"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 30, 2013

Wally Moon, man of " baseball and books"

Wally Moon played "Sheriff Bender" in a 1960 episode of "Wagon Train." I only faintly remember the series. The name reminds me of that scene in "Blazing Saddles" where the guys are all sitting around eating baked beans. If you don't remember, I won't elaborate any further.
Wally Moon! He was still an active player in major league baseball. He was a career National Leaguer so you might think we never saw him here in Minnesota. But he came here with the L.A. Dodgers for the 1965 World Series in his last year in baseball. He went 0-for-2 in the Series. 
I got familiar with Wally when I was young because of a school textbook. I remember the chapter name: "Baseball and Books." The theme, of course, was showing the importance of reading. Connecting this theme to big league baseball might be especially inspiring for boys. I think the chapter was in his own words.
There was a time when professional athletes tended to be not as well educated as today. One reason major league baseball had to capitulate and start paying more is that athletes discovered more options in life. Of course, the Curt Flood case was the main catalyst. But baseball players were more in a position where they might walk away from the game.
When you read the early chapters of Jim Bouton's "Ball Four" and see the kind of (low) figures these guys were negotiating over, it's quaint and embarrassing.
Wally Moon had the credentials to write his own book chapter. By the standards of the time, he was a superbly educated ballplayer, having gotten his Master's in administrative education from Texas A&M University while he was in the minors. He had a 12-year playing career in the majors with first St. Louis and then the L.A. Dodgers.
He was named after Wallace Wade, a former college football coach at the U of Alabama and Duke University.
He was a headstrong young man when first making his bid to play in the major leagues. It was the spring of 1954. He was signed up with the Cardinals organization, which told him to report to their minor league training camp. Oh, to heck with that, a young Wally resolved, so he went to the Cardinals regular camp in St. Petersburg FL. There he stated he would simply make the team or quit baseball. Chalk one up for assertiveness.
Of course, talent must certainly have been the prevailing factor. This he demonstrated to the extent that when the team broke camp, Moon had secured an outfield position, replacing the well-known Enos Slaughter. Slaughter was traded to the New York Yankees.
Fans in St. Louis weren't totally good with this. When Moon came to bat for the first time in St. Louis, some fans chanted they wanted Slaughter. This was quieted, I presume, when Wally hit a homer (vs. the Cubs) in that at-bat. Just like in the movies.
Dramatic as this was, it was hardly the most dramatic aspect of the game. In this game, Tom Alston got the nod to play for the Cardinals: the first African-American to play for that team.
Moon showed why he never had to bother showing up for that minor league training camp. He was MLB's Rookie of the Year with a batting average of .304, 12 home runs, 76 RBIs, 106 runs, 193 hits, 29 doubles and 18 stolen bases.
Wally Moon has a catchy sounding name but it's not a household name today. In winning Rookie of the Year, Moon beat out a couple guys who would become household names: Hank Aaron and Ernie Banks. Not bad for a guy with a Master's degree in administrative education.
Moon showed a slick glove too, working in center field, right field and at first base. He won the Gold Glove in 1960 and was an N.L. all-star in 1957 and 1959.
Moon went from St. Louis to the Dodgers in a trade that had Gino Cimoli on the other end. I'm sure I got familiar with both guys through baseball cards.
The Dodgers were still fairly new to Los Angeles, having moved there from their Brooklyn NY origin. What a storied franchise that was in Brooklyn. It was there, of course, that black players first broke through that ceiling. The movie called "42" (Jackie Robinson's number) told that story not long ago.
But New York City wasn't going to be able to sustain three big league teams. I'm not sure why, as it's "The Big Apple." The Brooklyn Dodgers became retro, the stuff of books and considerable nostalgia. The Giants too left the Big Apple for the beckoning West Coast. Willie Mays of the Giants had played for the Minneapolis Millers on the way up.
Wally Moon joined the L.A. Dodgers and had to wrinkle his forehead about the stadium there. Think the "Green Monster" in Boston is crazy? In L.A. Moon looked around the Coliseum and saw a right field fence that was 440 feet away, and a left field fence a mere 251 feet away! A 42-foot-high screen dealt with the issue in left, but this was surely odd.
Old friend Stan Musial encouraged Wally to adjust his mechanics to hit to left, which for Wally would be the opposite field. The studious Wally did this successfully. He helped the Dodgers climb from seventh place to the overall championship! Other instrumental players were Duke Snider, Gil Hodges and Don Demeter. Snider and Hodges were fixtures when the team was in Brooklyn.
Didn't Snider end up getting in trouble for some sort of tax avoidance problem? He and Skitch Henderson, I guess. (Skitch was bandleader on the old "Tonight Show," remember?) Wesley Snipes would follow in their footsteps. Why should the government get my money when I can find a better use for it? Even our Jerry Koosman succumbed to such logic.
The name "Wally Moon" invited a logical description for his home runs: "moon shots." Indeed the description took hold. And today there's a book about Moon's life called "Moon Shots." He learned to hit homers over the left field screen at the L.A. Coliseum.
Moon homered in the sixth and last game of the 1959 World Series, won by the Dodgers over the White Sox.
He was on a tear in the 1961 season, batting .328 with 17 home runs and 88 RBIs. He was a career .289 hitter with 142 home runs, not Hall of Fame numbers but enough to have made his mark, and to enlist him as an inspiration for young people to read.
His trademark might have been discipline at the plate, as his walks-to-strikeouts ratio was a spectacular 1.90 (644 to 591). Moon faded as most baseball players do. Post-baseball, he became athletic director and baseball coach at John Brown University. In the late 1970s he was manager and owner of the San Antonio Dodgers minor league team.
He fully retired in 1998 and he's still on God's active roster. He and wife Bettye have five children.
In his 1960 episode of TV's "Wagon Train," there is a credit that reads: "And introducing Wally Moon as Sheriff Bender." I guess his acting career didn't take off, not like Chuck Connors who went from baseball to a full TV and cinematic career, even playing in one of the "Airplane" movies.
It's too bad Moon didn't get more of a chance in entertainment. His face on the old baseball cards reminds me a little of Lee Marvin: a steely-eyed look. (Marvin's role in "The Dirty Dozen" can never be reprised!)
It has also been noted that Wally had a "unibrow," an eyebrow going all the way across! Frankly I wouldn't have noticed that on my own.
Moon was at the apex of his baseball career in October of 1959, when, as a cog with the champion Dodgers, he had six hits including a home run (a "moon shot") and three runs scored.
I'm guessing Mr. Moon is just as proud of his contribution to that elementary school textbook: "Baseball and Books."
Reading must have been important to me, for me to be able to remember that book chapter after all these years. Or, was I just a big baseball fan? Maybe both?
In the final analysis, Moon did not end up as an iconic big leaguer. His prime didn't last long enough.
Source of these reflections
I am writing about Mr. Moon today because I was going through some old papers in the basement, from when I played a baseball simulation game called "APBA." There was a tournament I set up involving teams from the 1964 season, a tournament in which the teams played best-of-five series(es) vs. each other. I even had a double-elimination bracket.
I noticed that in one of the games, Wally hit a grand slam home run in extra innings.
The APBA game used dice. I would nave needed a really good dice roll to get a home run out of Wally. I probably rolled "boxcars": a pair of 6's, which always brought the best offensive result in APBA. Wally batted only .220 in 1964. It was a down year for the Dodgers as they tied with Pittsburgh for sixth place, each with an 80-82 record.
APBA was a fascinating simulation exercise because of the baseball history it brought forth. I use the past tense because games like this have been replaced by computers. APBA was an analog game with cards, game boards and dice. It was a cumbersome game to play, so you had to be patient.
Was it accurate? Games like APBA and Strat-o-matic (the two big rivals) probably exaggerated their claims of accuracy some, but APBA was accurate enough to produce game results that seemed totally credible. That's all I asked.
A glance at an APBA card could tell you everything you needed to know about a particular player in that year. I don't know of any other mechanism that would have done this.
Wally Moon's card for 1964 would not have been impressive. But with the right dice roll, he could still hit a "moon shot." Let's salute Wally Moon, man of the baseball diamond and of literature!
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Another edition of offensive "Northstar?"

An older woman who sat across from me at church coffee made comments that indicated a new edition of "Northstar" was out. I felt sorry for her having this foisted on her.
The irreverence of a college campus can be fine to an extent. You have to understand it. Many people who have not attended college might be puzzled or disturbed at some of this. I attended college and I'm disturbed anyway.
I would not be writing about the Northstar if it were not included with the Morris community newspaper. It happened once and I thought it would be the last time. I assumed it would be. I pretty much stopped thinking about it. Then I conversed with that friend at church.
There is a very simple solution if you are offended by the "Northstar." Stop buying the Morris newspaper.
"Senior Perspective" is free, as is that "Morris Area Merchant" publication of Heather Storck. Why are we still expected to pony up for the Morris newspaper, which seems to be more ads than anything? The Northstar was in with that ad pile on Saturday.
The Northstar is an extension of the "Counterweight" which was established by conservative-learning students on the UMM campus. Give conservatives their way and UMM might not even exist.
But these are not reasonable and rational conservatives. Even Lawrence O'Donnell of MSNBC says "conservatives play an important role in our political process." Conservatives like Joe Scarborough are the reasonable template.
Richard Nixon attracted conservative votes even though he hardly seemed motivated by conservatism at all. He was motivated by power.
The Northstar reflects the extreme conservative wing of today. It echoes Mark Levin. When you combine this political stance with the immature and impulsive nature of college students, you get "Northstar." It's pseudo-ideological masturbation. Which we could dismiss if it did not have UMM's imprimatur to a degree, as it's supported by student fees.
As you page through this thing, it's obvious that in many instances these students are just fooling around. They are doing silly things just to be disruptive and to get attention. Such traits aren't surprising with college students. Their behavior wouldn't even be an issue with me if it existed online.
If these students engaged in this online and with no connection as an institution, it would be a curiosity, one easy to ignore.
I went to campus Monday night looking to get my own copy and couldn't even find one. This was two days after it had been sent all around with the Morris newspaper. I'm sure the Morris newspaper's circulation has gone down over the last few years, but it's still an appreciable number.
Not being able to find the Northstar on campus, I'm left to wonder: Did the campus finally prohibit it? I'm just guessing. I'm a little hesitant visiting the campus because community people can get in trouble just being there.
I remember being offended by the "rat pack" behavior of some of the students at UMM basketball games. I hate to admit this but I haven't been to a game for the last seven years. Is the atmosphere at Cougar games now more civilized? I used to see Chuck Grussing (Campus Security) standing there and wonder why he didn't do something about it.
Why the enabling? I'm left to conclude that UMM is so thankful having all of its students - the students are the "customers" - that UMM indulges them. Perhaps this theory can now be weaved in with why "Northstar" continues to exist. Mind you, there is nothing to keep it from existing, as it could be an online entity that could build its own following. What's offensive is that it has the "in your face" quality of the print media, so, many people who wouldn't be interested, like that woman at church coffee, are forced to see it.
One solution may be unavoidable here: UMM may choose to not put its imprimatur in any way, shape or form, on any print publication on campus. You know, a "dead tree" publication.
Sad, unnecessary image
I have in front of me now a copy of "Northstar" that includes a photo of a dead Trayvon Martin. It's a close-up of the face. Once I'm done writing this, I'll discard this copy immediately, get it off our property. I won't even toss it on the recycling pile because it would be there a few days. I want it destroyed.
If the University of Minnesota-Morris seeks to rationalize, in any way, shape or form, that "Northstar" serves some sort of purpose, however fringe, I will think twice about having our family ever again make a financial contribution to the institution.
These kids are just sitting there thinking of the most outrageous things they can do, to get attention and ruffle feathers.
On page 4 there appears to be an advertisement for the Old No. 1 Bar and Grill. Please talk to the establishment's owner about that. "Northstar" is hurting the reputation of UMM in the Morris area and maybe even beyond.
Is the Morris Sun Tribune, which is owned out of Fargo, getting paid for including and disseminating this? Where is the money coming from? Sheldon Adelson? Maybe the Morris newspaper, which I suspect is given revenue targets for each quarter, is so desperate to meet those goals, it puts good judgment aside for the $. A locally-owned "mom and pop" newspaper could show the good judgment not to do that. Money greases the skids nowadays.
The extreme wing of the Republican Party might be endangering our two-party system. The Democratic Party has gained power in Minnesota, perhaps because of the perception of the Republicans having gone too "wacko," too tea party-ish.
Extreme conservatism is nothing new in our society. I remember visiting the Crow Wing County Fair and seeing a booth just full of papers and pamphlets presenting this. But it was marginalized then. It was cute.
Maybe because of the electronic media, adherents to this are able to network and gain a much greater foothold than before. The electronic media have been very good to conservatives.
But what kind of conservatism is most welcome? Joe Scarborough's or Mark Levin's?
The "satire" crutch
"Northstar" states that some of its content - it's not clear how much - might be viewed as satire. But the most offensive article in this issue includes a statement that it is not to be viewed as satire.
Real satire doesn't need to be labeled. "Northstar" talks about satire as a "CYA" mechanism. "If you see something here that offends you, keep in mind that. . .well, I don't know, we're just getting some thrills."
The article with the "rampant systemic racism at Morris" headline seems like drug-induced rambling. It includes real names of real people.
For this publication to be distributed out in the community is an abomination. Surely some responsible people should be out there, intervening in this, suggesting to these silly kids they should just go online.
Maybe this whole episode is just part of the death throes of the print media. If so, I'm not shedding any tears. Let's just get on with it.
Northstar tries to get itself some "cover" by devoting the last page to a memorial to Jeffrey Kirkwold. Wonderful. Well, I'm not fooled by that.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I have no time for union vs. management

I recently wrote that the 1994 baseball strike had a permanent effect on my interest in baseball. Major league sports aren't a model for everything, of course, but I think we see lots of skepticism about the traditional organized labor model.
Labor benefits public employees disproportionately. And if any public employee should happen to read this - I have more followers than you might guess - that individual would gnash his/her teeth and feel antagonism toward me permanently. Which would just go toward underscoring my point.
Unionism encourages too much enmity. I have viewed it firsthand.
I once read an excellently penned piece by a veteran of journalism, who suggested there was one topic about which it was impossible, literally impossible, to submit "objective" news stories. That topic was labor vs. management conflict. No matter how delicately you tried to put an article together, one side would vociferously cry "foul." And, the sense of conflict would turn so bitter.
I was close to two such situations in my print media career. What a curse it was to get close to this stuff.
Put any group of people in a situation where they can unionize and get the power to strike, and surely they will end up striking, screaming that the other side was "unfair," and that they were "only asking for fairness," and that "we don't want to strike, but if we have to, we will."
Maybe my experiences around such situations explain how I came to be so cynical. Cynicism is the belief that people overwhelmingly act out of self-interest.
I covered the prospect of a teachers strike in Morris way back when, sometime in the 1980s. I got drawn in by the teachers' side on that one. I didn't want to behave unfeeling toward them. I interviewed their spokesmen and I'm sure I tried getting quotes from the other side. But it was the teachers who seemed to have their glare fixated on me.
Mind you, none of the posturing from either side had to do with what was best for education. Although, of course, the teachers would put up a big cloud of rhetoric about how it was "all about the kids."
No one cares about the kids more than the board of education. This is why the board exists. This is why they have a superintendent.
A labor action is simply a strategic move by school district employees to get an optimal contract for themselves. After all these years, I think we all realize that now. That's why the public seems to be turning the screws on extreme labor advantages. A strike is disgusting.
A scene to make you frown
Remember when, not long ago, we saw UMM employees grouped around various entries to the campus, with their picket signs?
How many of us "community people" would entertain the thought, for even a moment, that U of M employees are persecuted and being treated unfairly? I had to laugh about how many community people acted as if they were sympathetic to the strikers, driving by these little clusters of malcontents, honking their horns, waving, smiling, when in the back of their minds they probably were all thinking: "Get back to work, you disgusting SOBs."
The problem is that we're a small town. We all feel a very strong instinct of wanting to get along with each other. That's why the traditional labor model can be so damaging for a small town. Teacher strikes in the 1980s caused harm and permanent scars in many small Minnesota communities. In Morris, although a strike never materialized, there was a core of very union-conscious and union-motivated teachers who I felt caused the same kind of damage.
These were teachers who locked in contract negotiations that were very time-consuming and got into way too much minutiae. Morris legend has it that the superintendent made a sort of Faustian bargain with one of these individuals, setting him up in a "soft" job if he'd back off on all that stuff.
Our superintendent during those times of troubled waters was Fred Switzer.
The nature of union vs. management conflict is that people can get attacked on the most harsh of terms. Supt. Switzer was very sharp and was here for a long time. I'm sure he respected the teaching profession highly. But the teachers had their own parochial aims, and management stood in the way sometimes. So it wasn't unusual for some teachers to be heard out and around the town talking about Fred like he was the Cyclops character in Homer's "The Odyssey."
It was very discouraging, as a community member, listening to all this. This kind of thing was probably going on all over Minnesota.
Worse yet, the Morris extracurricular programs began to tumble, because extracurricular has always existed with a bit of gray area about the exact expectations of coaches, who are doing the job partly out of passion and not because of a strict sense of what the compensation will be. In other words, coaches are tempted to do a few little extra things - perhaps some trips for scouting purposes - and they don't mind putting in the time to do this.
Extracurricular might also call on some volunteers to help around the fringes, at least. People who are union-centered in their thoughts would absolutely scorn volunteers. Volunteers are doing work which, in theory, could bring compensation on union-negotiated terms.
Morris had a nucleus of teachers in the '80s who were the strict type of union-centered people. Let's go on to consider that these individuals all had personal friends around the community who would go to bat for them, and all join together in describing me as a Cyclops too.
You see, if I disagreed with them, that meant I was stupid, right? This network of people, some of whom I felt were gullible, got together at house parties to cement this relationship and marginalize people like me. All I wanted was for the school district to perform well. On many occasions I would track down a coach for interviewing purposes by phone, and he'd be at a house party, with loud house party noises in the background. (I'd have better things to do with my time.)
The house party might be hosted by an athlete's parent. That's a conflict of interest. By 1987 there was a loud chorus beginning to emanate from aggrieved parents who could see there was clearly something wrong in the school system. It was never a matter of wins and losses per se. There was a cancer in the system. A substantial number of parents drew up a "statement of concern." How unfortunately ugly.
A winter sports banquet/program degenerated into a cesspool of politics, with no one in authority standing up to get control over it. They probably wanted to, but they knew what they were up against.
Is there a sociologist in the house?
In any community there is a loose network of sports-oriented people - you know, the kind of people who umpire town team baseball games. Had this element in the community decided to join in with the aggrieved parents, matters would have been taken care of much more quickly. But they did not. They themselves had been at too many house parties. And they couldn't see clearly what was happening to the programs and the student athletes.
Meanwhile the insurgents included a man, now deceased, who would later show that he could win a write-in campaign for mayor. So, these were not "fringe" people. But they were still insurgents. They could not bring a common consensus, much as a consensus would have been a salve for the town.
Thus we had a classic small-town conflict, the scars of which remain evident today at least with a few people. New people in the community would probably think that what I'm writing here is some odd fantasy. Oh no it wasn't. Certain businesses were boycotted.
At the base of all this strife was union-centered activism which disrupted the proper focus of the school district. Superintendent Switzer was not the Cyclops.
I think if you were to look around Minnesota at all the people who served as superintendents in the '70s and early '80s, I think very few of them came away with a lionized reputation. They were involved with conflict so much, the best they could do was survive. They spent immense time on matters with no direct connection to the welfare of the students.
We don't hear about teacher strikes anymore. Teachers today seem to want to put on a happy and idealistic face for the community. I'm so cynical, sometimes I think it's a charade, but I don't think it is.
No more need for Faustian bargains. No picket signs. No cries of "unfair." No more disingenuous remarks like "we don't want to strike, but we will if we have to."
It was all about power and self-interest, and nothing else. We're more enlightened now. And I'll bet we'll never again see strikers with picket signs at the entries to the University of Minnesota-Morris.
We haven't had a major league baseball strike since 1994. I think we as a society have had it with strikes. We believe in fairness, absolutely. This needs to be pursued by mechanisms other than strikes and the inherently adversarial and ugly model of "labor vs. management." I assert this as a progressive politically.
On to the medical profession
Another episode in my career was when the hospital LPNs were forming a union and the administration was screaming bloody murder about this. The hospital administration really got ahold of me and sought to use me as their mouthpiece. I remember it all so vividly.
I did interview a couple nurses. But I ended up with deference toward management just because of the clout they appeared to have. The administration was literally trying to stop unionization.
Later, a hospital employee would tell me that the administration would have been better served just accepting the union and working with it. A whole lot of needless conflict developed.
I have no time for union vs. management. Workers can be protected by other means, legislative or whatever. All that strife affected the course of my own print media career. A member of that local "jock fraternity" told me off to my face in the harshest personal terms from his office at the WCROC (not called the WCROC then). Our family had to change dentists.
I will never forget any of this stuff. To hell with house parties.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Looking back on leaving the Sun Tribune

I had to leave the Morris Sun Tribune newspaper in 2006. It was extremely unfortunate for me. It's up to others to determine if it was unfortunate in general.
I am told by another former employee, someone who left after me, that after my departure, the person running the place said "things will be better now." Better without Brian Williams. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.
It's hard to believe the Hancock newspaper is better off when you consider the sheer amount of coverage I gave school activities in the weekly Hancock Record. Often I would fill two whole pages with sports for that newspaper. Sometimes I would run a particularly good sports photo the entire width of the page. My football photos - the hardest kind to take - were sharp and looked good when enlarged. I don't see that kind of quality now.
Hancock sports was actually second on my work list. The Morris newspaper was twice weekly back then. I am amazed, looking back, at how I could type through a mountain of sports information in limited time, as well as I did.
I tried covering a wide swath of sports. I sought sub-varsity information and tried working it in on a reasonably timely basis. Because of the workload and the time realities, I knew perfection wasn't going to be attainable, at least most of the time.
I had systems with a variety of coaches who had different approaches to cooperating with the press. I just tried to hold things together as best I could. And all along, I realized that kids sports was probably getting more attention than it should. At least it was local and it was full of kids' names from the community.
In 2006 we had reached a point where apparently the whole sports section needed re-working. My biggest mistake, looking back, was that I felt I worked more for the community than for my masters within the company.
Out on "the street," as it were, I got lots of feedback, suggestions and pressure regarding my work. I felt it was essential to try to answer to those people. The scrutiny from the public was such, I went a couple decades without attending church because I could never be perceived as an individual outside my work role.
A footnote: I occasionally got involved with church by showing up and covering church-based events, which was really rather often. I was pleased to have a feature article re-printed by the Catholic diocese newspaper. It was an upbeat article, so different from so many of the newspaper articles about the Catholic Church these days.
One Easter I was invited to that Hosanna church because they had some sort of celebrity visitor, at least a celebrity in their eyes - perhaps someone who made it on TV on some obscure channel - and I was treated to this individual basically just asking for money, after which the church's own pastor said maybe we all shouldn't consider owning pets, because pets cost money and we ought to consider giving that money to the church. It was the worst Easter of my life. I was offended.
I should have said "to heck with all this" and just gone to my childhood church of First Lutheran, the plain vanilla church I attend now.
Oh, and then there was the Easter when I traipsed over to Faith Lutheran to follow up on a pledge I made. I had written a feature article on a new pastor there. I usually tried to develop a good personal rapport with people I interviewed for such stories. As I concluded my interview with this man of the cloth, a Reverend Boettner, I mentioned that I might stop by at the church sometime to hear him preach.
Nice considerate arrangement, eh? So it dawned on me, Easter morning, that it would be an apt time. An usher directed me to a spot in the pews amidst the large turnout. And then I realized the pastor wasn't there! The pastor of the church wasn't going to preach at the Easter service where we celebrate Christ's sacrifice on the cross and the resurrection.
Had the pastor been in some calamity or come across some health inconvenience? I ended up being told health was a factor but in kind of a dubious way. I was told that The Reverend's daughter was having a baby. I was taken aback hearing that. So, the health issue wasn't his, rather his daughter was having a baby, which I'm not sure is a health issue at all.
Parishioner Dolora Hendrickson apparently had thoughts similar to mine following this. The wise Dolora said: "She (his daughter) was having the baby, not him."
I thought of the irony of how I had always had so much difficulty trying to get out of work obligations at the newspaper. I missed one major Williams family reunion. So here I am, so absolutely obligated and loyal so as to not miss any little thing when people in Morris might expect my presence, and then the chief pastor of a church takes off for Easter.
There were people in this community who'd scream bloody murder if I didn't show up or adequately cover certain things - a dentist was at the top of this list - and many of these people themselves would consider it quite appropriate to take long vacations - even sabbaticals. But when it came to me, I had no such right. It could get intensely personal as with the dentist.
I missed high school graduation receptions for a friend of mine in Willmar who always scheduled these receptions on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. You see, I had to cover the Chokio-Alberta graduation which was held on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. I did this without gnashing my teeth because I actually enjoyed fulfilling my mission for the Sun Tribune newspaper.
Covering the C-A graduation was a must. Covering C-A sports was a must. C-A sports doesn't exist anymore.
When it came to sports, I was informed in an internal written directive that, among many other things, I was to make UMM sports the top priority. I felt I had always done a reasonably good job getting UMM into the paper. That would make sense given my family's background. But in 2006 it was made clear to me, from a member of newspaper management, that UMM was No. 1.
I made a photocopy of those directives. I'll quote: "Very few communities our size have college sports to feature in its pages, and we'll take full advantage of that, especially now since the university's programs are competitive." So, he takes a jab at UMM at the same time.
Continuing: "Morris high school sports will be a close second to UMM athletics."
A close second!
Do we need a "pecking order?" I had long been tired of the sports section being seen as some sort of vehicle for "promoting" certain programs. And here I am being told of what amounted to a "pecking order" among teams, so that we're "selling the right ones," UMM at the top of the list.
Frankly, if I'm running UMM I'd want fans to just come to the UMM website, where the sports portion is 100 per cent high quality and timely. I'm not sure I'd even want the Morris community newspaper around as a distraction (or annoyance).
Fans should come to the UMM website where not only can they learn all about what's happening with sports, they can explore the rest of the University of Minnesota-Morris world.
The community paper, the Sun Tribune, should be focused on the public school athletic program, where the participants after all are natives of the community.
I thought I could get by continuing this philosophy. But in the spring of 2006, things were getting tense at the Morris Sun Tribune newspaper. To the extent some struggling had set in, fingers had to be pointed.
Today we know that it was precisely in 2006 that the newspaper industry went into sort of a panic mode over what was happening to it. I didn't make it to the lifeboats. But I am now going to church. So there was a silver lining after all.
There is more I can write about circumstances I faced at the paper at the end. I'll probably do that.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Our history as Thanksgiving approaches

Image from "artsmarttalk"
In 1542 the Spanish conquistadors examined the interior of the American continent. These intrepid folks rafted the Mississippi River. In Kansas they showed horses to Native Americans who had never seen them before.
Thus, Europeans and "redskins" (as they are known in the U.S. professional football league) broke bread long before the Pilgrims.
We will be hearing about the Pilgrims again soon because we're in November. Thanksgiving comes as we nervously await the arrival of winter. It's on the 28th of this month. Winter cold will be here. The wild card is the snow and snowstorms.
Remember that in 1991 we had the "Halloween blizzard."
A TV talking head recently said "Thanksgiving is on Thursday this year."
I don't know how necessary Thanksgiving is. The Pilgrims reached Plymouth in 1620. But it wasn't exactly like the first footsteps on the moon. The Spanish explorers gave thanks and dined with Native Americans 56 years before the Pilgrim "thanksgiving" at Plymouth. French Protestants founded a colony in Florida in 1564.
A group of English explorers constructed a fort on Cuttyhunk Island in 1602. It would be difficult to romanticize that group of English. It would be difficult teaching elementary-age schoolkids about them. This intrepid group came to the new continent not because of religious freedom, but to seek riches digging sassafras, a commodity prized in Europe as a cure for the clap.
Thanksgiving as it is marked today has wholesome images for the kids. It accents the desired brotherhood of man. It's an ideal that exists too much in theory. It might be good to remind kids that while the Pilgrims' travels were significant, they didn't represent a "first" in the manner of the first moon walk.
We are reminded each year, at the time of the New York City Marathon, of the "Verrazzano Narrows Bridge" in the Big Apple. I remember when the National Lampoon magazine had fun showing the bridge collapsing under the weight of the teeming runners, as a "faux" news item. This is what satire is: a takeoff on reality, not the kind of garbage a group of University of Minnesota-Morris students recently gave us with that "Northstar."
Pity Giovanni da Verrazzano, an accomplished explorer not remembered nearly as well as he should be. Thank goodness we at least have the bridge.
Giovanni da Verrazzano toured the U.S. eastern seaboard in 1524. 1524! He was an Italian in command of a French ship.
In an episode that really should be established in our collective historical grasp, a crewman was directed to swim ashore by the commander. Natives were on shore. What an encounter: two civilizations from across a chasm. Considerable trepidation may have crossed the mind of that crewman. If you ever watched "Mutiny on the Bounty" with Marlon Brando, you realize how expendable those crewmen were. (Brando was the "good guy" commander.)
Verrazzano's man arrived ashore where the natives took him to a fire. But this was to warm him, not to roast him! This vignette ought to be taught like the Pilgrims' story.
Verrazzano went north where he observed a wide bay and saw its potential for commerce. This would be New York Harbor. Thus the gesture of naming the bridge for him.
Unfortunately the story of the early explorer ends in tragedy. In 1528 his ship arrived at a Caribbean island. The natives there were not hospitable. The commander himself was seized and eaten.
Verrazzano may be obscure today in our sense of history, but in his time he actually was renowned. His namesake bridge is across the narrows that he sailed through in 1524. The marathoners go across that bridge en masse.
Then we have the Portugese who steered Spanish ships along both coasts in the 16th Century.
Scandinavians will want to know why I didn't acknowledge them earlier in this post. I'm half Norwegian and half Swedish. The Scandinavians truly have everyone else beat in terms of explorers from across the sea. The early Scandinavians had no peer as seafarers. These pagans are stereotyped in a way we recognize with today's Minnesota Vikings football team.
How much is stereotype and how much is reality? Mel Brooks had fun with the stereotype when he gave us "A Viking Funeral" as a faux movie preview at the end of "History of the World Part I." Another thigh-slapper was "Jews in Space," another of his faux previews, remember? It says something about the movie (negatively) that we might remember those segments at the end better than the movie itself.
Brooks gave us genuine satire. Satire is based on something in reality and gets its humor from stripping away pretense. Satire is not simply synonymous with anything silly. UMM ought to give some instruction on this, lest we get any more sophomoric and insulting publications creeping into our community, offending our sensibilities and making us wonder why there can't be more "tough love" out there. UMM is the "jewel in the crown" but you'd never know it by looking at the "Northstar."
Those intrepid Scandinavians
In 1961 we learned just how significant the early Viking seafaring was. Archaeologists found L'Anse Aux Meadows on a grassy plateau. Radiocarbon dating was employed. Those Vikings were over in our continent in the year A.D. 1000. In 1978, UNESCO named L'anse Aux Meadows its first world heritage site. It's the only confirmed Norse settlement yet discovered in America, an assertion that quickly invites the pained howling of Kensington Runestone proponents.
That cotton pickin' Runestone will never bring any resolution. The problem is that no matter how strong the circumstantial evidence that it's fake - such evidence is overwhelmingly strong - researchers can find all sorts of intriguing angles to suggest otherwise.
I got drawn into that discussion in my print media career. The Runestone is incredibly tantalizing. But it can be like a siren song: It draws you in, distracts you, keeps you awake at night, and in the end the skeptics with their overwhelming arguments just laugh you off.
I finally made a resolution to just stay away from it. If anyone asks, I'll just say I think it's a fake. That's the only way I can find resolution.
The Vikings football team name exists because of the Runestone. That's an incredible legacy.
Sagas are spoken accounts of the Viking age, A.D. 800 to 1050. The sagas are based on reality but also have an eerie "twilight zone" that brings in the paranormal, like the account of a woman seeking to use the latrine in the middle of the night but who "found the path blocked by ghosts." (Somehow that image has stayed in my head.) Translators took some liberty sometimes.
The biggest proponent of the Runestone today dismisses the stereotyped image of Vikings as envisioned by the likes of Mel Brooks. Rather, he argues that the evidence points to post-Pagan explorers. Hell, I don't know. But we know that in 1620, the Pilgrims reached Plymouth. They had rejected Cape Cod.
We have the Plymouth Rock which tourists are shocked to discover is only five feet square. Tourists there are known to ask strange questions. They might ask if Christopher Columbus dropped off the Pilgrims.
Consider that there's a wide swath of time between 1492 and 1620. Was there nothing consequential in between? Well of course there was. The restless human spirit should make the answer to this question obvious.
By the time the first English settled, other Europeans had already reached half of what would become the 48 states. The land over here was raw but known.
The Plymouth settlement had an enduring quality. The English persisted. Thus there was a myth of sorts born, of benevolent Pilgrim fathers seeding a new land with their piety and work ethic.
Let's sum this up in its essence: "History is written by the winners."
We will celebrate those winners on November 28.
Our city goes quiet
Last year Thanksgiving was absolutely dismal in our community of Morris. The once-thriving annual "community meal" had died, and I hear nothing of any revival. Even worse, no restaurant was open. I saw cars entering the McDonald's parking lot as if people were looking around. Nothing. Quiet, dormancy. 
Tumbleweeds blowing. . .well, not that bad.
We have an aging population with lots of people not in a position to prepare their own full Thanksgiving meal. We need to get some sort of community event established.
Norman Rockwell once did a painting of Grandma pulling a big savory turkey out of the oven while the grandkids watched. This is the standard image of Thanksgiving. We once fit that model with our Williams family as we shared Thanksgiving with my uncle Howard and wife Vi from Glenwood. Our family dog would "bark at the turkey," wanting some nibbles of course. There was plenty for all.
Death has taken some of these Thanksgiving celebrants from us. Today we're an aging family of two. We'd readily attend a community Thanksgiving dinner. If all else fails, we can get Swanson's frozen turkey TV dinners at Willie's.
We'll see to what extent winter has made its arrival. Maybe we'll attend the Minnewaska community meal. We've done that once before. Maybe 'Waska has more on the ball than Morris. My late father Ralph was a 1934 graduate of Glenwood High School. We'll be thinking of our departed family members on Thanksgiving.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Was Moorhead really "wickedest city?"

Fargo is a much better-known city than Moorhead. They may be "sister cities" but it's Fargo as the namesake for a movie, and with a "blowtorch" type of radio station (KFGO), and with the Roger Maris Museum.
Moorhead has a couple nice little colleges. But it's Fargo with the nationally-recognized NDSU football program, a program capable of beating the U of M Gophers.
Moorhead State used to come and play our UMM Cougars. That was when UMM was in a conference that seemed more logical than the one we're in now. We're all familiar with opponents like Moorhead State, Winona State, Northern State and Bemidji State. The opponents UMM has now, require a little research so that we might understand just what these colleges are and what they stand for. Christian Science?
Moorhead seems a little obscure compared to its sister city. I remember passing through Moorhead in the middle of the night and stopping at a restaurant called "Sher's Kitchen," in the parking lot of the shopping mall. This I did every 3-4 months en route back from Grand Forks where we had concluded a dance gig. The group was the "Tempo Kings."
I remember when John Woell took his Morris High School marching band to Moorhead to perform.
If you were to ask me what particular claim to fame Moorhead had, I'd come up with nothing. I'd think of how Moorhead was where we got on that ribbon of Interstate Highway (No. 29) and went north to Grand Forks, across so much windswept prairie.
The new technology has connected everyone to where no place in the U.S. seems remote anymore. But there was a time when Fargo-Moorhead had a remote reputation. Someone told me once that if you worked for a company and were assigned Fargo-Moorhead, you were at the bottom of the ladder in that company.
Fargo! The purpose behind naming a movie "Fargo" may have grown from this. Sitting in Hollywood, the windswept northern plains would certainly fit one's image of "remote" and "mysterious." A good place for a mysterious murder. But they'd be thinking in terms of Fargo and not Moorhead.
It seems Moorhead had more notoriety in its past. It even got the attention of Will Rogers, the great actor/storyteller who left us too soon in a plane crash. Rogers is reported to have said Moorhead was "the wickedest city in the world." Wow!
I guess it's not the kind of statement the Chamber of Commerce would want to attach itself to. Is this what it takes to get Hollywood's attention? A mysterious murder or a reputation for low-life behavior?
Hollywood is a little more enlightened today - I'll cite that tech revolution again - but there was a time when we seemed a little like Siberia.
Moorhead was dangerous. Imagine your typical Old West saloon from the movies of yore, places where you had to step lightly and watch your words. Imagine the kind of piano-playing that accompanied this atmosphere. (I remember this piano sound also in the "Dudley Do-Right" cartoon.)
Rough edges in early days
Hear that pub-style honky tonk piano in your head as you study that early Moorhead history, because that saloon atmosphere would seem to have been pervasive. Maybe we're seeing a parallel today in the "oil patch" of western North Dakota. Civilization moves in but it takes a while. The rough edges become fodder for future storytelling.
I'm not sure to what extent any museum in Moorhead would want to acknowledge those extremely rough early days. It's probably quite muted. For whatever reason, Moorhead was sandpaper-rough in its early days. You can imagine John Wayne as "J.B. Books" pulling into town. You can imagine Jimmy Stewart as the old "sawbones" (doctor).
Let's get blunt: The founding fathers of Moorhead were quite fine with the idea of saloons as a major industry! Saloons were deemed a helpful foundation for the fledgling economy. Saloons multiplied in that notorious chapter of the city's history, spanning 1878 to 1915.
The John Wayne/Jimmy Stewart movie "The Shootist" was set at the turn of the century. The automobile had been created. Harry Morgan played the sheriff who trumpeted all the positive change and derided the likes of "J.B. Books" who lived by the raw ethos of the Old West, a pistol ready.
Moorhead had its eyes on the future but had lots of the old element still hanging around.
Some saloon owners really tried to promote a controlled and civilized direction with their businesses. An example was the White House which had a summer garden outside. Inside were found electric fountains, pink frame windows and solid oak features. Then we had the Higgins-Aske Co., proud of its eight-drawer cash registers. Higgins-Aske also boasted of its tile floor, "the longest straight bar in the state."
A fellow name of Haas ran an establishment with 400 electric lights! The Harry Morgan character would beam at such an asset. An establishment that had the Rustad name had brass footprints leading to the door. Ed Wilson ran a joint that had as an asset a $200 mirror!
As evidence of the raw times, we can note that not only did the saloon operators put the welcome mat out, they'd dispatch rafts on the river and buggies on the roads, to sell alcohol to farm laborers, whose value to their employers would then become diminished.
Given that the city fathers were quite OK with the burgeoning saloon sector, we might expect a little graft, eh? A police chief and city treasurer were fired for embezzlement. There are stories of bribery. Saloon owners wanted the authorities to "look the other way" for staying open extended hours and on Sundays.
I guess there was no proof of outright bribery. But many saloons did stay open after midnight and on Sundays.
Shall we progress into the topic of "street walkers?" Oh, why not. After all, Will Rogers said Moorhead was "the wickedest city in the world."
I'm not sure how much of this our Marty Ohren is familiar with. He's a native of Moorhead. A proud native I'm sure.
All that notoriety is filed away in historical annals, but presumably not much of it at the musuem, not conspicuous anyway.
I'm getting information for this post from a piece by Gertrude Knutson which appears in a compilation of historical reflections published by Ethelyn Pearson. Ethelyn's book is called "It Really Happened Here!" She's the mother of retired Morris industrial arts teacher Larry Pearson.
Certainly there were "houses of ill repute" in Moorhead. The city tried vainly to keep this under control. Houses would get torn down only to have the activity settle elsewhere. Such ladies would be decoys in the saloons. They lured suckers into situations where robbery could be performed. Again, imagine that saloon style of piano in the background.
I doubt that James Arness could have gotten all this under control.
The saloons were deemed off-limits for ordinary and responsible women. The only exceptions might be some establishments known for decent dining, e.g. The House of Lords and Midway Buffet.
One bar owner in a low-life place crossed the line by having his wife fill in as bartender. This was rationalized on the basis of the wife being German and not Scandinavian!
Ordinarily if you met a woman at a low-life place, you could assume she was a prostitute. Watch your wallet. I'm reminded of the movie "Open Range" where we saw the hero characters walk into a bar with their lever-action rifles - and nobody cared. This was the rough Old West. The NRA and Wayne LaPierre would be proud.
City fathers knew all the misbehavior couldn't continue indefinitely. A police chief name of Malvey raided the streetwalkers. Sometimes a madam would be hauled into court and fined. Sometimes there was jailing. But often the judges would opt for having sentences suspended if the offending parties pledged to leave town.
No one was "shocked" that there might be gambling in a given establishment. In the movie "The Shootist" there was that unsavory character running the game of "Pharoah" over in the corner. In Moorhead there was a notorious gang known as the "tin-horn gamblers." Saloon owners frowned on them.
Gamblers took money from saloons, and their presence always promised violence.
"All right, draw!" That cliche may have been spoken more than a few times in the old Moorhead. Keep that honky tonk piano in the back of your mind. James Arness might not want to stick around.
Old western TV shows always had good prevailing over bad at the end, with pure morality rising to the surface (as in a fairy tale). Reading about old Moorhead, one wonders if the likes of "Lucas McCain" really could assert himself above all the riffraff. (Chuck Connors played Lucas on TV, remember?)
Theft was so common, people had to budget this in, it seemed. There's a story of the wayward soul who got intoxicated in the Fargo-Moorhead establishments, was jailed, and ended up ecstatic that he still had $1,357.20 in cash on his person, along with a gold watch-and-chain and some German paper money. All this could easily have been lifted from him.
Saloon owners did well financially amidst all the disorder. Their daughters would come to school dressed in silk and satins, while the less well-off children wore homespun material. The sons would get new cars.
The Scandinavian stock pushed forward with an emphasis on education. They built many churches and schools. They co-existed with the unsavory tone.
Foul and obscene language floated out and about constantly. Let's note that our Marty Ohren is a civilized sort. He manages our Thrifty White Drug Stores (one on each side of main street in Morris, although logic suggests there only needs to be one). The Ohren family attends my church: First Lutheran in Morris.
The occasional volley of gunshots was heard in old Moorhead. No one could out-gun "J.B. Books," except at the end of his life when he was weak (dying) and a bartender sneaked up behind him with a double-barrel shotgun, after Books has dispatched all the bad guys. Ron Howard played the young boy in the movie, remember? And Lauren Bacall played Wayne's love interest, a widow landlord.
Saloons' heyday reaches end
The year 1915 brought significant change for this restless young city on the plains. The saloon era ended for Moorhead. The city did vote to stay "wet" but this was trumped by an election that made Clay County "dry."
The saloons would return 15 years later but the atmosphere would be more civilized.
Writer Gertrude Knutson researched material made available to her by Mark Peihl of the Clay County Historical Society. So the museum doesn't distance themselves totally after all. But certainly it's not put forward with any element of pride.
Today Moorhead can be proud that it's a fully developed and civilized city. Even if it takes a back seat to Fargo and its "blow torch" radio station.
Again I'm plugging the book "It Really Happened Here!" by Ethelyn Pearson. Not sure if it's still available, but I recommend it.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"Northstar" can't get out of woods w/ "satire"

First, a little background:
A couple young boys were in a booth close to me at McDonald's this morning, and their behavior demonstrated why some restaurants offer a "well-behaved children" discount. These urchins were in a tussle. The big one seemed to be picking on the little one.
How serious was the conflict? It got so persistent I finally spoke up and said "calm down." Was I supposed to assume it was innocent horseplay?
Bullying is notorious for how it can be misunderstood. We have this serious episode in the NFL now where behavior that might have been written off as fairly innocuous, like "hazing," is quite more serious. It's rising to scandal.
The two hyper boys in the McDonald's booth were joined by an adult fairly soon. I guess they were brothers and they were joined by their mom. Mom had a mollifying effect on the kids. No more issues. But this party definitely wouldn't have gotten the "well-behaved children" discount.
"Anti-bullying" has become a buzzword or buzz-term in education. Such terms are known to come and go. Remember "outcome-based education" or OBE? We had an administrator in Morris, initials R.H., who latched on to that one.
George W. Bush gave us "no child left behind." One can imagine a forlorn little kid running to try to catch up to a school bus. Bush's real agenda, as would be expected of someone with his belief set, was to put the onus on teachers to answer for all the shortcomings exhibited by kids. True conservatives should have shot down "no child left behind." It was classic big government intrusion.
George W. Bush did several highly costly things that would appear to contradict true conservatism, and would certainly run contrary to libertarianism.
I can see why teachers have some reluctance tackling bullying. It is often very hard to understand the underpinnings of kids' behavior. The best of friends can kid around and jostle each other. Put-down humor can be affectionate.
All of this is a prelude to what I really intend to write about here, which is that "Northstar" publication emanating from UMM. I wouldn't be writing about it were it not for the fact it penetrated the Morris community. Somehow it got put in with all the ad circulars in the newspaper that purports to be the Morris newspaper, even though it's owned out of Fargo ND and largely managed out of Detroit Lakes. I'm talking about the Morris Sun Tribune newspaper.
Trying to judge "Northstar's" intentions
The "Northstar" with its orange cover greeted those people, mostly older people, who still bother purchasing the Morris paper. The Northstar's content was at least puzzling. Obviously this is put out by strongly libertarian students. I have been told that UMM student fees make its publication possible. So, we might say that the University of Minnesota-Morris has its imprimatur on it.
I have been told it's a good learning experience for students who have journalistic inclinations but don't have much experience with the endeavor. If this is so, then please keep it on campus.
This recent Northstar included material which if interpreted seriously, was libelous.
I'm now told that an inquiry of the students responsible, has brought the explanation that it was "satirical." Some critics have refused to accept that explanation. In other words, claiming that it's satirical doesn't make it satirical.
But I would take the rebuttal a step further. Let's accept that it's satirical. A logical question would follow: What is it a satire on? The whole reason a satire is funny is that there is an underlying truth. Satire is a vehicle for bringing out extremes, to penetrate to the essence of something and remove any pretense or polite facade.
If there were no underlying truth, it would be simple nonsense. These creators of the Northstar are quite intelligent, I'm sure, and they wouldn't be parties to true nonsense. In fact, if it were nonsense, some responsible authority figure should have asserted himself/herself and prevented publication.
These young people were in fact trying to tell us something.
We laughed at Leslie Nielsen in "Airplane" because his character was a satire on the stiff leading man persona. My generation laughed uproariously at Mel Brooks movies like "Blazing Saddles" and "Young Frankenstein" because they were satires on the old western and old monster movies, two genres that were ripe for satire. Brooks knew how to read his audience.
The minds behind the Northstar are claiming satire. That leaves us scratching our heads over just what the underlying points were. Had this publication just stayed on campus, I might not even know about it. But it ended up on coffee tables around Morris where children might have gotten a look at it.
So, are there racists lurking amidst academia at our "jewel in the crown" of UMM? This publication named names. There was even a photo of long-time administrator Sandra Olson-Loy, the unlikeliest subject for inappropriate labels you can imagine.
Were the names (of offenders) chosen at random? Was the article written as pure frivolity? Was it deliberately provocative? Was it a way for the creators to just sit back and laugh at all of us who expressed concern?
Was it done in the spirit of an April Fool's joke? But it wasn't April Fool's, it was in fact Halloween, and those are two separate things.
As I first looked it over, it sure didn't strike me as obvious satire.
If the racism charge is to be understood as having serious intent, how might it have serious intent? Since the Northstar creators won't express themselves directly - they hide behind the (dubious) veil of "satire" - they are forcing us to speculate. How might we speculate?
Well, maybe extreme libertarians would view certain programs within higher education as being condescending. Condescending toward certain historically aggrieved groups: non-whites, women, gays etc.
Certainly higher education has gone out of its way to acknowledge past oppression and discrimination. Libertarians would say we can all fight our way out of those thickets on our own. It is the conservatives who have argued we no longer need any special Federal protection of voting rights in the Deep South.
UMM has that multi-cultural building which is a signal that we have a true commitment to making students out of the cultural mainstream feel comfortable. I suspect true libertarians would say we can all just fend for ourselves just fine.
So maybe when certain individuals on the UMM campus are singled out by name, or by photo, it is because of the perception by those freedom-loving libertarians that these individuals have acquiesced too much with "special programs" on behalf of historically aggrieved groups. You see, I don't think these people were picked out at random. As if by a blindfolded person pointing at names in the phone book.
The Northstar creators can claim "satire" as a way of trying to extinguish controversy. We mustn't accommodate them on this.
It would have been a far better "learning experience" for these young zealous journalists to just be told: "This thing isn't coming off the presses."
Even more culpable might be the Morris Sun Tribune which had a big part in spreading the stuff. A pox on them. Or better yet, a lawsuit. Make those Forum Communications suits squirm a little. They're already being sued for something up in Duluth.
Maybe the biggest lesson from all of this is that we should all just move on from printed communications to online. Print communications gets its power from (mostly) monopoly distribution. Online is a sea of ideas and information - a rigid meritocracy where the garbage quickly sinks to the bottom.
Let's see the garbage sink.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, November 4, 2013

Kudos: MACA girls end up second in 3AA

The high-flying MACA volleyball team met its end of the road on Saturday (11/2).
The Tigers vied at Southwest MN State University, Marshall, against the "home" team from those parts. This was a Tigers vs. Tigers confrontation. Marshall has the "Tigers" nickname just like Motown.
Motown was coming off two significant upset wins. First our Tigers disposed of Litchfield, who owned the No. 2 sub-section seed, and then they triumphed vs. the top seed New London-Spicer.
It was important to see a Tiger team get past NL-Spicer in a significant post-season contest. It's a reminder that the Wildcat athletes put their pants on one leg at a time just like we do. Tiger athletes have found the going rough vs. NL-Spicer in post-season contests over the last few years. Volleyball has demonstrated it needn't be that way.
Coach Kristi Fehr coaxed her orange and black athletes to a dominating sweep over NL-Spicer, but that same magic couldn't be reproduced Saturday vs. the Marshall Tigers. Marshall came into the day with super credentials. There would be no turning back Marshall, at least not on this day.
Our Tigers had to settle for runner-up in Section 3AA. Marshall was the victor in three games with scores of 25-15, 25-9 and 25-7. So the books are closed on the volleyball campaign of 2013, with stellar won-lost numbers of 19-6. A big win streak was a season highlight.
Marshall moves on with a won-lost mark of 29-3. Those Tigers have won the last two Class AA championships. They'll play Mora next. Match-time is 5 p.m. Thursday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Three Marshall players were at the fore turning back our Tigers on Saturday. Kenzie Beekman slammed down 15 kills, plus she had two blocks, four ace serves and 20 digs. MACA also had to cope with Sydney Griffin who posted these stats: 11 kills, 16 set assists, two blocks and eight digs. Marah Mulso made her presence felt with Marshall with seven blocks.
State cross country: Goulet runs
MACA Tiger Aaron Goulet ran in the big and exciting spectacle of state cross country on Saturday. He covered the 5K route in 17:20 to place 56th in the Class A boys race. The top runner was Keegan Hurley of Perham whose 4K time was 15:36. Perham had the top team.
Annandale was the top girls team in Class A, followed by Lac qui Parle. Emi Trost of Cannon Falls won the girls race with her time of 14:40.
We can all get set now for the long winter sports season. It does make the winter seem shorter, right?
Media notes:
I had a chance to see the current Morris newspaper Saturday at DeToy's Restaurant. I was eager to glance through, as I was curious if there would be some sort of explanation or apology regarding that "Northstar" publication which was inserted with the previous week's Morris paper. That insert was more than just a curiosity. It included some libelous material.
Therefore I was curious if the next week's Morris paper would have some sort of statement to share. I didn't see any. There should at least have been a statement of clarification, helping people understand it. However, there may be conflicting interpretations, which is part of the problem.
I wrote a post on the "Northstar" which appears on my companion website, "Morris of Course." Here's the permalink:
This "Northstar" thing comes at us from the UMM campus. You'll probably sense that almost immediately. The publication has an orientation so far to the political right, it's almost off the scale.
People on the political extremes sometimes have a way of communicating that is a little hard to follow. They have trouble communicating on a plane of sensibility.
This "Northstar" paper can grate on us because it's hard to comprehend without poking around with various theories on just what these students were trying to accomplish.
John Wayne in "The Shootist" accused an adversary of "taking the long way around the barn" with how he was trying to say something. This "Northstar" definitely "takes the long way around the barn." It appears to go around the whole pasture. And in the process it has picked up no small amount of manure.
By far the most offensive aspect is that it got out into the community, beyond the campus. The campus is a place that is ready to deal with all sorts of offbeat communications or thoughts. Not so with the "real world" of Morris outside campus boundaries.
A member of Campus Security once asked me, "What are you doing out here?" I'd like to turn that question around now, and ask "What are you doing out here (with this silly campus publication in the regular community)?"
If UMM wishes to draw some sort of line at the campus border, fine, then respect it yourselves. Don't bother us with this sort of thing anymore.
Addendum: I had an astute friend when I was in college who said that when you get to the extreme political right and political left, these people begin to have some things in common. Whatever it takes. We need more of that.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, November 1, 2013

Girls not only beat NL-Spicer, they sweep!

Wow! Wow! Wow! Be honest, how many of you were expecting an MACA volleyball win Thursday night in the sub-section finals?
The Tigers were up against the top seed in sub-section. They would have to try to get past New London-Spicer. Not only were the Wildcats the top seed, the NL-S programs in general have been kind of a stone wall for MACA athletic teams over the past few years.
To the extent a sort of "hex" has developed, the Thursday (10/31) success did a lot to wipe that away.
Leave it to a former Hancock coach to coax the Tigers to new heights. In all the years I was with the print media, Hancock had kind of a magical way of achieving success beyond what that school's enrollment might indicate was possible. Hancock coaches knew they had to do some special things. Put those special things at work in Motown - the area's "big school" - and my, we could end up amazed.
The fans who attended the Tigers' win over Litchfield on Tuesday were probably not amazed or surprised at what they saw Thursday. Coach Kristi Fehr's Tigers upset second-seeded Litch at Litch.
The next test would be those Wildcats of New London-Spicer. The Tigers and Wildcats would meet Thursday on the neutral court of Benson.
I don't think many fans would have bet on a Tiger victory. But win the Tigers did! Not only did the Tigers win, they did it with a real dominating flourish, via sweep!
The Morris Area Chokio Alberta girls won by the following scores: 25-19, 25-17 and 25-16.
We won with just two serving errors - very crisp execution. Coach Fehr was quoted in the media saying of her squad: "They went into the match never thinking they were going to lose."
A balanced attack at the net complemented that sharp serving. If these attributes continue, odds will at least be decent we'll find more success on Saturday (11/2), when the foe will be Marshall. Marshall is also known as the "Tigers." Who'll have the more fierce claws on Saturday?
Marshall will be playing in its own backyard: Southwest MN State University. Marshall advanced Thursday with a four-game win over Jackson County Central.
Marshall has other credentials besides won-lost where the numbers are 28-3.
If the Tigers weren't fazed by New London-Spicer, they'll pay no mind to whatever resume Marshall brings into the Saturday competition. Marshall is the two-time defending Class AA state champion. The Tigers of Marshall have been in state time and time again. Marshall's resume includes five state championships. Three of those have come since 2007. Oh, and in five other years they've been state runners-up.
But the Tigers of Motown have a background that indicates they won't have to take a back seat to anyone. We're on a 15-match win streak.
Coach Fehr has coaxed lots of winning ingredients into place. We have a 19-5 season record.
Fehr in her media quotes stated the truism: "It's the playoffs so anything can happen." She continued: "Hopefully we can get some momentum going and go from there."
My previous post said keep an eye on Sydney Stone of the New London-Spicer Wildcats. Stone had her moments Thursday in her team's loss, with eleven kills and eleven digs, but MACA had the firepower to overcome, like with Sydney Engebretson and her 12 kills and two ace blocks. MACA had ten ace blocks total.
Engebretson had 26 good hits in 29 attempts. Terianne Itzen came through with nine kills on 27 of 29 in good/attempts. Then we have Paige Schieler with her six kills on 27 of 30 in G/A.
Lacee Maanum showed power with five kills on 13 of 14. Two Tigers each had three kills: Nicole Strobel (six-for-seven) and Kayla Pring (ten-for-eleven).
Engebretson was one of four Tigers with two ace blocks. She was joined by Strobel, Schieler and Pring. Maanum and Itzen each had one ace block.
Haley Erdahl and Chelsey Ehleringer were busy with assists, setting up that hitting attack with 13 and 12 set assists respectively.
Itzen was tops in digs: 25. Beth Holland came through with 16 digs. The list continues with Ehleringer (9), Schieler (9), Erdahl (8), Hunter Mundal (6) and Engebretson (5).
Three Tigers each had one serving ace: Holland (18/18 in G/A), Erdahl (11/12) and Engebretson (17/17).
Mundal had eleven good serves in as many attempts. Itzen was perfect on her 15 serve attempts. Ehleringer finished six-for-seven.
Surely the Wildcats weren't expecting their season to end Thursday. But it did, with a won-lost mark of 18-12.
MACA will enter the weekend with a goal of competing beyond the weekend. Coach Fehr told the media: "We'll have to go in believing we have a chance and play our game."
For sure, our Tigers will "have a chance."
MACA ought never feel intimidated by New London-Spicer again. NL-Spicer doesn't win because of the uniforms. The old Hancock teams were never intimidated by anyone. Go Tigers! Coach Fehr is complemented nicely by those orange and black colors. We're on top of 3AA-North.
Did the Morris Sun Tribune newspaper have a representative present for the historic Thursday win? I'd like to attend a match myself but I'm not sure how people would take that (i.e. since I'm not in the legacy media anymore). I'm not sure how the newspaper would take that.
I have put together an MACA Tiger football photo album for each of the past four seasons. How many online photo albums on Tiger sports has the Sun Tribune done? I'm just curious.
As for my football album, maybe someone could sponsor having a link placed on the radio station website. Whatever, I'll continue showing enthusiasm about MACA Tiger sports.
Cross country: Aaron Goulet makes state
The Section 6A cross country meet included a top runner named Ali McGraw. An actress with that name was popular back when I was in high school.
Runners from around Section 6A gathered at Long Prairie on Thursday, Oct. 24, for the big spectacle of the section meet. Ali McGraw of Litchfield was a top runner in the girls race.
Aaron Goulet of the MACA boys team placed 12th and this was good enough to qualify for state. Congrats to Aaron. Goulet covered the 5K route in 17:36 for his No. 12 showing. The medalist was Nick Golebiowski of St. Cloud Cathedral with his time of 16:23.
The Willmar newspaper reported that a Tiger runner named "Aaron Gray" had a 19:05 time, but I think they mean "Ryan Gray." Jon Jerke's time was 19:27. The two other Tiger runners were Eric Staebler (20:36) and Travis Ostby (20:41).
The top female runner was McKenzie Holt of St. Cloud Christian (time of 15:09 over 4K).
Savannah Aanerud led the MACA Tigers with her 16:17 time. Lauren Reimers had a 17:39 clocking. Becca Holland covered the course in 18:09. Kindra Cannon ran an 18:52 time, and Kali Berlinger had an 18:53 performance.
St. Cloud Cathedral had the top team in both boys and girls.
Our Aaron Goulet will vie in state on Saturday at St. Olaf College, Northfield.
Oh, Litch's Ali McGraw placed fourth in section with her time of 15:34.
Thanks to Sharon Ehlers for loaning me her Oct. 25 Willmar newspaper, because someone walked off with the copy at the Morris Public Library.
Special note: On this date, November 1, 1991, Minnesotans were dealing with the "Halloween Blizzard" which started the day before. A record snowfall of 24 to 36 inches blanketed the area from Duluth to the Twin Cities, the state's largest recorded snowfall in a single storm. One month previous, the Minnesota Twins with Jack Morris won the World Series.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com