Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.

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The Paint Bucket remains in Macalester's hands

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: November 17, 2013 - 11:55 AM

Macalester and Hamline renewed the Snelling Ave. football competition for the 114th time on Saturday afternoon at Mac's stadium. The first game was played in 1887. It has not yet been announced if this ancient rivalry will continue next season and for the forseeable future.

Macalester is moving to the Midwest Conference as a football member in 2014. The Division III schools in Minnesota basically have stuck to a 10-game regular season schedule. The Fighting Scots will have a nine-game conference commitment in the Midwest.

That would mean the elimination of either Hamline, the opponent for the Paint Bucket Trophy, or Carleton, Mac's opponent for the Book of Knowledge. Since Macalester's annual game with Hamline predates the one with Carleton by 80 years or so, common sense would suggest an annual game with the Pipers. Then again, pomposity would suggest continuing to play for something called the Book of Knowledge.

[UPDATE: Two employees in Macalester athletic department told me on Saturday that the Fighting Scots would be required to play either Hamline OR Carleton starting in 2014 and that there was not yet a schedule.

As it turns out, that's probably not the case. I received an e-mail late Saturday night with a tentative 2014 schedule that has the Fighting Scots opening with games against Carleton and then Hamline. Here's that schedule:

Sept. 6-Carleton, home. Sept. 13-at Hamline. Sept. 27-Grinnell. Oct. 4-Knox, home. Oct. 11-at Ripon. Oct. 18-at Beloit. Oct. 25-Lawrence, home. Nov. 1-Carroll, home. Nov. 8-at St. Norbert. Nov. 15-Midwest Conference crossover game, based on division standings.]

Macalester came into Saturday's game with a two-year winning streak over Hamline -- a 17-0 shutout in 2011 and with a 45-21 blowout in 2012. That was the last game for coach John Pate, who was hired with a background in Dixie and was a coach out of water in these northern climes.

Chad Rogosheske, a Hamline graduate, got the job. He won his first game, 41-33 over Minnesota-Morris. And then, four games into the MIAC schedule, the Pipers defeated St. Olaf 31-28 to end a 28-game conference losing streak.

Last weekend, Hamline put a scare into St. John's before losing 20-14. So, the Pipers were deserving of the small praise that they were improved -- even with losses of 63-7 to concordia, 52-7 to Gustavus Adolphus and 55-6 to Bethel on the resume.

Meantime, Macalester had journeyed backwards, going only 3-6 against the much-softer independent schedule the Scots had played since leaving MIAC football in 2001. The victories were against Crown, Maranatha and Trinity Bible. The losses included a 56-17 battering from Carleton.

Everything considered, Hamline came in as a slight favorite on Saturday -- if for no other reason than Austin Duncan, a sophomore running back from New Orleans who entered this game with 1,302 yards rushing. He worked his stout frame off again in Saturday's rain, carrying 37 times for 158 yards.

The young man is a bull -- 6-foot, 220 (at least) -- but after a time, the Scots were sending a half-dozen tacklers after Duncan, knowing the Pipers had little else to offer offensively. Adrian Peterson never got as much attention as Duncan did by the second half of this rain-soaked game.

Hamline would have gotten away with at least a scoreless tie, if it had decided to go back to the guidelines of the first meeting with Macalester in 1887 and forego the forward pass. The Pipers completed five of their 23 passes to other Pipers, and they also had five accepted by Macalester defensive backs -- two interceptions apiece for Bolton Howes and Jole Miller, and one by Konnor Fleming.

How do you like those handles: Bolton, Jole and Konnor. Sounds like lunch gathering at Pine Valley Golf Club.

And the Mac quarterback ... when I heard his name, I thought he might be the long lost grand nephew of Max Bialystock, the main protagonist in "The Producers.''

Turns out that Samson Bialostok carries the same memorable pronunciation but with a slightly different spelling. The junior from North Woodmere, N.Y. (OK, he has to be a relative of Max) was the main offensive weapon for Macalester, rushing for 87 yards and passing for 83 yards.

That might not sound like much -- 83 yards passing -- but Bialostok's 13 for 30 and a touchdown was Peyton Manning-like precision in comparison to Hamline's aerial assault. And Bialostok's 13-yard touchdown pass created the only points in the game.

Macalester 7, Hamline 0, and the Scots keep possession of the Paint Bucket for a third year.

This had not been a regular occurrence. Macalester had not won three in a row vs. Hamline since it had eight straight victories from 1955 through 1962.

It was good news to discover later on Saturday that Macalester and Hamline will continue to meet on what sporstwriters loved to call "the gridiron'' for most of the decades since they started two centuries back.

Schools located a couple miles apart on the same avenue, and that are close enough to an even match, and that have been playing football since 1887, have a sacred obligation to continue playing.

QBs, cologne, arenas, urinals and dead birds

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: October 8, 2013 - 1:24 PM

Tuesday, 5:35 a.m., the always-interesting Holiday station located northwest of Target Field and across the street from the garbage burner.

I'm at the cooler, loading up on the day's supply of Diet Cokes. Those new, smaller 99-cent bottles. Those are the ticket.

An employee is stocking nearby. He's also a Concerned Purple Fan. He says: "Patrick, what are the Vikings doing with the quarterbacks?''

Me: "I think they want a guy who can throw the ball 50 yards down the field. Josh Freeman can do that.''

CPF: "He might be OK, but he's not that great of a quarterback.''

Me: "They want a quarterback who can offer the football to Adrian Peterson, suck in the eight defenders near the line, take the ball away, step back and let it fly with some accuracy to Jerome Simpson, or Cordie Patterson, or to the Mad Mentorer (a k a, Greg Jennings).

"They found out in London that Matt Cassel can do that better than Christian Ponder, and there's a very good chance that Freeman can do that better than Cassel.''

CPF: "I don't know. If Freeman was better than average, why did Tampa Bay let him go?''

Me: "There are distractions for 25-year-old NFL quarterbacks. Rumor has it, Josh liked to stay up late, causing a bit of tardiness at the Bucs' practice facility. And with a coach [Greg Schiano] who acts as if he's still at Rutgers, rah-rah defeated reason and Freeman was run out of town.''

CPF: "I'm still surprised. His stats aren't that much better than Ponder's. What do the Vikings really see in him?''

Me: "I think they see last October, that Thursday night when Tampa Bay came in and ripped up the Vikings 36-17. The Vikings couldn't stop the runs of Doug Martin, and that gave time and opportunity to Freeman, and he had three touchdowns with no interceptions.

"I think they see Freeman and what he did a year ago in the Dome when he had an outstanding running game. And the Vikings figure they have that every game with Adrian Peterson on their side.''

CPF: "So, what's it going to take for this work?''

Me: "Freeman getting out of bed in the morning. He has to be getting up at this time of the morning, not getting home.''

 * * *

I always stop at this Holiday on my one or two early mornings per week. Gas, Diet Cokes and seeing what the city folks and early commuters are up to ... that's the menu.

A couple of weeks ago, a guy in his 20s walked over and said, "I can give you a great deal on some cologne; $120 worth of Gucci cologne for 20 bucks.''

Response: "I'm not really a Gucci guy. Here's a buck. You keep the cologne.''

He seemed satisfied.

* * *

The majesty of the garbage burner is a reminder of my defiant middle years as a Twin Cities sports columnist (1979-present). It was 1990 and Target Center was the first major sports building in this area to carry a corporate name.

I rejected this. I was holding out for stadiums and arenas named after great people, such as Hubert Humphrey or John Mariucci, or noble concepts, such as Metropolitan Stadium and Center, or the Civic Center.

I went a couple of years without writing Target Center in a column. My favorite euphemism was the clumsy, "Marv and Harv's, the new arena near the garbage burner.''

Eventually, my spitting into the wind got tired, and it became Target Center, and Target Field, and TCF Bank Stadium.

As for Xcel Energy Center ... well, after going four days without power this spring and having my basement flooded, I'll probably go with "the Wild did such-and-such on whatever night in St. Paul'' when in attendance this winter.

The one corporate name I've never been able to choke down is Mall of America Field.

I proudly voted for Hubert to be the president of the entire 50 states of America in 1968. It was a loss more heartbreaking than the Twins to the Red Sox at the end of the Great Race in 1967, or the Vikings in the Super Bowl after the 1969 season.

Heck, one of the finest moments of my sportswriting career came at Met Stadium in 1970s, when I had a chance to go shoulder-to-shoulder with Hubert at the urinals in the small men's room behind the football press box on a cold December day.

That still stands as my No. 1 urinal moment, even though I was in the same position -- shoulder-to-shoulder -- with Leonardo DiCaprio at the Staples Center, during the Wolves-Lakers series in 2004.

"How's life?'' I asked.

"Very good,'' Leonardo said.

Anyhow, any chance that I would ever willingly have Mall of America Field appear under my name ended in 2010. The Vikings had been trumpeting Mall of America Field as the title of their stadium ... and had been lobbying hard with decision-makers at local media outlets to do the same.

Then, the roof collapsed under the stress of a monumental blizzard, and suddenly all those Vikings' news releases promoting Mall of America Field started referrring to the stadium as the Metrodome.

The Vikings even started telling us that another good reason for giving them a new stadium was that the "Metrodome was dangerous'' to their customers. Apparently, those customers were safe in Mall of America Field, but they had a chance to be mortally wounded in HHH's Metrodome.

Hopefully, we can all make it out alive until January, and then start working on the new place, the Taj Ma Zygi, where the main danger will be the bloody ends faced by songbirds, ducks, geese, owls and bald eagles after they smash into all that glass as they head for the lights at night.

Harvin's departure is failure for organization

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: March 12, 2013 - 5:41 AM

Percy Harvin was on a tremendous run through the first six games of last season. The win in Detroit was the only game where his production lagged as a receiver, and he started that one with a 105-yard kickoff return.

The Vikings were 4-2 after a mid-October loss in Washington. Harvin did everything he could that day, with 11 catches for 133 yards and three kickoff returns for 100 yards.

If a survey had been taken on Oct. 15, 2012, asking Minnesota sports fans to name their favorite athlete, the winner would have been Percy Harvin.

Adrian Peterson began his amazing stretch of rushing production in Game 7. Peterson rode that streak to the Most Valuable Player award, and the Vikings rode him to the playoffs.

Harvin also finished the first half of the schedule with fabulous numbers: 60 catches for 667 yards and 15 kick returns for 535 yards. The receiving production was exceptional, when you consider the utter ineptitude that quarterback Christian Pounder had started to display.

Then, on Nov. 4 in Seattle, Harvin suffered an ankle injury. The Vikings wanted him back a month later. Harvin said he wasn't ready to play. The Vikings placed him on injured reserve, more because they were upset with him than convinced he was lost for the season medically.

There had been a confrontation with coach Les Frazier. There was also Harvin's low opinion of Ponder as a quarterback. Most importantly, there was Harvin's frustration over playing for short money and the expectation for a holdout.

And it seems a majority of those fans who would have voted for Harvin as the best Minnesota had to offer in athletics on Oct. 15 are today lauding the Vikings and General Manager Rick Spielman for their astuteness in trading him for the 25th overall selection, a 7th rounder and a third-round selection in 2014.

It's considered quite a haul by the NFL mavens, even though Harvin turns 25 in May, which might make him three years older than the suspect the Vikings wind up getting with the 25th overall pick.

Vikings fans went goofy when the team traded Randy Moss, then 28, to Oakland for the seventh overall pick in 2005. The fact the Purple screwed up the selection mightily _ taking receiver Troy Williamson -- made it a fiasco.

One thing we're hearing from the Purple aplogists is that Harvin will continue to get hurt because of the "way he plays.'' The accusation is that he doesn't give up on a play and thus takes too many hits.

Yup. There's a bad thing: When Harvin plays, he plays too hard. That wasn't a big problem for Moss, admittedly.

Harvin had played in 55 of 58 games (counting playoffs) for the Vikings, before being injured in Seattle. Percy is much more missing practice-prone than he is injury-prone.

In four years here, the player I saw was the football equivalent of Kirby Puckett -- short, powerful, and playing his game with the best instincts you will see.

Percy Harvin is a genius of space and movement on a football field, as was Puck on a baseball diamond. You don't make a good trade for a player like that. You have screwed up as an organization when you allow a player such as Harvin to become disillusioned beyond repair.

Stephon Marbury was 1B to Kevin Garnett's 1A with the Timberwolves in 1999. The organization was unable to reconcile with him and Marbury was traded at age 22. An organization doesn't get better by trading its second best player at a young age.

Percy Harvin was 1B to Adrian Peterson's 1A with the Vikings. If Harvin can be made content and engaged in Seatttle, the same could have happened here.

This is a failure that goes to the organization.





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