Off Beat

Weiner Throws a Curve

STRANGE AS IT may seem, the Minnesota Twins are a hot topic at the Star Tribune these days. Last Wednesday, as the team that once again is set to contend for the worst record in major league baseball was packing to head north for its 40th season, the Strib published an excerpt of reporter Jay Weiner's new book Stadium Games: Fifty Years of Big League Greed and Bush League Boondoggles, in which Weiner contends that owner Carl Pohlad's threats to sell the Twins to North Carolina businessman Don Beaver in the fall of 1997 were a sham. According to Weiner, then-governor Arne Carlson's chief of staff Bernie Omann instructed the Twins to find an out-of-state buyer in order to force the Legislature to address the issue of a publicly funded stadium. The excerpt, which prompted a follow-up news story the next day, had staffers in the Strib newsroom buzzing about why Weiner failed to put the scoop in the paper when he first learned of it. Weiner tells Off Beat that he interviewed Omann in late 1998, when he was on unpaid leave. "I wasn't working at the paper, I was writing a book," he explains. "I wasn't getting paid by the paper. The whole idea was to be as distant from the paper as possible." And what of the follow-up article, in which Robert Whereatt quotes Carlson as saying the deal was real? "I stand by the reporting and I stand by the book," Weiner says, adding that it wasn't his idea to publish an excerpt. "One of the reasons that I hadn't wanted to do an excerpt in the paper is because [in the book] I am critical of myself, I am critical of my own coverage, I'm critical of other people on the staff." Indeed, Stadium Games takes aim at the work of columnists Patrick Reusse, Doug Grow, and Sid Hartman (at one point Hartman is referred to as a "longtime mouthpiece for the owners"). Given Weiner's own coverage of the Beaver deal for the paper, in hindsight does he believe he was played by the power brokers? "The answer is yes," concedes the reporter. "As I look back, they were sending signals through those stories to the legislators. But, you know, a lot of our stories happen that way."

Fighting Feathers With Fire?

WHEN OFF BEAT got wind of the Metropolitan Airport Commission's $100,000 plan to install "propane cannons" as part of a defense system against Canadian geese and other creatures that like to loiter around runways, we were overcome by visions of jumpsuit-clad airport crewmen barbecuing our feathered friends with futuristic flamethrowers while Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" played proudly in the background. Alas, while the cannons do look like the real deal, they're just glorified noisemakers, according to John Ostrom, manager of Airside Operations at the airport. (While Ostrom's six-man crew may kill pesky critters if need be, they do so only as a last resort.) The MAC intends to solicit bids from a variety of contractors, but Ostrom says the front runner is the Reed-Joseph International Company of Greenville, Mississippi, whose patented Scare Wars system emits 130-decibel blasts similar to gunfire and can be remote-controlled via computer. According to company literature, the bird busters, which go for between $2,500 to $5,000 a pop and have been employed by the U.S. Air Force as well as sundry airports, provide a "reduction in costly and disruptive trips to the airfield to manually disperse wildlife." Plus, the fact that they're not automated ensures that "wildlife pests will never grow accustomed to the cannon detonations." Off Beat was about to take up a collection around the office to buy our own cannon (all major credit cards accepted!)--until we noticed that the company would require a "wildlife control statement" to ensure that the product "will be used in a safe and responsible manner."

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