The Turkey Banquet will be held for the 18th time today at the familiar, antiquated facility on West 7th St. in St. Paul. The limited number of deluxe tables has resulted in a lack of corporate support. The owners of the hall keep all the money for signage. The ticket tax - on top of the sales tax - is polluting our revenue stream.
Plus, the cocktail facilities are inadequate, which means once we do get the customers inside the hall, we are far below the NBF (National Banquet Federation) average in drink income. For six years, members of the Turkey Committee have tried to explain our problems to the civic leaders of St. Paul and Minneapolis. We thought we had a deal cut with Minneapolis to provide a new facility at the old Milwaukee Road site. The committee members were prepared to sign a 30-year lease.
Our good-faith effort to reach an agreement was torpedoed by an obstructionist named Steve Minn. How do we know this? Let's just say we heard the conversations and leave it at that.
We treasure the people of Minnesota and what you have meant to us for the past 18 years, but we have to do what is best for the Turkey Banquet staff - one, big greedy family.
Today, we are announcing a deal to move the banquet to Cleveland (former home of our role model, Art Modell), starting in 1998. We will receive a new building next to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It will house a world-class banquet facility and a Turkey Hall of Fame.
Already, the Grateful Dead is working on a song - complete with a computerized track from Jerry Garcia - for the welcoming concert. The title? "Free as a Turkey," of course.
Despite this unfortunate announcement, we're hopeful the Turkey Banquet can maintain the traditional festive atmosphere today. Here is the list of the honored guests:
Dr. Tom Osborne. Oliver Stone missed one scene in "Natural Born Killers." Crazy Ollie should have had Mickey Knox run a 4.4-second 40-yard sprint in a tryout for the Nebraska football coaches. Then, coach Osborne could have said: "We'll leave it to the courts to decide if he is a serial killer. Until then, the young man deserves the chance to play football."
Rip Riordan. He is the general manager of Channel 29 in the Twin Cities. He pulled the plug on SPTV, a nightly, half-hour sports show. First, television lost SCTV. Now, thanks to Riordan, it has lost another comedy classic in SPTV.
David Stead. If this guy doesn't learn to say no as the executive director of the Minnesota State High School League, there are going to be champions crowned in 15 classes in every imaginable sport, including badminton. George Thole, the Stillwater football coach, was being prophetic - not sarcastic - when he said: "We should send a state championship trophy to everybody at the start of the season. At the end, if they don't think they deserved one, they could mail it back."
Brenda Moran. She was a mouthy, obtuse member of the O.J. jury. Asked by a reporter when she made up her mind Simpson was as innocent as Dr. Richard Kimble, Moran was about to say, "When that nice Johnnie swore to us he had a reliable witness in Rosa Lopez." Then, her lawyer whispered in Moran's left ear. Babbling Brenda hesitated, stumbled, and said something about making her decision during the brief inconvenience the jury described as "deliberations."
Vinnie Vecchione. Everyone knows if you put a pot of money in front of Don King, he is capable of anything. We didn't know the same was true of Vecchione, the trainer who tossed in the towel and
joined his heavyweight, Peter McNeeley, in $1 million worth of legal larceny in the Mike Tyson comeback fight. Sen. Rod Grams. When Grams talks, the air swooshes around in the vacuum between his ears for a moment, then comes haltingly from his mouth. Grams campaigned as a "friend of sportsmen." He went on record as saying he would fight to protect CRP - the conservation program that has helped save land and wildlife in much of Minnesota. Since arriving in Washington D.C., Grams has sounded more like a lapdog for the big grain companies. Grams plans to attend today's banquet, if he can get Cargill's permission.
Albert Belle. Being abusive to reporters does not earn a fellow an invitation to the Turkey Banquet. Chasing trick-or-treaters with a car gets you a big, fat drumstick.
John Jacob. This guy made the announcement that Anheuser-Busch - in order to add a few cents to its stock price - was going to sell the St. Louis Cardinals and Busch Stadium. Gussie Busch, the man who loved baseball so much he rode the Clydesdale-powered beer wagon around Busch Stadium, is doing laps in his grave.
Micheal Williams. It has been great pal, but do your team a favor: Take a cash settlement and take a hike.
Tom Kelly. The Twins manager knows the best interests of his ballclub would be served by bringing in a new, young, optimistic pitching coach to work with his new, young, questionable pitching staff. But why be creative when you can be stubborn? Bring back Suchie! Great idea, T.K.
Robert Smith. The Vikings should get this guy locked into a long-term contract as soon as possible. That way, they will be sure to have a gifted, explosive running back for nine games per season for years to come.
Scott Klingenbeck. This future Saint was a Twins hurler for only 2 1/2 months, but those screaming line drives will enable him to live in infamy as long as Ron Davis and Terry Felton.
Jim Wacker. See Micheal Williams.
A few years back, the Turkey of the Year Award was given another title - the Herschel. This year, many committee members felt the Herschel could be losing its significance to younger generations. Thus, we are instituting a new, special award:
The Herschel Walker Lifetime Achievement Award.
When kids hear of this, they can ask about him, and parents will be able to regale the youth with tales of Herschel's contributions and determination displayed while with the Vikings.
This should not be confused with the Jean Herscholt Humanitarian Award, presented annually at the Academy Awards. The Herschel Walker is for lifetime accomplishments as a sporting Turkey, and the winner is Chris Voelz, the women's athletic director at the University of Minnesota.
Many people contacting the committee were looking forward to Voelz winning it all in 1995, after last year's runner-up finish. Sorry. We decided that, with Voelz now a subordinate to McKinley Boston, she has become too irrelevant to qualify as a Turkey of the Year. So, it came down to the central characters with the Vikings. A strong case was made for Dennis Green, the coach who looks in the mirror and sees someone as irresistible as Denzel Washington. Green almost pulled it off with his Salman Rushdie act after the sexual harassment allegations.
The committee voted and re-voted and, finally, the members rejected Green and went for a gentleman who symbolizes so many pro athletes here in the mid-1990s.
What you do is talk often of family values and guiding principles that would cause Mother Teresa to question if she has done enough to help others. You are steered by a high-powered agent issuing this constant reminder: "Off-the-field, it's all image, baby. You don't have to walk it. Just talk it." And that's why the committee proudly presents the 1995 grand Turkey of the Year to Warren Moon.
What a 48-hour period for the old quarterback - Player of the Week and Turkey of the Year.