It started organically and modestly, as most traditions do. Back in 2002, Twins color commentator Bert Blyleven started circling Twins fans via Telestrator during a season-opening road series in Kansas City. Soon enough, fans at Twins games were holding up, "Circle Me Bert" signs, hoping to get some airtime on Fox Sports North.
There were dozens of signs every game — maybe hundreds. Even David Ortiz, still with the Twins in 2002, wore a "Circle Me Bert" sign around his neck.
"What made it such a good idea is nobody really thought of it," play-by-play voice Dick Bremer, Blyleven's longtime broadcast partner, said in a 2002 Star Tribune story. "It just kind of spontaneously happened. Nobody at a production meeting said, 'OK, now we are going to start circling Twins fans at the ballpark.' It's just something that happened spontaneously that has caught fire."
That quote and the very nature of the "Circle Me" phenomenon carried weight and irony Tuesday after Blyleven on Twitter said FSN informed him there would be "no more 'Circle Me Bert' and Minnesota Lottery winners for this coming season."
Wait, what? Why? Fox Sports North attempted to retake control of the narrative a few hours later with another tweet, noting that "Bert broke the news" and trying to put a positive spin on the new winners circle promotion in conjunction with Minnesota Lottery.
Here is that sentiment, roughly translated: "We are going to do something new that is kind of like what you are used to, except it's fundamentally different in the only way you care about, and you won't like it nearly as much."
Another 14 hours passed, during which people presumably slept but also vented to Fox Sports North about their beloved "Circle Me Bert."
Perhaps the outrage worked. Or maybe "Circle Me Bert" was never really ending. By Wednesday morning, FSN had crafted a new tweet indicating Blyleven would still be circling people on broadcasts — just not as part of a promotion. That's how it started, after all. So, win-win? Maybe?
An hour later, Blyleven chimed in on Twitter to say he had "misunderstood," and that his circling "is NOT going away."
But why change the promotion in the first place? Well, it could be a response to Blyleven's shrinking presence on Twins broadcasts. Back when he started, Blyleven did almost every game. In 2018, he will do just 80 games — fewer than half of the 162 on the Twins' schedule. Now FSN can do the promotion regardless of who is in the analyst chair and can incorporate a wider audience. This is a partnership with Minnesota Lottery, so money is involved.
Regardless, Blyleven will be on the air for Thursday's opener at Baltimore, free to circle Twins fans as he pleases. It's a good bet we will see a deluge of "Circle Me" signs at the home opener at Target Field next week.
Maybe everyone will get what they want in the end, and we will all hereby circle this whole situation as one big misunderstanding?