Twin Cities Sports Media Medals
After ten years as a writer, I've learned (among myriad other tenets) that there is no substitute for being a learned reader and researcher of other people's work. And the lay of the Minnesota sports landscape has no shortage of talent. Of the countless places I've been fortunate enough to live, visit, or vacation in my days -- I've long held the belief that my hometown of the Twin Cities provides a better arc of sports coverage than any other destination where I've picked up a sports page, watched a broadcast, listened to a ballgame, scrolled through local websites, or purchased a book penned by a native scribe.
And given the vast research that has encompassed the fine opportunity to tackle this Twins project for 2008, I've found a heightened sense of my attentions magnified toward those whose work I personally find most poignant. That said, I thought it might be fun to create a list of those who ascend to the zenith of our Minnesota sports bread basket. After researching and revisiting the work of close to 100 local talents (94 to be exact) who are presently working in town as writers, radio/television broadcasters, and prognosticators-- I organized a 30-point grading scale with the following breakdown to see who came out on top:
Experience (10 points possible): Basically, a point awarded for each year working in Minnesota.
Talent (10 points possible): Again, just one guy's opinion here.
Gig (5 points possible): Gauging the height of the podium from which they work.
Buzz (3 points possible): Recognizing how many different media in which the person works, combined with how often other people in the field reference their work.
Influence (2 points possible): What is their influence on the present, and future, of Minnesota sports media?
And while there are surely some omissions on this list (13 other fine talents in fact, who were a point or two shy-- Sean Jensen, Jay Weiner, Dick Bremer and John Bonnes among them), I whittled it down to the top 20%. Again, one guy's opinion here. Comments -- of concurrence or of dissent -- are of course always welcome. Eschewing further pause, here are the medallists of Minnesota sports media, noted in ascending order:
-trusted and well-respected multi-medium vet who is at his best during baseball season.
-Rapidly-rising, he's great with both hockey and horses.
-Radio and Sports page fixture.
-Closer to Bill James than Henry James, but has surely branded more (well-deserved) name recognition in his 20's than anyone on this list.
-Versatile veteran freelancer and author who has a penned a veritable laundry list of outstanding magazine and web articles. Great with baseball.
LaVelle E. Neal
-Skilled and highly-knowledgeable baseball writer who will have no shortage of opportunities to extend his voice to radio and television in ensuing years.
-Churns out quality sports books at the rate of four per day. Truly a fine purveyor of Minnesota sports history.
-Fine sportswriter who has shifted to purely radio work. Political, smart, and with a very strong following.
-Major thread in Minnesota baseball mosaic. Unique voice, original ideas, and he loves dead Hall of Famers.
-Polarizing veteran voice -- beloved by some, bemoaned by others. But hell, when I'm his age, I'd love to have the lifestyle: staying up late, talking sports, going to the track.
-Despite my equine bias, I'll still call her the most underrated sportswriter in town.
-Active, fun, and funky. Deserving of his 17 jobs, and his voice is the perfect match for both Adrian Peterson highlights and photo finishes.
-Probably the most talented writer here. Subjects range from religion to pop culture to sports. His "Leaning Toward Fargo" is one of the most timely Minnesota books ever written.
-Like Zellar in his versatility. Sharp and smart veteran with an acute proclivity toward basketball insights.
-No list would be complete sans the local luminary. Has more contacts than LensCrafters, more columns than Rome.
-All those window stickers mean something. May have a greater following than anyone herein.
-Veteran outdoors presence and excellent storyteller.
-Has never ceased hustling for a great story, his work generates the most reaction, and he scribes a few lights-out columns month-in, month-out. Radio work is also well-respected.
-Very likable and trusted broadcast vet, and his Sunday night show proves consistently insightful and entertaining.