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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Homerism has a 1-1 weekend at Target Center

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: January 6, 2014 - 7:22 AM

There are a few forms of homerism in sports. There is the blatant type you see from boxing judges when they favor a hometown (or home-country) fighter. There is the nearly as blatant type you hear on telecasts or broadcasts from announcers joined at the hip with the team they are alleged to be covering.

There is also the time-honored homerism of reporters hired to be objective, and who get around that by putting the most-positive possible spin on the home team's actions -- usually with the hope of gaining favor with adminstrators, coaches, athletes and even fans.

We had dramatic tests of the two blatant types in the Twin Cities this weekend -- one in which homerism was defeated, and another in which it won in a landslide.

ESPN came to Target Center for its "Friday Night Fights.'' The main local attraction was middleweight Caleb Truax, going against veteran Ossie Duran. Truax, 30, came in with one loss and as the boxer trying to be turned into a significant attraction in the Twin Cities.

Teddy Atlas was here in his role as ESPN analyst. Teddy expressed skepticism early and often that Duran could expect a fair shake from "hometown judges.'' Atlas insisted that Duran would have to dominate the fight in order to win in the Twin Cities.

I have long been impressed with Teddy's boxing acumen -- so much so that 15 years ago I tracked him down during the filming of a Sidney Lumet remake of "Gloria'' in Manhattan. Atlas was playing a bartender. We talked between scenes. Unfortunately, the star -- Sharon Stone -- was nowhere to be seen that afternoon.

Phil Mackey and I had Teddy on for a radio interview this summer. I mentioned the interview on the movie set. "OK,'' he said.

Obviously, those couple of hours in Manhattan made quite an impression on Teddy.

I'm thrilled to say that Atlas' insight on Friday night did not prove accurate. Neither Truax nor Duran were dominant nor impressive. When it was over, Atlas had Truax winning 96-94, giving six 10-9 rounds to Caleb and four 10-9 rounds to Duran.

Teddy admitted the fight actually might be a draw, but fully anticipated the hometown nod from Truax. And then came the decision: 95-95 on all three judges' cards. Duran received justice on the scorecards (even though he claimed victory, of course) and homerism suffered a bitter defeat on Friday night.

There was a more dynamic attraction on Saturday night in Target Center: Oklahoma City and NBA's leading scorer, Kevin Durant, here to take on the Timberwolves and Kevin Love, the second-leading scorer.

OKC was playing without point guard Russell Westbrook, the second half of the league's best 1-2. The Timberwolves played terrific offense for three quarters, led by as many 13 points, and then Durant led a stirring comeback.

He scored 23 of a season-high 48 points in the fourth quarter. He hit the tie-breaker to make it 113-111. He also played 42-plus minutes.

Love played 43-plus minutes. He finished with 30 points -- failing to expand on that number with a missed free throw after a basket made it 111-111, then with three missed free throws with 2.2 seconds left. The third was intentional, after Love missed the first two and the Wolves needed a rebound and putback to tie.

The Thunder's 115-111 victory was as outstanding of a regular-season game as you're going to find at Target Center this winter. That could have been the theme of the FSN telecast.

Unfortunately, those initials -- FSN, as in  Fox Sports North -- prevented a straight-up report on the game. Analyst Jim Petersen and his cohort, Dave Benz, were so caught up in whining over a few close calls down the stretch that they didn't give their audience a full opportunity to appreciate the shootout it had watched.

Does this type of homerism really help sell the product?

Apparently, that's the way FSN and its main pro partners, the Wolves, the Wild and the Twins, view the situatuon. The opinion here that the approach is generally a disservice to the fans and the event -- and that was outrageously the case on Saturday night.

The Timberwolves would've been better off with an audience left with these messages: "It was a privilege to watch Kevin Durant and Kevin Love go at it,'' and, "That was a hell of a game (which it was).''

Those would be much better than the message offered by Petersen and Benz, which was, "Yeah, Durant was great, but the Timberwolves were done in by the refs (which they weren't).''

As for the more subtle brand of homerism, I haven't yet scoured local Websites to discover the absolute magnificence of Rich Pitino's first Big Ten victory by 82-79 over Purdue, a visiting team that surely was much-better than its inexperience and preseason record would indicate.

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