Thursday, October 29, 2015

Review: Mark Rosen's Book of Minnesota Sports Lists (2014)

By Mark Rosen and Jim Bruton

You may be wondering how a guy from Buffalo, without any connections to the land of 10,000 lakes except a couple of friends, decided to pick up "Mark Rosen's Book of Minnesota Sports Lists."

Easy. I wanted to see if the book was "portable."

Not in the carrying sense. It checks in at 6 inches by 9 inches. You can take it anywhere.

Rather, I wanted to see if the idea was portable. Could be applied to other cities? Based on what I read, I think the answer is yes.

First of all, you need someone with credentials to pull this off, and Rosen seems well qualified. He's been involved in Minnesota sportscasting forever. Rosen hasn't seen it all, but he's seen a lot of it.

The veteran sailed through his lists pretty quickly, starting with "My Favorite Things," followed by chapters devoted to football, baseball, hockey, basketball, wrestling (one list), and "More of My Favorite Things."

The categories for Rosen's lists are generally predictable - favorite sports moments, best finishes, best coaches, best athletes biggest trades, all-time teams, best things about stadiums, top five reasons to have lunch with Lou Nanne (that last one did sort of come out of nowhere, even though Nanne has been known an engaging character since his days with the North Stars).

This is all done with enthusiasm and good humor. Rosen obviously loves his job, and has enjoyed the people he's encountered and the games he's watched. No wonder he's lasted so long in the Twin Cities. It's a breeze to go through this, and one of those books that can be examined at an point without missing a beat. In other words, it's fine bathroom reading if you are looking for it. (I had a book described that way, and considered it high praise.)

There are a few drawbacks here that should be mentioned, though. Some of the lists are pretty similar, and that means the information is about the same in each list. The good points and the bad points tend to get repeated a lot, and it's easy to wonder if there was a way around that. Maybe some different lists, or lists by others, might have helped.

And, naturally, there are places for disagreements. That's part of the fun of such an effort. Still, it was surprising to see Steve Payne ranked second on the list of great North Stars, ahead of Dino Ciccarelli. And only one mention of a personal favorite, Mike Ramsey, who is No. 10 of the great Minnesota athletes?

Finally, Kirby Puckett gets a great deal of love here. The Twins outfielder was the most popular athlete in Minnesota until eye problems forced him to retire. His winning personality captivated the state. But after retirement, Puckett was involved in several incidents that caused him to resign his front-office job with the Twins, and spend some time with lawyers and in courts. Even one of the tour guides at Target Field when I was there mentioned that opinions about Puckett have turned complicated. Puckett's legacy has changed since his retirement, but it doesn't read like it here.

Even so, Rosen accomplished what he set out to do - bring back memories of some good athletes and good games from the past. In that sense, "Mark Rosen's Book of Minnesota Sports Lists" accomplishes its goal.

Three stars

Learn more about this book.

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