"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)

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

No comments:

Post a Comment