Shot In The Dark: Today’s News, Delivered In 2013. As Usual.

Remember when “Electronic Pull Tabs” were going to get the taxpayer off the hook for paying for Zygi Wilf’s big real-estate upgrade? Yeah, someone pointed out that that was baked monkey doodle, and it wasn’t someone with a tin “Journalist” badge.

Of course, Minneapolis and Minnesota government has been busy rationalizing riots and carnage in nursing homes lately, so the ongoing – and utterly predictable disaster – of the Vikings Stadium has slipped from the headlines.

But, as predicted, Minneapolis is going to be going to the state taxpayer because it just can’t afford to pay for Helga Braid Nation’s entertainment anymore.

However, now that the city’s first debt payment of $17 million is about to be due, DFL state Rep. Mohamud Noor says his city can’t pay, according to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.

Noor, who was recently appointed chair of the House Workforce and Business Development Committee, said the coronavirus pandemic makes it impossible for his city to afford the stadium.

That was then,” he said, speaking on the payment deal Minneapolis signed eight years ago, “this is now. We’ve got a global pandemic.”

If you recall, the city was on the hook forl about 13% of the cost of the stadium – about $150 million (emphasis added by me):

Who’s got two thumbs, writes a blog and hosts a weeken talk show and predicted this about the time the stadium opened?

“I’m just kind of surprised that they’re taking this approach,” remarked Republican state Sen. Julie Rosen, according to the Star Tribune. “It [the original agreement] was a very good deal for Minneapolis.”

Arguing economics, finance or logic with the Minneapolis City Council is a little like arguing hip-hop technique with Mitch McConnell. Neither party is equipped to play the game.

Maybe It Was Considered A Peaceful Demonstration?

A friend of the blog emails:

Wow! Think the media will report Covid19 at our military academies in the coming weeks. No distancing, many with masks not covering their faces. 
Nothing to see here, right?

Another friend of the blog pointed out that the cadets and midshipmen were all parts of training cohorts that were pretty much together all the time anyway. Which to me introduced the question – if we take the information civilians in GenPop are given, doesn’t that still mean that the service academies are “superspreaders?”

That being said, I wasn’t too concerned, given that everyone involved is young, healthy, selected in part for a lack of pre-existing conditions, largely sequestered away from those that aren’t, and part of a demographic cohort with roughly a 100% survival rate.

And as neither was the NDSU Bison, it didn’t rise to the level of a priority for me anyway.

RIP Sid Hartman

Sometimes it seems like everyone in the Twin Cties has a Sid Hartman story.

I had one – 34 years ago. And I can’t believe I never wrote about it in my “Twenty Years Ago Today” series.

I was working as a stringer – an ad-hoc freelance reporter – for WGN in Chicago. My job was to send reports on the game back to WGN – actually, to the show that Dana Carvey, Mike Meyers, John Goodman and Chris Farley lampooned a few years later, in the immortal “Da Bearss” bit – at halftime and at the end of the game.

This game happened to be Tommy Kramer’s best throwing game ever – five touchdowns against Forrest Gregg’s hapless ’86 Packers.

After the game, I walked down into the locker room and was interviewing Kramer, when I saw a mike creep up in front of the quarterback’s face. It was Sid. And he was bogarting the answer to my question.

And I felt a little flattered.

There are other, better Sid stories. This one may be my favorite

The Customer Is Always Evil

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Fans booed the players in the Kansas City – Texas NFL game [a week or so back – Ed].  Players, announcers, coaches and owners insist the fans are wrong.  No live anthem, anti-racism messages on the scoreboard, players kneeling instead of standing for the flag, banning fans from cheering with the tomahawk chop and war paint, NFL allowing “victim” names on helmets . . . it’s all justified and necessary and the fans should just get over it.

The NFL is already worried about losing billions of dollars if the fans can’t attend because of Covid.  But what happens if the fans won’t attend because they’re insulted?

What’s that saying again?  The customer is always . . . racist?  The customer is always . . . wrong?  The customer is always . . . it’ll come to me.  It’s on the tip of my tongue.  Gimme a minute.

Joe Doakes

The customer, whatever their politics, is always conservative – at least when it comes to spending their entertainment dollar.

Which the NFL is.

Well, used to be.

Scouting For Opportunity

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

This is the job I want.  Quoting from the court’s opinion:

“Howard Norsetter, a United States citizen who has maintained permanent residence in Australia since 1984, began working as a scout for Minnesota Twins LLC, in 1990 . . . Norsetter’s scouting duties included evaluating athletes and making recommendations on whether the team should sign them. He developed relationships with players, parents, coaches, and agents, and he established contacts worldwide. He scouted in Australia and also regularly traveled to different countries to evaluate athletes, including Japan, Korea, Taiwan, South Africa, and all over Europe . . . Norsetter also served as the team’s minor-league international supervisor.”

Living in Aussie-land, jetting around the world watching baseball games . . . I wonder what that pays?  Have the Twins EVER signed a player from Down Under?  Is it possible he’s been scouting for 30 years and NEVER found a prospect, but still got paid for it? 

I want that job.

Joe Doakes

Almost like a public union job.

With a garbage hauler.

In New Jersey.

The Governor We Really Need

Bud Grant – the last person in public life who ever managed to portray Minnesotans as “tough”, with his bans on gloves and heaters on the sidelines at Vikings games in frigid Met Stadium in the dead of winter – is still at it.

Asked whether Covid gives him pause at 93, he responded:

“I’ve been through the polio epidemic … I was in the service during the War. All of those things have happened in my life, so I’m not quite as paranoid as some people might be.”

Heh.  

I’m more a George Halas guy – but Minnesota needs more Bud Grant.  

(Via regular commenter BossHoss)

Negotiation

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

If women’s soccer players don’t get equal pay, they’ll quit playing.  Then people who don’t watch womens soccer won’t be able to watch womens soccer.  That will show them!!

Joe Doakes

It’s fascinating, to me, watching people who clearly have no idea how the free market works, trying to engage in the free market.

This is a battle the women should be winning – or, perhaps, already are.

I’m starting to think it’s not about money,

An Intellectual 0-0 Tie

It’s the aftermath of the Independence Day weekend. It’s July, and the Twins are seriously in contention.

We shouldn’t HAVE to think about Soccer. I’d hope that we are better, as a society, than that. Our forefathers fought and died so that we’d be *free* of things like Eurovision, parliamentary government, and soccer. And this time of year, I like to honor and respect their sacrifice.
But I’m genuinely curious about something, and would love to find some genuine answers.
With the US Women’s Soccer team winning their fourth World Cup, they’ve proven themselves to be the most successful soccer team in the US. Which is a little like being “the best funk band in Sweden”, but certainly deserves respect.

But now, the news is full of their next story – going to court for “equal pay”. The US Men’s soccer team – which qualifies for the World Cup about as often as Swedish funk groups got on Soul Train – gets paid more, for fewer games, and enjoys much less success than the women. They enjoy other benefits – like better hotels, better facilities, better travel arrangements, and not being identifiable as “soccer players” by most Americans. The women play more, are more successful – and, some say, should be paid much better for their time.
I don’t have a problem with that, as far as it goes; also, I don’t care ,because again, it’s only soccer.

Men’s World Cup soccer is, of course, the most popular athletic spectacle in the world. There’s an insane amount of money changing hands due to that Godforsaken sport.
Does anyone know if the US women generate more money than the men do? Or that women’s World Cup, worldwide, generates as much / more money than the men’s sport?
I’ve heard various reporters and opinion-mongers say it’s only be “Fair” for the women to get paid more – but on economic matters, most journos are…well, we’re back to “Swedish Funk Band” analogies again.

Does anyone know how the numbers – all of ’em, not just the cherrypicked ones – break out?

How ‘Bout Them Twins?

As the Twins continue what is so far a stellar season – winning .678 as this is written, which is the best in the majors, still, by .001 point – I find myself in the painful position of reminding people about the law.

Berg’s Law.

The local media is starting to talk with a straight face about the Twins and post-season. Maybe even the World Series.

A reminder, Twin Cities media; it’s called “Berg’s Law”, not “Berg’s Suggestion”, for a reason. And Berg’s Fourth Law of Media/Sports Inversion is in full effect, and no less binding than Berg’s Seventh.

To wit: “Minnesota sports team may be a contender until the moment the local media actually believes they will be contenders. At that moment – be it spring training, late November in the NFL season, or week 72 of the NHL playoffs – the season will fall irredeemably apart.”

It’s iron-clad. It’s immutable. And it’s the law.

Sprinting To Confusion

I’m a User Experience Architect.

If for some reason I decided to take two years to become an abstract sculptor – well, Mazel Tov for me, but barring some pretty significant Contract-Fu on my part, I’m not going to get paid to be a User Experience Architect.  Or sculptor, to be honest, but that’s skirting the point.

If you’re not doing the thing that you’re supposedly getting paid for, unless your potential services are so valuable that the client is willing to pay to keep that potential on tap, you might need another source of income.

National Public Radio seems to have taken up the “cause” of female athletes – Olympians, mind you – whose athletic sponsorships are jeopardized by taking time off from their sports to have kids.   NPR’s Michel Martin talked with runner Alysia Montano about the way she was thrown out on the street after becoming pregnant:

And so in that off-year, I’d hoped that we would conceive and be able to have our daughter and return to the sport. And I did conceive. I did have my daughter. And my daughter was two months old. And I got a phone call that said, I want to talk about your contracts in regard to your performance this year – which means – you mean the year that I’ve been with child? And then I was – my payment was reduced.

Wait.

Back up.

Her payment – for running – was reduced, not eliminated, during a year in which her running was eliminated?

OK, surely she suffered grievously in other ways:

MARTIN: And what about your health benefits? I mean, that was another thing that emerged in the reporting on this is that there are athletes whose health insurance was terminated. And I can’t think a very thing – many things more frightening than either being pregnant or having a child or having a newborn with no health insurance – summarily terminated. So what about you? Did you at least have health insurance to cover the delivery or the postpartum period?

MONTANO: Yes. So the way that it works is a tier system. The luck that I did have with my daughter was I fell within the tier system because I made the Olympic team in 2012, and the protection was there for me. Now, if I didn’t make the Olympic team in 2012 and I became pregnant, I would lose my health insurance.

So let me get this straight – Nike is paying you to…run.  Something that, all due respect, is the nich-iest of niche sports – a sport that literally nobody ever in history has gone into thinking of making a living at.  And when you’re running, albeit not an Olympic level for a year, due to a personal (albeit blessed) choice that biology has pretty much limited to you, you still got paid.

Could there be a more first world problem?

Well, I suppose when you’re talking about “elite” athletes…:

My point and my stance is this should not be because I am an Olympian. This needs to be something that is in place for women athletes regardless.

“Regardless” of what?  Level?  Sport?

If I’m a company selling – let me stress this – sneakers, and I’m paying someone to…run, am I bound to support them unto death, regardless?

And am I the only one frantically and vainly combing their memory right now looking for a male athlete with an endorsement contract that included years of…well, not using the product?

Apparently when I call this a First World Problem, I’m only off by magnitude:

MARTIN: There are other women in this fight with you. We saw Alysia Montano and Kara Goucher share similar stories. What does it mean to have them alongside you?

Montano later notes the real problem:

She says she wants to make sure Nike writes this protection into the contracts of new and current female athletes because, she says, track and field athletes tend to sign contracts before they are the age in which women typically start thinking about having families, and by the time they do, they are locked into contracts without protections for maternity leave.

So it’s a matter of business education, as opposed to rampant sexism.

Inexorable

When John McEnroe recoils at Venus Williams’ behavior, you know someone really uncorked it.

Men don’t have the right to break rules without repercussion. John McEnroe was getting penalized for his nasty behavior in 1981. Jeff Tarango was banned from Wimbledon for abusing an umpire in 1995. Now Williams lost a match because of her penalizations for her abusive behavior. She’s joining a club filled with men who have suffered as she did for similar behavior.

The “rights” Williams is fighting for seem to be the ability to be free from the same rules men have to follow in order to be equal with them. That’s not equality, that’s asking for special treatment.

Yet we’re being lead to believe that Williams is bravely standing up against an unfair system of men that punishes women unjustly. While there are a few ridiculous calls out there made against women in the past (Alizé Cornet’s code violation for fixing her shirt while men are known to go topless on the court being a glaring one) what Williams did was childish, abusive, and just plain mean. Not only did it paint an innocent man doing his job as a villain, her attitude stole a moment of pure glory away from another woman who even looked up to her.

And it’s not as if Williams hasn’t been down this road before. In 2009, Williams lost a match after having a point deducted after she abused an umpire, and that umpire was a female. This entire debacle isn’t a story of Williams facing sexism, it’s a story of Williams lack of control over her temper.

And, from what I’ve seen, about a lot of middle-aged women who are upset thatthe “powerful middle-aged woman on her inexorable comeback” narrative has been sidelined.

Unintended Consequences

Minnesota has a miniimum wage of $9 an hour.

Minor league baseball players, working on a (very low) salary and putting in long hours, frequently earn less than that.

Saint Paul is about to phase its minimum wage up to $15 an hour.  That’s pretty much more than anyone on a Single-A team makes.

And so the Saint Paul Saints – after wheedling a stadium out of the city’s taxpayers – say they may have to shut down if they don’t get an exemption:

Noting league rules limit the baseball team’s payroll, the Saints say without the exemption they could possibly be forced to cease operations.

“We’re in a league that has a salary cap,” Saints Executive Vice President and General Manager Derek Sharrer told state lawmakers earlier this week. “So … if minimum wage and overtime laws were to impact us, then we may be in a position to not be able to abide by our league bylaws, which would force us not to be able to operate.”

The issue comes just three years after the Saints moved into their new home, CHS Field, in downtown St. Paul. Public funds contributed $51.4 million to the ballpark’s construction.

They’ll get it.  Lawmakers love sports teams.

All the businesses in Saint Paul without the same level of political clout?

Let’s just watch the implosion.

Super Dud

All that fuss over the Super Bowl?  All that Cold War era security downtown?  It was supposed to make “us” money – right?

Not so much, according to the NYTimes:

Sports economists don’t view the situation quite the same way. They said the economic impact study for the Minneapolis Super Bowl began by saying all the right things about how past estimates had “been criticized as extremely overinflated, inaccurate, even purposely misrepresented.” In the end, though, it did the same thing.

“They always talk really good about that stuff, and then they go off the rails,” said Victor A. Matheson, a sports economist at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.

Matheson has written extensively about the effect of Super Bowls. He has found that they usually generate anywhere from $30 million to $130 million in economic activity for the host city.

“Not nothing, and not what you would sneeze at,” he said, “but somewhere between a quarter and a tenth of what is being claimed.”

Take hotel rooms, for example. To host the Super Bowl, Minneapolis had to show that there were at least 24,000 of them within 60 minutes of the stadium, capable of accommodating visitors during the entire 10-day Super Bowl celebration. Accordingly, the economic impact report estimates the Super Bowl will generate 230,000 nights of hotel stays.

But if the Super Bowl were not in town, many of those hotel rooms would have been filled anyway, by business travelers, conventiongoers and — yes, even in Minnesota in the dead of winter — tourists. It is the net occupancy gain, not gross occupancy, that matters, said Frank Stephenson, an economist at Berry College in Mount Berry, Ga.

And on, and on.

Helga Braid Nation’s precious stadium – money extorted from taxpayers via the most base emotional manipulation this side of emotional domestic abuse, is a net wash, maybe, as of today – the peak of the stadiium’s public profile as of the first and last Super Bowl it will host.

The Problem With Philadelphia…

…is that a few hundred thousand mouth-breathing morons ruin the good name of dozens of Philly sports fans.

I mean, I’m glad the Iggles won, if only out of homer pride (I went to high school with Carson Wentz’s father, and high school and college with his uncle. Have I mentioned that North Dakota is a small place?) and because Pats fans aren’t a whole lot better.

But I’m always amazed people don’t remember it’s a game.

Forget March Madness. We’ve Got February Fanaticism.

With the mathematical elimination of the Chicago Bears for the NFL playoff scene back in early September, and Carson Wentz’s injury leaving him out of the Philadelphia Eagles lineup at the Super Bowl, I officially have exactly the same reason to care about the Super Bowl that I always do; none whatsoever.

And try as I may, I cannot work up the faintest glimmer of interest in major college basketball, although that brand of the sport stands head, shoulders and ankles above NBA hoops.

Hockey? I know why people like it. It just leaves me cold.   No pun intended.

And as this post move, there are roughly 3 weeks until pitchers and catchers report to spring training – one of the glorious to glorious ceremonies in American life, indeed, But still a long, chilly slog before the boys of summer take to the diamonds.

But this is America. We don’t stay trapped in worlds we never made – we build our own.

No, I’m not just talking about this post; it would be accurate, but not complete. No, I’m talking the special little fantasy world that sports fans build around their pastime – spending their hard-earned money to watch millionaires chase balls around stadiums built by billionaires (with generous, coerced tax pair support) and the crimes against manners, decency, decorum, morality, property and other people that carry out in their zeal to live out that fantasy.

And so it’s time to inaugurate what may be perhaps (eventually) the grandest of all American sporting traditions; The Shot in the Dark First Annual Disgusting Fan tournament.

The rules are simple; in the comment section of this post, nominate the fan base of a team, along with one or more citations about their crude, violent, depraved, entitled or otherwise filthy behavior.

When the nominations are all in, I’m going to set up a bracket with the series of seeded polls (not the kind the city of Philadelphia greased to try to curb the lunacy of Eagles fans – the other kind) which will lead us to a champion – The most disgusting fan base in all of sports.

We will observe the following rules:

  • You may nominate as many teams as you want – but the nominations must include one or more citations about the teams fans behavior.
  • The teams can be from any sport, in any country, at the professional or major college level. High school sports, given the parent fans involved, are a league all of their own.
  • Episodes of fan behavior must be from the last 20 years; lynchings carried out in the 1890s, unsurprising as they may be given the subject matter, fall outside the statute of limitations.

So there you go! Get your nominations in, and the voting will start next week!

Yep, It Was A Great Play.

I’ve watched it many, many times; the Keenum to Diggs pass that made decades of Minnesota sports fandom suck just a little less.

Or so I’m told.  I’m just counting down ’til pitchers and catchers report, honestly.  But while I think I’ve watched less than a half-dozen NFL games from the opening gun to the checkered flag since the greatest game of all time (the 1985/86 Super Bowl, pbui), I did manage to catch the last six playing / forty actual minutes of Sunday mights division final.

And the the pass, with :10 on the clock, was one of those things like Jack Morris’ seventh game and Kirby Puickett’s homer in game six (I don’t have to go into more detail, do I?  Exactly) that even casual fans will be talking about for decades:

So – great play.  Amazing.

But even with all of that – there are some people out there to whom I just want to say “Dude, yoiu take this stuff way too seriously“.