Off Beat

They've Got Spirit, Yes They Do

WHEN HE TOOK his six-year-old son Brady to a Gopher men's hockey game last month, Larry DeVore figured he knew what he was getting into. Sure, he reasoned, college hockey's a physical game, but it certainly qualifies as family entertainment. Now DeVore's not so certain. The way he tells it, every time a Michigan player was sent to the penalty box during the November 25 tilt, the Gopher Men's Hockey Pep Band would play a rousing tune, whereupon the partisan crowd chanted a cheer whose finale was: "[INSERT NAME OF PLAYER]: You suck, you worthless piece of shit!" While he freely admits that college kids--himself included, during his days at Purdue--aren't always paragons of good taste, DeVore was miffed at what he viewed as the university's condoning of profanity. "I started feeling a little awkward with my son," he explains. "He's at an age where he knows bad words and knows he's not supposed to say them. Under the sanction of the university I don't think it's appropriate." Off Beat tracked down hockey band director Skeeter Burroughs. "I know exactly what cheer you're talking about," says Burroughs, adding that his group has nothing to do with it--the culprits are a cluster of about 30 die-hard students who sit in a section adjacent to the 65-member pep band. Whenever a member of the opposing team goes to the penalty box, his band plays a fanfare or the like, ending with some percussive panache. The last line of the cheer seems to always follow the percussion. "We try to play over that line to cover up the last word. It's a never-ending battle," Burroughs concedes. "No matter what we try, they still do it." He is quick to emphasize that under no circumstances are band members permitted to participate in the last line of the cheer. "There is no profanity when they're in performance mode." None of which mollifies Larry DeVore. "The band provides the rhythm and the backdrop for the cheer," contends the dad. "The students sit right in front of them. It kind of comes across as one unit."

Stop the Presses?

IS A STRIKE looming on the horizon at the Star Tribune? The newspaper's contract with the Graphic Communications International Union Local 1-M--which includes roughly 210 pressmen and paper handlers who work at the newspaper's production plant--expired December 1, and members recently voted to strike. The union local's president George Osgood declines to discuss the particulars of the talks or the vote. "We're negotiating at the table, not through the newspaper," he says. "We took a strike vote, which is just a normal practice." (Osgood notes that the union is also in negotiations with the St. Paul Pioneer Press on behalf of a small unit there that has been without a contract since March 31; no strike vote has been taken there.) Reporter Margaret Zack, who chairs the Strib faction of the Minnesota Newspaper Guild/Typographical Union, says newsroom employees are supportive of their colleagues. The strike vote margin, she reports, was "overwhelming, to say the least." But, she goes on, "In our view, talk of a strike and picket lines is premature at this point." (No strike date has been set.) According to Zack, one of the union's major issues is a company proposal to reduce the number of shifts per week, a move that would reduce staff. Star Tribune spokesman Frank Parisi says he believes the company's proposal related to overtime shifts only but adds, "I'm reluctant to talk about one element of the negotiations while they're still going on. We think the specifics should be discussed over the bargaining table." Parisi says the two sides have scheduled a fresh slate of meetings for January 17 and 18. (In case you're wondering, the paper's current contract with the guild, the largest of 11 unions representing various Strib workers, does not expire until July 31, 2003.)