RUSS HONS: Photo Gallery — Grand Forks Curling Club

Curling has been in the forefront lately, with the U.S. men’s team reaching the gold-medal match with Sweden on Saturday in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games taking place in PyeongChang, South Korea. On Wednesday, photographer Russ Hons made a trip  to the newly rebuilt Grand Forks Curling Club, which was founded in 1960, and here is what he saw. (Check out more photos from Russ Hons here.)

LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Winter Olympics Hiatus

I’m gaga over the Winter Olympics.

My family and friends know this. I have been for decades. I like the Summer Olympics, too, but the Winter Olympics, for me, are the pinnacle. Perhaps it is because I live in the north country and have dabbled in many of the sports, downhill and cross-country skiing as well as ice skating and curling.

I clear my calendar for those weeks inasmuch as is possible and binge watch, all projects on hold. I’ve downloaded the NBC Olympics app on my phone and I’m good to go.

This year, four events will make their debut: speed skating mass start, mixed doubles curling, big air and mixed team alpine skiing.

I have many vivid memories of Winter Olympics past and even occasionally watch the Olympics channel our cable provider offers. Who can forget the moment when Neil Young appeared in the Vancouver closing ceremonies? My husband teases me about my admiration for Evan Lysacek.

Because of this passion, my blog will be on hiatus most of the rest of February.

Happy watching.

CHUCK SCHUMACHER: Coach Chuck — Balance Is The Foundation Of Success

The 2017 World Series was balanced. The Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers were neck and neck in every game, making for a very exciting series to watch and learn from. But if one team had totally outmatched the other, we wouldn’t be calling it one of the best World Series ever. It was as if both teams made each other better by continually raising the bar.

That’s what competition is all about: two equally matched teams, each tipping the balance in their favor — if only by one run.

But balance isn’t just physical; it’s a way of living one’s life. Striking a healthy balance in youth sports has much to do with perspective and good judgment. When my son was 6, his baseball team won every game with scores like 20-1 and 30-3. Because this rec team was unfairly stacked with the most talented athletes, there was absolutely no competition; any type of learning life lessons from failure was unfortunately put off until a later date. And how do you think the inexperienced 6-year-old kids on the other teams felt? In this unbalanced situation, created by adults with poor judgment and lack of perspective, nobody won.

When winning is overemphasized in youth sports, imbalance is usually the result.

In youth sports, there are often two philosophies when it comes to winning: Winning is unimportant or winning is the only thing. Neither of these extremes represents a balanced approach.

Winning “is important because without the desire to win, it’s no longer sport and any opportunity to learn life lessons through competition will be lost. But when a coach’s sole desire is winning, kids are the losers. Overtraining, playing too many games and pressure to perform beyond their ability results in burnout and overuse injuries.

The rising popularity of travel teams has produced many unbalanced situations. They are not all created equal so research is important. When managed responsibly, however, they can be a good venue for kids whose interest level matches the commitment.

Being on a travel team is not an automatic stepping stone to the future. If you think it is, you may be disappointed. There must be a proper balance of playing time and personal training on skill development for progress to happen, whether playing travel ball or not.

The only stepping stone to something bigger lies within one’s self. There must be a self-motivating notion that drives a player forward, no matter what.

Physical Balance:

Mastering one’s physical balance is the first step in developing athleticism. In martial arts, the code of karate states: “A person’s unbalance is the same as a weight.” Trying to execute a difficult athletic movement without a solid foundation of balance will be futile as the body fights to overcome unwanted movement or weight. Whether it’s a boxer delivering a punch or a baseball player swinging a bat, it’s all about focusing all of your energy into the movement in the most efficient way possible.

When the body is unbalanced, this does not happen. The nervous system must recruit muscles to try to “regain” balance, leaving less energy to put into the ball, resulting in a weaker hit, for example.

Mental Balance

When a hitter steps into the batter’s box, or a basketball player steps up to the free-throw line, their mental approach will prove to be the difference-maker between success and failure. At this moment, an overcompetitive mind will cause an out of control body and mechanics will suffer. When mental stimulation is balanced, previous physical training will manifest itself to the highest degree possible. Achieving mental balance starts with taking a breath before every pitch, free throw, serve or swing.

Whether it’s an entertaining World Series or our kids seeking joy in playing sports, balance is needed for good outcomes to become possible. For kids, a balanced approach to their sports experience is crucial whether it’s to avoid overuse injuries and burnout, or to avoid laziness by thinking others will make them great by creating unrealistic opportunities for them.

CHUCK SCHUMACHER: Coach Chuck — Replace Frustration With Knowledge

Is frustration dominating your child’s athletic experience?

When young athletes can’t let go of frustration after failure, it’s a clear indication they have no clue how to make an adjustment, leaving them vulnerable to more of the same. And when adults get over-involved during the game, it usually makes things worse.

A parent’s natural reaction is to come to the rescue when their kids are struggling. But during competition, excessive coaching really amounts to an attempt by the parent to make something happen immediately. The truth is, it can’t happen if the athlete hasn’t learned it. The athlete must be the one who possesses the knowledge to turn things around in the moment. Learning this takes time and training with intention. There are no shortcuts.

Adults should have proper perspective when young athletes fail, not just raise their voices in disgust.

There are many resources available today that help parents and coaches gain knowledge about technique and mental concentration. When parents put forth an honest effort to learn, they are less likely to raise their voices in disgust because they have gained knowledge about the difficulties their kids face. Once everyone gains a better understanding of how things work, young athletes will be better equipped to make adjustments on the fly, less likely to experience frustration and more likely to experience joy.

Experience is gained on the field, but technical skills are gained through practice. A balanced approach to both is necessary to achieve excellence. One relies on the other. When basic mechanics are mastered and control of the body is achieved, learning to apply these skills comes next — not the other way around.

“Knowing is not enough; We must apply. Willing is not enough; We must do.” – Bruce Lee

Weak groundouts in baseball, missed free throws in basketball and missed penalty kicks in soccer are normal mistakes that happen to everyone, even the best players. But the best players tend to possess an attribute that others do not: “Knowledge about what may have caused their failure and knowledge about how to adjust.”

Here are some common phrases heard at a youth baseball game that inhibit a struggling player’s performance. Every sport has similar phrases.

• “Throw strikes!” — These useless words only add more pressure. The young, inexperienced pitcher is well aware that they are trying to throw strikes. But there are reasons why they can’t. Has there been any previous credible instruction? If not, having control and throwing strikes probably won’t happen today.

• “Swing harder!” — This usually causes young hitters to swing out of their shoes, resulting in poor mechanics. With an out-of-control body, weak results are predictable.

• “You gotta have that one!” — Many times in youth baseball, you hear this being shouted from the stands when a player makes an error on what was clearly not a routine play. In the big leagues, this is a base hit, but many times in youth ball, we hear, “C’mon, you gotta have that one!“

When the game starts, it’s time to let go of worry and anxiety about outcomes and just enjoy the experience of being an athlete. When this is accomplished, a person’s training and natural ability have a chance to flourish and grow. Frustration will be replaced by the knowledge that they have prepared for this moment.

RUSS HONS: Photo Gallery — Grand Forks Central Vs. Grand Forks Red River Volleyball

Grand Forks Red River defeated crosstown rival Grand Forks Central 25-16, 25-10, 25-18 in girls high school volleyball Tuesday night on the Knights’ home court. The Roughriders were led by Maggie Steffen, who had 15 kills. Korri Gust, Bailey Jaeger and Jaylin Perrault had four kills each to lead the Knights. Red River upped its record to 6-9 in Eastern Dakota Conference play and 11-16 overall. Central fell to 1-13 in conference play and 5-20 overall. (Check out more photos from Russ Hons here.)

TOM COYNE: Back In Circulation — Purple Pain Just A Part Of NFL’s Bane

A chilly Sunday morning gradually blossomed into a gorgeous, late summer afternoon. But being a golfer of marginal talent and fully aware that our local football team had an enticing matchup in Pittsburgh, I still wondered if I’d made the right choice. Our annual fraternity scramble was on tap at the University of Minnesota course, and I’d reluctantly agreed to once more expose my shaky game to all those alums eager to sneer at my worm-burning iron play.

After watching the Vikings cruise past New Orleans in surprisingly easy fashion last Monday, it was tempting to leave my cell phone on when we gathered at the first hole for our late morning tee off. But I’d convinced myself that I would avoid all distractions and forget about football … for at least a few hours.

Before long, we were sharing old stories, shedding our windbreakers and even making a good shot or two. So it wasn’t until we were returning our golf carts and sipping on beers, that someone mentioned the Purple. “They were losing big, the last I checked,” said one of the brothers.

Suddenly it hit me. I’d managed to spend a Sunday afternoon away from the Red Zone Channel and hadn’t suffered NFL withdrawal symptoms. In fact, I found myself grateful to have reconnected with old buddies and gotten some much-needed exercise and sun, in the process.

What should be worrisome for Roger Goodell and the rest of the league’s cronies, is that my revelation about life without pro football is happening to many others these days. And that spells trouble for a business already too greedy for their own good.

Let me attempt to connect the dots by starting at the bottom of the food chain of a multimillion dollar operation that has been captivating Americans for years. Or conning them … depending on your perspective.

Ruben is an avid pro football fan. We’ll call him “Rube” for short. He loves the Vikings, wears everything purple and shells out thousands of dollars to occupy a nosebleed seat at US Bank Stadium. Rube watches NFL games Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays. He plays in six fantasy leagues. But lately, Rube has been angry and frustrated for a variety of reasons.

First, there were those annoying preseason games where he was forced to pay full-price for tickets in Row Z. The games where the teams played mostly third stringers to protect their stars from getting injured, since they still figured the studs would get battered around in weeks to come.

Then Rube put in months of planning to prepare for his fantasy draft and was thrilled to land the top-rated running back, David Johnson, of Arizona. But a couple of days later, Johnson went down with a season-ending injury. In fact, many top players were dropping like flies, tearing ACLs and separating shoulders.

Speaking of injuries, Rube was really down in the dumps when he learned his favorite quarterback, Sam Bradford, also had to sit out for the Vikings on Sunday. Why, just a few days ago, Bradford had displayed laser-like accuracy in carving up the Saints, only to come down with a mysterious swelling of the knee prior to the Pittsburgh game. No wonder the Steelers throttled our boys, 26-9.

And remember, Sam was supposed to be replacing Teddy (as in Bridgewater), the previous Viking QB who suffered his own major injury just a year ago. Poor Rube had envisioned a dream where his squad would be the first NFL team in history to play a Super Bowl in its own stadium, since Minnesota will host the event this February. Now, in Week Two, that already seemed highly unlikely.

Realistically, Rube already knew he’d never be able to afford a seat at the Super Bowl anyway. Most of those would go to rich folks or corporations. Now his team might not win half its games, with a worst Case (as in Keenum) scenario at quarterback. His fantasy teams weren’t looking much better with all those injuries.

So here’s what’s unfolding: The Rubes of the world are beginning to notice a few things. Their wallets are lighter. The endless games they’ve been watching seem less interesting. Every team in the league lacks depth, at one position or another, resulting in poorer execution.

An obvious sign of trouble is already evident in Los Angeles. Since departing from San Diego over the winter, the Chargers made their home field debut in La La Land Sunday. Capacity for StubHub Stadium is 27,000 and only 25,381 purchased tickets. Far fewer actually showed up. Fittingly, the home team lost in the closing seconds when their rookie kicker blew a 44-yard field goal attempt, more evidence that rosters are short on competency.

For Minnesota fans, at least misery loves company. Their biggest rivals, the Green Bay Packers, got blown out by Atlanta last night. Already missing their two starting tackles, the Pack had six more players leave due to injury. Defending champ New England was beaten at home by Kansas City last week and is without several key players. Both have stellar QBs in Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady yet are no better than 1-1 thus far.

A watered down product due to countless injuries, skyrocketing ticket prices and numerous off-the-field issues are penalties that have NFL owners losing ground with followers. Too many games on too many nights have made even important contests seem less significant.

As we walked off the golf course Sunday, one of my buddies mentioned how happy he was that he didn’t “waste another weekend” watching football. Another said he’d taped the Viking game but now planned to skip reviewing it, after learning of the result.

It’s only September. Maybe when the snow begins to fly and we’re cooped inside, I’ll be glued to my television. Watching Case Keenum engineer a comeback to help the Vikes finish at 8-8. Then again … there’s always bowling.

RUSS HONS: Photographer’s Notebook — Sports Shooter Academy

I spent last week in Southern California learning how to be a better photographer. I attended the Sports Shooter Academy 14.

First a little history. Fifteen plus years ago, several professional sports photographers got together and decided to put on a sports photography seminar called the Sports Shooter Academy. Famed USA Today sports photographer Robert Hanashiro set out on making this the best sports photography training seminar in the nation. He recruited many highly sought-after photographers to join him as instuctors for this hands on training.

Many seminars instruct and show you how do improve your craft. This one however, was to be hands-on.

With the help of a commitment from Nikon Professional Services to help sponsor the event, they began the seminars. Over the years, other sponsors have join in, including ThinkTank, the makers of camera bags and many other photography items, and Samy’s Camera.

The instructors at the Academy are a Who’s Who in photography. Many of the instructors have covered all or most of the Super Bowls, the World Series, many Olympic games, professional baseball, basketball, hockey and soccer, as well as covering and photographing sports stars and hollywood celebrities on a regular basis for publications like Sports Illustrated, ESPN and USA Today. One of the instructors had to leave early Sunday to go photograph Nicole Kidman, and another has a shoot Monday with Robert DeNiro.

The academy only accepts about 50 applicants who have submitted a portfolio of their work, an essay on why they want to attend and what they hope to achive by attending. If an applicant is in college and accepted, Nikon graciously sponsors their tuition. The rest of us are on our own for that, but the price is reasonable and well below what one would expect to pay for this kind of training from these professionals.

I arrived in Costa Mesa, Calif., on Tuesday evening and quickly met some of the attendees in the hotel lobby. We discussed the fact that the training did not start until 1 p.m. Wednesday, but we were all eager to start taking photos, so we set plans in motion to go to Huntington Beach at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday morning to photograph surfers.

The surfers flock to the beach in the early morning hours before work and school to take advantage of great waves. The weather was beautiful, the waves were great, and I was able to take some photos of the surfers young and old that morning. After a late-morning breakfast at Ruby’s out on the pier at Huntington Beach, we returned for some great training.

Wednesday afternoon was spent in the classroom. We had lectures and training from Seattle Seahawks photographer Rob Mar; Matt Brown, California Angels director of photography; and Nikon’s Ron Taniwaki. The evening was capped off with the keynote address by famed Sports Illustrated photographer Robert Beck, who has over 130 Sports Illustrated covers to his credit.

After midnight, it was time to get to the room to get a few hours of sleep before heading out to shoot sports in the morning.

The next three days consisted of several different tracks the students could choose from. There were various sports they could choose to shoot and also a portrait lighting seminar put on by photographer Joey Terill, who shoots for clients such as American Express, Coca-Cola, Disney, Golf Digest, Major League Baseball, Red Bull and Sports Illustrated.

The sports that we were scheduled to cover were a professional beach volleyball tournament at Huntington Beach, horse racing at Santa Anna Raceway, track and field at Cal State Fullerton and swimming and diving. I chose beach volleyball for Day 1.

Approximately 15 of us headed to the beach with cameras and lenses in tow. Nikon Professional Services brought hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of new high-end camera and gear for students to borrow and use during the training.

We shot thousands of shots, each trying to get the best shots we could, while the instructors were there to guide us with suggestions on things to look for, techniques for shooting and to answer any questions we might have. We then returned to the class room in the evening to begin quickly sorting through our many photographs and looking for our top photos.

Again, instructors were there to look over our photos, make suggestions on things we could do better, point out photos they thought “made the cut” and to give us general guidance on the work flow of sports photography.

We were then required to narrow our favorite photos to a maximum of three, caption them properly and submit them to the academy. One of the instructors, after reviewing my photos, made an exception and had me submit four.

After this late-night editing session, the night got longer as all of the attendees’ photographs were then reviewed on a projected screen for the instructors to discuss, critique and give their opinion. They also voted on each photo to keep it or not. This narrowed the photos down to their top 10 photos of the day.

Two of my photos were chosen to be in the top 10 of the day, and ultimately two of the top four were mine. To say I was humbled and honored would be an understatement. There were some tremendous photographs from many accomplished photographers from around the United States, Canada, France and Japan. One of my volleyball photos was ultimately chosen by the faculty as the Photo of the Day, and I was awarded a camera bag by one of the sponsors.

It was almost 2 a.m. before I got to bed and was back up at 7 a.m. on Day 2 to head out to shoot the Big West Conference Track and Field finals. There we practiced setting up remote cameras as well and looking for the best angles and equipment to cover the different events. It was a long day of shooting nine events between the men and women.

With three cameras, including a remote one, I shot almost 8,000 photos!! These were narrowed down to less than 100 “keepers.” After some software troubles caused by operator error, I was able to narrow my top picks down to three and get them submitted by the 11 p.m. deadline. The faculty again critiqued and voted on photos, and one of mine made it to the top 12 before being eliminated.

Day 3, while others were off to track and field, horse racing, and swimming and diving, I choose to stay at the hotel to take in Joey Terrill’s lighting seminar. We spent the morning hours learning about the use of flash and light to enhance photographs. After lectures and hands-on practice, we had a model come to the hotel in the afternoon for us to take turns lighting and photgraphing.  This was the most educational day for me. I can’t stress how much I learned about working with light.

Sunday morning, we returned to the work room and worked on photos, reviewed the previous days photos and then had another business and ethics in photograpy lecture from Joey Terrill. Then it was time for the judges to vote on the three Photos of the Day and pick the top photo of the week.

There was intense discussion between the judges, who argued between my volleyball photograph and a track and field photo of a javelin thrower. The javelin photograph won on a split vote. I would have voted for it, too. It was a beautiful photograph.

After some goodbyes by the instuctors, and all of us attendees wishing each other well, the academy ended.

I can’t express enough how much I learned from this school. From better work flow with my photos during and after an event, to how to look for the right photos during an event. I made tons of great contacts within the sports photography industry and met many great people from all over the world.

I look forward to bringing back all this information to better serve my clients and fans in the Grand Forks area. Thank you to everyone for the encouragement and kind comments on my photos.

TOM DAVIES: The Verdict — Bring Back Good Old Days Of Intercity Sports Rivalry

Congratulations to the Moorhead Spuds boys hockey team and to the Shanley High Deacons girls basketball team. Each team and their coaches represented their communities and schools extremely well.

My nephew, Steve Jacobson, coach of the Deacons, overcame some serious heart and health issues, claiming that basketball provided the outlet he needed to heal. Only in the Jacobson family could sports be a healing factor! For most of us, the excitement would bring on a heart attack … but then, we’re not Jacobsons.

My brother-in-law, Neal Jacobson, now of Bismarck, is the father of Steve and also was head boys basketball coach at Shanley. Tim Jacobson, Steve’s uncle and Neal’s brother, coached basketball at Shanley before moving over to Davies High School. (Nope, it’s not named after me, but my dad, Judge Ronald N. Davies.)

There are other Jacobson men in the family. I don’t know all of them well, except for Doug, Neal’s brother and Steve’s uncle, who is trying to find me a 1957 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser two-door that I can afford. (That means he’s hunting for some rich person who wants to make a generous gift to a retired elderly man — that would be me.)

Back to Moorhead High and a little-known fact, at least in my world: If you watched these awesome young men, you know they can really play hockey. But did you notice the haircut on their equally awesome coach? Well, if you didn’t, look again at the pictures of the team. You’ll see that every single one of them had a haircut just like their coach’s. Well-trimmed and well-groomed. What a tribute to the coach and to their parents!

Not that there’s anything wrong with long hair … but today, you usually associate long hair with athletes. I’m old enough to remember back in 1957, my senior year at Shanley, when there wasn’t a male in Fargo who had anything but neatly cropped style.

Shanley had Sid Cichy, and Fargo Central had Acey Olson. If you’d come into their locker rooms with long hair, they’d have cut your hair on the spot.

Back in my day, Moorhead, Shanley and Central all played intercity games. It really created local excitement. Considering the cost of athletics today, wouldn’t it be nice if somehow the athletic association rules could be changed to once again allow all-city sports rivalries?

Think of the crowds you’d get … the travel expenses saved and travel time reduced … and the ability of friends and relatives to see more games. It’s probably not going to happen, though. Just my two bits’ worth: Some good things from the past should be restored.

● ● ●

Back across the river in North Dakota, the Legislature is still at it. This time, its dealing with a measure close to my heart.

I have relatives in law enforcement; I have friends in law enforcement; and I have friends who have relatives in law enforcement. While I haven’t taken any large poll, I can tell you for sure that those to whom I have spoken to do not like House-Senate Bill 1169, the measure that allows open carry of guns without a permit.

Given that POTUS 45 just signed an executive order that allows people with mental illness to own a weapon, I have to think that some North Dakota legislators ought to have mental exams for their warped thinking.

The fact that other states permit unlimited open carry does not make it right. Look at gun deaths and injuries across the country. You’ll note that the absence of weapons is certainly not a problem.

Burleigh County Sheriff Pat Heinert, who is also a legislator, supports the proposed law as long as the individuals possess a state-issued identification. Methinks someone conked him on the head to get him to take this position.

An identification card does not qualify you for anything except proof you are alive.

Most law enforcement folks can’t or won’t speak out on this issue. But if they could, I can assure you that they do not favor open carry … much less open carry with no training.

The permitting process is based on the presumption that those who take the tests will learn firearm safety and practices. In other words, the process is an attempt to ensure you know how to safely own, carry and discharge the weapon. You have to be tested to drive a car, but not to openly carry a weapon … and that makes no sense.

It is dangerous enough for law enforcement to investigate and arrest suspects without the additional factor of every Tom, Dick and Harry having a concealed weapon. When Heinert cites his law experience as a basis for supporting this bill, I can only assume he’s a deskbound lawman who doesn’t work out in the cities, counties and state.

My assumption is based on common sense. What harm can the permitting process cause? Can permits help law enforcement? This isn’t a constitutional or gun rights issue — it’s all about common sense.

I repeat what I’ve said in the past: If a fight breaks out in a large crowd in which everyone is armed, will they keep their weapons concealed … or use them? If they use them — and they will — how will the Law be able to tell the assailants from the defenders? That’s right. They can’t.

Have a great week. Amen.

MIKE BRUE: Cubs-Indians World Series Game 7 Ranks As One Of The Best — But THE Best . . . .?

For high drama, Wednesday-into-Thursday’s historic World Series Game 7 between the long-suffering Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians franchises made for worthwhile baseball viewing and listening. In my case, it was some of both. Thank goodness for car radios.

A cleanly played game? Not really. You could question some of the unorthodox managerial decisions, too.  Still, the contest featured enough some clutch hitting and gutsy pitching from both teams, and enough fascinating strategy to keep millions of baseball fans’ bed pillows untouched into extra innings. Besides, after waits of 108 and 68 years for a World Series championship, what’s a few more late-night innings, commercials included….?

In many ways, the Chicago-Cleveland game (minus the rain delay between innings nine and 10) reminded me — for different reasons — of two climate-controlled Minnesota Twins contests that I actually attended.

One was the 2009 division championship-clinching game that Twins fans sometimes refer to simply as “Game 163.”

For you casual MLB fans, a 163rd regular-season game follows a 162-game season if two teams in a division finished tied for first. The winner of Game 163 moves on to the playoffs. The loser slinks into the off-season.

Twins followers tend to forget that, in 2008, the team narrowly lost the division title, 1-0, to Chicago’s White Sox in a Game 163. Forgetting may be by design, since Minnesota’s bats went balsa after Game 162.

So, when a Minnesota fan mentions Game 163 and grins, bet your autographed Tony Oliva bat that it’s the 2009 game.

Memorable? Definitely. An ultra-tense, do-or-die, back-and-forth, 12-inning sweat producer, the walk-off winner climax of a historic Twins season. It capped a franchise-loving comeback that began the previous week with Minnesota two games behind in their division’s standings with just three games to play. The Detroit Tigers stumbled out of that lead and then lost a hard-fought Game 163, too.

It was a dramatic, deafening, celebratory Metrodome win for Manager Ron Gardenhire’s Twins — an atmosphere in some ways reminiscent of Minnesota’s Homer Hanky crazed World Series home games under skipper Tom Kelly in 1987 and 1991.

It also was the Twins’ last win under the dome roof.  In the 2009 division series that followed Minnesota’s celebratory partying, ambition quickly deflated vs. the team’s post-season Achilles’ heel of the 2000s, the New York Yankees. The best-of-five series became a three-game sweep. Minnesota’s last loss, in the Metrodome, also put its dome years in the rearview mirror and Target Field in its headlights.

Anyway, MLB bigwigs decided they liked Game 163s so much that they artificially created a make-or-break single-game in both the American and National Leagues.  Two teams in each league with the best won-loss records but no division title get one game to determine which one advances to a playoff round with one of its league’s three division winners.

Meanwhile, many Twins fans groused that all but one of their recent multiple division-winning teams weren’t good enough to get beyond the first playoff round.

That was six losing seasons ago. But I digress.

I thought a lot about Game 163 during Wednesday’s final Cubs-Indians duel.

The other Twins game that came to mind that night was a Game 7, too:  1991’s 10-inning, 1-0 pitching tug-of-war with another “worst-to-first” combatant, Atlanta. Both teams had gone from dredging their respective divisions’ cellars the previous year to MLB’s pinnacle showcase.

 What a game.  Twins warhorse Jack Morris pitched an extra-inning shutout for the ages.  The Braves’ future Hall-of-Fame pitcher John Smoltz and several relievers proved just as unyielding, until inning 10.  Both teams had bases loaded with one out in their halves of the eighth inning — and neither was able to score.

Really, not many similarities at all to the Cubs-Indian Game 7.

I will never forget row upon Metrodome roll of stressed spectators gripping knotted and tightly twisted Homer Hankies.  I can still see thousands of thoroughly shredded food wrappers, napkins and paper cups at their feet.

Perhaps the Metrodome’s air-lofted lid would have ruptured had the tension gone unvented another few extra innings. We’ll never know. In the bottom of the 10th, pinch-hitter Gene Larkin’s bases-loaded, game-winning fly ball single over a drawn-in Atlanta left fielder sent an elated Dan Gladden home from his momentary perch on third base. That game-ending pin-prick spared the roof but burst Atlanta’s title-seeking balloon.

 Like ’91’s Game 7 masterpiece, 2009’s Game 163 elimination game ended with a walk-off hit — infielder Alexi Cassila’s grounder to right field, scoring outfielder-a- “Go Go” Carlos Gomez from second base — that produced an explosion of Metrodome celebration unrivaled since the Twins’ World Series wins.

Even without walk-off heroics in the Cub’s 10th-inning win at Cleveland in the wee hours Thursday, the game no doubt created plenty of anxiety for fans.  Lots of food wrappers, napkins and paper cups shredded there, too, I suspect.

Best World Series ever?

I still think the Twins-Braves Series 25 years ago was better start to finish, with four of the final five games — two for Atlanta, two for Minnesota — decided in the final at-bat, and then in front of the game-winners’ home crowds. In all, five 1991 Series games were decided by a single run, and three games — including elimination games 6 and 7, went into extra innings. Did I mention Kirby Puckett’s “We’ll see you tomorrow night” Game 6 winning home run…?

Even with multiple great storylines, Cleveland and Chicago had only three games decided by a single run and only one that went past nine innings and no walk-off hits.

Sure, yours truly is a unabashed Twins fan boasting about a Series that Minnesota won. But I already know plenty of non-Twins or non-Braves fans would agree with me about the marvel that was the ’91 Series.

Still, was the best Game 7 ever played just completed by the Cubs and Indians?  The internet and airwaves already have had plenty of takers on that claim.

I think back to what veteran TV play-by-play announcer Buck said around the last inning of Game 7. I’m not talking about FOX’s Joe Buck, but his late father Jack, who headed CBS’ Series coverage of the Twins and Braves.

“You know,” Jack Buck told viewers back then, “a lot of times, you attend a sporting event, or watch a World Series, or some other athletic competition, and not realize at the time how sensational it is. . . .But tonight, it’s so apparent that this is one of the most remarkable baseball games ever played.”

That’s when former catcher and CBS analyst Tim McCarver added, “You’re trying to look for some historical perspective to look back on, but you can’t find any.  It’s a one of a kind.”

Valid comments, still, these 25 years later. More than anything, the Twins-Braves Game 7 was one of a kind — and the best World Series game I’ve ever witnessed, in person or on TV.

 Disagree, if you must. Maybe you liked 1960’s Game 7 better, or 1997’s. Maybe 2001’s. Disagreement is a welcomed part of the joy of following baseball. The same cannot be said for the U.S. presidential campaign. And I mean 2016’s.

The Cubs-Indians Game 7 still belongs among the most memorable World Series elimination games in MLB history, and not merely because it was TV’s most viewed Game 7 since — drum roll, please — 1991’s Twins-Braves Series battle. 

Wow. Better yet, holy cow!

JIM FUGLIE: View From The Prairie — Thoughts On Arnold Palmer

Last year, when I was getting ready for my 50-year class reunion of the 1965 graduating class from Hettinger (N.D.) High School, I dug through boxes of keepsakes downstairs and found my senior class yearbook. It was actually an expanded edition of the Hettinger Hi-Lites, our high school newspaper, but it was the same format as a yearbook, slick paper and about 40 pages, just cheaper to print than a hard-cover book.

One of the goofy things we did in those days was to print a “Class Prophecy,” in which a bunch of us on the newspaper staff (I had two passions in my high school days — journalism and golf — sat around a big table and made up stuff about each class member based on what they liked to do at the time. (I served on the newspaper staff and played on the high school golf team.)

Art Barclay, for example, was a good dancer (and it turns out, the only gay member of our class, although none of us knew very much about that kind of thing in 1965; the term gay had not yet been invented, I don’t think, at least not in Hettinger) and his prophecy was “Art Barclay is now owner and operator of Arthur Barclay’s Dance Studio in New York City.”

There were other kind of funny and sometimes kind of cruel things like “Carol Edrman (who dated Dean Schoeder, the son of the manager of the Co-op Grocery Store) is now the head butcher at the Hettinger Co-op Store”; and “Charles Carter (a notoriously fast and reckless driver in high school) has returned to HHS and is now teaching Safe Driving”; and “Don Davidson (who had red hair and blushed a lot around girls) has just discovered a permanent cure for red hair”; and “Harvey Jeffers (who played guitar and started a band) has just made the Dave Clark Five the Dave Clark Six”; and “Jim Goplin (kind of a ladies man and slick dresser) has become a famous fashion expert and has just put on the market lipstick repellent shirts”; and “Karen Solseth (the tallest and skinniest girl in the class) has just been elected National President of TOPS Club.”

And there was this: “Jim Fuglie has just replaced Arnold Palmer as World’s Champion Golfer.”

I had two idols in High School: my dad and Arnold Palmer. Both were golfers, and both were the best at what they did, where they were — my dad was club champion at Hettinger Country Club many times, and Arnold Palmer, of course, “The King,” was the best golfer in the world in those days.

I was a golf fanatic in high school, playing on the school golf team, practicing every day from 3:30 p.m. until dark; working at the golf course raking those sand greens and practicing putting when Joe Manning, the course owner, wasn’t looking; playing after supper every night when I got off work from my summer job building steel grain bins and didn’t have bales to haul, and all day Saturday if I wasn’t unloading a train car load of beer at the Hettinger beer distributorship, and all day Sunday from the time church got out until dark.

And I was alternately, in my mind, each time I swung that club, either “Doc” Fuglie or Arnold Palmer (and there was a time I was pretty sure my dad could beat Arnie).

I never got as good as either of them, but I wasn’t bad, and I actually earned a golf scholarship of $50 per quarter for the first two years I attended Dickinson (N.D.) State College. I know, it doesn’t sound like much, but tuition then was $115 a quarter, so it wasn’t bad.

Arnold Palmer died this week. It’s hard to imagine. In my life, I have never known a time without Arnold Palmer. He rose to fame, and the game of golf rose in popularity, as I was growing up in the late 1950s and early ’60s. He basically reinvented the game of golf, and he brought a generation of young people like me to the game, as Tiger Woods has done more recently. And he never went away.

When he got surpassed by younger men like Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson, he started the Seniors Tour and then created the Golf Channel on TV. And I saw him in a TV commercial for some medicine last week, still flashing those strong arms and that shock of blond hair and that giant smile.

No, I never replaced Arnold Palmer as World’s Champion Golfer. But I got close to him a couple of times. The first time was in 1970, and I was in the Navy, stationed at Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida, going to school to learn to be a motion picture cameraman. I was going to be assigned to an aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Tonkin, and my job was going to be to take movies. Some in my class were going to be underwater cameramen, like a high school classmate of mine, Larry Cregger, but I was going to sit up on the O-7 level of the aircraft carrier and make movies of flight operations and shoot film of the occasional Russian Bear airplane that would fly past us at low levels, taking still photos and making movies of our ship.

The Bears were big planes like B-52’s, and when they came by at about the same level as I was at, up seven stories above the flight deck of our ship, the photographers in their plane and I would wave at each other as we shot our film. But I digress.

In Pensacola, at motion picture school in the spring of 1970, our final assignment was to actually make a movie, from start to finish. Script it, shoot it, develop the film and edit it into a final production. Choose any subject you want. You’ve got a week to get it done.

Well, I decided to make a movie titled “How To Play Golf.” I got one of my classmates out to the base golf course, and we filmed him swinging the club and putting, and I started writing the script. There was no sound on these movies, so we used subtitles like, “Keep your left arm straight on the backswing,” and “Keep your head down and your eyes on the ball.”

And then I read in the paper one morning that the Pensacola Open Golf Tournament, an official PGA event, was going to be held in Pensacola, just down the beach from our Navy base, the next week. Jackpot!

On Thursday, the first day of the tournament, I grabbed my old Bell and Howell windup camera with its three-lens turret and headed for Pensacola Country Club. I decided I was going to film a famous golfer and then use the footage of him in my golf instruction video with my subtitles.

Well, I set out looking for Arnold Palmer, my hero. And I found him somewhere in the middle of the course, in the middle of his round, and I got a hole ahead of him and stationed myself on the tee box, waiting for him to arrive. Sure enough, he came striding down the path from the previous green in that long gait of his, and I damn near wet my pants, I was so excited.

I had decided what I would do is turn up the speed on the camera as I shot the film, so that when I played it back, it would appear in slow motion. I wound up that baby as tight as it would go because I knew I’d only have 30 seconds or so at that speed before it wound down and stopped. Arnie stepped up to the ball. Just as he began his backswing, I hit the start button.

But I had forgotten how much noise the camera made at high speed, and in the dead silence on the tee box, as The King was taking his swing, my camera made the loudest WHIRRRRR you’ve ever heard on a golf course. A hundred people on the tee box looked around to see where the noise was coming from. Luckily for me, Arnie didn’t — he finished his famous lunging swing, and I got it on film before I was descended on by a tournament official and Arnie’s caddy, who politely asked me not to do that while Arnie was swinging.

I apologized, and quickly explained what I was doing — that I was in the Navy and making a movie for a class assignment. The caddy grabbed Arnie’s clubs and took off down the fairway.

I followed at a safe distance, deciding I would follow my hero for a few holes before I headed back to the base. The crowd following Arnie was considerable, but not overwhelming like crowds at PGA events are today, and I puffed up my chest as I thought to myself, “Today I am part of Arnie’s Army! Boy, I wish my dad could see me now!”

I got behind the green at the end of the hole, watching the players putt, and as they left the green, the caddy spotted me and shouted “Hey, Navy man, come over here.”

Oh boy, I thought, I’m in for it now. I walked over. Arnie was already headed for the next tee. The caddy said “Mr. Palmer says if you want to come out and make movies of him tomorrow on the practice tee, that would be OK with him.”

Well, that was a wonderful gesture but, of course, I had spent all the money I could afford to get in the gate that day and needed to get my movie made the next day, and I really had the one shot I wanted to get, which I did indeed use, in slow motion, in the final product I handed in to my instructors a couple of days later. It wasn’t great, but it got me graduated from Motion Picture School and on my way to the Gulf of Tonkin. And it was my first experience as a member of Arnie’s Army.

Arnie only won a handful of tournaments after that. He won most of his 50 or so tournaments in the 1960s, and the new, younger players like Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Tom Watson and Ben Crenshaw were building their great careers in the 1970s.

But Arnie kept playing, and I got to see him play one more time, in 1978, at the Phoenix Open. I followed him as part of the Army for 18 holes the last day of the tournament, and I remember he finished fifth. He was playing right in front of Lee Trevino, the “Merry Mex,” and I would hold back on some of the holes and watch him, which was just as much fun. Trevino finished second. It doesn’t matter who won.

Well, the King is dead. We’ll not be able to say “Long live The King” because there will never be another one. There will be golfers who dominate the sport from time to time, like Jack and Tiger and Jordan, but there’ll never be another Arnold Palmer.

But I have my memories. I just wish I had that movie.