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Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968.

Reusse blog: Minnesotans have long been strong in blaming defeat on officials

I would rate Minnesota fans as very strong in the area of tracing defeats suffered by the local teams to poor officiating. I also would give my colleague Sid Hartman credit for being a leader for our fandom in this category.

Sid was the state’s most-influential person in the sports media though the second half of the 20th Century, as we grew in major league status and generations of fans came to believe the referees were out to get us.

For instance:

You couldn’t really say a Gophers football game in the Metrodome had started until Sid took note of his beloved maroon and gold getting robbed, and went climbing over people in the press box to find Roy Tutt to verbalize a complaint.

Tutt was in the recreation department at the university, and also was the Big Ten’s “observer’’ of officiating for Gophers football games. He would sit in a nook in the second row of the Dome’s press box, shielded behind a large post, but poor Roy couldn’t hide from Sid.

Tutt’s location was next to the unisex one-holer that served as the Dome’s restroom in the press box. When making a stop at the relief station, I would always ask of Roy:

“How many visits have you received from the Great Man today, questioning the work of the gentlemen with the flags?’’

If it was the first half, Roy’s answer would be, “a couple.’’ If it was the second half and the outcome for the Gophers still was in the balance, the answer would be, “several.’’

The Gophers’ 27-season (1982-2008) stay in the Dome was mostly forgettable, but there was a show of persistence that lives in infamy for reporters lucky enough to have been in attendance that day:

Can’t remember the exact game, but you knew something was going on when Sid gathered up his belongings (including his still-in-use-today, 5-pound tape recorder) and made his way toward the steps leading to the Dome’s lower level.

A few minutes later, the Gophers’ hard-fought loss was complete, and Sid – pushing 70 by then – could be seen racing after the officials as they headed toward the stairwell required to get to the locker room level.

Those of us still in the press box cheered in tribute to Sid’s determination, as I recall.

It also should be remembered that it was Sid’s reaction to the most-notorious, we-wuz-robbed moment in Vikings history that caused a change in the manner in which the NFL allowed access to officials after a game.

The Vikings were playing Dallas in a playoff opener on Dec. 29, 1975 at Met Stadium. You might have heard about it.

The Cowboys scored in other-worldly fashion for a 17-14 victory. Drew Pearson’s push-off to make the catch and score the winning touchdown so outraged the fans that Armen Terzian, the nearest official, was struck in the head with a whiskey bottle tossed from the small, right-field bleacher.

Terzian’s head was cut. Postgame, he was in the officials locker room. There was a bandage around his noggin and it was swathed in blood.

Back then, reporters could knock on the door of the refs’ locker room and, if admitted, enter and ask a question. I’m not sure Sid knocked; I know that he did enter, not so much to ask a question but to state an opinion on the Pearson play.

Thereafter, the NFL created a system where a designated pool reporter might be permitted to ask a question, if the referee of the crew and the NFL’s on-site observer were of a mood to permit it.

What I’m saying here to Minnesota fans is Sid has been fighting for you through his remarkably long career, and I’m sure he is siding strongly with Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve and her opinion that the defending champs were robbed on Thursday night at Target Center.

Yes, Cheryl did give it the traditional “I’m not taking anything away from [the winners],’’ as she complained vehemently about the LA Sparks’ bucket by Nneka Ogwumike that came at 1:14 and a fraction after the shot clock expired.

That not-to-take-anything-away disclaimer is always meaningless. Reeve’s real message to her team’s followers – and Minnesotans in general – was that her team deserved to be the winner.

Admittedly, I’ve done my share of pointing out flawed officiating and umpiring during 50 years of covering sports, but I’ve also come to understand this:

Teams pinning a loss on officiating usually had a chance to win said game and didn’t make the winning play.

The Lynx had that chance. They had a 76-75 lead in the final seconds. Ogwumike took a shot from the edge of the lane and was hacked.

There was no whistle. The no-call there – intentional or not – was the officials’ method of evening up things for Ogwumike’s jumper being counted at 1:14.

Ogwumike could have paused for a gesture of complaint to the nearest official. She didn’t. She determinedly got the ricochet and put it in for a game-winning field goal with 3.1 seconds remaining.

Get the loose ball -- get one of the numberous rebounds on the Lynx defensive board lost to the Sparks -- and the home team is the champ again.

“It’s unfortunate we’re having this discussion (about the officiating),’’ said Reeve, who was more responsible than anyone for making the officiating Topic A after what the league’s hardcore followers were telling us was the finest “Finals’’ in the 20-year history of the league.

Hey, at least none of the three officials got beaned with a whiskey bottle as they escaped the Target Center court, so our decorum in defeat has improved in the past four decades.

Reusse: My friend Linnemann adds surviving Raiders' 'Black Hole' to his adventures

My friend Tom Linnemann grew up in north Melrose and an adventure was to get on a bike and check out what the roughnecks were doing on the south side. He played quarterback successfully at St. John’s and then set out to continue an interesting existence.

Fortunately, he found a bride named Danica who should be beatified by now on the way to sainthood. She wasn’t on the trip with Tom and a friend as they visited areas of the Philippines, including an evening of watching small-person boxing matches.

“It seemed to be a very popular activity, with much wagering within the crowd,’’ Linnemann said. "I didn’t have the money figured out, so I didn’t know if I was winning or losing bets.’’

Danica was the companion for my favorite yarn from the Linnemann travels:

They were visiting Vietnam and Cambodia in January 2010. They were at Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world, in northwestern Cambodia on the weekend of Jan. 23-24. Tom was aware the Vikings would be playing the Saints in the NFC title game on Sunday, the 24th, in New Orleans.

Tom told Danica: “We have to find a place to see the game.’’

The people at the religious shrine were asked the closest place to fulfill that wish, and the answer was: Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital that was 314 kilometers southeast … by bus.

“Danica wasn’t thrilled about taking a six-hour bus ride – commercial, not a tourist charter – to watch the game, but she understood,’’ Linnemann said. “In my lifetime, I’ve seen the corners of the world, I was at Game 6 with my dad to see Kirby, I’ve seen my two children born. I’ve still never seen the Vikings in the Super Bowl.’’

On the bus, the future St. Danica settled in and bounced along the roads to Phnom Penh. There was alleged to be a Cambodian version of a sports bar in the city of 1.6 million, and the Linnemanns were able to find it. The Vikings-Saints was indeed going to be shown, but on a delayed basis.

“We were in there with about eight ex-pats, and none of us knew what had happened,’’ Linnemann said. “Unfortunately, there was cell service. I got a text from my dad. It said, ‘The Vikings lost in overtime.’ I didn’t have the heart to tell the others, so I sat there cheering for the Vikings, knowing what was going to happen.’’

The few times I’ve heard that tale of fandom woe from Linnemann, I’ve thought of the Angelica Huston character in Buffalo 66, Vincent Gallo’s small, wonderful film on the complications caused when Scott Norwood missed the field goal and the Bills lost the Super Bowl after the 1990 season.

The Norwood character in the movie is “Scott Wood,’’ who is retired and owns a strip joint in Buffalo and revels in his image as the city’s football villain. And the Huston (Gallo’s mother) character: She sits in front of the television all day, watching a tape of the game, and cheering for the field goal to be good this time, thus providing a Super Bowl win for the Bills.

In the Linnemann movie, Gallo’s playing him, and he’s still in the bar in Phnom Penh years later, watching a tape of the Saints-Vikings and hoping that Dad’s text was inaccurate, and Brett Favre is going to complete that pass over the middle, and Ryan Longwell is going to kick a game-winning field goal to send the Vikings to a Super Bowl.

The real-life Linnemann celebrated a birthday on Wednesday in San Francisco, where the family has moved for his position with a start-up company. There are new adventures right at hand in the Bay Area.

The latest wasn’t quite the equal of a six-hour bus ride through Cambodia to watch a heart-breaking loss for his beloved Vikings, but it was close: Sitting in the “Black Hole’’ at the coliseum in Oakland for last Sunday’s game between the Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs.

“If you’re a football fan, you have to sit in the Black Hole with Raiders’ fans at least once, don’t you?’’ Linnemann said. “To add to the atmosphere, it was raining buckets. If you think those Raiders fans look dangerous on TV, you should be sitting with them when they have garbage bags over their heads trying to keep out the rain.’’

Linnemann convinced a couple of co-workers to go to the game for the “Black Hole experience.’’ They paid $160 apiece for the tickets, met a couple of Black Holers on the BART, and went to the rain-soaked tailgate before the rain-soaked game.

“Ninety percent of the people in the Black Hole are Hispanic,’’ Linnemann said. “You don’t have anyone preparing beef bourguignon at their tailgates. It’s beer, tequila and chips.’’

Linnemann and his partners made the strategic decision to arrive in newly purchased Raiders gear, including jerseys.

“I didn’t see one person all day wearing something red (the Chiefs color),’’ he said. “Raider fans don’t approve of that. The Black Hole was great. They became our buddies.

“I did learn one thing sitting there: Don’t bring up the Raiders moving to Las Vegas. I would call not mentioning that possibility in the Black Hole a safety precaution.’’

TV Listings

Local Schedule

  • Gophers men's hockey at Clarkson

    6 pm on 1500-AM

  • St. Cloud State at Gophers women's hockey

    7:07 pm on BTN PLUS

  • Gophers football at Illinois

    11 am on BTN, 100.3-FM

  • Gophers men's hockey at St. Lawrence

    6 pm on 1500-AM

  • New York at Minnesota United FC

    7 pm on Ch. 29

  • Dallas at Wild

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Timberwolves at Sacramento

    9:30 pm on FSN/NBATV, 830-AM

  • Vikings at Chicago

    7:30 pm on ESPN, 100.3/1130

  • Memphis at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Buffalo at Wild

    7 pm on FSN PLUS, 100.3-FM

  • Denver at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Bemidji State at Gophers men's basketball

    7 pm on 1500-AM

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