Banquet packs 'em in; winner drives 'em out

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 22, 2006 - 10:00 PM

The bountiful list of contenders for Turkey of the Year ensures a crowded table, but this year's Grand Turkey knows how to empty the seats.

The internal debate on the Turkey Committee between the old guard and the young turks reached a new level of hostility during this week's final consultations.

The belligerent youngsters restated their contention that the Turkey Awards should be dedicated to ridicule. They argued vociferously that the Grand Turkey, a k a the Herschel, should be reserved for idiotic behavior of athletes.

The turks said the big award should go to a gentleman such as former Viking Koren Robinson, who was pinched for driving over the legal limit at more than 100 miles per hour and in the process blew the millions he had coming on a new contract.

The committee's chairman tried to explain again that the Turkey Awards are about catharsis -- about pointing out flaws on which an honoree can work to become a better athlete, coach, owner or administrator, and perhaps a better person.

"Take the example of the most recent Grand Turkey, Bob Naegele, the owner of Minnesota's NHL team," the chairman said. "A year ago, he was so cheap that he was ripping off his loyal customers with an inferior product.

"This flaw was pointed out on Thanksgiving morning 2005, and the man changed his ways. Naegele funded an overhaul of the roster last summer and now lively entertainment has returned for the sellout crowds in St. Paul.

"So you see what these prestigious awards can do when based on constructive criticism, rather than mere chastisement."

The turks hooted and hurled insults at the chairman until he couldn't take it anymore. The old boy pounded the lectern and shouted:

"The Turkeys are what we thought they were! Now, if you want to crown Koren's keister, then crown it. But the Turkeys ARE what we thought they were!"

The debate was over. The Turkey Committee finally embarked on the serious business of issuing these invitations for the 29th annual Turkey Banquet:

Ron Gardenhire: The Twins manager was a late addition after the MVP votes were announced. MVP, Cy Young, batting champ, Exec of the Year as the talent provider -- and 0-3 in the playoffs. We want more, Gardy.

Phil Mickelson: He wasn't satisfied to ruin his own season by pouting over his 72nd-hole collapse in the U.S. Open. He also decided to ruin any chance for the U.S. team in the Ryder Cup.

Ricky Davis: Can't shoot but won't stop trying. Doesn't pass or play defense. The Woofies wuz robbed.

Jason Kubel: He goes in the tank after the All-Star break, sits around and shows no ambition the final six weeks of the season, then refuses the Twins' request to go to Venezuela for the second half of the winter schedule to get at-bats. Starting in left field for the Twins on Opening Day 2007: Jason ... Tyner.

Fay Vincent: He wasn't satisfied to be a disastrous baseball commissioner. He also was the chairman of the Hall of Fame's Negro Leagues special committee that failed to include the great (and now late) Buck O'Neil among last summer's 17 inductees.

Landon Donovan: The United States soccer team went to the World Cup in Germany with a huge buildup. The Yanks failed miserably -- with Donovan as the top flop.

Ben Smith: There are two countries in the world with more than a few dozen women playing hockey: the United States and Canada. Against all odds, Smith managed to avoid coaching the U.S. team into the gold medal game at this winter's Olympics.

Michelle Wie: Look up snot .n in any unabridged dictionary and you will find her picture.

Linda Koblick and Penny Steele: What's more juvenile for a Hennepin County commissioner: Koblick still refusing to talk to a colleague who voted for the tax to finance a Twins stadium, or Weepin' Penny weeping every time there was a debate on the issue?

Jay Mariotti: The Chicago Sun-Times sports columnist shows up every afternoon on ESPN making a fool of himself, then we find out this summer -- during the brouhaha with Ozzie Guillen -- that he hasn't had time to visit the White Sox clubhouse in a decade.

M & M & M boys: Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer? Of course not. These are the permanent seats of honor for the U's Joel Maturi, Glen Mason and Dan Monson.

Phyllis Kahn: This legislator was so concerned about the youth of America in years back that she wanted 12-year-olds to have the right to vote. And then DeLaSalle, the oldest tenant on Nicollet Island, sought a permit to build a small football field next to the high school. Phyllis lives down there and turned into a raving hypocrite -- a wild-eyed foe of a facility to benefit the diverse student body of her city's only Catholic high school.

And now move aside for the head table:

Second runner-up: Zygi Wilf. Look out down there on Nicollet Island, Phyllis. That might be the next place the Vikings owner and crazed New Jersey developer wants to take his stadium dream.

One big problem Zygmunt's maneuvering has created: The only way to fund a Vikings stadium would be with a referendum for a seven-county tax, and he has managed to alienate Anoka County to the tune of about 95 percent against in such a vote.

First runner-up: Don Lucia. When his underage hockey players were caught on tape drinking, Lucia said they were "violated." When his big-budget Gophers were eliminated in a first-round upset by non-entity Holy Cross, he didn't have the good taste to be embarrassed. And then Lucia's lackeys whispered negatives about the departing Phil Kessel, who had been ballyhooed a few months earlier as the best recruit in program history.

Lucia would have been worthy of the Herschel, except there was a coaching colleague at Minnesota who had a more impressive end-of-season collapse.

As most Turkey followers must have anticipated, the 29th Grand Turkey is Pam Borton, the basketball coach of the U of M women.

Borton's 2006 seniors went backward in their play, then the underclassmen bailed faster than an audience at a Michael Richards standup routine. In four years, Borton has taken the team she inherited from 14,000 people screaming inside Williams Arena to a following that would fit comfortably next door in the Sports Pavilion.

Borton's Herschel also has huge gender-equity implications. She's only the second woman -- along with gymnast Kerri Strug in 1996 -- to be a Grand Turkey.

The chairman is so emotional over this he's about to weep like Penny Steele.

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  • Previous turkey winners

    Wednesday November 22, 2006

    • 1978: Woody Hayes• 1979: Pete Rozelle and Bowie Kuhn• 1980: Bobby Knight• 1981: George Steinbrenner• 1982: Billy Martin• 1983:...

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