me still remember. There was actually a large photo of Nelson on page 1 of the Star Tribune looking sullen and sad.
Why so sad? "There aren't enough discos in Minnesota." I'm not sure the quote is word for word correct but he did use the word "discos."
Translated, his statement meant he felt Minnesota was culturally unacceptable to him. This inspired a memorable column in the Minnesota press, I can't remember by whom - Patrick Reusse or Doug Grow? - and thus was born the "red Jello" symbolism.
This columnist thought Mr. Nelson needed to take a second look at our state and see some attributes that perhaps he didn't realize. Like, the church potluck supper! Come to Minnesota and enjoy a nice church potluck with "red Jello."
Nelson finally held his nose and donned a Vikings uniform. I felt he was too small to become a true standout in the league at that time. It was a time when runningbacks had more impact in the NFL than today. Everybody was looking for the next Walter Payton.
Nelson had kind of a "scatback" look. He had some good moments in the NFL but never got the tag "superstar." He was the intended receiver on the game-deciding play against Washington when the Vikings came within an eyelash of the Super Bowl. That play was blown out of proportion. No, he didn't catch the ball, but I could see he wasn't going to score anyway. Wade Wilson was the quarterback.
I actually felt the goat of the game was D.J. Dozier. He was another first round runningback pick who most fans may have now forgotten, justifiably. He played his college ball under Joe Paterno at Penn State. He never emerged in the pros. Against Washington he dropped a perfectly thrown pass by Wilson that would have gotten the Vikings out of a deep hole.
But people tend to focus on the plays at the end.
I'm quite certain Darrin Nelson would be embarrassed today when reminded of his conduct immediately after being drafted by the Vikings. We can do foolish things when young.
Boomers in particular could do and think foolish things. Like Nelson, we wouldn't appreciate being reminded of much of it. I try through my writing to preserve some of this uncomfortable history.
My generation probably didn't consume much red Jello at church functions because we didn't take to church-going much anyway. My old boss Jim Morrison has reminded me of this. He describes himself as a "non-believer." I don't blame him.
I have tried to get back into the fold with a certain degree of success and adjustment. So much so, I'll actually consume some of that red Jello from time to time.
That's what church is all about, right?
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"Poseidon" gets me remembering movies

The "serious" Leslie Nielsen
"The Poseidon Adventure" was the No. 1 movie at the box office in the year in which I graduated from high school. The Poseidon was a fictional ship while the Titanic was real. A ship in jeopardy seems to lend itself to movie drama and success.
I probably saw "The Poseidon Adventure" at our Morris Theater.
I'm reminded of the movie by the re-make which has been on TV cable channels recently. Movies of a generation ago are on the drawing board for re-makes. We're seeing promos for the new "Red Dawn" now. "Red" refers to the commies. Since the commies have basically disappeared, I'm not sure what the sinister enemy force is going to be. There are terrorists of course but I don't think these people have designs on invasion.
One of the more disputed reviews by Roger Ebert was his three-star assessment of Adam Sandler's "The Longest Yard." Any boomer will feel the warmest of nostalgia when being reminded of the original "Longest Yard." I joked at the time of the re-make that "it should be against the law" to re-make that movie.
We saw Burt Reynolds in the original lead his gang of inmate misfits against the guards who seemed to represent what we called "the establishment." Eddie Albert was not sympathetic as the prison head.
I saw the Sandler version here in Morris and tried to like it. So I didn't leave the theater grumpy but I had to conclude it didn't hold a candle to the original. Ebert's generous review was even better than how he treated Sandler's "Happy Gilmore."
Ebert was put off by product placement in "Happy Gilmore," for one thing. This movie made you want to go out and find a Subway restaurant, remember? I never saw "Happy Gilmore" until it was on TV. It's amazing how much better this movie is, than nearly all of Sandler's other efforts. I'm curious as to the explanation for this.
"Happy Gilmore" is a comedy classic that I'd put in the top listing of sports movies of all time. Ebert didn't like how the trailer gave away the novelty of the scene where Sandler/Gilmore dukes it out with Bob Barker. I never saw the trailer because at that time in my life, I wasn't paying much attention to movies. Ebert really shouldn't weigh the trailer anyway. As for his product placement argument, I wasn't hip enough at the time to realize this was happening. It went over my head.
I don't eat at Subway restaurants anyway because the employees ask too many questions about how you want your order. I've been in the Morris Subway once. After about the fourth question I feel like just saying "make it the way you'd want it."
When I was a kid, the prairie grassland prevailed out where the Subway and Pizza Hut are. We saw McDonald's as "big time" and never with the potential to actually locate here - really.
I don't know how Ebert treated the re-make of "The Poseidon Adventure." The part I saw on TV seemed overly intense which is a quality most contemporary action/adventure movies seem to have to hit you over the head with. The original ground-breaking version now seems a little quaint by comparison.
The original "Poseidon" movie burst on the scene when the Watergate scandal was unfolding. Like all movies it provides a bit of a window into the times. We saw the old traditional minister and the young trailblazing one. The old guy was played by Arthur O'Connell who had played Don Knotts' father in "The Reluctant Astronaut."
The O'Connell character seemed tired and out of touch, which was how boomers viewed many of their elders at the time. O'Connell played "Chaplain John."
The young pastor, "Reverend Scott," was played by the amazing Gene Hackman. Did Hackman age even one day during the prime of his long career? He played "Buck Barrow" in the Faye Dunaway version of "Bonnie and Clyde." He played the basketball coach "Norman Dale" in the mid-1980s classic movie. I saw "Hoosiers" as a culturally significant movie because it seemed to proclaim most firmly that traditional values were OK again. No confusing twists about how to view morality. It asserted we must respect authority, after a long run of movies reflecting the 1970s meme that authority was often full of sheep dip.
Hackman played the blind man in "Young Frankenstein." "You must have been the tallest in your class!"
A big problem with watching the original "Poseidon" today is adjusting to Leslie Nielsen in a "straight" role! I'm sure many like me are flabbergasted as we realize we just can't put aside Nielsen's comic incarnation. That of course began with "Airplane" in which he was the physician.
Dr. Joyce Brothers thought it sad Nielsen was "reduced" to playing comic roles. If Nielsen thought it was sad he might have cried - cried all the way to the bank. My, did he ever parlay that comic role into subsequent films.
We were saddened to learn of Nielsen's sudden death from a staph infection while hospitalized.
The great Leslie Nielsen played "Captain Harrison" in the 1973 "Poseidon Adventure." When he puts his binoculars up and gets set to utter a line, I can't put his "Airplane" persona aside in my mind. A big part of the problem is that Nielsen didn't act any differently as a comic, than previously. He carried himself as a stiff leading man. This actually made his comic lines especially funny. I'm happy for all the success he had as a comic.
Roddy McDowall played the character "Acres" in the '73 "Poseidon." I always thought he over-acted. Apparently he was a child star once. He was the grocery store manager in "Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry," a movie that really reflected the turbulent times. A lot of those anti-establishment movies really had traditional values woven in, it was just subtle. The principals in the "Larry/Mary" movie all met their demise at the end, due to their carelessness.
Robert Redford's "The Candidate" seemed to reflect a spirit of rebellion, but when I watched it again on cable TV, I realized this movie was mainly centered on family. At the end, the father looks the Redford character in the eye and says "you're a politician." The father too had been one.
The famous line from "The Candidate" was something to the effect of "what do we do now?" This was after the Redford character won. It reminds of when Brit Hume cornered Dan Quayle with questions about what Quayle would actually do if he were to suddenly become president (through tragedy).
My generation made Dan Quayle into an absolute bullseye. Word got around pretty fast: "Let's laugh at this guy." While I couldn't disagree more with Quayle's politics, I found it odd he became portrayed as some sort of ignorant nut. Because he clearly wasn't.
Boomers could be mean when younger. When Branson, MO, first became well-known, we decided it was a hangout for old people. The jokes started sprouting. Well, who cares if old people enjoy it?
Older people liked listening to WCCO Radio (as opposed to the hip KQIC or, before that, KDWB). So a friend of mine in the radio business joked that 'CCO had "the highest percentage of applesauce consumers" among their listenership. Right in line with the Branson jokes.
We have shut up about this stuff now. That's because our parents, if we're still blessed to have them, are at an age where they need tender and vigilant care.
Congratulations to Branson on its success.
By the end of 1974 (the year in which Dick Nixon resigned), "The Poseidon Adventure" was among the six most successful features in film history. It was up there with "Gone with the Wind," "The Godfather," "Love Story" ("Love Story?"), "Airport" and "The Sound of Music."
It led to a series of what were called "disaster pictures." We saw Robert Wagner catch on fire in "The Towering Inferno."
"The Poseidon Adventure" was an iconic movie that reflected our times in several ways. Schmoozing in a cocktail party setting was quite the way to pass time. No electronic gadgets to command your attention. Public drinking faded rapidly because of the awareness of DWI pushed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Stella Stevens played a former prostitute in the 1973 "Poseidon." Frankly, there was naivete in how such women were presented in 1970s movies. Before the 1970s the whole concept might have been taboo. As that taboo was pushed aside, it was decided in Hollywood that prostitutes could be presented in a light way with joking references. "That guy at the party looked very familiar" etc. We saw the same light treatment in the movie "Harry and Tonto."
Today we realize prostitution is all about exploitation and danger and it's not treated in a light way.
The Stevens character had reformed and was married to Ernest Borgnine whose reliability as an actor matched Hackman's. We lost Borgnine not long ago. He led the cast of TV's "McHale's Navy" which has been tough to get exposed as re-runs today because of how the characters would refer to the Japanese. Politically incorrect.
Times change and our entertainment tastes reflect those changes. We cheered for Hackman's young, hip, "relevant" pastor who wasn't shy about progressive politics. But today I think the young people might actually prefer Arthur O'Connell's "Chaplain John," who decided in the movie he'd have to stay behind. How symbolic.
It's good it was just a movie. All that was missing was Nielsen saying "don't call me Shirley."
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, November 9, 2012

Election's done, so what now for Fox News?

Roger Ailes, Fox News
Remember the classic TV series "Car 54 Where Are You?" One of my favorite episodes had to do with a bunch of has-been criminals. They got caught in a heist attempt, served time and then decided to try the heist over again, minus any mistakes. They were too old. The guy who was supposed to jump over a wall couldn't do it. The guy who was supposed to lift the safe couldn't do it.
The humor might be a little politically incorrect today because of how it looks at older people.
I'm wondering how all the usual faces on Fox News can keep popping up. Their orchestrated carpet-bombing of everyone on "the left" doesn't seem to be working. We saw in the election that people are comfortable with government having an appreciable role in their lives. They don't see the big government boogeyman that tea partiers incessantly cite.
The tea party was mostly a mirage. It would have been on the fringe hardly warranting attention had it not been for Fox News. The Roger Ailes network doesn't just make points, it makes them around the clock. Television today is a 24/7 proposition. It's so different from when boomers like me were young, it's mind-boggling.
Just as the Internet in its early days invited snake oil salesmen, cable TV news invites the most cynical would-be manipulators.
We seem to be wising up. The electorate seemed pretty rational and reasonable on November 6. They weren't the herd of big government haters that Fox News had been nurturing and coaxing. The "you're on your own" philosophy lost.
So can the Ailes network perhaps adjust? Ideally it should be a solid and professional news network that presents labeled commentary from the right side of the political spectrum. That would make too much sense. It just wouldn't generate the ratings result.
A piece of commentary recently that got my attention asserted "the problem with Fox News isn't that it's partisan, it's that it's cynical."
What? People in the media business being cynical? I'm outraged to discover there's gambling in this joint (to awkwardly paraphrase the famous movie line).
Please remind yourself the media represent a business. Fox News doesn't exist to bring clarity to news or to encourage political discussion at the most refined and responsible level. Ailes is not some outlier who manages a business based on principle. Principle and ten cents can get you a cup of coffee.
Ailes looks at the numbers and beams when they look good vs. the other similar networks.
The better educated and more reasonable citizens don't need to be spoon-fed from a cynical TV network. It's the angry folks who shudder with fear about change in society who need Fox News, who are nurtured and emboldened by it.
What's dawning on me about Fox News now is how its "performing cast" has remarkably little turnover. Even "Car 54 Where Are You?" got canceled eventually. When us boomers were kids, TV shows were meteoric with few exceptions. Think we have a short attention span today? When we were kids, new TV shows were introduced regularly.
So why, when we turn on Fox News today, post-election, are we going to see most of the same tired faces and tired talk from an old cast of pontificators? These people are losers. They really did nothing to prop up the Republican party and may have damaged it by giving credence to too many of the "loons" in their ranks.
We are still seeing Herman Cain being interviewed. The line between interviewers and "guests" can seem blurred. The guests seem part of the act.
We saw the absolutely pathetic specter of John Sununu, Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani rant and rave. Ranting of this kind never passed muster with the august "network news" when I was a kid. A child's tantrum isn't to be taken seriously. Except that on Fox News it can find a platform. Sadly, other networks then feel they need to give at least some credence to it.
It is not written in stone that you must pick up the phone and arrange an interview with Sununu, Trump and Giuliani. Andrea Mitchell finally just couldn't take Sununu anymore. She blared one day that "I'll give you a chance to take that back," after the old George H.W. Bush colleague made a hurtful and empty assertion.
Sununu and Trump both seemed reasonable back when they first became well-known. Something about cable TV news has seemed to embolden them, to rip off their masks so we can see them as the doddering anachronisms they are. We may see less of them now.
The electorate has spoken and did not do so the way Dick Morris predicted. Morris might be the most cynical and bitter of the Fox News Vaudeville cast.
Can we now finally liken John Bolton and Karl Rove to those old, over the hill criminals from that charming "Car 54" show? My God, doesn't the conservative firmament have some young and fresh faces to come on the scene? Could it maybe try out some new personalities who are a little more temperate and capable of at least respecting their opponents more? There's too much disdain on Fox News. You can't help but conclude that some of this is racist. Racism gets beaten down in the end.
We might remember Sununu like we now remember Lester Maddox, OK like a "Lester Maddox Lite."
Subtle racism can be the most onerous kind. Trump is a total clown. Giuliani looks eccentric. Again I ask: Where are the younger faces that could start to get a platform and make more reasonable arguments?
Conservatives do have something to offer. We need their urge toward restraint sometimes. But they misfire when they come at us like a bat out of hell, pushing constitutional amendments at the state level that shouldn't see the light of day. They must come to accept abortion as settled law. They must proceed cautiously on the so-called "social issues" where the public's receptiveness is far less than they think.
There are a whole lot of people out there like me who think Jesse Ventura was on to something. Jim Graves was like that in his campaign. A huge tragedy in our election was Graves coming up just short of Michele Bachmann who is in with the worst of conservatives. I'm embarrassed for my old stomping ground of St. Cloud. I'm embarrassed for Minnesota.
Bachmann may have pulled another one out of the hat with her negative campaigning. Fox News can continue fawning over her.
Fox News does not reflect America. It's a lucrative media business that caters to its audience. It caters to paranoia and the unease among many about how America is changing.
Can the likes of Rove, Trump and Morris just move on now? Can Giuliani retire that sneering smile of his along with his provocative rhetoric, e.g. "Obama should resign!"
Maybe the younger conservatives are harnessing all the new media platforms in such a way that they don't need "TV" anymore. My generation was mesmerized by TV. We mustn't assume that primacy is still in effect or permanent. Fox News as a niche channel will hopefully fade in influence. Is it already happening? The election may have suggested "yes."
If Rove and his eccentric certainty about things still is on Fox News three years from now, it's possible relatively few people will care. He'll be like a member of that old gang of crooks on "Car 54," unable to cut it. He already looks that way, come to think of it. "Fox and Friends" will look like a paranoia fest. Greg Gutfeld will just seem like that irritating guy sitting two stools down at the bar.
I'd much rather watch re-runs of "Car 54 Where Are You?" with Fred Gwynne. Back when that series was made, an actor on a successful show would have a hard time walking away from that role. Gwynne also played Herman Munster but his costume and makeup disguised him. Eventually he played the old neighbor in the movie "Pet Sematary," remember? He was able to escape his old roles - a testament to his acting ability.
I'd vote for Herman Munster over Michele Bachmann. Maybe "Grandpa" (Al Lewis) too.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tigers' superb season ends at Husky Stadium

NL-Spicer 28, Tigers 14
First the football season ended and then the electioneering ground to a halt. We can feel happy the marathon of campaigning is over. We'd love to have the football season continuing. Many are called, few are chosen.
The MACA gridders showed a very high caliber through the 2012 fall. But they lost for the first time in the section finals. The pads are retired. Bring on the skates and such.
The Tigers visited St. Cloud for the Section 6AAA finals Friday (11/2). Their challenge there would be to face New London-Spicer. The Wildcats didn't have nearly as good a record. But let's put up an asterisk here. I'm told the Wildcats played a 4A schedule. This probably served to toughen them up. The Tigers meanwhile closed out their regular season against a YME team that was so overmatched, they might have considered forfeiting.
The Tigers ruled in their first post-season game which was in the 6AAA semis, here. The success vaulted them to the section championship game at St. Cloud State University's Husky Stadium. The mighty Mississippi flows just beyond.
The Tigers couldn't duplicate the kind of success they enjoyed vs. Albany in the semis. The Tigers turned over the football four times in a 28-14 loss. So the memory-filled MACA season of 2012 is done. Just one loss.
The Wildcats' success vaults them into the state picture. They played a clean and precise game Friday, committing no turnovers (to the Tigers' four). The turnover differential can render many other of the game's numbers meaningless.
In many stat categories this looked like a very even game. The Wildcats had just one more first down than the Tigers (15-14). The total yardage figures spell "draw": 264 by our Tigers and 260 by NL-Spicer.
The game's first score was a shocker. The Tigers owned the ball and seemed to be executing smoothly. All that got snuffed out by an interception. Jacob Torgerson's pass was picked off by Joey Dreier. It was Dreier who gathered in the ball rather than the intended receiver, tight end Nic Vipond.
Dreier found daylight up the sideline. MACA fans groaned as the opportunistic Dreier covered 87 yards en route to the end zone. Dreier is a senior who had three previous interceptions this season. But it was his first score ("pick six"), quite well timed. (The term "pick six" didn't exist when I was a kid, nor did "walk-off home run.")
Coach Jerry Witt's Tigers took a deep breath and worked to answer that score. This they accomplished with a quite fine 77-yard march. "Quite fine" certainly describes the gimmick play that MACA used to score. This was the halfback option pass. Tanner Picht was the thrower. The completion was to Chandler Erickson and it covered 34 yards. Erickson had to overcome some rather tight coverage applied by Corbin Schwartz.
Picht wasn't done throwing. He did the job again on the conversion play, finding Austin Dierks. So the Tigers had the lead. Unfortunately this wouldn't be the norm for the night.
NL-Spicer has a ballcarrier of note in Austin Stone. The senior can be a bulldozer. On this night he'd tote the football for 179 yards in 30 carries.
It was Stone who was the main cog when NL-Spicer regained the lead. Time and again he'd charge forward and at the end of this scoring possession, he only had to carry for one yard. Adam Essler carried successfully on the conversion.
MACA wasn't about to stand pat for the rest of the first half. Less than two minutes remained but the Tigers felt this was easily enough time to do more offensive work.
Torgerson, looking unfazed by his earlier interception, took charge in a scoring drive of 57 yards. A pass of 44 yards stood out in a big way. Logan Manska made this catch from Torgerson. Manska plays wide receiver. He contended with defender Logan Brink to accomplish this big play.
Then Jordan Staples took over to help polish off this drive. The hard-charging Staples took several handoffs and reached the end zone on a three-yard run. Tom Holland had the ball seeking two points on the conversion. The savvy Reid Johnson of the Wildcats, linebacker, knew what Holland's intentions were and made the tackle behind the line of scrimmage.
Two of the Tigers' fumbles happened in the second half. The Tigers appeared to be battling gamely, but savvy fans could tell NL-Spicer was carving out an advantage at the line of scrimmage. This is always a worrisome sign.
No points were scored in the third quarter, nor in the first ten minutes of the fourth. Finally quarterback Ryan Vraa got the Wildcats' engines humming again. Vraa - is he the son of the old UMM quarterback? - found Essler open on a 19-yard scoring pass on fourth down. It was a back-breaker. Essler found a hole in the zone.
Stone was stopped on the conversion play - critical since MACA stayed within seven seven points with the score 21-14. The time remaining: two minutes.
Perhaps the biggest back-breaker occurred on the kickoff. The Tigers muffed the kick return, turning the ball over as Chris Nelson pounced on it at the 21. Stone capped a four-play scoring drive, running the ball in from the six to conclude the night's scoring.
Morris Area Chokio Alberta fans can feel good about our team's final 9-1 record.
Holland carried the football eleven times for 57 yards. Staples had eight carries for 32 yards. Picht picked up 22 yards in eight carries.
QB Torgerson had a superb completion percentage, finding receivers on ten of 13 attempts for 107 yards. His two interceptions were a blemish. Three receivers stood out: Manska (two catches, 44 yards), Erickson (3-47) and Picht (4-42).
Picht handled the punting, averaging 34.7 yards.
Vraa had only three completed passes for NL-Spicer.
Attention now turns to winter athletics for MACA student athletes. There isn't necessarily much of a break, I'm told. The hockey athletes will be strapping on skates pretty promptly, I'm told.
UMM football: Cougars end season
The UMM Cougars were defeated in their final game of the 2012 schedule, by St. Scholastica at Big Cat Stadium. Please click on the permalink below to read my game review which is on my companion website, "Morris of Course." Thanks for reading. - B.W.
You may click on the permalink below to read about the Cougars' games 7 through 9 of the 2012 season. This post too is on my "Morris of Course" site. Thanks.
Cross country: Smith 31st in state
MaKenzie Smith closed out her illustrious prep cross country career Saturday, 11/3, in Northfield.
Northfield has become the mecca for cross country devotees on the late fall date of the state meet. Smith of the MACA Tigers, who had finished second in section, arrived at the finish chute 31st Saturday. She covered the 4000 meters in 15:32.
The state meet is a true spectacle involving over 200 schools. Thousands of spectators were on hand.
Savannah Ramirez of Litchfield was the runner who finished ahead of Smith in section. In state, the Litch Dragon looked impressive with her seventh place finish. It was the third state meet for this seasoned harrier. Ramirez ran a sub-15:00 time for the first time.
Smith of the Tigers is coached by a most pleased Dale Henrich. Congrats to all.
Media notes:
The scheduling for the MACA football team's post-season games made it tough for the publication that purports to be the Morris newspaper. The paper comes out on Saturday now as you all know. It's an unpopular arrangement with many.
The readership has declined considerably according to the annual "statements of ownership" required by the U.S. Postal Service. The most recent one was published Saturday, 11/3. The Morris newspaper has about 2500 paid subscribers, down about 1/3 from the peak and at least 20 per cent down since the Morrison family ended their involvement. 
Anyway, the paper's schedule of publication made it impossible, embarrassingly so, for it to do justice to the Tigers' accomplishments at the end. The section semi-final game against Albany was played on a Saturday. The volleyball team played a post-season match the night before. Neither of these events could get covered in the Saturday paper.
The paper was unable to publish any sort of preview material about the section championship football game. That title game was to be played on a Friday. There is no mid-week issue of the paper that could fill these needs and serve the community.
The game against New London-Spicer has yet to be covered by the Morris newspaper as I write this. The last time I checked their website, the coverage of that game was just with a connection to West Central Tribune (Willmar) material.
Is this the kind of business you want to support with your advertising dollars? It's bad enough you have to try to cut through all the "noise" of that non-local advertising in the Morris paper, for example those "Scheel's" circulars. I can't even tell you where the nearest "Scheel's" store is. Is there even one in Alexandria? I know there's one in St. Cloud. Why not just shop at our local Town and Country and Shopko?
Drive to St. Cloud? Do they think we're stupid?
There was a possible solution to the football coverage/recognition problem. The crew that puts out "Morris Area Merchants" could maybe have put out a four or eight-page issue at midweek with a salute and good luck message for the Tigers.
"Morris Area Merchants" did this type of thing recently for the area firefighters. Finding a "theme" is in fact a good thing for this publication to try to accomplish. Its primary mission is of course providing advertising - advertising for Morris area merchants exclusively. It's a very important aim.
But some space could have been turned over to the salute for the Tigers. A team photo could be on page 1. We could read the essential preview facts about the section championship game. There could have been a couple paragraphs about the section semis game: the win over Albany. It would have been fun to get something like this.
"Morris Area Merchants" has my nod to take anything they might want from this website. I'll admit my style of journalism is more personal or subjective now than it used to be. But that's the license I get from the web. I'm still capable of writing "newspaper style" if I have to. Although, it's a myth that newspaper readers don't want to know the opinions of writers. Newspapers developed the dry and objective style only because of concern advertisers could be offended. They had to protect the golden goose. It's a golden goose that isn't what it used to be.
The Morris newspaper stumbled hopelessly for covering MACA football in the post-season. But they did bother to tell us, through their master-owner Forum Communications, we should vote for Mitt Romney. That's one opinion I really didn't appreciate knowing.
Forum Communications executives are probably gnashing their teeth this morning (11/7) about how poorly their favorite political party did, the party that promotes voter suppression and likes talking about vaginal probes.
An addendum re. football: Last year someone told me that MACA football coach Jerry Witt acknowledged my work when he spoke at the Lions Fall Sports Banquet. I hope he hasn't been told not to do that again. School administration might come under pressure from the local legacy media companies who have their old habits formed from when they had a monopoly.
School administration needn't cower in fear. In fact, I think the local public school should activate a school news bureau right on its own website. I've been saying that for a long time. I acknowlege they are taking some initial steps.
The media world has been turned upside down by technological innovation. Our school should try to harness all the wondrous possibilities. Mr. Monson, please think creatively. And, is it really necessary to honor the "press pass" that the local newspaper person flashes? The price of a year-long sports pass is very reasonable. It would be couch change for that parent company of Forum Communications. If the paper doesn't like this, they don't have to send anyone.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, November 2, 2012

Seeing our world as a media person

I noticed the Willmar newspaper doing something in its October 26 edition that caused problems for me when I did it once. This was during my print media career.
The Willmar newspaper reported how an athlete's reported illness might have affected an event's outcome. This report was on the Section 6A cross country meet.
I too was reporting on cross country when I hit this uncomfortable rough spot in my career. The Willmar writer was making note of a Willmar Community Christian runner of note. The runner's name: Ben Burgett.
Burgett has been making waves this cross country season. His name was well familiar to me. He apparently wasn't full-go for the section race.
How did the writer know this? Probably through a system akin to gossip. Coaches have to know everything. Chris Matthews of MSNBC alluded to this when the Jerry Sandusky mess was starting to unfold. Matthews was pondering the extent to which people around Penn State athletics might have been aware of this serious wrongdoing in their midst. With a wry smile he dismissed the idea that "Joe Pa" (Paterno) and others of the jockstrap fraternity were unknowing and outside the loop.
Matthews talked about the culture of coaches and how they share everything. "They have to know what's going on."
So the status of Ben Burgett of Willmar Community Christian got bandied about I'm sure. The kid was sick I guess. The exact illness wasn't specified by writer Rand Middleton. Everyone sort of mills about on the golf course with considerable time to exhaust when nothing is happening. This meet was held at Little Crow Country Club, New London.
Maybe a little bird told Middleton not to expect much from Mr. Burgett.
Middleton wrote: "Burgett wasn't in top form due to illness and placed eleventh overall in a field where he typically would (have made) top five."
Back when I broached this type of subject, I was interviewing coach Marv Meyer of the Morris Area cross country team. We were previewing the section meet as I recall. A lot would be at stake in the section meet. I was told Paynesville's top runner was sick and might be out of action or hobbled. I remember the guy's last name was Haglund.
Whether or not Haglund would run or whether he'd be 100 per cent, could impact greatly the Tigers' drive to garner No. 1.
I didn't ask for this information. It was volunteered to me by coach Meyer. I'd consider it background, helping create some suspense and uncertainty going into an important athletic contest.
The background appeared in my interview notes naturally, so I routinely processed this info in my article.
A parent took umbrage which is a mild way of putting it. Such was his anger I almost suspected some mental imbalance was in play. It was scary.
I faced the assertion that I might be taking some of the luster from the Tigers' accomplishment if they were to win the section. I'd be implying that maybe we wouldn't have won had Haglund been healthy.
However, making note of sports injuries and illness isn't at all uncommon in sportswriting at all levels. It's background. It makes us ponder the odds and reminds us that sports can defy predicting. It's also a reminder of our mortal nature and weaknesses.
The Tigers did end up winning section. The outraged parent experienced no simmering. He spoke to the newspaper chief, taking it upon himself to close the door as he entered his office.
But it got worse after that. Coach Meyer took a photo at the state meet which became the target for an even more heated outburst from the parent in question. I'm sure coach Meyer thought it benign. I did too. Actually it seemed charming. It showed a couple young kids posing with a spirit banner that some fans had made for state.
Problem is, there was some wording on the banner that came right from the career of singer Meatloaf: "Bat out of hell," only the kids who made the banner used hyphens for most of the word "hell."
I'm not sure the word "hell" is even particularly profane. As a synonym for "inferno" it's probably quite appropriate for tossing around in theological discussions.
Oh, I'm certain the kids meant no harm making the banner. And coach Meyer meant no harm photographing it.
But if you thought all hell - so to speak - broke loose before this episode, now there was a whole new firestorm, and this time the fire-breathing parent typed a letter to the editor. In it he reported that he "personally" had taken the banner down later. Just like he "personally" had closed my boss' door when going in to talk to him.
Later, I had several acquaintances visit me at my office and extend some sympathy and understanding over what I had been through. One, Mick Rose, suggested that the fire-breathing critic was a dentist and as such (i.e. as "the boss") was used to "pushing people around."
Another, Merlin Beyer, said the letter to the editor wasn't really from the dentist, rather it was from the athletic director who had a mandate to improve athletics when he came here. The AD could show a volcanic kind of determination.
I appreciated Pastor Gordon Bock extending his understanding and kindness toward me. Mike Wilson came to my office and just stuck out his hand, minus any words at first, offering a "shake" to express understanding.
The letter to the editor excoriated me. It suggested I was lazy.
Another letter to the editor years later, immediately following the UMM goalpost incident, would also accuse me of being lazy.
What did these people know about my work routine? Why was it so important to discuss my work after the goalpost incident? All I did was spend the whole weekend at the office trying to hold down the fort, as a whole seeming army of media people from the outside world were pressing me for answers.
Was the late Brian Curtis (or Brummond) seated at his desk too, ready to help out in his role as UMM sports information director? Somehow I suspect no. But I'm the "lazy" one.
The critic in the wake of my cross country coverage, which by the way I thought was pretty good, was my family dentist. Our family always paid our bills punctually. So maybe that's not enough to get along with people in a small town.
We of course sought a new dentist in the smoldering aftermath of all that unpleasantness. We greatly appreciate Dr. Jeffrey Hauger's office taking us. Health care is essential to have.
Our former dentist doesn't practice in Morris any more and may be retired. I don't think he even lives here. I won't dignify him by typing his name.
As for me, I continue to feel the pull of journalism and will keep on, undaunted. Sort of like a bat out of hell.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com