History-making music group for UMM - morris mn

History-making music group for UMM - morris mn
The UMM men's chorus opened the Minnesota Day program at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair (Century 21 Exposition).

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Nighttime has a history, in Morris and with mankind

"Look at that place - it's open 24 hours!" The smart-aleck was pointing to the obviously empty Coborn's building. The building still proclaims to all passers-by that it's open 24 hours.
Coborn's had a nice little niche in the Morris business community. Its round-the-clock policy was mainly responsible for that. Willie's is not inclined to go that way. Coborn's sold gas whereas Willie's doesn't. A definite "night owl" atmosphere could be felt at our old Coborn's.
Not only did Coborn's leave us, they left behind a rather decaying old shell of a building. It's not necessary to have the "no loitering" sign out in the parking lot anymore. McDonald's does keep that spot somewhat busy. But it's not like "the old days" when cars would zip in and out of that little hub with regularity beginning quite early.
Now we have Casey's going 24 hours. The 24-hour system has never really gotten a foothold in Morris. Businesses occasionally put their toe in the water in regard to it. The restaurant now known as DeToy's once did. The ownership was ambivalent, as it noticed that college students would come in, hang around and study, perhaps drink some coffee but not necessarily spend much money. Let's emphasize the words "hang around." I'd go there myself on nights when I was working late. I'm reminded of the well-known painting "Boulevard of Broken Dreams."
An interesting kind of consciousness can take over in that kind of situation. More bad than good can happen. The mind works slow and can turn contemplative.
Approach to sleep in olden times
There was a time in man's development when we'd wake up in the middle of the night and not just to go to the bathroom. Pre-industrial man had a different sleep pattern from today.
Reading about it makes me sort of long for those olden times. It seemed we could withdraw from our worldly cares more easily.
We learn that even nighttime "has a history." A Virginia Tech history professor name of A. Roger Ekirch has probed this. Professors can be very useful when they unearth information like this. We can come up with theories as to why we feel so stressed and overburdened today. We are contradicting a long history of sleep habits, habits that seemed natural and kept us on an even keel. Ekirch has learned through extensive probing that our ancestors slept in two distinct chunks each night. A character in "Canterbury Tales" decides to go back to bed after her "firste sleep." This first sleep began not long after the sun went down and lasted until a little after midnight. We'd then wake up for an hour or so, to be followed by the "second sleep." It was a routine as common as breakfast once.
The "nightscape" was indeed different in the days before gas and then electricity. Research shows that in the "early modern" period, Europeans lived in two worlds. The one familiar to us was ruled by light and the rules of society. The other was marked by anxiety and fantasy and brought a sort of dreamy kind of community feeling. Darkness had its terrors and dangers. Darkness was accompanied by a sense of mystery. Being inside was not total insulation. Candlelight spelled some fire danger. The stability of church and civil authorities was tested in the blackness of night. We teetered on chaos.
Ekirch is the author of "At Day's Close" which focuses on the 16th through 18th Centuries in Europe and the North American colonies. He notes that darkness afforded "an attractive freedom." People slept differently, he discovered in poring over reams of documents. "Their circadian patterns had not been altered by the persistence of light beyond sunset." Another nugget: "Lighting has altered the state of our biology as well as our society."
A doctor said that between the first and second sleep was "the best time for study and reflection."
Ah, life before the days of LEDs and wall sconces seemed to afford a generous share of unstructured time for contemplation, which perhaps we're crying for today. Yes the light bulb was a miracle. Old-timers have told me the biggest miracle to have ever blessed man was rural electrification. I'm sure the impact was enormous and beneficial. How many of us, though, would like to enjoy a greater quality of rest during times designated for that purpose?
Don't you smile thinking of a sleep pattern marked by two distinct chunks of quality repose at night? Isn't it fascinating to think of that break period at night where one would rise and perhaps tend to some gentle business? Research shows people would sometimes visit neighbors at that time!
Ekirch researched for 16 years. He came out with a groundbreaking research paper in 2001 and then his book in 2005. He went through diaries, medical books, court records and literature. People talked about their "first sleep" and "second sleep." We even learn of this in Homer's Odyssey. Ekirch learned that the references began to disappear in the late 17th Century. Improved street lighting had an influence. Also, that contemporary bugaboo (how I view it) of an increasingly time-conscious sensitivity to efficiency. Efficiency is fine so long as we do not get obsessed by it.
As a futurist, I sometimes think that our obsessions will come crashing down when we have a major economic collapse in the U.S. or (probably) worldwide. I say "when," not "if." I think it could happen soon. We will all have to learn to concentrate on the essentials again. Maybe we can all slow down to where we can withdraw more when the sun is down, at least to withdraw from the kind of harried lifestyle that has marked the beginning of the 21st Century.
Wouldn't it be nice to simply engage in repose longer? Wouldn't it be nice to awaken in a non-stressed setting and then return to slumber? A sleep psychologist says that night waking is "part of normal physiology, and that trying to sleep in a consolidated block may be damaging if it makes people anxious."
Ekirch learned that by the 1920s, the idea of a first and second sleep "receded entirely from social consciousness." Another snippet: "Many sleep problems may have roots in the human body's natural preference for segmented sleep as well as the ubiquity of artificial light."
Going to Coborn's late at night may have been a contradiction to our natural biological patterns, yes. That is, unless we made the trip in between our "first sleep" and "second sleep."
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, June 17, 2013

Grasshoppers were a scourge locally and all around

The Rocky Mountain locust, no welcome visitor in the 1870s.
(Warning: This post could drive you buggy!)

The St. Urho's story has been crafted for the sake of levity. I know, true "adherents" will wrinkle up their forehead and act like they're taking offense at such a thought. Really they're irritating the people who cherish St. Patrick's Day.
St. Urho's Day is placed on the calendar just before St. Patrick's. The story or "legend" is similar. But instead of snakes as the nemesis, it's grasshoppers! Grasshoppers were supposedly threatening the grape crop in Finland. (Is there a grape crop in Finland?) St. Urho with his incantations saved all.
This story has been passed down after first being discovered carved on the thigh bone of a prehistoric bear, so we're told. I'll laugh regardless of how "adherents" might react. We're lucky such a story exists for mere levity today. For there was a time when the insect was more than a mere nuisance.
Pioneers in the Midwest could fear grasshoppers as much as any natural disaster. The annals of Morris history tell us as much. Grasshoppers would "come down just like rain," according to an eighth grade lass in 1903 who spoke at Morris Congregational Church. The church no longer exists. It was across the street from the Carnegie Library (now the museum) in west Morris. The Morris newspaper published Emma's presentation in June of 1903. She actually shared a great deal about old times when Morris was truly fledgling.
"The lakes around here now are not half so numerous or large as they were before," she said.
I was surprised to read there was a time when Lake Crystal was connected to Pomme de Terre River. The lake "abounded in different kinds of fish," Emma said. There were wild buffalo here! They roamed on the east side of the river. Elk, deer and lynx joined in the wild and pristine panorama. We could spot large eagles nests aloft in the largest trees along the lakeshore, according to Emma's account.
Lake Crystal is still known to attract "our national symbol." I was called there by Irene Henjum to photograph one such nest once. (I was active in the print media at the time.)
Wildlife is more of a novelty now like when that black bear came to town. No elk anymore. Domesticated buffalo can be seen as you approach Glenwood. We have nature pretty well harnessed and under control today.
We hear stories of the travail faced in the early times. I'm not sure the various menaces like blizzards were actually worse, for the most part. Settlers just had limited means to adapt. There is one particular menace that was worse: grasshoppers. A farmer might be feeling wholly content one day about the state of his crops. But as Emma explained, "the grasshoppers often destroyed all and left the poor farmers with saddened hearts. (The grasshoppers) would come down just like rain and so many of them would get on one stalk of corn that it would bend clear over to the ground."
The menace ate everything that was green. In an eerie sort of way they "made a very pretty picture," Emma said, "as they descended down from the sky. They resembled large snowflakes, as their large white wings were the only part of them to be seen."
One such spectacle happened here in August of 1876. The 'hoppers appeared out of the north and northwest. They proceeded as if a cloud. The wheat was very ripe and not susceptible to much damage. Not so with barley and oats that largely succumbed to the scourge.
The grasshopper spectacle of 1876 was actually far-ranging. It was in June when this "plague" of sorts arrived at Cold Spring. Ethelyn Pearson wrote about this in her book "It Really Happened Here!" She's the mother of retired Morris High industrial arts teacher Larry Pearson. In her research, Ethelyn learned that "a haze that became a dark cloud obscured the sun."
I wonder if my old friend Greg Cruze of Cold Spring has ever heard this history.
The onslaught of grasshoppers gave the impression of a cloud, so countless they were. They weren't even standard 'hoppers, rather they were "huge, ugly things with fat bodies three inches long," Ethelyn wrote. They ravaged "everything edible in sight plus some items never meant for food." They actually weren't native to these parts, rather they were Rocky Mountain locusts often referred to as "choppers." The tender stalks of young wheat were no match for them. Pastures, gardens and tree leaves were consumed in short order. Clothing on clotheslines were targeted. Settlers reported they could actually hear the jaws of this menace working.
Historical records showed that "choppers" had invaded before in four separate instances.
In 1876, when Morris was five years old as a city, the magnitude was especially great. Farmers tried using sheets of tin covered with tar to combat. Burning? Not enough vegetation was even left to burn. Nets were fashioned at the end of long sticks. Man's efforts vs. nature's wrath were largely futile. Burning oil was applied. The Stearns County board voted to offer bounties for the choppers "and their smeary yellow eggs that covered every available surface," Ethelyn wrote. Bounties were paid "by the bushel!"
If all else were to fail, winter would come along and settle matters. It wasn't man's efforts that eradicated the "choppers" and their wrath, it was God's way with seasons of the year. The harshness of winter brought no complaint as 1876 gave way to 1877. Farmers' spirits were lifted anew, albeit with a sense of limitations. The settlers sought to be undaunted - an inherent trait of theirs. 
New wheat was put in the ground. Alas, that undaunted spirit was to be tested again. "Sinking hearts" became the rule, Ethelyn reported, as again the winged things arrived in multitudes. She wrote "farmers stood in groups of three or four on the corners in Cold Spring and neighboring towns, a story of gloom and despair written on haggard faces."
I'm reminded of the original "War of the Worlds" movie. The menace of the invading Martians seemed eerily similar. Man's efforts couldn't extinguish the menace. We retreated to churches as our last flickers of hope were nurtured with rubble all around. Churches meant prayer. It meant we exhausted all other options.
Governor John Pillsbury designated April 26, 1877, for prayer and fasting. The people around Cold Spring were Catholic. They pleaded to "Mother of God" and pledged to build a chapel to offer up prayers of thanksgiving, "if only their terrible lot could find some relief," Ethelyn wrote.
A small chapel made of timber was built on a hill at the edge of town. It included a statue of the Blessed Mother and Child at an altar. A tornado came along in 1893 and destroyed the structure although the statue was salvaged. The statue was put in storage.
It wasn't until 1952 that inspiration grew for rebuilding the chapel. Catholic officials led the efforts: Bishop Peter Bartholome of St. Cloud and The Reverend Victor Bonellenfitsch of Cold Spring.
Construction proceeded on the original footing. The structure is made of durable granite, a product available in abundance around St. Cloud. The Blessed Mother and Child are there. People visit who want to engage in meditation and prayer.
It's called Assumption Chapel. Each summer the bishop presents a solemn pontifical mass to the Blessed Virgin there.
Are the prayers heard? It would appear that just like in "War of the Worlds," a sweeping hand of relief came on the scene. The Martians were done in by bacteria. In the case of Cold Spring's travails in the 19th Century, we learn that on August 15, 1877, four months after the chapel was built, "for some mysterious reason, those winged emissaries of the devil arose as one into the sky and flew back from whence they came," Ethelyn wrote. "Not once in the intervening hundred years have the choppers returned."
It wasn't St. Urho coming on the scene. Let's celebrate St. Urho's Day with its levity, thankful the grasshopper plagues of the past are left in history books. Those locusts can stay in the Rockies.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, June 8, 2013

"61*" film profiles Yankee Roger Maris & his times

"61*" is an awkward movie title to type. A non-baseball fan might wrinkle up his/her forehead. "What's that all about?"
The asterisk was supposed to reflect the stigma of the single-season home run record set in 1961. Roger Maris was the man in the fishbowl setting it. The asterisk tells us Maris set his record in a new, longer season. Baseball had added expansion teams for 1961. One of these was our Minnesota Twins.
A team would now play 162 games in the regular season, up from 154 which had been a comfortable, well-established norm. Maris hit 61 homers in '61, edging by one the record held since 1927 by the storied Babe Ruth. Not only did Maris break the record in a longer season, he broke it in an environment with diluted pitching caused by expansion.
I have never put much weight in the "diluted pitching" explanation. Pitchers who are a shade below major league quality really aren't that shabby. No, I think other factors were at play. Maris' 61 home runs weren't the only other-worldly stat from that season. Another was the .361 batting average by Norm Cash of Detroit. You look at the back of a baseball card and think "whoa, what happened that season?" Maybe it was "rabbit balls" (jumping out of the ballpark) or perhaps umpires looking the other way when it came to corked bats. But "something was up," I'm convinced.
Not that we really need to feel so much concern about it.
The movie "61*" follows the template for affectionate biopics. Made in 2001, it features Barry Pepper who seems almost a clone of Maris; and Thomas Jane whose resemblance to Mickey Mantle is sharp too. Billy Crystal directed.
The movie is endearing as it shows the plain and frankly rather boring Maris in contrast with the "edgy" Mantle. We admire Maris because of his upstanding values. His family is his cornerstone. He does have a nasty habit of smoking. He forms an unlikely bond with Mantle whose recklessness seems his cornerstone. We end up feeling affectionate toward both.
The asterisk seemed important enough to incorporate in the movie title. In reality there was no such thing! I learn through online research that "no asterisk was involved or mentioned in real life!" We're reminded that Hollywood is "the dream factory." Suspend reality.
After the fact, the asterisk seemed a logical way in one's mind to consider the record. Maris' record was in fact not considered legitimate until 1991 when Commissioner Fay Vincent addressed the matter. Vincent proclaimed "a season is a season." He comes out a hero. He erases the harm done by the "fuddy duddies" who wanted to spoil a good thing, right? We're pushed to this conclusion by the movie "61*".
In reality, most people in baseball considered the new 162-game schedule to be a very real issue. The commissioner at the time, Ford Frick, reflected conventional thinking. A Sporting News poll showed 2/3 of veteran baseball writers supported Frick on the matter. Frick decided Maris would have to break the record within 154 games. The movie shows Maris coming close but not quite.
So when Maris finally connects for No. 61, it doesn't seem real momentous. The fan turnout at Yankee Stadium on that day wasn't anywhere near what you might expect. The team owner is irate, saying the attendance was "pathetic." But the owners and Frick had brought this on themselves, insisting that any record set beyond 154 games would not be legitimate.
There was a reward for the fan who ended up with the ball. The reward seems ridiculously small by today's standards. Same for the salaries the players got then (pre-union of course). How quaint!
Through lens of a child
I was six years old when all this happened. It wasn't until two years later that I started paying attention to baseball. This began with baseball cards on the back of cereal boxes. I remember the Roger Maris card, the specific face photo, that got me introduced to the man. I read in the little profile that he had set the home run record with 61. His performance after that year never came close to the almost ethereal heroics he showed in 1961. Again, what was up in '61?
I became a fan of Harmon Killebrew, a power merchant if ever there was one, and never did I think he was likely to threaten Maris' record. That's why I call the Maris record "ethereal" - mysterious, begging for an explanation. A young Killebrew hit 46 home runs in 1961. He would end up in the Hall of Fame unlike Maris.
There has always been a chorus advocating for ol' Rodg to get in the Hall. I feel the best argument you can make is that Rodg played in seven World Series, winning in three. He supplied winning ingredients, one of them defense. Killebrew felt Roger should be in the Hall. One of Roger's biggest advocates has been Whitey Herzog. Herzog wrote a wonderful, underrated baseball book called "You're Missin' a Great Game."
Maris left us for that diamond in the sky in 1985, only 51 years old. So, years would pass before Vincent would emerge as a hero, declaring the 61 homers as the sole record.
But was Ford Frick really a "villain?" The movie "61*" sort of portrays him this way. Really it portrays Frick as a stiff sort of throwback, an old associate of Babe Ruth with biases. Is such an assessment fair? No!
Movies need characters covering a range of sympathetic to not-so sympathetic. Frick emerges in the latter category. There's a scene where he gets booed on opening day at Yankee Stadium. Maybe subconsciously we equate "Frick" with "prick." I just think he filled a needed role in the movie. Same with Babe's widow Claire. Neither seems excited about Maris' pace of home runs. They want his bat to go quiet.
But doesn't Frick, as representative of the owners, really just care about money? The Babe is dead and gone. Baseball always welcomes excitement.
True assessment of commissioner
OK, how is Frick to be viewed in a heroic light? Really it's easy to document. He was the National League president in 1947. You might argue he was the second most important baseball executive of all time, behind only Branch Rickey.
There was a move afoot among some National League players who were going to refuse to take the field against the Brooklyn Dodgers if they had Jackie Robinson playing. Frick vetoed such thinking 100 percent. He said he'd "go down the line" with Robinson, and "didn't care if it wrecked the league for five years." So much for Frick as a stuffed-shirt fossil type of throwback, eh? Reality can get in the way of movie entertainment.
Still, I think the script of "61*" is on the whole fun and uplifting. Maris is the family man hero who never really figures out how he should accommodate the media. The movie shows the heyday of newspapering, its absolute apex. The writers swarm like killer bees. Two stand out, one quite exploitative ("Marty") and the other more human and sympathetic ("Mitt"). It's clear baseball didn't do enough to protect players like Maris from the swarming media.
Our Twins and the Los Angeles Angels were the two new expansion teams in the American League in 1961. Our stadium, "the Met," had already been used for five seasons by the old Minneapolis Millers. In '61 it finally went big-time. That's what it was built for. We learn that Maris hit only three home runs in the 18 games that New York played in Minnesota and L.A.
He was far from being on a roll when he and the Yankees arrived at Metropolitan Stadium in early May. Would you believe he had only one home run to date? On May 3 he homered off Pedro Ramos of the Twins at the Met. The three-run blast was part of a 7-3 New York win. Many fans had driven from Maris' hometown of Fargo. Maris was a Fargo Shanley High School graduate.
Maris hit eleven home runs in May, 15 in June, and had 30 total home runs by July 4. On August 4 he hit a three-run homer off Camilo Pascual of the Twins in a game at Yankee Stadium. It was Maris' 41st home run. That same game saw Killebrew hit his 33rd home run as the Twins won 8-5.
"61*" as cinema
One movie critic suggested that "61*" was a little too long, coming in at 130 minutes. The critic suggested that while baseball fans wouldn't have their attention span taxed, others might.
Director Crystal entered this project as an unabashed baseball fan. This comes through also when he gives a monologue in "City Slickers" about when he attended his first baseball game. He also visits Yankee Stadium in "Comic Relief."
The movie "61*" was an HBO project. I give the movie very high grades. If I were to nit-pick, I might suggest it'd be nice seeing a little more of Yogi Berra. I was too young to have appreciated Berra as a player. I think of him as a manager or coach. We do hear at least one "Berra-ism" in the movie, but on the whole his presence is negligible. The actor playing him isn't too believable as a baseball player.
Robert Redford was close to being too old when he played Roy Hobbs in "The Natural." Gary Cooper was perfect as Lou Gehrig. Anthony Perkins was perfect as Jimmy Piersall. On the other end of the spectrum was William Bendix as Babe Ruth! Actually, the best actor to portray Ruth was Joe Don Baker who wasn't playing Ruth per se, rather he was playing "the Whammer" who was considered for all practical purposes the same person (in "The Natural").
A player identified as Camilo Pascual appears in "61*", pitching in the season opener at Yankee Stadium. Not that it's important, but Pascual in the movie is dark-skinned enough to be called "black," whereas in real life this wasn't the case. He was Cuban. Fans joked about how he looked like a mugger type of criminal in his face photos. "Hey mister, wanna buy a hot Buick?"
Maris only batted .269 in his signature season. But he batted .303 with runners on base and .329 with runners in scoring position. Yes, he batted only .174 when Mantle wasn't batting behind him (a big factor as suggested in the movie). But early in the season, he was batting seventh in the order vs. lefthanded pitching. He wouldn't have seen many good pitches batting seventh.
Father figure actor Donald Moffat played Ford Frick in "61*". The two prime sportswriters are played by Peter Jacobson (the aggressive one) and Richard Masur (the more feeling one). Let's acknowledge actors Christopher McDonald and Joe Grifasi as broadcasters Mel Allen and Phil Rizzuto, respectively. Allen is popular with the masses. Rizzuto has a charming eccentricity, as he often interjects subjects outside of baseball (like an Italian restaurant).
Anthony Michael Hall plays pitcher Whitey Ford. Bruce McGill plays Ralph Houk as the very stable leader Ralph Houk, the Yankees' manager. Houk gives fatherly advice to Maris down the stretch. Chris Bauer plays the chummy teammate Bob Cerv who has an interesting approach to preparing eggs for breakfast. And finally, we see Jennifer Crystal Foley as Roger's wife Pat.
Family was the cornerstone for Roger. Roger's final resting place is in Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery, North Fargo. He's free of sportswriters' harassing. Roger Maris, RIP.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Mall of America grows where "the Met" once was

I read that the Mall of America is expanding. Not sure why this is necessary. Maybe someday the whole world will be paved.
Why is it that progress has to be defined as growth? Is there going to be pushback against this someday? The Pope hints maybe it's time, suggesting we have a "tyranny of money." The Catholic Church has lots of problems but they're sure right on this one.
Metropolitan Stadium stood where now we have the Mall of America. The Met is a jewel in Minnesota history. It definitely was a reflection of commercialism. The movers and shakers of big-time sports harnessed it. That commercialism seemed to be contradicted by the pervading atmosphere there. It was peaceful and pastoral. The name "Metropolitan" hardly seemed appropriate. Perhaps the name was coined to convince the rest of the world we were really developed here. We weren't hayseeds.
The parking area around Met Stadium guaranteed it would be an island away from potential intrusion or distractions. You had to try to remember where your car was. Signs were positioned in various places as an aid. The first Twins game we attended, I remember we parked next to the "Cleveland" sign which had a picture of that grinning Indian, symbol of the franchise.
For some reason, "Cleveland Indians" hasn't become the hot-button issue that "Washington Redskins" has. I believe Cleveland has some old story it can trot out to justify the name. Currently there is a move afoot to stomp out the Redskins. Furthering this effort is the availability of a perfect replacement name: "Red Tails." The name is similar but departs from the dated American Indian imagery.
Native Americans don't appreciate being mascots. "Red Tails" is a reference to the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II. "Red Tails" is the name of a movie about them too. Perfect.
Vikes at the Met: a riveting chapter
The Minnesota Vikings had an era at the Met that could never be duplicated. Us boomers watched transfixed. We really had no clue about the damaging nature of the game for its participants. We cheered Wally Hilgenberg, a player who would eventually die of a degenerative brain condition. His estate is part of the current legal action undertaken against the league.
The Hilgenberg story isn't isolated. Linebacker Fred McNeill and lineman Brent Boyd have had similar issues, and I'm sure the list is longer than this, or will surely get longer.
Boomers could hardly get enough of the Minnesota Vikings. The kind of loyalty we had then was highly emotional. I would suggest that even though the interest remains high today, it's not as emotional. We can live with the setbacks much easier. We don't take it personally. We don't see a loss as a blemish on the state (or our self-esteem). A sports fan can consume so many hours of sports, it's much easier to take or absorb an emotional setback. You don't have to just sit and fester. Another game is coming up in high definition.
High definition? Heck, in my youth we just "turned on the TV" and used a knob for the limited amount of channel changing.
Franchise symbol: Fran Tarkenton
All boomers here feel nostalgia hearing the name of Fran Tarkenton. His career in purple spanned all my years of getting an education, grades 'K' through college. He wasn't in purple the whole time, as there was a stretch when he played for the New York Giants. This was due to the lack of rapport between him and the first Vikings coach, Norm Van Brocklin.
Tarkenton made a triumphant return and led the Vikings to three Super Bowls. We were crushed at the loss in all three. There was a fourth Super Bowl and that was our first, when the guy calling the signals was Joe Kapp. I'll never forget the Sports Illustrated cover that described Kapp as "man of machismo." I suppose "macho" is short for "machismo."
Kapp was not the most technically proficient quarterback. He was known to throw a wobbly ball. In terms of personality he was a character. The Vikings were supposed to beat the Chiefs in that Super Bowl. The script got torn up just as it did for when the Jets played the Colts. The AFL flexed its muscles and the rest is history. Joe Namath beat the Colts and Len Dawson beat the Vikings and Kapp. The Vikes' loss put a sour note at the end of a season that otherwise would be enshrined in a most reverent way in boomers' memories.
The other three Super Bowls seemed sickening as well, especially the one against the Raiders (and John Madden). Us boomers of the Upper Midwest might have become a little defeatist. It's so sad of course because it's only an entertainment product. And, if only we had known the price being paid, health-wise, for so many of the players. We do now.
The question is whether we can begin to detach ourselves from the game. I'm sure many people are mulling this over. This coming fall will be critical, to see if there really is a substantial dropoff in numbers for junior high football. If not, it will mean America's parents have decided it's OK to subject their sons to substantial health risk so we can continue enjoying this sport. I'm prepared to accept that this is what will happen.
When the purple mystique began
The Minnesota Vikings debuted on a September afternoon in 1961, at the same time Roger Maris was chasing down Babe Ruth's home run record in baseball. We hosted the Chicago Bears. The weather was the best you could ask for on that day.
The Vikings gave a prelude of things to come, downing the visiting Bears 37-13. Tarkenton was a mere 21 years old. He was on the bench at game's start. He relieved George Shaw before the first quarter ended. The second quarter saw "the Georgia Peach" throw a touchdown pass to Bob Schnelker. Tarkenton would have four touchdown passes on the day. The historic game was played in clear, 75-degree weather.
Prior to this day, the U of M Gophers were Minnesota's big-time football team. A transition would set in pretty fast. The boomers became enthralled with the purple Vikings. The Gophers have fought to try to close the gap since, mostly unsuccessfully.
The new Vikings stadium, which will have opulence to the maximum, is clearly a testament to that team's spell over us. Ditto the process by which the new stadium was approved, in which somehow we felt we just had to do what the Vikings wanted - no delay or pondering allowed. Governor Mark Dayton seemed sadly subservient.
Through the years there would be many Vikes games played at the Met under less than pleasant weather. The harsh stuff became part of our identity. An example was on December 4, 1966. A total of 37,117 tickets were sold but only 20,206 got used. Snow began cascading from the sky at around 6:30 a.m. It was coming down thickly at game-time. The playing surface was hard to define.
The Vikings' assignment was to play the Atlanta Falcons, then a new team. The schism between Tarkenton and Van Brocklin was well underway. So much so, Tarkenton wasn't even the starter. Instead we had Bob Berry - remember him? Berry had an excuse for a lackluster performance. He bemoaned the footing on the Met Stadium field. "I couldn't set up in the snow," he was quoted saying.
Thus we're supposed to weigh the weather in considering Berry's 12 completed passes in 33 attempts and a whopping five interceptions. Tarkenton was just trying to keep warm on the sidelines. He'd be in New York for the next season. Oh, the Vikings lost to the Falcons 20-13.
I never attended a Vikings game at Metropolitan Stadium. I attended quite a few Twins games and remember going to the concession stand to get a "dollar size" beer. That was large! I repeat, that was large! We didn't think much if at all about having 2-4 beers and then driving home. Such innocent times, eh?
The Met represented a significant slice of Minnesota history. There was an experience there that obviously couldn't be reproduced at the Metrodome. Nor will it be reproduced at the Vikings stadium provided enough Minnesotans keep smoking enough to pay for it.
Met Stadium was a wondrous place. Perhaps it didn't need to be replaced at all.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com