"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)

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Beef with restaurant ends up in the paper?

A taco salad
So, we are reduced now to having a newspaper in Morris that publishes a letter to the editor from someone who merely thought he had a bad restaurant experience. The first thing we all try to do is figure out which restaurant. I only scanned the letter so I missed a helpful clue. The restaurant could not have been my favorite: DeToy's.
DeToy's is where all those men in their 50s and 60s congregate in early morning, some playing cards, some loudly talking up Donald Trump. I do believe this is Trump's demographic. Are we as a society reduced to talking about abortion again, like we've been transported back in time 40 or 50 years? We as a society decided it was Neanderthal to try to prohibit abortion.
Maybe abortion is something we simply wish wouldn't happen. If that's the case, let's blame God for giving us the kind of human anatomy we have. Don't you often think sex is more trouble than it's worth? My theory in weighing this is that we are a hybrid species: a combination of Earth primates and space aliens. Thus we have the mysteries and tragedy of our sexual inclinations and the requirements of the reproduction process.
So, the restaurant getting bashed in the letter to the editor was not DeToy's. If you were a restaurant owner, would you want this letter writer as a customer? He has been a high-profile person imploring us on all sorts of things. He had chutzpah in putting forward a cemetery sound system, as a "gesture for our community" so people visiting the cemetery might find "solace." That was his catch-all word for trying to make his gesture seem blessed. We might find "solace," although I have a hard time grasping what that means. Some cheesy bells music is hardly going to provide warm feelings for yours truly. It merely annoys people who are in the vicinity of the cemetery - annoys them greatly.
It was like pulling teeth, but the chimes finally got removed, taken to Arizona, I understand.
Are visitors even welcome at our local cemetery? Actually it's two separate cemeteries, isn't it? There's the non-Catholic part and the hallowed Catholic section, the latter untainted by people who have fallen away from that church, and where you'll see that "baby" tombstone which is a blatant political statement on a controversial issue - clearly not suitable where gentle people come to "find solace." Right, Ted?
There is a sign at one of the entrances to the cemetery that says "no trespassing." Words have definitions. Our legal system is built on precise definitions. Am I "trespassing" if I simply enter cemetery grounds to pay attention to headstones of friends and family and remember them? Do you have to be visiting a family burial site, or is a "friend" good enough? I like observing Skip Sherstad's place of burial. Skip (Steven) and I grew up in the same neighborhood.
If "trespassing" isn't the proper word for that sign, the sign should be removed and milder language inserted. It's still not clear to me how to park when visiting the cemetery. I have been asking for answers on this from more than one cemetery official. They refuse to answer, not even to say "buzz off, asshole." The road through the cemetery is one lane. Maybe it's not even meant for mourners. If it isn't, and if we have to walk in from outside, then you'd have to say the cemetery is not handicapped accessible. That's not cool in the year 2016. I emailed a cemetery person asking for clarification on this matter. No answer. No clicking on "reply" to extend the courtesy of a response.
They appear to brush aside this issue. Yet they had no problem for years facilitating Ted Storck's aim of having that chime music float around east Morris including the UMM campus, where grievances did come forward. Now Ted Storck has issues with a downtown restaurant, allegedly because of a sub-par taco salad. I'm reminded of those Bozos who call 9-1-1 when McDonald's screws up an order. All restaurants have occasional problems with consistency.
We have all had issues with a Morris business at one time or another. I have, but I'm not going to bother you with the details because it's too deep in the weeds.
We can be sure we live in a little town when the local paper finds it fit to print a mundane rant about a restaurant experience. Be sure to stop by the local filling station and discuss this matter with Gomer and Goober. Run it past Floyd the barber. A topic like this should start and end in the barber shop (or, the old days, the shoeshine stand).
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Easter a less innocuous holiday than Christmas

"Have a nice day."
Christianity was a universal when I was a kid. Non-Christians seemed like a barely detectable novelty in the population. Christianity was, as they say, the "default" approach. Everyone joined in with the traditional Christmas songs at Christmas.
Christmas is a pretty easy holiday to accept for everyone, regardless of actual religious affiliation. It's just a happy time. We celebrate family and (hoped for) peace in the world, although the peace stuff rang rather hollow when I was a kid. Viet Nam was a specter intruding on our lives. It was a reminder that mankind can get embroiled in the most awful things.
The Iraq war (or invasion) was only a minor reminder, but don't use the word "minor" around those who lost loved ones.
Are public schools past the phase where they felt they had to recognize all religions at Christmas? Not that I'm against recognizing other religions, but Christmas ended up seeming like it stood for nothing. Maybe the public schools should have just continued with their usual business and not acknowledged it at all.
I covered a Christmas program at the old elementary auditorium where "Kwanzaa" was treated like a big deal. "Hanukkah" too. "Kwanzaa" did not start in Africa. Didn't it start out as a deliberate stab at Christianity? Even if it started out that way, I learned that its supporters backed off and wanted everyone to feel fulfilled at Christmas. I hear less and less about "Kwanzaa." The media used to give it lots of obligatory attention. I sense that no more.
Easter is a whole different kettle of fish. It is harder to be passive and just accept Easter, if you happen to be a non-Christian. Whereas Christmas can seem like a one-size-fits-all happy time, no for Easter. (Nowadays they say "one size fits most.")
Easter is by definition unhappy, at least in the weeks leading up to the actual day. The Lent season puts so much attention on the actual torture inflicted on the Savior. Didn't Mel Gibson make a movie that actually seemed caricature when it came to the violence done toward Jesus? I find all this an odd way to celebrate a religion which like all religions should present the best and most uplifting aspects of human nature.
How the heck can we really know what happened back in that ancient time? As a kid I got painfully logical in trying to assess Christianity: I asked whether all human beings on Earth prior to the crucifixion had to go to hell, because Christ hadn't "died for their sins" yet. So, the first people receiving a pass to heaven were those shortly after Christ's death who decided to "accept him as their personal savior?"
I found that principle so hard to try to internalize. I haven't figured it out yet. I can understand the ideal of trying to live a good life and treat people humanely and with love. But fervent Christians are the first to say those ideals are meaningless - they'll be angry saying this - and that all that matters is "accepting Christ as your personal savior." (I'm reminded of George W. Bush talking about "personal accounts" - privatizing Social Security.)
Christ "rose from the dead" after being crucified. Certain people claimed this, true. But people can have all sorts of hardened political or philosophical agendas. Facts can be massaged to support these.
I had a first cousin who, after years of being the so-called evangelical type, stepped away from that and, of all things, converted to Judaism. He had a Jewish funeral. This was my father's nephew. He reportedly said of Christianity, at the time of his disillusionment: "I don't understand it." Why don't more people take off their blinders and be frank like this?
We are scared into Christianity by thoughts of "burning in hell." It's a cruel way to try to coax kids into the faith. It can make you sullen with your outlook.
It doesn't help to hear that extended story of how the Savior was literally tortured leading up to his crucifixion. I didn't see the Mel Gibson movie. I read that no human being could have actually survived the punishment inflicted on Christ in the movie.
Christmas I can stomach because it's a time of joy for all. We do hear about that decree for the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem - infants under two years of age. It's part of the (albeit horrific) backstory we can overlook.
Why these macabre elements in the most prominent Christian holidays? They are not conducive to having kids grow up in the most humanistic, uplifting frame of mind. Death and torture. Threats of going to hell. Are these really the proper underpinnings of a faith that is supposed to bring out the best in us?
Maybe Christianity isn't supposed to bring out the best in us. Christianity should have been invoked to try to get us out of the Viet Nam war, or to show restraint relative to Iraq. Christians don't seem much interested in basic humanistic ideals, though. "Evangelicals" are squarely associated with the "conservative" political identity, the hard right, where pronouncements about "national security" and neutralizing America's supposed enemies are so strident. My mere use of the word "humanistic" would make them dismiss me as "liberal." Right, Ted Cruz?
Maybe the violence in the basic Christian stories, themselves somehow influence people to be so gloomy and to embrace the harshest remedies.
John Lennon got in trouble for seeming to diss Christianity. He also wrote "all you need is love." I think I know what approach I'm partial too.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Listen to my song re. Flint MI water crisis

Heaven help us all. Lord, we have sinned. How obscene can our devotion to the private sector become?
A few months after the Michigan governor removed Flint from its standard fresh water, the corporate big shots of GM went to him and complained that the Flint River water was causing their car parts to corrode. The Republican governor was appalled to hear that GM property was being damaged. He went through the rather involved process, with a cost of $440,000, to get GM hooked back up to Lake Huron water. The rest of Flint stayed on the Flint River water. The children of Flint drank lead-filled water. The GM factory was a higher priority.
It's a perfect template for understanding the GOP philosophy about things. At least it's clear to me. If it were clear to everyone, I would expect the Democrats to have a dominating position. They of course do not, and in fact they appear forced on the defensive a lot. Again, heaven help all of us.
I have written a song inspired by the Flint MI water crisis. It's called "Michigan, We Need You to Win Again." I invite you to listen by clicking on this YouTube link:
The song was recorded at the Nashville TN studio of Bob Angello. Brent Gulsvig of Gulsvig Productions, Starbuck MN, got the song online for me. Thanks guys. The song is inspired by tragedy but it seeks to project inspiration. No one likes a song that is all sad.
When I was a kid, Michigan was still in its primacy with car manufacturing. My song suggests the state should seek to occupy a high rung in our national consciousness again. How? I'm not sure. America is a place where there is always a wellspring of hope, or should be.
A fun element of my song is a reference to "cars with fins." Detroit's heyday included a chapter with that quite frivolous element, but we loved it. The final frame in the YouTube presentation shows a grand "car with fins." The word "fins" popped into my head because it rhymes with "Michigan." Both words are in the chorus.
Much of my song pines for a time when car travel wasn't just taken for granted, it was a grand adventure like on "Route 66." The Interstate Highway system, pushed by President Eisenhower (actually a "national defense" measure), makes long-distance travel routine. In the Route 66 days it was an adventure, maybe even like traveling through the galaxy in the Starship Enterprise. Along Route 66 you'd find mom and pop restaurants rather than the predictable franchises of today.
Were the old days better? Arguably not. There is much more pressure on the car industry today to build sturdy, reliable and long-lasting cars. There were rumors of "planned obsolescence" in the old days. Today you can easily buy a car to last the rest of your life, so you don't have to build rapport with some "car salesman" with whom to do business every four years or so.
Why have local car salesmen anyway? Why can't we just order our cars directly from the factory? Tesla has wanted to bypass the dealer system, a system that seems as American as apple pie - stale apple pie. And if cars today can last a lifetime, why is it necessary for local dealers to buy so much advertising in the media, like in our local weekly "Canary?" We do not need to see those constant full-page ads for Gesswein Motors, Milbank SD, with that smiling photo of the owner, a typical WASP-ish looking man who can connect with the maximum number of customers. Clean-cut and presumably with no body odor etc. Surely a regular church-goer (preferably Protestant).
If you have been in Flint MI any time from April 2014 to today, and you've consumed the water, eaten food cooked with it, washed your clothes in it, taken a shower, brushed your teeth or eaten vegetables from someone's garden, you have been exposed to and ingested its toxins.
Someday there will be a funeral for Governor Snyder, and some choice words ought to be the following: "May God have mercy on your soul."
Heaven help all of us if we don't put pressure on all public officials to put human welfare first and corporate profit second. But the signs right now don't appear good. The baby boom generation which exuded such idealism when young has retreated the other way. Today it roots for the stock market, which is fine if we can still have our ideals.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Let's enshrine Vic Power in memories

The summer of 1962 was a most charmed time in Minnesota. Two years earlier we had no big league baseball at all. We had the Millers, a very dubious consolation prize. Jim Bouton once wrote that the biggest jump in baseball was between Triple-A and the majors. He added "the minor leagues are all very minor."
We had the football Gophers in Minnesota. We thumped our chest over that, but very little else.
We had to pinch ourselves to see if we were dreaming when big league ball came here for 1961. Our new Minnesota Twins had a losing campaign but we were excited.
With Sam Mele pulling the levers, we came up with a contending team in 1962. If you could put aside the Cold War and the Cuban missile scare - OK we really couldn't put that aside - it was our "summer of love" with our Twins and their home of Metropolitan Stadium, then considered state of the art. We finished in second place behind the dynastic Yankees with Mickey Mantle. Second place was the stratosphere.
And, who was voted the team MVP? It was none other than Vic Power. Vic ought to be remembered better by Minnesota Twins fans. He was not only a superior first baseman with his glove, he was flashy and flamboyant. He was a mature ballplayer in our young infield. Obviously he was a stabilizing influence for the likes of Zoilo Versalles, and not only that, he batted a quite fine .290, supplying his usual dose of "frozen ropes." What an exciting player he could be! Jim McRoberts of Morris well remembers.
I was seven years old in 1962. My father Ralph took the UMM men's chorus to Seattle for the World's Fair. John F. Kennedy had to cancel out for the closing ceremonies of the Fair, reportedly due to being ill, but that was just a cover story: He had to deal with the Cuban missile crisis. Remember the old joke about "kiss your ass goodbye?" Well fortunately it didn't happen.
The '62 Twins team carved out a special niche in team history. It's an underrated team in my view. Only one team per league made the post-season in those days. We had to be thrilled just challenging the Yankees. Here in Minnesota. Here in what Steve Cannon called the "tundra."
Vic Power was a man of color from Puerto Rico. That nation had no real racial issues. Welcome to America! Here, Power had to get oriented to a climate with plenty of racial issues and tension, especially when he had a stint in Philadelphia with the Athletics.
I remember reading that Vic liked getting his food in grocery stores so as not to have to deal with segregationist practices in restaurants. He'd buy lots of salami and bananas, he said.
Power often fielded the ball with one hand. The style was a trademark of his. Fielding one-handed actually increases your reach. His style influenced others at the first base position. Power also had a sharp wit and a dark deadpan humor. He played for several teams in his career. We most appreciate that he came to Minnesota. Hope he was able to go walleye fishing! He struck out only 247 times in 6,046 career at-bats. He helped groom a young Tony Oliva.
Today I have a poem I wish to share with you, honoring the great Vic Power. Here it is:
He came from that island land
Where a man was just a man
Never in a pigeon hole
Where your color spelled your role
Yes, Nirvana it did seem
Color-blind and so serene
Territory, not a state
No room there for racial hate
As a young man he could see
Where he'd fetch his destiny
Puerto Rico had its charms
but he'd have to go afar
Milk and honey was that place
Even if you felt your race
Mr. Power had black skin
He'd be challenged to fit in
Meanwhile he would feed his urge
With the San Juan Senators
Learning baseball with its skills
Moving forward with sheer will
Parking by the first base bag
He was quite the gifted lad
Fielding grounders hot and fast
In the role where he was cast
A Yankees scout with roving eyes
Fixed upon this diamond prize
Making sure he'd get his due
Signing with a big-time crew
Here in North America
Victor would display his glove
Playing first like it's an art
To this game he gave his heart
First he joined the minor leagues
'Cause he had to plant his seeds
That's the lot for all young guys
Yearning to complete their climb
Drummondville was where he went
That meek burg was in Quebec
Four years after World War II
Baseball had a growing mood
Victor thrived and rode the wave
With the Sky Chiefs he was great
Syracuse was where they played
In the good ol' USA
Now he was a mere stone's throw
From the most prestigious show
Playing fine in Triple-A
Now he sought the big league game
Oh, but he would toil more
Showing patience with that chore
Hitting liners with the Blues
Kansas City's baseball crew
K.C. of the minor leagues
Gave Vic Power room to breathe
So he hit like on a tear
Posting stats beyond compare
Doubles, triples off his bat
Got the notice of the fans
So they wondered why this guy
Could not rise, be big-time
On and on his bat did smoke
Could he get the Yankees' vote?
Could he cross that big league grass
Joining with that famous cast?
Yes the theory crossed our lips
Vic's black skin was a hindrance
Baseball had Neanderthals
Pulling levers in those walls
Yankees had a cautious stance
As they guarded their big dance
Vic was not reserved enough
He had too much flamboyance
Power dated light-skinned dames
Such a faux pas for that game
It's so quaint to conjure up
How our nation wouldn't budge
Yankees courted baby steps
Integration, no not yet
Not in its more proper form
Let's talk "token," just the norm
Elston Howard was the man
He was hand-picked by the brass
To put on a proper show
As the Yankees' first Negro
We can weigh the might-have-beens
Had Vic Power helped them win
Frozen ropes to thrill the fans
Fielding grounders with one hand
What if New York kept the faith
Keeping Victor in his gait?
Wouldn't he look prim and right
Putting on those grand pinstripes?
But the story would not fly
Never meant to crystallize
Yankees dealt him in a trade
To a less high-profile place
Philly was his new backyard
Racial tensions looming large
Puerto Rico seemed so pure
Next to Philly's daunting brew
Hotels, restaurants made their case
To discrim-nate based on race
So bizarre, such ignorance
When we should push excellence
Life in U.S. plodded on
Slowly shedding what was wrong
Victor's team moved to the west
Now in K.C., whole new test
Year was nineteen fifty-five
Eisenhower's eight-year ride
Rock n' roll was on the fringe
As Athletics sought their wins
Power was phenomenal
Hitting like an angry bull
Second in the batting race
Everyone now knew his name
Then he joined the Indians
Helping Cleveland roll up wins
He was so adaptable
Earning cheers, never dull
With the Twins he kept that pace
Helping them to second place
Minnesota felt the love
So enamored with his glove
Twins were in their second year
When Vic Power earned those cheers
They made sure the Yankees felt
Pressure from the vast corn belt
His Gold Gloves made us aware
Of a fielding skill so rare
He was chosen an All-Star
Like a golfer under par
He could surely savor all
Accolades earned in baseball
Still to make it really right
Let's discard the racial strife
© Copyright 2016 Brian R. Williams

Monday, March 21, 2016

New London-Spicer girls runner-up in MN 'AA'

PEM 72, NL-Spicer 42
The headline in the Willmar paper was "NLS falls hard in title game." The subhead was: "Wildcats have more turnovers than field goals in 30-point loss to No. 1 Plainview-Elgin-Millville."
I would not have been so blunt writing this material. The New London-Spicer girls basketball team made the state championship game. It's the stratosphere, the truly elite level. Morris Area Chokio Alberta fans needn't be concerned about how they're perceived at that level. The Tigers cash in their chips pretty early in the post-season.
Congratulations to the Wildcats of New London-Spicer, coached by Mike Dreier, now basking in the position of runner-up in state. Granted, their last game saw them fade. We're asking a lot of these student-athletes. The Wildcats won a very close game vs. Sauk Centre the day before in the semis.
The Willmar paper article's first sentence today (Monday) said that PEM "hammered" New London-Spicer. I think some of my critics in Morris would not have appreciated such language if I were covering the Tigers this way.
The Bulldogs of PEM are deservedly in the No. 1 spot in Minnesota AA. The Bulldogs came out of the starting chute strong with the game's first ten points. The score stood 16-3 at one point. Halftime arrived with the score 39-14. The final score: 72-42.
Emmaline Polson, junior center for the Bulldogs, scored 22 points and grabbed ten rebounds, and according to the West Central Tribune, "equaled the Wildcats' 14 halftime points by herself." My, such detailed analysis. Let's keep rubbing it in, guys.
New London-Spicer made just three of 17 shot tries from 3-point range. Alyssa Fredrick had all three makes.
Coach Dreier said of the foe: "They have size, they're physical, they've got an (NCAA) Division I point guard running their offense from the high post, and they also have shooting everywhere." That guard of note is Sarah Hart who's headed to St. Bonaventure University. She's a finalist for the Ms. Basketball award in Minnesota. She had 13 points in the Saturday game.
Jason Melbostad was Dreier's coaching opponent. Melbostad saw Hart as the key for overcoming an NL-Spicer zone defense that was so effective in previous state games. Hart had the savvy to get the ball inside where PEM could score.
It's quite logical to think the Wildcats were drained some by having to play a game so soon after the Sauk Centre game. Coach Dreier saw fatigue, indeed, as a likely factor. Dreier was in his 16th state tournament appearance.
"For a team that finished third in our conference, this is amazing," the coach commented to the media. "My mood isn't any worse because of this loss."
PEM finishes the season 31-1 while NL-Spicer can look back on 25-7 numbers.
Megan Thorson finished with 13 points in the title game. The NL-S scoring list continues as follows: Alyssa Fredrick (9), Brooke Beuning (6), Erin Tebben (4), Morgan Swenson (4), Shea Oman (2), Kabrie Weber (2) and Michelle Johnson (2). Tebben and Swenson each had seven rebounds, followed by Thorson with six. Weber had one assist, and Thorson had one steal.
Hart was not the leading PEM scorer - that distinction went to Polson with her 22 points. Hart scored 13 points and Hayley Dessner ten. Then we have Chloe Holtz (7), Tessa Hubbard (6), Baighley Standinger (5), Morgan Shindelar (4), Heidi Wolf (3) and Jalysa Cutting (2).
Three Bulldogs each made one 3-pointer: Hubbard, Standinger and Hart. Polson had ten rebounds followed by Dessner with six and Hart with five. Hart dished out seven assists.
We're in Easter season
I associated Easter with the Easter Bunny and chocolate bunnies when I was a child.
I remember an editorial cartoon that had Ken Starr, harasser of Bill Clinton, listening through a door as Clinton spoke affectionately in a way that made Starr think another tryst was happening. "Bunny!" Clinton intoned. But this was no young friend, rather it was Bill's chocolate bunny for Easter! Willie's Super Valu has a good supply of chocolate bunnies available, I'm sure.
Of course, when we go to church leading up to Easter, the tone is not so innocent and fun. We hear the awful details of how Christ was treated leading up to the (alleged) crucifixion. How do we know this wasn't some tall tale built up through the years, maybe fashioned to promote some political ends? What? Politics as a basis for embellishment or fabrication? I'm astounded (not really).
The sheer misery and gruesome details begin chafing on me. Does it matter that Christ was tortured first? Why the emphasis on this in Lent services? Even if it happened, why the emphasis? Why not just dwell on the final (alleged) act: the murder of God's (alleged) son. Did you know that the story of the virgin birth came about because of a bad translation?
I know I'm sounding like an atheist and maybe that's because I am. I sure wouldn't mind a chocolate bunny or two, though.
I am puzzled why the Lutherans of this community are expected to go to the Catholic church for the Good Friday service. This is a church that has a policy of not offering communion to non-Catholics at funerals. At least this was their policy in the past. There was a controversy at the time of the funeral for Rit Eul: someone was turned away for communion. There were letters to the editor in the paper. I'm sure Rit would never have wanted any unpleasantness in connection with his funeral.
And now, the Catholics want us all to come over? I think it's strange.
The Catholics can have their own services, since they promote such exclusivity. I have no objection to Catholic bingo. We had a priest here not that long ago who was into child porn. The Catholics have also given us that "baby" tombstone at the cemetery - not the sort of thing Lutherans would agree to.
Again, let's all just enjoy our chocolate bunnies!
- Brian Williams - morris minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, March 19, 2016

They're in for title game: New London-Spicer!

What thrills under the bright lights of state tournament play. It's another chapter of March Madness for the New London-Spicer Wildcat crowd. This year's girls team is carving out a special niche of excellence. The team was not seen, really, as having a powerhouse air in the regular season. They were good, yes. We've come to expect that from Mike Dreier-coached teams. But spectacular?
The Wildcats have morphed into a truly spectacular team in post-season. Success in the state semis came in most dramatic fashion. It's the stuff of highlight reels. In the spotlight: Shea Oman, just a sophomore in the New London-Spicer arsenal. You know what that means: NL-Spicer is likely to keep its premier status over at least the next two years.
Oman made what the Willmar paper called a "circus shot." It came in the closing seconds of play in the Friday showdown with Sauk Centre. It's nice to see two public schools doing battle at this level of play, rather than the private outfits that filter in so often. Two outstate small communities doing battle: this is Nirvana.
The Wildcats and Streeters locked horns at Williams Arena, Minneapolis. Williams was the home to the old one-class tournament in Minnesota, the tournament that caused students to get excused from class all over the state to watch "the big show." Of course, that "big show" was profoundly unfair, as the one-class tournament was by definition unfair. We have progressed from that.
While the tournaments of today are harder for the average person to follow - so complicated with four classes - they nevertheless are enriching and entertaining, if you want to take the trouble to figure it out.
Fans of the Wildcats are ecstatic. I'm sure my friend Jody Sherstad-Jordan of New London is ecstatic. Wow! New London-Spicer defeated Sauk Centre 49-46. Enter that in the history books.
The unseeded Wildcats are now gearing up to face the top seed. They'll seek an air like Rocky Balboa, aiming to knock off Plainview-Elgin-Millville. Hey, sounds like another non-private school opponent. Let's have a toast to that! My, there's little time to get rested and recovered. Coach Dreier's crew will play PEM at 2 p.m. today (Saturday, 3/19). Again the action will be at Williams Arena.
Oman's shot made the difference Friday. New London-Spicer has disposed of both the second and third seeds. The Wildcats and Streeters were tied 46-all with ten seconds left. Timeout-time for the Wildcats. Oman got poised and positioned with a "high screen" from Megan Thorson. Oman deftly dribbled behind her back to shake Sauk's Maesyn Thiesen, then she made a bee line to the hoop and "bullseye." She drew a foul. It was "bullseye" for the freethrow too.
Four seconds were left. A three-point try by Sauk was no-go.
Dreier said the key late play went exactly as it was planned. Oman admitted that her Globetrotter-like dribble behind the back had risks. "But it worked," she was quoted saying, triumphantly.
The Streeeters led this contest 23-20 at halftime. But the Wildcats went on a 10-4 run to open the second half. Sauk had a counter-punch: a 15-5 run that had the potential of leading to victory for them. Sauk had a seven-point advantage with under six minutes left. Sauk applied a press defense, so common to see among winning GBB teams.
NL-Spicer turned up its own defense a notch. NL-Spicer outscored the Streeters 15-4 at the end. They showed a stiff zone stance, coming out to frustrate Sauk's normally good outside shooters. Dreier liked how his team controlled the game's tempo, and how they kept Sauk's premier guards from asserting themselves a whole lot.
Three-pointers certainly were not a key part of NL-Spicer's arsenal. In fact they made no long-rangers in the first half, and they finished the game three of 13. Their overall field goal percentage was decent.
Lindsey Vagle and Thorson hit jumpers after Sauk assumed that seven-point lead. Oman made a couple freethrows. Kabrie Weber connected on a most clutch '3', capitalizing on Oman's assist. That three-pointer put NL-Spicer up on the scoreboard.
"Unbelievable," Thorson said of making the state championship game. She's one of three seniors on the roster. "Determination" is the word that coach Dreier offered to characterize this thrilling unit. It's not a matter of style, as the team has run pretty much the same plays all along. Oman feels the sheer atmosphere of state is a motivator.
Megan Thorson and Kabrie Weber each scored 12 points. Oman had a point total of ten. The list continues with Erin Tebben (7), Lindsay Vagle (4), Morgan Swenson (2) and Alyssa Fredrick (2). Weber made two 3-point shots and Oman one. Thorson led in rebounds with 14 followed by Tebben with ten. Fredrick dished out four assists. Oman stole the ball twice.
Maesyn Thiesen led Sauk's scoring with 20 points. One other Streeter made double figures: Jill Klaphake with ten points. Then we have Rebecca Weir (7), Kelsey Peschel (4), Taylor Borgerding (3), Madison Greenwaldt (1) and Victoria Peschel (1). Thiesen was quite fine in three-point shooting, making four such shots. Peschel and Borgerding each made one. Wier collected 15 rebounds and Thiesen had nine. Thiesen dished out five assists. She and Peschel each had two steals.
Good luck to the Wildcats today at Williams Arena! They'll take the court within two hours after I'm typing this.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Wildcats of New London-Spicer climb to semis

The talk toward the end of this past winter was that the New London-Spicer girls might not be quite as good as usual. Maybe I heard that from MACA fans wanting to feel they had a chance against the Wildcats. Well, the MACA girls finished a pedestrian season by going 1-1 in the post-season, like the boys, meaning we would have no March madness bubbling here.
I don't know, maybe people just don't care that much.
Meanwhile in New London-Spicer, the future is now, as it always is. I'm sure it's a festival of fun. On Wednesday, an unusual night for high school sports, Wildcat pride most certainly bubbled at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis. This year's Wildcats, far from being a lukewarm team by the standards of that program, look to be a historic unit.
Coach Mike Dreier's crew debuted in state with not only a win, but a decisive win. Their foe had the No. 3 ranking in state. Totally undaunted by that, the Wildcats worked to take complete control of this game. They crushed Minnehaha Academy 58-44 to reach the state semis. The team is truly in the glow earned by the elite. They have won four straight games by an average margin of 22.5 points. They are the cream of the state Class AA crop.
The next assignment for coach Dreier's crew: playing Sauk Centre Friday at Williams Arena, the most storied venue for hoops in Minnesota. Game-time is the rather late 8 p.m. Friday. I'm sure the Wildcats will be unfazed taking the court to play the 30-1 Mainstreeters. New London-Spicer was in fact defeated by Sauk Centre earlier this winter, 54-37. That was a Christmastime affair.
The writer for the West Central Tribune, editorializing, said: "But the Wildcats look like a different team than the one from nearly three months ago." Maybe the writer is right. We'll see.
Megan Thorson was a fixture with her resilience and productivity on the court. She poured in 17 points against Minnehaha Academy. Plus she collected ten rebounds. She was on the court nonstop, excelling under those bright lights of a state venue (making the job much easier for photographers).
Minnehaha Academy presented height on the court. So NL-Spicer prioritized trying to get an edge on the boards. And they did in fact do that. The stats show NL-Spicer with 39 rebounds, Minnehaha with 34.
The Wildcats presented a somewhat streaky offense but those streaks proved vital in building an advantage. The game began with the Wildcats getting up 10-4 on the scoreboard. The first half ended with an 11-5 run that brought a wave of cheers from the New London-Spicer fans. The halftime score was 30-21, NL-Spicer on its way.
Minnehaha is known as the "Redhawks." I like that name. Those Redhawks tried clawing back but were frustrated when Lindsey Vagle and Brooke Beuning hit consecutive 3's for the Wildcats. Those bombs got NL-S up by six.
The Redhawks had an undaunted air and got their deficit down to a mere four points with 6:30 left to play. At this pivotal juncture, NL-Spicer summoned "mo" once again, outscoring those Redhawks 12-2 to end the game. Eight of those 12 points were put in by Shea Oman, an outstanding sophomore on the roster. Shea was held to two points in the first half but found the range in the second. She finished with 13 points.
The New London-Spicer reserve players scored 13 points compared to Minnehaha's five.
Defensively the Wildcats showed a zone scheme that neutralized the Redhawks much of the time. It was a 2-3 zone. Often the Redhawks were limited to putting up contested shots from outside.
"We did the little stuff right," coach Dreier was quoted saying.
Here are some telling numbers: Minnehaha made just six of 26 shots from 3-point territory. Here's another: two of 17 shot numbers by Minnehaha's undisputed star player, Sarah Kaminski, who will be playing college ball at George Mason University. Kaminski scored just 12 total points. She was reportedly ill for this game, according to Dreier. I once got in trouble, or let's just say I took some total hell, over reporting that a Paynesville cross country runner was sick going into the section meet. Injuries and illnesses are not off the table for sports reporting, I would argue. But Morris can be a strange town. We're a clique-y town, often forcing decisions that aren't in the best interests of our young people.
Terra Rhoades led Minnehaha in scoring with 22 points, the game-high total. Terra hit three 3's. She and Sarah were dominant in the Redhawks' offense but they needed a little more help from others. Only four Redhawks put in points.
Coach Dreier exudes optimism going into the Sauk Centre game. He was quoted saying: "Since the tournaments have started, the girls seem to have way more determination and way more focus."
So it's just determination and focus? I would argue that an outstanding coach simply gets his team pointed in the right direction. Such a coach would never pat himself on the back by saying that. Don't be fooled.
I'm pleased to notice that NL-Spicer is planning fan buses for the Sauk Centre game. Fan buses are more rare, generally speaking, than they used to be. The Wildcats own a 24-6 overall season record.
Oman made two 3-pointers Wednesday. These four Wildcats each made one: Alyssa Fredrick, Kabrie Weber, Lindsey Vagle and Brooke Beuning. Megan Thorson led in rebounds with ten, followed by Weber (9), Oman (6), Morgan Swenson (5) and Erin Tebben (4). Oman dished out three assists while these three Wildcats each had two: Thorson, Weber and Beuning. Weber had three steals and Oman two.
Rhoades made three 3-pointers for the loser. Kaminski made two 3's and Mia Curtis made one. Kaminski grabbed seven rebounds for the Redhawks, plus she had three assists and four steals. Good luck to Kaminski in her post-high school play. Minnehaha Academy finishes with a 25-4 season mark.
Oh, let's review the New London-Spicer scoring list from Wednesday: Megan Thorson 17, Shea Oman 13, Kabrie Weber 7, Alyssa Fredrick 6, Brooke Beuning 5, Lindsey Vagle 5, Morgan Swenson 2, Erin Tebben 2 and Mariah Adams 1.
Meanwhile in MACA
Apparently there is a rumor afloat here in Motown that we might see a change in coaching with our male Tigers.
Mark Torgerson got the appointment at a time when our community was embroiled in politics. A sociologist should have come here, camped out and written a book. I could try to write one myself. But as they say, it's all just water under the bridge. Or, is it "under the overpass," or "over the underpass," as Del Sarlette and yours truly used to joke.
The school district was the vortex for a lot of unpleasant stuff in the late 1980s. We had a new superintendent who wanted to appoint Chris Baxter as our BBB coach. I could see the wisdom behind the super's thinking: I think he saw it as healthy for an outsider with his own clear philosophy to come and and take over a program - a person with more of an AAU type of philosophy than what we had.
Our school district was being hurt in the eyes of the wider area, by having extracurricular programs not tailored in the properly ambitious way. To quote one friend of mine, we had programs that were little different from phy. ed class. Which is maybe wholesome enough, but we had to respect the kind of sports model that predominated, one which, like it or not, puts a premium on wins. Sports would be like a model for life in that regard.
A formal protest against the status quo grew in Morris. When our boys basketball coach departed, there was a vacuum that could be filled in either of two ways: the entrenched good old boys getting their way, or a fresh new outsider with a philosophy more in line with the prevailing standards.
Our new superintendent, presented to the public in a ballyhooed way, was forced into being a toady, in some respects, and our coach of today got the job, many, many years ago.
The old issues don't seem relevant now. In my opinion there were years when we could have done better, including this past season, or should I say post-season. Our BBB team can never be counted on to deliver pleasant surprises in the post-season, and I think that's sad. The situation is about the same for our girls program. The programs are treading water.
I know, not everyone can win. But it should be your goal to win and to be a special program like New London-Spicer.
I don't know if we already have a good candidate in the system to replace our boys coach if he should resign. I'm just getting old and tired.
I suffered miserably because of my known opinion of supporting Baxter. I was made into an absolute pariah in some quarters. It affected my ability to be a positive journalistic contributor for this community. I would argue it even forced the newspaper to hire a new editor, a very heavy-smoking person who spewed tremendous amounts of secondhand smoke into the air at the Sun Tribune shop.
I spent years as a pariah and I want to implore you all that I really am a good person. Maybe only God and I know that.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

He should have been a Twin: Rocky Colavito

Rocky Colavito's flashy name was appropriate for a baseball player who had a dramatic power bat. Rocky would have fit in so nicely with the Minnesota Twins of that era. We were built around power.
Rocky was a native of New York City. He didn't actually play for a New York City team until he was in decline. The Yankees were his last team.
Not that his brief tenure with the Yankees was uneventful. He had an oddball accomplishment: he became the last position player until Brent Mayne in 2000 to be credited as the winning pitcher in a game. Rocky tossed 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. He handled Al Kaline and Willie Horton. Not only that, Rocky scored the winning run for the Yanks in the eighth inning. This was game 1 of a doubleheader. (Doubleheaders were more common back then - I loved them because they were a clear "2-fer.") Rocky homered in game 2 of the doubleheader.
The year was 1968, which incidentally was "the year of the pitcher." I once wrote a whole blog post on "the year of the pitcher," 1968, that tumultuous year in American politics and society. You may read it by clicking on this link.
I also once wrote an extended essay on the life and career of Rocco "Rocky" Colavito. Here's the link to that:
Today I have some poetry/lyrics to share, devoted to that exciting power hitter, Rocky Colavito, who played most of his career with small market teams. He would have looked great in a Twins uniform.
You will see a "chorus" designated as part of the poetry, suitable for a song. The verse portion could be presented as narration with no melody. Here we go:
A guy whose name inspired awe
A better name could not be bought
Boxers would embrace that name
Knowing it could bring them fame
Baseball was our hero's sport
Lots of runs he did uncork
Drawing cheers from massive throngs
They watched as his bat went long
They would rave and they would sing
When ol' Rocky did his thing
Colavito in his stance
Made the pitchers wet their pants
Rocky Colavito, where the heck did you go?
We still have the mem-ry of your baseball majesty
Rocky Colavito, you put on a big show
With that bat you hit the ball as far as I could see
"Rocco" was his given name
Might the mafia be his game?
No, he found a wholesome path
Causing earthquakes with his bat
Rocky was the name we coined
In his fan club I did join
No he was no flying squirrel
He was just a baseball pearl
Had he played in NYC
He'd reach immortality
Far from all that nonstop hype
Rocky was the low-key type
'60s were a time of woe
Viet Nam would make it so
Plus the fight in southern states
For the rights that make us great
All along we still had fun
Keeping sadness on the run
This we did in bleacher seats
Watching Rocky clear his cleats
Then he'd stride up to the plate
Wielding lumber, feeling great
Knowing all that splendor there
Wiped away your mortal cares
(repeat chorus)
Aiming for the left field seats
Seeking further baseball feats
Smiling from a baseball card
You just knew this guy played hard
Rocky won a hero's role
Winning was his daily goal
Fans in Cleveland raved and buzzed
As they watched this game they loved
Rocky synthesized their hopes
A rising tide to lift all boats
Still the Yankees were a curse
Damn the team with that big purse
Cleveland would appear so grand
At the top - strike up the band!
It's just a product of our dreams
Passing fancy, passing screams
Fans in every baseball town
Have the right to smile or frown
Mostly we set goals too high
That's our birthright, my oh my
Rocky had the stuff to thrill
Plus the name for that top bill
He was worth the price to come
Win or lose, we had such fun
(repeat chorus)
Copyright 2016 Brian R. Williams

Friday, March 11, 2016

What balance! New London-Spicer in for state

They did it again! New London-Spicer's Wildcats are in for the state tournament. The female hoopsters won by a decent margin in the section championship game. Success came by a 72-55 score over Tracy-Milroy-Balaton. The site was Southwest State University, Marshall.
My, what an assortment of talent the Wildcats displayed, as five individuals scored in double figures.
Coach Mike Dreier has guided his program to great heights in many seasons. I doubt that the raw "talent" is really that much more than what we have here in Morris Area Chokio Alberta. Dreier seems to pull the levers that make the difference. But if interviewed about this, I'm sure he'd say it was all about talent. Wink.
Tracy-Milroy-Balaton is no stranger to high levels of play. But this year they clearly ended up in a back seat to the Wildcats, who are in their 16th state tournament. They're getting ready to play again on Wednesday (3/16). The site will be Mariucci Arena.
The Wildcats nudged to a 38-32 lead by halftime Thursday. They outscored TMB 34-23 in the second half. Here are the five double figures scorers: Alyssa Fredrick (17), Kabrie Weber (16), Shea Oman (13), Erin Tebben (10) and Morgan Swenson (10). Megan Thorson put in four points and Brooke Beuning two.
Can our MACA Tigers make a run at the Wildcats one of these years? I think the opportunity is there anytime. It'd be neat if we could shoot 3-pointers like the Wildcats did Thursday. It was bombs-away as Fredrick led the charge with five long-rangers. Oman and Weber each made three 3's. The team numbers in 3's were 11 of 18. The rebound leaders were Thorson (8), Tebben (7) and Swenson (6). Fredrick deftly contributed eight assists while Oman had five. Oman stole the ball three times.
The win was No. 23 of the season for those dynastic Wildcats. Coach Dreier sees balance as a prime attribute of his team.
The Panthers of TMB did not have height as an attribute. They had a young complexion, indicating of course they'll be a force to reckon with in the future. Naturally, NL-Spicer will continue as quite the force. I know that Shea Oman is only a sophomore.
Fredrick was quoted post-game saying she really didn't feel in the groove in pre-game. Such feelings can fool you, as Twins broadcaster Bert Blyleven would point out. Blyleven recalled days when he felt terrible in warm-ups only to go out and pitch solidly. The reverse scenario could also be true. Fredrick said that once she hit her first shot, she felt fine.
The TMB Panthers had a streak of 16 wins over one stretch this season. Sophomores Kaylee Kirk and Evelyn Dolan are players to watch for them. Kirk had a harvest of 19 points Thursday. Dolan scored 12. Dolan had nine rebounds against a superior (and tall) NL-Spicer front line.
TMB was to be complimented scoring as many points as they did. The Wildcats have a reputation of applying the clamps defensively. TMB's Dolan complimented the Wildcats on how their 2/3 defense collapsed really well.
TMB had no one standing taller than 5'9". The Panthers actually did well neutralizing the NL-Spicer inside game at times.
Coach Dreier said of his Wildcats: "They worked heart and soul." Coach Dreier has a son, Matt, following in his father's coaching footsteps.
Here's the TMB scoring list from Thursday: Kaylee Kirk (19), Evelyn Dolan (12), Gavvie Gervais (7), Sydney Karbo (6), Sara Stoneburg (5), Sydney Lanoue (4) and Regan Davis (2). Really? Two players with "Sydney" names spelled the same? Karbo made two 3-pointers and Kirk made one. Kirk had five assists and Dolan had five steals.
Good luck to the Wildcats in state play.
We're perplexed by Gophers
So, the Gophers got their clock cleaned in the Big 10 Tournament. So, we just write off the current season as if it's a bump in the road. OK it's a gaping pothole. Meanwhile we read about these huge sums of money sloshing around in U of M athletics. The numbers get dizzyingly high. Just think of an obscenely high number and you'll probably be in the ballpark.
I can't keep up with the embarrassing revelations about Gophers sports: the combination of under-achieving and bloated subsidy, like dumping wheelbarrow-fulls of money for coaches on the way out. Rich Pitino can take advantage of this at some time. I recently wrote a blog post about how Jerry Kill was able to fill his saddlebags full of money after an overrated tenure here. He took a one-time hefty payment and now he's probably gone, back to Illinois where he has a new lake home (in Carbondale).
Days later we got the banner headline in the Star Tribune about "sex videos." Do I have to write about that too? Do I have to write about these generous contract provisions for Rich Pitino whose main attribute appears to be his last name? The Gophers were embarrassingly bad this past winter. Are we supposed to just accept a throwaway season like this?
The U football team was marketed and promoted in a glass-half-full way, shrewdly, by the powers-that-be at the U. Really the football Gophers had just two legitimate wins, over Illinois and Purdue, and now Illinois has Lovie Smith as head coach, so look out for them.
Is it true Tracy Claeys never played college football? Well, one advantage is that his brain didn't get scrambled by playing a high level of football, so he might outdo his rivals just based on this. I expect a big-time movement of boycotting football to begin developing. I think the Southeastern U.S. will be the sport's last bastion, and as time goes by, the sport will be increasingly associated with socioeconomically deprived people.
Basketball? Between the Gophers and Timberwolves we've had ample opportunity to yawn over the recent past. I'm not sure the Timberwolves ever recovered from their earliest years when they stressed "winning today" too much, over taking lumps and getting higher draft picks.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Our beloved Tony Oliva worthy of poetry

1965 seemed like "the old days" at the time our Minnesota Twins won their two world championships. The two titles came in 1987 and 1991. Increasingly we feel like old-timers when reflecting on the '87 and '91 seasons. Many years have rolled by.
Our ballpark for the two title campaigns has gone out of existence. It wasn't really a "ballpark," it was a "building." An embittered manager Whitey Herzog of St. Louis said of the Twins after our '87 success: "They do well in this building." He was trying to apply a dagger as if to suggest we didn't have a true "ballpark," and there was more than a grain of truth there.
Well, if those who share nostalgia about '87 and '91 are old-timers, what does that make me? I will always embrace memories of our '65 team. Bittersweet memories indeed. We climbed so far, yet we were denied the World Series title in the maximum seven games. We burst our buttons with pride about our Metropolitan Stadium. Quite logical, as five years earlier we were a "cold Omaha" with our minor league Minneapolis Millers.
Minnesota was awash with unbridled state pride for the '65 season and the climactic World Series. Imagine, the World Series in Minnesota! The whole idea required adjustment. Along the way we knocked off the New York Yankees, mainly with a perfectly-timed Harmon Killebrew home run that symbolically seemed to extinguish the Yankees' dynasty of that era - the Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle dynasty. Oh, and Roger Maris.
In '65 we had the dazzling Tony Oliva - "Tony O" as he was so affectionately called by Herb Carneal. What a prodigy with the bat, from Cuba. He burst on the scene in 1964, playing all 162 games. I look at that "162" number now and question the judgment of having him play daily. Why not a day off after a night game, or sitting down for game 2 of a doubleheader? Today that would surely be done. Was baseball scared of getting complaints from fans who wanted to see Oliva on a given day?
Gate receipts were more important then, in the days with such limited TV reach. Was Tony like a circus attraction, though? His body may have been worn down in ways that brought consequences later. We're learning all about what happens to football players today.
Tony had a marvelous career but his body wasn't resilient enough to get the kind of longevity needed for the Hall of Fame. Just one more solid season would have sealed it. Many argue he was good enough anyway.
Tony did not distinguish himself in post-season play. I'm sure that hurt. One heroic World Series would have gotten him in. We won our division in '69 and '70 but got stopped short of the Series. I will never forget how, by the time of those division-winning seasons, we had come to take the "Met" (our stadium) for granted, almost dissing it sometimes. By the end of the '70s it was common to hear people talk about the stadium like it was passé. Strange.
Cities go through generations of stadiums. It's as if the public demands a new one every 20-30 years, the way restaurant customers expect a little re-decorating once in a while.
I will remind you that I have written a song about Tony Oliva, and it's online. Here's the link:
Just days ago I posted the song I wrote about our current Target Field. I invite you to listen by clicking on this link:
Today I have some straight poetry to share, inspired by that unique Cuban athlete who is so beloved. The poem about "Tony O" reflects on his journey from when he was just a prospect. I invite you to read:
A young man here from Cuban shores
Could he break down baseball's doors?
In the spring of '61
He looked raw to everyone
People said his outfield play
Wasn't going to win the day
Never mind his bat was hot
He might never get a shot
Drifting after getting cut
He found refuge in Charlotte
Training with a friend he made
He scored points with his big frame
Charlotte's GM placed a call
To the Twins of big league ball
On the phone he did demand
"Let's re-sign this Cuban man"
On to Wytheville he did bound
In Class 'D' he'd make some sounds
In the Appalachian League
He could hit but could he field?
He signed up for winter ball
Puerto Rico gave that call
Second in the batting race
He proclaimed a solid case
So he came to Single-A
Back in Charlotte, primed to play
Hitting like a superstar
Now we knew he could go far
In the fall of '62
So to see what he could do
He was called with nine games left
By the Twins who placed their bets
Coming up to bat 12 times
Our young man connected fine
Getting hits and turning heads
Such anticipation fed
Bring on 1963
Springtime and its reverie
Would our young man carve a niche
Honing in on each new pitch?
No, the answer came so bleak
He would not get big league cleats
Down in Texas he would play
Making strides in Triple-A
Dallas-Ft. Worth was his club
He stuck with the game he loved
Starting slow and ending hot
Now we knew he'd get his shot
Sure enough in '64
We all heard the bat that roared
No more holding back that man
As his bat assumed command
People all around the league
Watched with awe his many deeds
He was Rookie of the Year
As his talent garnered cheers
Capturing the batting crown
He hit liners all around
Some would call them frozen ropes
He projected Twins' fans hopes
Then in '65 they won
While the Yankees came undone
Ready at the All-Star break
To seal up the Yankees' fate
Our young man was in the glow
Of his pastime's biggest show
Festive bunting greeted all
For the showcase in the fall
Twins were matched against L.A.
Could they hit and make the plays?
Minnesotans watched with awe
Caught up with that little ball
So high in that firmament
Where the Yankees left their print
Now the Midwest came to shine
With a lineup full of pride
With the "T/C" on their caps
Twins inspired fans to clap
With our Cuban hero primed
Maybe we would see them climb
Twins and Dodgers went to seven
Our Met Stadium seemed like heaven
We won three games in that place
Not enough to win the day
Though we showed we did belong
Dodgers sang a winning song
Thanks to Koufax on the hill
They prevailed with their sheer will
What a lefty who bore down
Master of that pitching mound
He was rested on a day
All 'cause of his Jewish faith
Never mind, he'd be around
When his precious faith allowed
He was king when it meant most
Jews would surely raise a toast
All in L.A. paused and bowed
That includes the movie crowd
Meanwhile in our Northern state
We still knew our team was great
Very high on that prime list
Was that Cuban with those wrists
In the groove for hitting hard
Hitting long, looking large
Surely you must know the name
Of the man who lit a flame
Making fans cheer long and hard
Coveting his baseball card
We all called him "Tony O."
That Oliva stole the show
As we grew up we were wowed
By that man whose bat was loud
Back in Cuba things were grim
No place for a man like him
In the U.S. he was free
To pursue his destiny
With his baseball expertise
He could seal his inner peace
"Tony O." was born to thrive
Touching all in '65
© Copyright 2016 Brian R. Williams

Monday, March 7, 2016

New London-Spicer girls roll past Monte

Competition is supposed to get tougher as you rise in the post-season tournament. In theory that's certainly true. But any program that routinely climbs in the post-season, knows the opponent puts on their pants one leg at a time, just like you do.
Conventional wisdom has it that this year's New London-Spicer girls basketball team might not be as strong as usual. A good coach says "balderdash" to such thinking. Go out there and win! New London-Spicer is the team that ended our MACA girls' season. Could NL-Spicer duplicate that success at the next level and the level after that?
On the heels of turning back our Tigers, the Wildcats made a return trip to Granite Falls (of all places, a post-season hotspot), this time to face Montevideo. This was the Section 3AA-North title game. Should NL-Spicer be awed or intimidated by its new opponent? Coach Mike Dreier never feels this way. His Wildcats went out and got the job done as well as always. They pummeled the Thunder Hawks of Monte, walking away with a 54-36 win, an 18-point margin.
Dreier had his squad apply an aggressive defense. The Wildcats were also blessed by getting in some nice grooves for long-range shooting. This 1-2 punch eliminated any sense of suspense.
Let's not think the Thunder Hawks did not get going at the outset, as they jumped up 9-3 (including a 7-0 run). The Wildcats sputtered a little trying to get their long-range shots to fall. Eventually they did, like late in the first half when Shea Oman found the range. Oman is blossoming into a standout Wildcat. She made a pair of 3's to help her team establish an edge before halftime. So the halftime score was 22-17 with New London-Spicer on its way.
NL-Spicer's momentum carried into the second half. Now it was Alyssa Fredrick coming on strong with shooting from behind the three-point stripe. The Wildcats went on an 8-0 run and made it clear who the night's victor would be.
The NL-Spicer defense had a very confining effect on the T-Hawks, who would have liked a faster pace of play, according to coach Corey Enberg. Monte might have been expected to do better. Of course you could say the same about our MACA Tigers.
Dreier has a way of bringing the cream to the top in March. It's fun to be part of that ride, like yours truly is doing right now journalistically. I've done it before, like back when Taylor Thunstedt was the 'Cats' marquee player. Coach Dreier is a 15-time section champion. He was quoted in the media saying "our kids really showed a lot of heart and soul tonight." NL-Spicer outscored Monte 32-19 in the second half.
NL-Spicer now sports a 22-6 season record. Congratulations to them. Three players stood out on the scoring list with Alyssa Fredrick leading the way with her 15 points. Megan Thorson put in 14 points and Oman had 12. Morgan Swenson contributed five points. These four Wildcats each scored two: Brooke Beuning, Kabrie Weber, Erin Tebben and Mariah Adams.
Fredrick made three 3-pointers and Oman made two. Swenson and Thorson each grabbed eight rebounds, and Weber had seven. Fredrick and Weber were the assist leaders with five and three respectively. Oman stole the ball four times.
Abby Olson led Monte's scoring with eleven points. She made one '3'. She also led the T-Hawks in rebounds with six. She and Morgan Reidinger each had two assists. Olson had two steals.
Next for New London-Spicer: the section title game, set on Thursday at Southwest State University, Marshall. The opponent now: Tracy-Milroy-Balaton. Game-time is 5 p.m. Look for my review post the next day, and "go Wildcats." I'm an old friend of Jody Sherstad-Jordan of New London.
Sports and media:
I had the pleasure of taking a Sunday walk on a day that felt almost like June. I walked past Chizek Field and realized a baseball game could easily have been played there that afternoon. Wow! I walked through the UMM campus and, as I always do, checked out UMM publications. I noticed something fascinating about the University Register. I did not see any "sports section." Well, it's about time.
Not that sports isn't important - all aspects of campus life are important - but sports can be presented so thoroughly and in such an enriching way online, on UMM's website. It seems rather duplicative to have these efforts made in the UMM student newspaper. Those articles slavishly written to review games played a week ago (or more) seem rather pointless for the general audience of the paper. The paper can explore campus life in so many other stimulating ways.
The "sports department" must seem like a rather obligatory thing to do, with a "sports editor." It seems rather quaint. It ought to be vestigial. I grant that sports isn't retreating in our culture. But the paper should strive to present material that people genuinely want to read. Think marketing.
I am assuming that the "Northstar" publication no longer exists on a physical basis on the UMM campus. I haven't seen any copies although I do see at least one empty newsstand with the "Northstar" sign at the top. Curious.
The existence of "Northstar" for at least two years on the UMM campus is probably the most embarrassing chapter in the school's history. It was not a serious journalistic endeavor. Do I have to spell that out for you, children?
I had it explained to me that UMM is a "liberal" institution which means, paradoxically, that UMM allows this pseudo-conservative abomination of a publication to exist because UMM believes in "letting the students do whatever they want." Like, taking down the goalposts at the end of a football game.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, March 3, 2016

NL-Spicer turns back Tigers in second half

NL-Spicer 62, Tigers 47
Our Morris Area Chokio Alberta girls basketball team was in the game, halfway through its post-season matchup with New London-Spicer. We trailed by five points, 25-30.
Might the Tigers be able to roar in the second half? No, it was the big cats of NL-Spicer, the "Wildcats," showing that roar as they came on strong as is so typical of that Mike Dreier-coached program. I haven't seen coach Dreier in years. I remember when Rick Lucken thought the venerable coach might be wearing a hairpiece. Rick joked about sneaking past him from behind and testing the theory.
Whatever the hair reality, Dreier's Wildcats have become a legendary force in Central Minnesota girls basketball. Someday maybe a statue should be erected of him. On the final day of February this year, those Wildcats turned on the jets in second half play, causing our Tigers to fade and to fall in the 62-47 final.
We end the season dead at .500 with 13-13 won-lost numbers. It was not a reflection of how our volleyball team did last fall.
Our hoopsters faced those Wildcats in the Section 3AA-North semis. Fans of both teams had to haul their rear ends to Granite Falls of all places. Our boys team had to do likewise. Strange. I can't fathom why this was necessary. In any case, the NL-Spicer fans had ample reason to show vocal acclamation in the second half. Their Wildcats outscored the Tigers 32-22 in the half.
Shea Oman was a very important player for the victor. Shea scored a team-best 19 points, making three 3-pointers as part of that output. She's a sophomore guard. Alyssa Fredrick also put in three 3's.
Megan Thorson contributed 14 points to the Wildcats' cause, and Morgan Swenson had ten. Fredrick's point output was nine. Kabrie Weber scored six points, while Erin Tebben and Lindsay Vagle each scored two. Thorson grabbed nine rebounds and Tebben had seven. Fredrick and Brooke Beuning each had four assists. Oman stole the ball three times.
For the Tigers, Becca Holland and Correy Hickman each made three 3-pointers. Ashley Solvie was our top point-scorer with 21. Holland finished with eleven points, Hickman with seven and Moira McNally with six. Riley Decker added two points to the mix.
Those rolling Wildcats will play Montevideo at 7 p.m. tomorrow (Friday, March 4) in the sub-section final. Again the destination, oddly, will be YME - those desolate environs.
Coach Dreier in comments to the media complimented the Tigers on "limiting the flexibility" of his Wildcats. "They shut a bunch of our sets down," Dreier said, "and there were times we couldn't do much."
That's very polite and magnanimous, coach Dreier, but your team ended up winning rather handily. You must have been able to do something.
Neither of our MACA basketball teams distinguished themselves in the post-season. This has been a rather long-running scenario. Our boys team in particular has been disappointing. March is the time of year when fans are really supposed to get their adrenalin pumping for high school sports. Instead it has seemed rather anticlimactic for us.
How much does the public care? I really don't know, I really don't. And look at the hockey program. If I understand what's being reported by the local media, we have a rather small boys roster, with half the kids theoretically from Benson, and there were just two wins, and nine kids are graduating? Should we anticipate the dissolution of the program? Should the Lee Center just become part of the Stevens County fairgrounds? I'm not sure I would have contributed a thousand bucks to that, if I had known hockey would unravel as a sport here.
We once had our own MAHS Tiger hockey teams. Well, that didn't last. We paired with Benson, a move leaving me feeling rather flabbergasted. A "Morris/Benson" team?
I bumped into a long-time hockey promoter at McDonald's last week, and he indicated that the current downtown might not be temporary. He observed that the cost of hockey is a factor. OK that may be true. But if it is, why can't we come up with resources on a community basis, helping make hockey a more feasible sport for parents by defraying some of the costs? Can't the community as a whole help make these youth programs thrive?
Are we all Republicans? Do we all feel we have to "pay our own way" for everything? Are we that anti-collectivist?
Is there one grade in MAHACA wrestling that will have just one kid out for the sport next year? Sports seems somewhat less than a shining star in Stevens County now. Disagree? Contact me.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com