As we wind down our vacation this week in the Twin Cities (and Thursday was especially fun), I’ve had a chance to read a book by longtime local columnist and sportswriter Patrick Reusse called “Tales from the Minnesota Sports Beat: A Lifetime on Deadline.”
It’s been an enjoyable read, and much more fun than the Oppenheimer biography I packed for the trip, then quickly put aside. It’s clear from Reusse’s book that he celebrates the character, the oddball, the colorful personality that most reporters gravitate towards because they have a tendency to generate great copy and great quotes.
Reusse writes with fondness about certain athletes he has met over the years, but also about the crazy characters he has worked with in various newsrooms, including at the St. Cloud Times. There, Reusse worked with a guy named Frankie Hyland, who later went on to cover sports for the newspaper in Atlanta and once had a run-in with Norm Van Brocklin, the former Vikings coach who later joined the Falcons.
This is one of the funnier passages in the book:
“Another time, Frankie was at dinner with Falcons coach Norm Van Brocklin before a game. Van Brocklin was tuned up. He started making fun of Frankie’s long hair. Frankie responded by calling Van Brocklin a ‘loser.’ Van Brocklin got ahold of Frankie’s tie and was trying to choke him. Frankie was gasping but still managed to get out one more, ‘You’re a loser.'”
Does stuff like this happen today between reporters and sources? It does not. We live in very sanitized times, where controversy and color is to be avoided. Reusse notes this change by reflecting on how reporters used to have regular access to basketball players at the University of Minnesota.
“We had access to them, and we wrote about the game in a deep way because we could go talk to the players in detail about what happened. You could write something that had meat on it, instead of how it is now: three guys sitting at an interview table in a big room, not wanting to say anything because they’ve got a university employee standing next to them.”
Reusse’s book has me thinking about two things: the lack of characters in baseball today (Max Scherzer? Maybe?) and in life.
As my son and I sat in section 229 to watch Wednesday’s Twins game, I was again stunned at how sedate the crowd around us was. No one uttered a peep in our section. To their credit, some did watch the game, but most were on their phones. What happened to the guy who rides a team for nine innings, heckling them about every play? As far as I know, that person has disappeared from the game of baseball. They are missed.
-You know why Thursday was fun? Here’s why:
You never know who you’re going to run into at the Mall of America. Thanks again Carlos!