Everything I’ve read these days about the state of Minnesota sports has come mainly from the media know-it-alls. For a change of perspective, “View” recently heard from two local “experts” on the local sports scene, Bernard and Rose: Black fans. Bernard Walters is a barber at TNT Barbershop on the corner of 38th and Nicollet. He is a cousin to the late Korey Stringer, who tragically died in July 2001 from heat-related illness as a Minnesota Viking.
“I’m a sports guy,” Walters proclaims. I first met Rose from Bloomington in 1981 shortly after moving to the Twin Cities. Rose (she asked that her last name not be used) is one of the few Black women that I know — possibly the only one — who regularly calls the local sports radio station to express her views. “If you ask me what my favorite sport is, it’s college football,” she admits.
“College football is my number-one, [then] professional football, then college basketball.” Both Walters and Rose sat down with “View” in separate interviews and gave their take on sports these days, team-by-team, beginning with the Vikings. The team had a disappointing 2010 season.
Their 2011 season and first full year under Leslie Frazier, the franchise’s second-ever Black coach, begins this Sunday. Walters says that the team’s ultimate downfall last year was catering too much to aged quarterback Brett Favre. He believes that adding Donovan McNabb at that position this season gives the Vikings “the pieces” to do well. “I truly believe that the Vikings will be better than what they were last year,” Walters predicts. “I’m not one of those fans who get all twisted if it doesn’t turn out that great, because I’m not expecting much” from the Vikings this season, says Rose. She doesn’t see McNabb as much help because he is “an aging quarterback,” and the team’s offensive line “doesn’t look that great” to her. The Minnesota Golden Gophers also start the season with a new coach, Jerry Kill. Both Rose and Walters like the hire.
“He hasn’t made these outlandish promises as his predecessors,” says the barber. “I’m more excited for the Gophers than the Vikings. I think they are going to sneak up on the Big Ten.” However, Rose isn’t that optimistic about the U of M, especially with Nebraska joining the Big Ten. “The Big Ten is going to be interesting this year,” she surmises. Both individuals are excited about the Lynx, the area’s only winning team this calendar year. “I wish the media in this town would give them more attention,” says Rose. “I appreciate those young ladies for being phenomenal, even if they don’t get the attention they deserve.” Although they have Lindsay Whalen, “We all know that the whole story about the Lynx is Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus, and that rebounding machine [Rebekkah] Brunson — they are playing as a team,” adds Walters. “They are the only team out of all the major league sports [that is winning this year], and that includes Gopher football and basketball. Both also reviewed the Minnesota Twins, who are fighting to stay out of last place.
“They stood pat with unproven players, but what hurt them was losing Jesse Crain [to free agency] out of that bullpen,” states Walters. “They got caught unprepared this year and never caught up,” adds Rose. “Their biggest problem is that they don’t have any starting pitching. It was a mess from the beginning.” Even if the current NBA lockout ends soon, Rose doesn’t have any hope for the Timberwolves. “They’ve had many coaches, players and general managers come through here, but they don’t get the art of the draft.” She once owned Wolves season tickets for the team’s first six years.
“Then I said enough… I’m not going to spend my money…to watch that product.” Finally, both Walters and Rose evaluated the mostly White local sports media. Walters believes they are more heavy-handed with Black players and coaches than they are with their White counterparts. Rose disagrees: “I wouldn’t jump out there and first admit that there’s a racial overture or [they are] harder or treat [Blacks] differently than [Whites].” However, she admits that there might be some White media members who “don’t always know the experience of what these athletes and coaches have had to deal with…that they didn’t always understand the perspective of the Black athlete. “The sports in this town are not excellent …but it isn’t the worst, either,” concludes Rose. Still, she’d like to know why the best she can say of the local teams’ prospects is, “Wait and see.” Rose and Walters will share their thoughts about Gopher basketball and the assorted scandals now confronting college sports in a future “View” Black fans column.
Photo: Bernard Walters (by Charles Hallman)