AUTOMOTIVE POOH-BAH PAUL Brand is omnipresent. Every weekend his Autotalk call-in show can be heard on KSTP-AM (1500), and he's a regular commentator on its sister television station. Brand also dispenses advice weekly in the Star Tribune (including a recent column in which he advised parents to buy SUVs for their driving-age offspring so that at least they won't be injured in an accident). So when a keen-eyed reader dropped a line alerting Off Beat to the fact that the car guru is also featured in television commercials for a local auto-glass firm, our initial response was raging apathy. After all, isn't everything Brand does basically a commercial for the auto industry? (Come to think of it, the same can pretty much be said for the Star Tribune's Motoring section, period.) Then again, we were curious to hear what Strib honchos might have to say about their automotive columnist hawking auto glass on the tube. Star Tribune spokesman Frank Parisi says the way he sees it, there's no conflict of interest because 1) Brand is not a staff writer, and 2) he doesn't write specifically about auto glass. Intrigued by Parisi's parsing, we proceeded to ring up Brand. Not surprisingly, the onetime auto racer believes the commercials are kosher, though his rationale is a mite more creative than Parisi's. The ads contain no endorsement of the product, Brand points out; in fact, he never actually mentions the company, MidAmerica Auto Glass, by name. (The automotive expert talks about the finer points of auto glass, after which a narrator intones that the preceding bit of edutainment was paid for by MidAmerica.) "There's no conflict of interest, because I never say the client's name in any way, shape, or form," Brand argues. "When my image and voice is onscreen, there is no reference to a particular sponsor."
ONE OF THE esteemed blowhards who write sports gossip--the Pioneer Press's Charley Walters and the Star Tribune's Sid Hartman--is getting bad dirt. In his column this past Friday, Sid wrote, "Senior Travis Cole will start at quarterback for the Gophers on Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette at the Metrodome." Meanwhile, across the river, Charley wrote, "Look for Asad Abdul-Khaliq, despite faltering against Toledo last week, to start at quarterback for the University of Minnesota on Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette at the Metrodome." What a surprise--one of them was wrong.
As Others See Us
THE TWIN CITIES kinda took it on the chin in Sports Illustrated's recent Overrated/Underrated issue. Under the heading "Hopeless Obsession," writer Jeff MacGregor deemed Minnesota Vikings fans' obsession with the home team "underrated" because the Vikes "represent the kind of low-impact, fan-friendly semiobsession that workaday suburbanites and apple-cheeked 4-H members can get behind....A wholesome, farm-fresh rooting interest--that's what Mom, Dad, Sis and Baby Brother need! Year in and year out, after a pleasant season's team play, the Vikes lose their championships and Super Bowls as politely and predictably as Minnesota politicians lose presidential elections. They'll get close to the big prize, sure, but in the end they'll succumb to the paralyzing modesty required by the surrounding community."
AS LONG AS we're on the media beat, Off Beat will close this week by noting the passing of Salon's advice column, which was the creation of our local wholesome, farm-fresh nonfootball rooting interest, Garrison Keillor. We admit we started off tuning in only to see whether Mr. Blue was employing lascivious language (see our February 10, 1999 telling of the infamous "pussy" incident). But somehow the predicaments of the love-and-otherwise-lorn folks, and the columnist's wholesome, farm-fresh stabs at providing a commonsense moral compass, began to grow on old, jaded Off Beat. Yep, we're gonna miss the Bluester.