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

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Friday, August 30, 2013

Weather's vagaries visited our old "Met"

The story of Wally Hilgenberg as a Minnesota Viking ended up wholly sad.
It's not because of the four Super Bowls the Vikings lost. Those are immaterial in the scheme of things.
Hilgenberg left this life with health issues that were almost certainly the result of football's physical toll. Such sadness.
Hilgenberg, who was probably never aware of the consequences of head trauma, or not adequately attentive to it, gave us a vignette as a player that is endearing. It didn't have to do with any hits he dealt out (or took) as a football player. It had to do with dealing with the elements - a huge factor back in the days when the Vikings played at Metropolitan Stadium.
Indeed, the '60s and '70s were a wholly distinct era in Minnesota pro football history. Playing outdoors was quite the different matter from playing in the Metrodome. We easily get nostalgic. Which is easy to feel, as long as we're not standing along one of those bleacher rows trying desperately to stay warm. As long as our toes aren't feeling brittle.
We can smile now about the lengths to which linebacker Hilgenberg, a card-carrying "purple people" defender, sought to fight off the effects of cold. The date was December 4, 1977. I was a junior in college. The Vikings were matched against San Francisco. The thermometer said 15 degrees.
Cold winds blew light snow over our beloved old "Met" (Bloomington). Our coach in those days: Bud Grant, a pillar of a man, stoic and with solid basic values. Part of his reputation was his belief we ought to face the elements with a minimum of special aids. So, no electronic heaters.
Grant was quoted after a December game in 1972: "You can't call this cold. We played games in Winnipeg when it was 20 below." That has to be an exaggeration, the way parents (according to popular lore) used to exaggerate about all the adversity walking to and from school when kids.
But surely Winnipeg gets cold. As does the Bloomington prairie, where Metropolitan Stadium sat like a castle for about 20 years. Moving indoors to the Dome was one of the biggest transformations you could imagine. We went from incredible vagaries in weather to none at all. We could host the Super Bowl in winter.
Hilgenberg skirted Grant's rules on December 4, 1977, when he "smuggled" to his bench spot a 15-pound rock that he had heated in a sauna. He covered the rock with a towel to protect it against the wind. Joe Soucheray observed: "That was as sophisticated as the Vikings ever got when it came to sideline heating."
The Vikings beat the 49ers 28-27.
Coach Grant gave his "Winnipeg" quote after the game that was probably the coldest in the Met's history. I was a senior in high school at Morris High when Hilgenberg and his mates hosted the Chicago Bears on December 3, 1972. The temperature at kickoff time was two degrees below zero. A wind blew out of the north at 11 MPH. The wind chill factor (something I hate): -26.
Oh, we loved the Vikings in those days, so nearly 50,000 hardy fans turned out to watch. The footing was solid. Clear conditions offset a wee bit of the misery. The Vikings won 23-10 with just one offensive touchdown, scored by John Henderson.
The Bears had just two completed passes against Minnesota's "purple people." The Bears had a net gain of one yard via passing. Their quarterback was Bobby Douglass - remember him? He was quite the run-oriented quarterback (big more than fast), rather ungainly when trying to put the ball in the air.
You can imagine football fans all across the U.S. getting the impression that Minnesota was some sort of miserable extension of the Yukon. That was indeed a problem of the old Met - a public relations problem, not to be sneezed at.
A hint of irritation would emanate from broadcasters' voices when they announced they were coming here soon to broadcast a game. I remember a good example with Johnny Unitas, then a color analyst.
Hub Meeds was the Vikings mascot then and he enhanced our remote image with his primitive Vikings garb. I always laughed when John Madden and Pat Summerall acknowledged the mascot's presence along the sidelines. They always did so with hints that maybe the shaggy-appearing soul had issues with hygiene and odor.
"When was the last time he had a bath?" one would ask. The other responded: "No one's ever gotten close enough to find out."
Madden and Summerall had chemistry like Carson and McMahon, Laurel and Hardy or Martin and Lewis. The dry, laid-back and serious Summerall would set up Madden for his wry observations and humor.
The Vikings game on December 3, 1961 (the Vikes' first year) had drizzle and fog. The Vikings beat Los Angeles 42-21.
In October of 1965, a game was re-scheduled to Saturday night to accommodate the Minnesota Twins who were playing in the World Series. So the Vikings played the New York Giants on Saturday night, Oct. 9, 1965, amidst chilly, damp and foggy conditions. The Vikings won 40-14.
The vagaries of weather were displayed for an exhibition game on August 22, 1976, when fans dealt with hazy and muggy conditions and a temperature of 88 degrees. This was receiver Sammy White's breakout game. He and Fran Tarkenton worked together like a well-oiled machine as Minnesota won 23-17 over Cincinnati.
White was a second round draft choice out of Grambling. Vikings fans came to love him, but I felt it was rather sad he couldn't handle himself better in front of a camera or doing an interview. I think players get special training on that today.
I could tell stories about games with snow too. It was quite the adventure following big-time sports at the Met. The atmosphere hasn't been duplicated by any other sports venue since. It was called "Metropolitan" but the atmosphere was very much detached and almost pastoral. It was surrounded by a vast parking lot. Today people would be locating their cars by pushing a button on their "fobs" all over the place.
You had to be sharp mentally back then, about a lot of things in fact, 'cause we didn't have all the tech assets. Those were "analog days." Somehow we got by.
The Vikings lost four Super Bowls in that era. If only we could remember the league championship games as well as the Super Bowls. But that's not how us Americans are. We salivate over "number one" and shrug about lesser steps in the ladder, don't we?
Older and wiser, and now we care much more about the health of all the players who don the helmets in the questionable gladiatorial sport. Wally Hilgenberg, RIP.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, August 26, 2013

Memo to Wilfs: attend church potluck, repent

MPR photo of Zygi Wilf
We used to joke at McDonald's about the frequency of stadium-related headlines. Glen Helberg was still alive in those days. We miss him. He's laughing from heaven now, I suspect, at how the Vikings stadium continues to be foisted in front of us via Star Tribune headlines.
Is the stadium such an august matter that it needs such continuous attention? Shouldn't the subject begin to weigh on our collective conscience?
I mean, are the demands of Minnesota's pro football team, owned by out-of-state interests, so pressing and paramount in our lives that those people seem to have us doing a dance? Are we willing to be extorted simply because we cannot live without pro football? Is it that bad? Are we that sick?
Day after day the headlines continue. Now we're past the phase where the stadium is actually being "sold." We bit on that one. The new palace is sort of official. It's vital to know, however, that technically we can still get out of it. I hope that feature is getting more and more impressed on people's minds.
Already the groundbreaking is pushed to November.
I hope it can be a groundbreaking like those fabled groundbreakings in Little Falls many years ago, for about three institutions (one a horse racing track), none of which ever got built. Perhaps there could be a billboard just outside of town: "Welcome to Little Falls, home of calamitous groundbreakings."
The Vikings stadium appears to be on less than firm footing now. A further delay could come about if the team doesn't quickly resume negotiations on a lease and development agreements. We learned Friday (8/23) that the team "unexpectedly" broke off negotiations during the week.
November is the target month for spades to get turned and efforts to get humming. Even then, we won't see our pro football team play there until 2016. By then, your plasma TV might be obsolete. (Question: What is the difference between plasma TVs, LED TVs and "smart" TVs? I'm age 58 and not "smart" enough to know. When I was a kid, we turned on the TV, selected a channel with a knob and just sat down and watched. High-def? Sometimes we'd be content watching a certain channel under some "snow" on the screen. If kids of today only knew.)
 
NFL talks, we listen
No entertainment product is worth the kind of leverage these NFL owners have come to have. The NFL has become a huge money pit. It is attracting into its ranks of owners the kind of people who will stop at nothing to build their personal pile of money.
We are learning this in spades with the current mess in which our absentee owners find themselves. It is that mess which is yielding the current new stream of headlines in our Strib. I wish Mr. Helberg was here to comment on it.
I'd like to hear his comments on the tearing down of our old school in Morris too. I haven't seen any benefits for the city yet, just cost. And how the heck did that old wreck of a building and all that empty property fall into the lap of the city? Why couldn't we have voted on the funds for demolition at the same time we voted on the new (Cadillac) school?
The new Vikings stadium is certainly a Cadillac. How did we get here? How have we lost our ability to show some good old-fashioned skepticism? The powers-that-be sort of just skipped right over us. Now that there's wreckage, we seem to feel some concern and annoyance, but why can't we be more rational and assertive?
 
Let's examine "product" of football
Football is an entertainment product. The entertainment business is fickle.
A product that dazzles us one day becomes passe the next. Why do you think popular songs move up and down the "Top 40" chart? I attended a workshop in Moorhead once where this was explained to us by a music industry professional. Oh, they have us all figured out.
With the NFL, they're going to the well as often as they can while their product is still "hot."
What could make it less hot? You mean you're not aware this could happen? Saturation of the product is a real spectre. Advances in television technology have been staggering. As kids we couldn't have imagined these personal satellite dishes.
Troy Aikman has sounded the alarm about saturation as a problem for football. OK, need a primer? The reason all the movers and shakers in big media and entertainment wanted to push SOPA and PIPA through - remember that? - was their knowledge of how scarcity (or the perception of it) was an underpinning of entertainment business success.
In other words, if you have to drive all the way to the Twin Cities to see a movie like "The Exorcist" (as I did, at the Gopher Theater, in about 1973), the movie must be a huge attraction. Not so much if it opens at every theater in the country.
When I was in high school, Monday night football was a big event. We'd get goosebumps just listening to the opening theme. Ask Del Sarlette, he'll confirm that.
"And. . .take tape."
Then we'd hear the theme music.
Today, there might be as many as three NFL games available for viewing on the first Monday of the season, back-to-back, the last one from the west coast.
Oh, we love football but there is a limit to how much we'll love anything. We may not know it yet. Slowly we'll get less mesmerized by televised football. The networks might get tired of paying huge broadcast rights fees. They'll latch on to any alternative they think could become a new fad.
The bigger they come, the harder they fall. The goose that laid the golden egg has a lifespan (maybe).
Television made NFL football in the mid-1960s, when technology advanced to where we could really appreciate the sport on the screen. We had the AFL back then too. Then the merger occurred.
The Vikings lost four Super Bowls. We felt hurt but we didn't lose our addiction.
Today the NFL championship, i.e. Super Bowl victory, looms like some sort of Holy Grail for Vikings fans. We march like lemmings behind Governor Mark Dayton, whose eyes seem absolutely glazed over by his enthusiasm for getting that new Taj Mahal stadium. He has groveled at the feet, sort of, of Zygmunt (Zygi) Wilf, Zygi's brother Mark and cousin Leonard.
Couldn't these three at least pretend to be a little Minnesotan? Why not attend some potlucks at church basements? Bring some red Jello.
Seriously, why don't these guys at least attempt a little serious PR? Find the nearest TV camera and try connecting with us like Richard Nixon did in his "Checkers" speech. "Oh, I know you all think we're just a bunch of crooks, but. . .well, we are." (To clarify, the Wilfs' problems are civil rather than criminal, but the judge's biting words hardly paint of picture of choirboys.)
Maybe the owners could present themselves as charming ne-er do wells. After all, we apparently love movies about mobsters. The Wilfs are falling down because of their background (in New Jersey).
Our state of Minnesota has fallen down too. Dayton needs to rip off his purple jersey and realize he's involved in a steely serious business matter with real schemers across the table from him. Forget about the football on the field. That has no pertinence now. It's almost an afterthought.
The state has failed, embarrassingly so, in putting forth electronic pulltabs. It's embarrassing on the face of it to turn to gambling. When I was a kid, we had serious moral reservations about gambling. We grudgingly gave a pass to the Catholic Church and their basement bingo.
Electronic pulltabs failed for the stadium. These funds were supposed to cover the state's portion of the financing.
I'm reminded of when Top Rank Boxing attempted to buy the Minnesota Timberwolves. They stated that "X" amount of the funds would come from a certain source (apparently in the ether), "Y" from another, etc. My old boss Jim Morrison shook his head and said "junk bonds."
Top Rank came close. So close that Connie Chung, who was then the co-anchor of the CBS Evening News, reported as fact that the transaction was complete and the Timberwolves would be "playing next year in New Orleans." Yes she did. CBS did. Dan Rather by extension did. I want Minnesotans to remember this little piece of history.
My old friend Jim McRoberts says "figures lie and liars figure."
Am I being too hostile tossing around a word like "liars?" If you think that's a strong word, you should read what Judge Deanne Wilson out in the Garden State has said about the Wilfs. And these are our NFL owners.
The owner of the Cleveland Browns is in a similar mess. No matter how that turns out, Jimmy Haslam III has lots of depositions in his future - what fun.
Will we get the full truth on the Wilfs? The Sports Facilities Authority has launched a belated investigation. The state has turned to that proverbial "law firm" - I don't think they work for nothing - and a "forensic accounting firm" to try to come to the rescue, to at least protect the state's interests. They'll cast an eye on the New Jersey cases and review the NFL owner application.
Will the Wilfs be required to open their books? Who pays for all this investigating? The Sports Facilities Authority says the Wilfs will. Ah, but the Wilfs have not yet said they will. What a tangled web we weave.
If the Wilfs renege on anything, could the state sue the NFL?
Most likely the NFL didn't vet the Wilfs properly in 2005. Doesn't this make you wish Tom Clancy had become our owner? A man of letters as owner of our pro football team. It wasn't to be.
How do we know the Wilfs will really put the $477 million they've pledged into the stadium? Is this Top Rank Boxing redux? I guess they'll get $50-60 million from seat licenses. Plus, $20 million a year for 20 years for naming rights. (I have joked that Marshall Fields should get the name nod, so we could call the place "Marshall Fields Field.")
The NFL pledges a $50 million grant and a loan of as much as $150 million.
Alas, even if these building blocks come to pass, there's a heckuva hole to fill.
The Wilfs could borrow? After the lawsuit mess and Judge Wilson's excoriating words, might bankers be reluctant?
If a loan becomes elusive, they of course could sell some of their shopping centers and apartment buildings. Would they be OK with that? I'm sure their aim is to build their empire and not to compromise any part of it. There's no point in robbing Peter to pay Paul.
I don't think the Wilfs are in the NFL for the love of the game. Love of the game? It's an absurd proposition. This is a "game" which, at the pro level, has huge bodies accelerating with great speed like missiles into each other, rendering these souls in many cases shells of their former selves after they've been retired a while. They might forget their own name or have to wear adult diapers.
So, I don't feel one ounce of romance about it. The owners pretend to, but I think they just have dollar signs in their eyes.
Shouldn't someone in our state government have known about the Wilfs' New Jersey suit? And if someone did know, why couldn't this have been broached when the legislature was debating the stadium deal last year? Hoo boy. What a tangled web we weave.
When e-pulltabs went down as a flaming wreckage, the legislature "patched that up" with a corporate tax that should produce $20 million a year.
Again, are we hopeless lemmings? Of course we can institute new taxes to pay for anything we want. But that wasn't the idea with the new stadium. We were supposed to extract the money from gamblers (a regressive tax of course). Now it's $20 million a year from a new corporate tax.
Of course, as a child could plainly see, that tax money could go to the general fund to help benefit the state's general welfare. Don't our streets, highways and bridges need attention?
Now we're supposed to trust a wheeler-dealer family from New Jersey that has been found by a judge to have committed fraud, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty; and violated New Jersey's civil racketeering statute. The Wilf enterprises could be on the hook for $100 million or so. Zygi's total fortune is estimated to be $310 million.
Judge Wilson has used the word "evil." And these are our owners. My advice to them: find the nearest church basement potluck, relax and repent. You're in Minnesota.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, August 23, 2013

"Sgt. Rock" gave illusory impression of war

War and entertainment: perverse association
General Sherman didn't exactly say "war is hell." It's a paraphrase.
Great quotes were never thought up as such, at least not the ones that were spoken spontaneously. This was pointed out by a reviewer of the Civil War movie "Gods and Generals." There are lines in that movie spoken as if the person wanted to get into Bartlett's. Reality isn't quite like that.
Another reviewer who happens to be the late Roger Ebert, described "Gods and Generals" as "nostalgic" about the U.S. Civil War. The flick was supposed to appeal to Civil War buffs who already knew all the "good lines." An example is "There stands Jackson like a stone wall" (the reference being to Stonewall Jackson).
Ebert liked the movie "Gettysburg" but not "Gods and Generals." Many of the same creative people were involved. The "Gods" movie was the second one and it was oddly devoid of inspiration. It pulled certain levers to remind us it was all about the Civil War. It went out of its way to try to show us the Confederates weren't all bad. That crossed a Hollywood line.
Hollywood has historically suggested that many of the Confederate leaders were valiant and fundamentally good people, who were just products of their culture. And, victims of destiny. Defeat was always in the cards for those people.
So, "Gods and Generals" comes out, a movie best described as turgid, and it tells us not only that the Confederacy likely had virtues, but there's a nostalgic sort of sheen over the grand conflict - absurd on the face of it.
Let me tell you, if you could actually smell a group of these Civil War soldiers, you wouldn't feel any nostalgia.
 
"Sgt. Rock" amidst WWII carnage
World War II also generated its odd sense of nostalgia, although we outgrew it. As a child I read the "Sgt. Rock" comic book.
The 1960s were a time when we weren't disturbed so much by war imagery. It helped that much of that imagery was sanitized. When the Eddie Albert character gets killed at the end of the movie "The Longest Day," there is no blood or suffering. He performs a nice "death" in which he simply falls to the ground.
The real WWII veterans might have corrected that imagery. Those gallant members of The Greatest Generation just seemed to shrug and stay quiet. Oh, it was a basic part of their nature (to be temperate and enabling).
It helped that the U.S. was on the winning side of what has been called "the good war." Let the kids have their myths about war, they may have reasoned. Well, they sure did. They saw us kids consume comic books like "Sgt. Rock," which, if you were real impressionable, might make you want to sign up for military service.
The story of Sgt. Rock had him growing up amidst much misery. He lost three fathers in his youth! His siblings had a litany of misfortune. Maybe the subtle message here is that a great warrior understands the hard knocks of life. Maybe you join the military because "things can't get any worse." So maybe you have "nothing to lose."
Us comic book consumers maybe could have surmised we could set higher standards for ourselves. We were kids and so we just rooted for Franklin John Rock to kill the enemy. He became known as the iconic war comic hero, truly hard as nails as a non-commissioned infantry officer. He led the "Easy Company" in the European theater, after starting out in North Africa. He was promoted to assistant squad leader when his superiors were killed.
Later he became squad leader and eventually sergeant, the latter rank coming after he held Easy Company's position on a hill despite a German onslaught that killed his comrades. He later turned down promotion to stay on the battlefield. He and his company had a propensity to find their way to the thick of the battlefield.
I'm reminded of the movie "Gettysburg" in which the Chamberlain character, played by Jeff Daniels, is told on the morning of day #3, after a hellish struggle on day #2, that his Maine unit would get a respite as they'd be positioned at "the middle of the Union line" which was deemed "the safest place on the battlefield." Of course, General Lee was drawing up plans for day #3 that would have the Confederates concentrating all their forces trying to penetrate that middle! What absolute folly.
Day #3 was a hellish bloodbath in which the Confederates were stymied.
The idea in those days was to send a massed force toward an entrenched position, knowing you'd lose a certain high percentage of troops, but enough would get through to "get" the enemy. It was always a very sad strategy, but never more so than in the U.S. Civil War where the development of the rifled gun (as opposed to smoothbore) made defensive positions much more effective.
General Longstreet absolutely implored Lee on trying to get Confederate forces in a defensive position at Gettysburg. Legend has it Lee wasn't listening. Lee wasn't full-go with his health.
Nostalgia about the Civil War? It's hard to court when you think of Lee's crippling diarrhea at the time of Gettysburg - a common affliction at the time, when culinary standards were obviously minimal (e.g. rancid bacon).
Nostalgia also isn't compatible with the way your typical Civil War troops smelled. Nostalgia is felt by those who have the comfortable luxury of detachment in time from the events.
A common objective of so-called Civil War "buffs" is to get in the heads of the Civil War soldiers, trying to understand why they were willing to do this. I have always felt we just can't accomplish this. It's too hard for us today to relate to the day-to-day life and travails of the mid-19th Century.
We study the Civil War knowing we can't truly relate to the hardships of that time, whether on the military or civilian fronts.
I once subscribed to "America's Civil War" magazine. I always grab an old copy for when I dine at Pizza Hut. I may have a reputation there for doing this (and also wearing my reading glasses).
 
War myths overcome by reality
I once ordered a book from Edward Hamilton Bookseller called "The End of Victory Culture: Cold War America and the Disillusioning of a Generation." That's me there in that generation. The book is wholly consistent with the points I'm trying to make in this post. The myths and nostalgia about WWII, embraced in the 1960s, went through a steady and sad deconstruction.
"Sad," yes, but it brought us into the realm of reality, underscored with finality when the movie "Saving Private Ryan" came out. We would have been aghast at the "Ryan" movie (Tom Hanks) in the 1960s. We wanted to see a triumph like when our favorite football team wins. "The Longest Day" with John Wayne certainly gave us that.
Wayne acted again for "The Green Berets" but his magic couldn't make that war (Viet Nam) palatable. Viet Nam brought the process of deconstruction squarely into the forefront.
"The End of Victory Culture" is a book that is an autopsy of a once-vital American myth, the cherished belief that triumph over a less-than-human enemy was in the American grain, a birthright and a national destiny. The deconstruction began with Hiroshima. Viet Nam awakened my generation to the staggering tragedy of war, how it is senseless to weave any myths from it.
But surely there were myths in the 1960s, eagerly ingested by all too many of the teeming boomer boys. Yes, it was a male phenomenon. Can you imagine girls being fans of "Sgt. Rock?"
We had the "Combat!" TV show which aired at the height of the mythology, from 1962 to 1967. The exclamation point was presented as a bayonet! We saw the grim lives of a squad of American soldiers fighting the Germans in France. Rick Jason starred as platoon leader 2nd Lt. Gil Haney, and Vic Morrow as Sgt. "Chip" Saunders. This was TV's longest-running World War II drama: 152 hour-long episodes. The last season was "in color."
Guest stars of significance passed through, several of whom hadn't gained fame yet (like Ted Knight and Frank Gorshin).
Many boys my age played with WWII-inspired toys. An example might be a plastic hand grenade operating on "caps" (as used with "cap guns"). I remember TV commercials for a board game called "Hit the Beach." Can you imagine? Can you imagine a game like this being palatable after "Saving Private Ryan?" But back then it was the days when the "Victory Culture" mythology circulated, and WWII veterans apparently chose to stay quiet. WWII vets stayed quiet about a lot of things, including the misbehavior of their kids.
"Hit the Beach" was a WWII Pacific campaign game. Players are in a race with each other to reach the final objective: the main Japanese headquarters. The Japanese defense forces, made up of 14 gamepieces, are obstacles for all players. Hoo boy, each player has six pieces: two Marines, two infantry, one Naval landing support ship and one strategic air support aircraft.
Imagine, all this sobering stuff as part of a board game. And all the while we're reading "Sgt. Rock."
Viet Nam brought all this imagery down to the miserable level where it belongs. CNN's Wolf Blitzer says as part of his objective reporting that Viet Nam was a war that "America lost." NBC's Brian Williams reported objectively that Viet Nam was "a colossal mistake" by the U.S. The architect was a fellow named McNamara, once described by JFK as "the smartest man I ever met."
I have heard the same kind of compliment directed at Ben Bernanke, head of our Federal Reserve. Heaven help our economy.
"War is hell," as General Sherman once said, albeit in a paraphrase. Movies and comic books are odd places to acknowledge it.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, August 19, 2013

Movies have trouble with The Brothers Grimm

Once upon a time. . .I attended movies at our Morris Theater when it was privately owned. For a time I attended a movie a week, largely because it seemed therapeutic, never mind if they all didn't pass muster in terms of quality.
I remember seeing "The Brothers Grimm" in 2005. I went knowing the movie hadn't won any special acclaim.
I held my expectations down. But then I reasoned: how could a movie based upon Grimm fairy tales be bad? The stories were such a treasure trove of imagination and mystery.
The moviemakers weren't to be faulted on complexity of plot. Truly they rolled up their sleeves in this regard. But this, alas, happened to be part of the problem. Either the story was too complicated to be followed easily, or at the midway point I just didn't care enough to keep following it.
Terry Gilliam was the chief creative mind. He gives us an exaggerated and fictitious portrait of The Brothers Grimm as traveling con artists in French-occupied Germany during the early 19th Century. The film was shot entirely in the Czech Republic.
I was hoping the movie would at least give us a wondrous glimmer of the magical and often eerie storytelling.
Had the movie somehow incorporated this, unimpeded by Gilliam's intent to weave something new, I might have left feeling delight. I might have walked out across East 6th Street with my mind still fixated on that distinctive genre of storytelling. It's a genre that many of my generation were exposed to in elementary school. I'm not sure it's still taught today. Maybe there are political correctness obstacles.
Robert Ebert described the movie as "an invention without pattern, chasing itself around the screen without finding a plot."
Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm created a transcendent franchise of literature. Ebert says the movies have never really been able to capture key qualities. Ebert cites the "eerie" quality of the original. Indeed that word seems to say it all.
The stories can be scary and disturbing in a way that can really get into your head. This happens in a way that has nothing in common with seeing a slasher movie. Much is left to the imagination. The Big Bad Wolf grows into a truly lurking menace as you read that story.
It's interesting that Hollywood with its genius in giving us "the dream factory" can't really latch onto The Brothers Grimm. I guess it's a testament to printed literature.
A San Francisco Chronicle writer said of the movie: "Will and Jake Grimm are two guys in the woods, surrounded by computerized animals, putting audiences to sleep all over America."
I have a theory about the movie's shortcomings. Hollywood hesitates to present good and bad as absolutes and with no shades of gray. "Heroes" must be shown in movies as people having faults. It's a trait of much of the creative world, to affirm that people are a mystifying combination of good and bad.
Often movies go out of their way showing us how good people have a dark side. Boomers of my vintage learned in our formative years that the president of the U.S. could be a crook. That crook left office in 1974. It was my freshman year of college. We could have forgiven an awful lot if he had expedited our departure from Viet Nam. That historical chapter reached its denouement like a disturbing fairy tale.
Whatever suffering happened in fairy tales - and there was a lot - we also had an unobstructed view of virtue and evil. Indeed, this seems the whole point. Virtue is rewarded and misbehavior punished.
Boomers can remember when TV westerns were crafted in much the same way. Hey! We never realized that Chuck Connors as "The Rifleman" goes down in storytelling annals in league with Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin and The Frog Prince.
Remember the character "Johnny" intoning "Rapunzel!" in "Airplane?" Such is the staying power of the Grimm stories in our minds. Such references are readily grasped.
TV westerns through the 1960s tended to be one-dimensional, usually without sub-plots, and we know the climax will come with clear understanding of good and bad - good guys and scoundrels. Part of that code was the "black hat" associated with the scoundrels. Nuance was rare.
"Ben Cartwright" was a pillar and patriarch (and any other noble-sounding term you can come up with).
Ironically, Lorne Greene had previously played characters not so virtuous! He was the coward in the movie about Andrew Jackson (Charlton Heston) and the Battle of New Orleans. He was the city father who wished to avoid conflict and essentially capitulate. Oh, and it's even worse in the movie "Peyton Place" in which Greene was the bad guy lawyer, casting aspersions on the female defendant who had been raped.
But Greene, professional actor that he was, was about to do a turnaround for "Bonanza." He was every male boomer's father!
The late iconic reviewer Ebert indicts "The Brothers Grimm" on its moral vagueness. (I have found myself recently trying to call up an Ebert review of a current movie, only to suddenly realize he has left us for that theater in the sky. I'm sure others have had the same experience. It was a knee-jerk thing to do, to look for an Ebert review. I wonder what he'd say about "the Lone Ranger," the bomb of the summer of 2013.)
It's pertinent that I bring up "The Lone Ranger." Speaking (as we are) of shifting moral sands, we seem to have that problem with the Armie Hammer character. The original Lone Ranger was one-dimensional in his goodness, to the point of some caricature. But that was the whole idea. It worked for its time.
Simplicity seemed essential in TV's earliest days. As time progressed, storylines and characters became more sophisticated and complicated. Bringing The Lone Ranger back in 2013 just doesn't seem practical.
Young moviegoers of today don't endorse any sort of strict code for identifying qualities like virtue. Would we be better off if they did? Interesting question.
Ebert wrote that the strict code is "lacking in the movie (of The Brothers Grimm)."
We see Jacob and Wilhelm, played by Heath Ledger and Matt Damon, respectively, in one moment liars and charlatans, in another brave and true. Ultimately "the movie fails to engage our imagination," Ebert wrote.
Let's truly appreciate the real Brothers Grimm and their niche in world literature. Let's put aside that life in early 19th Century Europe was a real bummer. The storytelling is a wellspring of intrigue and imagination.
W.H. Auden praised the story collection as "one of the founding works of Western culture." Auden made the comment during World War II when the Grimms unfortunately picked up another ally: Adolph Hitler. We learn that the German despot "praised the folkish tales showing children with sound racial instincts seeking racially pure marriage partners."
The Grimms' body of work survived this historical black mark.
Jacob and Wilhelm were patriots who wanted to preserve German folk tales. These they collected as a way to serve up life as generations of central Europeans knew it. Reading the stories underscores the obvious: Life in that time was capricious and often cruel.
Misery indeed comes through in Terry Gilliam's 2005 movie. but it's not in a context that ultimately leaves you feeling satisfied that justice was done and goodness prevails. It's just misery and it's disturbing. The real Grimm brothers wouldn't have wanted their stories to leave such a taste.
There were 86 stories in the Grimms' first edition, published in 1812. Several more editions followed. All were extensively illustrated. The stories today are read in 160 languages.
Let's spell out the essence of the Grimms' tales. "Once upon a time" takes us into a timeless realm where an array of characters that would befit "Harry Potter" fall in love, seek riches, quarrel with neighbors and have mystical adventures. Digesting all this, we see that very real truths about human nature are learned and affirmed.
Cinderella, Snow White and all the others are transfixing, especially for the young.
Unfortunately I saw little of this quality in the cinematic interpretation as given us by Gilliam in 2005. Instead I trudged out of the Morris Theater, probably shooting a wave at Curt Barber, as I just had another night of relaxation in that darkened old cave of a building, sipping on my large Pepsi, one of just a Gideon's band of people who were enjoying a movie that night.
No wonder a co-op had to eventually take over.
The Morris Theater today is a dinosaur, sorry. Everything I read about the direction of the movie industry spells bad news for the model as represented by our Morris Theater. Elvis isn't coming back. We need to adjust.
I should add that my inspiration for writing about The Brothers Grimm is my recent experience watching the Irondale marching band in Morris. The Irondale musicians have a current performance theme inspired by The Brothers Grimm. We watched at Big Cat Stadium.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

morris mn - our (destructive) summer of 2013

Old school comes down
This is what much of Europe must have looked like at the end of World War II. We see piles of rubble where the old school once was.
Fences keep people from getting too close. On Tuesday there were new barricades up along some streets. Gawkers couldn't drive up or down that hill. I'm not sure this was so much for safety reasons as to discourage people from noticing an odor coming from the rubble. People might ask, "what the heck was going on inside that old building to cause this odor to build up?"
The inside of that building was sure a nightmare after it had been abandoned for a couple years. I know because I was in there.
Any odor now should dissipate in good time.
I'm curious as to whether there will be cost overruns. The project certainly looked ambitious. Oh, and it's far from over. On Tuesday the only section still standing was the auditorium, the section that was most worthy of preserving.
It was an art deco auditorium with balcony seating. It must have been considered very special when it first opened. There must have been a grand opening night when the community felt intense pride. I remember the all-school musical, "Oliver," presented there in 1970. It's a ghost now.
How are we all going to feel when the demolition is completely done? I think there will be a sense of emptiness. Even after it was abandoned, that old patchwork (or erector set) school was like a hulk of a landmark on the east side, literally standing out on the "skyline." From where we live on the north edge of the community, it has always been a point of reference. It has been like a rock or a fort.
There was a time not long ago (in the scheme of things) that Morris youth accepted that structure as being fully satisfactory - no derision based on apparent shortcomings. At the end there was a strong political meme around Morris that the old school complex was some sort of disgrace. School staff promoted that.
Maybe "vote yes" was the way to go. But it's unfortunate we had to turn thumbs-down on the old building in such a vicious way. I don't think it was ever that bad.
How soon will we see new construction on the site? The party line in Morris is optimistic. I of course never blindly follow the party line.
We may see that property stay open and barren - not such a bad scenario, actually, if you put economics aside. Just think: all that open space would make a heckuva city park. Private development? How about the world's largest putt-putt golf course? (I suggest that with levity, reminded as I am of the movie "Happy Gilmore").
Civilization marches on. Which brings me to my next subject:
 
Whither high school football?
I always used to associate the end of the county fair with the start of football practice. We should know real soon, if not already, if the numbers in the lower grades are going to be affected by the flood of new knowledge and awareness about the health consequences of football. I certainly hope they are.
The biggest step forward would be the creation of organized soccer for boys, if not at the school level then at some sort of club level. Football has been sort of a default sport selection for boys. Cross country is not a viable alternative for a lot of boys - the boys who would play in the line or linebacker.
There are countless cautionary essays about football you can look up online - new ones every week. One commenter put forth a new release form that parents could sign. It's very graphic and bluntly-worded. Upon reading this, one would have to conclude that only total fools would let their kids play football.
You might read the warning on the football helmets made by Schutt: "No helmet system can protect you from serious brain and/or neck injuries, including paralysis or death. To avoid these risks, do not engage in the sport of football."
The Rawlings company has followed the lead of Schutt. Why would a helmet company use such stark words in connection to football? Silly rabbit, it's liability. What an activity for our public school to actually sponsor.
I don't think the kids are clueless about this. Regardless of parental intervention, I think boys will begin to gravitate away. The old aura of football as projecting some sort of machismo has become anachronistic. Our youth know that.
What we need now is organized soccer. Promoting high school football because it seems to mimic pro football is the saddest thing of all.
Let's stay on the subject of school:
 
Attire in our school
"Life is one world, and life seen in the newspapers is another." 
- GK Chesterton, writer
 
I don't get the Morris newspaper but I have occasion to glance at it in various public places. A few weeks ago there was an item of contention created out of thin air, a topic put before the public only because a person in the legacy media chose to make a stink out of something.
The school apparently had a very orderly process in place to put out a student handbook. That should have been the end of it. No handbook is going to get 100 per cent approval from school constituencies.
The problem in the recent flap is that an aggrieved parent used her platform in the legacy media to make it seem a big and uncomfortable controversy had arisen. I'm sure there was no such community sentiment. I'm sure there isn't now, really.
The handbook prohibits hats in classrooms. I'm not sure why a hat would be necessary in a classroom. The parent who got all agitated by this, used her power with the newspaper's op-ed page to put our teachers on the defensive, by suggesting our teachers set no example, as they allegedly dress in a very casual way.
"Formal" and "casual" are very subjective and evolving terms in the clothing world. If by "formal" you envision men wearing white shirts and neckties, well, that's a little too "Mad Men" for males of today.
We all know how church has changed, how it's much more acceptable to wear so-called casual attire in church.
People today choose clothing that is practical! Toss aside the "casual" term. No need for the empty pretense of neckties. We see UPS drivers wearing shorts. I used to wear shorts on summer days when I drove the van for the Sun Tribune.
Cleanliness is still a standard. "Formality," not so much. Hats are totally superfluous.
If I were a Morris Area schoolteacher, I would cease any financial support for the Sun Tribune newspaper.
A friend has told me the school website has improved. I checked and yes, there is a baby step forward. But wouldn't it be great to see the school website as a total PR and reporting extension for the school? I have pushed for this, with what limited influence I have, for some time.
Change can take time. It took time for the Morris community to finally let go of the old school.
Our museum is helping us remember the old school. We see posters around town promoting an exhibit: "History of the Morris eastside school." There's a little theme too, although there is a punctuation error. An apostrophe is missing.
Here's how it reads: "Don't cry because its [sic] over: Smile because it happened."
I'll give a pass on the colon even though it should be a semicolon. The semicolon is actually a fading bit of punctuation in our culture. It seems awkward. On many occasions I opt for a simple dash instead. A comma would do, also. Whatever communicates best. Our language is fluid.
 
Combine police and sheriff?
Another topic being bandied about in our summer of 2013 is law enforcement, specifically, whether to have our police and sheriff's departments combine.
Maybe it makes too much sense. The obvious answer is "yes." Jim Beauregard is leaving his post as police chief. Apparently this is what precipitated talk of the consolidation.
Right now our city police appear to be encumbered having officers fan out looking for people not wearing seat belts. It is a major irritant. These citations extend the length of the district court news in the newspaper so much, you'd think our community is riddled with crime.
The "district court news" is a PR black mark for this community. It also is arguably an invasion of privacy. The people who receive minor citations don't deserve to be publicly embarrassed this way. Those of you who have been, make sure you discontinue any financial support for the Morris newspaper.
The only way seat belt laws ever got passed in the states was with the assurance it would only be a secondary offense. Otherwise the public was strongly rejecting it. See what happens with the creeping power of government? It makes me sympathize with the tea partiers a bit.
Anyway, consolidated law enforcement ought to be plain as the nose on your face for Stevens County.
Summer is winding down. Tuck the memories away.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, August 12, 2013

Are Wilfs in league with Hecker, Greenwood?

Zygi Wilf, Vikings owner
Can all the king's horses and all the king's men patch up the Minnesota Vikings' image problems now?
This isn't the kind of image problem that comes from losing. Wins and losses are a separate proposition from the raw business interests. It's that business angle that is drawing the purple operation into the forefront now. Not that the Vikings are ever far from the forefront.
The repetitiveness of the new stadium articles in the Star Tribune became annoying. What does it say about our society that we become so preoccupied by the interests of a sports team?
I was six years old when the Vikings came into existence. Before that we cheered for the Gophers. Rumor has it the Gophers still exist, struggling to try to show they can outperform the boys from Vermillion SD (those Coyotes of University of South Dakota).
The Gophers have a still-new stadium. The dividends of that new stadium in terms of competitiveness still seem to exist more in theory than practice. Coach Jerry Kill is "building his program." Keep the cliches coming.
Target Field for the Twins has been beneficial because baseball should be played outside. At some point we will arrive at a bridge too far in terms of demands for new sports stadiums. Hey, we're there now.
The new Vikings stadium (no spade of dirt turned yet) has followed a turbulent route most of the way. Let's add eggbeater to those troubled waters. Revelations now coming out about the family that owns the Vikings are causing us to step back, or should be. A critic might well call the Wilfs "unsavory" and not be accused of bias or meanness.
Zygmunt "Zygi" Wilf, age 63, bought this cash cow in 2005 for $600 million. These owners aren't in it to get good seats at games. They expect their investment to grow like the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves. Only hardened souls need apply.
A judge in New Jersey has used words stronger than "hardened." We're not in Denny Hecker territory yet but who knows? Or, Harold W. Greenwood.
Will the Wilfs join those annals? The Wilfs' misfortunes are on a civil level now, not criminal. That's why the NFL has thus far spoken in gentle terms about the Wilfs, who BTW aren't alone in dubious legal waters. Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam faces criminal and civil allegations of fraud.
A judge has found that our Wilf family has engaged in the same kind of shady behavior that has Haslam dealing with a Federal indictment. The Wilfs may be in the clear in terms of criminal ramifications just because of the passage of time, i.e. statute of limitations. They have "stepped in it" with a case that is 21 years old.
Our legislature should be paying attention.
The following is an email I sent to our state representative, Jay McNamar, on Friday:
  
Hi Rep. McNamar - I am Brian Williams from Morris MN and I would like to know if you might be on board with an effort to call a "moratorium" on the new Vikings stadium, given recent discoveries about the Wilfs, and given the fact maybe we just need to take a new look at it.
I know the stadium will mean "jobs" for people, but these people could be put to work doing any number of things around Minnesota. Heaven knows we need work on streets, highways, bridges etc. The Vikings can stay in Minnesota if they want and play in the Metrodome. If they really want to leave, then I think us Minnesotans should be prepared for them leaving, and I am.

Rep. McNamar was kind enough to respond within an hour or two:
I too am concerned about what I've read concerning the Wilfs. I have learned to not make hasty decisions until all the facts are in. I'm going to wait until I get some more information before I make any decision. Thank you for expressing your concerns. 
- Jay

Thank you, Jay. An email to State Senator Torrey Westrom brought no answer. I held up on putting up this post hoping to get one.
I would guess legislators in their prudence are scrambling to deal with this matter. The Star Tribune is doing a turnabout from its cheerleading role to report on the messy business involving the Wilfs and its possible ramifications for the Taj Mahal type of stadium. To repeat: No spade of dirt has been turned yet.
Our legislature approved a publicly funded stadium in May of 2012.
Now we come to "Governor Goofy" - oh, excuse me, that was the nickname for Rudy Perpich. But let's not speak ill of the dead. Let's speak ill of Mark Dayton who has been way too much of a rah-rah man for the stadium. By extension he's a rah-rah man for the Wilfs and their interests. "Governor Knucklehead" is how a friend of mine referred to him Friday.
I'm a Democrat so I'd like to see a more sober, reasoned and patient approach from our governor. No need to don a Vikings jersey. The state's involvement is a business matter of immense gravity, to be considered on a plane entirely separate from the games and personalities.
Dayton has been called "the prime political force" in the drive for the new stadium. Of the new revelations about the Wilfs, Dayton said "I find it very, very concerning." (Two "verys" makes it official.)
The court ruling vs. the Wilfs is unrelated to the deal the state negotiated. The Sopranos - excuse me, the Wilfs - have said "the civil lawsuit will have no impact on the stadium project."
Writer Ted Sherman of the New Jersey Star-Ledger isn't so sure. Sherman wrote that the judge's harsh criticism is "reverberating" and "threatening the construction of a new football stadium."
We should be so fortunate. I have been a skeptic all along. Below is a permalink to a post I wrote in December of 2012, called "Still time to nix new Vikings stadium?"

My motive isn't to rain on a parade. Sometimes a parade just grows out of a sort of hysteria - a knee-jerk sort of hysteria.
We cannot as citizens of Minnesota just capitulate to the demands of wheeler-dealer types like the Wilfs.
The New Jersey legal matter has a laundry list of unflattering language directed at the Wilfs, such as "fraud, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, violation of the state's racketeering statute, and presentation of untruthful and inaccurate statements."
Hardly "Minnesota Nice." A Minnesotan might say it's "a heckuva deal." (Consult Howard Mohr.)
The Stadium Authority hasn't yet inked the final agreement for the new facility. It's a $975 million project with the state supplying $498 million.
Deanne Wilson is the New Jersey judge now excoriating the Wilfs. Unhinged, Judge Wilson said "the bad faith and evil motive were demonstrated in the testimony of Zygi Wilf himself."
I have written in the past that Zygi looks like "a straight man in a Three Stooges short." I wrote that purely in levity. Now let's make ol' Zygmunt a heavy out of film noir.
I wonder what kind of deal the Wilfs can strike with the University of Minnesota for the use of TCF Bank Stadium? Who do you suppose has the advantage there, the "Sopranos" or an entity that has shown it has trouble making money from alcohol sales?
The paperwork is done for the Vikings stadium deal. The responsible parties for the state still have leverage, though. We are awaiting at least one "John Hancock" to be applied.
Vikings official Lester Bagley (vice president of Public Affairs, apparently no relation to The Unknown Comic) was too hasty and impulsive (or nervous?) in saying "(the Wilfs' legal woe) is a private business matter and involves a business dispute, but it will not impact the Vikings or the stadium program." (I once had a boss who didn't like the use of "impact" as a verb.)
The Washington Post suggested the judge's ruling "won't affect the team's finances." Silly rabbit, the owner's assets are the team's finances.
The plaintiffs are seeking more than $50 million in damages, and the disaffected judge is talking about triple damages. Let's hear a "whoa Nellie!" from Keith Jackson.
Indeed, Zygi's interests could take a hit. Our new Taj Mahal is slated to open in 2016 - quite a ways off yet. "Governor Knucklehead's " newfound assertiveness might cause delay and/or reflection, which might actually cause him to yank off that Vikes jersey.
Ol' Knucklehead now urges a fact-check of the Wilfs' statements before any final signature signing. He says the judge's comments paint a picture of doing business "far from the legal standards for doing business in Minnesota."
I would hope "bad faith and evil motive" contradict the values of all states.
Judge Wilson has said in court "I do not believe I have seen one single financial statement that is true and accurate."
The aggrieved parties, i.e. the Wilfs' business partners claimed the Wilfs systematically cheated them out of their fair share of revenues from Rachel Gardens, a 764-unit apartment complex in Montville NJ, by running what amounted to "organized crime-type activities" in their bookkeeping practices, that gave the Wilfs a disproportionate share of the income.
Our state's politicos aren't in league with this type of people. Our politicos didn't even know who was trumpeting the unequivocal benefits of e-pulltabs. They were clueless too about the Wilfs' longstanding legal stew of troubles.
Governor Knucklehead made his sharp statement in response, but he didn't face the media.
Our politicos could have learned about that stew in the spring of 2012, employing a simple Google alert. This revelation would have come two weeks before the legislature passed the public financing portion of the stadium plan, a plan we now see as riddled with problems. Maybe we were too mesmerized by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell coming to Minnesota.
Maybe Governor Knucklehead was too eager to pull on that Vikings jersey and do that dance next to an avowed Republican - that scene appearing on page 1 of our Strib.
Maybe our politicos got sort of lost or dazed among the maniacs with faces painted purple running around the state capitol, surely causing curiosity among foreign visitors. "Strangers in a strange land," indeed.
Maybe we should quote George W. Bush: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice. . . (whatever)"
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, August 9, 2013

"Time" was never on my side

I spend a portion of each day wondering why everything became so miserable and hopeless in my last few months working for the Morris newspaper. In the final analysis this was a job and I wanted to keep it for the same reason everyone wants a job.
I was a holdover from a previous regime at the paper. In that previous regime I was required to turn in "timesheets." Whole forests must have been chopped down to supply these sheets.
Timesheets were never practical for the kind of job I had. My work routine was highly fluid and subject to the particular events and demands of the moment. Often I would do something and it wouldn't result in anything tangible to be observed or appreciated. Sometimes I would do something, commit my time to something, and it would "fall through." If I were being paid straight salary, I would just shrug and say "well, I guess that was wasted time."
And what about all the sports events I was expected to attend? Was I expected to write down every minute of that time?
It was only toward the end of my career, when the business was already taken over by the new owner, that I was told by the incumbent (holdover) manager that I would be going on "straight salary." That incumbent manager was succeeded by the current one. (I insist on the term "manager" rather than "publisher" because that's what these people are in the Forum Communications system.)
I had a new lease on life, getting the heads-up for "straight salary." But I have never stopped thinking that the damage had already been done. The pressure to look "efficient" while recording my time was not conducive to doing thorough work in a relaxed and focused fashion. After so many years of at least trying to look "efficient," which meant cutting some corners, maybe I was sort of frazzled.
It didn't help that my timesheets were sometimes questioned. As if I would want to "pad" them anyway. What would I have done with any extra money, for fun? I didn't take any time off.
One employee who was known to "keep an eye on me" was eventually caught in a major employee theft episode herself, and was let go. Perhaps her behavior toward me was a way for her to get "cover." No one would suspect her of any wrongdoing, if she was so vigilant as to keep an eye on other workers for their "honesty."
Sports was of course always very difficult. There was an expectation that we cover non-Morris teams to a certain extent. Cyrus had varsity teams in the early phase of my career. Cyrus and Hancock were paired for a time.
Hancock had a couple of maniacally motivated coaches who generated won-lost success far beyond what the school's small enrollment would suggest was possible. One of these coaches ended up in prison. Thinking about these coaches is a classic example of how we begin wondering if high school sports is even worth it.
Morris Area High sports fell into a controversy beginning in about the mid-1980s. It reached a head in about 1987, after which the most festering issues got resolved. I guess the problem was that MAHS had athletic programs which to a certain extent were managed like they were an extension of phy. ed class, whereas many of the small towns had programs set up more like the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) model.
Former mayor Merlin Beyer told me the problem was that Morris was hurt by complacency caused by years of being "the big school" in the area. "We're not that big anymore," he said. I suppose we're back to being considered big since some of the small programs have simply been wiped out by diminishing numbers.
Whoever does sports for the Morris newspaper now doesn't have to be concerned about how to cover Chokio-Alberta. When I started at the paper, Cyrus not only had its own varsity basketball teams, albeit playing in a substandard gym (like in the movie "Hoosiers"), it had a varsity baseball team, a sport in which you need nine starters.
I covered Hancock softball in the years before it paired with Benson. I'm puzzled to this day why Hancock is paired with Benson rather than Morris. Oh, there's a "back story" there, I suppose, probably having to do with coaches' interests.
And yes, Hancock was capable of beating Morris in softball. I remember one such game in the post-season when Jeannie Peterson, now Jeannie Maanum, hit the key blow over the outfielders' heads. I remember attending a graduation reception in Hancock that spring and having a teacher come over to me and say "I saw you smiling, Brian."
I was so beat up through all the things I had experienced at the Morris newspaper, it was probably impossible for me to ever get a fresh start. I want everyone to know I tried. I want everyone to know that timesheets were once a bane of my existence.
These memories came back when I read about problems in the U.S. Postal Service. Some carriers were found to be struggling and in their desperation, they'd hide mail away somewhere because they just didn't have time to deliver it. The problem? They were being required to fill out timesheets! Were they being subject to unreasonable demands? Might many of these individuals actually have been competent?
I don't know, but I do know the requirement to turn in timesheets can screw up your mind. It's a sour memory and it's too bad I have so many of those. I worked in an environment with people who committed embezzlement and adultery. I worked in an environment trying to answer to emotional sports fans who expected all the games played up through Tuesday night to appear in Thursday's edition, or they'd scream bloody murder.
One of these screamers was actually a prominent school administrator. He took it upon himself to write sports articles for a period of years, writing articles that were so detailed, they almost seemed like transcripts of the radio broadcasts. I think it's sad he couldn't have just spent more time with his family.
The irony is that today, the Morris newspaper only comes out once a week, on Saturday, and Friday's games don't even get in. It's ironic because you can get the Willmar paper on Saturday and probably find a review of the Friday Tiger football game, but in the Saturday Morris newspaper there's nothing.
What happened to those lofty standards that were once imposed on me? It's gone with the wind like so many other things.
I would love to show up for work and just be given a reasonable and manageable amount of duties in a reasonable amount of time, and then just go home. In my 27 years of newspaper work, I never had that opportunity. I worked like a bat out of hell and had my personality affected by it. How incredibly sad.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, August 5, 2013

Morris Legion team takes second in MN!

Note: Six of the last seven posts on this site are about the Morris Legion baseball team. I invite you to scroll down and enjoy. I hope this material serves as a long-term (digital) souvenir. I hope I have contributed in my own small way. - B.W.
  
Memories are rich for the players and fans with the 2013 Morris American Legion baseball team.
Post #29 played in the Division II state championship game on Sunday. The game, played in Bird Island, ended a long and success-filled road.
Morris came out of District 7 to vie in state. So did BOLD, the host team for state. There was no double-elimination format in state. If you lost you proceeded into a consolation bracket. This is what happened to BOLD.
Morris meanwhile thrilled fans with wins on Friday and Saturday. This propelled the Post #29 athletes into the state championship game, where La Crescent awaited as the foe. A hard-fought game unfolded Sunday at Lions Memorial Park.
In the end it was La Crescent prevailing in the 4-3 score.
I'm a little startled by the threadbare coverage in the Monday Willmar newspaper. The opening sentence states the outcome of the game. Beyond that there's a subhead under which you'll find a grand total of three sentences reviewing the game. The name of "Mac Beyer" is spelled "Mac Beier." Can you imagine if I had to answer for such a lousy effort when I was with the Morris newspaper? I'd be called ten kinds of stupid.
The Willmar and Morris newspapers are owned by the same company: Forum Communications of Fargo ND. You would think they could come up with the kind of synergy to get the job done in a situation like this. It is my assessment that the state American Legion baseball tournament should be a high priority.
Willmar's threadbare coverage tells us that La Crescent scored all four of their runs in the bottom of the fourth. We also learn that Post #29 got a couple baserunners on in the seventh but came up empty.
The article reports that Morris got RBI singles by Chandler Erickson, "Mac Beier" [sic] and Logan Manska.
Morris won in the state semis Saturday over Taconite, scoring often in waltzing over Taconite. The score: 13-3. On this game the West Central Tribune of Willmar gave us two sentences under a subhead. Oh, we also get runs-by-inning data.
There were eleven Morris hits vs. Taconite. It would be nice to see a breakdown. But no. Mac Beyer's name is the only one to appear, in this instance spelled correctly. We learn that Beyer was the Morris pitcher in the abbreviated (five-inning) affair. Beyer struck out one batter, walked one and gave up six hits.
Whoever wrote this observed that Morris "punched its ticket" to the championship game. Cute. Now let's get more details.
There's an item on the front page of the Monday Willmar newspaper that has me remembering an episode from my Morris newspaper career. I remember when Leonard Wulf passed away and he was praised very justifiably as a community icon. Jim Morrison wrote an editorial tribute. When I passed by the funeral home on the night of the reviewal, I noticed a very long line winding out and around outside the building.
I took a photo and submitted it as a candidate for publication. It was pulled from consideration and in the process I was called ten kinds of idiot for thinking such a photo was tasteful to run. On the Monday Willmar front page, there is a huge photo of a hearse parked outside a church and a line of people outside the church, the occasion being the funeral for Lila Warwick. The photo was taken by Ron Adams.
I'm just puzzled.
Who is the sports editor of the Willmar newspaper? Was he sleeping through the state Legion tournament? Couldn't he coordinate some coverage efforts with the coaches? I would certainly be expected to.
My current post on my companion website ("Morris of Course") takes a look at local print journalism and the flow of information. Please click on the permalink below. Thanks for reading. - B.W.
http://morrisofcourse.blogspot.com/2013/08/journalism-is-inescapable-part-of-me.html
  
A hearty congratulations to the Post #29 Morris Legion baseball team of 2013: state runners-up!
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Post #29 boys defeat Winnebago/Blue Earth

Day #1 of state saw Morris climb further in American Legion baseball. Morris earned a berth in the state Division II semis with a 7-4 win over Winnebago/Blue Earth. The action was Friday (8/2) in Bird Island.
Morris and BOLD are carrying the District 7 banner in the elite state affair. BOLD entered state with the District 7 bragging rights, having beaten Morris the previous Saturday. BOLD has been a nemesis for Post #29 in a season otherwise overflowing with wins.
BOLD was finally humbled in the first round of state. Friday night saw the Mudhens of BOLD fall to Providence Academy and its pitcher of note, Ryan Tapani. Yes, he's the son of former Twins pitcher Kevin. Providence Academy edged the Mudhens 4-3.
More state-level action awaits Motown and the Mudhens today (Saturday, 8/3). Morris will vie with Taconite in the semis beginning at 4 p.m. at Lions Memorial Park. BOLD will play Hawley at noon.
 
Morris 7, Winnebago/Blue Earth 4
Tanner Picht was in the groove with his bat in Morris' Friday win. Picht's bat was ringing with three hits, and he drove in two runs.
Pitching was handled the whole way by Jacob Torgerson. The Morris line score was seven runs, ten hits and two errors. The WBE numbers were 4-7-1.
Hurler Torgerson got all the backing he needed in the second inning when Motown put up six runs. The seventh run came home in the fifth. WBE scored one run in the first, two in the second and one in the fifth.
Torgerson got the best of his pitching matchup vs. Bradyn Olson. One of the Morris runs was unearned. Torgerson fanned five batters in his seven innings. He walked two and gave up eight hits and four runs (two unearned).
One of the three Picht hits was a double. No other Morris hitters had their data reported in Saturday's Willmar newspaper. (That's strange because the game was played at 9:30 a.m. Friday. This is state, guys.)
The win was No. 18 overall, against four losses, for Motown in the memorable 2013 summer. Their foe for today, Taconite, advanced with a 4-0 Friday win over Pine Island. Jordan Peratalo pitched a two-hitter in the Taconite win, striking out nine. Bazil Zuehlke had two hits for Taconite.
BOLD also sits with 18 season wins entering today's play. Their Logan Sandgren wasn't quite in the groove pitching at the start. The BOLD hurler walked three batters in the first inning. Those control lapses led to a Providence Academy run when Ryan Tapani flew out deep to right-center.
(I figure Ryan would love to see some media coverage that doesn't emphasize the connection to his father. I'm being guilty like everyone else in this post.)
Southpaw Sandgren showed lapses in the second inning too, ending up in a bases-loaded situation. He hit a batter along the way. But he wiggled out of this, first inducing a foul pop fly caught by catcher Trent Athmann, and then getting a "K" on successive called strikes (after falling behind in the count 3-0).
The score became tied 1-1 in the top of the fifth. BOLD was done in by some sloppy execution in the bottom of the fifth. Sandgren issued another walk. He gave up a single to Jake Braun. A collapse followed as two errors were committed. Now the score is 3-1 with the Mudhens down. The Mudhens fell in the 4-3 scoreboard final.
 
BOLD 3, Morris 1
Sandgren looked imposing on the mound for BOLD when his team met Motown on Saturday, July 27, in the district championship game. There was actually little at stake in the game. BOLD was assured a berth in state as the host team for state. Morris had assured itself a berth with its 3-2 win over Madison.
The two teams took to the diamond with enthusiasm anyway on July 27. Sandgren definitely was determined and enthusiastic. The BOLD lefty of note pitched all seven innings to get the "W" by his name. BOLD turned back Post #29 in the 3-1 final.
It was a cleanly fielded game, BOLD with zero errors and Morris with one. BOLD outhit Morris 11-5.
Sandgren struck out nine batters and issued four walks while giving up five hits and the one Morris run (earned).
The Morris pitching was done by Bryce Jergenson and Mac Beyer. Jergenson was the pitcher of record.
Andrew Rentz had a multiple-hit game for Motown. Andrew went two-for-two. The other hits were by Tyler Henrichs, Mac Beyer and Chandler Erickson. Jake Torgerson was hitless but he drove in the lone Morris run.
BOLD's Riley Kramer went three-for-four with an RBI. Tyler Seehusen doubled. The Mudhens scored all three of their runs in the fourth inning.
The lone Morris run was scored in the second.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com