Off Beat

Let's Make a "Deal"

ST. PAUL MAYOR Norm Coleman's quest for a publicly funded baseball stadium led us to ponder the word grassroots (Off Beat, September 22 ). Last week's news of the contingency-riddled arrangement under which Glen Taylor and Robert Naegele Jr. are slated to buy the Minnesota Twins from Carl Pohlad sent Off Beat scurrying for the dictionary once again. After careful study, though, we've concluded that we may as well write our own definitions this time, based on current events:

* deadline, as in "October 1 deadline to sell the Twins": a specific, but utterly meaningless, point in time. When Coleman began championing his plan to move the Twins to St. Paul, he set October 1 as the deadline for the team to find new owners. That date came and went with no consequence (save for several days of news stories about negotiations continuing past the "deadline"). A deal was announced on October 7, just in time for the ten o'clock news.

* sale, as in "Twins sale announced": a business transaction that may or may not be consummated, depending on a host of variables--which in this particular case include the will of the voting public, expected to turn out in dribs and drabs on November 2 to weigh in on Coleman's proposal; and, if the referendum passes, the political winds blowing at the state Legislature when it comes time to approve public funding. Students of the long-running local ballpark debate will recall the "sale" of the Twins to North Carolina businessman Don Beaver--which included a November 30, 1997 "deadline" for Minnesota Legislature to vote to build a publicly funded new stadium. Or else.

* new, as in "new owners of the Twins": potential; prospective. Even if everything goes according to Coleman's plan, the "sale" to Taylor and Naegele has a closing "deadline": June 30, 2000.

Sitting Pretty

FROM A METRO TRANSIT brochure: "More than 80 percent of trips taken on Metro Transit buses are for work purposes, defying a common perception that mass transit is...a publicly funded charity for the less fortunate." Doubtless aiming to further dispel this "common perception," last Thursday the bus company debuted the first of two "coach" buses with a few celebratory remarks from Met Council Chair Ted Mondale. The brand-spanking-new $385,000 vehicle is like a Greyhound bus (but cleaner), and comes complete with reclining seats, individual reading lights and air vents, overhead storage space, and footrests. Metro Transit plans to rotate the coaches, which have been leased on a test basis for a year, on various long-distance express routes. While Off Beat would never begrudge a bus-riding commuter a cushy place to rest his or her bum, we can't help but contrast the suburban patron's ride with that of the typical city dweller. Metro Transit recently unveiled 20 new buses for its urban routes (at a cost of $246,000 apiece) that feature metal seats with only a thin pad where you might expect to encounter a cushion. Even the shelters are better in the 'burbs: The one at Plymouth Road Transit Center is fully enclosed, and features chairs and a soda machine.

Cursor, Foiled Again

ON FRIDAY EVENING, October 1, Off Beat mixed a cocktail and flipped on the tube to catch up on the flap over Gov. Jesse Ventura's Playboy interview. The maraschino cherry hadn't even sunk to the bottom of our Manhattan when we encountered a sight that made us return our La-Z-Boy to the upright position. As John Reger of WCCO-TV (Channel 4) reported live from the state capitol, a figure materialized behind him brandishing a homemade sign that read, "We're milking this story for all it's worth!" Then, just as abruptly, the statement, and the man attached to it, spun out of sight. Sure enough, the Crasher--known to his friends as cofounder Mike Tronnes (see "Get the Message," September 15)--reports that he again fell victim to a cameraman who set his equipment on auto, sneaked up, and tackled him. "It was an embarrassing performance," Tronnes reflects. "I was rattled and unable to deliver: I tried to hold up the sign, but it wasn't all in the frame." His timing, too, was off: "I walked onto the second half of the report, so when it ended, they were free to come after me." After the cameraman got through with him, Tronnes says, "A huge obscenity-shouting man ran from the WCCO van, grabbed me by the neck and shoulders, and started shaking me." Reger says he's not aware of what may have transpired between Tronnes and his crew, and adds, "It is sort of a giggle now, but I didn't know what was going on. I just heard rustling, and then my cameraman was gone. At that moment your mind flashes to the strange mail and phone calls that any media person gets. It doesn't occur to you that he may be a media critic; when he's coming at you from behind, he's just a potential threat.

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