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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Gardenhire, Kill and the eternal mystery of sports

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: October 7, 2013 - 5:27 AM

Twins general manager Terry Ryan was talking to Twin Cities reporters at baseball's winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn. in December. The subject was Ron Gardenhire, and the decision to allow the manager to go into 2013 with a contract that would expire at the end of the season.

Phil Mackey from 1500ESPN.com asked Ryan what he needed to see in the season ahead for Gardenhire to get another contract. The GM said:

"Improvement. Hope. Direction. Leadership. Things that he already possesses, of course.''

Nine months later, the Twins finished at 66-96, the indentical record to 2012. Leadership is a vague category, but there was no improvement, hope or upward direction to be a found in a third straight disastrous season.

Maybe Ryan saw the improvement with the starting dates for the annual CC (complete collapse): on July 18 (19-50) in 2011; on Aug. 13 (16-31) in 2012; and with this year's CC not kicking in at full force until Sept. 3 (5-20).

Whatever the rationale, the Twins chose to cede the power to Gardenhire in late-season negotiations, giving him a two-year contract. The rumor earlier in September was that Gardenhire had been offered one year.

No improvement. No hope. No positive direction. Sign right here, Gardy ... two more years.

Joe Christensen, the Star Tribune's Gophers football beat writer, had a couple of long interviews with coach Jerry Kill this summer. On Aug. 11, the Star Tribune carried an excellent piece on Kill and his situation with epilepsy.

Kill had collapsed with a seizure in the final moments of his first-ever game at TCF Bank Stadium in September 2011 vs. New Mexico State. He had missed the second half of the 2012 regular-season finale vs. Michigan State after a seizure at halftime.

Kill told Christensen for the August article:"... The worst thing that's ever happened to me is the Michigan State game. You can't be the head football coach and miss a half of a game. I mean, I'm not stupid, I realize that.''

Kill had a seizure right before halftime of the game with Western Illinois on Sept. 14 and missed the second half.

Three weeks later, Kill didn't make it to Ann Arbor, Mich. for Saturday's 42-13 loss to Michigan. He was feeling poorly on Friday and didn't travel with the team. The information that came out was Kill and the other involved parties were hoping that he could in Saturday morning, join the team and coach the game.

This might have been a cover-up for the university's failure to provide information on Friday, on Kill's condition and failure to travel with the team. I've heard that, in actuality, Kill had one or more episodes with his epilepsy on Friday and there was never much chance his doctors were going to allow him to travel to Ann Arbor on Saturday morning.

Kill was quoted in August that a head football coach can't miss a half of a game, that he wasn't stupid, that he knew that. Two months later, the Gophers have played 24 quarters and Kill has missed six.

The response has been muffled. Athletic Director Norwood Teague, Kill's acting coach Tracy Claeys and the players all are anticipating the head coach's return to work during the upcoming bye week.

Anyone suggesting that this is a crisis -- suggesting a different result than continuing as the coach for Kill -- will be deemed to be insensitive, or irrational, or both.

Gardy's back. Presumably, Kill also will be back.

This is sports. People always tell us one thing and change on the fly to another. That's part of the appeal, I guess ... the eternal mystery.

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