The Turkey Committee first assembled in 1978. In this, its 15th year, the committee has taken a look inward. The era when America honored selfishness is over. It is time for everyone - including the Turkey Committee - to reach out and help those who are less fortunate.
That is why a couple of special guests have been invited to the 15th Turkey Banquet, which is being held today at the site of Patti's, the now-defunct restaurant that had a glorious run of, what, six weeks on Hwy. 12.
The guests are from the ranks of the recently unemployed: Rick Bay and Earle Bruce. These men have been linked since 1987, when athletic director Bay turned down the task of firing football coach Bruce, and both left Ohio State.
How remarkable that, five years later, Bay and Bruce would join the unemployment rolls within days of one another.
Bay was fired as president of the Cleveland Indians because ofphilosophical differences with the team's owner. The guy must havewanted Bay to work, rather than hire. Bruce was fired as coach at
Colorado State. The administration was offended by the verbal and physical abuse the old coach heaped on players.
It was not possible for the Turkey Committee to invite all of America's 9.3 million unemployed citizens to today's feast. To demonstrate a commitment to the caring '90s, the committee has invited Bay and Bruce, a couple of guys who now need a meal.
We would ask the previous winners of the Turkey of the Year Award to take their seats: Pete Rozelle and Bowie Kuhn (1979), Bobby Knight (1980), George Steinbrenner (1981), Billy Martin (1982), Paul Giel (1983), Les Steckel (1984), Lou Holtz (1985), Kenneth Keller (1986), Carl Pohlad (1987), Louie Nanne (1988), Mike Lynn (1989), Kent Hrbek (1990) and Chris Doleman (1991). The committee has given the 1978 winner, Woody Hayes, an excused absence.
The birds have been radiated to a pale brown. If any of this year's honorees do not approve of dining on turkeys that have been raised in pens and pumped up with growth hormones, we are offering an option to the main course: milk-fed veal.
To introduce the 1992 honorees, we are proud to have America's hottest celebrity, Kathy Lee Gifford. Please, Kathy Lee, no singing. Just open the envelopes. Let's go:
George Nicolau/ This is the arbitrator who reinstated Steve Howe to baseball, accepting the argument that Howe's seven suspensions for cocaine use and his conviction on a drug charge could be blamed on this: Howe was hyperactive as a child.
Earvin Johnson/ The Turkey Committee enjoyed Magic in the All-Star Game, enjoyed him with the Dream Team, but this attempt to pass off himself as the world's most-enthusiastic heterosexual has become too tacky to be ignored.
Marilyn Carlson Nelson/ The daffy duck lady turned loose hordes of crazed senior citizens, ripping luggage from the grip of horrified Super Bowl visitors as they arrived at Minneapolis
Paul International Airport. Nelson orchestrated those seven wonderful days in January, when we proved there are more rubes per square foot in this state than any other area in the Western Hemisphere.
Gary Gaetti/ The dreary, inept, unemotional effort Gaetti has demonstrated while taking the California Angels' money has disgraced everything he stood for in Minnesota.
Neal Broten/ Neal has done about as much for the North Stars on his big contract as Gaetti has done for the Angels.
Dorothy McIntyre/ This veteran warrior from the Minnesota State High School League has gone after the barriers preventing gender equity the way Lizzy Borden went after her parents. Finally, in 1992, Dorothy went off the deep end, when she complained that women football players weren't getting proper respect.
Rick Aguilera/ The Twins' bullpen ace had 41 saves. How did he earn an invitation to the Turkey Banquet? Two words: Eric Fox.
Dan O'Brien/ There were enough stories this summer about the heartbreak of O'Brien, the U.S. decathlon failure, to provide a 747's worth of barf bags. The Turkey Committee would like to offer another perspective: Dan O'Brien, choker of the year.
Keith Millard/ The Mallard didn't make it through September before he drove his employers nuts in Seattle. He didn't make it through October in Green Bay. He has plenty of career options:
police officer (no weapon required), driving instructor and counselor at the team-building center in Pecos River, N.M.
Anthony Carter/ The guy plays an entire football game and can't catch one lousy pass.
Eloise Pohlad/ For years, Minnesotans have been hearing that Eloise is such an enormous Twins fan that she will make sure her husband, Smilin' Carl, keeps this or that player. Not long thereafter, those players wave goodbye. This is the big test, Eloise. Your name is written in pencil. If Kirby Puckett stays, Eloise gets erased. If Puckett leaves, Eloise's name will be embossed on the official Turkey list.
As loyal followers recall, the grand gobbler was re-christened on Thanksgiving 1991. It became known as Herschel the Turkey, in honor of a gentleman - Herschel Walker - whose Turkey qualities transcended winning a single year's award.
There has been an enormous groundswell from the public, contacting the Turkey Committee, demanding that Norm Green receive today's Herschel the Turkey. Sorry, folks. Norm's conduct - like
Herschel's - has become so Turkeyesque that he goes beyond winning the grand prize for a single year. It has been decided that Norm, too, will be remembered in perpetuity.
Today, the committee announces a new award: Norm's Hot Turkey Lips, which goes to a foreign Turkey. The first winner is Gundars Vetra, the Timberwolves' 12th man. Vetra comes from Latvia, one of the tiny Baltic countries that spent 50 years trying to regain its independence from the Evil Empire. Latvia succeeded, but Gundars played with the ex-Soviets - rather than his homeland – in international play.
Get on up here and get your award, Gundars. Who knows? Norm might have a peck on the cheek for you.
OK, that's over with. The Turkey Committee is bursting with Minnesota pride as it announces the 1992 Herschel the Turkey winner: 25 Years of Golden Gophers Football.
The Gophers last shared a Big Ten title in 1967. In the ensuing quarter of a century, there have been 26 games when the Golden Gophers have allowed more than 45 points; there has been the worst defensive team in the history of intercollegiate football (1983) and perhaps the worst offensive team in the history of intercollegiate football (1991); there have been six losses to Northwestern, a loss to Pacific and 84 points allowed in one night (Nebraska, 1983).
Many people were considered to accept the 1992 Herschel the Turkey, in honor of the six head coaches, the hundreds of assistants, the thousands of players and the dozens of loyal fans from these 25 Years of Golden Gopher Football.
The Turkey Committee considered inviting Holtz again, to represent broken dreams. We considered Pete Najarian, the defensive MVP on the 1983 team that allowed 518 points. We considered asking Patt Evans, the offensive MVP on the 1991 team that scored 104 points. We considered asking Chuck Dickerson, the defensive coordinator who devised that anti-Nebraska strategy in 1983. We considered asking Luther Darville, the ultimate booster.
The Turkey Committee finally invited Aaron Piepkorn, the placekicker of the past two 2-9 seasons. During these two seasons, Piepkorn was 20-for-35 on field goals and 16-for-24 on extra points. Get up here, Aaron, to take this Herschel as the proxy for 25 years of Golden Gophers.
And good luck in that future career as a Navy pilot, buddy. One piece of advice: If you're ordered to bomb Iraq, don't hook any of those babies into Turkey.