Gov. Soglin (now stop laughing)

The Wisconsin State Journal’s Chris Rickert takes the possible gubernatorial run of People’s Republic of Madison premier Paul Soglin seriously:

The last person the state Democratic Party sacrificed to one of Gov. Scott Walker’s finely tuned, soulless campaigns was a fresh face with a solid business background, deep pockets and good ideas who nevertheless couldn’t inspire passion among voters who needed to feel passionate for her to win.

Say what you want about Madison “mayor for life” and potential Walker challenger Paul Soglin — he ain’t Mary Burke.

Soglin’s thinking on why he might have a shot next year is understandable in an age when a pleasant fly-over state like ours gives a major-party primary win to an irascible 74-year-old Democratic Socialist from Vermont, and its 10 electoral votes to a darling of the alt-right who brags on tape about sexually assaulting women.

If Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders mean anything, it’s that conventional is out. The louder, less scripted and more fringe, the better.

Soglin in this calculus is obviously Sanders. Both are in their 70s and unapologetically leftist. Like Soglin, Sanders was once the mayor of a liberal city in a rural state.

The usual knock against Democrats from Madison is that they can’t win statewide election. The rest of the state, say the experts, is apparently not as enamored of Madison as Madisonians are.

But Sanders’ Wisconsin success could mean Soglin’s connection to Madison isn’t as much of a knock as it was — or maybe it’s not as big a knock as the experts think.

As UW-Milwaukee professor and former Democratic lawmaker Mordecai Lee pointed out, former governors Gaylord Nelson and Jim Doyle were from Madison, and so is U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

“So it’s not insurmountable,” he said.

Soglin is also not as easily stereotyped as the typical touchy-feely, identity-politics-obsessed Madison elitist. He’s recently been something of a city budget hawk — at least by Madison standards — and he’s been less interested in coddling trouble-making homeless people, excusing crime or dismissing personal responsibility in crafting social policy.

Plus, “he’s a strong guy” and “can take on Walker and not be the least bit intimidated,” said former Democratic state Sen. Tim Cullen, who considered a run against Walker himself but said it’s too early to start handicapping challengers.

Like Sanders, Soglin is kind of a grump — a “get off my lawn liberal” in a state that just voted for a “get out of my country” president.

He also elicits strong emotions. Just ask any number of City Council members who can’t stand him. This is an era when people relish emotion in their politics. Just listen to cable news, read Twitter or watch a City Council meeting.

“There’s an enthusiasm that’s absent” among Democrats, said Madison lobbyist Brandon Scholz, although he doesn’t think Soglin brings a Sanders-like enthusiasm to the governor’s race.

Cullen’s right that it’s early, but it’s not too early to predict that if the Democratic establishment opts for a candidate who merely checks off a lot of boxes on a list of what voters are supposed to want, the candidate will lose — and bigly.

If they go with someone who can throw a little spit and vinegar at Walker’s well-oiled machine, they have a chance.

Well, anyone who runs for office theoretically has a chance. This analysis misses on several points.

Rickert’s analysis is written from the perspective of Madison, which has endured Soglin as its mayor for 20 years, due largely to knee-jerk robotic thinking and voting. How do you suppose Soglin’s act will go over up North, where they like their Second Amendment rights, or the Fox River Valley, where people work for a living without government as their employer? (Consider how many members of the Madison Common Council cannot stand Soglin, despite the fact they all vote the same in November elections.)

I have taken on Soglin not for office (who would vote for me in Madison?), but in TV debate on the late Wisconsin Public Television “WeekEnd” show. The second time before my comment was finished I heard him yelling in my ear (from Green Bay) “That’s not true! That’s just not true!” The third time, when we were in the same WHA-TV studio together, after my statement (that the way to clean up campaigns was to reduce the stakes in elections by reducing the size and scope of government), he literally sputtered a non-rejoinder that closed the show. I take this as my effort of revenge on behalf of my parents for the thousands of dollars they paid in property taxes to Soglin for my hometown’s downward-spiralling quality of life.

The comparisons of Trump to the GOP and Sanders to the Democratic Party make sense, but neither Sanders nor Trump won in Wisconsin because they were such great candidates. Sanders won the Democratic nomination, and Trump the state’s electoral votes, because Hillary Clinton was such a godawful candidate so arrogant as to think she didn’t need to visit a bunch of swing states, most of which went for Trump. Walker has taken on everything Democrats could throw at him in three statewide elections and won each.

Soglin is 0-for-1 in running for office beyond Madison, having lost to U.S. Rep. Scott Klug (R–Madison) in 1996, while Bill Clinton was being reelected president. And as much as Rickert thinks Soglin might be able to “throw a little spit and vinegar” at Walker, Walker (and his well financed supporters) can fire much more back at Soglin. I can see TV ads with …

… people a lot of Wisconsinites don’t care for, along with reports about Madison’s high taxes and increasing crime and violent crime rate. Someone also might report how Soglin got elected mayor, then made money as an attorney representing business clients in the morass that is City of Madison government that Soglin helped create. Walker has already correctly pointed out that all of Madison‘s economic growth under Soglin is completely attributable to being the state capital and hosting a world class university (run by the state, not the city) and nothing to do with anything Comrade Soglin has done.

Lee’s statement about Madison Democrats sometimes winning statewide races encompasses, in order, (1) someone who last won an election in 1974, (2) someone who ran against an acting governor and weak candidate (as the candidate, Scott McCallum, himself admitted on election night), and (3) someone who won a statewide race the same night Barack Obama was reelected against a weak candidate following a divided GOP primary. To think that people who voted for Trump last year will vote for Soglin next year is a triumph of liberal hope over experience.

Soglin may well rev up Wisconsin Democrats, who have had little to get excited about this decade. Nothing says fresh new face quite like a 72-year-old ex-hippie first elected to office 50 years ago as of next year. Of course, the Democrats may get revved up because they still haven’t gotten past losing three elections, including Recallarama, to Walker. Every time some Democrat shoots his or her mouth off about Walker, Walker’s voters take that as a direct personal insult. And three consecutive Walker wins proves that’s not working as a campaign strategy.

The likelihood of Soglin getting non-Democrat votes is about as likely as the Brewers winning the World Series this year.

 

East Side, West Side

Readers know I grew up on the far east side of Madison, a mile south of where Interstate 90 splits off for Chicago, Interstate 94 heads to Milwaukee, and I–90/94 goes north to the Wisconsin Dells, La Crosse and the Twin Cities.

This was (well, still is) the old neighborhood, Heritage Heights, which years earlier had been part of a large farm. (More on that presently.) My parents built their first house, a green and yellow ranch with a two-car garage on the left side behind a rather steep driveway, in 1971, the year our street and the street behind (to the north) our house was paved. (The basement for our house was poured on my sixth birthday, and the street wasn’t paved yet.) There were basically three house designs on the entire block, with a couple of exceptions — a one-story ranch (with garage to left or right), a two-story house (on either side of our house), and a split-level house.

We had moved there from another house my parents had purchased upon having two sons in the house, 1.5 miles to the south. My future second-grade teacher lived two houses down, and across the street was a childless couple, older than my parents, who would have us over on numerous occasions.

Neither of those neighborhoods was a suburb of Madison, since they were in the city, but they felt like they were, given the distance around either Lake Mendota or Lake Monona to downtown or the UW campus, seven miles (if you drive through downtown) and a world away. When late 1960s Vietnam War protests hit national TV, we had relatives who were concerned that marauding rioters would endanger us. They didn’t realize how far it was to campus and the reality that any UW student who got that far east was lost.

It took until I (permanently) left Madison for me to realize what an unusual neighborhood it was. The nearest gas station and grocery store were one mile away. Want to have a drink at the neighborhood bar? There wasn’t one; the closest bar was two miles away. (Farther away yet was a combination bar and barber shop building where the males of the house got haircuts.) Want to go out to dinner? The nearest nice restaurant (which I never went to) was The Pig’s Ear, 1.4 miles away. (There were both bars and bars with non-bar food a couple of miles away, but at the time those were in what could be called “rural Madison,” the towns of Blooming Grove and Burke.)  Unless you mowed grass or babysat, any part-time jobs required a commute.

There was one church in the neighborhood, for what then was called the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. (Not the Mormons, and now called the Community of Christ, though I think the building itself, which became our Boy Scout home base, isn’t a church anymore.) The neighborhood had houses and one park, and that was it. Our neighborhood was impossible to live in if you didn’t have a car. (Madison Metro’s J route went through, but try bringing home groceries on a bus.)

Public-school kids in my neighborhood went to John F. Kennedy Elementary School (though I went to Elvehjem Elementary School for kindergarten until we moved), which was a one-mile walk through Heritage Heights Park and its culvert that filled with fast-rushing water from spring snowmelt (and the future home of legendary 1980s Heritage Bowl touch football games, but that’s another story). until the completion of a road behind our house reduced the distance considerably, just in time for me to leave Kennedy for (the hellhole that was) Schenk (now Whitehorse) Middle School. And then surviving Schenk, off we went to Robert M. La Follette High School (sports teams known as the Lancers, not the Fighting Bobs), 3.7 miles and 15 minutes away from our house down Cottage Grove Road and U.S. 51 (Stoughton Road). (No wonder my mother was so annoyed when her sons stayed late after school and asked separately for rides. Two round trips constituted a gallon of gas in our 1975 Chevrolet Caprice, EPA-rated at 13 city and 18 highway miles per gallon. At $1 a gallon, that adds up.)

For comparison purposes: The local high school is 15 minutes from our house. By foot. The only reason it takes 10 minutes to get there by car is if you’re stuck trying to get across two state highways at non-stoplight intersections. (There is a roundabout, but four years after it opened most locals don’t seem to be able to figure out how to drive in it.) I can get to a neighboring community’s high school in 10 minutes, and two others’ high schools in 15 minutes. Those of us who grew up in my neighborhood were as far away from our own high school as those who grow up in rural school districts if measured by time. (I figured out after I moved from Madison that a 15-mile drive at 60 mph seems shorter than a 15-minute drive at 25 mph, though the former obviously is farther in distance. The driver feels like he’s getting somewhere at highway speeds, as opposed to the Far East formula of drive to the end of the street, stop, drive a few blocks, stop, drive one block, stop, etc.)

This long preamble has now reached the point of this blog: It could have been different. Stu Levitan takes us back to 1967, four years after La Follette opened its doors:

The new high school—or not

In 1966, voters had approved by a margin of 2-1 to a $26.5 bond issue which included funds to open a new east side high school in 1969. Things didn’t quite work out as planned—especially for a powerful board member and the lame-duck superintendent.

Atty. Albert J. Mc Ginnis, former chair of the Madison Redevelopment Authority, who lost to mayor Henry Reynolds in 1963, chaired the board’s site selection committee for the new school. He picked a site on the Sprecher farm on Milwaukee St., adjacent to Kennedy elementary school—which just happened to be within the Heritage Heights plat that he had developed before his election to the board in 1965, and still owned. North side Alds. Kopp and Smith, who want the school in Warner Park, howl, accusing McGinnis of an obvious conflict of interest. Later that month, more than 350 people pack a school board public hearing, calling for a Warner Park site.

On April 28, his last day before resigning to assume his duties in Denver, [school] superintendent [Robert] Gilberts recommends to the board that it buy the parcel McGinnis has identified on Milwaukee St. But three days later, in a stunning and costly rebuke of its administration, the board votes 4-3 against building any new far East Side high school at all, endorsing instead a new junior high at La Follette High School, and a similar one at Kennedy “as needed.” Among the likely repercussions: when Central HS closes in 1969, all south side students now at Central will go to West—which cannot accommodate them.

Levitan adds the numbers for the four public high schools’ Classes of 1967:

West: 677
East: 512
La Follette: 339
Central: 271

There was a high school about half the distance to La Follette in a different direction. That was Queen of Apostles High School, just on the opposite side of I–90, across Cottage Grove Road from a branch of my father’s bank. (Where I met former Packer Ray Nitschke, but that’s a different story.) QAS, as it was locally known, apparently started as a seminary back in 1948, 20 years before the Interstate bypassed Madison. QAS was the first home of my Boy Scout troop, which moved to the RLDS church after QAS closed. (QAS’ last graduation was on my 14th birthday.) QAS was on the way to closing by the time I neared high school age, and I never considered going there or to Edgewood, the remaining Catholic high school in Madison.

(The area between the Interstate and Cottage Grove is unrecognizable now compared to when I lived there. When I was driving from Madison to Cottage Grove to cover government meetings in my first journalism job, there was only one place you had to slow down on those seven miles, at Vilas, about halfway there. Now, it is wall to wall houses and businesses, and the speed limit is 35 mph.)

Another high school is even closer to La Follette, but that’s in a different school district — Monona Grove, on the opposite side of the Monona Golf Course. Monona Grove, for non-Madisonians, is the school district that combines Monona (which is on Lake Monona and surrounded by Madison) and Cottage Grove, which is about eight miles east. (MGHS students who live in Cottage Grove have to go through Madison to get to school. When the school district built a new high school in 1999, it was built in Monona, which has shrunk a quarter in population over the past 40 or so years, and not Cottage Grove, which is now only slightly smaller than Monona in population.)

Levitan’s piece, part of a larger work chronicling a rather turbulent year in Madison to say the least (including, one assumes though I don’t remember, my own Terrible Twos), is the first time I knew there was a proposal to build an east-side high school farther east than the Far East Side high school, La Follette. Or a middle school. Really Far East Side High School (perhaps it would have had some sort of Asiatic nickname in those pre-politically correct days) would have been no more than a mile away from Kennedy. Kennedy and Don’t-Call-It-Schenk-Anymore (which had an attached elementary school) were just two miles apart by car, and Really Far East Side Middle School would have been even closer than that. (As it was despite being just two miles away, going from Kennedy to Schenk was like entering a different world; the Schenks were in an older neighborhood, and, well, it was a middle school, a toxic combination of burgeoning hormones and tween Social Darwinism.)

To say the least this would have changed things. I’m not sure where the high school attendance boundaries were in the pre-open enrollment says, but one oddity was that students who lived in Maple Bluff, the richest part of greater Madison, went to East, the most blue collar high school. That probably would have changed with RFESHS; indeed all the high schools’ attendance boundaries would have shifted eastward. (Students who lived downtown, who went to Central before it closed and, I believe, went to West thereafter, probably would have gone to East.)

In those days (and probably now) the four high schools were easy to stereotype. La Follette had white-collar families — bankers, insurance agents, small business owners, salespeople, etc. East had blue-collar families. West was where UW-employed families lived. Memorial families had money, though we didn’t know from where. Then as now, the biggest high school rivalry in Madison was East vs. West, followed by West vs. Memorial and East vs. La Follette. (The latter rivalry introduced police to hockey games after East fans threw rocks at our band bus.) James Madison Memorial (which could have been the name of RFESHS) was built instead of RFESHS (or the sought-after Warner Park-area high school) and given the anticipated growth of the Far West Side (three words: “West Towne Mall”) a high school was likely to be built there anyway. (La Follette Junior High became Sennett Middle School, connected to La Follette by a concrete supposed-to-be-no-man’s-land under the La Follette library known as The Pit, a favorite stop of those who related to the Brownsville Station song and Poison cover “Smokin’ in the Boys Room.”)

Then there’s this:

I went to grade school with two players on the varsity roster and another player who wasn’t on the varsity  roster for state. Two other players went, I think, to the local Catholic school instead of Kennedy or Schenk Middle. I do not intend to denigrate their athletic abilities by pointing out that none of them were named “Rick Olson,” who went on to play at Wisconsin, or “Steve Amundson,” who went on to play at Western Michigan. La Follette may have still won the 1982 state championship, but none of us at RFESHS would have been part of that.

There has always been a rivalry between Madison’s East and West sides, and those of us who lived on the East Side (however you define that) felt some sense that we were getting ripped off. Madison’s two newest high schools were an example — Memorial got a football field and track (which hosted the state track meet until 1990), but La Follette did not. (Of course, neither did Central, East or West; they shared Breese Stevens Field until East and West shared Warner Park, while West plays home games at Memorial’s stadium. La Follette did not play at Monona Grove’s stadium even though it would have been more convenient and nicer than Warner Park, which was worse than some smallest-division fields. La Follette now does have a football field and track, and East plays there too.) Memorial got a planetarium, as a reader reminded me.

East Towne was bigger than West Towne (an important point), but while there were several Catholic churches on the West Side, there was one near-side Catholic church (St. Bernard’s, on Atwood Avenue not far from my father’s bank), and one closer to us, St. Dennis, two miles away. St. Dennis held church services in its school gym from the beginning of my memory, and we parishioners helped out at Friday fish fries in the same gym to raise money for the new church, which was finally completed my senior year in high school. (The new church was immediately packed nearly every Sunday, which suggests the diocese should have located more churches closer to the Far East Side than Monona and Cottage Grove.) As far as I can remember, the annual Madison Parade of Homes were always on the West Side. (Including the house with the two-level garage.)

We also felt we were getting ripped off in such city services as police response time, though there was little reason for the police to show up in our neighborhood. (Other than a rock-throwing incident next door, we may literally have gone years without having a police car on our street.) The nearest fire station was across the street from my first employer, Bridgeman’s Ice Cream Restaurant and Parlour, about 2.5 miles away. The nearest fire station now is on the other side of the Interstate. Our streets were always the absolute last in Madison to get plowed after snowfalls (assuming they were, and often they weren’t), always timed for when we had just finished shoveling. The Far West Side (where four of my cousins grew up and, sad to say, attended Memorial) seemed to have nicer houses and therefore more money, though young minds don’t necessarily know much about how much it costs to buy 4,000-square-foot houses with two-level garages.

One thing that’s changed in Madison is high school enrollments. The Madison high schools when I was growing up had around 2,000 students each, I believe. East and La Follette are 75 to 80 percent of their former size, while Memorial and West are still around 2,000. However, Sun Prairie, one of the smallest schools in the Big Eight in the ’80s, is now bigger than any Madison high school (Sun Prairie just built a new high school but is considering another), as is Middleton, which was too small to be in the Big Eight. Verona, which was Monona Grove’s size, now is La Follette’s size. Part of that is that nearly every Madison-area school district has alternative high schools, but part of that is smaller families, though that has hit rural school districts harder than Madison-area schools.

I’ve written before that I had a pretty drama-free childhood. I don’t know what went on in other houses, but Heritage Heights felt so far away from downtown Madison that we might as well have been living out in the ‘burbs. (There were people who lived in the school district, with Madison addresses, but didn’t live in the city; they were east of the Interstate. I assume most of those houses were annexed into the city.) It certainly would have been different not having many of my classmates be classmates, although with 500 classmates no one could know where everyone lived.

 

“Let out that yell now for our great team …”

A Facebook Friend posted a snippet of this, and since this blog didn’t exist when published in 2010 this seems a good time to re-reveal the Wisconsin State Journal’s list of best Madison La Follette boys athletes.

The State Journal’s Tom Oates supervised the votes of the best at-least-two-sport athletes of all time from Madison’s eight high schools, six of which still exist today. (The other two were the University of Wisconsin High School, open from 1914 to 1964, and Central,  which closed in 1969. Malcolm Shabazz City School has no sports, so they weren’t included. The top 60, up to 2010m included …

5. Gary Anderson, Class of 1969

Sports: Football, basketball, baseball

Honors:

• All-city, all-Big Eight and second-team all-state quarterback as a senior; also named city and Big Eight player of the year

• Two-time all-city, all-Big Eight and all-state pick in basketball (first-team all-state in 1970, fourth-team in 1969); also two-time city player of the year and two-time Big Eight scoring leader

• Two-time all-city outfielder in baseball

• Three-year starter in basketball at UW, earning team MVP and all-Big Ten second-team honors as a senior

• Drafted by NBA’s Washington Bullets and ABA’s San Antonio Spurs

Quotable: Former La Follette coach Pete Olson: “Mr. Smooth. He made everything look easy.”

Gary and his younger brother Ross, who played on La Follette’s first state champion team in 1977 and then played football at UW, and brothers Dean and Steve had a younger brother, Craig, who was a senior when I was a freshman. Everyone looked up to Craig because (1) he was 6-foot-6 and (2) a great athlete who (3) didn’t let it go to his head; he was really the kind of high school athlete, including in demeanor, you want to have. Craig was a reserve on Ross’ 1977 state champion team when freshmen were never on the varsity, and then he got to state in 1980, along with three state boys volleyball trips. Craig played basketball at Iowa, but nobody’s perfect.

17. Jonte Flowers, Class of 2003

Sports: Football, basketball, track

Honors

• Two-time all-city and all-Big Eight as an end and defensive back in football

• City back of the year and Big Eight receiver of the year as a senior

• All-state first-team in football as a senior

• Three-time all-city and two-time all-Big Eight pick in basketball

• City and Big Eight basketball player of the year as a senior

• All-state first-team in basketball as a senior

• Played on WIAA Division 1 state basketball champion as a junior

• Third in high jump as La Follette won title at the WIAA state track meet in 2002

• Played football at UW as a freshman

• Transferred to Winona State and played four years of basketball; starred on team that won NCAA Division II titles in 2006 and 2008 and lost in the final in 2007

• Division II second-team all-American and voted most outstanding player in NCAA tournament in 2008, scoring 30 points in the final

Quotable: Capital Times sportswriter Adam Mertz: “His resume reads like something from the ‘50s. No one was as dominant in three sports over the previous three decades. Didn’t figure out his best sport until college.”

18. Nathan Brown, Class of 2002

Sports: Football, basketball, track

Honors

• Two-time all-city and all-Big Eight halfback and linebacker

• City back of the year as a senior

• All-state first-team linebacker in 2001, second team in 2000

• All-city honorable mention in basketball as a senior

• Won both hurdles events and the 1,600 relay in leading La Follette to the Division 1 WIAA state track title in 2002

• Also won intermediate hurdles and was second in high hurdles in 2001

• Recruited by UW for football but had to drop the sport for medical reasons

• Lettered five years in track at UW

• Won the heptathlon at the Big Ten Indoor meet and the decathlon at the Big Ten Outdoor meet in 2006

Quotable: State Journal sportswriter Rob Hernandez: “This kid might have been the smartest all-around athlete on this list. He used his brains to complement his natural ability.”

23. Rick Olson, Class of 1982

Sports: Basketball, baseball

Honors

• Two-time all-city and all-Big Eight in basketball

• First-team all-state as senior, when he set city single-season scoring record (694 points) and was the city, Big Eight and state player of the year

• Leading scorer on WIAA state basketball champion in 1982

• All-city and all-Big Eight outfielder in baseball as a senior

• Four-year starter in basketball at UW

• Still fifth in career points at UW with 1,736

• Scored 39 points in one game in 1984 and averaged 20.4 points in 1986

• Team MVP in 1986 and all-Big Ten honorable mention in 1984 and 1986

• Drafted by NBA’s Houston Rockets

There is no quote, so I will provide one. On La Follette’s 25th anniversary year, I did a story about 25 years of La Follette boys basketball and asked Olson’s coach, Pete Olson (not related to Rick, nor to a future sportswriter at the same newspaper named, yes, Pete Olson) for his top list of players of all time. He simply took his top five scorers list, which included the aforementioned Anderson and Olson, who at the time was the school’s career and single-season scoring leader. I couldn’t find his career total, but he scored 697 points in the 25-game 1981–82 season. That’s 27.8 points per game, without the three-point shot, by a 6–1 guard. But don’t believe me, read the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Badgers basketball coach Bo Ryan was asked to comment on the long-range shooting ability of guard Ben Brust, who had 17 points in Wisconsin’s 68-41 victory over Colgate on Wednesday night.

“He’s got Ricky-Olson type range,” Ryan said of the former Wisconsin and Madison La Follette guard, who played for the Badgers from 1983-’86.

Ryan pointed out that Olson did not have the benefit of the three-point line when he played. But Olson still ranks fifth in career points at UW with 1,736 and as a senior averaged 20.4 points.

“The young people are looking at me … they’re Googling Rick Olson right now,” Ryan said. “He was a pretty good outside shooter for the Badgers, back in the ’80s.”

By the way: Olson was a three-sport athlete. He was a setter for La Follette’s boys volleyball team, which went to state in 1979 and 1980.

24. Tim Jordan, Class of 1982

Jordan, in gray, is about to jump center against future classmate Jay Laszewski, who is about to lose his first senior-year high school basketball game.

Sports: Football, basketball, track

Honors

• Two-time all-city and one-time all-Big Eight defensive end in football

• Started at center on WIAA state basketball champion in 1982

• Set records in 100 and 200 at Big Eight track meet and was fifth in 100 at WIAA state meet as a senior

• Lettered four years in football at UW at outside linebacker

• Drafted by NFL’s New England Patriots in 1987

• Played three NFL seasons

I was a year behind both Olson and Jordan, two of the starters on the 1982 state Class A boys basketball champions. I didn’t know Jordan was the Big Eight 100 and 200 record holder. That’s impressive because he was 6–3 and 200 or so, which is a little large for hig school sprinters. It’s kind of too bad that La Follette didn’t have better football players in those days (as you know my first three years at La Follette the Lancers had three, one and one wins), because just based on size and speed he would have made a world-beater tight end. At UW Jordan and Memorial graduate Rick Graf were the “Thunder and Lightning” outside linebacker duo; Graf went on to the Dolphins.

25. John Krugman, Class of 1968

Sports: Football, basketball, baseball

Honors

• Two-time all-city and one-time all-Big Eight halfback

• Conference player of year and all-state in 1967 after breaking Alan Ameche’s 17-year-old Big Eight record with 115 points and 19 touchdowns in eight games

• Three-time all-city in basketball and all-state honorable mention in 1968

• Two-time all-city in baseball

• Lettered two seasons in football at UW as a punter and fullback

31. Michael Flowers, Class of 2004 

UW Flowers, not La Follette Flowers.

Sports: Football, basketball

Honors

• All-city, all-Big Eight and all-state honorable mention at quarterback as a junior; didn’t play as a senior

• Three-time all-city and all-Big Eight pick in basketball

• All-state first-team basketball as a junior, honorable mention as a sophomore and senior

• Played on WIAA Division 1 state basketball champion in 2002

• Lettered four years in basketball at UW

• All-Big Ten second-team pick as a senior, honorable mention as a junior

• Twice named to Big Ten all-defensive team

Note the mention of his not playing football as a senior. As a football player, Flowers was compared to Michael Vick. Imagine him playing football instead of basketball for the Badgers.

 

The vassal decided to vacillate on deciding when to put up the trellis, which the bailiff in official raiment found to be a bagatelle, but was sheer drudgery

A high school classmate of mine who works in history found this this week:

This is from the Wisconsin State Journal 40 years ago Wednesday. (Pause while I wipe the tears from my eyes and loudly blow my nose over The March Of Time!)

The previous Saturday, April 30, 1977, I won the Madison City Spelling Bee in my third attempt. In those days, at least in Madison, if you won your elementary- or middle-school spelling bee you advanced to the city spelling bee. I won my spelling bees at Kennedy Elementary School in fourth and fifth grade, but obviously failed to win at the city level until I won my first Schenk (now Whitehorse) Middle School spelling bee in 1977.

Spelling bees were the first kind of competition in which I did reasonably well. Spelling bees are analogous to competing in a non-relay track event or swimming race, in that your success is based on what you do in comparison to what others do. Since I sucked (and still do) at athletics, and never was a very good musician, this was my thing for five years growing up.

Spelling today is, if not a dying art, then a seriously ill art, given creative spellings in the business world (“Kwik Trip”), spellcheck in word processing applications (though spellcheck doesn’t pick up homophones, a correctly spelled incorrect word), and abbreviations in social media. (IMHO. SMH. BTT.)

The 1977 bee was, for me, somewhat of a white-knuckle experience toward the end, even though I was a grizzled veteran of spelling bees by then. Similar to team sports, winning a spelling bee requires some luck in getting words you can spell (or at least correctly guess) and your competitors getting words they could not spell. My first city spelling bee in fourth grade was a two-and-done; the second word I got was “trellis” (a frame or structure of latticework used as a support for growing trees or plants), which I had never heard of, and that ended that. One year later, I got up near the top 10, but lost on “raiment” (clothing). In my fourth city spelling bee, in seventh grade, I finished 13th on “vacillate” (to waver in mind or opinion), another word I had never heard of. (I studied, but I guess I didn’t get down toward the end of the dictionary. As it was, I think I learned more words by reading them than being told to spell words in a dictionary.)

The word “thespian” probably doesn’t show up often in a sixth-grader’s vocabulary, so when I heard it it sounded to me like, well, a gay actress, but I figured out it ended with “=pian” and not “-bian” and got it right. Shortly thereafter the runner-up missed her word, I spelled it correctly, and then I got “vassal” (according to Dictionary.coma person granted the use of land, in return for rendering homage, fealty, and usually military service or its equivalent to a lord or other superior”), another word not found in a sixth-grade vocabulary. (In those days, again with only one person advancing to the next level, if speller A missed his or her word, speller B had to spell that word correctly and then another word.) The first four letters were easy enough, but not the last two — “-al,” “-il” or “le”?

To quote the ancient knight in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” I chose … wisely. I got to bring home a traveling trophy that was half as tall as I was, and got on the front page of the Wisconsin State Journal, along with a story in the Monona Community Herald (which I would end up working for, but you knew that).

A week later, I departed the state spelling bee after spelling “bagatelle” (something of little value or importance), again not a word in a sixth-grader’s vocabulary, correctly. The first eight letters seemed obvious, but was there a silent E at the end? I got to the last L, stopped, heard no reaction, and added the E. A woman sitting in the front row protested, and the judges decided that I meant “bagatell” instead of “bagatelle.”

Two years later, as longtime readers know

… I returned to state as the city bee winner.

(Note, by the way, how fashions changed between 1977 and 1979. Plaid pants gave way to polyester disco shirts and pants, and though I hadn’t ditched the glasses yet, there was a lot more hair, though not as much as in the previous year.)

The story quotes me as saying that “declaration” and “drudgery” were two words I had a little difficulty with spelling. Truth be told, I really didn’t, other than to make sure I had the letters in the correct order. Winning the previous school bee made me 5-for-5 in winning school spelling bees, and apparently I was the first person to win two Madison spelling bees. (A girl in that 1979 bee became the first to win two consecutive city spelling bees. Interestingly, she was hearing-impaired.)

The state spelling bee the week afterward at my future high school went sort of like my first city spelling bee, a two-and-done, though on a word that, had I thought about it for a couple of seconds, I would have spelled correctly — “bailiff.” The night before I attended my middle school’s eighth-grade dessert dance, and sl0w-danced with five girls, three of whom I’d had crushes on at some point (along with perhaps half of the other girls in what would become the Class of 1983). So on Saturday afternoon my head was still back in Friday night. And that ended that, because there are no spelling bees in high school.

The bee format appears to have changed to where more than just the winner moves on. Wisconsin’s top three state-bee spellers advanced to the national bee. Advancing to the national bee appears to be now based on some sort of population formula, or perhaps number of organizations willing to sponsor a regional bee, given that Wisconsin had three national contestants, Iowa had two, and Illinois had 18. It’s kind of become like expanding the baseball playoffs from including only division winners to adding wild-cards, where, like the 1997 and 2003 Marlins, 2002 Angels, 2004 Red Sox, 2011 Cardinals and 2014 Giants, teams can win the World Series without winning their division. (Or the 2010 Packers, winners of Super Bowl XLV as the last NFC playoff team.) The state bee also had a rule, since rescinded, that if you won the state bee you couldn’t compete anymore. (From what I’ve read most national bee winners are not first-time national competitors, which makes sense.)

For those who haven’t moved on to something else by this point, you might be asking (other than why the hell did I write this) what I got out of the whole experience. (Other than embarrassment every time I misspell a word, though mistyping a word isn’t exactly the same thing as spelling it wrong.) It was the first experience in my life of being sort of locally famous, which as those who have achieved some fame know is a mixed blessing. With the exception of friends of mine (and you know who you are, Ruste), few of my classmates appeared to care much, though adults in my two schools did. (On my last day at Schenk, a teacher — not one I’d had for a class — actually thanked me for bringing positive recognition to the school. I didn’t know what to say.) Something similar happens now because my photo has been in publications I work for (and my face has shown up on TV), and it’s one of those strange experiences where more people know me than I know them.

Was it fun? Well … it was not like my UW Band experience or a successful athletic accomplishment (the latter certainly not based on personal experience, of course) in which your first thrill is the accomplishment and then you realize what a great experience you had along the way to that accomplishment. I certainly didn’t hate it (some people can spell well but don’t do well in bees because they get excessively nervous in competition), but I can’t say I have fond memories of, say, school spelling bees or traveling somewhere with my mother giving me words out of the dictionary to spell. The experience for me was just what it looked like: (1) walk up to microphone, (2) spell the word, (3) go back to your seat, (4) watch others spell correctly or not; lather, rinse, repeat. I remember the spelling bees where I won fondly (not that I think about them often), and the ones I didn’t win I don’t remember fondly. (Athletic competition is sald to provide more lessons in losses than in wins, in the sense that failures can teach more than successes. I’m not sure that translates to spelling bees — if you don’t know a word, you don’t know it — except that if you lose that could mean you needed to study more, or, in the case of the 1979 state bee, try focusing on what you’re supposed to be doing instead of something else.) Spelling wasn’t fun; winning was fun, and when I won, I was the only winner.

The experience also taught me that being smart (or, as the British put it, “clever”) isn’t really valued in our society. (Anyone who thinks this is a recent phenomenon due to the current president has not been paying attention well before now.) Part of it probably is that there are a lot of people who are threatened by someone who can do something better than that person can. Americans like to think of ourselves as a society striving for equality, but we also like to think of ourselves as a meritocracy, and the two concepts are somewhat at cross-purposes to each other. Part of it as well probably is because some smart people unintentionally make people feel inferior, or (particularly if they’re young) haven’t figured out interpersonal skills to not do that. (Some people, such as myself, like to claim that they don’t care what people think about them, but that’s not likely to be true.) Harry Truman famously said the world is run by C students, so intelligence does not necessarily translate to leadership skills; nor does it necessarily lead to sense or wisdom, as, well, whatever political debate you choose to cite proves.

Last year for the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Time magazine did an online where-are-they-now feature. One spelling bee champion became a spelling bee coach. None profiled did what I did, go into journalism, one of the few lines of work that actually appreciates spelling ability. (Or where you get nailed for lack of spelling ability. However, the standard in print journalism is to write at an eighth-grade level, and words in more advanced spelling bees are well past eighth grade.)

Not in the Time story was Joanne Lagatta of Clintonville, the first and only Wisconsinite to win the national bee. (On “inappetence,” lack of appetite, and “antipyretic,” a drug used to combat fever.) She is now a pediatric physician, certainly a better profession for the world than journalism, though I wonder if she can use both of those words in the same sentence, such as “She gave her patient an antipyretic in part because the fever had caused her patient inappetence for several days.” Of course, given the rare use of those words, most people probably wouldn’t know what she was talking about, similar to the sentence in the title of this blog.

Milwaukee and Madison writ large

Ross Douthat writes about big American cities, not including Milwaukee and Madison, though they are to this state what New York City is to New York:

The age of Trump has inspired soul-searching within our overclass — long nights reading “Hillbilly Elegy,” mostly — but also a wave of cosmopolitan pride. During the presidential campaign, when Trump talked about making America great again, Hillary Clinton countered that “America is already great” — meaning, of course, dynamic and diverse and tolerant and future-oriented, all the things that Trump seems to dismiss and his voters seem to fear.

This great-already sentiment has been reproduced in many elite quarters, and last week the Niskanen Center’s Will Wilkinson, writing in The Washington Post, brought it to a particularly sharp point: What’s really great about America is its big, booming, liberal cities.

Trump loves to talk down America’s great metropolises, Wilkinson points out, portraying them as nightmares out of “Death Wish” or “Dog Day Afternoon.” Wilkinson says that’s because our president needs “to spread the notion that the polyglot metropolis is a dangerous failure” to advance his nativist agenda. But in reality our cities are, yes, already great — safer-than-ever, culturally-rich, rife with policy innovation, and driving our economic future. They’re places where immigrants flock and college graduates increasingly cluster, compounding their talents through cooperation and exchange, generating new ideas and innovations while the Trumpish hinterland languishes in resentment and nostalgia.

I respectfully dissent. Yes, for many of their inhabitants, particularly the young and the wealthy, our liberal cities are pleasant places in which to work and play. But if they are diverse in certain ways they are segregated in others, from “whiteopias” like Portland to balkanized cities like D.C. or Chicago. If they are dynamic, they are also so rich — and so rigidly zoned — that the middle class can’t afford to live there and fewer and fewer kids are born inside their gates. If they are fast-growing it’s often a growth intertwined with subsidies and “too big to fail” protection; if they are innovation capitals it’s a form of innovation that generates fewer jobs than past technological advance. If they produce some intellectual ferment they have also cloistered our liberal intelligentsia and actually weakened liberalism politically by concentrating its votes.

So has the heyday of these meritocratic agglomerations actually made America greater? I think not. In the age of the liberal city — dating, one might argue, to the urban recovery of the 1990s — economic growth has been slack, political dysfunction worse, and technological progress slow outside the online sector. Liberalism has become more smug and out-of-touch; conservatism more anti-intellectual and buffoonish. The hive-mind genius supposedly generated by concentrating all the best and the brightest has given us great apps and some fun TV shows to binge-watch, but the 2000s and 2010s haven’t exactly been the Florentine Renaissance.

On the air only on YouTube

A figure of Madison media history died last week:

Richard E. “Dick” Flanigan, age 81, passed away on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017, following a short illness. …

His first job after college was working for WTVO in Rockford, Ill. This is where he met his future wife, Valerie Vinet. They were married a year later, in 1968. The newlyweds made Madison their home and Dick began working at WMTV where he served as the art director. During his career, he hosted Lenny’s Inferno as Mr. Mephisto from 1969-1982.

If you are old enough and you grew up in Madison, you may have watched …

Isthmus interviewed Flanigan several years ago:

Mr. Mephisto. If you are at least 30 years old and lived in Madison between 1966 and 1982, this name is familiar to you — especially if you were a horror-movie buff, insomniac or impressionable boy during those years. Mephisto was the host of Ferdie’s Inferno and, later, Lenny’s Inferno, during its run late Fridays on WMTV.

The Inferno,” Flanigan says, “and he said in light of what this is all about, it made sense to have Mephisto there.”

Indeed. The festival’s focus on frightening independent films synchs well with the inventive low-budget approach taken by the Inferno and the entire phenomenon of late-night horror shows on television. “The whole idea behind doing the Inferno the way we did it was, it was fun,” Flanigan explains. “If it wasn’t fun I don’t think we would have lasted as long as we did.”

Born and raised in Rockford, Illinois, Flanigan came to Madison in 1967 when WMTV hired him as its art director. This was, he says, “like dying and going to heaven.” Ferdie’s Inferno had already been on the air for a couple of years by then, with program manager Jack Crowley as Mephisto. Sponsored by American TV, the show broadcast classic horror movies, vintage episodes of The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits and other frightening fare. Mephisto presided over commercial breaks. Flanigan remembers Crowley as “crazy” but also “a good man.” When he left the station, promotions manager Carl Ames succeeded him in the role of Mephisto. “One of the best on-air talents I ever saw,” Flanigan says of Ames, “and one of the best writers.” When Ames left WMTV circa 1969, Flanigan inherited Mephisto duties. It was, he recalls, “the path of least resistance.”

By then, Ferd Mattioli’s health was in decline, and his brother, Lenny, had come up from Chicago to run American TV. The company sponsored the show through 1982, at which point it went of the air here.

“It was almost all improv,” Flanigan says of the format. “We didn’t have any budget. Which was OK, fine, I understand the business end of it. So I tried to create the format where we had the most flexibility and I could surround myself with people who were more talented than I was. People who were very good at what they do, and they’re crazy.”

A glimpse of this can be seen in a montage of still photos from the show.

Among the most significant of these characters was John Sveum, who filled the role of the voice in the box that sat on Mephisto’s desk. …

“I brought John Sveum in from the beginning and created this idea of just a voice in the box,” Flanigan recalls. “What that did was there’s nothing you can’t do with a box that has a voice, and there’s always the mystery of just exactly is in there.” The interplay between Mephisto and the voice in the box was among the Inferno‘s most memorable dynamics. The voice in the box also freed Sveum up to fill other roles. “Things just happened,” remembers Flanigan, who calls Sveum “really gifted” in his ability to take on different characters who appeared on the show. …

Over the years, Flanigan has learned there are countless people in his sons’ generation who grew up with the show, who stayed up past their bedtimes to watch, and are now adults.

It was a great ride, he allows. “When you have to supply content for 12 years, you go through the gamut,” he observes. “We had serials, we had half-hour shows, hour shows, we had Twilight Zone, we had Outer Limits. I turned thumbs down on Doctor Who. That was the biggest mistake I ever made.”

Maybe so, but this was offset by all the good decisions he made. None were better than lobbying the station and his sponsor for the Universal horror package that included the original Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Wolf Man, Dracula and other vintage classics. These were the movies Flanigan himself had grown up on.

“I remember being in a movie theater and seeing the coming attraction for Frankenstein,” he says. “It was being re-run. I was born in ’35, and this thing was being brought back. In those days, they used to do that, wait seven, eight years and bring it back. And I’d never heard of it. And I’m sitting in the theater and I’m looking at this and it scared the hell out of me. It really did.”

The original King Kong was another classic that scared him. But one of the most effective horror movies of all, he says, was the original Thing from Another World. “I took a stopwatch,” he remembers, “and in an 87-minute movie, that Thing was onscreen for less than three minutes, and yet they created this atmosphere and this tense buildup to confrontation using one of the oldest ploys in the world, a small group of people banded together where they can’t get help, menaced by an overpowering force.

“I remember the first time I saw The Thing,” he continues. “I was a freshman or sophomore in high school, and I went alone in the middle of winter. And I had to walk from a bus stop on an unlit street to get home, and it was edgy, it really was. That movie really got to me. But then you see it again and you like it just as much the second time.”

Growing up on the old classics impressed upon him that the best movies start with good writing. A good director and good cast are also essential to a good movie, in his view. All the CGI in the world can’t make up for any one of those three factors, he contends.

Describing himself as a cinephile with eclectic tastes, he says he is impatient with most contemporary slasher flicks that substitute gore and other fright-for-fright’s-sake conventions instead of a compelling narrative arc. “You can’t kill Mike Myers,” he observes, “so why try? It’s boring. Put the costume on ’em and the story is lousy and there’s no direction, the movie isn’t gonna go anywhere. It’s inept.”

He also tends to dismiss spinoffs, sequels and remakes as inadvisable, with little chance of equaling or surpassing the original movie, though he cites the latest Indiana Jones release as an exception to this rule. He is an admirer of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, as well as Hitchcock. …

He pauses, calling to mind an anecdote from his Inferno days. “Boy, I sure wish I had this Inferno. We did an Inferno with Kentucky Fried Theater when they were just starting out. They came out and they just wanted to be on the show. There were a couple things they did that were hilarious. One of them, he was real thin and he took his shirt off and we had a turntable in the studio big enough for a car, because they used to do car commercials and they’d rotate them on this turntable. Well he went out on that turntable and he did a mime of a piece of bacon frying. And it was hilarious to watch the convolutions he went through, but I said we can add to that, because we had a kitchen set there, so I told our studio manager to start one of the stovetops and put a metal frying pan on that and as he’s doing this pour some water on it and hang a mic over it and it sounded just like bacon frying when that water hit that hot pan. And he could hear it and he’d react to that and it was hilarious.”

That was one of the shows that went unrecorded for the archives. “Who knew?” Flanigan asks. Every week was like that. You never knew what might happen. “We’d get ahold of something that Lenny would give us to destroy because Lenny loved that stuff and we enjoyed doing it. He loved watching pickaxes go through TV sets.” Characters on the show would tear apart various stereo components, set fire to a turntable and cook eggs on them, brandish a big hocking knife, throw things at Mephisto.

Mephisto was an easy target. His face was white. Everything else was black: hair, soul patch, hat, cape. And there was that Mephisto snarl. “The thing about Mephisto that I always thought made people like him was that he treated everybody as if I am god, this is my domain, what I say goes, which was exactly wrong, because he wasn’t,” Flanigan observes. “There are people who throw pies and people that get hit. Mephisto never threw a pie. But he never once thought he wasn’t the boss. And of course he was a doormat. You can’t help but kind of like him. He’s the biggest idiot you ever met in your life and they just abuse him, but he just kind of swings with it.”

“The Inferno” was one of the last late-night shows that TV stations used to carry, in the days before late-night network TV after “The Tonight Show.” That lasted longer than the related trend of TV stations producing their own kids’ shows, such as WISC-TV’s “Circus 3,” or TV stations’ carrying old movies on weekend afternoons and weeknights. All have been replaced by more news programming, more network programming (sports on weekends), syndicated programming and infomercials.

Milwaukee and Green Bay TV stations had their own versions.

Welcome to the name-brand fray

David Blaska formerly wrote for Isthmus before Isthmus decided it didn’t want him anymore.

Blaska then wrote for InBusiness before InBusiness (for which I used to write) decided it didn’t want a couple of his columns anymore.

So Blaska decided to do it himself:

Welcome to Stately Blaska Manor. Over the Thanksgiving week and in the dead of night, likely Trump supporters and other insurgents moved the Stately Manor, its Policy Werkes (and Tanning Salon) and the indentured servants (fast asleep) from InBusiness to higher ground. Easier to defend. Free to be and say what needs to be said. In other words, No More Mr. Nice Guy!

Please tell your friends to bookmark me! Now, on with the show!

Blaska started with

What happens when a campus organization invites a speaker to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to talk about free speech?

Young totalitarians who disagree with the speech — making the usual claims of victimhood — try to shut it down, of course! It happened November 16 when Young Americans for Freedom invited Ben Shapiro, editor of the DailyWire, to speak on the infantilization of our great universities.

As if to prove his point, 20 Black Lives Matter vigilantes disrupted his talk. At one point, the young brownshirts marched to the stage while police permitted the heckler’s veto. Demonstrators interrupted Shapiro several times, barely allowing him to utter a few sentences at a time, WKOW-TV reports.

“So you get to interrupt lectures if you’re the right gender, or the right sexual orientation. You get to do these things without punishment because after all, that’s in the nature of social justice, group justice,” Shapiro said as he looked towards the protesters.

In the lobby of the Social Studies Building, WIBA-AM’s Vicki McKenna was trying to report the story when several of the protestors seemed to menace her. White man with ring in his lips tells her the disruption “needed to happen” because the mere “presence of this event is violence.” The future of America, right there!

University police pushed the diminutive woman away as the protestors sprayed the MF word at her. (That video here.)

Police made no attempt to protect her right to be present in a university building or the invited speaker’s right to be heard.

“If we have any police officers here, this is now absolutely a disruption,” Shapiro pleaded, to no avail. (Source here.)

But remember, there’s no such thing as reverse discrimination. (There’s no such thing, there’s no such thing, there’s no such thing.)

The Policy Werkes demands — a statement from Chancellor Rebecca Blank affirming the right of free speech at the University of Wisconsin’s flagship campus. That includes the right to be heard over the heckler’s veto. The Board of Regents should investigate. Expel students who deprive the rights of free speech — a civil rights issue if ever there was. The State Legislature should convene hearings of top administrators to determine if they have not created a climate of fear and repression on campus by labeling as “hate speech” all political speech. And how about course work on the Constitution of the U.S. be required for graduation for all students — especially sociology majors.

To no one’s surprise, UW–Madison is not the only Madison institution that stifles free speech:

Not to be outdone by UW-Madison, the Sturm und Drang stirred up by the hateful election of Donald Trump has reached the formerly placid shores of bucolic little Lake Wingra here in Madison.

Someone left a hateful Post-it® sticky note on a hallway office window at Edgewood College — surely “an act of cowardly hatred,” as officials there are describing it. And the damn thing is bright fuschia, to boot!

Students at the small liberal arts college were traumatized by the results of November 8 (a date that will live … in INFAMY!). The private Catholic school set up a table in the food commons for students to express their hurt feelings via heartfelt little sticky notes.

“In an act of intimidation and cowardice,” explains Edgewood’s vice president for student development, someone posted a sticky note inside the window of the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion. (Scholars, take note: consider a career in Inclusion.)

“A great deal of fear, sadness, and anger among students, faculty and staff resulted,” relates college veep Tony Chambers. “The message was hateful and harmful toward members of our community.”

The term “micro-agression” does not begin to describe this assault on all that is decent and holy. Edgewood College responded by convening an emergency meeting. At the table: campus security, the dean of students, human resources, Title IX enforcement, and the diversity and inclusion crowd.

(One pictures the White House situation room as the Navy Seals took down Osama bin Laden.)

“The group determined that the message constituted a hate crime.”

The incident of the hateful sticky note has been reported to Madison police (Mike Koval, chief head cracker). No doubt, the sticky note, a particularly offensive shade of pink, will be introduced as States’ Evidence No. #1. Hand writing analysts will be sworn to tell the whole truth and nothing but. Various victims, selected according to race, creed, and gender identification, will commit their personal suffering to the court transcript.

The college is asking anyone with knowledge of the perp contact Campus Security at 608-663-3285. As the proud parent of an Edgewood alumnus, The Squire takes this merde seriously. (I can vouch for Number #1 Son; we were instilling fear and hate on another campus that day.)

Vice president Chambers vows an Old Testament smiting of the pink sticky noter. (Or is it the stinky pink noter?) “Any attempt to discriminate, instill fear in or intimidate our students, faculty or staff will result in serious and stiff consequences!”

Serious is bad enough, but need we go “stiff”?

Did the note bear a swastika? No, it did not. A burning cross? Negativo!

This should be fun reading as Madison college students continue to cowardly burrow into their safe spaces. Wait until these delicate little flowers enter the real world.

 

News from the People’s Republic of Madison

The UW–Madison Daily Communist — I mean, Daily Cardinal — reports:

Republican congressman Sean Duffy is facing criticism for describing Madison as a “communist community” when he attacked the ongoing presidential recount in Wisconsin Wednesday.

In a Fox News interview, Duffy, who represents northwestern Wisconsin, criticized Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s request for a recount of the state’s general election race.

“It’s a sad state of affairs for these Democrats who don’t believe in democracy and freedom and free elections,” Duffy said.

Duffy alleged that election officials in Dane County were stalling in order to miss the Dec. 13 deadline for certifying the vote, even though the county is on track to complete the recount on time.

Duffy’s comments drew a rebuke from numerous Wisconsin politicians.

On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., called for an apology from Duffy. Pocan represents Wisconsin’s second congressional district, including Dane County.

“His insinuation that my constituents are somehow un-American for exercising their political views is extremely alarming,” Pocan said in a release.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin also voiced his disapproval over Duffy’s comments, initially calling him a “moron.”

“I apologize to Congressman Duffy for referring to him as a moron. I should have said he is a liar and a charlatan,” Soglin said Thursday.

Duffy defended himself on Twitter, tweeting “The PC crowd is humorless. For those offended by my ‘communist’ comment, I’ll send a therapy dog to your ‘safe place’ of choice in Madison,” and questioned whether Pocan would “accept the results of the election and denounce the frivolous recount.”

In response, Pocan tweeted “Humorless is better than being senseless about Dane County providing 73% of new jobs in WI. Perhaps a $175K salary distorts your views.”

Interesting comment from Pocan, given that his salary is the same as Duffy’s.

I also fail to understand why Comrade Pocan believes economic growth is a good thing, given that Pocan and his ilk believe the only purpose of making money is to give it to Pocan and his ilk.

I’m not sure why a UW–Stevens Point professor felt the need to chime in, but, Wisconsin Public Radio reports …

U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy’s comments that involved calling the Madison “communist” during a Fox News interview earlier this week are “simply irresponsible,” a UW-Stevens Point political science professor said.

“I mean, Duffy, besides being a member of Congress, is also part of the transition team and so, you just don’t say that,” professor Ed Miller said.

Duffy, who represents Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District, made the comment during an interview about the state’s presidential recount on Tucker Carlson Tonight. …

Duffy went on to say that people working for Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton are taking as much time as possible to contest ballots and “slow-walking” so that votes can’t get certified.

“If that doesn’t happen, to think of the state of Wisconsin who voted for Trump, the first time for a Republican since 1984, that our 10 electors would be disenfranchised for our state, is a sad state of affairs for these Democrats who don’t believe in Democracy and freedom and free elections,” Duffy also said. “They want to use politics to undermine the will of the voter.”

Miller said Duffy is essentially separating people by calling the Madison-area Communist. Miller added that Duffy’s comment is factually inaccurate, Dane County is not the only county hand counting the ballots.

“There’s a number of counties that are hand counting their ballots in Wisconsin,” Miller said. …

“His insinuation that my constituents are somehow un-American for exercising their political views is extremely alarming,” Pocan said in a statement. “At a time when our country stands divided, Congressman Duffy’s ‘Trumpizing’ of Wisconsin is the wrong direction for our state.”

Pocan also said he hopes the Wisconsin delegation will condemn Duffy’s comments.

Other responses to Duffy’s characterization of Wisconsin’s capitol included its mayor, Paul Soglin, who said, “For years I’ve been listening to morons like Representative Duffy, who are resentful of the fact that Madison is Wisconsin’s economic engine,” according to WSAU-TV.

The mayor released a statement Thursday addressing his earlier comments on Duffy.

“I apologize to Congressman Duffy for referring to him as a moron. I should have said he is a liar and a charlatan,” Soglin said.

And that’s a rich comment from Soglin given his being a buddy of the now-room-temperature Fidel Castro.

The Wisconsin State Journal unsurprisingly felt the need to chime in:

Have you no sense of decency, U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy?

Madison is not a “progressive, liberal, communist community,” as you claimed on Fox Newsthe other night.

We’re a progressive, liberal, capitalist community. And our strong free-market economy is creating more private-sector jobs than any other part of the state.

That’s why Madison Mayor Paul Soglin took such offense this week to your commie dig, though most people understood it to be hyperbole (as was the first sentence in this editorial). …

Wisconsin has long struggled with an urban-rural divide. And that unfortunate rift has grown worse in the wake of last month’s election. Rural voters in Wisconsin and elsewhere played a big role in handing the presidency to a bombastic Donald Trump, which shocked many city dwellers.

But the election is now over, and even the big-talking Republican president-elect has toned down his rhetoric.

Sort of.

We all should be on the same side in Wisconsin when it comes to helping each other succeed across regions of the state. When southern Wisconsin does well, that’s good for northern Wisconsin, and vice versa. The insults don’t help.

I don’t know that the State Journal’s last claim is really the case. Certain parts of this state are emptying out as people move east, to, among other places, Madison. What does Southwest Wisconsin, for instance, get when someone from there moves to Madison?

There’s also this bit of historical revisionism:

Soglin gave Cuban dictator Fidel Castro a symbolic key to Madison four decades ago. But the mayor also has worked in the financial industry and at Epic Systems, one of the state’s fastest growing private companies.

Epic Systems is in Verona, not Madison. Soglin and Madison’s intransigence is why Epic is in Verona, not Madison. And Soglin’s private sector experience comes as an attorney who was hired by people to try to navigate the regulatory morass he created in his previous term as mayor.

Is Madison Communist like Cuba or China? Not economically, though perhaps in its lockstep ideology where non-liberal thoughts are not allowed to be expressed, let alone become law. Clearly Duffy was using a pejorative to describe my hometown and the left-wing jerks who live in it, two of which took Duffy’s bait. (Apparently Soglin doesn’t have enough things to do.) And the over-the-top reaction is certainly revealing, isn’t it? It’s like communism is a bad thing or something.

 

More blasts from Madison’s media past

Early in the history of this blog I wrote a popular entry on what Madison media I could remember and find online in my early TV-watching days.

That included this classic photo of WISC-TV’s “Action News” from the 1970s:

The earliest version of this set had neither of the Big Giant 3s; it had up to five anchors sitting in chairs you might find on your screened-in porch, with graphics that would come up in the non-blue checkers behind them. (Which obviously eliminated the old summertime blazer-and-tie-and-shorts for those who report the news behind desks.)

action-news-checkerboard

News Checkerboard 2.0 added the 3 table (which obviously also indicated how many people could be seated at the table) and the big blue 3 behind them. (Back when I was on cable TV in Ripon I suggested someone build a big giant R table for programs. It didn’t happen.)

Doing the news on the Big Giant 3 set this night were Tedd O’Connell (center), the so-called “hipster newsman” whose career highlights included visiting Cuba with Mayor Paul Soglin (in the middle); sports director Jim Miller (left); and reporter and weatherman John Digman, who used a ’40s car antenna as his weather map pointer.

john-digman

(Digman once talked to my high school journalism class. He was hilarious. Sadly, he died at 40 of a heart attack.)

It turns out that WISC-TV’s website has a number of old photos, including O’Connell after “Action News” was replaced by “News 3” and the checkerboard and Big Giant 3s were replaced by something more colorful:

Channel3000.com also has photos of O’Connell’s colleague and replacement John Karcher …

… weekend anchor Rick Roberts …

… Bill Brown (at least I think he is), deep-voiced news anchor who preceded O’Connell back when WISC had one hour of “Eyewitness News” at 6 …

… local TV pioneer Marlene Cummings …

… meteorologist Marv Holewinski, minus his banana-yellow blazer (and Holewinski can still be heard on Wisconsin radio) …

… and former weekend sports anchor Curt Menefee, now host of Fox NFL Sunday:

A web search found another photo of Brown, who is one of the first TV people I remember:

YouTube also has one of the aforementioned Digman’s former coworkers, Rick Fetherston, who later went to WMTV while teaching my UW–Madison broadcasting course. Digman and Fetherston were on-set at WISC while longtime anchor Jerry Deane was doing the news, when suddenly Deane’s dentures flew out of his mouth live on the air. Since apparently this had happened before, Deane calmly caught the dentures in mid-air, put them back in his mouth, and continued as though nothing unusual had just happened. He was the only person acting like this; Digman said Fetherston and he were on the floor laughing off camera.

Also on YouTube is Tom Bier, who worked on- and off-air at WISC for years:

Those with interest in Madison media history can also go to the online Wisconsin Broadcasting Museum, where can be found Wisconsin Broadcasting Hall of Fame members Tom Bolger of WMTV, WISC owner Elizabeth Murphy Burns and general manager David Sanks, WIBA radio founder William T. Evjue (who, yes, also founded The Capital Times; Evjue is probably spinning in his grave over WIBA’s carrying non-lefties Rush Limbaugh and Vicki McKenna), WKOW meteorologist and Weather Central founder Terry Kelly, WISM and Z104’s Jonathan Little, WKOW radio (later WTSO) and TV’s Roger Russell, WKOW sportscaster and “Dairyland Jubilee” host John Schermerhorn, WKOW and WOLX radio owners Terry and Sandy Shockley, former WISM and Magic 98 general manager Bill Vancil, and one of my favorite UW professors, School of Journalism director Jim Hoyt. A number of famous Wisconsin sports announcers can be found there too.

Not in the Hall of Fame is former UW–Madison pharmacy Prof. Phil Mendel, better known as the former public address announcer for Badger hockey games at the Dane County Coliseum, and road-game color commentator for Badger games. Mendel worked with Bob Miller, the first of three Badger hockey announcers who later worked in the NHL, and then when Miller left for the Los Angeles Kings, Paul Braun (announcer of four of six UW NCAA hockey titles) and former UW assistant coach Bill Howard.

As you know, Braun and Howard got to cover one of the more wacky moments in college hockey history, the 1992 North Dakota–Wisconsin Water Bottle Fight.

Mendel always opened games at the Coliseum with “Good evening … hockey fans” which I, uh, pay tribute to by opening every one of my live games with “Good morning/afternoon/evening, [insert sport name here] fans.” The “If you grew up in Madison you remember …” Facebook page contains a thread started by a former UW hockey player, where those who remember Mendel’s ’70s radio and ’80s TV appearances chimed in with such sayings of his as “[insert opposing goalie’s name here] is as useful as a screen door on a submarine!” and “[insert opposing sieve’s name here] is as frustrated as an unmated coon!” You are unlikely to hear the latter on the air anymore, but that’s not the point.

For those who think a 30-minute hockey fight started by a water bottle is strange, consider what Braun, Howard and Mendel got to cover the next year in another UW game against the Boys (Then) Named Sioux. Wisconsin played North Dakota in the 1983 Western Collegiate Hockey Association semifinals, a two-game total-goal series in Grand Forks that, thanks to the first night’s 1–1 tie and second night’s 4–4 score after three periods (only because of a Chris Chelios goal with 12 seconds left in regulation), went to overtime. And then a second overtime. And then a third overtime. And then things got strange.

Ted Pearson scored the game-winning goal in the third overtime, only to have the goal disallowed because Pearson was using an excessively curved stick, which Mendel and his partners dramatically announced upon coming back from commercial after the supposedly game-winning goal. So not only was the game (and series) not over, but the Sioux went on the power play due to the resulting unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty. An overtime penalty usually is a recipe for losing the game, and yet 26 seconds after Pearson went to the penalty box, teammate Paul Houck scored to win the game again, this time officially. (Remarkably, it was the first shorthanded goal North Dakota had given up all season.) The Badgers then beat archrival Minnesota in Minneapolis to win the WCHA playoff, and beat St. Lawrence twice in the quarterfinals, then Providence and Harvard in the Frozen Four in, of all places, Grand Forks (where North Dakota fans improbably wore “This Sioux’s for You” buttons in support of the Badgers) to win the Badgers’ fourth NCAA title and the first of two for coach Jeff Sauer.

Would you believe there is something older from Madison? How about WISM radio from March 4, 1966 (when I was nine months and one day old):