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Tom Coyne

After a 36-year career in broadcasting, Tom Coyne admits he’s getting old. Coyne is a former North Dakota TV sportscaster who worked in Williston, Bismarck and Fargo for the KX Network from 1980 to 1991. The past 24 years were spent as a broadcasting instructor at Sanford-Brown College (formerly Brown Institute) in Mendota Heights, Minn. Born in south Minneapolis and raised in Golden Valley, Minn., the University of Minnesota journalism graduate has been a teacher, sports director, newspaper reporter, radio broadcaster and advertising copywriter. He also enjoys freelance writing and poetry. He taught more than 20 different classes at Brown and saw hundreds of his students take to the airwaves. Coyne was the North Dakota Sportscaster of the Year in 1987 and a Broadcast Instructor of the Year in 2000. Still, he’s probably most proud of his now 27-year-old twins, Ashley and Patrick, both college grads of their own. Tom and his wife, Laurie, live in Apple Valley, Minn., with their beloved sheltie, Chase.

TOM COYNE: Back In Circulation — The Bittersweet Experience Of Growing Old

It’s been a busy last few months, as a part-time job has become more “full” than “part.” At 64, there’s this ever-growing struggle between the need for self-worth and the realization that it might not be wise to put off retirement too long.

Senior discounts and AARP notices have already become staples for several years. At this age, we begin to listen more carefully to those commercials we tuned out in the past. Cremation Society? Annuity Rates? Assisted Living?

OK, well, maybe I’m jumping the gun a bit on a couple of those. But for every time I’m told how much smarter it will be to work into my 70s, I read about a friend who’s left us before they even got the chance to “walk off into the sunset.”

The reality is, we just don’t know what the future holds. My parents both worked full-time jobs into their 60s. But Dad battled health issues and died at 73, leaving the two of them little opportunity for much deserved vacations after retirement.

The advent of social media has given us the opportunity to keep up more on the lives of classmates and friends. There’s something satisfying about seeing our contemporaries sharing old memories, posting Throwback Thursday photos and growing old together. But sometimes the more we know, the more we’re not ready for those updates we’d rather not hear.

Just last week, a former colleague shared the prideful news that he and his wife were celebrating their 36th wedding anniversary. Although he and I hadn’t been close friends, we’d worked together as television news people many years ago. Somehow, through Facebook, we’d renewed our acquaintance about five years ago and had begun to catch up on each other’s lives.

His last post told of a quiet, yet romantic dinner, followed by a champagne toast just before bedtime. I remember clicking “Like” and adding the obligatory “Happy Anniversary!” message to his thread.

Two days later, a childhood pal was displaying a photo of the two of them on his page. Quickly scanning the daily news feed, I spotted the phrase “will be terribly missed.” Tragically, my friend and colleague, had died in his sleep just hours after celebrating their anniversary. Sleep apnea or heart attack were mentioned as possible causes. He was 62.

This wasn’t the first time I’d felt the shock of sudden disease or unlikely departure. Three of my fellow instructors at Brown College have died recently, two of them from cancer. One was only 59. A close buddy I’ve known since grade school has seen his life turned upside down following his wife’s out-of-nowhere diagnosis of acute lymphoma leukemia. Another great friend has watched his granddaughter fight a similar battle before the age of five.

None of this should come as a major surprise to anyone. We all have heartbreaking stories to tell about loved ones gone too soon. Or lives altered drastically by unexpected major illnesses or injuries.

That’s not all. Unemployment. Divorce. Bankruptcy. Changes we never saw coming can put a dagger in those grand schemes we envisioned not that long ago.

Earlier this month, the Coyne family celebrated its first wedding in 30 years, as my sister’s daughter, Elizabeth Ullyot, would marry Mike Borneke on a steamy Saturday on Boom Island, overlooking the Mississippi River. It brought out a flood of emotions, particularly since the last wedding happened to be ours.

As Laurie and I later paged through photos from both events, we were struck by the similarities. A warm weekend in June, the joy and anticipation of what might lie ahead. Friends and family members gathering to dance and celebrate the union of two people with great plans for the future.

But it also brought back bittersweet reminders that life goes on, with us or without us. Just seven years after our 1987 wedding, my dad would be gone. A few years later, one of my groomsmen would pass, too. Many of the guests we welcomed that day wouldn’t be around to celebrate Lizzy and Mike’s big moment in 2017.

Perhaps the photo that hit home the most, though, was the one near the back of our wedding book. It featured a group shot of the bride and groom, my sister Cheryl, her husband, Jim, and their 1-year-old daughter, Elizabeth.

Thankfully, the five of us were all there to celebrate again some 30 years later. But this time it would be that little girl’s turn to own the spotlight.

Oh, yeah … one other thing. I had a chance that day to work overtime hours and make some extra cash. Bolster that self-worth. Build on that retirement nest egg.

Forget that nonsense. To borrow a couple of lines from a Kenny Chesney song: “Don’t blink. Life goes faster than you think.”

TOM COYNE: Back In Circulation — Walking The Twins’ Tightrope

The Minnesota Twins lost 103 games last year. Their pitching has been among the worst in the major leagues for several seasons. Fan interest has plummeted, as they approach their eighth season at beautiful Target Field.

So in the offseason, the club made significant moves in the front office, hiring young and promising executives Derek Falvey and Thad Levine to seemingly cleanse the organization of its stale ways of the past. Both are big on analytics, come from previously successful systems and place much value on building a competent stable of good arms.

Meanwhile though, the Twins seem to have done little in the offseason to make significant changes ON the field.

They acquired light-hitting catcher Jason Castro, a free agent known for his ability to frame strikes with the best of them. That little-known attribute was apparently garnered from analyzing Castro’s influence on Houston’s pitching staff the past few years.

They picked up well-traveled Craig Breslow, an extremely bright but aging reliever, who has toiled for many teams during his long career, including the Twins. The left-hander is one of those veterans who doesn’t throw hard but tosses enough to the right places to get most lefties out regularly. Breslow also has a degree in molecular biophysics from Yale and spent $3,000 recently, purchasing a device designed to change his arm angle and prolong his career.

Intelligent, generally inexpensive tweaks. No big name signings. Few adjustments to that shaky staff that struggled frequently last summer. In fact, one of their hopeful starters, Trevor May, blew out his arm in the early stages of training camp, which means an already questionable rotation has one less option in 2017.

On the offensive side, it was more about what the Twins didn’t do, in the offseason. They didn’t trade Brian Dozier, whose big bat last year might have procured a quality starter from a team looking to add a second baseman who can hit 40 homers and play solid defense.

They didn’t add any extra power themselves, although briefly showing interest in Jose Bautista, a guy known for bashing balls regularly when his Blue Jays would visit Target Field.

They also kept small contracts and tried to rid themselves of big ones. Outfielder Robbie Grossman stayed. Byung Ho Park was initially released, after his four-year, $12 million dollar deal a year ago looked like a failure.

Park had hit a few early homers in 2016, but his average slipped and a hand injury made things worse. The Korean star was humbled by a demotion to Rochester and even cleared waivers this spring. Almost as an after-thought, the Twins gave Park a chance to make the club as a nonroster invitee in February.

They went into Fort Myers with a similar roster to the one that earned the worst record in the majors last year. There has been little fanfare, despite a respectable 17-13 record thus far in Grapefruit League play.

The one story of interest from this year’s spring training has been the resurgence of Park. To Minnesota’s surprise, he has looked like the best player in camp, crushing six homers and hitting .350. His performance has far outshadowed Kennys Vargas, the younger, cheaper player they’d hoped could DH and spell Joe Mauer at first base on occasion. With Vargas currently hitting .067, they simply couldn’t justify keeping him over Park.

So this morning, with their opener just four days away, tough decisions had to be made.  Falvey and Levine announced their tentative 25-man roster:

Starting Pitchers:

Ervin Santana

Hector Santiago

Kyle Gibson

Phil Hughes

Adalberto Mejia

Bullpen:

Brandon Kintzler

Matt Belisle

Ryan Pressly

Taylor Rogers

Craig Breslow

Michael Tonkin

Justin Haley

Tyler Duffey

Ryan O’Rourke (DL)

Catchers:

Jason Castro

Chris Gimenez

Infielders:

Joe Mauer

Brian Dozier

Miguel Sano

Jorge Polanco

Eduardo Escobar

Ehire Adrianza (DL)

Outfielders:

Eddie Rosario

Byron Buxton

Max Kepler

Robbie Grossman

Danny Santana

No Park. No Vargas. Both sent back to Rochester. An unusually large number of pitchers, with 13. It leaves Manager Paul Molitor, who may or may not have endorsed these moves, with a short bench and no real backup for Mauer.

The Twins contend that this roster is very temporary. To me, it smacks of a front office not confident in its starting rotation and unwilling to shell out too much money on a team they don’t really believe is ready to compete for awhile.

On the one hand, I understand these moves. Maybe even endorse them. That’s  because it’s becoming clear that the new analytics boys are in charge and want to place a higher priority on the club’s horrendous pitching. It reflects a philosophy  of long-term rather than short-term solutions.

I’m not sure Falvey and Levine much care that Park looked good this spring. I doubt seriously if they ever really had him in their plans. He may be viewed as just too expensive. Winning now, seems less important, than gradually stabilizing a shaky rotation and building for the future.

That all sounds reasonable.  But it also fails to take into account that a once loyal fan base has been forced to watch bad baseball for much longer than the decision-makers are now experiencing. Six years of it.

They don’t want to see more of Joe Mauer. They’ve had their fill of the bargain basement, quick fix acquisitions like Grossman. Jason Castro? Hits .210 but is the league’s best framer? Send Park down again despite being the only real feel-good story coming out of camp?

The Twins’ season-ticket sales are in serious decline, yet they did little to nothing in the offseason, to sell hope. Preaching patience to an already disenchanted and disinterested fan base is risky business. Good luck pushing new ballpark food and another round of bobbleheads, one more time.

TOM COYNE: Back In Circulation — OMG! Gophers Becoming A BFD

Pay a visit to TCF Bank Stadium sometime and you’ll think you’re entering a time warp.  University of Minnesota football fans know what I’m talking about. Those banners waving in the wind atop the facility pay homage to the Gophers’ proud history.

Seven national championships. A whopping 18 Big Ten titles. Sounds impressive, right? There’s just one problem. That last maroon and gold conference flag went up in 1967, at a now nonexistent Memorial Stadium, a couple of years before Woodstock. The first Super Bowl hadn’t been played yet. The price for a gallon of gas was 33 cents.

It’s a bit better at Williams Arena but not much. You see, even though the Golden Rodents took part in a Final Four in 1997, that one got wiped away due to a cheating scandal under Clem Haskins’ watch. So that means Minnesota’s last Big Ten basketball championship goes back to 1982. The Metrodome had just been built. Gas was still under a dollar, and Ronald Reagan was our president. There have also been just four NCAA tournament appearances since 2000.

Since many of us feel we’ve witnessed more than our share of Minnesota misery in recent decades, you’ll excuse us Gopher grads for our growing giddiness. Somehow, our hoop heroes are relevant once more.

In fact, this year’s team has been so much fun to watch, I almost feel like I’m a teenager again. But one living in 2017. So it seems only fitting, that as the Gophers get ready for postseason play, I honor them with my own set of acronyms worthy of today’s social media:

OMG

That’s Overachieving Minnesota Gophers. In case anyone cares to remember, last year’s squad finished 8-23 and won just two games in the conference. There was not a preseason poll in the country that had the Gophers finishing higher than 10th this season. Yes, the team had injuries and was rocked by player suspensions in 2016. But to manage a symmetrical reversal to 23-8 in one year, almost defies logic.

WTF  

We Took Fourth! As odd as it may sound, there are now 14 teams in the Big Ten. Minnesota fans are more than familiar with “play-in” games in the conference tournament, under way this week in Washington, D.C. Those games are reserved for the bottom four teams in the league standings. Last year, the Gophers faced Illinois and were “one and done.” A reasonable expectation for improvement would have been to land a spot between fifth and 10th, thereby allowing a chance to rest on Day One and begin action Thursday of tournament week. But by climbing all the way to fourth place with a mark of 11-7, our club gets TWO days off!  Minnesota will open postseason play with a Friday game against either Michigan State or Penn State. By then, six teams will have already been eliminated.

LOL

Limit Overtime Losses.  In a year where balance never seemed more obvious, the Big Ten basketball season was littered with down-to-the-wire, nail-biting, regular season games.  So to survive, a team had to play with grit and determination.  The Gophers seemed to thrive in “crunch time.”  Playing in five overtime games and several others that weren’t decided until the closing seconds, they mustered huge wins over Purdue, Northwestern, Iowa, Indiana and Michigan.  Only Michigan State and Wisconsin managed to beat them in extra sessions.

LMAO

Lynch, Mason and Others.  How does a team win 15 more games and jump nine spots in the conference standings? It  begins with defense. Minnesota’s Reggie Lynch didn’t score much and was often in foul trouble. But the sophomore was an absolute monster when opponents tried to attack the basket. Recently named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Lynch had a ridiculous 11 blocked shots in a win against Penn State.

Guard Nate Mason sat out a portion of last season, suspended for his part in a sex tape scandal that almost led to his dismissal from the team. But the junior matured greatly after the incident and was clearly the team’s leader in this amazing turnaround. Mason ran the offense, made crucial free throws and was deservedly named to the Big Ten’s First Team All-Conference squad.

Fellow guard Dupree McBrayer was also suspended last year. Like Mason, he worked hard to restore his image and made a big contribution, particularly in the second half of the season. Power forward Jordan Murphy stands just 6-foot-7 but averages 10 points a game and is fearless inside. Freshman Amir Coffey made a big splash as a scorer and slasher and will only continue to improve as his body gets stronger.

PDQ

Pitino Doubters Quieted. A year ago at this time, Richard Pitino was under fire. After three years as the Gophers’ head coach, his 51-51 record, with no NCAA tournament appearances, was not sitting well with the Gopher faithful. But that record was a bit deceptive, given that he had been handcuffed by some of last year’s hardships. Toss out that 8-23 disaster and Pitino’s resume included a 25-win first season, an NIT championship and a much more respectable 43-28 record his first two years.

Now he is recognized as the Big Ten Coach of the Year, with a program clearly on the rise. Minnesota loses only senior transfer Akeem Springs and will bring in two more outstanding players to join an already potent lineup. Whatever Pitino did in the off-season to rally the troops, it worked. The team plays with heart and unselfishness, often sharing the ball for the greater good.

BFF

Believe Final Four! OK, maybe now I’m getting a little too giddy. Realistically, the Gophers have already exceeded expectations, and anything after this would be gravy. But winning eight straight games in the Big Ten is no small feat. In fact, the Gophers found a way to beat every team in the conference except Michigan State and Wisconsin. They may get a chance to change that, too, in this week’s tournament.

There are unquestionably many teams in the country with far more talent. But the Gophers were only beaten decisively on three occasions this season: at Florida State, at Michigan State and at Wisconsin. When they are playing well, they can compete with anyone. What probably will be their undoing is an occasionally stagnant offense that can go cold for long stretches too frequently.

COYNE

Coach of Year Needs Extension! Since selfies, ego-driven tweets and YouTube videos are now the rage, I figured I needed one more acronym just about ME. So I’m seeing if COYNE catches on and brings me instant attention. Not really.

Pitino does have a contract through 2021. But his annual salary of $1.6 million is still near the bottom for Big Ten coaches.  MSU’s Tom Izzo makes more than $4 million a year. If there’s one thing you learn as a Gopher supporter, it’s to always expect a brief run of success to be quickly followed by something more Gopher-like. Maybe another scandal. Or that fear that your beloved head coach will soon depart for greener pastures. Pay him what it takes to keep him around.

BTW…it’s TBT again. Sadly, I really was alive back in 1967. IDK. Maybe the kids will just want me to STFU.

TOM COYNE: Back In Circulation — More News Isn’t Necessarily Good News

My love of journalism began with my local paper. The largest newspaper in Minnesota, it originated as the Minneapolis Tribune in 1867 and the competing Minneapolis Daily Star in 1920. A few years later, the two consolidated, with the Tribune published in the morning and the Star in the evening. Eventually, they merged in 1982, creating the Star Tribune.

A similar story unfolded in St. Paul, where the Pioneer Press and Dispatch offered separate papers for many years until merging in 1985, eventually producing a morning edition only.

As a kid growing up in the 1960s in a western suburb, I looked forward to reading the Star, which usually arrived at our doorstep in the late afternoon.  There were also a handful of local television stations, typically offering half-hour newscasts at 6 and 10 p.m., and a small share of radio news options, most notably led by the “Good Neighbor,” clear channel 830-WCCO-AM.

If you were fortunate enough to earn a news position with one of those media outlets, objectivity was a high priority. There were editorial pages and a sprinkling of radio talk shows, to be sure. And locals always had their disagreements about just how right or left leaning the various outlets appeared to be. But because the options were so limited, it was important for journalists to maintain credibility by seeking several reliable sources to assure accountability. Sometimes, that meant sacrificing urgency for accuracy.

Admittedly, it was easier for reporters to take one’s time back then, simply because consumers had fewer choices. If I didn’t like what I read in the Star, I might try the Pioneer Press, but their target audience was more directed toward the east side of the Mississippi River. Just the same, a reporter’s carelessness with the facts in 1967 was far more glaring than it is now because mistakes stood out like a sore thumb.

Fast-forward 50 years. Want news today? There are endless choices. Newspapers are declining because urgency is everything. Television can provide live news coverage anywhere, anytime. But even they feel the pinch, with cellphones and internet offering far more options on-demand. Sounds like a no-brainer as to which era is better, right? Not necessarily.

Let’s begin with the premise that there is no such thing as totally objective news. We all have our own preconceived notions about “what” people need to know and “why.” That’s a good thing. The “when” we get our news is better than ever. The “where” is unlimited. The “how” choices are mind-blowing.

So why are journalists under attack like never before? The answers lie in the “who” and the “what.”

Who?

There are literally thousands of media choices in 2017, more accessible than ever before. TV, radio, magazines, newspapers can be watched, heard or read anytime, anywhere. Websites and blogs represent views on the left, middle and right. Special-interest groups, social media sites. Unlike years ago, almost everyone has a forum now. But their levels of expertise and commitment to fairness and objectivity can be all over the map.

Ironically, only six major corporations control a large chunk of the mainstream media. Comcast, Disney, News Corporation, Time Warner, CBS and Viacom compete for our money and our attention.

So regardless of the size and scope of our preferred media choices, accuracy often takes a back seat to profit and influence.

What?

Here’s where we really get into trouble. The powerful media corporations need to be cash cows to keep their operations in business. The smaller, individual voices need larger forums to be heard more effectively. So both feel the need to cut corners. Larger audiences help pay the bills. Being first to tell the story or making the biggest splash becomes more of a priority in this “need it now” world, than taking the time to get it right. The result?

1. Fast and loose information: Offering up rumors rather than facts, checking for validity later.

2. Unnamed sources: Using vague identifiers like “Some are saying” or “Sources say.” It allows for consumers to be influenced while protecting the writer from being fact-checked.

3. Misleading data: Presenting polls suggesting a large group of people feel a certain way. Give a fancy name without clearly indicating who these people are and which way they lean.

4 Selective facts: Presenting information that may be accurate but only represents one side of a story.

5. Outright lies: If it’s necessary to achieve your commitment to higher ratings, presenting falsehoods with the hope that they are vague enough or old enough, to not be fact-checked.

6. Repetition: Presenting all of the above, so frequently, that those inclined to believe you will eventually accept it as fact.

The real tragedy in all of this, is that honorable journalists who truly do care about objectivity are being lumped too easily into a large, generalized group with those who don’t. And because of the sheer numbers, it’s become a game that can be played far too easily.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a “fact” as “something that is indisputably the case.” But facts without context can still be misleading. Here are a couple of examples:

  • On Friday, a record high of 63 degrees was recorded in the Twin Cities, breaking the previous mark for Feb. 17 by eight degrees. The source for that “fact” is the National Weather Service. Yet a skeptic could argue that because it began their record-keeping in 1870, it’s possible a warmer temp could have occurred before then. And since that reading was recorded at the airport, isn’t it possible we reached 64 somewhere else in the area? That’s why journalism schools preach the importance of “reliable sources” and “context.”

Relativity is important, too.  Is it a fact that the 63 degree reading is “unseasonably warm?” Yes, if your audience is Minnesotans in mid-February.  That wouldn’t work for someone from Hawaii.

  • When President Trump proclaims, “CNN is Fake News,” is that a fact? Well, according to its webpage, the Cable News Network has over 40 editorial operations worldwide and more than 3,000 employees. Considering that it is a 24-hour channel competing in today’s ridiculously competitive world, it is undoubtedly safe to assume that there have been missteps and inaccuracies along the way.

But that’s the danger of a world without context. I could assert that all jewelry store owners in New York are crooks. And while a handful might fit the description, many others would feel their reputations were damaged yet have no chance to win a libel suit.

Lump enough people together without context. Repeat it enough times to a an audience eager and willing to believe it. Maybe even lie a little bit to increase your numbers, line your pocketbook or feed your ego.

Just because it’s become a lot tougher distinguishing fake news from the real stuff, that shouldn’t mean we should quit trying.

Take the time to get out of your comfort zone. Gobble up as many sources as possible, not just the ones you agree with. Determine who’s talking and what they’re saying. Most importantly, look for context and perspective.

Finally, don’t ever be afraid to keep challenging inaccuracies. Even if they’re coming from people you think should know better.

TOM COYNE: Back In Circulation — The Pain Of Being A Gopher

It’s listed on my Facebook and Twitter pages. “Long-suffering Gopher fan.  Hopeless Gopher fan…” I admit to owning worn-out maroon slippers with the gold Minnesota logo. They’re so old, the stitching has come loose. Minnesota merchandise is everywhere. My fading gold T-shirt. The heavy Gopher jacket for cold weather games. The lighter, maroon version for early fall. Even the snazzy head gear that makes me look like I’m auditioning for a role in “Fargo.”

I was 12 years old when my father took me to my first athletic event at the U-of-M. Cazzie Russell’s Michigan team was in town for a basketball showdown with the men in maroon and gold. Mel Northway was the star center for Minnesota. I remember walking into that then aging facility known as Williams Arena and falling in love with the place. The raised floor, the barn shaped architecture, the intimacy of the fans with their team.

The Gophers would lose that 1965 heartbreaker and eventually finish in second place that season, trailing only those hated Wolverines in the final standings.

Little did I know that 52 years later, now ancient Williams Arena would remain standing. I would still be around to hobble my way to Minnesota sporting venues, both old and new. And the rollercoaster ride of rooting for the Rodents would remain a reluctant religion.

In between, I would develop a passion for sports, enroll at the school, live on campus and earn a degree. My daughter would eventually do the same. I’d attend countless football, basketball and hockey games, stubbornly supporting my school even when I moved out of state.

While delivering TV sportscasts in Fargo in the 1980s, I’d muster a smile while announcing a big win for North Dakota’s skating Sioux over Minnesota, all the while hiding my sorrow with a silent fist pound under the table. Or I’d wince when North Dakota State was rolling to national prominence as my gridiron Golden Gophers were dropping a nail biter to Nebraska, 84-13.

So here we are in 2017. My alma mater is still an institution worthy of evoking plenty of pride. World-class cancer research.  Alums include a Nobel Peace Prize winner, a U.S. vice president and even a Super Bowl-winning coach. Even in spite of my grumblings, the university has managed athletic success on many levels throughout the years. But let’s face it. College football is the biggest revenue-producing sport at major universities. While its significance is always subject to debate, particularly when we attempt to determine a priority list for the state’s largest land-grant institution, no one can question its potential for bringing in beaucoup bucks. Sadly, when it comes to Minnesota, we’re infamous for 50 years of football failings.

Maybe it’s better not to belabor the history. It’s simply too painful. So, I’ll keep it brief. Since that day I fell in love with Gopher sports in 1965, Minnesota has fielded 52 football squads. They’ve won exactly one conference title. And that was 50 years ago and shared with two other schools. They’ve switched head coaches 11 times. Not to mention, there have been endless embarrassments, both on the field and off.

So excuse me for being a bit skeptical about the big news that broke Friday. A diminutive fellow named P.J. Fleck is the latest to pronounce himself as savior for a program that is always in dire need of one.

Fleck claims to “eat difficult conversations for breakfast.” He will have more than a few in Dinkytown. He says he doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder, but “a crack.” He’ll need the best chiropractor in town. Fleck also promises to “change the culture.” On my old campus, change is a constant.

My early impressions of the new coach have been mostly favorable. It’s just that, for a number of reasons, good news for Gopher fans is almost always followed by something much more ominous.  Let’s call it the “Yeah, but …” factor.

1. The first note of optimism is that P.J. Fleck is definitely not Tim Brewster.  Oh, he may talk a lot like the man who made similar big promises 10 years ago, only to fail miserably. Both can sound like carnival barkers and love to employ catch phrases like “Gopher Nation” or “Ski-U-Mah.” Both spoke of Rose Bowl appearances and Big Ten titles in their initial press conferences. However, it’s Fleck with the much more impressive resume and a history of strong success in recruiting.  He took his Western Michigan team to a 13-1 mark in just his fourth season. It brought a Cotton Bowl bid and a respectable showing against powerful Wisconsin. Already, eight recruits have reversed their commitments to WMU and are coming to Minnesota. His reputation as a tireless recruiter offers a sharp contrast to Minnesota’s last-place Big Ten ranking last year under the departed Tracy Claeys.

Yeah, but … it’s already a costly hire. Fleck was lured to Minnesota out of necessity because the previous coach was fired … in spite of a 9-4 record and a bowl win over Washington State. That might seem unfair until you recognize the mess that Claeys helped create. Minnesota will pay a 36-year old coach from the Mid-American Conference a whopping $18 million over five years. They must also pay Claeys another $500,000 in a buyout to repair a major fallout from a 10-player suspension involving an alleged sexual assault. Attendance is way down, and Claeys’ reputation went the same direction after an ill-advised tweet temporarily supported a bowl boycott in the midst of the scandal.

Fleck’s sudden departure from Western Michigan also has folks in Kalamazoo questioning loyalty, with his “Row the Boat” mantra now ringing a bit hollow there. Yes, that’s the business of big-time college football.  But’s who to say how long Fleck stays at Minnesota, if another high-profile program dangles more big money in a few years? Old-timers like me still remember Lou Holtz’s sudden departure for Notre Dame.

2. New Athletics Director Mark Coyle is getting good reviews for quickly landing a hot, young coach. He’s also been lauded for his attempt to bring a change in culture that was sorely needed. Anyone who read the 80-page report on the involvement of up to 12 Gopher players in the alleged sexual assault Sept. 2 had to come away sickened by the details and the obvious attempt at a coverup. If it means Minnesota can help bring greater national exposure to the serious issue of unreported sexual assault, I’m definitely in his corner.

Yeah, but … Coyle dismissed Claeys, largely because of his shortcomings in communication and leadership, yet was hardly transparent himself in keeping the players informed about why their teammates were being suspended and the future of the program. It’s no wonder there were hard feelings and confusion before the boycott was abandoned.

3. Fleck contends he knew immediately that he and Coyle had the same vision. Both are young, energetic and driven. There is no doubt they will  boost attendance and connect better with the younger demographic that has been missing for years at Minnesota. Both said they saw Minnesota as their “dream job.”

Yeah, but … Coyle has another similarity to Fleck.  He, too, left another school quickly when big money was on the table, departing Syracuse just 311 days after promising to change that program. How long will his “dream” here last?

4. Claeys had his faults, but he and his predecessor, Jerry Kill, did establish a priority of making sure their players went to class, got reasonably good grades and eventually graduated. Now Coyle and Fleck are promising to continue that trend, while further adding expectations of more victories and Boy Scout-like behavior. Those are lofty and admirable goals.

Yeah, but … who are we kidding with that trifecta?  A big reason why there’s been such a demand to “change the culture” is a result of mistakes made by the same president and administration putting the screws to Claeys. Eric Kaler might want to look in the mirror after he and his search firm selected Norwood Teague to be the A.D. in 2012. Teague would resign in disgrace, three years later, after charges of groping women and sending inappropriate text messages. And you want 18 year olds to behave better, make the dean’s list and win bowl games?

As I look back on my early days of Gopher fandom, the future then seemed, oh, so bright. It seems hard to believe now, but the program was just a few years removed from a national championship. There had been 17 Big Ten crowns during the glory years in the first part of the 20th century. But timing is everything.

In spite of a drought that’s now encompassed all of my adult life, hope springs eternal. There’s something about unfulfilled dreams that keep gray-haired Gopher fans like me coming back. Maybe P.J. Fleck truly will be the guy who helps us book a flight to Pasadena one day. Maybe he’ll pack TCF Bank Stadium. We’ll bring back the Axe, Little Brown Jug and Floyd of Rosedale. His youth and enthusiasm will connect with new fans to join us old-timers in golden glory.  Before we die.

Yeah, but …

TOM COYNE: Back In Circulation — Is It Senseless To Seek A Consensus?

It’s been just over one week since Americans went to the polls to elect a president. Somehow, it feels like much longer.

In the hours and days that followed, some have despaired. Others rejoiced. There have been protests in the streets. We should have seen this coming, regardless of the outcome.

For months prior to the election, there were articles from Clinton supporters who couldn’t believe anyone could vote for Trump. Articles from Trump supporters equally miffed that anyone could support Clinton.

Now that Trump has prevailed, one side feels fearful and outraged … the other, defensive and defiant.

I’ve read numerous perspectives on why Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton last Tuesday. And where we’re headed as the new regime assumes power.

Battle lines have been drawn on so many levels. Red vs. Blue. Democrats vs. Republicans. “Liberal Elitists” vs. “Conservative Populists.” Big City vs. Rural.  One side may gloat but is still ultimately forced to defend a candidate with questionable character and a documented history of bigotry. The other has every right to rail at the verdict but must also look in the mirror when examining how we got to this point.

Unfriending on Facebook seems to be all the rage. I’m sure by now you’ve seen the pattern: One friend offers their view and looks for lots of “likes.” Supportive comments may abound initially, only to be interrupted eventually by a contrarian bold enough to invade enemy territory. Civility seldom, if ever, wins out. Insults fly and the name-calling begins. The next thing you know, someone is posting a plea to return to the relative safety of family photos and yummy, new recipes.

Sorry, folks. But that isn’t going to solve anything. At some point, we need to communicate and seek solutions or we’re all in big trouble. In fact, I fear that we’re already there. My wife and I have been married almost 30 years. But I haven’t forgotten those occasional disagreements that first year. Always one to defend my point of view vigorously,  I eventually learned it didn’t do me much good to be “right” if I wound up sleeping on the couch.

Here are some hard facts for all of us to digest. There are approximately 232 million eligible voters in the United States. Roughly 47 percent of them chose not to vote. While Trump easily won the electoral vote to take the election, Clinton appears headed for the larger total in the popular vote. Each candidate collected more than 61 million votes, and numbers are still being counted in a couple of states.

But regardless of those still unofficial final totals, we can safely conclude two things: 1. This was a ridiculously close election. 2. Neither candidate collected even 27 percent of the eligible populace!

That’s hardly a consensus for either side. So instead of boasting or protesting, maybe we should seek common ground.

For starters, it’s OK to disagree, even healthy. But we need to do it with far more respect and patience. I find it ironic that there are so many ways to interact today: Cell phone, Texting, Email, Messaging, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and more.  Yet none of those are really face to face. So it’s easier to be rude or insulting when we can hide behind anonymous tweets in cyberspace. Or collect multiple “Likes” on Facebook by posting controversial takes primarily toward those of like mind. We feel emboldened to be nastier then, when an outsider disagrees.

I’m admittedly a Democrat and voted for Hillary Clinton. But almost from the start, I was sickened by the partisan, win-at-all-costs mentality on both sides. Trump’s insults to other Republican candidates during the primary seemed startling at first. But by the end, they appeared to be so effective that mild-mannered Marco Rubio got desperately down in the ditch with Donald.

Clinton did little to dismiss perceptions that she, too, would do what it takes to get elected. Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned amidst charges of favoritism against rival Bernie Sanders. Then with the smell of collusion still in the air, the embattled former chair was immediately picked up by the Clinton campaign.

By late summer, Trump and Clinton had party endorsements and were slinging more mud in head-to-head debates, while conversations around the water cooler had Americans wondering why these were two of the least likable candidates in recent memory.

I’ll tell you why. We’ve condoned and even endorsed, bad behavior. For years I’ve heard complaints about negative political ads. They call it “fear copy.” But they keep on coming because apparently we believe them. Instead of emphasizing one candidate’s strengths over another, slick special interest groups use 30 seconds to tear down the opponent with any trick imaginable. Find one sound bite taken out of context and proclaim the world will end if so and so gets elected. Photoshop a picture. Connect them with someone or something else that has failed.

Name-calling was supposed to end in grade school. Instead, in America, it’s alive and well. “Crooked Hillary.” “Lyin’ Ted.” “Donald Drumpf.” “Old Orange Face.” “Killery.”  Instead of focusing on issues that might help a voter make rational choices, social media is rife with insults. It’s apparently enjoyable to get a few laughs over Clinton’s pant suits or Trump’s sniffling during debates, but it really doesn’t help us choose a president.

In 1968, I was a freshman in high school. Back then, they signed up all the guys for Shop class while the girls got Home Economics. I sang in the choir and enjoyed it in middle school, only to drop out by high school because it didn’t look good for a football player to be singing. How sad is that?

Fast forward to 2016, where we like to believe we’ve made great progress on race, gender and sexual orientation. But it’s still obvious we have a long way to go. Wonder how Donald Trump can become our president, despite a litany of complaints about his mocking of a reporter with a disability, making crude sexual references demeaning of women and that now infamous conversation with Billy Bush back in 2005?

A couple of days ago, I pulled up a story on the Yahoo home page, expressing outrage over an incident in a Michigan school. It concerned Hispanic students feeling threatened by white students chanting, “Build that wall!  Build that wall!”, an obvious reference to Trump’s plan to “guard our borders.” There was another headline that told of young girls being bullied and raped.

Yet on that same page, there was a section labeled “Trending Today,” which is designed to get as many hits as possible. Among the attention-getters:

  • Hot NFL Wives!
  • 17 Actors Who Are Gay (#12 will shock women)
  • Trump’s Leaked IQ Shocks the Nation
  • After Loosing 200 lbs. Rebel Wilson is Actually Gorgeous

For starters, they should lose the extra “o” in “loosing.” But more importantly, those headlines encourage sexism, homophobia and emphasis on physical appearance. Yet somebody knows there’s an audience for that garbage.

It can be subtly prevalent elsewhere, too.  In my men’s bowling league last week, a competitor rolled one into the gutter. “We call that a Hillary!” shouted one of the teammates. “Ugly and far left.” Good for a laugh, sure. But I wondered how well that line would work with a different audience.

On the other side, labels and generalizations can be just as despicable. At one point on election night, an ABC reporter referred to Trump supporters as “uneducated, Budweiser-drinking, rural white men.” Demographics after the race would suggest otherwise. It makes for a nice narrative, but smug Clinton backers need to wake up and look at their candidate’s failure to connect with greater numbers of millennials and minorities. Maybe it had something to do with the white working class feeling ignored, in severely impoverished areas the Dems figured weren’t important enough to pursue.

Donald Trump will take office 65 days from now.  It’s time to end the name-calling and seek solutions, not reasons for division. We need to take more time to understand each other. Here are a few simple suggestions:

1. Stop labeling people. I’ve lived all my life in Minnesota and North Dakota. As a group, Minnesotans have favored a Republican candidate for president only once since 1956. As a group, North Dakotans have favored a Democratic candidate for president only once since 1940. But we’re individuals.  Maybe abandoning the Electoral College is one way to fight that problem, although that’s another debate for another time. Just know that we are all unique and have differences worth embracing.

2. Be more civil.  Name-calling is always easier when the other side isn’t around. But when you choose to label, you may be surprised to discover that not everybody is always on your team.

3.  Seek inclusion, not exclusion. Is it fear or vigilance? Either way, I’d prefer the bridges to the walls.  We can still find ways to protect our nation, our traditions, whatever it is we think is threatened, without spewing racist, homophobic rhetoric that creates division.

4. Read, listen and empathize. Just for a change, check out ALL sources on an issue, not just those that will tell you what you want to hear.  You might actually change your mind occasionally.

5. Encourage debate, don’t hide from it.  Our twins are now 27. Following the election, both took to social media with impassioned opinions on the results. I was proud of them for getting involved in the process, regardless of their views.  But now it’s important that they be ready to respectfully argue their stands, without taking offense at those who might disagree.

The time is now, to make a difference. Those vacation pictures and holiday recipes are always welcomed. But our nation’s problems will still be there if we don’t choose to do something about them.

TOM COYNE: Back In Circulation — Are We Allowed To Get Excited Yet?

If you bleed purple, then you know the feeling. Just about the time you think your favorite football team is finally ready to win the BIG ONE, something happens that only a Minnesota Viking follower would understand.

65 Toss Power Trap.  41 Donut.  Wide Left.  12 Men in the Huddle. If you not only make sense of these phrases, but cringe every time you hear them, chances are you’ve spent a good share of your life in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

It probably would be easier if our beloved franchise seldom tasted success. Take the Minnesota Timberwolves, for example. When you lose so frequently, like the Wolves, you’re conditioned to accept mediocrity.

But growing up a fan of the Vikings takes a special kind of courage. Remember the old saying, “Close only counts in horseshoes or dancing…” ?  Feel free to add “Viking Football” to that list.

Those of us now pulling out reading glasses to decipher the Senior Menu, still remember those four unfulfilled visits to the Super Bowl. Another generation recalls the “can’t miss” 1998 squad that went 15-1 only to lose in overtime to Atlanta in the NFC title game. Or even more recently, ageless Brett Favre was a play away from beating New Orleans.

These painful memories only begin to scratch the surface of our near misses. So it’s no surprise that this fall’s 4-0 start for the Purple is deserving of that all-too-familiar phrase: Cautious Optimism.

But here’s the good news. Getting excited is perfectly acceptable, even encouraged, this time around. Considering the adversity this year’s team has already endured, it’s remarkable we’re even considering great things.

Three of the most important positions for an offense are quarterback, running back and left tackle. The Vikings have already lost Teddy Bridgewater, Adrian Peterson and Matt Kalil, with only AP owning a slight chance of returning before the season is over.  All three were expected to be major contributors.

Toss in a placekicker in Blair Walsh, who can’t seem to complete any game without at least one missed field goal or point after touchdown, and it’s easy to see why scoring would seem to be a big concern.

When Bridgewater went down with a gruesome knee injury just days before the season opener, there was legitimate cause for panic. Backup Shaun Hill, while certainly an experienced veteran, lacked the mobility and durability needed to survive 16 games behind an already shaky offensive line. So when General Manager Rick Spielman worked a deal to acquire Sam Bradford from Philadelphia for a couple of significant draft picks, most thought he’d jeopardized the club’s future.

Instead, it’s become a blessing in disguise. For starters, it sent a message to the team that management believed in them and felt their window for success was now. But the new guy is also proving to be a very good fit.

Bradford saw the handwriting on the wall in Philadelphia, when the Eagles drafted rookie Carson Wentz from North Dakota State. With the Vikings, though, his accuracy and strong arm give Minnesota something they were lacking in Bridgewater. His precision throws were crucial in the win over Green Bay. And he’s also reunited with his old coach, Pat Shurmur, to make for a smoother transition. Most importantly, Bradford hasn’t tried to do too much, avoiding turnovers with the knowledge that he has a stellar defense to back him up.

The loss of Peterson takes away the threat of the big run. But it’s also changed the way opponents defend the Vikings and that might be a good thing. No longer stacking the line of scrimmage and daring the Purple to throw, they now face a more balanced attack that can feature the straight-ahead runs of Matt Asiata, the zig zags of flashy Jerick McKinnon or the quick throws to tight end Kyle Rudolph. Stefon Diggs is becoming an elite down-the-field threat, but Bradford has other targets too, in Adam Thielen and Charles Johnson.

Make no mistake, though. The biggest reason to get excited about this Viking team is a defense capable of shutting down the NFL’s best. On consecutive weekends, they have made top notch QBs Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton and Eli Manning all look pedestrian. Rodgers showed mobility but coughed up a key turnover to cornerback Trey Waynes late in the game. Newton was sacked eight times and threw three interceptions. Manning avoided sacks but accomplished little, often hurrying throws that landed at the feet of his receivers.

Remember that porous, confused bunch of Viking defenders from a few years ago? In just three seasons, Head Coach Mike Zimmer has produced a remarkable turnaround with his knowledge, coaching and ability to make players believe in his system. Pass rushers like Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter are a handful to stop. Big Linval Joseph clogs up the middle. Versatile hybrid linebackers Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr offer elite speed and strength. Harrison Smith is an all-pro, hard hitting safety. Xavier Rhodes has become a “shutdown corner” and along with savvy veteran Terence Newman, frustrated Carolina’s Kelvin Benjamin and New York’s Odell Beckham Jr. into relative obscurity.

And don’t forget special teams, either. Punter Jeff Locke’s high, booming kicks have been crucial in giving the defense great field position. Marcus Sherels is smart and steady as both a return man and in kick coverage. Even Cordarrelle Patterson appears to be buying in these days, with contributions all over the field after looking lost and immature for his first few seasons.

What makes me most encouraged about the future though, is the WAY this team goes about its business. Disciplined play with few mistakes. Strong, hard-nosed tackling. A sharing of the success, with seemingly different heroes every week, and a checking of egos at the door. Those are the ingredients of winners.  Loud, sellout crowds in a brand new stadium don’t hurt, either.

Each time the Vikings have lost a key player to injury, Zimmer has repeatedly said his team would keep fighting and not feel sorry for itself. Sometimes, that’s easier said than done. But so far, they are proving it on the field.

Oh, don’t think those usual doubts haven’t creeped in from time to time, for those of us passionate purple people plagued by past poor performances. “Bradford won’t stay healthy.” “This offensive line still stinks.” “Walsh is gonna cost us a game one of these days.”

Worrying when the other shoe will drop is what we Viking fans do. It’s just that this group is becoming so likable, another near miss might be too much to take.

TOM COYNE: Back In Circulation — Trending To The Back In The Front Office

As another steamy summer slips slowly southward, I’ll remember this one for two reasons: monstrous Midwestern mosquitoes and batches of bad baseball.

Yes, our lawn has never looked greener in late September,  but I’m looking forward to the fall. I would imagine the Minnesota Twins are, too. It seems we’ll both be eager to get the bugs out.

While the plentiful rains and high humidity left me scratching my arms and legs too often this summer, the Twins had me scratching my head from April to September.

It’s not just the losing, either. Oh, we’ve seen several 90-loss seasons, since the team moved into terrific Target Field back in 2010. Yet this year, the club seemed to really hit rock bottom, after a surprisingly promising bounce back season in 2015.

An 0-9 start is never good. But historically bad pitching and defense, boneheaded base running and a front office that appears to still be locked in a 1990s time warp, has me worried this funk will be with us indefinitely.

With two weeks left in the season, the Twins are on a crash course to lose 100 games. That’s only happened one other time since the franchise moved from Washington to Minnesota in 1961. The 1982 Twins finished with a record of 60-102, a mark still very reachable for this year’s edition.

Now for the BAD news. Since Terry Ryan was relieved of his duties as general manager in mid-July, the team has been looking for what they call a “leader of baseball operations.” They’ve even hired a search firm and are eager to complete the hire by the end of the season.  Just one problem. They’re getting little interest from the most sought after potential candidates.

Ryan was highly respected for many years as a savvy baseball man known for using a low payroll and building from the ground up, to contend successfully with big money opponents. But times have changed, and it’s becoming obvious that people around baseball aren’t convinced the Twins have kept up with those times.

Dodgers executive Alex Anthopoulos and Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington were the hot prospects a month ago. Anthopoulos now says he was never a serious candidate. On Wednesday, Cherington took a lesser role with the Toronto Blue Jays after declining an interview with the Twins.

Don’t get me wrong. Landing a front office job with a major league team will always be enticing. The latest names to surface include Tampa Bay Rays executive Chaim Bloom, Mets executive John Ricco and Jason McLeod, who is the Cubs senior vice president of scouting and player development. Both Bloom and Ricco are considered strong “analytics” guys — new wave baseball people who understand and use statistical analysis effectively. A couple of other names are Cleveland assistant GM Derek Falvey and Kansas City Royals exec J. J. Picollo.

But here’s what has me worried. Jeff Passon of Yahoo! Sports recently tweeted that multiple candidates had turned Minnesota down before the interview stage of the process. Shouldn’t that be a warning sign? Yet the Twins seem anxious to get this done quickly.

Two reasons for the hesitation to hook up with the Twins seem obvious:

The decision by owner Jim Pohlad to keep Paul Molitor on as manager in 2016, regardless of who their new hire is, sends a bad message to prospective clients.  This team is in dire need of fresh leadership, yet the person coming on board has already been stripped of the power to make the most important hire of his or her regime.

And Pohlad’s press conference following the Ryan dismissal didn’t do him any favors. Saying he seeks a GM that’s “lovable” for an organization that, in truth, needs a good old-fashioned butt kicking, was a bad choice of adjectives. His admission of thumbing through “media guides” as a first resort for such an important position, made it sound as if he wasn’t very serious.

Pohlad doesn’t need a media guide, and he certainly shouldn’t look for “lovable.” Just walk across town and you’ll see Minnesota’s other professional teams cleaning house and hiring respected outsiders not afraid to make tough decisions.  Mike Zimmer. Bruce Boudreau. Tom Thibodeau. None of those guys are seen as soft and fuzzy.

One thing that does seem to get Pohlad’s attention these days is lost revenue. In recent visits to Target Field, the crowds continue to dwindle. Even more alarming are the number of food and drink stands closing around the stadium. And competition from those Vikings, Wild, Wolves and Lynx isn’t promising, either, particularly when all of those organizations appear to have made far more positive strides than the beleaguered Twins.

Last week, I got a “Dear Tom” letter. It was a personal, heartfelt message from Mr. Pohlad himself. As a partial season ticket holder, I probably attend more games than most Minnesotans can stomach these days. So my good pal, Jim, spent several paragraphs lauding me and others of us for our undying loyalty.

The letter also offered assurance that the search for new leadership would “create positive change while reinvigorating the fun, passion, hustle and heart that is the fabric of the Twins Tradition.” In fact, it wasn’t until the final line of the full page letter, that the BS turned to PS. Just a quick reminder about renewal for next season, with the generous promise that “pricing will remain unchanged and your first payment date will be extended until the end of October.”

Since we both love the Twins, I have a suggestion for Mr. Pohlad: You take your time with that new hire and I’ll take my time renewing those tickets. I’d rather be itching to see a winning ballclub than scratching my head again.

TOM COYNE: Back In Circulation — A Stand For The Brand Or The Need For Greed?

About 20 years ago, I was teaching a Television Editing class at the then Brown Institute. The focus of the class was to help students learn how to use video cameras, edit tape and put together short commercials or news stories. One of the challenges was to identify newsmakers and line them up for interviews. As the years progressed, our equipment got considerably better. But the access to sources seemed far more capricious.

For instance, students attempting to do stories on local sports teams or politicians were sometimes met with resistance, while others landed interviews readily. After awhile, we began to get the picture. It was a simple lesson in Supply and Demand.  When celebrities were popular or teams were on a roll, they had less time for aspiring journalists, even if they admired our attempts to educate them.  But give us a last-place team or a washed up celebrity now playing the casinos, and suddenly these same folks become far more accessible.

Fast forward to 2016 and three recent examples that appear to illustrate little change in this area.

I have been following with interest, the twists and turns of North Dakota State University’s policy changes regarding media access for its stellar football program. Winning games and championships has never been a problem for the Bison. And no one can dispute the program’s success has brought great honor and respect to the state. Don’t think I’m not envious when ESPN pays several visits to Fargo, while my alma mater, Minnesota, languishes in the Big Ten’s basement with regularity.

This is nothing new. While covering the Bison back in the ’80s for the KX Network, I, too, reaped the benefits. I fondly remember trips to Alabama to witness Division II title games and occasional opportunities to showcase my stories on CBS. In fact, when it comes to NDSU, one could argue that the program has almost never had a down time in nearly 40 years.

The stakes are higher now, and those annual trips for trophies have turned to Texas. There are new names among the media folk competing for air time and attention, but most of the outlets remain the same. Because I’ve long since been out of the loop on the politics of the Fargo sports scene, I’m certainly less informed, but hopefully more objective now, on the heroes and villains in this saga.

The way we communicate our stories has changed drastically over the last several decades. Newspapers and radio stations are fighting hard to stay relevant and keep their stories current. Television stations can still bring pictures. But when social media sites and blogs can do all of that and more, with amazing immediacy, all three of those sources are in trouble. Yet, the goal should remain the same: inform and enlighten the public with what they want and need to know.

It’s for this reason, that NDSU should welcome, not discourage, as much media attention as possible. Whether the idea to exclude outlets to “protect their brand” came from the athletic director, the president or someone else, it doesn’t matter.  It’s a bad idea.

NBC is paying megabucks to cover the 2016 Olympics and if enough people choose to watch it, advertisers and the network will reap the benefits. But even they know, that in today’s world, keeping people from learning the results is next to impossible. So instead of fighting the losing battle of exclusion, you’ll notice they now offer more opportunities to watch, not less. Secondary channels, streaming video. Lots of choices for a demographic used to those options.

It didn’t take NDSU administrators long to understand the error of their ways. Even for a program at the top of the football mountain, they should never forget the many folks who’ve helped them make that climb. But I’m convinced that it’s easier for a program like that to get greedy because they’ve seldom experienced failure.

Such is not the case these days for the Minnesota Twins. After two World Series titles a quarter century ago and another good run of relevancy after that, the last six years have not been kind. Bad trades, injuries and a stagnant minor league system have added up to fewer victories and anemic attendance.

Funny, though. As an old sportscaster still willing to watch bad baseball, this partial season ticket holder has noticed a considerable amount of attention coming my way of late.

In 2010, the Twins were on a roll.  A new stadium, a big contract for their All-Star catcher Joe Mauer and sellout crowds watching a divisional champion. At that time, I remember how thankful I was to land a couple of seats in the upper deck.

And my wife, Laurie, and I suddenly became very popular figures among family and friends. So what if we had to pay big bucks for a strip of tickets to that playoff series with the Yankees? Big deal, that they upped the ticket prices in 2011.  OK, maybe I was a little peeved that they sent out renewal notices only days after getting swept by the Bronx Bombers. But Target Field was the place to be.

These days, the Twins are calling me, not the opposite. Better ticket packages.  Lots of perks. All sorts of benefits. Why, in the last of couple years, I’ve been asked to meet Bert Blyleven for a “Chalk Talk” and presented the Twins’ lineup card to the umpires before a game with the Royals. I even got to hang out in the dugout with former manager Ron Gardenhire and the gang. Unfortunately, the word “former” applies to quite a few individuals associated with the club recently.

As much as I’ve appreciated these random acts of kindness, I’m much too jaded to believe they’d still be happening if the Twins were winning ballgames.  While I realize it’s always more difficult to accommodate everybody in good times, the Twins’ owners continue to be accused of greed now more than ever.  The conventional wisdom is that they wouldn’t be in last place if they’d spent money more frequently and more wisely in the past.  So maybe they can’t win.

The point is, my skepticism about the Twins’ sincerity was developed back when the brand was strong. Those nagging emails and letters threatening to pull our tickets if we didn’t renew, came at a time when the team could afford to be greedy.Now, they need me more than I need them.

Finally, there’s another local sports team that could learn from the Twins. But it’s doubtful it will. The Minnesota Vikings have a beautiful, new stadium. They are defending divisional champs. Tickets are hard to come by.

Sound familiar?

And just like the Twins of 2010, opportunities for greed and exclusion appear be available in abundant quantities.

“Build it and he will come,” is the famous line from the movie, “Field of Dreams.” The Vikings have built it and he and she promise to be coming by the tens of thousands to their billion dollar U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis. Despite a lengthy battle with taxpayers, the state-of-the-art facility was constructed to replace the aging Metrodome.

Supporters love its wider concourses, monstrous pivoting glass doors and splashy video screens. It will bring jobs, money and even a Super Bowl in 2018. Critics cite the price tag and the feeling of being held hostage by rich owners about to get richer, all for a league that’s had more than its share of problems off the field.

Already, the team has been criticized by season ticket holders for exorbitant seat license costs, in addition to already high ticket prices. Bird lovers worry that the 200,000 square feet of clear glass around the stadium will reflect surrounding trees and grass and result in thousands of deaths when the birds fly right into it. And now, there’s another issue giving the Vikings a bad name.

Earlier this month, the team announced plans to honor its past cheerleaders with a special on-field ceremony at their opening pre-season game. But since its database only included cheerleaders from 1984 to the present, a large group was excluded.

For many seasons, the St. Louis Park Parkettes’ high school girls often braved the frigid elements at Metropolitan Stadium to cheer in less showy uniforms. Over 300 of them were not invited. To make matters worse, those who were invited must pay a registration fee and buy a ticket to what amounts to a relatively meaningless exhibition game, in the first place. Greed, at its finest.

In fairness to all of these teams, the Bison, Twins and Vikings are able to “protect their brand” because we support them. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.  They’ve brought joy and pride to our communities, in varying degrees of frequency. But all three would be wise to remember the ebb and flow of Supply and Demand. The way you treat your customers in good times can have a dramatic effect on how they’ll treat you, when those lean times arrive.

TOM COYNE: Back In Circulation — Empathy And Respect Are Lost Virtues

I woke up today feeling sad and depressed. An aging, white guy nearing retirement, I probably don’t deserve to feel this way. After all, I’ve had the tremendous fortune of living in a free and powerful country.

We weren’t rich, but our family had enough money to live in a relatively safe neighborhood, I attended a good school and eventually finished college. I didn’t have to fight in a war or survive the Depression, like my father did. I married a wonderful woman, had two great kids, a nice career and somehow avoided cancer and heart disease. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel a little world-weary this morning.

Oh, it could be so much worse.

A good friend lost his brother a couple of years ago in a senseless shooting. One of my wife’s friends died suddenly of cancer just after 50.

I could be poor. Uneducated. Unloved.

Let’s begin with this cold, but accurate premise: Life isn’t fair.  And after watching the events of these last few days, unfold in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights and Dallas, it’s no wonder that others in this nation are suffering a lot more than Tom Coyne. But we all have “stuff.”

I’m not here to take sides. There’s more than enough of that going around these days. And disagreement shouldn’t be a bad thing.

A Facebook friend recently posted that he was tired of all the political posturing he’s seen lately. “Everyone has an opinion on gun control, race relations and the police,” he lamented.  “Facebook should be for fun, dumb things.”

I get his point, but I have to disagree.  It’s not the opinions I dread. It’s our unwillingness to empathize or respect the ones we don’t agree with.

Take, for example, the brouhaha that has developed over a pregame press conference called Saturday night by the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx. Several of the team’s key players felt compelled to speak out after the deaths of two black men and five Dallas police officers in related violence. They wore black T-shirts with a message seeking change and greater police accountability following the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling at the hands of officers last week. The men’s names were listed on the back, along with the Dallas Police Department shield and the phrase, “Black Lives Matter.”  The Lynx’s Maya Moore also praised the Dallas Police Department’s efforts to institute better training for officers and their  “noticeable drop in the number of shootings by officers in the last few years.”

Four off-duty Minneapolis police officers who were assigned to provide security for the Lynx game that night chose to leave the job after the news conference. The city’s Police Federation President Bob Kroll praised the decision and went so far as to say, “If (the players) are going to keep their stance, all officers may refuse to work there.” Kroll also included a parting shot that has since taken a lot of criticism. When asked about a report that as many as seven or eight officers had walked off the job, Kroll said, “They only have four officers working the event because the Lynx have such a pathetic draw.”

As if on cue, the battle lines over this issue have already been drawn. Try reading the Comment section on this story in any major online publication and you’ll find a fairly even mix of support for both sides. Those supporting the players find it understandable and commendable for athletes to take a strong stand for social change. Those supporting the police see the officers’ actions as brave, too. After all, they are there to provide security for the same players who now appear to be questioning their “justice and accountability.”

Kroll’s use of the adjective “pathetic” certainly didn’t do his side any favors. Especially when you consider the Lynx have brought home the only recent national championship trophies to the Twin Cities, already on three occasions.

Maybe he was tired of seeing his officers take so much heat.  Maybe he was outraged that 21 local authorities were injured in a recent BLM protest on Interstate 94.  Maybe he was hurting from watching five Dallas policemen perish senselessly.

Those are all reasonable assumptions. But as an elected official, he certainly wasn’t showing any empathy toward the players, many of whom are black and could better relate to racial profiling. And he clearly lacked respect for a group of women who have brought great pride and accomplishment to their city and gender.

Conversely, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton could have exercised better restraint, too, when offering an opinion shortly after the Castile story broke. “Would this have happened if the driver or passenger had been white? I don’t think it would have,” Dayton said.

Dayton might well be right. He may also have wanted to take a strong stand politically, on the issue of racial profiling. And he may have felt the need to reassure the already gathering crowd of protesters on his front step that he planned to provide plenty of support.

But isn’t it incumbent upon the governor to make certain that the officer who shot Castile gets a chance to be heard, too? Jeronimo Yanez deserves a fair trial, not to mention, an opportunity to explain his motives for taking Castile’s life.

Ironically, days after Dayton’s remarks, we’ve learned that Yanez is Latino, not white. And Yanez’s lawyer, Thomas Kelly, has told The Associated Press that his client was reacting to seeing a gun, not Castile’s race, when he drew his own weapon. That’s for the courts to decide.

If Yanez is guilty, he deserves to be severely punished. But if we are to get justice for Castile, Sterling and other people of color  wrongfully profiled and in some cases, even killed, then we must absolutely offer the same empathy and respect due Jeronimo Yanez.

Call me naive. Call me wishy-washy. Heck, once I post something on any site today, it’s a good bet that somebody will get around to calling me much worse  than that. And somebody may praise me.

But the reason I’m down today has nothing to do with my thick or thin skin.  It’s more about a growing belief that we’re all doomed, if we can’t begin to reason why someone different from us might still deserve to be understood. And after awhile, doesn’t it seem pretty predictable which side of the fence most folks seem to take on a regular basis?

So, here are a few, pie-in-the-sky wishes for making us more happy and hopeful that solutions, not separations, lie on the horizon:

1. I dream of the day I can turn on a television news program and not immediately recognize which channel I’ve selected.

2. I long for a time when writers dispose of terms like “crazy conservatives” or “left-leaning libs” and acknowledge that we don’t all fit into a nice, little “us vs. them” mentality.

3. I wish the shirt that the Lynx chose was both black AND blue. And that they reach out to those officers with a future press conference TOGETHER.

4. I wish Bob Kroll would apologize to the Lynx and go watch one of their games. He’s missing some pretty good basketball.

5. I wish all of us would be more careful when choosing pronouns like “they” or “them.” Did “they” all have evil intentions at those peaceful protests? Did “they” all shoot first and ask questions later?

6. I hope for the emergence of a strong third political party, if for no reason other than to end the gridlock and force more dialogue.

7. I pray that we at least seek meaningful compromise on gun legislation and begin putting our children’s lives before our need to feel safer when armed, rather than not.

8. I yearn for the day I can post something meaningful on social media, apart from birthday greetings or family photos, without the fear that my thread will eventually degenerate into name-calling and hatred.

9. I look forward to a time when we aren’t all so quick to click “Like” on something demeaning or disrespectful about a political candidate, just because it’s not our candidate.

10. Lastly, I dream that all of us, regardless of our many differences, can someday come to the conclusion that we’re a whole lot better off embracing diversity rather than endorsing exclusion.

OK, I feel a little better now.