Sometimes it seems we have two tribes up here: Arts and Sports. You're one or the other, right? No. Meet Joe Oberle, 52, a longtime resident of friendly Fridley. He writes about Minnesota sports and is assembling stories for a book on youth sports. Not just the highlight-reel rah-rah tales from when your kid ran in the winning touchdown, but the times when things went marvelously, hilariously awry. You'll find them at josephgoberle.com, and you can add your own.
If you grew up purple, his Minnesota probably sounds a lot like yours.
"I can't think of Minnesota without thinking of sports," Joe says. "It goes back to growing up in Mankato. My back yard -- it seemed so immense when I was a kid -- had a football field, a hockey rink with two steel pipe and chicken wire goals my dad made, a badminton court, a whiffle-ball field and one golf hole. As a kid, I rode my bike up Stadium Road hill -- we're talking a steep hill -- and I'd watch the Minnesota Vikings practice at the Mankato State campus. My dad had season tickets to Gopher football games and Vikings games at the Old Met, so our treks up Highway 169 North from Mankato were a fall rite."
Aw, come on, ya homer. Kids growing up in Wisconsin could say the same thing.
"No, here we are raising and coaching the next generation of Minnesota athletes. Minnesota really is its people -- and they're people who usually seem to be trying to make things better."
Better? What, we're not perfect? Get ye to Iowa, unbeliever! Just kidding. What's one of the things you'd try to make better?
"I'd like to end this charade of political posturing over a new Vikings stadium. Nobody wants the Vikings to leave. They're woven right into the fabric of this state. They're a part of Minnesota's identity and the most popular team for youth sports athletes across the state. I know, nobody wants to pay more taxes for another stadium, but we all pay taxes for things we don't want or agree with. A lot of people felt the same way about a new Twins stadium, and you know, we're pretty glad we built that."
Would you pay for it?
But it's not just the big-ticket sports that define this place for him:
"I live just a block from the Little League fields -- that's where I coached the teams of my son and two daughters. My son had his first job there, just like his old man, umping baseball games. My home is a couple of blocks from Fridley High School, so I can hear the football games. When I hear the band, the announcer on the PA, the cheers of the crowd floating through the fall air, I'm back under the Friday night lights of my youth. It's like a soundtrack of my state."