Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A different side of Justice Alan Page...

Photo source: Wikipedia, 2009
By Jim Heffernan

Much is being made this month of the retirement of Justice Alan Page from the Minnesota Supreme Court. By law he must retire at age 70, which he marks this month.

Does Page need further elaboration? Maybe to a few, but not many in Minnesota. Most people remember him as an all-pro lineman for the Minnesota Vikings in the 1970s, a player of such skill and power that he was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988.

Even while still playing professional football, Page went to law school, and in 1992 was elected to the state Supreme Court, where he has served ever since.

This is all Google-able information that needs no further elaboration here. What follows is not on Google, because it is a personal recollection of mine of one brief encounter with Page in the 1970s, long before he became a high court justice, and was still playing for the Vikings.

Sooner or later just about every Minnesota luminary, especially in politics but in sports and the arts as well, finds himself or herself in the newsroom of the Duluth daily newspaper – The Duluth News Tribune. I worked there for 42 years, a decade of those years (most of the 1970s) as the entertainment and arts writer and editor. My end of the operation was located in a small, enclosed office with large windows just off the newsroom.

I had plastered the walls and windows with memorabilia reflecting my job, including large travel posters that came to me in the mail because I was also listed as the newspaper’s travel editor (who never traveled anywhere on their cuff). One of the posters on my wall, perhaps 18 by 24 inches, was a vivid color photograph of the inside of an Austrian cathedral showing massive organ pipes rising to a blue ceiling (looked a lot like heaven), with seraphim and cherubim floating alongside (proving it).

One day as I sat at my desk I saw a large man wearing casual but athletic style clothes walking in the direction of my office on his way to an exit. He stopped in his tracks when he saw my travel poster of the cathedral organ pipes and rococo adornments, and just stared, saying something like, “Wow.”

I greeted him and invited him in to take a closer look, which he did as we engaged in small talk about the poster. The encounter didn’t last more than a couple of minutes. Not a football fan, I didn’t know for sure who this visitor was, although I surmised it was someone of importance in the wide world of sports. Yes, of course it was Alan Page, I learned for sure by checking with the sports desk across the room where he had undergone an interview.

Some people you meet you never forget, and years later when he was on the state ballot for the Supreme Court I always recalled my encounter with him. I presume I voted for him. Who could be a better justice than someone representing a minority – African American – who had achieved greatness in his chosen athletic field, educated himself to join the legal profession and who appreciated 18th Century rococo cathedrals?

Page participated in an extended interview by Tom Weber on Minnesota Public Radio Tuesday morning that can be accessed HERE. It’s well worth listening to. A shorter interview by Tom Crann today on MPR's All Things Considered may by linked HERETo learn more about the Page Education Foundation, please link HERE.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Random thoughts: Cecil, Trump, Walker and other outrages...

By Jim Heffernan

Here are a few random thoughts about some recent stuff.

1. We all feel badly about the shooting of Cecil the lion, of course. Aside from the sadness of it all, though, I have been wondering why nobody has mentioned that Cecil’s name is the first name of Cecil Rhodes, the British founder of the African country of Rhodesia -- the former name of Zimbabwe, where Cecil was killed. What goes around, comes around.

2. I wonder why nobody else has mentioned that Donald Trump looks a bit like Cecil. At least as much as any prominent human I can think of. Growls a little like him too, at times. 

3. On the big Fox News debate of the 10 leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker stood right beside the leonine Mr. Trump, displaying tolerant smiles. Is Walker a little cross-eyed? He reminds me of Alfred E. “What, Me Worry?” Newman, of Mad Magazine. (Googling Newman to check on the spelling of his name, I noticed he once said, “Listening to opera is to entertainment what falling off the roof of a barn is to transportation.” No mention of attending a blues festival.)

4. With all of this talk about Cecil, it made me wonder whatever happened to Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion. Remember him from the movies? Not to be confused with Gladly the Cross-eyed Bear. You’ll be hearing more about him during the Walker campaign. 

5. I wonder if it’s politically incorrect to even mention cross-eyedness any more. I often force-cross my eyes when confronted with something outrageous, like the Republican debates.

6. We’ve all made mistakes in life, but you know you’ve screwed up if you’ve caused a worldwide outrage, like the Twin Cities dentist who murdered Cecil the lion. It’s not easy to cause a worldwide outrage, unless you are a prominent politician or a famous terrorist. Infamous dentist? Not so much.

This is my last post for a while. Vacation time.