The Turkey Chairman, or Tsar, or whatever he's calling himself these days, was undergoing some introspection on Sunday morning, and wondering how it was that he had felt the urge to award Turkeys of the Year on Thanksgiving morn for over four decades.
Then on Monday appeared a photo relayed by friend Kevin Pates, long-serving at the Duluth News Tribune and retired to Arizona quite some time ago. It was a photo dated 1909 and showing impressive snowdrifts in Fulda, Minn.
It occurred to the Chairman he had seen this photo from his hometown previously, and then came the realization it had to be in the packets put together for mailing by his father, Richard Reusse, late in 1969.
As a small-town undertaker, Richard was without customers for about two-thirds of the year (three days per funeral), with plenty of time to dawdle. One of his minor habits was to assemble newspaper clippings and historic photos of enormous snowstorms in Minnesota.
The Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940 had a shoe box all unto itself.
Richard sold the business and moved his family to Prior Lake in the summer of 1962. The snowstorm memorabilia came along. He leapt upon the Vikings bandwagon as with all Minnesotans in 1969, as Bud Grant's bullies went 12-2 and created visions of a Super Bowl.
It became apparent in mid-December the Vikings' opponent for a first-ever playoff game at Met Stadium after Christmas was likely to be the Rams from warm-weather Los Angeles.
Richard started stuffing envelopes with photos of huge Minnesota snows and mailing them to the Rams quarterback:
Roman Gabriel, Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles, Calif.
He did this for three consecutive days, each time being told by his son: "Gabriel is never going to get those with that minimal address.''
Richard was not deterred in his attempt to agitate the quarterback who soon would be trying to run the Rams' offense on our Bloomington tundra.
The Vikings defeated the Rams in a grand contest, then drubbed Cleveland in the NFL championship game, before being upset by AFL champion Kansas City in the Super Bowl.
There was a famed photo from that game showing Joe Kapp, the battered Vikings quarterback, grimacing and grabbing his right arm as he left the field late in the game.
Several days later, there arrived a letter addressed to Richard Reusse in Prior Lake, and inside there was a clipped photo of Kapp exiting, and a note from Gabriel's then-wife, Suzanne, reading:
"What happened to your great Vikings in the Super Bowl, Richard?''
The pride and happiness this brought to Mr. Reusse far outweighed the disappointment of seeing Bud's team being upset in Super Bowl IV.
And thanks to Pates, the Chairman had his answer as the motivation for four-decades-plus of awarding Turkeys on Thanksgiving morning in Twin Cities dailies:
He had learned from his father to relish the give and the take.
And thus it continues, started successfully in 1978 with Woody Hayes, the Ohio State football coach fired a month later after taking a swing at an opposing player; Turkeys awarded to friends and foes; some Turkeys roaring forward to greater heights (e.g., Big Herbie, 1991 World Series winner and champ of first-base wrestling); others not so fortunate; and only one (Mike Lynn, 1989) calling on Thanksgiving morn to say, "Hey, Chairman, it's about time."
The Chairman met with his consultants last week and they were facing an unusual obstacle for Turkeys: We like to lean local in our selections, and the Year of 2022 contained too much joy in Minnesota sports.
It started with the news last December that 2022 would be when two of the grandest Twins, Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat, would be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
The Chairman was in Cooperstown, N.Y., with the Oliva delegation for a tour of the museum in February, and then back in July for the induction of Oliva and Kaat.
By chance, the Chairman also had an opportunity for several informal sit-down sessions with Bud Grant, 95, and as he says, "being let down by my skeleton but not my mind.''
These talks were so enriching the Chairman has become convinced there never has been a Twin Cities sportswriter to compare as Bud's close personal friend.
As we met to choose Turkeys early last week, the group also was babbling nonstop over what perhaps was the Vikings' greatest-ever regular-season victory in overtime at Buffalo.
"Too much giddiness in here,'' the Chairman barked. "We'll hold another meeting next Tuesday. Cutting it close but maybe we'll get lucky and there will be a few downers around here by then.''
Friday: Twins unveil new jerseys before enthused gathering in Mall of America rotunda. Fans then head for pop-up stand and discover the authentics are priced at over $300.
Saturday: Gophers rush for 300 yards and miraculously turn it into 10 total points, losing 13-10 to inert Iowa to tumble from view in the miserable Big Ten West.
Sunday: Cowboys score most-lopsided road victory in 63 seasons by pummeling the no-show Vikings 40-3 at Zygidome.
Monday: Newcomer Rudy Gobert rips Timberwolves fans for booing at points in what became a 105-101 victory over the depleted Heat.
Just what we needed to put the Chairman and consultants in a proper mood to choose the 2022 Turkeys, coming at you fast and loose:
No. 10. Miguel Sano, ex-Twins whiffer. What coulda been, if 400-foot home runs to right field had been enough.
No. 9. Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets. In a zany league, he remains the zaniest.
No. 8. Matt Birk, former Pro Bowler. Once said of his Vikings, "We put the fun in dysfunctional.'' Joined with running mate Scott Jensen as Gov/Lt. Gov to put the sass in di-sass-ter for Minnesota GOP on Nov. 8.
No. 7. Brett Favre, retired quarterback. This time, no photos of his private area; only taking piles of thousands from state of Mississippi under false pretenses.
No. 6. D'Angelo Russell, Timberwolves. Too many nights, he puts the err in terrible.
No. 5. P.J. Fleck, Gophers football coach. The Chairman tried. He jumped on the bandwagon two days before Gophers went to Michigan State for a blowout win. Then Fleck found Gophers coach Henry Williams' playbook from the 1910s and started using it.
No. 4. Mikaela Shiffrin, U.S. downhill skier. World's best … bombed out completely in Winter Olympics. Misses podium again here.
Bronze: Rudy Gobert, Timberwolves. Mentioned above, but Wolves gave up a ransom, you're making $205 million and you haven't done enough to start whining about a few boos from one of the most beat-up fan bases in North America.
Silver: Dustin Johnson, LIV golfer. He's representing the 54-hole money grubbers that play in preset, 48-man fields with results that haven't caused a ripple with golf fans.
Gold: Herschel Walker, former football player. Walker's impact as failed Viking was such that this award was called "Herschel the Turkey'' for several years in his honor, although his top finish was as runner-up in 1990.
Now that he has Martians in the family, wants to be either a werewolf or a vampire and based on a comment this week has hopes of being erected for the U.S. Senate ... it's finally time to name Herschel the real Turkey for 2022.