"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

Focus of pride in Morris MN: our school! - morris mn

Focus of pride in Morris MN: our school! - morris mn
Our school in Morris is a hub of community activity and enrichment. (B.W. photo)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Take a balloon ride, do a Hail Mary

We looked skyward in the 1980s and saw an occasional hot air balloon in Stevens County. The first Donnelly Threshing Bee I covered for the print media had a hot air balloon attraction.
Midday ballooning seemed rare because any wind could quickly bring complications.
It seemed so peaceful and serene, those balloonists up there. The Fifth Dimension had that popular song with the lyrics "Up, up and away" in that "beautiful balloon."
We don't seem to see these objects anymore locally. Maybe the hobby isn't as peaceful as it seems. Might there be quite substantial insurance costs?
Controlling a hot air balloon would seem to have its issues. Isn't this clear in the closing scenes of "The Wizard of Oz?" Dorothy was about to be taken home to Kansas. The eccentric pilot seemed at the mercy of the balloon. Dorothy would end up having to tap her heels together. We don't know what happened to the balloon. The pilot was the guy who played "The Great and Powerful Oz."
"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain."
Do you still remember the "balloon boy" incident? The media aren't helping us remember it. The media became profoundly embarrassed focusing on this episode for several hours. And you wonder why media people are cynical? Why they're so quick to suspect the worst in human motivations? It's not just because of Watergate. We are surrounded by charlatans.
Cable TV news was taken for a ride, so to speak, in the "balloon boy" incident. Wolf Blitzer came to the rescue at the end. The hard-hosed reporter, prodded I'm sure by that journalistic virtue of cynicism, coaxed an admission by the guilty family. He actually coaxed it out of the young child. Bless the children for they see things as they are.
A balloon incident is part of Minnesota history. It has faded into some obscurity. It was a minor regional story at the time. Cable TV news would have fixed that today.
Cable news would have gathered like bees around honey in December of 1969. It was truly "balloon boy" with no contrived element at all. It was truly dangerous. And it must have looked just like that closing scene in the "Wizard."
You see, controlling these lighter-than-air crafts seems to be at least half the challenge. The date is December 14. The backdrop is a Minnesota Vikings football game. A substantial amount of snow fell during the game. This was pre-Metrodome when the elements were fully a part of our sports viewing experience.
Outdoor sports in December? My but we're hardy folk. It's a testament to the popularity of the Minnesota Vikings.
Fans gathered at our old Metropolitan Stadium which was built for baseball. They gathered to watch the "purple people" play the San Francisco 49ers on that mid-December day in '69. Ballooning was a halftime attraction. The idea was to promote the St. Paul Winter Carnival balloon race.
There are those who might suggest St. Paul is a jinxed city. I don't know about that, but the halftime show hardly went as planned. The plan was for a balloon with its red and white stripes to merely glide the length of the field. A young man named Ricky Snyder, 11 years old, and his mom boarded the gondola.
The Snyder family owned the balloon. The "best laid plans" started going haywire. These things are certainly more dangerous than they appear. Safety wasn't guaranteed with five men holding a 200-foot mooring line.
The balloon was a little stubborn leaving the ground. Ricky's mom decided the weight in the gondola needed to be lightened. So, she got off. Whoa! The balloon took off as if on sudden impulse. The mooring line came loose. Whoa!
Ricky is now a genuine "balloon boy" and in a way spelling real hazard.
The first potential hazard was the left field light towers. (I told you the stadium was built with baseball in mind - we use baseball terminology.)
Ricky, seeming just like that eccentric guy in "The Wizard of Oz," barely missed the towers. Oh my, what next?
Southeast Bloomington opened up in front of him. He was at the mercy of his unwieldy craft. Again, what are the insurance costs for this pastime? Ricky had never before flown without a tether. His trip would cover three miles. An account tells us he "guided" the balloon to a "splashdown." Perhaps he was controlling the heat input. But would anyone seek a "splashdown" in a river in December?
I'm sure Ricky did the best he could, but his predicament seemed very real when he ended up in the Minnesota River. All that really matters is that there was a happy ending. The balloon tipped on its side. Ricky had about 25 yards to swim to get to shore. An at-large motorist spotted the odd scene, was certainly thankful to see the young man healthy, and gave a ride back to Metropolitan Stadium. A Vikings physician attended to the young man.
Young Mr. Snyder hadn't been hurt at all. Hallelujah.
But wait a minute, there's still an element of disorder going on. The Snyders and Winter Carnival people had taken off in pursuit. They knew nothing of the rescue. Such quaint times: no cellphones, not to mention no immediate gathering of the cable news people.
The situation became more confusing when the balloon just refused to sit still in the river. It had life left in it. It got reinvigorated just like the inflated "Otto" character during the movie "Airplane" - the "auto pilot," remember? The balloon rose off the river. It glided a ways more before coming down in some mud flats near the Black Dog plant of Northern States Power Company.
It's hard to believe confusion could reign for so long! It's hard to believe a mere random motorist would pick up Ricky, when in fact we might expect "gawkers" to gather. But those were different times, we must remind ourselves.
The Snyder parents waded through snow and mud only to discover the empty gondola and no Ricky. The caveman type of communications we evidently had then finally caught up. The stadium and the "chase crew" got on the same page.
Ricky probably wished he just could have clicked his heels together like Dorothy. This was no dream fantasy. And it was no "balloon boy." Or, let's say it was "balloon boy" but in the most real, non-contrived sense. And who the heck cares how the St. Paul Winter Carnival balloon race turned out?
Ricky claimed he never got real scared. He estimated being up about 1,000 feet. He remembered being in the clouds. His mother complimented him on his pilot work. But I can't imagine that a river splashdown in December would represent any sort of successful resolution.
We can be profoundly thankful this young man survived it. It's too bad Wolf Blitzer wasn't around to do the interview.
The Vikings beat the 49ers 10-7. This was the Joe Kapp era. Kapp passed 52 yards to Gene Washington for the game-winning touchdown in the final quarter. Snowmobile suits were everywhere.
A storm passed through in the first half, leaving in its wake two-plus inches of snow. Measuring for first downs became an issue. The storm ended for the second half and the sun actually came out.
Kapp and Washington did their thing but the defense had a big role too. Remember, these were the defense-fueled "purple people." Kapp just rode the gravy train for a while. Earsell Mackbee recovered a fumble and made an interception. Roy Winston made another key interception.
The problematic weather hardly held down attendance. There were over 40,000 shivering souls there, to see not only the Vikings' heroics, but Snyder as the real "balloon boy."
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

When RadioShack was Morris Radio and TV

One of the things I like doing on my two sites is sharing minor, you might say trivial, vignettes from Morris' past.
I wrote about boys with their crude homemade "soap box derby" racers gathering at the hill (which seemed big to us then) on the east side of the old school. That memory was part of a post on how kids were "self-starters" in an earlier time. We gathered on our own and had to set guidelines on our own. No, it wasn't as bad as "Lord of the Flies."
Parents seemed to be content leaving us on our own. I can't imagine they figured we were safe and happy all the time. Maybe they figured we'd grow from the rugged challenges.
Mitt Romney seemed to want to send a message of leaving people alone so they can learn from adversity. In other words, withhold government help. A part of us wants to be receptive to this message. Self-reliance is an American ideal especially as it pertains to how the country grew to the west.
Realistically people do want a "safety net." Romney has faded like a balloon with the air let out of it.
You can read my post about the soap-box racers by clicking on the permalink below:
 
The current post on my companion website, "Morris of course," is a review of the new Three Stooges movie. It recalls how in the 1960s, the Morris Lions Club hosted a Halloween party for kids.
We couldn't have envisioned tapes or DVDs then. The Lions would set up a clunky but reliable reel-to-reel movie projector. And then we'd watch the Three Stooges!
When I was real young, I was a little scared of Moe. That dampened the humor. You may read this "Morris of Course" post by clicking on the permalink below:
 
I'm ready to share a new vignette. These are the kind of memories that we can't count on the Historical Society for preserving. An assortment of these memories can paint a picture of an earlier time. They can stimulate still more memories.
I'll begin by pointing out the RadioShack store on Morris' main street. It seems quite the typical store of this type. "What's special about it?" you might ask. (In proofreading I discover that RadioShack is one word even though it looks like a typo.)
As kids, if we'd known that someday there would be a store with aisle upon aisle of tech wonders, we'd be amazed, probably disbelieving. I mean, those were the days when many of us had only one TV channel available. We might be content with just the Alexandria TV channel. But frankly we were quite content having just that.
Television sets had "knobs" for changing channels. The TV remote seemed "Jetsons"-like when they first began appearing. Today they warrant no special comment at all. But I remember the time when if you wanted to poke fun at someone for being lazy, you'd make a motion as if operating a TV remote.
Our whole perception of TV has changed since then. We unashamedly find fulfillment through our TVs today. That's because there's a channel to satisfy every taste. And of course the TV screens can be used for so much more than watching the traditional "television."
We spend a good portion of each day watching a screen whether it's a TV or computer screen. All this tech stuff evolves so fast it can seem dizzying. You might even be turned off trying to keep up with it. I have lagged quite far myself.
Walking through the aisles at RadioShack, you can be amazed at all the hardware and gizmos available to. . .make us happy? Is that what it does? As kids we were happy just to have transistor radio.
RadioShack exists in the same spot where once we could buy the old analog electronic stuff - you know, the TVs with knobs. And the transistor radios. The store served the same kind of needs as today. But the "analog" world was truly a world apart.
The type of employee who would wait on you then, would probably not be equipped at all to work in the store of today.
The specific vignette I wish to share goes back to the early 1960s. We were mesmerized at that time by the idea of "color TV." Yes we were.
For a long time, NBC would introduce its color shows by showing its peacock. "The following program is brought to you in living color." Something like that. This was later parodied in the "Police Squad" TV series with Leslie Nielsen.
If you stepped into the old Morris Radio and TV store and behaved yourself, you might be allowed into the back room! There you could marvel at a "color TV set." Imagine being fascinated by an attribute that we totally take for granted today. We are surrounded by assets that we once considered breakthroughs.
I have heard many say that rural electrification was one of the biggest revolutions in terms of our lifestyle. I believe it.
Our family was the first in the neighborhood to get color TV. We invited all the neighbors over to watch the Rose parade from Pasadena CA.
Our guests included the Julius family from the farm down the road, who had probably experienced life without electricity. Earn Julius was a gem of a man who served on the school board. His wife Mabel was a dedicated farm homemaker. They operated your classic diversified farm of that time. The kids of the neighborhood would play over there, creating liability issues that people of that time evidently didn't worry about.
We'd swing on a rope in the hay loft pretending we were Tarzan.
A farm no longer occupies that site. There is a non-maintained road going across the field north of Morris that will take you to that site. I suspect this was once the Julius' private road into town. The field is U of M property.
As a kid I began hearing about the "able cable." This too seemed like a miracle (cable TV).
It wasn't enough to be happy or satisfied with one TV channel anymore. Now we could watch "Gunsmoke" in addition to "The Virginian."
Because our family was semi-rural at the time, we couldn't get the "able cable" right away. So I kept watching "Trampas" on "The Virginian." And, Huntley and Brinkley for the evening news, not "the most trusted man in America," Walter Cronkite.
We had to trust "Chet and David" on NBC. So, we missed Cronkite's earthshaking editorial comment or suggestion regarding the Viet Nam War. As if we really needed him to inform us of the obvious. Such quaint times.
Our universe of media options keeps exploding. It's interwoven into kids' lives. But where is it all taking us? Is it making us happy? Is it deluding us in many ways, making it less necessary to develop meaningful social interaction? The merry-go-round of progress and history continues.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Let's give deference to Founding Fathers

Charles Beard was a dope. He got attention through sheer outrageousness, much like the right wing talkers who get on media shows. Beard was a fellow who fed the left.
The political left hasn't done well since the media began evolving rapidly due to the tsunami of tech change. The right wing has seized the electronic media with absolute glee. The left may be finding some inroads now. It has taken time.
Our U.S. Founding Fathers erected a system that seemed to ensure the desirable balance. That balance is between individual freedoms and a foundation for the common good. The Founders never could have envisioned our current media landscape. But their simple genius has enabled the U.S. system to adjust to all changes. Up until now, to be sure. And hopefully into the future.
You would think our Founders would win universal acclamation. You would think we could all pause and say they were on to something. But universal truths were hard to sell in the 1970s.
The political left had a firm footing at that time, with people like Rick Nolan easily riding the wave. The so-called "liberal mainstream media" actually did exist. Our Minneapolis newspaper was a prime example, even irritating me at times, and I've always been receptive to left-of-center thinking. The tone of the Minneapolis paper and others could be patronizing.
The political left felt its oats. It reigned nicely on most college campuses. If you're in your 50s you surely remember.
I was mixing with some people at the LaFave House 3-4 years ago when I heard the name Charles Beard. Charles Beard! His opining was the kind of stuff that might get thrust in front of you in the 1970s. In my case it was with a professor last name of Carlson.
The deconstructionists were given lots of breathing room in the disco '70s. Their ideas seemed to have as much merit as the music at times.
I don't mind knowing who Charles Beard was. I just don't like a professor with all his power dangling this stuff in front of me as if it calls for real respect or deference. A professor queried about this today would probably say it's just fodder for consideration. Yes, and I suppose we can learn something about painting from Jackson Pollock. I'd like to see an art teacher present nine examples of modern art along with one of a kindergartner's finger painting, and have the student pick out which is which.
Beard's thinking is more along the lines of kindergartners, and I mean no disrespect to kindergartners. You might consider him the left wing equivalent to Erick Erickson and others of his ilk who get on cable TV so easily today.
My professor gave us Charles Beard along with a book written by avowed socialist Michael Parenti, plus he threw in "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" for good measure.
At the LaFave House, I heard reminiscences about a UMM professor who was retiring. I'm sure he's highly intelligent. And I'm sure he was thinking in terms of challenging students with unconventional ideas. He's a Democrat like me, yes, a card-carrying one. And it's fine to present students with a broad range of ideas.
The Internet gives us the opportunity today to fact-check and see just how much credence some of these ideas have. Let's look at this Mr. Beard. He gave us a radical re-evaluation of the Founding Fathers. He asserted that the narrow economic interests of members of the Constitutional Convention affected their votes.
We can discover through some quick online research that a defining book by this fellow was "respected until the 1950s."
We're all entitled to our opinions of course. And you can look at a Pollock painting and express awe.
Our retiring UMM professor was feted in the evening at Prairie Inn. The afternoon reception should have been held there too, not at the LaFave House.
The LaFave House is a curious little - and I emphasize little - element of the UMM community. It's really off-campus. Legend has it, it's where the idea of UMM was first broached. But how do we know it wasn't in a barber shop?
The legend became the basis for proposing its renovation as a hospitality facility. The cost seemed to grow awfully high. I have attended several events there through the years. I find the atmosphere there to be very cramped for these affairs.
You have to walk uphill to get to the front door. You feel as though you're in someone's home. I suppose that's because it was once someone's home. It was fine for that purpose. For the purpose of public receptions, it seems way too cramped. I find myself politely spending time there but then wanting to leave. Call it claustrophobia. People say "excuse me" several times as they wind their way back to the hors d'oeuvres table.
It seems to me that any event held there could be held at alternative locations that afford more space, like maybe at Oyate Hall right on campus.
I suppose the party line is that we need the LaFave House. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. As with Charles Beard and his pathetic, chronic cynicism. And artist Pollock.
Beard's ideas didn't just fade with the disco '70s, they apparently faded during the rock 'n' roll '50s. It just took a while for the memo to reach a certain element within academia.
I'm willing to question a great many things. But if the Founding Fathers don't represent some sort of home base where we can all feel comfortable, then maybe our colleges have no reason for being at all.
Charles Beard is a dope.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Beatles played Minnesota in 1965

(Image from Wikipedia)
I'm not sure the Beatles were bigger than Jesus yet, when they played Metropolitan Stadium in August of 1965.
The Mall of America sits where "the Met" once was. "The Met" is what made the Twin Cities and Minnesota big league.
We all remember the sports - the snowmobile suits for Vikings games etc. But it was a venue useful for music too. If only the crowd at the Met on that Saturday night could have really appreciated the music.
The Beatles were true music geniuses. They were anything but "the pre-fab four" as they were dubbed in a rather childish TV satire. (That satire also referred to Shea Stadium in New York City as "Che Stadium," named for the Communist revolutionary.)
The Monkees were the "pre-fab four."
The Beatles are as significant in music history as Mozart and Beethoven. This is sinking in as time goes on. In the mid-1960s our adult culture would have slapped the "empty pop culture" stereotype on the lads from Liverpool.
I own "A Hard Day's Night" on DVD but I have a hard time watching it. I have a hard time with it because of seeing John Lennon. He was gunned down by a nutcase when he was way too young. What fascinating speculation it is, to wonder in what direction his creative energies would have taken him.
It was August 21 of 1965 - yes, the summer the Twins won the pennant - when the fab four came here. "Beatlemania" reigned around the world. But this did not translate to a sellout crowd. Can you imagine the demand for tickets if the Beatles were alive today and touring?
The people who would clamor for tickets today were young boomers in the early 1960s. Hey, they have discretionary money now. As kids those resources were far more limited, perhaps negligible. We can forget.
And the parents of the boomers were by and large mystified by the Beatles and the flood of other such acts that sprouted. The parents could have hummed Glenn Miller's "Jersey Bounce." They felt unsettled by the Beatles and the kind of reaction they got from teenagers. It was alien. "The generation gap" was very real.
The Beatles performed at Met Stadium in front of a turnout of about 30,000. This was the Beatles' second American tour. By 1966 the group decided it wasn't practical to continue touring. The music seemed so secondary to the maniacal enthusiasm shown by the fans. The Beatles became sort of cloistered as a studio band, which went against the conventional thinking of the time, that you just had to tour.
But the Beatles regularly broke new ground. That's what they were all about.
Can you imagine today being able to buy a ticket as a walk-up customer to a Beatles reunion concert? But on that August night of '65, over 5,000 tickets were in fact sold that way. No "Ticketmaster" then, I'm sure. I remember once naively calling the Fargodome to ask about tickets to a George Strait concert. Silly rabbit, you don't call the venue for information like this anymore.
Rain threatened but never came on the day of the Beatles concert. The temperature was a most agreeable 68 degrees at concert time. A stage was erected over second base. John, Paul, George and Ringo emerged from the Twins dugout. It really was a significant chapter in Minnesota history.
These were the real Beatles, in their prime and including John in the flesh! Right here in Minnesota. And you could buy tickets as a walk-up customer amidst no special urgency or panic. Quaint? Yes.
Some minor acts did the warm-up music. The names of these don't ring a bell.
The Beatles were a textbook example of pure fame. They were in the right place at the right time and with the right gifts and right management. It's too bad the audience of 30,000 couldn't have been a little more passive and appreciated the import of it. It's too bad the kids couldn't have just soaked in the music. Because, the Beatles were extraordinary from an artistic standpoint.
We could have given them a pleasant surprise by being more restrained and appreciative. There was no chance of that happening, though. "Beatlemania" reigned.
This meant the kids, I assume mostly the females, would scream during the music. An anthropologist should have made note of it all. The Met Stadium crowd fully followed the norm of the time. So, they screamed in a way as to obliterate the music in this 35-minute set by the fab four.
You can't blame the parents for not wanting to be there. The crowd was probably limited in size because the parents had to shoulder the chauffeuring and fork out $4.50 or $5.50 for ducats.
There were no casinos to support such acts then. Casinos have been a gold mine for retro music acts, even the small-time ones. In the '60s, any kind of gambling had strong morality issues. We barely gave a pass to church basement bingo.
Many music acts had to seek gigs at county fairs. Heck, this continued up through the early 1980s when the likes of Ronnie Milsap came to our Stevens County Fair. So did the Statler Brothers and others. Casinos changed the whole landscape. Imagine if the four Beatles were still alive and together, visiting such places as Mystic Lake.
John was shot and George died of natural causes. Ringo has happily ridden the gravy train of that early fame. Paul has remained artistically very solid and committed, for the most part.
Gosh, what would John have done? You see a certain innocence in his face in the movie "A Hard Day's Night." There's a spontaneous wellspring of creativity there. Fame would challenge him. Disregard his excesses, like saying the Beatles were bigger than Jesus, and what you have is a genius musical craftsman. This is easier to appreciate as time goes by.
Metropolitan Stadium had about 150 ushers ready to handle the concert crowd. They were prepared with smelling salts! About 150 police ensured security. No special problems developed.
Ray Colihan was the concert promoter. He never understood why the crowd was limited to 30,000. We weren't a "cold Omaha" anymore, were we? Colihan was mainly associated with Excelsior Amusement Park. There, in 1964, ol' Ray counted an audience size of 286 for an appearance by the Rolling Stones! Those were different times. There were kid-fans out there but they lacked independence.
Over time that changed, to where the Eagles drew a crowd of over 65,000 at the Met in 1978 (the year I graduated from college). Kids had become less dependent on their parents. And, "Jersey Bounce" had faded more into the background of history. But remember, there was a time when Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman music was actually edgy!
I'm not sure where these "promoters" like Colihan come from, how they become so essential. In Morris we had Rod Lindquist - remember? - from the old "Sound Idea" store. I smile writing this because he was the promoter type (no disrespect intended).
Colihan was surprised he had to work to promote the Beatles, right down to the last minute. Joe Soucheray quoted him saying "I had the hottest act in the business, and it was like people got more excited if the barn blew over in a storm."
Garrison Keillor would be amused.
I was in elementary school at the time of these Beatles tours. I wish I could go back in time and attend. And, to be there with a home movie camera!
The Beatles and the boomers were intertwined. Ironically, the Beatles were not boomers. They were too old. They got on a roller coaster of fame and got enveloped by the boomers who were a sea of precocious impulsivity. And eventually we got money. And now we go to the casinos.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, March 14, 2013

MACA boys fade vs. New London-Spicer in 6AA

Maybe the Tigers just couldn't get focused on a Monday. They were lackluster in the 6AA South semis game against New London-Spicer, a foe which on paper at least, looked beatable.
The Wildcats were seeded second and our Tigers third. Really that's a negligible difference.
Most importantly, coach Mark Torgerson's Tigers showed they indeed had the potential to turn back the 'Cats. This we learned on February 26. On that very recent date, the Tigers practically had victory in hand against NL-Spicer. We led by four points with 18 seconds left in regulation. Then with five seconds left, the Wildcats needed a prayer. Joey Dreier hit a '3' to tie the score and force overtime.
What if the ball had clanged off? The 'Cats seized their new opportunity and went on to excel in overtime of that 2/26 game played here at MAHS. The game was so recent, Tiger fans had to feel heartened, if not a little deflated too, coming out of that night and knowing beyond any doubt, their team could be competitive vs. New London-Spicer.
"Just wait until we get a rematch," they might've said. Well, we certainly got our chance on Monday, March 11. As the world awaited a new Pope, coach Torgerson's crew took the floor at St. John's, presumably savoring this rematch against the Wildcats.
The game was to have been played Saturday. The weather turned ugly that day. A combination of rain, snow and ice spelled "yuck." Not only that, travel was risky. The travel conditions had not returned completely back to normal for the Monday re-scheduling.
We have had to deal with patches of snow and ice on the road. KFGO Radio taught me a term for this: "blow-ice." Whatever, it's slippery and a bit rough. The MACA fans who made the trip to St. John's Monday were a hardy bunch. They deserved to see a better game than what unfolded.
Is it possible the New London-Spicer coaching staff learned more from the February 26 game than the MACA coaches?
I could be blunt in describing how the Tigers began this contest in a sub-par way, but let me quote instead Rand Middleton of the Willmar newspaper: "The New London-Spicer Wildcats came out of their corner unleashing roundhouse rights to knock Morris/Chokio-Alberta out of the post-season on Monday night at Sexton Arena."
I would suggest the Wildcats threw a few good left punches also.
I'm not sure about the boxing analogy. I got criticized some in my print media career for turning to analogies a little too often. Our family dentist even criticized me publicly for this once, as part of a missive that suggested he had a little too much caffeine that morning. We changed dentists.
The Tigers were clearly on the canvas by halftime Monday. They were down 44-23, looking nothing like the team that played NL-Spicer into overtime on February 26.
Chad Schmeising is the NL-S coach. He was worried his team wouldn't be ready for a Monday game. What a totally unfounded worry. His squad made nine of 12 three-point tries and was 28 of 47 in total field goals. In freethrows: 11 of 18.
Aaron Ruter made four 3-pointers. Dreier came through with three and Brett Olson had two.
Ruter led the NL-S charge in scoring with 22 points.
Schmeising was quoted saying "it was a fun game for us."
The subdued MACA fans had to be concerned with making the long drive home after dark with roads at less than 100 per cent.
Coach Torgerson characterized the NL-S three-point attempts as "open." Why were they so open? He also said of the Wildcats "they out-hustled us." Why? Maybe the Tigers needed some caffeine.
"Credit them," Torgerson said of the victorious foe. Well, OK. But maybe MACA fans ought to wonder why their team's cause couldn't have been a little more inspired or sharp.
The Tigers executed well in fashioning a 19-7 season record coming into this night. According to the Willmar newspaper, NL-Spicer was just a .500 team (14-14) coming out of Monday. Can that be right?
I mustn't overlook the final score - it was 76-49. 
The 27-point difference is hard to fathom given the complexion of the game played on February 26. Sports fans always have the prerogative of speculating on the "why" of such things. In the past, I have gotten in some trouble by never completely excluding the coaching staff from such judgment. I'm not so aware of what the political complexion is like today, in 2013, regarding such things. Maybe it's OK in ol' Motown now. But I feel a little defensive.
I would argue "it's just sports." Why not just talk freely?
The Tigers conclude the season at 19-8. Some of the losses were to high-powered foes like Alexandria and Litchfield.
I'll repeat what I wrote a year or so ago on this site: MACA athletics are a fundamentally solid system. However, there seems to be a nagging problem with teams never able to surprise on the "up" side in post-season. The post-season almost seems anticlimactic. I assure you it isn't, for NL-Spicer who ended our girls season as well as the boys.
It would be nice to see some true "March madness" infuse Tiger athletics.
Apparently there are lots of seniors leaving the boys athletic scene after this year. This might have been "our year" to do something truly significant. Instead, I guess we just sort of marked time, at least judging by the tournaments. If the parents are happy, we should all be happy, I guess.
Keep in mind we have state of the art athletic facilities in ol' Motown.
Let's do our last stat report for 2012-13: The Tigers were just two of 21 in three-point shooting Monday. Wince. Jacob Torgerson had both of the makes. The Tigers were 19 of 62 in total field goals and nine of eleven in freethrows.
Nic Vipond led in scoring with 13 points. Logan Manska scored ten points and Austin Dierks eight. Torgerson and John Tiernan each added six points to the mix. Then we have Chandler Erickson with four and Tyler Henrichs with two. (Note: Thanks to coach Torgerson posting stats on Maxpreps, I'm able to correct an error from the West Central Tribune.)
Dierks led in rebounds with eight followed by Vipond with five. Erickson produced five assists. Manska and Tom Holland each had three steals.
The season is done. Let's look forward to a belated spring now, with no more "blow-ice."
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, March 11, 2013

Boys hum through first round of post-season

Hoops: Tigers 62, SJP 36
First-round high school playoff games can have a lopsided look. Not always, of course.
But the Tigers' first-round contest against St. John's Prep on 3/7, fell into the common pattern of a mismatch.
St. John's Prep gamely played the two halves but couldn't keep pace with the smoothly functioning Tigers under coach Mark Torgerson. It was MACA winning in the 62-36 final here at MAHS.
It was win No. 19 on the season for the orange and black. They're seeded No. 3 in Section 6AA-South. They'll take their 19-7 season record into a game tonight (Monday, March 11) that will undoubtedly present more of a challenge. Tonight's foe is New London-Spicer, the No. 2 seed.
MACA fell to the NL-Spicer Wildcats in regular season play, on 2/26 in overtime.
Fans at the local gym enjoyed seeing an array of strengths exhibited by their team in the win over St. John's Prep (SJP). Let's start with Logan Manska who was "in the zone" shooting from three-point range. My, was he ever. He made all five of his tries from three-point land! A crescendo of cheers followed each.
A weapon like this could make the difference tonight. Manska's three-pointers constituted his point total for the night: 15. He made all of the Tigers' 3's, a department where their numbers were five of eleven.
In total field goals, the team's 26-for-49 stats spelled a commanding picture. Freethrows, not so much, as the MACA numbers here were five of 16.
The rangy Austin Dierks certainly had his talents on display. Dierks had a double-double performance. He put in 19 points and collected 16 rebounds. Both stats were game-high.
The Tigers shot with over 50 per cent success - an optimistic sign to be sure going into tonight's 7 p.m. challenge which will be at St. John's. Why on a Monday? My oh my, the weather wasn't fit for man or beast Saturday. First there was rain which became ice. Then, a generous heavy and wet snowfall.
I checked the radio dial and found that apparently at least one prep game was in fact played Saturday, at our U of M-Morris. I certainly would not have recommended any travel for anyone from late Saturday afternoon through the evening. It's only sports. It's not worth taking such risks.
Tonight (Monday, 3/11) is semis night for our Tigers and the Wildcats.
MACA had the outcome sealed vs. SJP at halftime, up 31-14. Cruise control could take over.
Manska and Dierks spearheaded the MACA scoring with their 15 and 19 points respectively. Let's complete the list: Nic Vipond 8, Lincoln Berget 6, Jacob Torgerson 4, Chandler Erickson 4, John Tiernan 3, Marcus Cannon 2 and Beau Keimig 1.
Dierks' 16 rebounds made him the standout in that department. Berget collected seven and Vipond five. Erickson had four assists followed by Torgerson and Dierks each with three. Dierks blocked three shots.
St. John's Prep had a languishing look on the court on Thursday, but they've had their share of wins. They wrapped up their season with a 12-15 record.
R. J. Alpers of SJP had his moments Thursday, making three 3-pointers. Alex Kendall and Alex Abdella each made a '3' also. Alpers was team-high in scoring with 15 points.
St. John's Prep really went to the well in three-pointers. But they only made five of 24 tries. They languished in total field goals with 13 of 51 numbers.
 
Girls basketball: NL-S 73, Tigers 50
The MACA girls will have to be content with their 17 wins on the season - a very fine total.
Win No. 18 proved elusive. That's because they came up against the New London-Spicer Wildcats on Saturday, March 2, in the Section 6AA-South semis.
Things looked promising halfway through this one. The Tigers owned the lead 29-26 in this game played at St. John's. Could the orange and black hold on against this historically powerful program?
The Wildcats entered the night ranked eighth in state. By night's end, they showed how they had earned that lofty status. Coach Dale Henrich's proud orange and black crew tasted defeat in the 73-50 final.
As the numbers suggest, NL-Spicer owned the second half. Morris Area Chokio Alberta fans might have wanted to close their eyes. Whatever it was that worked for the Tigers in the first half, came to a grinding halt.
Olivia Setterberg finally got warmed up for the Wildcats. She scored all but two of her game-total 19 points in the second half, a half in which the Tigers were outscored 47-21. Setterberg was important but it was Taylor Thunstedt who really starred for the victor. Thunstedt was a terror offensively with her 34 points and nine assists.
Yes, the Wildcats are still coached by Mike Dreier.
(I remember Rick Lucken observing once that Dreier looked like he wore a toupee. Rick faked like he was going to sneak up from behind and pull it off. I haven't seen Mr. Dreier in many years. If he had real hair, it has receded now, like mine. And there's nothing wrong with wearing a toupee of course.)
The Tigers held their own with 3's on March 2. Led as always by Katie Holzheimer - five on this night - the team had a total of six successful 3's. Becca Holland had the other.
The Tigers were 18 of 58 in total field goals and eight of eleven in freethrows.
Holzheimer had the team-best total in points with 17. Beth Holland put in 12 points. Then we have MaKenzie Smith and Becca Holland each with seven points, Kaitlin Vogel with five and Nicole Strobel with two.
Smith grabbed six rebounds and Becca Holland five. Becca dished out three assists. Smith stole the ball three times.
The books are closed on the MACA girls' season with won-lost numbers of 17-10.
 
Wrestling: Metzger fifth in state
Connor Metzger of the MAHACA crew had a long road with several matches wrestled in the state tournament. All that work and persistence paid off with a fifth place medal finish. Congrats to grappler Metzger!
The 170-pounder began with a 9-4 decision over a Staples-Motley foe, Jordan Heldman. Then came a loss via technical fall, 17-2 at the hands of Nick Wanzek of Sibley.
Having lost, Connor would now have to take that extended road back to success. He had what it took, first beating Zach Gehloff of Waseca in a 5-3 decision. He then fought hard to edge Miles Hammerlund of Delano, 12-11. Then came another loss, 5-0 at the hands of Corben Hansen of Kasson-Mantorville.
Metzger capped off the whole experience in winning style, pinning Bobby Lee of Becker in 3:09, thus garnering fifth. Nice work.
Dillan Johnson also wrestled for MAHACA in state. Dillan started out fine, defeating Christian Wellens of Richfield 16-3 (a major). But the tables were turned in the second round as Johnson lost an 18-3 technical fall to Mason Brownlee of Tri City/Cleveland. Johnson reached the end of the road with an 11-2 major decision loss at the hands of Andy Jackson of South St. Paul.
A medal may have eluded Johnson but he had a terrific section tournament and season as a whole.
Viva Morris Area Hancock Chokio Alberta wrestling!
Now, can we finally get spring?
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Sports media work: evolution, pressures

I remember a critic of the Morris newspaper, when I was there, saying "why don't you take all the sports, put it in a separate publication, and then the people who want it can buy it."
I knew exactly where this person was coming from.
I remember a retired school administrator saying to me once "the only people who read the sports are parents who want to count the number of times Susie's name appears compared to Betsy's."
I must admit there was a hamster-in-a-treadmill feeling to it all. At a certain point in time we established what we felt were reasonable standards for sports coverage. Problem is, new programs get created like swimming and gymnastics, and hockey went from a sandlot type of sport to being completely legitimate for varsity purposes. The Lee Center totally transformed hockey.
There were people in the public school system who actually tried to resist hockey. How quaint: to think there were elements in our local educational apparatus who actually thought hockey could be resisted. It all came down to politics of course. There were enough people who wanted to see hockey become "big time," that they simply asserted themselves through the political channels.
And then the media had to respond by treating hockey as an equal.
This was fully logical. Nobody wants to slam the door on swimming or gymnastics either. I remember when swimming was a peripheral sport - sort of ragtag. Finally the push came for varsity status. I remember Rick Lucken shaking his head about what varsity swimming would mean for the powers that be: "another non-revenue sport!"
Girls hockey got established along with boys. Any notion that sports was a male bastion in any way, shape or form came crashing down. You're surprised there was a time when it was? Well, you're maybe 20 years younger than me.
All of these thoughts are not to suggest that the proliferation of serious youth sports was any sort of questionable thing. It's not for me to decide anyway. Parents assert themselves through the legitimate political channels. Eventually they decided they didn't care what certain teachers thought about it. The teachers could just do their job as laid down by the authorities. And shut up.
I remember setting up a pretty nice system for covering UMM men's basketball, interviewing the very gregarious and friendly Perry Ford. All that was fine and dandy, but guess what? The phone rang with demands for total equality for the women's program. In principle this was totally legitimate. But even back when the newspaper was twice a week, we had limited space.
And there was the obvious question of how much sports coverage the general reader, i.e. non-sports parent, would want to receive (and pay for) each week. In the final analysis, sports coverage wasn't really a service. Rather it was a sop to the crazy quilt of self-interested sports boosters out there. The programs themselves were fine. The expectations imposed on the media were not so fine or reasonable.
And of course the pressure could be vented in the most emotional of ways. Our family had to change dentists.
There was a time when the Morris newspaper was expected to provide a certain amount of coverage for the non-Morris high schools in the area. This was always a thorny issue.
I always flirted with the idea of trying to press for a Morris-only sports section. Perhaps the biggest obstacle to this was non-Morris sports parents being on the newspaper staff. Looking back, one of the biggest mysteries I see about the Morris newspaper is why there weren't more Morris school parents on the staff. I wish we could have had some nice, passive, non-assertive and non-emotional Morris school/sports parents on the Sun Tribune staff, who would just send their kids through the programs and shut up. I mean parents like Barb Lienemann (toward the end).
It wasn't to be.
For many years, to the extent we covered UMM sports at all, I had to go out and get it. I had a basic zest for my work so I pursued it even if I knew there'd be imperfections. Boiled down: We couldn't be all things to all people.
This was in the pre-Internet (pre-historic?) age when the print media had the kind of primacy it thought it would always have. The print media were like a beacon bestowing attention. It was a totally unreasonable burden. And the general interest reader got turned off. I can't blame them.
"Why don't you take all the sports, put it in a separate publication, and then the people who want it can buy it."
If we had it to do over again, maybe. . .
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, March 4, 2013

Boys wrap up regular season with road win

Tigers 55, Benson 42
It was a night of taking care of business for the Morris Area Chokio Alberta boys Friday (3/1). While the MACA girls were underway with their post-season play, the boys were wrapping up regular season business.
Now the Tigers under coach Mark Torgerson are rolling up their sleeves for the next chapter. It's March so guess what that means? Yes, it means we can hope for the temperature to crawl up a bit. (As I get older I seem to savor this transition more.)
Click on the permalink below to read about Katie Holzheimer's three freethrows at the end to bring victory for the MACA girls in their post-season debut. Also included in this post: a review of the MACA boys' loss to NL-Spicer on 2/26; and a re-cap of the girls' setback vs. Sauk Centre on 2/23. This post is on my companion website, "Morris of Course." Thanks for reading. - B.W.
 
Boys appear in sync
March spells the climax for prep sports. The Tigers have their goals set high. They affirmed those high goals with how they performed Friday. They visited Benson and came away with a 55-42 win. They outscored the Braves 26-20 in the first half.
Logan Manska showed a sharp eye shooting the ball from long distance. If he can stay in this kind of groove, the Tigers' stock for post-season will undoubtedly be high. Manska connected four times from three-point range. The success lifted him to the team-best position in points scored. His 15 points made him the only double figures scorer. Chandler Erickson had the other three-pointer as MACA put up five of 18 numbers in that department.
The Tigers were 21 of 52 in total field goals. In freethrows they were eight of 15.
Austin Dierks scored nine points and collected a team-best seven rebounds. Jacob Torgerson and Erickson each had two assists. Dierks stole the ball four times.
Benson had a rough night at the freethrow line with one of seven numbers. Colin Ose was Benson's leading scorer with 15 points. He was one of three Braves making a three-pointer, joined by Aaron Ahrndt and Tyler Krienke. Ose had eight rebounds and Ahrndt had four assists.
Let's complete the MACA scoring list. Behind Manska and Dierks we had three Tigers each with six points: Nic Vipond, Lincoln Berget and John Tiernan. Torgerson added five points to the mix. Erickson and Tyler Henrichs each scored three points and Dillon McNally had two.
Bring on the tournament!
 
Wrestling: Two Tigers earn state
Wrestling has come to the forefront recently with the section and state tournaments - always riveting affairs. There's something unique about a high-level wrestling tournament. You can forget all your problems and the weather outside as you take in all the action. Time can seem suspended.
The destination was Redwood Valley for the Tiger wrestlers for section-time. Dillan Johnson shone by surpassing his No. 3-seeded position at his weight. Making the top two is what vaults you into state.
Dillan edged up, not to No. 2 but to No. 1! Yes, he was the section champion at 138 pounds.
Meanwhile teammate Connor Metzger was carving out his own state meet qualification. In the process, Connor had to deal with a "true second" match. He survived that challenge to finish No. 2 and earn that state berth.
Alas, there were two other Tigers who didn't fare so well in their true second matches. They came within a hair's breadth of state but were denied. These student athletes: Travis Ostby, the 132-pounder; and Joel Harrison who vied at 220 (the "big guy").
Eight Tigers total earned place finishes in section.
Dillan Johnson's success came as no surprise to the coaching braintrust. Coaches could see this grappler was "having things come together" for the post-season. Dillan began by beating a Fulda-Murry County Central foe, by pin. Next his foe was Kirby Winson of Quad County, who had beaten him previously. Dillan turned the tables in overtime.
Now the finals have arrived for Dillan. He triumphed vs. the No. 1 seed, name of Hunter Heitkamp of Adrian.
Connor Metzger began his section conquests seeded No. 2. First he beat a Fairmont-Martin County West foe, pin-style. The semis saw Metzger win by major decision over a Worthington foe. The finals matched Connor against top-seeded Jesse Slater of Adrian. Connor was defeated.
Connor then faced a Lac qui Parle Valley foe in the critical "true second" match. Metzger beat Joe Weeding in a 9-3 decision.
Travis Ostby lost his true second match but he's a freshman who can contemplate many more wrestling pursuits. "Big guy" Joel Harrison isn't so fortunate as he's an MAHACA senior. (These cumbersome initials stand for "Morris Area Hancock Chokio Alberta." I hope it's not pronounced "mahaca.")
The other place winners for the Tigers were: Mitchell Ascheman (sixth), Evan Nelson (fourth), Myles Smith (fourth) and Seth Nelson (fifth). Other Tigers seeing action on the mat were: Matthew Munsterman, Philip Messner, Jerid Berning, Matt Vinson, Alec Gausman and Jacob Sperr.
By coincidence, I watched the great wrestling movie "Win Win" last night (Sunday). I checked out the DVD. I recommend it to all. The actor playing the wrestling hero is so genuine. The movie captures the flavor of youth and high school wrestling wonderfully. "Three thumbs up."
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com