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Patrick Reusse

Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968.

Reusse: Recalling, rating six Olympics covered by your favorite sports writer

What’s a little self-indulgence between friends, meaning me and all those Twin Cities readers who have looked forward to my laser-focused columns since they started appearing in the afternoon St. Paul Dispatch in February 1979.

The deal is, I was rustling around on Monday morning in Fort Myers, and the thought came that what a wonderful moment this must be for Star Tribune colleagues Rachel Blount and Chip Scoggins, as they packed it in after another day of covering the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Here’s the self-indulgent part: I covered six Olympics (three Summer, three Winter) and nothing in sports writing compares as a grind. And on this Monday in Florida, I had a flashback to the euphoria felt when one of my Olympic assignments reached its final seven days.

“It’s the last Monday,’’ you would say on that morning. “We’re going to make it.’’

And then came Tuesday morning, and you started to get a glimpse of the finish line. By Wednesday, your pulse was pounding with excitement that by nightfall, it would be almost over – four days left of 17, less than 25 percent.

Hey, I’m just telling you the truth here: put together 10 days with an average of three hours’ sleep, four on your best night, and you appreciate arriving at the last Monday, followed by the last Tuesday, a celebration all way to the relaxed final Sunday, when it’s all over.

I started kicking around the half-dozen Olympics on the satisfaction scale as a reporter, and this was the list.

1-Barcelona, 1992: Juan Antonio Samaranch, president of International Olympic Committee, guided the Olympics to his home area. There was considerable skepticism if Barcelona had the wherewithal to pull it off, but these Summer Games were fabulous.

Samaranch was driven to do away with the amateur-ideal hypocrisy for the Olympics and bring the best athletes in the world to Barcelona. The greatest success in this was to get USA Basketabll to agree to use NBA stars – and that became the one, true Dream Team.

The presence of Magic, Michael, Charles, etc. created a phenomenon with the public that was something to behold. The Dream Team’s games weren’t close, and that only made them more popular.

Basically, everything was great in Barcelona, other than the fact that the locals paid no heed to the leavings of their many dogs. Watch your step!

2-Los Angeles, 1984. The Soviet Union and most of its Communist cohorts were boycotting. There were also dire predictions as to the congestion the Summer Games would bring to the already overwhelmed freeways of L.A.

Turned out, huge numbers of folks headed elsewhere, and it was easier to get around L.A. than at any time I was there – before or since.

Gregg Wong and I were covering for the St. Paul newspapers and we were trying to cover a half-dozen events per day. On the final weekend, we went to a gathering of reporters covering for Knight-Ridder Newspapers, and were reminded that we were supposed to have checked in for assignments at the start of the L.A. Games.

It was too late. Sorry.

The track was great, the boxing was great. I was able to see Mary Lou, and I was able to freak out watching synchronized swimming for the first time. The only real downer was Bobby Knight winning the gold medal in a romp in men’s basketball.

3-Lillehammer, 1994. We had Norway’s Koss the Boss and the USA’s Dan Jansen in speed skating, Nancy, Tonya and Oksana in figure skating, Picabo Street in Alpine skiing, and the most humble and helpful people I’ve ever been around.

There were Norwegians that actually seemed to be embarrassed the home country was winning so many medals – as if it made Norway a bad host.

(Note: That wasn’t a problem for we Yankees in L.A. in 1984, I can assure you of that.)

I was taking my marching orders from Jay Weiner, the Olympic writer for the Star Tribune, and Mike Preston was taking his from Bill Glauber, the Olympic writer for the Baltimore Sun.

Which meant Preston and I were on the same busses to events almost every day. Preston is an African-American gent, and in that part of Norway … well, there wasn’t a lot of racial diversity.

A dozen times locals came up to Preston to ask, in the most polite way possible, if they could take a photo with him. This went on for a week and finally Preston said: “OK, this is starting to irritate me.’’

Which was funny ... even if you had to be there.

4-Sydney, 2000. The Australians were almost as lovable as the Norwegians, but in a completely different way. They offered more cynical humor than you will find in the USA.

The city was tremendous. The days were sunny. The venues were terrific. The problem was the time difference. It drove me crazy always to be writing 1½-day old news for a morning newspaper. We did not have a devotion to producing copy for a 24-hour Website as became the case a few years later.

One bit of fun was watching Doug Mientkiewicz and his teammates beat Cuba to win the gold medal in baseball, with the boastful Tommy Lasorda as the manager.

5-Salt Lake City, 2002. I wasn’t there to watch Herbie Brooks pull off the upset in Lake Placid in 1980, but we had him as a coach of the NHLers in Salt Lake. The semifinal victory over Russia was fantastic, before a loss to Canada in the gold medal game.

This was my last Olympics and we had four people covering for the Strib. It was a breeze.

6-Calgary, 1988. The figure skating was the highlight: Brian Boitano vs. Brian Orser in men’s; Katrina Witt vs. Debi Thomas vs. Elizabeth Manley in women’s.

The judges were ready to give Debi the gold medal, and then she stumbled around the ice in shocking fashion. I wrote a column ripping her effort … and put it this way: The largely female crowd of figure skating devotees had many angry letters waiting for me back in the Twin Cities.

It was also strange to watch Dave Peterson, the formerly affable Minneapolis Southwest coach, turn surly as the coach of the U.S. hockey team. The Yanks were talented, played no defense, and flopped.

There were two major problems with the Calgary Games:

One, they had stretched the competition to 16 days to try to recoup TV millions, but still had the events for a 10-day Olympics -- meaning, we had to make hay with the Jamaican bobsled game and Eddie the Eagle as a ski jumper.

Two, a chinook, which creates warm weather, came in over the mountains and the final few days of an alleged winter games were being contested in 50-degree temperatures.

So, there’s my list … and, as promised, self-indulgent.

Reusse: Rays' payroll cutting allows Twins to land established starter

FORT MYERS, FLA. -- There is quite a dance taking place with the future of baseball in the Tampa Bay area. Earlier this month, it was announced the Rays had signed on for the pursuit of an $800 million stadium in the Ybor City area of Tampa. This would require a great deal of public investment, and there is no plan yet in place from which to draw that money.

Meantime, the Rays seem to have embarked on a controversial strategy to demonstrate the need for a new stadium:

Rather than building enthusiasm for the upcoming season, they have talked publicly of the need to reduce payroll, and took a pair of bold actions on that front on Saturday night.

It could be pointed out the Twins tried the desperate approach – all the way to volunteering for contraction – in the late 1990s and start of the 2000s without success. It wasn’t until three straight division titles from 2002 to 2004 helped generate some enthusiasm that Hennepin County’s financing plan was approved by the Legislature on May 20, 2006.

Target Field opened in 2010, Miami got its new stadium in 2012, and that has left MLB with only two locations suffering because of aged, unappealing stadiums: Tampa Bay, with Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, and Oakland, in whatever the Coliseum is being called these days.

I was talking to Marc Topkin, the Rays reporter for the Tampa Bay Times, on Monday and he said the front office was being asked to reduce the payroll from the high 70s in millions to the mid-60s.

Mainly, I wanted to ask Topkin about the Twins’ chance to acquire starting pitcher Chris Archer. Topkin’s answer was it was highly unlikely Archer would be traded – that a package including Max Kepler, Nick Gordon and a top pitching prospect would not be enough.

His message was that if the Twins wanted a starter from the Rays, the one they could get was Jake Odorizzi.

And that’s what happened on Saturday night:

First, the Rays designated for assignment Chris Dickerson, an All-Star in 2017, rather than pay his $5.95 million salary. They brought in C.J. Cron ($2.3 million) from the Angels to take his place, and hope to trade Dickerson in the next 10 days.

As the smattering of Rays followers in Tampa Bay were digesting that, the word got out around 9:45 p.m. Eastern that the Twins had acquired Odorizzi from the Rays, and did so by surrendering their fourth best shortstop prospect in 21-year-old Jermaine Palacios.

It was announced Thursday that Odorizzi had won his arbitration case for $6.3 million, at the same time it was revealed Twins starter Kyle Gibson had lost his case.

Odorizzi and the Rays had gone to arbitration two straight years. He had beaten them and received a $4.1 million salary in 2017.

The Rays were on the hook for $6 million even if they had beaten Odorizzi in arbitration, so he was going to get traded either way.

The Twins and the Rays had been talking about this trade for a month. They asked about Archer, even made an offer, but the true possibility of getting a deal done was for Odorizzi.

The latest Twins prospect ratings on have shortstops Royce Lewis and Gordon Nos. 1 and 2, and shortstop Wander Javier at No. 5. Palacios was rated No. 28; well thought-of by people who watched him in Class A last season, but expendable for the reward of a badly needed veteran starter.

Odorizzi throws in the low-90s with a mix of as many as six pitches. He’s from southern Illinois, near St. Louis, and he’s a big hockey fan. We should be able to handle that need for him in Minnesota.

The Twins are going to make room for Odorizzi by putting Michael Pineda on the 60-day disabled list. They can do the same for Anibal Sanchez by putting Trevor May on the 60-day disabled list. He’s coming back from Tommy John and the team’s timeline had May on the mound in mid-May.

The injury to ace Ervin Santana, the timeline for May, the lack of optimism over Phil Hughes’ future – the Twins had to make a move for an established starter, and Odorizzi qualifies.