Hecker, Petters, and Pawlenty: Turkeys of the Year 2009

The Twin Cities dirty dozen we're thankful to see go away

Minnesotans aren't known for drawing attention to themselves. This is a land where someone will ask you three times if you want something to eat, where merging is like a game of Blind Man's Bluff.

But this year brought a wealth of buffoons clamoring for attention. There was a senator who wouldn't go away, a governor intent on running for president, and way too many Ponzi schemers to count.

Thanksgiving is a time of reflection, when we count our blessings. We're thankful to bid adieu to these turkeys, although something tells us we may hear from some of them again in 2010.

Northwest Airlines Pilots

Kevin Cannon

Flights across the Midwest always seem to drag on. There's nothing but endless swaths of farmland to gaze at though the window. There's a reason they call it fly-over country.

Pilots aboard Northwest Airlines flight 188 took this literally, overshooting the Minneapolis airport by 150 miles.

Captain Timothy Cheney and first officer Richard Cole missed the air-traffic controllers' and Northwest's dispatchers' numerous attempts to make contact with their plane for more than an hour. The flight was halfway across Wisconsin before the pilots realized their blunder, turned their Airbus A320 around, and headed for home, safely landing all 144 passengers.

When the plane finally reached the gate, armed airport security boarded the plane and detained the pilots for questioning. A stunned nation immediately feared the pilots were asleep behind the controls. The two eventually copped to being distracted by computerized flight schedules.

Their actions led to an immediate suspension and revocation of their pilot certificates. Both pilots have appealed the decision, and the final report on the investigation is forthcoming.

It has made us all rethink choosing Northwest, a company that hires turkeys to fly.

Ricky Rubio

June 25, 2009, had Timberwolves fans excited. After surviving a disastrous season that saw the loss of star center Al Jefferson, the team was expected to score some much-needed talent from the NBA draft. Among the list of long shots was Ricky Rubio, a dashing young point guard from Spain.

With the floppy hair of a Jonas Brother and silky moves not seen since the days of Pistol Pete Maravich, Rubio was being talked about as a prodigy. He'd already backed up much of the hype by holding his own during the Olympics, out-flashing the likes of Chris Paul and Deron Williams.

So when Rubio dropped to No. 5 in the draft, the Wolves eagerly snapped him up. Seeing Rubio walk up to NBA commissioner David Stern and put a Timberwolves hat atop his goofy head nearly erased the pain of Kevin Garnett's departure to Boston.

But a day after the draft, Rubio's father sent a signal that his son would stay in Spain for another year. The crux of the problem was a gigantic buyout clause from his Spanish team, estimated at more than $5 million. Compounding the matter was an NBA collective bargaining agreement, a fancy term that prohibits a team from spending more than $500,000 toward a player's contract. So if the Timberwolves had a shot at Rubio, they had to find a way to work around league rules and obtain outside support to pony up millions.

Newly appointed GM David Kahn made several trips to Spain to try to coax Rubio to the Twin Cities. The extra effort proved fruitless. In the end, Rubio made the choice to stay in Spain, signing a new deal with FC Barcelona that gave him the option to leave for the NBA in 2011.

The silver lining in the whole Rubio mess was that it gave another promising point guard the opportunity to step up. Rubio takes our Turkey, but we'll happily share a drumstick with Jonny Flynn.

Paul J. Dolan

We'd love to be a fly on the wall at the Dolan family Thanksgiving dinner this year.

While Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan was dealing with a cornucopia of PR problems, including Taser-happy cops and charges of racial profiling, his brother Paul went out and got arrested for allegedly peddling drugs out of his mail truck.

The Turkey-worthy performance began on July 28 when a hidden camera caught Paul holed up in his Post Office van with a pipe to his mouth. Parked near the intersection of University and Raymond, Dolan was allegedly making special deliveries that had nothing to do with the mail.

Shortly after authorities got their hands on the video, Dolan was arrested and charged with selling dope while on the job. Upon raiding his home, officers uncovered more than 100 pot plants.

Charged with one count of possession of meth and one count of selling pot, Paul can't stay out of the headlines even as he awaits trial. Earlier this month, he told a judge he's broke and can't afford a private attorney—this despite owning six cars, including a Porsche.

Take Billy Carter and multiply him by Roger Clinton, and you're left staring at Paul Dolan.

Tim Pawlenty

Politicians are allowed their personal ambitions, of course, but in Pawlenty's transparently coy run for president, he has made decisions based on how they would play to the Republican base rather than what is best for his state.

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