Tuesday, May 17, 2011

In Killer, Boogeyman, Minnesotans Saw Themselves

by NiNY

It hasn't actually been that quiet of a week in Lake Wobegon, my hometown.

Minnesota said good-bye to two of its favorite public figures in former Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard and, today, former Twins standout Harmon Killebrew.

In a great piece, what else do you expect from him, Steve Rushin observed how ill-named Harmon "The Killer" Killebrew was.

Likewise, in countless twitter shout outs and in the tireless work by Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, we heard a common string of epithets about Boogaard all speaking to how nice the man was, in direct contravention of his on-ice personae.

And I'm assuming the outpouring of love and respect and well-wishes for Killebrew will at least match what Boogaard's untimely passing brought about.

These two men garnered the love of Minnesotans for their play on their respective fields, no doubt. But their demeanor and personality off the field was what really endeared them to Minnesotans.

First, there was Boogaard. By all accounts gracious, humble, generous of time and energy and caring off the ice. His selflessness ironically mirrored by his massive frame, as though he realized that, in being so big, he literally had more to give than others.

Some athletes wear that mantle better, more comfortably and more naturally than others. For Boogaard it almost seemed like he viewed his success in hockey as a vehicle for his desire to serve the community. That's remarkable. And to be cherished. And, sadly in Boogaard's case, to be remembered - fondly.

And, of course, Mr. Killebrew. By all accounts a gentleman - from the era when being a gentleman meant something, too. Humble, genteel, himself a philanthropist with his time and fame. Quiet, eschewing of the spotlight. It's hard to think of today's sluggers mirroring Mr. Killebrew's "aw shucks" demeanor with any amount of credibility to their performance. While he was an All-Star (13 times) on the field, he preferred to "wash dishes" off it.

And it's those qualities that caused the love affair Minnesotans had with these two men. Minnesotans are themselves a quiet, reticent, kindly people. We're Garrison Keillor, Minnesota nice and a blue ox. We take to ice fishing, for God's sake. Talk about a demonstration of a desolate, austere personality.

I've lived away from Minnesota for half my life. When I go back now I am struck by the friendliness. People hold the door for you and then say "have a nice day!" before you even say thank you. Motorists observe the rule about stopping for pedestrians in a marked crosswalk. Pedestrians observe and utilize the marked crosswalks!

If you spent a day in NYC and then time warped to Minneapolis/St. Paul and spent a day there you'd feel like you woke up in Pleasantville - before Tobey and Reese got there.

Looking out for your fellow man, no it's not everywhere practiced by everyone, but it's darn close to it in Minnesota.

And it's a quiet, unassuming, "no thanks necessary" kind of friendliness, to boot.

So it's no wonder that these two men were idolized in Minnesota. The Killer and the Boogeyman were just Minnesotans' kind of guys, I guess.

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