"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, November 17, 2016

Let's emphasize that our W/L record was 9-2

The fall of 2016 will be remembered on a couple fronts in Morris. We had incredible success in high school sports. We also followed the odds-defying rise of Donald Trump.
I notice that in the Willmar newspaper, the final won-lost record of our football team was reported as 9-3. As always they refer to us as "M/CA" and not with the correct form: "MACA." The 9-3 won-lost numbers were inaccurate. We of course only lost twice. The 9-2 record, as opposed to 9-3, befits "The Minnesota High School Football Team of the Year." We got that honor from the Minnesota Vikings.
The reporting error spills over to other places, as is always the case. I used the 9-3 record in my initial posting. The Morris paper's Donnelly news reporter alerted me to the problem. Because my reporting is online-only, no print, I can easily go in and make a correction, which I promptly did. I like this convenience.
I have wondered for years if people give the Morris paper a heads-up when the paper recycles erroneous information from the Willmar paper. I have seen these errors go uncorrected. The best example was a football game at Paynesville several years ago. It was a particularly exciting win for MACA. Maybe the Paynesville coach was in such a lousy mood at game's end, he didn't much care how the info got called in. Lyle Rambow contacted me within hours to give a heads-up on the errant coverage in the Willmar paper.
Incredibly, that disaster of a game review appeared in the Morris and Chokio papers even though a week passed, affording plenty of time for the Morris paper people to roll up their sleeves and attend to the matter. How easy it would have been to just contact Jerry Witt and arrange for maybe a half hour-long interview, making sure the game details came through OK. It would be a pleasure. It would be fun. Maybe the paper had a policy of not doing this because it would embarrass the Willmar paper which has the same owner as the Morris paper. The Willmar paper reported the wrong name of the Tiger who caught the winning touchdown pass. If I remember correctly, the heroic Tiger was a Chokio-Alberta student, and he didn't even get his due in the Chokio paper. I checked.
So now we have the Willmar paper reporting a 9-3 record for the Tigers when it should be 9-2. And again it spills over into other Forum properties. Of course I am not a Forum property - I simply write because I enjoy covering these teams.
My coverage of Tiger football goes back to the fall of 1972. The Richard Nixon presidency had begun to disintegrate. As a society we were in a funk over our failure in the Viet Nam war. We were embarking on a decade that would have economic stress: inflation and then "stagflation." But life went on. Our school programs went on. Our high school football coach was Jim Satter. He complimented me on my work.
The sports community of Morris had much lower standards, compared to today, for judging press coverage. Really they just wanted the paper to pay a little attention. We had fewer sports programs.
While there's still time, it would be nice to see our local museum collect photos from people presenting the Friday night experience of football at the old Coombe Field. It was so different from Big Cat Stadium. The idea at Big Cat Stadium is to seriously watch football. I think a lot of people in the old days would have considered that boring. Lory Lemke shared in an email to me that the old facility had a "town square" atmosphere that would probably never be replaced. What a perfect description - leave it to a UMM teacher.
We had cheerleaders through most of the years at the old facility. It was assumed the pep band would play at all home games. It was hard rounding up the band for a Labor Day weekend game. I found that ironic. I had heard through the years: don't ever schedule a class reunion in August because everyone will say: "We can't come because we have to get ready for school." But then when the band director tried organizing the band for the football opener, she'd hear: "I can't be there because we're going to be gone." I shared this story with a friend who said: "The people who want to be there (for a class reunion) will find a way to get there."
Getting back to press coverage: a football game is a rather complicated thing to summarize. There are many categories of information that have to be consistent with each other. I remember trying to summarize an MACA football game vs. YME 3-4 years ago, and there was a kickoff return for a touchdown during the second half. However, for this to have happened, the other team would have had to score first. The summary in the West Central Tribune did not report that. I couldn't report the info as presented in that paper, so I don't remember what I did - I probably glossed over it in some way.
I have seen the score-by-quarters part of a game review in the West Central Tribune flubbed. I have seen games go uncovered completely because they were played in places that weren't dependable for having someone call in. Maybe the West Central Tribune has worked to smooth out some rough edges, but believe me, newspapers now have much bigger problems than dealing with sports. The people running the business phase of papers probably grimace over the mere cost of having a sports department.
Newspapers are desperately attacking their overhead expenses. It will work for a while. I monitor these things, and recently I have learned that the decline of newspapers is taking off again after a lull in which papers appeared to stabilize. The distress is due of course to the migration of information online. I can cover MACA football and volleyball for zero cost.
I remember when the Sun Tribune had an editor who was eager to jump on me for any mistake or typo comparable to the West Central Tribune reporting the 9-3 record. I remember once summarizing an MAHS softball game against CAHN. One coach gave me an error stat for MAHS which differed by one from the stat submitted by the other coach. I wrote two separate articles. A discrepancy of one in a stat category, when interviewing two coaches about the same game, is absolutely nothing in the scheme of things. I'd be shocked if all their stats matched. But of course the editor fine tooth combed the articles, discovered the trivial discrepancy and had to make an issue about it.
"I hope I don't get any phone calls," she said to me. I told her there are no official error stats because determining an error, as opposed to a hit, is a judgment call by the coaches or stat keepers. High school softball and baseball games do not have "official scorers" to make these determinations. You'd have to pay them.
The editor at that time, who had an agenda to harass me, would have been extremely fortunate if her own mistakes were so minor. At least one of her mistakes, in my view, had the potential to bring a lawsuit against the paper. Nit-picking sports articles was a ridiculous thing for her to do, unless she had an aim of actually getting me fired, which, if this was in fact her aim, she failed to do.
It would have been better and more productive for the paper staff members to work together with a team spirit.
The problem in the 1980s in Morris was that the public school teachers union was muscling around too much. It turned neighbor against neighbor. I am not exaggerating. It was a time when teachers unions all over Minnesota were at least talking about going on strike. They lived in a world that most of us could not relate to. Many became hard-core unionists, the type who would shout "scab" at a strike-breaker or spit on such a person. They were not above promoting business boycotts.
Oh yes, it happened.
Parents had to be careful not even saying anything that might be contrary to what teachers wanted. Would teachers take it out on the kids? "They say they don't (do that) but they do," Dave Holman told me, referring to one family's distress in particular.
I have long described our community's problems in the 1980s as "a hangover from the deconstructionist 1970s." It was worse here than in other places, maybe because we had a liberal arts college in town. UMM was great for going along with the zeitgeist.
Traditional values had a resurgence in America in the 1980s, beginning about midway through the decade, as Ronald Reagan set the tenor. Our community got torn apart in the later stages of the decade. Community insurgents had to rise up at great risk to themselves and their businesses, trying to get the ship of our school righted. Of course the initiative should have come from within.
We had a high school theater program in the 1970s that did artsy, esoteric and avant garde things. That gave way to the bursting return of tradition in the early 1980s. We got the crowd-pleasing "Charlie's Aunt" directed by Sue Hauger. Some faculty members didn't like it. Oh, I remember.
So, let's emphasize that our MACA football team of 2016 had a won-lost record of 9-2, not 9-3 as reported by the West Central Tribune newspaper of Willmar (and extended to the Morris paper website). No one needs to be burned at the stake for this. But I look forward to the day when these sports programs can have their own independent websites. What's the delay?
 
Addendum:
The paragraphs below previously appeared on my January 28 post. I'm repeating this mainly because there was a horrible typographical error halfway through that post. The content is consistent with today's thoughts. January 28 was my birthday, incidentally.
 
I resent the power that the public school monopoly had on my life when I was young. I was a below-average student who should have been treated as such. But I came from a UMM-oriented family so I was supposed to be special. So as a sophomore I got put in Gene Mechelke's class with all the other "smart" types (not that they were really smarter).
I found Mechelke to be a distasteful person. He attacked me in a visceral way one day. Steve Poppe can tell you about that. Jerry Lembcke thought I should actually take action against this pretentious fool. Many years later when I was dealing with Diane Kratz on a newspaper project, I shared a comment about Mechelke and she said "He was in trouble a lot." Really? Were the problems with him ever solved?
Here's how I saw his modus operandi: He'd identify a couple kids in class who seemed unsure of themselves, give them low grades initially, then prop them up which of course caused them to praise him out of a sense of relief. He said things to agitate us, as if he enjoyed just seeing our response, as if he had some inner psychological need satisfied.
An example: he started carrying on one day about Donnelly being a backwater place (hint: w/ ignorance). There was a rather attractive girl in the class, whose name I won't type here, who everyone associated with Donnelly - Donnelly kids had a real group identity in those days - and she was so incensed at Mechelke's language, she stayed after class to dispute him. Did he get his jollies from that? He was arrogant and overrated, IMHO.
Approaching one's birthday causes you to reflect on the highs and lows of your life. Would I be a less cynical person if I had had Al Hendrickson instead of Mechelke for those classes? Hendrickson was just like Don Fellows: a genuine, gentle and caring human being. Life's road is challenging, though, and you'd better be ready to confront the SOBs. The union probably had more power than the superintendent or the board. We learn that life isn't fair sometimes. I may have had problems but I was just a kid.
 
More memory bits: One day in some idle moments toward the end of class, with 4-5 students hovering close to Mechelke's desk, he began speaking in a mocking and disrespectful way about one of his teaching colleagues: Andy Papke. He wondered if Papke might pronounce the word "psychology" as "psychogee." I don't think Papke would do this and regardless, he was a far classier person than Mechelke.
Mechelke made a big deal out of Francis Gary Powers the spy plane pilot. It was a down note in our history. I resented the emphasis. America was fighting the Soviets. Of course, teachers unions at that time were very friendly to communism or collectivism. How much better off we'd be just reading a nice mainstream historical novel like by John Jakes. Mechelke gave us these eerie reading assignments out of Japan. That's how I learned the word "concubine" which is "prostitute" or "mistress." Such distasteful memories.
Mechelke derided "American Heritage" magazine because it was "superficial." What is that supposed to mean? The diss was just typical academic pretentiousness (i.e. bulls--t). I think we all needed to be deprogrammed. The story circulated that Randy Thraen's parents made pre-arrangements to make sure Randy never got Mechelke as a teacher.
Mechelke showed a slide of a young Asian woman doing labor in a farm field one day. The woman beamed up at the camera with a smile. Mechelke said "she won't look like that for long," suggesting the hard work would hurt her appearance. That's called objectifying women.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

1 comment:

  1. yea I never enjoyed my time in Mr Mechelke's class either but lived through it

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