Sunday, January 01, 2006


The Fraters folks have often busted on the Strib's sports columnists, most recently Patrick Reusse. Their criticisms are largely justified, though I confess to a fondness for Reusse, whose plegmatic cantakerousness perhaps comes across more endearingly on the air in his other gig as a KSTP radio personality than it does on the page.

But the local sports columnist who deserves the biggest raspberry is the almost unimaginably decrepit (the Strib's website boasts that "His first bylined column appeared in the Minneapolis Daily Times on Sept. 11, 1945") Sid Hartman. His combination of homerism, butt-kissing insiderism, and faux contrarianism is unique, and really has to be sampled regularly to be truly appreciated. The net effect is usually just amusing--after all, it's just sports we're talking about. But sometimes he crosses over into less amusing territory.

Exhibit A, from his October 23, 2005 column (no longer available online, unfortunately):
For those media critics, radio talk show callers and other fans who are convinced Mike Tice won't be back as coach of the Vikings next year if the team doesn't have a respectable season, you are 100 percent wrong.
Exhibit B, from his December 17, 2005 column:
If Tice returns as expected, look for Vikings owner Zygi Wilf to make it attractive so that Jerry Rhome and Foge Fazio, midseason additions to the coaching staff, return full-time next year.
And Exhibit C, from his January 1, 2006 column:
Unless the owners of the Vikings change their mind, Mike Tice will coach his last game for the team today.
Now, to Sid's credit, his support of Tice has remained constant throughout. But his earlier columns were clearly intended to give the reader the impression that his support was shared by Wilf. Today he reveals (if indeed we should trust him) that Wilf doesn't share that support. Was Sid correct before, and Wilf just changed his mind? Or was Sid wrong from the beginning? Who knows? Sid doesn't even bother to acknowledge that what he's telling us today about Tice's fate is a 180-degree shift from what he's been telling us for the past two months. And he can't acknowledge that because doing so would contradict his carefully cultivated persona as the guy who always has the inside scoop. So he goes blithely on, as if the past never happened.

I don't mind if a columnist calls me an "ungrateful lout," even if he is (arguably) wrong. I do mind if a columnist--even a sports columnist--leads me astray and then pretends that he hasn't.


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