"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)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Another 18-page paper from Morris/Hancock

The Morris newspaper was 18 pages again on Saturday. It was 18 pages the previous Saturday when with fanfare the paper announced its new "combined" effort with Hancock. The paper put its new name at the top of page 1 with a reference to Stevens County. So it's now a Stevens County project in an official manner.
Everyone who remembers my years at the paper will remember that we actually covered the whole wide area pretty well. I'd sacrifice my Memorial Day weekend to, among other things, cover the Chokio-Alberta graduation. You could set your clock by that C-A graduation: 2 p.m. on Sunday every year! I'd grab a chair in the front row. Blake Knudson sat right next to me one year even though he liked yelling at me over the phone sometimes. There's an old saying that you can learn a lot about someone in matters relating to money. I would suggest you gain similar insights when it comes to newspaper coverage. I remember Lyle Hettver saying "thank God for small schools" with a real sincere reverence in his voice.
I covered lots of C-A activities, even the spring arts festival at the Alberta school. The Alberta school was odd for watching basketball: bleachers on just one side of the gym. There was a feeling of congestion for "big" games and of course the Homecoming coronation. The gym had a tile floor which I gathered coaches were not fond of. I remember Paul Daly looking forward to an occasional game at Herman which had a wooden floor.
Daly had an agreeable personality for working with, provided he was home when I called him and not ice fishing! I remember wondering what the h--- is the attraction of ice fishing?
I'll never forget the atmosphere at C-A football games. Neal Hofland had a stature like Bear Bryant there. Even though the Spartans' offense could be predictable, they just ran over people. I remember going to the Old Lumber Yard at an ungodly early-morning hour to board the bus for the Metrodome, for football.
I remember the cheerleader character named "Betty Boom-Boom" who had to cast aside "her" costume because of complaints that the act was disrespectful, even if well-intentioned. Coach Hofland described "her" as "buxom!"
So today's Morris newspaper is billing itself as a combined Morris-Hancock paper even though it hasn't shown us anything special yet. The two issues under the new name have been 18 pages, which was at the low end of the scale when Morris was by itself. Let's face it, Morris is still by itself, for all practical purposes. There is no change.
There might be an effort to shoehorn in some Hancock material, a little more than before. But it's cosmetic unless the staff can pump up advertising enough to really add content. I have to be skeptical for now. All of the trends with newspapers are down. This is no time to try to bounce back from a slump. A slump just gets people to shrug and to disregard the paper.
One thing is clearly not cosmetic: the cancellation of the Hancock Record newspaper. We might have guessed what was coming when Katie Erdman resigned. She wrote a cryptic column that indicated she was discouraged, and she's normally a very upbeat person.
The paper tries to put a smiley face on everything by saying the Morris and Hancock papers are combined. By raw empirical standards, this is not true. It's a ruse. Of course we can easily be more blunt: it's a lie, a bald-faced lie. It isn't necessary for those ink-stained wretches to insult our intelligence so much. The Hancock paper has been ended. The Morris paper survives at a small size, as really just a cover for trying to distribute all those ad circulars (many notoriously from Alexandria).
There are more and more low-consumption families among us, largely due to demographics. Most people feel no need to get a pile of advertising flyers. We get flyers for Alexandria grocery stores. The Morris paper has discontinued its free-circulation shopper, the Ad-Viser. So Paul Martin of Willie's has decided to go direct mail. I think it's kind of nice. I am now much more likely to examine the Willie's circular, so I can find out if they have a free breakfast upcoming! (Why do they make us stand for that?)
I was probably more involved covering Hancock events than C-A. I remember that for the Hancock Homecoming coronation, I felt so conspicuous because I had to get out on the middle of the gym floor. At Morris I'd just kneel in the aisle.
I had special feelings about the Hancock graduation. I had already submitted my resignation when I covered my last Hancock graduation. For the last time, I had to be prepared for Ken Grunig's band to scare me with the percussion opening to Pomp and Circumstance. People feared I might have a heart attack. The Hancock graduation seemed so wholesome, like what America is all about. They'd show young and old pictures of all the graduates on a screen. I remember the theme song played in the background. I had trouble getting outside at the end for when the grads tossed their hats in the air. Katie did better than me at that.
At my last Hancock High graduation, Katie sat beside me and said "would you like to call me and talk about it?" I appreciated the gesture but I just figured "what's done is done." I wonder if she'd like to talk to me now.
I followed the same routine every year covering the Hancock Fourth of July. I remember that year after year I'd chat with Chris Ver Steeg who'd be sitting on the same church steps. Maybe if I go to heaven, I can re-live some of these things.
In the meantime, let's all give a middle finger salute to the company that owns the Morris or Morris/Hancock paper or whatever you want to call it.
 
Addendum: That predictable but effective Chokio-Alberta football offense featured the "toss-sweep!"

- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Local newspaper in spasms of retreat

The newspaper that purports to be the Morris newspaper is going through changes again. The changes all fall in the category of retrenchment. The ownership tries putting lipstick on a pig of course. What would you expect them to do? The strings are being pulled from elsewhere. The local management can always just claim that it is responding to directives from elsewhere.
It's like those poor Wells Fargo employees who had to do terrible things. There was no local owner who had to face his customers in church on Sunday. In this sense maybe we can bemoan the loss or severe decline of mom and pop businesses in America. A local bank owner would never do the kinds of things that Wells Fargo was caught doing. Now we have the local newspaper with non-local ownership cutting expenses to try to keep profit margins up, extracting enough money from legacy customers to keep profits decent at least in the short term.
I saw the "new" Morris paper on Monday. I was at the Morris Senior Center. I did what I always do: check out the size of the product. Surely this "new" product, which purports to include the discontinued Hancock Record, would be larger. A business friend of mine on main street told me that he had been told by a paper rep that the typical size would be 20-26 pages. I'm not sure we should even be wowed by that. Didn't the paper put out many editions of at least 20 pages in the days when it was still twice a week? The paper was twice a week through my whole tenure there. We didn't charge to run obituaries.
The June 17 edition of the paper, newly named the Steven County Times, is 18 pages. There is no increase in size. And yet the paper trumpets that it now includes the Hancock paper. I might suggest this is outright fraud, right out of the Wells Fargo playbook.
What will happen when fall comes? Hancock residents will expect to see a decent amount of space allocated for Hancock sports coverage. And if the paper does that, it will alienate many Morris readers. Katie Erdman, when she was at the Hancock paper, would devote considerable space to photo spreads on the Hancock Homecoming coronation, the graduation and some other big events. If the paper remains at 18 pages, can this really be in the works? My closing months at the paper eleven years ago, an experience somewhat like being waterboarded, exposed me to lots of talk about how the paper's website would be so super dynamic - apologies to Willie Martin, RIP. I don't check the paper's website often. I doubt that it's a full-service site for local news and sports - it's more of a tease.
I actually got along well with the Forum when it first took over from the Morrisons. This was despite the fact I knew I wasn't their type. The co-existence worked for an extended time. And then the climate changed abruptly as if a directive came down. The Forum is like that. I was able to parachute out of there. And then the paper went through stages of retrenchment or downsizing. That was also "spun" as something positive.
Now we have an 18-page paper, same as before, that presents itself as now including the Hancock Record. Surely my fellow Morris residents will see what's happening.
The names "Morris Sun Tribune" and "Hancock Record" appear under the new "Times" nameplate. But surely there is more to Stevens County than just Morris and Hancock. Is the new paper going to try to usurp the role of the Chokio Review? Oh, of course not. The paper is just toying with names and cosmetics. It's like these "redesigns" that newspapers are always trumpeting. As if a redesign will have any substantial positive impact on how the paper fares. They are just a turn-on for the paper staff. Paul Gillin of "Newspaper Death Watch" calls them "lipstick on a pig."
The Canary supplement has shrunken down to an average size of 16 pages, whereas in the past we only saw the 16-pagers during the typical "slow" times for the press. The current Canary has "filler" feature articles, of all things, and other fluff just to try to pump up the size. The Canary is supposed to be advertising. Wait until Jim Gesswein catches up with the times and starts cutting back on his print advertising. Car dealers don't have to advertise as much because cars are made better today. People don't have to buy cars as often. I used to take car photos for three major dealers every week for a long time, and I often wondered: Why are people buying cars so much? Can't they keep their old ones going a little more? Well, now I think they do.
Of course, car dealers now use the electronic media like all get-out. All of our other local institutions should do that too. Let's get local sports reporting established online. The sites could be like what we see for the UMM teams. It would be fun. You could click to see a schedule page, a roster page, a coaches page etc. I actually expected this trend a long time ago but it didn't happen. "Maxpreps" already has pages set up for the Morris teams. But we need more coaches and fans submitting material for those pages. I write lots of local sports and submit links to the Maxpreps pages. It's fun.
A big difference between now and when I was with the Morris paper, is that now I'm not expected to cover every team all the time. I write what I feel like writing. I don't pretend to cover anything comprehensively. The sports section of the local paper is like a political football: It strives in vain to report, promote or puff all the teams that consider themselves important. The great Marv Meyer once said to me: "Brian, there are people who read your articles because they have an ax to grind, and that's the only reason they read them."
How nice to be away from that now. I don't have to work with Trent Oberg anymore. I don't have to work with Steve Harter anymore. In the late 1980s the whole Morris community blew up with controversy over the management of high school sports. Anyone at the paper would have had trouble navigating through all that.
 
Let's detach more
So, the days of being interested in how the Morris (or Morris/Hancock) paper is functioning are waning. The local paper and its non-local ownership is rapidly making its product less relevant. Do you really need to pay to get an obituary published? Isn't the funeral home website, or better yet an independent website, good enough for this? Change takes time.
The paper has completely axed its free-circulation shopper, the Ad-Viser. Cut, cut, cut. The newspaper will remain stable only to the extent that it accentuates pure service, and of course it is not doing that. Willie's Super Valu is now forced to use direct mail to get its flyer out. I actually get to see the Willie's flyer now. Many years ago I informed the paper that I didn't want that bulky Ad-viser in our mailbox, so full of Alexanrdia stuff. Our family hardly ever visits Alexandria, and besides, we're a low-consumption family. More and more of our local families or individuals are going to be like that now with our "graying" demographics.
Stop buying the paper and stop advertising in it. Sheesh, stop supporting those "sucker ads," like even for the honor roll. The paper should just publish the honor roll. It doesn't need "sponsors" though I'm sure they're glad to get some sucker businesses to do that.
Wake up and smell the coffee. The paid circulation of the Morris paper is only about 40 percent of what it once was. And it won't even help to "absorb" Hancock (not that the paper is really going to do that). Forum Communications is a charlatan in the Morris business community.
 
Addendum: The Elbow Lake newspaper gives its customers 26-28 broadsheet pages a week. Why the disparity vs. Morris? Also, the cutting of the Ad-Viser has apparently opened the door, as expected, to the Lakeland Shopper making a new invasion here. I even noticed the Lakeland Shopper using a Senior Perspective display stand at the entry to DeToy's Restaurant Wednesday morning. I advised Jim Palmer of this. Detoy's often has a biscuits and gravy special on Wednesday a.m. I recommend it. 
 
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, June 17, 2017

County fair confuses us once again

The Stevens County Fair appears to be sticking with the format it had last year. As I left DeToy's Restaurant this morning (Saturday), I noticed a flyer on the billboard that had August 8-13 as the fair dates for 2017. Last year I got totally confused as to what was going on.
The community supper was switched to Tuesday. I thus thought the fair would be open to all, including all the standard attractions, beginning on Wednesday. I felt the fair had simply expanded. We were shocked upon arriving at the fairgrounds and seeing "private parking" signs at the entry road north of the ethanol plant.
"Private parking?" I couldn't believe it. I drove all the way in to find someone I could personally ask. I was told that yes, it was indeed private parking. On an official day of the fair, Wednesday.
The fair was promoted on at least one billboard as beginning on Tuesday. What if an out-of-town person were to drive by, see those dates and plan accordingly? I know that the year I went to the Appleton fair, I probably saw the dates on some promo material. What if I had driven all the way to Appleton only to find that the fair wasn't really on yet? I'd be very upset.
Did the Stevens County Fair switch its community supper to Tuesday just to try to accommodate the Superior Industries people, so they could attend both that and their own private event? Why has the fair board allowed a big local private company to essentially reserve a chunk of our county fair for private purposes? Do they cut a nice big check to the fair board for having that privilege?
I realize we're living in times where private business interests are absolutely paramount and we're supposed to defer to all these business interests just like we elected big business tycoon Donald Trump. I remember a time when public interests and public purposes were really important. They in fact had primacy. I guess no more.
Whether I like it or not, the big business interests are taking over. We're not even supposed to question them. We're supposed to bow down to the Apostolic Christian big business bigshots who reflexively vote for Trump (that famous groper of women) and Republicans. They no doubt support the health care proposals coming from the GOP-controlled House and Senate.
I'd like to share some questions about these health care proposals, as presented by Eileen Gleason, a retired Federal prosecutor who has been a judge and in private practice. Her questions originally appeared in The Advocate, May 31, 2017.
 
- Who asked you to strip health insurance from 23 million Americans? Really, exactly who? And why?
 
- Do Americans want the freedom to not have insurance they cannot afford? They had this freedom all their lives and didn't like it.
 
- Why hand out windfalls to the wealthy? Why not write a bill providing the most protection using funds available without a tax cut?
 
- Why not fix the problems with the ACA? Why throw the baby out with the bathwater just because the baby was dubbed Obamacare?
 
- Why rush to vote without a Congressional Budget Office score? Now that it is out, why not repudiate this bill?
 
- Do those with mental illnesses want no coverage for mental illness or lifetime coverage limits?
 
- After this bill, who will care for the uninsured mentally ill? Prisons? Homeless shelters?
 
- Why abolish the Medicaid expansion, which allowed life-threatening conditions to be diagnosed and treated, and saved lives?
 
- The experience of states with underfunded high-risk insurance pools is not good. Will you commit to adequately fund these pools?
 
- Why leave it to the fifteen male Republican senators to negotiate behind closed doors about this important issue? Why are birth control and maternity services in jeopardy?
 
- Why defund women's health services at Planned Parenthood, while funding treatment of men's health conditions (erectile dysfunction, prostate cancer), without limiting where men can be treated?
 
- Why are Republicans threatening to withhold cost-sharing insurer subsidies and destabilizing the insurance marketplace?
 
- Why let insurers charge the elderly five times the premiums charged to the young?
 
- Why permit the sale of policies which do not cover the current essential health benefits, thereby sharply increasing costs to those covered?
 
- Why are the AMA and AARP, among others, against this bill?
 
- How about a waiting period of one week between finalizing the Senate bill and voting on it? Are you afraid of the feedback?
 
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, June 12, 2017

Listen to my song re. Sam Smith, his statue

A striking monument at our Summit Cemetery: Samusl Smith
The years pass and the U.S. Civil War becomes ever more remote. We get refreshed in textbooks. We have emotional distance because our forebears fade into the mists of time.
Us Morris MN residents can feel a surprising connection to those mid-19th Century events. You might think we are too far to the West. No we are not. A stroll through Summit Cemetery can reveal for you a most striking reminder. There is one monument that will jump out at you. You will notice the "running rifleman" statue. It's the final resting place of Samuel Smith, Civil War veteran on the Union side of course.
Samuel was a significant early resident of the Morris area, a farmer. He and wife Catherine had 12 children, eleven of them boys. Thus the name has gotten passed on pretty well. You have likely crossed paths with at least one of the descendants. I believe it's important that we continue to remember the significance of the monument.
I have written a song called "Ballad of Sam Smith." It was recorded at the Nashville TN studio of Frank (Franklin) Michels. I invite you to listen by clicking on this link from YouTube. Thanks.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5HLk17oubM
 
Thanks to Brent Gulsvig of Gulsvig Productions of Starbuck for his wizardry getting the song online. It wasn't until about three years ago that I realized you can get music placed online with such ease. It seems like a miracle.
Frank Michels' studio is what you'd call a demo recording studio. I first had some demo recordings made in the 1980s. Back in that pre-digital age, the purpose of a demo recording was to pitch your material to a music publisher. In other words, the goal was to have the song become commercially successful. I suppose you'd want the song to end up in the proverbial "top 40." You can imagine what the odds are of this. It was very hard getting any kind of audience for your work. You'd have to play a cassette for someone.
Today the whole landscape is much different. Songs can be placed on YouTube pretty routinely, at least for someone like Mr. Gulsvig. You won't make money but you can get a fair number of people to listen to your work.
The doors have been opened just like for those who self-publish books. As a C-Span commenter put it, "the barriers to distribution have come down." Self-publishing of books has become respectable, as opposed to the days when self-publishing companies were treated almost as unethical. "You too can be an author."
Doug Rasmusson of the Morris area self-published delightful collections of his writing. It was tough getting your creative material out. Not at all today. Blogging has enabled me to feel like a legitimate writer still.
Meanwhile the legacy media crumbles. The Hancock paper is now discontinued. The free advertising shopper called "Ad-Viser" is no more. Of course, the more the newspaper company reduces its services, the faster its decline will be. I would advise everyone to just move on from the print media.
Now, how do I work with a demo recording firm? I send a package that includes a melody sheet with chords, a lyric sheet and a rough tape of me singing. I had to special order a cassette recorder because you can't even buy these things at RadioShack anymore. The Nashville people do not work with microcassette players/recorders.
The studios can get the job done surprisingly fast. Michels sends me an email with a song attachment. Bob Angello, another pro I work with, puts the song in an online "drop box." An advantage to Bob's approach is that he can make changes and adjustments right at the source and doesn't have to send me the song again.
I enjoy writing topical songs. My next one to be recorded might be about the First Minnesota Regiment in the Civil War, called "Take Those Colors." That song title is based on the abrupt order given by General Hancock on the night of the First Minnesota's fateful charge at Plum Run, Gettysburg. The First Minnesota had to plug an opening in the Union line while reserves were on the way. "Take Those Colors." Sam Smith was assigned to the ambulance corps for the Battle of Gettysburg.
Here is the link to a blog post I wrote on Sam Smith and his statue. This post is on my companion blog site, "Morris of Course."
http://morrisofcourse.blogspot.com/2013/12/our-samuel-smith-us-civil-war-vet.html
 
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

MACA softball girls finish season 17-6

Tigers 9, 'Waska 4
The Tigers came on strong to beat rival Minnewaska Area 9-4 in what would turn out to be the Tigers' second to last game. Our triumph was on Saturday, May 27, down south at Marshall.
The score stood 1-1 through the first three innings. Then the Tigers began pulling away. Coach Mary Holmberg smiled as she saw her team score three runs in the fourth inning, four in the fifth and one in the sixth. We outhit the Lakers 10-8.
Liz Dietz was a factor both at the plate and on the pitching rubber. At bat she had two hits in four at-bats and scored a run. She pitched the whole way. She struck out one batter, walked one and gave up eight hits and four runs (three earned) in her seven innings.
Ashley Solvie had a two-for-four line and scored two runs. These Tigers each had one hit: Bailey Marty, Emma Bowman, Piper Gibson (a double), Brooke Gillespie, Nicole Solvie and Kalley Hottovy. Carley Stewart rapped two hits in four at-bats for Minnewaska. She drove in a run and scored one. Bailey Stewart went two-for-three with a run scored. Morgan Hess had a hit and a run scored. Abby Ver Steeg had a one-for-three line. Kaitlyn Lange doubled, drove in a run and scored one. Ashley Blom doubled and picked up an RBI. Hess took the pitching loss.
 
New London-Spicer 11, Tigers 1
The Wildcats of New London-Spicer slammed the door on our Tigers to end our season on Tuesday, May 30, again at Marshall. It was actually a close game through five innings, then the Wildcats erupted with a nine-run sixth. The Tigers had their season end with an 11-1 final score. The Wildcats pounded 13 hits while we were anemic with just two. Fielding totally favored the Wildcats who had one error while we had five.
Our hitting was anemic but give credit to Olivia Christopherson who pitched the distance for NL-Spicer. She gave up just the two hits and set down eight Tiger batters on strikes. She walked just one and gave up the one run which was earned. Liz Dietz took the pitching loss this time. She worked 3 1/3 innings and struck out one batter. Ashley Solvie and Devin Fuhrman also pitched.
Our hits were by Nicole Solvie and Kalley Hottovy. Katelyn Nordmeyer connected for a home run for the Wildcats. She had two hits as did these other Wildcats: Courtney Hanson, Morgan Swenson, Jordan King and Shea Oman. Also hitting safely were Christopherson, Michelle Johnson and Brianna Deming. The final 2017 won-loss record for the orange and black is 17-6.
 
Baseball: NL-Spicer 7, Tigers 1
The Morris Area Chokio Alberta baseball Tigers were dealt a 7-1 loss in what would turn out to be their second to last game of the season. This loss was at the hands of New London-Spicer on Saturday, May 27, at New London.
Our bats were kept quiet by pitchers Matt Spaulding and Will Roguske. Spaulding got the win with his six innings of work in which he fanned three batters, walked three and allowed three hits. He allowed one run which was unearned. Roguske had his pitching arm called on for one inning. He struck out two batters, walked none and allowed one hit.
Toby Sayles was the losing pitcher for the orange and black. Toby got roughed up a bit as he allowed eleven hits in five innings. He struck out six batters, walked two and allowed seven runs all of which were earned. Chandler Vogel was the other Tiger hurler. Chandler mopped up with no hits allowed.
We were outhit 11-4. Spaulding had two hits in three at-bats for the victor. He drove in two runs. Jake Schmidt went two-for-three with a run scored. John Perkins had a two-for-three line with an RBI and run scored. These Wildcats also picked up a hit: Roguske, Wyatt White, Josh Soine, Evan Haugen and Derek Dolezal.
We had one player with a multiple-hit game: Chas Metzger with two hits in three at-bats. Sayles and Ryan Bowman each had a hit. Sayles had an RBI. We had three errors while NL-Spicer had two.
 
Paynesville 6, Tigers 5
The double-elimination format meant we'd be out with one more loss. That loss came on Tuesday, May 30, at Montevideo, at the hands of Paynesville. My, we led 5-1 thanks to a rally in the top of the sixth. Paynesville owned the rest of the game. The green crew rallied for three runs in the sixth and two in the seventh. The final score had the green on top 6-5 over the orange and black.
We outhit the green 10-9. But we had four errors compared to the green's two. We had two pitchers working: Tim Travis and Chandler Vogel. Vogel was the pitcher of record with a stint of just 2/3 of an inning. Travis allowed just one earned run among the four total runs he allowed. Errors must have loomed. Travis struck out three batters, walked three and allowed six hits. Vogel allowed two hits.
The winning pitcher was Austin Imholte with one inning of work. Sam Oehrlien and Spencer Imholte also pitched for the green.
Ryan Dietz socked a double for the Tigers. Parker Dierks was spectacular with four hits in four at-bats including a triple. Parker drove in a run and scored one. Ryan Bowman went two-for-three with a run scored. Denner Dougherty had a hit and a ribbie. Travis added a hit to the mix. Jared Rohloff hit safely and drove in a run.
Sam Haines shone for Paynesville with three hits in four at-bats including a double. Sam drove in a run and scored one. Garrett Leusink's bat made noise at three-for-four, and this Bulldog tripled, drove in a run and scored two. Grant Ludwig tripled, drove in a run and scored two. Gavin Stanger and Grant Fuchs each hit safely.
This is my final MACA sports post for the 2016-17 school year. It is a pleasure to stay journalistically involved. I hope more than a handful of players, parents or fans visit my sites occasionally.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

"Hidden Figures" (2016) has misplaced nostalgia

I was reminded of a past movie while watching the contemporary "Hidden Figures." I was reminded of "Hairspray," the version with John Travolta in drag. A criticism of that movie was that it tried to get nostalgia out of the civil rights movement. Nostalgia was way too light a tone for something that could be so difficult and unpleasant.
The process of civil rights advancement was halting and marked by pain. It was dangerous for all who fought to move forward. People have a legal shield today for asserting the basic rights of which they are deserving. Jim Crow is gone. Back when it was real, it was more than an annoyance. It reflected the specter of white dominance and supremacy, a way of thinking that dated back to the Civil War and its aftermath.
The kind of racism we see in "Hidden Figures" seems almost amusing. We get the feeling from early-on in this movie that no one is really going to get hurt. Certain white people came across as annoying. They just seem pathetic as a throwback, not empowered to hurt people of color in a fundamental way.
We do hear a news bulletin at one point about something truly tragic but we are spared a graphic depiction. It's as if the moviemakers consciously wanted to insert this as if an admission of guilt about the veneer of innocuousness. Yes it's innocuous - the mere obligation of a black woman to have to go out of her way to use a "colored" restroom. As if this was as bad as it could get.
My point about "Hidden Figures" is affirmed right away when we see a law enforcement person accosting the three heroic characters. I sensed: "Oh, this could be very bad." We get the feeling that the officer is racially motivated. But the scene quickly turned into something innocent. The officer became pacified and helped our heroines move along.
We even get humor: the officer wonders about NASA hiring. . .(blank). He obviously appears to be leading to the word "blacks" or "Negroes" or another term we're familiar with. He is interrupted: "women?"
A racist Deep South officer from that time period would not back off and facilitate so routinely. The movie audience is expected to break into smiles. The movie "Hairspray" inspired similar warm thoughts. The barriers to racial equality seem like nothing more than transitory annoyances, destined to come down as all the white people become readily aware of the errors of their ways.
The Kevin Costner character breaks down the "colored" sign with a hammer. He looks heroic. But how could such intelligent people - the people mapping our space program - ever have tolerated this situation at all? NASA reflected "the Feds" who were the force that invaded the Deep South and didn't put up with any funny business at all. Remember Gene Hackman in "Mississippi Burning?"
Wouldn't the Feds have established systems anywhere in the U.S. that were free of the most regressive ways of the Deep South? The Deep South was literally dangerous to the physical safety of non-whites and could readily be fatal to all who stood up to the racial status quo. We see no such hazards or consequences in "Hidden Figures."
Those ignorant white people, like the librarian who reminds of the "colored" section of that place, just seem misguided and foolish - an inconvenience. They maybe seem almost apologetic? Oh, that's not the way racism really asserted itself in the old Confederate states. Nostalgia? The civil rights movement was noble in that it pushed for goals that had to be accomplished. In reality it was like a minefield much of the time. 
We see the unpleasant stuff in "Free State of Jones." People lost their lives.
The myth of nostalgia comes from behind the protective shield of 2017 America which legally does not permit the Deep South shenanigans of the earlier time. Let's just pretend that we all just needed a little time to learn to all get along better.
We can accept "Hidden Figures" and "Hairspray" as entertaining movies. And let's laud them on acknowledging the force of goodness. But I would suggest it's revisionist history. As long as we all accept that, fine.
 
Space: winning the competition
The so-called "space race" certainly inspires nostalgia. I was in early elementary school where we saw our astronauts in their glorious silver-colored suits as heroes. They were heroes against the evil Soviet Union, right? Well, it was the fear of this thing called "communism" that lurched us into the horrific Viet Nam war. "Communism" was the boogeyman.
It wasn't enough to just want to explore space. I guess the government felt we had to be motivated by wanting to beat some competing force, as if Americans would yawn otherwise.
Visiting space opened the way for scientific inroads that brought revolutionary things into our lives. It was either that or the flying saucer that crashed at Roswell NM, right (LOL)? Remember the "Tang" powder for mixing beverages? Remember "Space Food Sticks?"
The Cold War was this dark and disturbing backdrop for my growing-up years. There is no nostalgia to be found in it, not even in Alfred Hitchcock movies (LOL).
 
What do all the squiggles mean?
The African-American women in "Hidden Figures" can really do a job on a chalkboard, filling it with figures that reminded me of the movie "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (the original version). A blackboard gets full of numbers and symbols that reflect absolute genius. But in the movies, do all those squiggles really make sense? Are they just random, made to look sophisticated?
I smile as I imagine the moviemakers conjuring up such stuff: a bunch of figures and equations that explain space travel. 
"He's almost got it," we hear "Klaatu" say in the classic "The Day the Earth Stood Still."
 
Another space-centered flick
"The Right Stuff" was a movie showing the conquest of space, remember? I remember that movie as being typically pretentious for the time in which it was made. It was ponderous. People sit around at bars. In the immediate post-WWII years, the idea of sitting around consuming alcohol really took root, maybe as a way of allowing veterans to deal with post-traumatic stress. They drank and they smoked. Unfortunately their children began to think that was cool too. We got the lowered drinking age right at the time I graduated from high school.
I could go without ever seeing "The Right Stuff" again. We see an astronaut on a bar stool watching comedian Bill Dana play an astronaut on TV. The astronaut laughs even though the scene wasn't really funny. Dana became famous playing a Hispanic who conformed to stereotype. He had a brief window of fame that I suspect he was not real proud of. Kids became fond of "Jose Jimenez" jokes.
You sense that I'm not particularly enamored of the 1960s. I loved the movie "The Reluctant Astronaut" starring Don Knotts. How sad that such an innocent movie came out in a time with such tragedy unfolding as the Viet Nam war and the civil rights movement with its minefield of danger.
The civil rights proponents would have been fortunate had they confronted such innocent and misguided souls as the "racists" in "Hidden Figures." Sorry, I can't get on this bandwagon.
I compliment the movie on its portrayal of John Glenn the astronaut. The actor nails the role with the air of a true hero: breezy in temperament and confident. He wouldn't want to bother with racism. He had the air of a future politician: a real "people" person. Remember, he would become a Democrat!
I laud the three women who played the African-American heroines in "Hidden Figures": Taraji Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae. And a big hats-off from yours truly to Glen Powell who plays John Glenn.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, May 26, 2017

Brooke Gillespie fans six in 11-2 triumph

Tigers 11, Montevideo 2
Montevideo showed the courtesy of taking the field to play our Morris Area Chokio Alberta Tigers. Remember, the Thunder Hawks recently showed the arrogance of refusing to play the Tigers after the Tigers took the trouble of traveling all the way to Montevideo. The T-Hawks were making a display of supporting their coach, Kyle Goslee, who had been suspended based on a dispute with an umpire.
The whole episode did not seem to make the T-Hawks more competitive. The May 23 game in Morris saw coach Mary Holmberg's Tigers thump Goslee and the T-Hawks 11-2. The game seemed over after the first inning. We raced out to a 7-0 lead. No point arguing with an umpire during a game like this. We went on to score one run in the fourth inning and three in the sixth.
Our eleven runs scored on ten hits while Montevideo was anemic with three hits in the face of our pitcher Brooke Gillespie. Gillespie pitched a gem as she set down six batters on strikes and walked none. One of the two runs she allowed was unearned.
Monte also had a pitcher go the distance, Breanna Welling, and she obviously got roughed up a little: ten hits allowed and two walks. She fanned one batter. One of the runs she allowed was unearned.
Piper Gibson created excitement with a home run for the orange and black. She had a two-for-three line. Gillespie socked two hits in four at-bats and drove in three runs. Bailey Marty had a two-for-four afternoon. Also hitting safely were Emma Bowman, Ashley Solvie and Karly Fehr. Add those hits up and you get nine, whereas the line score in the Willmar paper reported ten.
Three T-Hawks each had a double: Sydney Zindel, Sydni Streich and Kaylee Glomstad. Each team had two errors. The Willmar paper is owned by Forum Communications, same as the Morris paper. The Morris paper appears to be reeling now, having canceled its partner paper, the Hancock Record, for which I toiled for many years.
I can't believe that the Forum is totally cancelling the free shopper, the Ad-Viser. Man, back when I drove the van for the Morris Sun Tribune, I'd pull out of Quinco Press, Lowry, with the van packed with Ad-Visers. Donna Vosberg of the Quinco staff teased me one day: "Is there room in there for you, Brian?" Those Ad-Visers must have served a good purpose back in the day. Now it's gone.
If these developments suggest that the print media is simply dying, maybe it would be best to just expedite the process. Let's just get it over with. Let's build up a totally online ecosystem for reporting and information-sharing. Let's get a reputation for being a leader in this. I think it would be a fun challenge.
The MACA softball Tigers will play Martin County West at 12:30 tomorrow (Saturday, May 27) in Marshall. This is a Section 3AA game.
 
Baseball: Minnewaska 6, Tigers 1
The 'Waska Lakers came at our Tigers with a triumvirate of pitchers. The starter was Colin Richards in this 6-1 'Waska triumph. Richards pitched three innings and fanned three batters while walking one and giving up one hit and one run. The winning pitcher was Matthew Gruber whose stint was three innings. Gruber struck out three batters, walked none and gave up no hits or runs. Shawn Stumpf had his arm called on for one inning and this Laker struck out one batter, walked none and gave up two hits and no runs.
The pitching mound was a revolving door for the Tigers. These four pitched: Ryan Bowman, Chandler Vogel, Toby Sayles (the loser) and Tim Travis. Bowman, Vogel and Sayles each fanned one batter while Travis fanned two.
Five Tigers each had one hit: Chase Metzger (with a run scored), Sayles, Travis, Denner Dougherty and Jared Rohloff. Bowman didn't have a hit but he drove in a run. We were outhit 12-5 by the Lakers.
'Waska data: Jake Hoffman had a two-for-four line. Jake Heid doubled and drove in a run. Connor Westberg had a hit and two runs scored. Stumpf went one-for-four with a run. Chris Claussen had a hit, an RBI and a run scored. Drew Opdahl had a hit in his only at-bat, drove in a run and scored one. Gruber doubled and picked up a ribbie. The hit parade was joined by Ryan Christenson and Sean Kelling.
'Waska pulled away on the scoreboard with six runs in the fifth and six innings combined. The Tigers committed the game's only error.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, May 22, 2017

MACA girls own conference crown for 2017

First, here's a comment from a reader re. the distressed situation with our local print media now:
 
Well I guess we knew it was just a matter of time before this occurred. Why the Morrisons sold out to this outfit is a mystery. Will the Chokio paper be the next one to fold and become part of the Morris paper?
 
Now, on to softball and great success. Congrats.
 
MACA softball owns the West Central Conference crown. It became official when the Tigers took the first game of a doubleheader against BOLD on Friday, May 19. The site was Olivia for this West Central Conference action.
 
Tigers 12, BOLD 2
Extra-base hits were frequent for the MACA crew in Game 1. There was no suspense as the Tigers took charge in the early innings. Clearly we were on our way to the conference championship.
We charged forward with three runs in the first inning, two in the second and four in the third. Finishing touches were applied with a three-run rally in the fifth. The action was confined to five innings. Our 12 runs came on ten hits. Our pitcher Brooke Gillespie held BOLD to four hits. Fielding was rather sloppy across the board as each team committed five errors.
Gillespie struck out two batters, walked one and gave up four hits and two runs neither of which was earned. The losing pitcher was Taylor Sagedahl. Sagedahl struggled with control as she issued seven walks. She fanned two batters and gave up ten hits and 12 runs (just seven earned). The frequent errors suggested that some of the runs would be unearned.
The four BOLD hits were by Brenna Weis, Elsa Skeie, Makenna Steffel and Devyn O'Halloran. Skeie's hit was a double. Steffel drove in two runs.
Let's review the extra-base hit barrage by the Tigers. Emma Bowman doubled, drove in a run and scored two. Piper Gibson doubled, drove in two runs and scored three. Brooke Gillespie went two-for-three with a double, drove in three runs and scored two.
Liz Dietz doubled, drove in a run and scored one. Ashley Solvie's bat resonated with a double and she drove a run across. Nicole Solvie joined the hit parade with her double, part of a two-for-three showing, and this Tiger drove in a run. Kalley Hottovy went one-for-three with a run scored, and Jenna Howden had a hit and a run scored. Bailey Marty was hitless but scored two runs.
 
Tigers 6, BOLD 1
The second game was hard-fought with a tie score going into the seventh inning. The Tigers and Warriors were deadlocked at one-all. Each team scored one run in the third inning. Then in the seventh, MACA rallied to establish breathing run on the scoreboard. Five runs came in to make the score 6-1 which was the final.
Our six runs came on eight hits and we committed one error. The BOLD line score was 1-5-2.
Kalley Hottovy had two hits and drove in a run. Bailey Marty went one-for-three with a run scored. Emma Bowman had a two-for-four line and crossed home plate once. Brooke Gillespie doubled and drove in a run. Ashley Solvie went one-for-four with a ribbie. Nicole Solvie went one-for-three with an RBI.
BOLD's Makenna Steffel had two hits in three at-bats. These three Warriors each had one hit: Taylor Sagedahl, Elsa Skeie and Sierra Weiss.
Ashley Solvie was showcased on the pitching rubber for MACA. Ashley struck out one batter, walked one and gave up four hits and one run (earned). Sagedahl pitched the whole way for BOLD and fanned four batters while walking six and giving up eight hits and six runs (all earned).
 
Tigers 11, Brandon-Evansville 4
Piper Gibson handled the bat like a true marquee performer in the Tigers' robust 11-4 success on Thursday. It was actually a close game going into the sixth inning. The complexion changed as coach Mary Holmberg's crew put seven more runs on the scoreboard. We matched the eleven runs with eleven hits.
Gibson's part in it all? Her bat sizzled at five-for-five. She connected for a home run. She connected for three doubles and drove in four runs. Jen Solvie had a hit in her only at-bat and drove in a run. Jenna Howden doubled and drove in a run. These other Tigers connected for a hit: Liz Dietz, Ashley Solvie, Emma Bowman and Nicole Solvie.
For Brandon-Evansville, Morgan Stelzer and Carrigan Okerlund each doubled.
Liz Dietz pitched the whole way for the winning Tigers. She held the B-E bats to four hits. She sat down six batters on strikes, walked three and gave up four htis and four runs (three earned). The pitching loss went to Sadie Roers. B-E committed four errors while MACA had two.
 
Click on the link below to read about the Tigers' two recent games against Minnewaska Area. The highlight was a 3-1 win that had homer bats. This post is on my companion website, "Morris of Course." My sports updates appear on both my blog sites. You'll also find links on the MACA softball and baseball pages of "Maxpreps." Thank you so much for reading. - B.W.
 
Baseball: Tigers 3, Lac qui Parle 2
The baseball Tigers got a win that was good therapy on Friday, May 19, here. the team has found victory elusive in recent action, but against the LQPV Eagles they eked out enough momentum in the sixth and seventh to prevail.
A hero was Tim Travis whose single in the sixth drove in the tying run. The winning run came when LQPV did us a favor with an error in the bottom of the seventh. There were two outs when the decisive run came across to give the orange and black a 3-2 win.
Note: This was a non-conference game. (I need reminders on that.)
The Tigers sort of manufactured their run in the sixth. A batter got hit by pitch. Then the Eagles committed a passed ball. There was nothing manufactured about the Travis hit: it was authoritative.
In the seventh, Jared Rohloff tossed his bat aside and went down to first with a walk. Chase Metzger laid down a sacrifice bunt. Up to bat comes Mitchell Dufault who rapped an infield grounder. The LQPV defense had a lapse which opened the door for MACA victory. Rohloff scored our third run.
We scored one run each in the second, sixth and seventh. Lac qui Parle got its two runs right away in the first, then was stymied. Travis pitched six innings but Toby Sayles got the win with his one inning. Sayles hung in there while giving up four hits and walking four. The two runs he allowed were earned. Sayles fanned two batters and walked two while giving up one hit and no runs. Chalk up the 'W' next to his name.
The losing hurler was Payton Mortenson who pitched all seven innings, giving up six hits while fanning one. We outhit the Eagles 6-5. Our fielding was clean: one error.
Travis went two-for-three with two RBIs. These Tigers each had one hit: Chase Metzger, Toby Sayles, Mitchell Dufault and Denner Dougherty. Here are the Eagles who hit safely (one hit each): Cole Bungarden, Braiden Kittelson, Evan Benson, Brett Baldwin and Korbin Kells.
 
Baseball: Melrose 2, Tigers 0
One of those recent losses was against Melrose: a forgettable contest for MACA as we got shutout, 2-0. Yawn.
Brady Birch was the Melrose pitcher who showed control over the Tigers. Birch tossed a nifty three-hitter, fanning five batters and walking four. Ryan Bowman pitched solidly for MACA, the full seven innings but he got no run support. Ryan struck out five batters, walked two and allowed six hits. The two runs he allowed were earned.
Our three hits were by Mitchell Dufault, Ryan Bowman and Denner Dougherty. Jordan Klaphake hit a home run for the Dutchmen. Dillon Haider went two-for-three for the victor. Melrose scored both its runs in the first inning. Melrose outhit the Tigers 6-3, and we had the game's only errors: two of them.
This game was played on Thursday, May 18.
We need more sunshine for the post-season!
 
Click on the link below to read about the MACA boys' recent games against Montevideo and Sauk Centre. This post is on my companion website, "Morris of Course."
 
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

We only pretend we want school to be rigorous

I remember many years ago when the U of M president, C. Peter Magrath, came to Morris to speak. It was at Sunwood Inn which today has a different name. Today it's Motel 200 or Hotel 2000 or something like that. "Sunwood" was a nice name. Remember the "Back Door?"
It's a pretty big deal when the U of M president comes to Morris, naturally. Historically we're sort of a company town with our campus. So C. Peter Magrath wrapped up his presentation and then opened it up for questions. Our public school superintendent rose to ask a question. You could tell immediately that the U president was irritated. The question was about the "downgrading" of textbooks, an item that had been in the news. The trend apparently was for books not to be as complicated and dull as before. I would say the books were becoming more user-friendly. Let's have more pictures!
Magrath began his answer by stating he was merely obligated to answer and wasn't doing so enthusiastically. He simply denied that studies were being made any less rigorous. How could he suggest otherwise?
For a long time we had impressions of college that it was terribly difficult, with young people forced to wade through piles of books. It wasn't supposed to be fun. Our society didn't seem set up to facilitate much fun at all. The Viet Nam war wasn't fun, was it. Our society was plagued by economic inflation. But the science of economics reveals that there is a solution for inflation. Why wasn't it harnessed sooner? Instead we eventually got Paul Volcker who raised interest rates one whole point at a time.
Inflation and the Viet Nam war vanished. I was stunned. Those two problems had been implanted for so long.
Trends seem to be sweeping aside the concept of "rigorous academics." Young people needn't be made to feel miserable in school, whether it's college or high school. As I look back, I can see that my grades K-6 education was quite purposeful and had enjoyment much of the time. It is essential to master basic reading, writing and arithmetic. Beyond that I'm not so sure about the value of education.
Cliches and trends always abound in education. In the 1970s if you talked about the primacy of "reading, writing and arithmetic" you'd be pooh-poohed as old-fashioned in your thinking. In the digital world of today, with so many of our day-to-day processes made vastly simpler than before, the old model of "advanced" education seems less valuable.
There will always be a sliver of the population - kids destined to do great things and reach great heights - who will take to those advanced studies. Many other kids would not be suited, IMHO.
 
Skepticism toward classroom grades
I am writing this post because of the news last week that a consortium of prep schools has decided to abandon the traditional grading system completely. So much for "grade inflation." I remember when the term "grade inflation" crept into the news, maybe in the mid-1980s. The suggestion was that it was a bad thing. We needed to make our courses "challenging" for kids. We wouldn't want to suggest that coursework was being made easier, would we?
Realistically our kids were going to benefit from a less heavy, onerous classroom environment. We just didn't want to publicly admit it. So grade inflation took hold over time. The honor roll list at our Morris school is so much more inclusive and generous than it used to be. The 'A' honor roll was totally rarefied air when I was a kid.
Educational systems respond to societal pressures. I was a kid when the Cold War hovered like a big stinking cloud. We had to "beat the Soviets" in everything. All these years later, it is steadily being revealed that the Cold War was really a big ruse, a ruse used by both powers to suck wealth from the citizenry and pump into government and defense, with the idea of being competitive vs. the other major power. Our whole space program grew out of that. Remember the fears generated by "Sputnik?" Remember our "hero" astronauts of the 1960s? Remember the movie "The Right Stuff?"
Our poor schoolkids got dragged through an educational process in those days that was unpleasant in so many ways. Everything was fine through the sixth grade. We had "mother hen" teachers through the sixth grade, almost all women, who guided kids along in a practical and loving way. Why did that have to change in the seventh grade? School beginning in the seventh grade had qualities almost like prison. The "bell" would ring which would give you permission to go out in the hallway. The hallway could be like a no-man's land if you were there at an unauthorized time. Simply being there might bring the wrath of God down on you.
We took courses that we knew would have no relevance to anything practical the rest of our lives. We have since learned that the only way to learn a foreign language is "immersion." I sat through pointless French classes where we conjugated verbs. We conjugated those (expletive) verbs. Kids didn't learn to "speak French" this way, not even close. Courses like that were like being a slave rowing a boat.
Look around you. You see people doing all sorts of jobs in our community that realistically only would require mastery of reading, writing and arithmetic. In other words, a sixth grade education. I learned "penmanship" in the second grade from Miss Firstnow. Most of these common main street jobs simply require a disciplined and organized mind. It doesn't matter that you didn't take a course in Medieval literature in college.
We entertain these notions that somehow, difficult coursework makes us better human beings. It's rhetoric. It's political correctness. C. Peter Magrath gave the answer to Supt. Fred Switzer that he had to give, that books were full of rigor like always. But it was clear he didn't want to answer it.
To heck with schoolteachers who'd bellow out "take out a sheet of paper" for a pop quiz. I'm not willing to keep on rowing like that.
 
Now I'll keep your attention
What about sex education? People of a conservative political stripe bristle at this of course. They would want kids to behave as if sex doesn't exist. The parents of boomers were quite Victorian about all that.
We hear the joking references to how kids learn about sex "on the schoolyard." If this is true, is it something we should accept? I should think not. Sex is a profound thing for kids to have to confront. It can lead to anxiety that profoundly distracts them. And yet those conservative parents would prefer it not be addressed at all, as if it didn't exist.
I went through the schoolyard process and ended up very distressed about it all. We have learned that my generation reached puberty at a younger age than previous generations. We benefited from basic health advances. Our sexual urges, not properly guided, led to a lot of undesirable behavior and even catastrophic outcomes. I'd fear going to church because I might go up for communion with an erection showing under my pants. I have thought countless times that I would have benefited from a pill that would simply erase sexual thoughts. Away from procreation, how much value do these thoughts have? God created us in such a strange way.
My generation could be so wild and undisciplined in our behavior. In some critical ways, we just weren't getting the proper guidance. Our parents were clueless about some of our essential needs. We partied, drank, smoked dope and sought illicit sex. We wore "grubby" clothes lest we suggest we came from an affluent background which would be a source of shame in those days of the "New Left." (Jim Morrison once told me "The New Left is now the Old Left.")
Sex was not to be broached in our household, and if somehow it surfaced like through a conversation on TV, we would be afflicted with shame, instantly, and cower for a while. And heaven absolutely help you if you, as a male, had your Playboy magazine discovered. Shame beyond words. But why? Why oh why? The Tom Cruise character in "Born on the Fourth of July" had this happen to him. The movie was a template for what boomers went through.
You know what? If you allow a male young person access to unlimited porn for just a couple days, he will tire of it and become oblivious to it. Isn't that what we want? Let our boys get all this out of their system. The mystery and taboo of sex was so fascinating to us young boys, we'd get ahold of a National Geographic magazine because we might get to see female breasts on a primitive woman.
Why couldn't our society be more relaxed and enlightened? Like it or not, sex is something we all have to grapple with. School can be helpful.
 
Footnote regarding the "Back Door," part of the old Sunwood Inn: If you want to re-create the atmosphere in your mind, just imagine the Doobie Brothers' tune "Long Train Running" which included: "Without love, where would you be now." It seemed all the visiting bands played that there. I am not proud to note that I was an occasional patron. None of us benefited from our time there.
 
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, May 13, 2017

More to R-P's Noah Carlson than athletics

He's headed to the University of Michigan: Noah Carlson.
Noah Carlson was spellbinding on the football field last season. His talents got all the way to Prep Bowl. His Rushford-Peterson team got slowed down in its final game. A force earlier, R-P settled for being the second-best team in its class. Carlson built on his reputation as a prime athlete.
And now we're learning about another impressive dimension of this young man. It has to do with books and the classroom. Don't we all marvel at those student-athletes who can excel in both sports and the classroom? We immediately wonder how they find the time. I certainly ask that in my mind. I was a non-athlete who was challenged finding enough time to do adequately in my studies. It probably didn't help that I watched TV shows like "The Virginian."
As I look back today, I feel no shame budgeting time to watch TV. I probably felt more guilt back then. What the heck, if I spend eight hours in a school building on a given day, why not come home and indulge in a little pleasure?
We suspect that Noah Carlson hasn't spent much time digesting TV fare. Noah has his priorities where his elders want them. Maybe it's because of the educational commitment among his relatives. Ahem. Let's consider Truman Carlson of Morris. Truman had countless Morris young people take his biology classes through the years. He was active in athletics and had a stint as athletic director. I suspect the AD job put a few gray hairs on his head as it would with anyone.
I'm glad Truman wasn't still AD in the latter half of the 1980s. Our Morris school district went through some unusual stress at that time. I wouldn't want to see someone of Truman's character get caught in the scissors of public pressure. Someone else was AD or "activities director" at that time. That individual did end up in scissors-like contentiousness which many would argue was of his own making, although there certainly were two sides to that. That was a big problem for the community: that there were two sides at all.
The temperate and gentle Truman was on the sidelines, fortunately. Today he enjoys lunch daily at the Morris Senior Community Center in the most serene setting possible. Congratulations Truman. Yours truly bathes in that serenity too, and you might argue I deserve it just as much. There would be two sides regarding that too: my abilities. I don't want to hear about any of it.
But I most certainly enjoy hearing about the accomplishments of Noah Carlson who is Truman's great grand nephew. Athletes don't come any better than him. And now we learn he excels in academics at the premier level. There's more! Noah is honored for his leadership and community involvement.
The Minnesota chapter of the National Football Foundation is pleased to announce Rushford-Peterson high school student Noah Carlson is a 2017 Scholar Athlete. Carlson and the other winners, chosen for academic excellence, leadership and community involvement, were recognized at the ten-year anniversary of the Minnesota Football Honors on May 7 at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The 2016 Minnesota AP Football Player of the Year, Carlson led Rushford-Peterson to a berth in the Class A Prep Bowl. He also earned Player of the Year distinction from the Winona Daily News and Rochester Post-Bulletin. Carlson was a team captain and three-time all-district selection, and holds the Trojans' career, season and single-game records for rushing yards and touchdowns.
The running back, defensive back, kicker, punter and returner - whew! - also competed in basketball and is now in track and field. Carlson is a perpetual honor roll student who ranks highly in his class at Rushford-Peterson (southeastern MN). He hopes to study engineering in college.
In the community, Carlson volunteers much of his time coaching youth sports. He has spent more than 60 hours each coaching camps or teams in all three sports he plays, often coming there right from his own practices or competitions. He is a National Honor Society member and a student ambassador.
It is humbling to read about Noah. Beyond high school he'll be showing his athletic prowess in the Big 10. I am so pleased to write that his sport of choice from now on is track and field and not football. He won't be punishing his body in the brutal world of football. His choice reflects his maturity and sharp mind. We shouldn't rule out that he might be drafted by an NFL team after his senior year. His instincts as a running back are already as well developed as possible. His body would be fresh for football several years from now, but I hope he rejects any such temptation. We should hope he progresses right into engineering.
Carlson will be a University of Michigan Wolverine.
 
Academics? It can be foreboding
I congratulate Noah although I don't particularly like being reminded of the academic hurdles of school, particularly the 'A' through 'D' grading system that frankly terrorized me. I guess many institutions are taking a fresh look at that old A-D system. I read of at least one college that simply eliminated the 'D' grade. Grades can miss so much in terms of gauging one's intelligence.
My problem was that I tied up my self-worth with whether I was getting decent grades, when I should have just withdrawn some and gotten into "real life" more,
I remember a chat I had with the sage Donnie Eich once, and we were discussing those rigorous classes at our UMM. Do they really make you smart? Are only the smartest kids attracted here, to an institution that allows a "gay devil worshipers" organization?
Donnie said going to UMM just "showed you're good at reading books and then answering questions about them." I agree totally.
BTW Donnie once attended a Brooklyn Dodgers baseball game at Ebbetts Field, I believe when he was in the service. What was that romanticized place like, I asked him. "It was a dump," he said.
 
Background re. Football Foundation
The Minnesota chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame is a local non-profit organization whose mission is to promote and develop the power of amateur football in developing the qualities of leadership, sportsmanship, competitive spirit and academic excellence in Minnesota's young people.
The MN chapter recognizes legendary football icons, college football Hall of Famers and Minnesota's top high school and college football scholar athletes.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Thursday, May 11, 2017

MACA girls come from behind to beat ACGC

MACA softball prevailed in a high-scoring affair Tuesday. The Tigers battled the ACGC Falcons in a game that was less than a masterpiece, as we took advantage of 16 walks and four errors. Masterpiece or not we got the win in a 13-11 final.
The first victory might well be getting the other team to take the field. You'll recall we were part of a controversial little incident in which Monte surprised us by forfeiting after the game's first pitch, after we had taken the trouble to travel all the way to Montevideo. I notice that Monte was deflated in Tuesday action of this week, getting shut out by Minnewaska 5-0. Poetic justice, eh? I wonder if coach Kyle Goslee had any issues with the umpiring. Morgan Hess pitched the shutout for 'Waska over Monte. It was also a no-hitter in which Hess struck out seven batters.
Our Tigers had to grab victory from the jaws of potential defeat on Tuesday. We were quite on the ropes at one point. ACGC rallied for seven runs in the fourth to go up 9-1 on the Tigers. My goodness! But the Tigers were determined and undaunted. We scored one run in the fourth, three in the fifth and eight in the sixth.
The 13-11 win was achieved with the modest hit total of four, but keep in mind the walks and errors that opened the door. ACGC had nine hits. Each team had four errors. Our four hits were off the bats of Brooke Gillespie, Liz Dietz, Karly Fehr and Karli Siegel.
Alex Hovey of the Falcons made noise with her bat as she posted a three-for-four boxscore line. Madison Denton socked two doubles. Other Falcons hitting safely were Maree Lee, Micayla Hobson, Rylie Wilner and Miranda Lang.
Our pitching was shared by three. It was Ashley Solvie getting the win with her one and two-thirds innings of work in which she allowed no hits or runs, struck out two and walked none. Brooke Gillespie had a rough outing of three and a third innings. The Falcons got seven hits off Gillespie, but of the eight runs she allowed, only four were earned. She issued no walks. Then we have Liz Dietz turning in a pitching stint of two innings in which she gave up two hits and three runs (two earned) and walked one.
The losing pitcher was Lindsey Minnick. Taryn Reinke and Micayla Hobson also pitched for ACGC. Walks will haunt! The 16 walks issued by the ACGC pitchers took a toll for them obviously. Plus those four errors.
Getting back to the Minnewaska vs. Monte game, I have to wonder if Monte's hitless showing might have resulted from certain players getting suspended as a result of the controversial forfeiture. The victorious Lakers pounded out ten hits. Morgan Hess of the Lakers went three-for-four with two runs scored and an RBI. Bayley Pooler had a hit and a run scored. Carley Stewart had a one-for-four afternoon. Bailey Stewart went one-for-three with an RBI. Katelyn Lange had a hit and drove in a run. Ashley Blom had a two-for-three line with a run scored. Alisha Vigil had a hit and an RBI.
Breanna Welling was the losing pitcher for the beleaguered Thunder Hawks. 'Waska attacked early, scoring all five of their runs over the first three innings. Pitcher Hess finished just two errors away from a perfect game.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, May 8, 2017

Town turns purple but what does it all mean?

Took a look at the front page "above the fold" of the Morris newspaper this morning, through the glass at the DeToy's vending machine, and - guess what? - there's a big splash about the Minnesota Vikings. Surprise! Oh of course it's not a surprise, it's knee-jerk on the part of the paper. It's totally predictable hype.
The Vikings were here as part of a rather odd award that was bestowed on us. Does anyone really think we have the finest football program in the state? We're a community of 5000 on the western Minnesota prairie. We have the benefit of an artificial turf field that we would not have, were it not for the presence of UMM here.
Our school gets 10,000 bucks as part of the deal. If we're so well-endowed already, why do we need an extra $10,000? Maybe the money should be directed to where there's more need. Oh wait, our society doesn't reason like that anymore. In the business world our goal is to "make a killing," reflecting the Mitt Romney ethos. Why not just work to make a decent profit and to prioritize other things like church, family and community?
Morris bows down for a week and acts totally wowed by a behemoth entertainment enterprise that exists solely to maximize profit. When I first heard about our award, I was told we were being honored as "the best football team in the state." Since we had recently been beaten by BOLD, I was perplexed by this, and asked with furrowed brow how we could be considered "best in the state." I got basically a blank look in response. I irritate people sometimes in the community by being too analytical.
I was also puzzled when seeing a quote from an award spokesperson in reference to our "marching band." I am not aware of the Morris school having a marching band. We see a "drum line" once in a while but that isn't the same thing. Does that drum line actually go out on the field and do anything special at halftime? (The quote was with the original coverage of the award.)
I haven't been to a game in four years. I can't come back until I go digital with my photography. I'm not sure I should want to come back. There are pressures today to reduce our interest in football, for the sake of the young men who play it. I'm so thankful I never played it. But why should I be thankful for that? Why does the temptation to play football exist in the first place?
Football was actually a controversial sport in the early 20th Century. The forward pass was implemented to try to reduce the danger. Why do men, as opposed to women, choose to expose themselves to such great risk with their bodies and brains? Women would find this unthinkable.
Think of the way Wally Hilgenberg died. Think of the way Fred McNeill died. Can we defend any sport with these kind of consequences? How can we rationalize supporting it? Why do we put up purple banners welcoming the Vikings and bow down at their feet, in effect? I suspect the Vikings saw a need for a little public relations outreach in the western part of the state.
Given our asset of Big Cat Stadium, that huge structure that sits cold and empty all winter, Morris probably seemed a logical place for the Vikings to invest their efforts. And we were all wide-eyed about it, most willing to oblige this big entertainment corporation which can be likened to big tobacco as tobacco went through its throes of decline due to an enlightened public.
I wonder about the future of football in small communities that have the old-fashioned football fields, natural grass and ramshackle bleachers. Will those towns begin to feel like they're on the short end for the "haves/have nots" model? The interest in football is likely to go down in those communities. Fewer boys will go out, thankfully, and the teams that do get fielded are likely to lose badly vs. the "haves." So a cycle could grow where the "have nots" shrivel up more and perhaps cancel their programs.
So what we'll get, in all likelihood, is a "club system" for the sport where teams represent fairly wide regions and the young men commute. It remains to be seen if even this model is sustainable, given the constant revelations about how football is not a prudent sport choice for young men.
And why should there be any sport that is gender-limited? We accept the premise today that a woman can do anything a man can. So, why a sport for men and boys only? Well, the response might be, women couldn't withstand the punishment of football. But we're learning that men cannot absorb this punishment either.
Why is it taking so long for our society to phase out football? Nowhere else in the world do we see this kind of mania about football. We see it about soccer but not football. Why are we so discordant? For that matter, why do we stand alone by trying to assert, as Congress did so loudly last week, that health care is not a right for all? I have faith in this nation while I think the worm will turn.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, May 5, 2017

Controversy? Monte forfeits to MACA as protest

This is incredibly weird: the MACA softball team got on the bus to play a game at Montevideo Thursday, but were denied the opportunity to play. Based on my vast experience with youth sports, gained from a media perspective, controversy ends up not being worth the trouble. Play the game, follow the rules and accept the results. We do not live in a perfect world.
People can get so absorbed in high school sports, investing so much emotion, they can make a federal case of things. Was it the Monte players' idea to forfeit Thursday's game as a protest gesture? That's what it was: a wagging of the finger, or the display of a certain finger (figuratively), at the people who administer high school sports.
Background: a decision had been made to suspend the Monte coach for a game. The decision was made in an orderly way, it appears, even if one might be skeptical about it. But the waters got roiled.
This is like complaining about an official's call in an emotionally charged sports situation. I can remember being at Tiger football games in the pre-Big Cat Stadium days, and hearing such harsh language coming from fans standing behind me on the north side of the field - the visitors' side. The refs would be in the crosshairs of these individuals who did not seem to be having a good time at all.
Many times I wondered how people would even be willing to take a job as a referee or umpire. I would feel the wrath of the parents/fans myself sometimes, like from our family dentist.
Are these games even worth the trouble? Are they worth the trouble when we can't even get everyone to accept the judgment of people in responsible positions of overseeing these activities? Do the players themselves care that much, or is it just their parents?
Whatever, there were emotions on display in the manner of what the Montevideo Thunder Hawks did on Thursday as they walked off the field. They walked off the field! This after our Tigers took the trouble to board a bus and be transported to Montevideo.
Monte is a nice town, I have always felt, but it sure wasn't hospitable on Thursday. It was a total downer. The Monte student-athletes were totally rude hosts, absorbed in their parochial dislike of a decision having been made vs. their coach. This coach is Kyle Goslee.
Flashback to Tuesday: Goslee had his Thunder Hawks in action vs. ACGC. He had a dispute with an umpire. Such things happen. A line of restraint must be drawn in the amateur world of prep sports where one of the objectives is to promote orderliness and a pleasant decorum. OK, so the coach made his feelings known. Did he cross a line? Was this "rhubarb" excessive?
Goslee
got ejected just like "Coach Dale" might be ejected in the movie "Hoosiers." Goslee's side of the story: he didn't raise his voice or speak inappropriately. That's a vague assertion. Someone thought it was inappropriate. This isn't the pros. We need to make sure we can keep hiring umpires and referees. I think this job can be incredibly difficult. I sure wouldn't want it, especially for football.
The rules called for coach Goslee to sit out the next full game following his ejection. That's what stuck in the craw of the Monte student-athletes or their parents. So on Thursday, after one pitch was thrown, Monte players gathered at home plate and announced they were forfeiting. Goslee was present just to observe away from his coaching role. He said he wasn't aware of his team's intent to forfeit. He said he tried to get his team to keep playing, but the players were defiant on this too.
The players left the field. So I suppose the MACA Tigers, who had no dog in this hunt of a festering dispute, had to re-board their bus and simply come home. It's a travesty. The High School League should look into this incident and recommend some course of action, perhaps to make Monte forfeit the rest of the season.
Goslee
indicated he "appreciated the show of support" for him, even though the players didn't respect his wishes for them to continue. That's an odd little contradiction, so maybe the problem is Goslee himself. He was quoted saying: "It's nice that they stood up for me for what they saw as an unjustified ejection."
The players' opinions on such a matter aren't supposed to count so much. Part of being a high school student is to defer to authority and the orderly process set up for you. You might not like or approve everything all the time. But just play the game. We can't blame the players. Right now my inclination is to blame coach Kyle Goslee.
As I ponder this further, I wonder about the role of the person designated as head coach for the Thursday game, which I presume would be the assistant. What were that person's actions? What did this individual hear about the players' intentions? Did he/she direct the players to take the field and play the game, regardless of their feelings? If he/she did and the players were defiant, some sanctions are in order for the players. If he/she didn't, the punishment should fall on this individual. He/she had the head coach's responsibility that day.
And I wonder if Goslee should have even been present. He should have considered it a distraction, I feel. Bottom line: people involved in youth sports can get way carried away with their emotions. The sun will come up tomorrow, I assure you. We want the student-athletes to take the same temperate, mature attitude. I think down deep, many of the Monte players would have wanted to play.
I suppose certain people would have their neck turn red just reading this post. That's part of the problem.
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, May 1, 2017

A winter-like morning to usher in May

I was looking forward to having a nice walk this morning, Monday, May 1. I dropped our Town Car off at the dealer for servicing. I thus was going to walk home. Heartland is now located a little further from our residence than before. It's still close enough to make walking practical. Knock on wood as the years go by.
I have to walk through some weeds because there is no uninterrupted road. That's too bad. There has long been a non-maintained road crossing the field close to Pizza Hut. That road went unchanged through decades. It's still there but it doesn't connect with the highway anymore. It is now cut off at the ditch, a change that came about when the service road was put in.
So, I was going to take that nice healthy walk. People who remember me as a 10K runner would figure that walk is no sweat for me. Knock on wood as the years go by.
We ought to have nice conditions for walking on the morning of the first day of May, eh? I'm looking outside our picture windows facing the north as I write this. You would think it's February. Snow fell through the early-morning hours. I presume we can scratch another day of high school baseball and softball. Games were erased one day last week because of the sheer cold. Spring sports can seem like such a futile proposition. But we expect this weather adversity to come sooner.
Let me finish my story about my contemplated walk this morning. I didn't take it. I wimped out. I requested a courtesy driver and got a nice little lift home. We used the Town Car which was my father's pride and joy.
I remember through the years how a class of St. Mary's kids made rounds around town marking "May Day." I remember Barb Spaulding accompanying them most years. I'd be at my Morris Sun Tribune office in the old building now occupied by Morris Community Church. If the walls of that building could talk. In the pre-church days, names of deities would be invoked there for reasons other than church-related. The old model for newspaper work involved emotions and a frayed temperament so much. Newspaper writers were too often expected to work like a bat out of hell, perhaps chain-smoking and sweating while at the typewriter. We shake our heads over that now. It didn't even seem to be justified at the time. It seemed to grow out of a stereotype. Perhaps writers felt that working with such frenetic intensity suggested a sort of heroism.
Silly rabbit. The frayed temperament was never consistent with putting out a sound product. The sense of self-importance we once exuded was justified to a degree, perhaps, in the pre-digital age when communications were so much more limited. We were all beholden to newspapers. It's surprising that people still turn to papers as much as they do. The papers are part of such a broad range of media. They have downsized dramatically as you can see vividly here in Morris, where the paper has gone from publishing twice a week, to putting out one very slim paper - 18 pages with pages smaller than before - each week. And while readership has gone way down too, it appears there is still demand for a reasonably viable paper product.
I only look at the Morris paper in public places. I wouldn't consider buying it, ever. I remember when we had a school administrator who had smoke coming out of his ears if a certain sports game didn't get covered thoroughly in the very next edition. He once wrote me a terse and rather disrespectful note in which he claimed among other things that "news is perishable." What he really meant is that "I have strong political incentive to try to kick your butt." Today, all the MACA football game news has "perished" before it appears in our local print product. But does anyone even care? I don't think so.
I'm no longer in a position to appreciate seeing those St. Mary's kids making their rounds on May 1, "May Day." There is a Communist holiday called May Day. I don't think this is the context in which Barb and her charming students were celebrating. It would be cold for them today. We will have put up with seven months of absolutely worthless weather here. Have you done anything interesting out of doors in the last seven months? Stop and think. Even if you haven't, maybe you don't care much. Such is the nature of our world today, electronic gadgets, social media and the like keep our lives interesting. I think it's sad, though.
A nice long walk outdoors, just getting lost in your own thoughts, is invaluable. Later today, I'm going to try to psych up and walk back to Heartland Motors to pick up my car. Wish me luck.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com