The Minneapolis Morning Tribune had state-wide home delivery in the 1960s. The venerable Ted Peterson was in charge of high school coverage. The major prep happening was the state basketball tournament for boys.
Ted would write the game stories. He had a rule for high school athletes: If a game was on the line, and a kid missed a couple of free throws, his name was not mentioned.
This applied to all prep games. Cloquet missed two free throws, or Richfield fumbled, or Hibbing turned over the puck to lead to the winning goal. The anonymity of the teenage culprit was protected in print.
A half-century has passed. I think we’re getting back there, and not with the preps; rather, at the highest competitive levels of sports in the Twin Cities.
I’m telling you, my sugar intake for the past month has been ridiculous, and it has come from three sources: 1) cookies, 2) candies and 3) reading and listening to mainstream sports coverage in the Twin Cities.
I’ve been in on it, of course … writing human-interest columns and odes to athletes present and past with a Minnesota connection.
This often occurs during the Yuletide season, but, really, something has to change or my cholesterol is going to be 400.
It always has been the responsibility of the Twin Cities dailies to be a vestige of objectivity toward local sports entities — in the pre-Internet days when we were a monopoly of written coverage, or today, even with scores of outlets posting details and opinions on our ball clubs and rink rats.
I find sizable humor in the accusation that sports writers in the Minnesota market lean toward the negative. We’ve always leaned toward the “yay, team” angle in the build-up to a season.
Check out the coverage of the Twins from Fort Myers, Fla., or the Vikings with the draft, minicamps and from Mankato, or Gophers football on signing day, spring practice or in August, or in the preseason for the Wild or even the Timberwolves, or for the basketball Gophers when they are plowing through December cupcakes …
It’s 90 percent “you should see this kid,” or “this guy is much improved,” or “our general manager pulled another fast one,” or “this guy’s even a better person than a player.”
And why not? They haven’t played a game that mattered yet, so give ’em the benefit of doubt.
The deal is, I’m beginning to think we’ve gone all FSN, even when reality arrives.
In January 2012, I wrote a column about Fox Sports North’s dedicated sugar-coating in its live game coverage of the Twins, Wild, Timberwolves and Gophers hockey — as well as in weekly shows that plant big smooches on the Vikings and Gophers football.
I gave a heads up to Mike Dimond, an FSN executive, that the anti-homer rant was coming and asked for a response. He e-mailed this sentence:
“While I respect Patrick’s opinion, I feel that his perspective as a columnist is uniquely different than those of the fans.”
I’m starting to think the gap has been closed. Reality on the sports pages has been losing ground to FSN-style story lines. For instance:
• Jerry Kill is among a handful of the best coaches in college football. And the Gophers’ presence in the semi-prestigious Citrus Bowl was richly earned, even if they did finish two games behind (and lost to) a Wisconsin team that was assigned to a game down a peg, the Outback.
And yes, the Gophers did lose to Missouri, allowing 337 yards rushing in the process of finishing 5-5 in games vs. Power 5 conference teams, but it still was a fabulous season and we’re so proud.
• The Wild has been lousy for a month, but the lads have faced numerous communicable diseases. Plus, no one in NHL history has played every shift as hard as Zach Parise.
• Teddy Bridgewater ended his fantastic late-season run by lighting up the Bears in a performance reminiscent of Joe Kapp’s seven touchdown passes vs. the Colts in September 1969. I mean, how many rookies could put up 13 points against these Bears?
• Twins: You can have Max Scherzer and Matt Kemp. We’ll take Big Erv and Torii.
• Hoops: The Gophers rarely win at Purdue anyway, and the Timberwolves … OK, I’ll go along with not beating a dead predator.
I’ve been right in there with my colleagues, folks, offering up this sugar overdose.
On Friday morning, there was relief with a Strib column from Chip Scoggins ripping Kill for his passive coaching vs. Mizzou, particularly his show of weakness before halftime.
My cholesterol level needed that.
Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. firstname.lastname@example.org