"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)

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