"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, April 29, 2013

What a wonderful memorial concert for Ralph

The HFA on the University of Minnesota-Morris campus was abuzz Sunday afternoon.
It was such a delight to see so many people turn out for the UMM symphonic winds concert. I'm an old-timer so I call it "band." In the old days we had the band/orchestra dichotomy. You had your choice: strings or brass. Of course, sometimes the most agreeable choice is a combination of the two. We've seen UMM symphonic winds director Simon Tillier employ singers too. What it's all about is wonderful music.
"Wonderful" describes what we experienced on Sunday, April 28, at the music/arts building on campus. It was a concert in memory of Ralph Williams, the original UMM music faculty person who laid the groundwork.
Williams worked across the board with brass, strings, vocalists - the whole gamut. He didn't hesitate to do more than what was technically required of him.
Concerts in those heady early days of UMM were at Edson Auditorium. We gained visibility by having the UMM men's chorus travel to Seattle WA and New York City for the world's fairs of 1962 and '64, respectively. UMM was making inroads on many fronts. Everyone got familiar with the "Cougars" nickname.
Ralph composed the UMM Hymn which was like a sentimental paean celebrating our campus and rural setting. No big city distractions here.
UMM clearly stated its niche: liberal arts. There were times when I felt the focus was a little too narrow and limited. But all these years after UMM's founders did their work, the campus seems most vibrant. We can sing the praises of liberal arts which I guess we can conclude have timeless value.
What stood out most at Sunday's concert? Was it the audience size? We were a little concerned that the Assumption Church confirmation might hold back the numbers. Well, maybe there weren't as many Catholics in the seats as there might have been - who knows? - but the turnout was terrific. The cookies ran out for the post-concert reception.
We were thrilled about the multiple standing ovations during the performance. What inspired performing! The piano playing of Therese Sutula should be videotaped and recorded and sent to PBS. George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" was unforgettable.
Again, what stood out most at Sunday's concert? It was everything.
My mother Martha and I were humbled and honored. Ralph was my dad. The only thing better than the concert would be to have Dad still alive and with us. He left us for that grand auditorium in the sky on February 2. We were blessed to have him at home with us until the end.
The April 28 concert began with a J. Wesley Flinn arrangement or interpretation of Ralph's UMM Hymn, called "Plains and Pines - Fantasia on the UMM Hymn." I had a tear or two trickle down my face. Kudos to J. Wesley.
Director Tillier programmed various works for this concert that reflected Ralph's life and musical tastes. The printed concert program included an extensive profile of Ralph's life. His adventure fighting the great Glacial Park fire of 1936 was included, along with his trip into Tokyo as a U.S. Naval officer shortly after the end of World War II. He saw the immense devastation in that city.
The 1950s saw him direct the 120-voice Minneapolis Apollo Club male chorus. I was born in 1955 and spent my first five years in St. Paul. The fact I could take kindergarten in Morris (Miss Feigum's class, East Elementary) and go K-12 here means I'm considered a Morris native for all practical purposes.
We continued visiting the Twin Cities through the years. We'd dine at the old Forum Cafeteria and shop at Dayton's. But mostly we were devoted to Morris. I graduated from high school in 1973 which was the year J. Wesley Flinn was born, the program informs me.
I've been around a lot of music in my life but I saw a "first" for me at Sunday's concert: mutes for the heavy brass instruments, you know, tuba.
Tillier had a fleeting encounter with my father last fall. I'm so glad he and my dad got to exchange a handshake outside the Recital Hall after the Homecoming concert.
I'm so glad that at this stage of my life, I can pay more attention to music than to football. In my media career I got drawn into sports a lot. Football is falling into a state of siege because of all the health-related concerns being raised. The emotions surrounding sports bother me sometimes. There is nothing but joy surrounding music.
I was glad to see my old newspaper boss Jim Morrison at the concert, with wife Liz (the former Liz Martin, how I knew her in high school). Jim's parents Ed and Helen Jane have made a generous donation to improve the art gallery in the HFA. It's across the hall from the recital hall.
My mom and I made a donation which Tillier informs us will go toward developing a new music department asset, the details of which I'll share when I know more later.
Two more suggestions for the HFA building: how about "power doors?" The existing doors can seem a little heavy and challenging. And, how about increased restroom facilities on the main floor? Some people used the elevator to use the basement restrooms during intermission Sunday.
I was pleased seeing our Morris Public Library director, Melissa Yauk, at the concert. UMM Chancellor Jacqueline Johnson graced the event with her presence.
We wish to thank Adiroopa Mukherjee, feature editor of the University Register, for the fine concert preview article in the April 25 issue. Mukherjee wrote about Williams' "undying legacy."
So, even though it was a memorial concert, it was a reminder that the qualities Williams instilled will never die or go by the wayside. Thanks everyone.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Come to the UMM band concert on Sunday!

The temperature could be mighty spring-like by the end of this coming weekend. You'll be tempted to be outside but I'd like to suggest you consider a Sunday indoor event.
I assume you'll be at church! Besides that, I wish to encourage you to attend the band concert at UMM.
I show my age in using the term "band." These days it's "symphonic winds" or "wind ensemble." Anyway it's the group with the trumpets and trombones - good music.
Simon Tillier's UMM symphonic winds will perform at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 28, at the HFA recital hall. Therese Sutula will be featured at the piano.
This concert is dedicated to the memory of Ralph Williams, founder of the UMM music program. Ralph had the reins by himself when it started. His office was at the old and historic building which is now used as the Multi-Ethnic center.
UMM was truly fledgling. It took over from the West Central School of Agriculture which had a long run. Ag schools were being phased out and our campus was re-purposed. The community was very concerned as the 1950s drew to a close, about whether the campus could be kept going. Our prestigious U of M came forward like a knight in shining armor.
Was it really 53 years ago? I remember being struck by the "circle drive" when first getting here with my parents, Ralph and Martha. I hung around the music building and Edson Auditorium sometimes. Previously we had lived in St. Paul.
I wasn't sure how this little town in the country would work out. No more shopping at Applebaum's. We'd get to know Willie Martin at Willie's Friendly Super Valu!
I'd go to the upper level of the music building and watch football on P.E. Miller Field. Basketball was at the P.E. Annex - remember that building?
UMM got up on its legs quite fine.
So, fast-forward to the present. I'd appreciate you all giving consideration to attending the concert this Sunday, April 28, at the HFA. Rumor has it there will be treats and refreshments afterward. You might even chat with me afterward.
Come listen to the music of George Gershwin, Gustav Holst, W.A. Mozart and Robert Russell Bennett. I'm also told there will be a new interpretation or arrangement of Ralph's own "UMM Hymn."
You'll have plenty of time to enjoy the spring weather in the coming week. I sure will!
UMM softball vies under dome
A post about UMM should give some attention to students. We'll fill the bill here. I did a lot of writing about UMM sports during my 26-year career in the print media. There was no true UMM sports information department during much of that time.
I'm assuming my work filled a need even though I could never be all things to all people.
Let's focus on softball for this post. An indoor facility came to the rescue for UMM during the April portion of the schedule. That was quite necessary given the uncooperative spring we've had. The venue was the Vadnais Heights Dome.
The opponent was Northland for April 21 action. The Cougars and Northland split a twin bill.
It was Northland taking game #1 in commanding style with a 12-1 win. The complexion then changed as the Cougars took game #2 in a 9-4 final.
Kelsey Draper helped set the tone in that Cougar win, socking a three-run home run in the first. Mandy Allman hit a solo homer to put the lead at four. Kristy Hoge scored the Cougars' fifth run. Meanwhile it was Draper getting the job done from the pitching rubber. She allowed no hits through the first three innings.
Northland broke through to score one run in the fourth. But the Cougars took ownership of this game in the fifth with a major rally. A walk was followed by three singles, the last of which, off the bat of Sam Hanson, brought Brooke Decker and Alex Anderson across home plate. Molly Olson was able to score on an error. A Mackenzie Weatherly ground ball brought Hanson in to score.
UMM now led 9-1 and would go on to win 9-4.
A sweep vs. Crown College
The next day, April 22, brought nothing but success for the UMM women at the Vadnais Heights Dome. On this day they squared off vs. Crown.
Game #1 was a 7-4 victory. Much of the momentum was gained in the second inning. Singles resounded off the bats of Sam Hanson and Mandy Allman. The bases became loaded with a walk to Laura Lhotka. Shelby Peterson drove in a run with a ground ball to shortstop. Kali Grote connected for a homer blast to left, barely in fair territory, but fair it was, and three runs came in. So the score is 4-0.
Sam Hanson homered in the third to make the score 5-0.
Crown was able to fight back some, thanks in part to Cougar errors. Crown got within one run.
Hanson helped give UMM a little breathing room, hitting another home run. Molly Olson connected for an RBI double as a pinch-hitter in the sixth. That RBI put the score at 7-4 which is how the game would end.
It was Hanson pitching the whole way in efficient style - just 84 pitches in the seven innings.
The Cougars won game #2 in a 16-8 final. Their bats were sizzling in the bottom of the first, good for five runs. Draper tripled to score Olson (who had walked) and Anderson (on via bunt). A hit-by-pitch and walk loaded the bases. Shelby Peterson took advantage, doubling to left-center and clearing the bases.
The Cougars batted around in the third, recording five runs to take command. Hanson hit a two-run double.
Crown showed a fair amount of offense too. But UMM moved forward again with a two-run fifth that had Grote doubling to score Draper.
The sixth inning saw Molly Olson make the last big decisive statement for UMM with a home run to left. The Cougars could savor this 16-8 win over Crown.
Viva University of Minnesota-Morris softball for the (chilly) spring of 2013!
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, April 22, 2013

Minnesota: our self-image as shaped by weather

How it used to be at the old "Met"
Minnesotans used to feel defensive in a way that people close to the coasts would never feel. There was something about the Upper Midwest that made us feel second-tier. This was unjust of course. The Twin cities were as vibrant a place as any metropolitan area.
We didn't become big league until 1961. What a hugely significant year for change. Where would we be today without our big league sports teams? I for one could live without the Vikings but I'm an exception. It's not hard to notice how consumed people are with football. In the 1950s you would have been focused on the Gophers.
The Gophers seemed to spiral downward once the Vikings got established. Cal Stoll made a last stand to try to keep the Gophers prominent. He was a good warrior, under-appreciated, and he went down fighting. Paul Giel said Stoll had become too hard to "sell."
Actually the Gophers found themselves in a new environment. They made a bid to get the spotlight back with Lou Holtz. It seemed to be working for a while. Then it flickered. The Vikings with their four Super Bowl appearances were the fashionable football team to be focused on. And to think this team didn't even exist before 1961.
Can you imagine the boomer generation being satisfied with minor league? That's what we had in baseball with the Minneapolis Millers and their Nicollet Park. Nicollet was built in the 19th Century. The Millers moved into the new Metropolitan Stadium in 1956. We might forget that "the Met" didn't usher in the Twins right away. It was built to lure major league baseball.
Can you believe major league baseball needed five years before it could finally put its blessing on having a team here? Today I would suggest the Minnesota market is essential. It's hard to believe it wasn't, up through 1960.
The Twins and Vikings got planted here in time to satisfy the boomers' entertainment cravings which were going to be substantial. The Gophers were going to have to try to get along in the background. The U of M would have to stick its neck out to try to get a taste of its old primacy. Getting Holtz here was an example. So was the meteoric tenure of hoops coach Bill Musselman.
The Gophers can occasionally excel. But they aren't the kitchen table fodder for discussion they once were. Their primacy is associated with the days when your average citizen could list the prime celebrities on WCCO Radio. Your typical farm family awoke to Maynard Speece. We would retire with the laid-back Franklin Hobbs (the late-night "Hobbs House").
I remember attending a Twins game with a college friend and we both started doing our best Hobbs impersonation, with his segues, deliberate pauses and shameless plugs etc. He was too laid-back for today. He wouldn't take to the tabloid subjects that get attention today. There was more a sense of proper decorum. The tenor was quite apt for the World War II generation which was in its prime.
Even when we got big league sports, it was a while before we got proper respect. We'd hear belittling comments based on the kind of adverse weather we'd get here. There seemed to be a subtle air of prejudice against the Upper Midwest.
I read an op-ed that suggested one reason we were so delighted with our World Series wins of 1987 and 1991, wasn't just because we won, but because we had "put on a good show." In other words, we felt we had to sell ourselves. This thought wouldn't cross New Yorkers' minds.
The odd "green monster" of Fenway Park, Boston, has an air of charm and history. If the very same ballpark had been in Minneapolis, it would be considered an abomination. The elite press would be pulling hair out over it. But the east coast power corridor gave a different context.
We don't see that same problem today. The (weather) elements we have dealt with at Target Field do get the attention of ESPN analysts. But it's not an issue of respect, or lack of, anymore. I don't sense any condescension.
Part of the reason might be the nature of the media. The big league sports owners have learned how to apply some pressure to the media. They strive to make the media a PR extension as it were. If you are privileged to have a job covering a big league team, you should speak with a basic air of respect about the team you're covering, and the league.
It was not always that way. When I was young, I remember "name" media people talking about "dog" teams and "dog" matchups. They might talk about how cold it would be in the Twin Cities, suggesting they might not want to come here.
Today, considering what tremendous cash cows all these franchises have become, any belittling tone is put forth with great risk by any media person. Media people talk with respect about all but the very worst teams.
It makes sense when you pause and think: The NFL has the very best football players in the world. It would seem illogical that half the teams might be candidates for disparaging talk. But such used to be the case.
I would suggest that part of the problem was the game's cosmetics. Howard Cosell pondered this once. He asked a colleague, "what's wrong with the NFL?" Granted it seemed wildly popular. But there were too few teams that exuded a strong air of quality. When they played each other, everything was fine. Not so when the "dog" teams played. Monday night football dealt with this by "making a bad game hip," according to one sports historian. But oh my, that was cynical.
There would be no room for cynicism in a few years.
In the first decade of the Metrodome, there were managers and media people who would speak disrespectfully, one calling it "a joke ballpark." When they said "homer dome" it was a putdown. In New York City, these very alleged defects would be a source of charm and fascination. But not out here in the tundra. Not in 'CCO Land.
Many critics feel the 1987 Twins didn't even deserve to be in the World Series. At the time, I interviewed a Morris area media person, Steve Van Slooten, who was very well aware of this. Steve was in radio and I was in print. I interviewed Steve because he was at the World Series. He displayed the classic Upper Midwest defensiveness about it all. I'll paraphrase. He asserted that no matter what all the naysayers might want to say, about our talent level or stadium or whatever, "we did it." We went and won the World Series, and the historical record will always show that.
I'm not writing this to criticize Steve - heaven forbid - I'm just presenting it as an exhibit.
Today I think team managers and top media people actually have it written into their contracts to "not cross a line" of showing disrespect. Try to take all the teams seriously.
Oh by the way, "what was wrong with the NFL?" to repeat Cosell's question. He did offer one specific answer: "All the passing is under the coverage." Rules changes have helped fix that. Fans like seeing receivers catch the ball in stride downfield. The customer is always right.
Fran Tarkenton managed a high completion percentage because he threw lots of "dink" passes. It worked for its time. We got to three Super Bowls with him. (The first was with Joe Kapp.)
Let's step into a time machine and go back to 1962 - a chilly spring. It would be therapeutic considering the very long winter we have endured. There is precedent for that. Let's go back to April 12 of 1962. The Twins were in their second season. A winter storm blew in. It wiped out the scheduled opener for the next day. The southern two-thirds of the state got a foot of snow. Six inches of white stuff were recorded in the Twin Cities by 6 p.m. on 4/12. The Twin Cities had received 81.3 inches total for the year.
And here we were with big league baseball. Then we got to April 13. Holly mackerel, it was the coldest April 13 on record. The thermometer registered two above.
Would you believe that on May 2, 1976, there was a fleeting spring snowstorm? By May 2, the snow had better melt quickly. It did, but there were still patches of snow on shadowed ground for the Twins game against Milwaukee. It was a Bat Day game. I'm surprised Bat Day was that early in the schedule. The field at the old Met was soggy, needless to say.
Such circumstances made many elite media people shake their heads.
Then let's talk about the Vikings game on December 3, 1972. I'll quote from Joe Soucheray: "From a saloon in Tampa or Phoenix or San Diego, imagine watching on television as the Vikings hosted the Bears. . .in the coldest football game ever played at the Met. The temperature at kickoff was two degrees below zero, with a north wind at eleven MPH creating a wind-chill of minus 26."
There were nearly 50,000 fans there! The Vikings won 23-10. We had only one offensive touchdown, on a pass reception by John Henderson.
By contrast, in a pre-season game in 1976, against Cincinnati, the temperature was 88 degrees amidst hazy and muggy conditions. We had games marked by wind too.
Did we really think we would get Target Field built and be excused from the weather this time? Granted, it's engineered better than the old Met with all sorts of special strategies to combat weather. But weather here can oftentimes win. I'm typing this on April 19 when school has been called off for Morris Area. Obla-di, obla-da (life goes on).
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Runners and "The Little Engine that Could"

I remember writing about Micah Grafenstein when the young man from Hancock ran the Boston Marathon.
It's sort of like the Masters in golf. Golf tournaments are frequent but there's only one Masters. When a runner talks about Boston, there is a special air that makes that distinct. The aim of running Boston means the runner is aiming for the highest height.
I covered Grafenstein for the print media. There were a number of Morris area runners who also got my attention. They always told a story like climbing a mountain. You could also compare it to "The Little Engine that Could."
You might also want to play that original "Rocky" theme song in your head. These souls get out on the roads and trails on their own. They do it in rain, sleet and snow just like the mailman. We thought the sight of a mailman on Saturday might be gone with the wind. But there's a reprieve. The Postal Service and the government are in a tug of war that has gotten tiresome. Saturday delivery is proving as resilient as the mail carriers themselves.
I remember writing about a couple of Morris mail carriers who ran a marathon. You'd think those guys would need some rest. I hope the 26.2 miles had the effect of building up those guys' legs instead of wearing them down.
Running took off as a pastime in the mid-1970s. It had a fad quality for a while. We had that best-selling book with the red cover. Frank Shorter winning the Olympics marathon gave a push.
Boomers were attuned to self-improvement. They could also get a little obsessed or distracted. It was an element of this generation - that's my generation - that decided it wasn't good enough to call yourself a Christian, you had to be a "born again" Christian. Didn't Bob Dylan go through a phase like this? Ah, us boomers and our "phases."
Didn't we inspire the "yuppie" term? We're always inspiring something. Our parents went to church and considered themselves Christians. Many of my vintage would point fingers and say "that's not good enough." You had to "accept Christ as your personal savior."
I don't know, I think the "greatest generation" folks probably felt they had done that. The greatest generation spent their formative years just thinking about getting by, thus they would have found marathon running a totally peculiar pastime. Why would you want to torture yourself like this? To what end?
Is there some psychological explanation that the running practitioners would find disturbing if they learned it? I suspect there is. It's like self-flagellation.
We have conflicted feelings about our self-image. Somehow we feel some self-inflicted punishment is called for. Our parents survived the Great Depression and World War II. Those episodes of adversity were quite enough. They were real world challenges, not challenges of our own creating.
I write all this as someone who engaged in running himself. The fad drew me in for a time. This was between 1983 and about 1994. I scaled back when I began feeling pain in my right foot. Today there's no pain if I'm just walking for ordinary purposes. If I "dabble" in jogging again, the pain will return - not always, but often enough to become an impediment.
Runners tend to develop injury-related excuses. The pastime involves too few muscles and joints, therefore those points that get engaged get worn down and the injuries crop up.
I ran the Twin Cities Marathon three times, the first time well and the next two times with some injury excuses. I remember finishing the first one, in 1984, feeling triumphant and having a volunteer look me over and say "you look a little dry." While I had gotten very well-hydrated before that run, I hadn't taken in any fluids along the way. That is certainly not recommended.
My time in that marathon: three hours, one minute and eleven seconds. You can look it up. It's a very good time for someone with my relatively large body. I kept my weight around 170 pounds in those days - light considering my frame. My weight today? Let's use the words of Chris Berman when the ESPN guy once reported Kent Hrbek's weight: "200-plus pounds, and we won't say how much the plus is."
Many people around Morris thought I was a little excessive with my commitment. Tom Swenson reported this to me once. Was I? All I can say is, having kept my weight so low over a period of about eleven years was probably very healthy for me in the long term. Had I carried "200-plus" throughout, who knows?
I remember when the executive of the Minnesota Beef Council visited Morris once, he murmured something about me that he thought I couldn't hear. Someone had just told him I enjoyed the meal. He chirped: "It looks like he could use it." The guy's last name was Eustice. He thought I looked anemic.
If you have known me for only a few years, you might be unbelieving anyone could say this about me. Remember I'm a boomer and I go through phases just like all my peers. What's next? Well, we're going to conquer aging of course.
I am writing about running today because of what happened at the 2013 Boston Marathon. My information network in Morris informs me there were Morris people there. I have been told Jen Lund ran the marathon and finished just nine minutes before the explosion. She reportedly had two "cheerleaders" there: Sharon Martin (one of my favorite people) and Dorothy "Dot" Vick.
Apparently the three were spared any harm. Why the Boston Marathon? Of all things, why would a terrorist choose this storied event? It's a tragedy, as is any terrorist event. Bill O'Reilly might not like the word "tragedy" but I'll use it.
Shall I congratulate Lund on her accomplishment? I'm not sure I wish to congratulate anyone who runs this distance. It's excessive. The distance by itself proves nothing. If you were to train for, and run, three or four 10K races during the summer, and to try to run them hard, that's plenty! You might even say 5K is enough.
10K is 6.2 miles, 5K is 3.1.
At my age now, 58, an occasional brisk walk is quite sufficient. Our belated spring is an unfortunate impediment for this. Ride bike. But most important, eat a sound diet. Cut out the high-fructose corn syrup. There's no need to even belong to the RFC. Just live sensibly. That was sure good enough for "the greatest generation."
Do I miss running? It's a memory worth having. Do I miss writing for the newspaper? I miss having an income and I miss having health insurance coverage. But the end came for that, just as with running.
The workplace environment and demands became unacceptable - they were sucking all the life out of me. I will elaborate more on this at some time. I have waited because it's painful. I will quote from a document that was presented to me in the "boardroom." It called on me to do things that the paper never even carried out. It was immensely sad.
True, our communications environment has been turned upside down since I started. So it wouldn't be the same. But I still miss it. I miss just having a normal friendly relationship with some former co-workers. But I was crushed at the end.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, April 15, 2013

Scratching our head about weather forecasts

It's 2:15 a.m. Sunday and we're supposed to be in a winter storm now. But nothing seems amiss. This happens not infrequently.
The word "warning" instead of "watch" is supposed to guarantee something bad. But I remember a couple months ago, a blizzard warning was officially on but nothing amiss had set in. To the extent the winds arrived, it ended up being not that bad.
The Weather Channel with its glitzy production would seem to guarantee us solid information. Its track record is really not that great. It seems so reassuring to see that day-by-day breakdown of the weather lying ahead for the week. Even after we have learned we cannot rely on it, it seems tempting to seek it out again, as if we just shouldn't question such a glitzy production.
As a side note, my perception of what's "glitzy" is affected by my age: 58. Young people take all this elaborate communications stuff for granted. They should step into a time machine and go back to the 1960s. Tune in to the Alexandria TV channel. It was right out of Petticoat Junction. ("And there's Uncle Joe, he's a-movin' kind of slow at the junction. . .Petticoat Junction.")
I remember when then-Congressman Arlan Stangeland got irate at weather predicting that was off the mark. A serious storm set in without adequate warning. The Congressman was in transit somewhere. I assume he was mad at the National Weather Service.
The reaction to that incident was predictable: It seemed that those in the business of predicting the weather decided to err on the side of predicting the worst. There's nothing to lose, right? If a blizzard is foreseen but none arrives, no harm done, right?
In our litigious age, the forecasters probably felt they were protecting themselves on liability grounds. Failure to predict bad stuff could get you in trouble. Erring on the other side was safe.
But of course it's not so simple. You want your forecasts to be taken seriously. If you fail in this and cause people to hunker down for a storm when they needn't do so, guess what? You've fallen into the "cry wolf" principle. You'll "cry wolf" and people will just shrug.
Maybe we should just admit here in Minnesota that weather has an ominous presence and we just need vigilance. But this shouldn't be needed in April.
It's Sunday, April 14, as I write this. We don't have just a few crusty patches of snow left. We have a white landscape. It's ridiculous. It's beyond what a lifetime Minnesotan might expect, and we can expect a lot.
How immensely therapeutic it would be, if we could get out to the bike trail by the river, visit the gazebos there and sense the re-awakening nature. How nice to put on a short-sleeve shirt. How nice to let some outside air in through screen windows. How nice to just take a walk. How nice to see some of the West Wind Village residents sitting outside to get some fresh air.
It's 2:35 a.m. Sunday morning as I write this. The bad weather was supposed to arrive at 1 a.m. and continue through 1 p.m. Sunday. I'll believe it when I see it.
Why am I writing in the middle of the night? I have difficulty sleeping through the night now. As most of you know, we had a death in the family in February. I was busy as a caretaker for that person in the last couple years of his life. I wish I was still doing it. But God has a plan. These changes come and we adjust to them.
Now that I have less work to do, I have excess energy and need less rest. So I awaken when the world around me is dormant. I have my steaming mug of instant coffee and squares of dark chocolate. Then I will often write something like I'm doing now. Time seems suspended.
The dog likes being taken out in the middle of the night. Maybe this is a scene out of "Petticoat Junction." Remember the "rural" trend in TV shows in the 1960s? We had Eddie Albert in "Green Acres" and Andy Griffith in "Andy of Mayberry." The shows probably reflected a yearning we had for simplicity.
It would seem we ought to yearn for that simplicity more today. Of course, we didn't have tech shortcuts back then that we have now. How did we get along at all without any special tech toys? Well we did. There was no immediacy for talking to someone. We could let time drag. We could get bored.
We waited to get the weather forecast. I can't imagine we were any worse off in that regard.
Communication is immediate today but that doesn't mean the forecasters are any sharper. We just think we can abide by those forecasts, presented as they are with such nice graphics on TV.
It's 3 a.m. now and there's still nothing amiss outside. Not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse. Our dog, "Sandy," is back to snoozing. He's 16 years old but holding his own fine. He has sled dog blood which I think keeps his legs strong. The legs can be the first to go. My father lived to 96. There must be something to be said for my caretaking.
J.C. Penney, RIP?
I remember early in my career in the print media, I referred to "Penney's" in an article. This was the common and accepted way of referring to these stores. But it was not formal or official. An editor changed my reference to "the Morris J.C. Penney store."
What? You didn't know we had a J.C. Penney store? We sure did and it was on main street. Then it closed and we would have to go to Alexandria. Now it looks like the whole J.C. Penney enterprise might be shuttering. Man the lifeboats.
Is the one in Alexandria still open? It was an "anchor" store at the shopping mall.
Can we imagine a world without J.C. Penney? Sure we can. Other behemoth companies have been phased out. It's creative destruction.
When I was a kid, "Penney's" was part of that whole model of clothes-buying where a clerk would assist you. I hated that immensely. You'd enter the men's clothing section and immediately you could use your peripheral vision to spot a clerk "descending" on you, weaving through the aisles in pursuit of you so he/she could ask "Can I help you?"
Even if you said you were "just looking" - why did we have to say "just?" - you knew the clerk would continue to be aware of your presence. It was a distraction at best. It made me less likely to spend money. I'm sure it even affected my wardrobe. I probably had some social anxiety disorder, but I suspect my feelings about this were shared by many others.
How wonderful we have a Wal-Mart today where we can go and examine clothing without being bothered.
If J.C. Penney goes under as is being predicted by many, I will not notice or care.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, April 12, 2013

"Red Tails" movie gives us a dated lesson?

I couldn't make it all the way through watching "Red Tails" without having to take the dog out. I might have answered nature's call myself. Thus I was reminded of how long this movie was.
The creators actually considered something longer, an epic-type production that maybe had an intermission. Or, because George Lucas was involved, maybe we had a "prequel" or sequel on the drawing board.
I have never taken to the "prequel" concept. Why not just start the whole thing with chapter 1? Oh, because the prequel wouldn't be as gripping? Well, if it's not as gripping, it's probably not going to sell effectively.
"Red Tails" did not sell well as a one-shot deal. The public and critics were generally cool.
The Lucas name made me brace myself for lots of CGI (computer generated images). Indeed that's what we got. CGI isn't all bad but moviemakers need to remind themselves it's not real. I find by comparison that WWII movies of the 1960s (my youth) lose nothing for not having CGI. I wrote not long ago about the flick "The Bridge at Remagen" (Robert Vaughn). It's fascinating to see all the combat scenes replicated with "the real things" - tanks and planes etc.
"Remagen" was intense. Whoever made it seemed to be especially fascinated by tanks. This might be the only movie that shows how fast tanks can really go.
In "Red Tails" our gaze turns to the sky. A comparable movie from the 1960s might be "Midway" (Charlton Heston). Like "Midway," "Red Tails" shoehorns in a love story as if the creators just felt it was needed. Perhaps the "Midway" creators, in telling the story of the naval turning point of World War II, felt this movie would get waterlogged without a love story.
In "Red Tails" a flyer nicknamed "Lightning" spots a beautiful woman while aloft, and she's on the ground doing her daily chores. He then tracks her down. Boy meets girl. Somehow they find the time to develop the relationship to marriage talk. Oh, but he'll have to remain in Italy. That's a condition. In the end there's tragedy. "Lightning" doesn't make it. We see how the woman gets informed (like in the opening scene of "Saving Private Ryan" when a military vehicle heads up a dusty road toward the residence of a war mother in America's heartland).
War could be hell for the flyers of the 332nd fighter group.
It was General Sherman who said "war is hell." Actually that famous quote is a paraphrase. But "hell" it is.
I grew up during the Viet Nam War. My generation sees more of the tragedy and less of the glory in war.
In writing about "Red Tails," I fall into the same frame of mind as when writing about the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. I suspect that the wonderful young people of today have a hard time understanding a world in which we had this rigid dichotomy of "whites" and "coloreds." "Caucasians" and "Negroes." Unspeakable contempt toward the blacks who got a moniker I won't even type here.
I suspect young people are puzzled. The old dichotomy became impractical if not morally unacceptable, a long time ago.
A rainbow culture grew. The idea of "skin color" as an identifying feature seemed to become downright stupid. Non-white people with no African connections became more commonplace. The "races" have mixed more.
So today, I don't think the average young person really assigns any weight, or makes any judgment, based on skin color. I'm sure there are exceptions. But there's no comparison to the previous era when racism could be institutionalized.
It's this awful institutional racism we see on the screen with "Red Tails." Hollywood isn't letting go of this. As I write this, we're seeing the unveiling of the movie "42" about Jackie Robinson. We're reminded there was a time when the so-called "coloreds" couldn't play major league baseball. People my age understand the historical context.
But again, I think young people are going to be a little puzzled. They are going to be revulsed seeing an era portrayed when the dichotomy of "whites" and "coloreds" cast such an unpleasant overtone over American life. They'll wonder what their ancestors were thinking. As well they should.
Racism will always be in the historical record. The Internet ensures that nothing can be covered up. But these big screen displays that accent all that bad stuff might be counterproductive. Is this one reason "Red Tails" didn't seem to go over particularly well?
I would say Lucas didn't help when he made racially tinged comments himself. These got lots of press when the movie was introduced. They stuck in my head. He talked about the tough road for getting financing for "an all-black cast." You'd think there were nothing but blacks in the movie. Actually a fair number of white faces are sprinkled around. This includes the stereotypical "bad guy" enemy character, a flying ace.
The bad guy seems much like the "Tavington" character in the Revolutionary War movie "The Patriot." In "The Patriot," the bad guy is way overdone, to where he's finally killed, it seems grossly overdue. The bad guy in "Red Tails" finally gets shot down by the flyer who fell in love and was to marry. "Lightning" kills "Pretty Boy" but he crashes and dies. This happens when the Red Tails are escorting the big bombers toward Berlin. "Pretty Boy" was in a new kind of Nazi jet fighter. The Nazis had some interesting new toys but they were toast.
Terrence Howard leads our "Red Tails" as Colonel Bullard. He advocates for his boys, trying to penetrate the racism.
The movie starts with the flyers doing "mop-up" type missions. They take on ground transport. We see them wiping out a rail unit. I guess the flyers felt demeaned or relegated to routine missions. But it sure looked intense and important to me. I see no reason they should feel disrespected being sent on such duty. In fact, didn't your typical soldier shudder at the prospect of real, intense conflict with the enemy? Weren't they thankful for the routine and non-dangerous days? Isn't it a natural human impulse to want to stay alive?
Yes, the soldiers would "do their duty." But I'm sure they didn't savor the actual combat.
We're told the 332nd fighter group ("Tuskegee Airmen") wanted higher-prestige missions. That's fine as far as it goes. But higher-prestige also spells greater risks.
At the end, the 332nd was supposed to be relieved by an all-white squadron en route to Berlin. Propaganda. The 332nd feels let down, as portrayed in the movie.
The relief squadron fails to show. So the Red Tails get their "glory" after all. Part of the price that gets paid, is that "Lightning" becomes a casualty. Thus he is denied the life that awaited him, one of marrying that wonderful Italian girl and having children and grandchildren. It's gone with the wind.
But the 332nd gets affirmed as a heroic war unit.
I suspect most war veterans don't put much stock in "glory." They're happy to be alive. The "glory" gets reserved for Memorial Day speeches. The young men who were killed would love to have foregone war. Their voices can no longer be heard. Instead we hear about "freedom isn't free." It isn't, I suppose. But what were we fighting for in Viet Nam? Was it really "freedom?"
Getting the bombers all the way to Berlin meant the war was winding down. All that remained was the miserable work of wiping out the Nazis. Most of the morale problems in troops' ranks were at this stage of the war - mutinous inclinations etc. That's because the war's outcome was determined. This is illustrated no better than in the movie "The Bridge at Remagen" in which cynicism is thick.
The Red Tails proved themselves. Should we have been surprised at all by that? Didn't the black troops come through in the movie "Glory" also? "Glory" was about the U.S. Civil War, for crying out loud. It was set 3/4 of a century earlier than World War II. How many times do these black people have to prove themselves? Of course they can fight.
Again, young people are going to be a little mystified. They can't conceive of a world in which there's a predisposition toward thinking people of non-white skin color can't adequately perform in battle. The "battle" itself seems primitive and rather pathetic, with waves of human beings sent hurtling against each other with tools designed to rip human flesh apart. If blacks could somehow be excused from this, or relegated to so-called "mop-up" work, all the more power to them, I feel.
I'm showing my boomer sensibilities here. "Make love not war."
Apparently the tails of the planes weren't painted red just to acknowledge this group of flyers. They were red because this was a new batch of P-51 Mustang planes that were designed that way. The 332nd takes these cockpits for their first mission protecting the "flying fortresses." The white guys were having a problem staying close to the big bombers. They'd take off trying to get "kills." The 332nd was guided toward showing more discipline, staying close and protecting. It was mission accomplished for the Red Tails.
These airmen eventually got the Presidential Unit Citation. Members were eventually welcomed into an officers club (a bar). Young people might wince and think "man, you mean it was a big deal whether they'd even be allowed in a bar? American soldiers? Was our society really that backward?"
It's remindful of the signature Robert Vaughn line toward the end of "The Bridge at Remagen." Hearing planes overhead, he asks "ours or theirs?"
"Enemy planes, sir," he is told. There's a pause after which Vaughn, an honorable German officer about to be executed, says "but who is the enemy?"
"Red Tails" tells a story that may be true, but maybe it should be relegated more to the (shameful) dustbin of history. And to the textbooks. And to the Internet.
War is hell. Maybe that's all we need to know.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, April 8, 2013

Rich Pitino is hyped, but let's await reality

Rich Pitino, new with the U (MPR photo)
Rich Pitino has been described as a "high risk-high reward" choice for the U of M. His age might suggest he's either "raw" or "hungry."
Let's suggest risk and raw as the operative words here.
We have seen a wave of attention for this story in the last few days. It affirms a point I made, or rather borrowed from George Will, last week. The Star Tribune treats this story with an overwhelming gravity. The U hires a new men's basketball coach.
The first edition to trumpet this put forth a fair amount of skepticism. Then, as if to backpedal, the "party line" optimism took over. No newspaper can risk being seen as arrogant or skeptical anymore. So now we're fed the party line about how Pitino, not to be confused with Rick Pitino who's the genuine, guaranteed-not-to-tarnish deal, is the proper and brave choice.
Instead of "risk" it's "reward." Instead of "raw" it's "hungry."
Unlike a newspaper I have no parochial constituencies to answer to. I can look at the emperor and see his clothing is minimal.
A big-time college athletic program doesn't really sell wins, it sells hope. We live in a new age in which people's attention span is whittled down. Way, way down. We yawn quickly when we sense an athletic program "isn't headed in the right direction." That won't do for long.
Since everyone cannot win, we see the tired routine of once-ballyhooed coaches who stagnate and then have to be shown the door. Often this is with a very sobering buyout figure ($2.5 million for Tubby Smith).
I'm not sure how much people really care about those buyouts anymore. They have come to be seen like numbers on a piece of paper, only. The same with other elements of largesse at our U of M. The Strib does an occasional expose on such matters. The Regents give knee-jerk quotes about how they ought to be paying more attention. But it seems the status quo persists.
I'm glad the Strib at least tries.
Richard Pitino has been a head coach for just one season. He's a mere 30 years old. These "young and enthusiastic" qualities could meet a brick wall from the elite coaches of the Big 10, who are noboby's fool. Don't think the intangibles of youth are any match for that.
We were sold the value of a proven commodity when Tubby Smith came here.
Rich leaves his job at Florida International. We learn that his team ranked 48th in the nation in pace of play, while our Gophers were 278th. Numbers can be trotted out to tout any coach. Again, Pitino's Big 10 competition is going to be quite savvy to counter any scheme the young man draws up.
We read so many cliches at a time like this. The departing coach is old news - a tired old subject. It's in no one's interest to talk him up. I wish Smith well at Texas Tech.
Smith's team here indeed had a spotty quality. But take a look at some of the "up" aspects. The Gophers got ranked No. 8 in the nation once. We beat the No. 1-ranked team at "the Barn." He made the NCAA tournament round of 32.
Oh, I certainly know there were negatives. The Big 10 is a wild and woolly place in which there are bound to be more negatives awaiting for our beloved rodents. As the witches said to Perseus regarding the task of getting the head of Medusa: "She's not going to give it to you."
Ol' Richie takes over a Gopher team that says adios to two of its top four scorers from a team that went 8-10 in league. We say adios to Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams. They were mainstays in the frontcourt. We'll welcome back Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins to the backcourt.
Rich's Florida International team went 18-14 last season. We can cite Rich's assistant coach background prior to the maiden voyage. Except that I put no stock in assistant coach background and credentials. Baseball author Jim Bouton was outspoken in saying that people in a winning program, below the top person, are no guarantee for spreading that quality elsewhere. It's a myth we can succumb to.
Winning head coaches have a quality as if infused from Mount Olympus. They have a vision like General Grant in the Civil War: "total war." The assistants just fill their roles, like John Gutekunst did under Lou Holtz. Holtz was the genuine article, verbiage included. Gutekunst was a caddy.
So we really have just one year on which to base our optimism about ol' Richie.
The predictable quotes do get tiresome. Does this stuff really work anymore? I mean, like "he's a great guy, knows what he's talking about." And, "he has a reputation as a tireless worker and active recruiter."
I'm scratching my head. Aren't these qualities a given for coaches in the Big 10?
Chip Scoggins of the Strib considers the U coaching job only the eighth best in the conference. We have to try to sell "the Barn" at least in part on the basis of its history, as if the walls could talk I guess.
Apparently there's a need for a practice facility. Smith harped on this, which would have been fine if he had won more. Winning makes everything palatable. If Bud Grant had lost, he would have been an idiot for not allowing sideline heaters.
Men's basketball at the U has some incidents in its past. There was a reason Jimmy Williams was blocked.
Norwood Teague and Mike Ellis are the puppetmasters bringing Rich Pitino here. Heaven knows what lists they went over. Heaven knows what names were activated and deactivated.
Scoggins judges Pitino a "risky hire." The scribe cites the young and unproven qualities. The new job is "an enormous leap for him," Scoggins writes.
Rich won't outwit anyone in the Big 10.
The Teague-Ellis tandem, Teague being the top guy, have the distinction of being the first to jettison the venerable Tubby Smith. They somehow allowed this firing news to reach the national media before it was reported to Smith. How slipshod. Perhaps that speaks volumes about where University of Minnesota athletics is headed.
We now have what Patrick Reusse calls "a 30-year-old former student manager with a famous surname."
I guess we'll run it up a flagpole and see if anyone salutes it. Opie Taylor at the helm.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, April 5, 2013

Vikings found their digs just fine in 1961

Pro sports team owners know what restaurant owners know. A periodic change in decor is necessary. A restaurant accomplishes this with some cosmetic adjustments. Maybe it's subconscious, but the patrons expect and desire this.
The situation with sports teams: Hell's bells, the "requirement" is to build new stadiums.
We were distracted long enough by the process of getting the new Vikings stadium OK'd. Now we're distracted by the fiasco of learning the funding mechanisms are going haywire. The electronic gambling has a short circuit.
I haven't been to the Metrodome in years. I have found big-time sports less necessary among my entertainment options.
Also, sports has become more acceptable to consume on television. There is probably less of a lure about "being there." 
The ones who still feel that lure, where the Vikings are concerned, are "20-somethings" who wish to act rambunctious and blow off steam or whatever. A thorough op-ed in the Star Tribune last fall documented this. Families with young children are advised to be wary.
Big-time football has a problem with saturation. Troy Aikman pointed this out in public comments not long ago. 
This is a common problem with all popular products. The public demands more of it. To an extent they'll get it, although the team owners are aware of the potential diminishing of value. Nevertheless they'll dispense more because there's money to be made. A line might be crossed. The public begins to yawn.
The league ensures more passing as opposed to the running game. Until, passing begins to develop a cheap quality. Frequent scoring has been no pathway to popularity for arena football. Does arena football still exist? I thought arena football had great potential when I first read about it. Good thing I'm not an investor. Singer Tim McGraw saw potential. Stick to your singing, Tim.
The NFL has been the epitome of the golden goose. When I was pre-school age, living in St. Paul I might add, neither the Vikings nor Twins existed. (We rented the house of a snowbird couple one winter and were supposed to take care of their cat, named "Pepper." The cat never accepted us. We've been dog people since.)
Today we're told the Vikings "need" a new stadium. Back when I was about kindergarten age, we marveled at the mere existence of the Vikings.
The Vikings have had two stadium homes up until now. Of course, we were told the Vikings "needed" the Metrodome. It was probably an easier argument to make for the Vikings than the Twins. The winter weather can be too punishing. But when it wasn't, the original stadium was a quite acceptable and pleasant place.
We're talking about Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, where today we have the Mall of America. I like to remind people that "the Met" could be a truly wondrous place. And it surely was on September 17, 1961, when our purple Vikings debuted.
Pete Rozelle himself was here. The opener date seems late compared to today. Weather blessed that historic first Vikings game. "Brilliant" was one word that was offered.
The Vikings were a totally new team unlike the Twins who moved here from Washington D.C. Expansion teams in that era were known to get roughed up a lot, exhibit 'A' being the 1962 New York Mets.
So, how would the Vikings fare? Our purple crew took the field to play the venerated Chicago Bears. You might not remember the name of our first general manager. It was Bert Rose. Bert actually was not pleased with the opener attendance: 32,236. Yes, it seems like quite the modest turnout. But I'll wager that crowd was 100 per cent more civilized than a typical fan turnout for a game today.
Bert had hoped for 35,000 fans. His hopes were fueled by how the Vikings performed.
The players weren't nearly as big or fast then, as they are now, so injury issues weren't as pressing. But was football any less fun to watch? The Vikings beat the Bears 37-13. Fran Tarkenton was 21 years old. He wasn't the day's starting quarterback. Instead it was George Shaw taking the snaps. Shaw ended up a trivia answer.
And Tarkenton? He impressed himself into Minnesota history. It was both a heroic and tragic story as he would end up losing three Super Bowls. There was a fourth: the Super Bowl we lost with Joe Kapp as quarterback.
Four Super Bowl losses! It gave the state's boomer population a bit of a defeatist outlook, finally salved to a degree when the baseball Twins won the championship in 1987.
Tarkenton entered that first-ever game as Shaw's replacement late in the first quarter. We led 3-0 at the time. Here's another trivia answer: Mike Mercer kicked a field goal on the game's opening drive. Hold on to your seats. Here comes the "Georgia Peach," Tarkenton, and he passes ten yards for a touchdown to Bob Schnelker.
Tarkenton ended up completing 17 passes in 23 attempts - phenomenal numbers - for 250 yards and four scores.
George Halas was still coaching the Bears. He said afterwards "I helped Minnesota get into the league, but I never intended to be this cooperative."
Mel Triplett was our fullback. Our middle linebacker had a terrific name for that position: Rip Hawkins. The coach was Norm Van Brocklin who failed to develop rapport with Tarkenton.
Bud Grant made his debut at the Met as head coach on September 10, 1967. The Monkees were all the rage. The Viet Nam war was at its worst.
Grant presided for the four Super Bowl losses. He was a father figure to us boomers. He never liked the fact the Met was built for baseball. He was quoted saying "the Twins made sure that we knew everything was theirs."
I don't recall football fans being too down on the Met. The occasional extreme cold had to be unpleasant. We prided ourselves on our hardy qualities.
Metropolitan Stadium had a big league feel in every way. And to think that in 1960, we had neither big league baseball nor football. In 1960 we still had the Minneapolis Millers. Before 1956 all we had was Nicollet Park, home of the Millers.
Today we have developed delusions of grandeur about what our big league sports venues should be like. We have allowed the business tycoons of sports to lead us around, delude us, intimidate us and downright scare us. These aren't bad people, they're just business people. They always try to get the best deal they can.
And on the other end we need someone stronger than Mark Dayton. We need someone representing the state's interests competently. We need someone who realizes that wholesale changes aren't always necessary. Sometimes we just need to tweak the decor as with a restaurant.
We all better just do a Hail Mary when that new Vikings stadium rises up. It will be populated by those 20-somethings. Heaven help us all.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, April 1, 2013

Coaching search: around and around it goes

Norwood Teague, U of M
Surely it's a sign of age that I express weariness over another head coaching search at the U of M. But maybe not.
Maybe my sigh, in a figurative sense, is shared by others. Maybe I'm sick of what George Will calls "coach centrism." Will was talking about big-time college football. He talked about how college sports evolved from a more laid-back time. It is certainly seen in basketball too even though the numbers aren't the same.
A football coach seems to have a virtual army of players to deploy. They cover all sorts of refined specialties. The rules structure of football has allowed the game to progress like this, to where you need a savvy "chessmaster" kind of head coach. Maybe a better term would be "general" (as in army).
Football has historically seemed like war. But the public appears ready to start putting the brakes to that. The public has awakened to the barbarism.
Basketball doesn't have that problem. Basketball doesn't involve an "army" of athletes on each side. But the ones who do go out there and play are in a fishbowl. And, the coach is no less a chessmaster than in football. All our hopes and dreams get pinned on the head coach.
Division I college athletics has developed into a many-headed hydra that has to respond to demands and pressures. Fans get an absolute "sugar high" from the naming of a new head coach.
Rarely does a new head coach just sweep everyone off their feet and win a national title. It sure doesn't happen at our U of M.
We seem to want such heights to be reached. We're hearing all the usual catch phrases now. In the aftermath of the Tubby Smith firing, we hear these lofty goals expressed by program spokesmen. We want to win of course but that isn't enough.
The pronouncements at a time like this are "shooting for the moon." We want players of high character who are fine scholars and of course will graduate, oh but we want them to win the Big 10 title. We have been on this carousel before.
Athletic Director Norwood Teague is saying the right things. He talked about deficiencies in Smith's "body of work." I would suggest "body of work" has become one of those trendy terms or phrases, like "it is what it is," that will show up on end-of-the-year lists of overused, cliche-like terms or phrases. Leave it to an AD to utter something like this.
What on earth does big-time college athletics have to do with academics or education anymore? The games are pure entertainment. The infusion of money is corroding.
The University of Minnesota wastes substantial money as it thrashes around trying to "win." And winning accomplishes what? Allows us to thump our chests as Minnesotans? Really?
Again, maybe I'm just getting old. It seems much ado about way too little.
And why have we allowed the head coaches to get on such a pedestal? Why are they like mini-generals in an arena with hotly felt pressure to win, with firing or removal the consequence of losing? We then look for a new messiah. That's what Mr. Teague is doing now.
For the amount of money of U of M wastes, there doesn't seem to be much of a return right now.
Every few months the Minneapolis newspaper tries to do an expose on waste or largesse in the U of M. Athletics is a frequent culprit, like with the $800,000 paid to get out of two football games which the U was afraid it might lose (to North Carolina).
We hear about largesse and then the press tries pinning down the U's Regents for comment. The Regents might just as well stutter like Mel Tillis. They always admit they "should have known more." They say "we'll try to do better." And then it seems the status quo just goes on.
If you think I'm being radical sharing such opinions, just check Arne Carlson's blog. Carlson is a much-respected former Minnesota governor with a "mainstream" reputation. He is known to love the U. And he has some serious reservations about how resources are being used there now.
I'm not sure how much the public cares. The public seems like a big hibernating bear, having to be kicked to wake up to the ridiculousness of the Vikings stadium package. It's like pulling teeth. Some scribes with the St. Paul newspaper are issuing cries on that. Leave it to them. Oh, and me too (LOL).
St. Paul is used to getting the short end of the stick on a lot of things. Those writers are in a position to truly see how a certain power network is shafting the citizens of Minnesota. Ruben Rosario is one such writer. So is the crafty old scribe name of Joe "Sooch" Soucheray.
I remember Soucheray from when he was a young up-and-comer. He even looked a little like a hippie once. It's nice to see him get off the subject of property taxes for a change.
I'll be surprised if the new Vikings stadium ends up as anything but a white elephant. Post mortems will be written. If something on this scale was really necessary, couldn't it be shared by more than one team?
As for our U of M, we are back on that familiar carousel where soon there will be a press conference announcing the new men's hoops coach. Oh, how predictable that will be. This will be an "outstanding individual," squeaky clean and with awesome intelligence to be sure. But we hear that every time there's a new hiring.
Fact is, the Big 10 is filled with coaches who have roughly the same credentials and intelligence. The programs have roughly the same resources. They all grovel for money from every conceivable source. And here's the deal: They can't all win. Do you realize that? Yes, each game played has to have one winner and one loser. It's totally a 50/50 deal.
"Success" means having to overpower your opponents. You need to try to scrounge a few more resources than your rivals. And even then you'll need some luck. It is not a rational process to find a "winner." It's just a carousel.
And it never stops spinning.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com