I made two trips to the Cities last week. Both times to broadcast state girls basketball from Target Center in downtown Minneapolis. Two trips I will always remember for two reasons. The Minneota Vikings for winning the state championship and for all the covid restrictions that I had to follow, just to broadcast the games from Target Center
I left Madison Tuesday morning around 7:30 for Minneapolis. The Minneota Vikings girls basketball team was playing in the state semi final game against Mountain Iron Buhl from the Iron Range. The game was going to start at noon and I like to get there at least an hour early. I take Highway 7 all the way into the Cities, I jump off Highway 7 and take 494 North up to 394. Once I get on 394 that will take me right into parking Ramp A, which is connected to Target Center by the skyway. It is really slick and easy to get in and out of Target Center. The engineer that designed that should get a medal. I love it. I parked my car in Ramp A and it was a short walk in the skyway system to enter Target Center. This is where the fun begins with all the covid restrictions.
I am in no way blaming the Minnesota High School League (MSHSL) or the Minnesota Department of Health for what I am about to write, but it is so darn frustrating to change my usual routines of covering state sports. First, earlier in the week, I had to apply online to be accepted by the MSHSL to broadcast the state games. Here are the new covid rules for broadcasting state tournament games. Only one radio station per team is allowed. Well Minneota has three radio stations that cover them. So that means two radio stations will be left out. I had a real problem with that. Second only one sportscaster is allowed. So that means I can’t have a broadcast partner, which I usually do for sections and state. I was happy to get approved on Monday a day before the game. Not on the approval list was Marshall radio, I had a real problem with that. You become friends with your competition and I felt bad for them. So I made some phone calls and texts and found out they were not happy about it either and were making phone calls all day Monday. Long story short, they got approved and we all were able to cover the Minneota Vikings semi final game.
As I entered the lobby of Target Center on Tuesday, the media wasn’t allowed in the arena until a half hour before tipoff! I wasn’t happy about that either, along with my other radio friends. Most of us do a 10 to 15 minute pregame show and for some of us radio guys it takes a good 20 minutes to set up all our radio equipment and get hooked up to the radio station. We also had to take a covid test on our phone and answer questions stating we were covid free before entering. Once I went through the security check, it was about 11:40, remember tipoff is at noon! I climbed as fast as I could a number of flight of stairs to get to Section 106. Radio guys were located high above the Target Center floor. I was in the corner, a table was set up for me and I quickly set up my equipment and got my homework out and got connected to the radio station. I was still breathing hard as I went on the air. I did make it on time before the tipoff but barely. To say I was frustrated was an understatement.
The newspaper guys I think had it worse than the radio guys. Sitting six or more feet from me was the Minneota Mascot photographer Brian Jeremiason. I noticed he was taking pictures from where he was sitting. I asked him, “Do you have to take pictures from way up here?” He shook his head and said yes. Newspaper guys are usually on the floor. I felt bad for him, not being able to do his job the best he can. I have always struggled broadcasting play by play with a mask on, most of the time, I will just pull my mask down under my mouth and broadcast so I can breathe easier and so people can understand me better. I did that during the quarterfinal state game in Mankato and was tapped on my should by a MSHSL official to pull my mask up.
What I went through Tuesday at Target Center, I repeated on Friday for the state championship game. I was very frustrated with all the restrictions. I know the coaches and kids have had to handle adversity during the season with all the covid restrictions. Everyone has! I am very happy the kids had the opportunity to play this year and especially have a state tournament. I understand we are in a pandemic and covid is very real and we need to take precautions. I had covid and I have had a few people I know die from it. I would not want to be a decision maker for the Minnesota Health Department or MSHSL. The MSHSL have worked very hard to navigate through this pandemic to make things happen for the students. I wouldn’t want to be them for anything. I don’t like change very much and this has been hard.
Driving home last Friday I was very thankful that I was able to be at Target Center and broadcast the Vikings games. I was happy for the Minneota girls and coaches and my friends from Minneota. It was all worth it. I drove home with a smile on my face. All is good.