After 10 weeks of reporters and columnists answering questions from readers, the sports editing team took a turn in our newest sports mailbag. Some questions are edited for length.
The sports editors
Q Can you please explain how the sport-specific editor jobs differ from your job?
A They do a bunch of hard work that makes me look good when I take all the credit for it. You probably wanted more details than that, though.
We have production editors, day and night, and five “team leaders” who oversee reporters for various sports. Those five editors — Naila-Jean Meyers (NFL, Olympics), Chris Miller (NHL, MLB, golf), Michael Rand (NBA, WNBA), Joe Christensen (NCAA, Puck Drop) and Paul Klauda (preps, MLS) — work with their reporters every day to learn about what they’re hearing, work through story ideas and assignments, discuss what’s buzzing on their various beats and teams, and more. Dennis Anderson and Bob Timmons lead our Outdoors coverage beats, too.
Meyers is also our senior assistant sports editor, and she helps me make strategy decisions for our sports staff, which includes more than 40 journalists who spend all or most of their time producing sports sections, stories and content. My role includes a little of all that, more public-facing responsibilities, budget and strategy decisions, connecting with those 40-plus people, working with Star Tribune newsroom and company leaders and more. These days, I also get to be the person who controls the virtual velvet rope between the Zoom Waiting Room and the actual Zoom meeting. Love that. Get snippy with me and you can bet you’ll spend an extra 10, 15 seconds in the waiting room at the next staff meeting.
Chris Carr, sports editor
Prep sports this fall?
Q Do you think that high school fall sports will be delayed or canceled because of COVID-19?
Trent Witz, Minneapolis North assistant boys’ basketball coach
A With history as a guide, I see more evidence pointing to delays or canceling than getting started on time. The decisions to shut down winter tournaments and spring sports flowed from state government edicts. No reason to suspect that will change as fall sports approach. The dial-turning to reopen businesses has been slow and gradual, as promised by Gov. Tim Walz. No reason to suspect that will change going forward with schools, given how this pandemic continues to play out.
Come Monday, groups of 10 will be allowed to practice, in controlled pods and without contact, for the first time since before the shutdown in March. That bodes well for sports, right? But just this week, concern from athletic directors drove a two-week delay in the start of the summer waiver period, meaning coaches can’t start working with their athletes until June 15. Fall practice is scheduled to start Aug. 17.
The Minnesota State High School League says it hopes to start on time but that state actions will drive whether that’s possible. Any go-ahead would seem to require giving schools time to modify their buildings and procedures to handle school life, including sports, as safely as possible. Can it all happen by Labor Day, when teams would begin piling onto buses traveling to play games against rivals, probably without fans? My heart hopes yes; my head thinks no.
Paul Klauda, high school sports
Too soft on Twins bosses?
Q Why are your baseball writers so unwilling to call out and criticize the Pohlads? “Pohlad Pocket Protectors” is not a compliment yet it seems to be @LaVelleNeal’s #1 goal.
A The No. 1 goal of our baseball writers, Phil Miller and La Velle E. Neal III, is to be objective and analytical. The columnists (Jim Souhan, Chip Scoggins, Patrick Reusse, Sid Hartman and in Outdoors, Dennis Anderson) are free to be opinionated, in this case in reference to the Twins owners. La Velle is open to engaging conversations on Twitter, which has given him interesting nicknames; and it certainly prevents him from living in a glass house.
Chris Miller, team leader
Q What’s a story that got a lot of web traffic that surprised you that it did so well?
A Every story involving St. Thomas’ athletic program in the past 14 months has been tremendously popular with readers — from the early talks of the Tommies’ ouster from the MIAC last spring, to its current plan to leap to Division I. Those stories jump to the top of our readership charts, something I would not have predicted. Small college sports stories don’t often draw a wide audience; this one sure has. When we noticed this early on, we dedicated more reporting time to the story line, and I’m really happy with how we have tracked the St. Thomas news.
Return of the Jedi Master?
Q How often does “Crev” call to complain that there isn’t enough college football coverage in the paper?
Jeff Shelman (joking, mostly)
A Glen Crevier wrote the current Star Tribune Sports Playbook (that’s not really a thing) during his 20 years as sports editor. He retired late in 2018, and he stays in touch with compliments and encouragement and only shares advice when we ask. Crevier, a college football nut through and through, still lives in town and keeps close watch on Minnesota sports. We love hearing from Coach Crev. You, Shelman, might have a razzing phone call coming your way!
Baseball in 2020?
Q Do you think we will see Major League Baseball this year?
A I think so. I’ll skip all the talk about there being too much to lose for the owners and players to cut a labor, and move on to the idea that it will look very, very strange because of all that will need to be done to comply with pandemic restrictions. What those will be — and if they’ll be modified as the season goes on — I can’t say.
But the bigger issue is that some of the things that will look odd if the games resume could end up getting integrated into the game over the longer term. The blessing in this cursed season could be the opportunity to try some things in a season that will be remembered for all of the wrong reasons, however it plays out. I’d also bet that, if a deal is reached, players will have the opportunity to opt out of playing, and some big names will be missing.
Howard Sinker, digital sports