When people asked about Sid Hartman, I’d say I hoped he would say nice things about me at my funeral.
I wasn’t joking.
I thought Sid was indestructible.
I know he was misunderstood in one crucial way.
As big a deal as Sid was in Minnesota, Minnesotans didn’t understand a basic truth about him: He was unique.
There are no Sids in other cities, or states. There probably aren’t any Sids in any other country.
He wasn’t our version of Sid Hartman. He was the only existing version of Sid Hartman.
In a profession that at least pretends to value objectivity and professional distance, Sid was a fan who owned valuable real estate in the region’s biggest newspaper. He was a millionaire who thrilled at eating press box hot dogs after landing a one-on-one interview.
He befriended sports figures, broke sacrosanct rules by cheering in the press box, and shattered a few hundred NCAA bylaws while entertaining Gophers players.
I’ve had members of the Grant family tell me that Bud would not have stuck with college if Sid hadn’t kept his belly filled when he was a Gophers athlete.
Sunday, Vikings receiver Adam Thielen called Sid a big part of “the organization,’’ and he wasn’t talking about the Star Tribune. Only Sid could get away with that.
Sid insinuated himself into every local sports organization and, as late as the 1980s, he seemed to have a say in who would get hired for the biggest jobs, including Minnesota athletic director and Vikings head coach.
The first time Sid and I worked closely together on a project was 1992. Jerry Burns had retired. Sid and I spent a hundred hours working the phones in the old Star Tribune building, trying to find out who would replace Burnsie.
I was talking regularly with Pete Carroll, a favorite of the old-school Vikings bosses. Sid was calling Vikings owners and telling them to hire Carroll, one of his close personal friends. One day, Carroll told me, “I’m not getting the job.”
Sid picked up the phone and screamed at a Vikings owner, and that’s how he got the scoop that the team was hiring Denny Green.
When Sid was still carrying his oversized tape recorder around, we spent most of our time together arguing. One time I walked into the office of a Vikings assistant coach to hear Sid saying, “Don’t give anything to Souhan — you only talk to me.”
He’s the only non-athlete I’ve ever met who I would describe as a force of nature.
If you were a reporter who worked “with” Sid, he considered you his foremost competition. He’d also line up the best doctor in the state if your kid got sick.
Sid died on Sunday.
I’m shocked that he’s gone, and that he didn’t scoop the rest of us on the news.