We Never Get Used To It, Do We?

After spending the past few days feeling like I’d been donkey-kicked in the noggin, I popped a Vitamin D this morning. Finally, I feel better. It’s (-11) degrees outside and I think my body is telling me it can’t handle much more winter.

I have to tell myself it won’t be long until the lakes thaw and the Minnesota Twins open Target Field. The snow? That’s going to be here until July, but we’ll make do. The parks will open along with the golf courses, while shorts and flip flops will replace long underwear, slacks and dress shoes. Jack Johnson, the Zac Brown Band and Jimmy Buffett will provide the soundtrack. Finally, Twin Citizens will be able to park on both sides of the road, no just the odd-numbered side.

And me? I won’t have to pop Vitamin D pills to get my mind right.

Had a nice chat with a taxi driver the other night coming home from the airport. He was born in Somalia but moved to Minneapolis when he was 11. (He must’ve been in his early 20s.) I told him this was my first winter back in Minneapolis after living in Portland last year.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “We never get used to it, do we? Just when you think you’re used to it, it’s spring.”

And then it’s warm. Insufferably warm. Pollen coats cars, sidewalks and windows and the air conditioning can’t get cold enough. Your dashboard nearly buckles under the harsh sun rays and just when the temperature becomes comfortable, the wind comes up. There’s thunderstorms – big, rumbling, untimely thunderstorms to interrupt softball games, picnics and weddings. And the humidity. That godawful humidity, only made worse by the swarms of mosquitoes.

We never get used to it, do we?

Jason DeRusha — The Rare Broadcast Journalist Who Gets It

Good journalism is hard to find, especially on television.

A career in broadcast journalism usually equates bouncing from market to market every few years, so by the time a reporter finally gets a grasp of the community they’re serving, it’s on to the next city. It’s a tough gig to be sure, and few do it well.

Jason DeRusha does it well. Really well.

I’ve settled on DeRusha and WCCO-TV as my go-to TV news source in the Twin Cities. He’s been in the local market since 2003, acting more as a concerned citizen than the know-it-all news guy. DeRusha’s bursting with curiosity — an essential trait for any journalist — and that’s most apparent during his Good Question segment, which seeks to answer viewer submitted queries that run the gammut.

Last night, DeRusha took on a tough one — “Why have so many Somalis chosen to come here?” Most journalists would avoid the question in the name of cultural sensitivity, but DeRusha went for the jugular:

It is perhaps the least likely place to find tens of thousands of African refugees: the cold, snowy, middle of America. So why are there so many Somalis in Minnesota? … The Somalis are here as legal refugees, largely. The Somalis Minnesota story tracks to 1991, when civil war broke out in Somalia. Millions fled to refugee camps, many in Kenya. Two years later, the first wave of Somali refugees were sent to Minnesota.

Is it a sensational story? Is it riddled in scandal, sex, crime, blood — the accoutrement we expect to make the 10 p.m. news? No. But it’s answering a matter of public curiosity with facts and research — you know, actual journalism.

Kudos to DeRusha and WCCO-TV for winning this viewer over. Why can’t we get more broadcast journalists like him?

Good question.

How Metro Transit Can Boost Its Public Image

Metro Transit needs to aggressively position itself as an alternative to driving.

I came this close to balking on my New Year’s Eve plans this year for fear of getting safely to and from downtown Minneapolis.

I wasn’t about to spend $60 on a cab. (That’s what the neighbors above me paid.) I wasn’t going to have just a few drinks and chance driving home. Walking was out of the question, because it was godawful outside. So, how did we manage to go on with plans?

Public transportation — the forgotten ride.

After using public transportation almost daily in Portland, Friday night was the first time in six months I’d relied on Metro Transit. I drove downtown and parked at my office, where my girlfriend and I rode two miles to our destination for $1.00. Around 1:10 a.m., we hopped on another bus to catch a ride home. That was just $3.50. I cheated by leaving my car downtown, but I spent just $4.50 to get around town on New Year’s Eve. That’s ludicrous. You’d be lucky to find a bottle of beer for that much.

I’m working with a small sample size here, but my initial bus ride wasn’t the most pleasant. A group of teenagers piled up in the back and spent the ride shouting profanity, belting R&B songs and taunting the bus driver. Several other passengers yelped into their cell phones. The bus driver never once acknowledged the behavior. It made for an uncomfortable experience, but again, it probably wasn’t indicative of the average bus ride in Minneapolis.

It made me think about local attitudes regarding public transportation. We’re blessed to live in the land of parking lots, so for anyone with a car, you can drive just about anywhere. Buses are generally seen as transportation for those without a vehicle of their own. For a public transportation system to be great, that attitude has to change.

But, how does it change?

There were some similarly unsavory rides in Portland, but there was great self-policing among passengers and TriMet — the local governing body — included signage in every bus and light-rail car to outline proper rider etiquette. On top of that, drivers and conductors were quick to remove unruly passengers who were ruining the experience for others.

And that’s what Metro Transit needs to focus on — the experience. Riders should feel safe, enjoy the quiet, and worry simply about when to get on and when to get off. Buses and light-rail services should be seen as a convenient, affordable, stress-free alternative to driving for those who wouldn’t otherwise ride. That’s how Metro Transit ups ridership — by being viewed as an alternative, not a last resort.

I can’t say when I’ll use Metro Transit again. I’m lucky to avoid the major highways during rush hours, but I’m all for taking a bus to and from downtown on nights my girlfriend and I want to go out. I would encourage any Twin Citizen to do the same.

New Year’s Eve — Down for the Cause

New Year’s Eve generally splits people into two camps: those who love it and those who hate it. I find myself somewhere in between.

I love the idea of New Year’s Eve — the opportunity for renewal, the impetus to grow and improve, a chance to find closure. That’s all fine and good. It’s more the commercialized aspects that drives me bonkers.

Adults treat NYE like prom, minus the braces and acne. You can choose to make it a big production and spend hundreds of dollars on a party that’s guaranteed to plateau at midnight or stay home, watch the ball drop, and get a good night’s rest. (Mmm, sleep.) I can’t say one outcome is better than the other.

See, I worked at a bar several NYE celebrations in a row, and I was content with that. I wasn’t forced to pay ridiculous cover charges, didn’t need to buy new clothes or get a haircut or anything like that. Few people have it better than bartenders on NYE.

My girlfriend and I found something away from our living room, but it’s a good cause. We will be joining several friends to see Brother Ali perform at the Marriott City Center. I’ll let Ali explain:

The Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium? I Was There

I went to last night’s game between the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears at TCF Bank Stadium so I could say, for the rest of my life, I was at the game between the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears at TCF Bank Stadium.

I didn’t intend on going until late afternoon, when a co-worker not-so-gently coerced me into looking for tickets. I posted an inquiry on Facebook and within 15 minutes we had two upper level tickets for $40 a pop. We darted to Target to buy long johns, wool socks and hand warmers. We caught a few pre-game drinks at Sally’s nearby the stadium. We gaped at the stadium itself, illuminated by the falling snow and electricity of a fan base that had been subjected to indoor football for three decades.

Of course, the Vikings got smoked 40-14.

The game was meaningless to the Vikings, but it wasn’t without intrigue. It was their first outdoor home game since December 20, 1981. It may have been Brett Favre’s last start, despite being ruled out 48 hours to kickoff with a bum shoulder. It was a night the franchise celebrated it’s 50 best players in the team’s 50-year history.

It was a spectacle, albeit a drunken one. We sat by a gang of buffoons who felt it necessary to throw snowballs at innocent Bears fans while yelling things I’ve never before heard at a sporting event. (“Run like you’re a second grader!” and “F_ck you, Chicago!”) We saw paramedics working on several fallen comrades throughout the stadium. We saw liquor-dispensing gadgets that must’ve been invented by Q from the James Bond movies.

Was it cold? It was tolerable. There was a light snow which turned to drizzle, very little wind and the temperature hovered in the 20s all night. On TV, the field appeared a sheet of ice and the players appeared on the verge of frost bite. Someday, I’ll feel inclined to fudge the details — just as generations before me did with Metropolitan Stadium folklore — and say it was in fact a blizzard, the wind was whipping and it was so cold, you could see your breath turn to snow if not for the zero visibility.

The question was asked last night where the TCF Bank Stadium game would rank on my list of all-time best fan experiences. I have been privileged to see a lot of great players and a lot of great teams in some of the most historic sports arenas in the country. (To clarify, I’m not talking about the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center.) I would rank last night’s game as the best fan experience of my life. It brought together past, present and future in football’s version of Back To The Future. It felt like a game at the Met, but it also felt like a game at the Vikings’ next outdoor stadium (if it ever gets built).

You buy a ticket to see something memorable. You might see a 40-14 drubbing. You might see the greatest quarterback of all time make the last start of his career. You might see shirtless men in 20-degree weather. You might see something no one’s seen for 29 years.

Last night, I saw it all.

Kluwe Cries Foul in Fear of Player Safety at TCF Bank Stadium

Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe is worried about player safety tonight.

Yesterday, after the Vikings held a walkthrough at TCF Bank Stadium to test field conditions, Kluwe tweeted the field was “unplayable,” adding, “The field is as hard as concrete an hour and a half after they took the tarp off, and anyone that hits their head is getting a concussion.”

Thousands of people — many of whom were temp workers – worked around the clock the past week to help remove the 17 inches of snow that fell on the Twin Cities last weekend. A few weeks previous, TCF Bank Stadium had been winterized and put into hibernation until spring, but when the Vikings faced playing a second straight home game outside of Minneapolis, a deal was made to revive/thaw the field for one more game. In Minneapolis, it’s being considered the sporting event of the year, even if the Vikings are 5-8 and out of the playoff picture.

Back to Kluwe. He’s right in that the NFL should’ve considered moving the game if player safety is the concern they claim it is. However, everyone outside of Kluwe — who won’t be a part of more than eight or nine plays — claims the field is hard, but playable. Maybe everyone else is playing tough guy, though.

You know what drives me up the wall? Football players who refuse to wear long sleeves when it’s freezing out. They have no problem gathering around the portable heater or heated bench on the sideline, but when they’re in the game, they wouldn’t be caught dead whilst properly dressed for the conditions. Wearing long sleeves in a commercial? Well, money talks:

Luckily for both teams, it’s supposed to snow 4-6 inches today and overnight. That could create more padding on the field, but more importantly, it’ll keep the temperature up. (Pardon the meteorological nerdery.) Monday’s forecast has gotten a little warmer each day since TCF Bank Stadium was officially named the site of tonight’s game. Originally, the guess was anywhere from 5-10 degrees at kickoff with something like a (-15) wind chill. If that was the case, players could’ve suffered frost bite to exposed skin in 45 minutes or less.

Kind of offsets Kluwe’s concerns about player safety, doesn’t it? Hard to ask the NFL to move a game hundreds of miles to Indianapolis or St. Louis for player safety when half your team refuses to put on a long-sleeve shirt like petulant children.

In 2002, I played in a high school football game where the temperature was 12 degrees. The field was actually frozen — our cleats were more like tap-dance shoes, unable to penetrate the rock-hard sod. We wore layer over layer and huddled around a propane space heater at every chance. On punts, the ball would bounce upward as if it’d landed in a parking lot. We won that game, no one suffered frost bite, and — most importantly — no one got a concussion.

It’s not something I would ever want to do again, but it wasn’t “unplayable” like Kluwe would probably claim.

I Got The Job

Today seems like a fitting day to announce I’ve accepted a job offer at Fast Horse. Effective mid-January once my internshipexpires, I’ll be hopping on full time as an Associate.

I waited until today to break the news — I found out last Friday — because it’s Lose the Laptop Day at Fast Horse, which is ironic considering laptops had everything to do with me earning my internship and eventual employment. The reason I’m so excited about this job opportunity is for the fact I work at an agency that stays on the cutting edge, but not without challenging itself to get better. From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today, the whole staff is working away from their computers. That’s like an auto repair shop saying, “All right guys, no drills today.”

But as with mechanics and their power tools, marketing and public relations existed long before the Internet. It’s a relationship industry, after all, and while social media makes it easier to maintain contact, Lose the Laptop Day forces us to go out and engage, to meet people, to re-hash friendships, to learn the world we’re selling to, to be a consumer, to be inspired. We’re channeling our inner Don Drapers and Peggy Olsons, as my boss writes.

This isn’t a stunt or a drill. This is an exercise about checks and balances, well-roundedness, self-awareness, moxie and avoiding complacency when it’s just so damn cozy. Forget an arbitrary seminar, workshop or motivational speaker — we’re living the lesson today.

So, thank you, again, to everyone who voted in the Intern Search back in June. Every week, I seem to meet a new person who voted in the contest. Recently, the conversations would end with me saying, “Now I just I hope I get the job,” and I would walk away a bit sullen, fearful of the reality things might not shake out the way I’d hoped.

But, I got the job. Holy shit, I got the job. Thanks again!

[Powers laptop down.]