My introduction to the newspaper business was as a copy boy at the Minneapolis Morning Tribune from August 1963 through December 1965. There were endless highlights in this period, many involving Sid Hartman, the morning columnist and sports editor at that time.
Among the favorites came when Ira Berkow, fresh from college but destined to become a tremendous sportswriter for the New York Times, was assigned to write a locker-room report after a Twins' game at Met Stadium.
The Twins had rallied several times during the night, but eventually were turned back when allowing runs to the opposition.
Berkow compared these failed comebacks to the story of Sisyphus, a character from Greek mythology destined to spend eternity in a futile attempt to push a boulder to the top of a steep hill. The poor fellow … he would get close, and then the boulder would go careening back down the hill.
Sid took note of the arrival of Berkow's copy in the office, saw that strange name at the start of the story and said: "Sisyphus! Who does he play for?''
Sisyphus received his penance for trying to cheat death, and Sid did an amazing job of doing the same, succumbing on Oct. 18, 2020, at age 100 and on the morning that his final column appeared in print.
That made me the senior sports scribe when it came to print in the Twin Cities and there I was on Thursday morning, reading Andrew Krammer's background notes in the Star Tribune on new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and having a personal "Sisyphus" moment.
Krammer offered a prior quote in which Adofo-Mensah mentioned being in a "tabula rasa'' situation.
My immediate reaction was: "Tabula Rasa! Who does he play for?''
Turns out, and apparently well-known by people with a proper college education, tabula rasa is a term often used in reference to entering a situation with a "clean slate.''
Adofo-Mensah certainly has been provided one of those with a majority of the Vikings fan base, happy to see the stale GM, Rick Spielman, out the door along with coach Mike Zimmer.
The Purple Faithful came away dazzled with the new guy's combination of emotion, mild self-deprecation and a wonderful repertoire of up-to-date workplace cliches.
It was instructive as to how that area of jargon has changed in a short period. Consider:
- In November 2016, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine showed up as a tandem to replace the network of traditionalists that had been running the Twins baseball department for exactly 30 years — from Andy MacPhail's taking over as general manager in November 1986.
"Collaboration'' won the day as the buzzword for the new Twins. Falvey, then 33, was the boss then and remains so today, but the collaboration angle was pushed so strongly "Falvine'' continues as an oft-used public description for the baseball operation.
- In January 2017, the Gophers hired P.J. Fleck, then 36, as football coach. He introduced us to "culture'' with dizzying frequency that day, and if you had a $2 bill for every time he's blurted that out for no particular reason since then, you could pay the $35 million that remains on his contract.
Plus, there's the whole "Row the Boat'' deal, although that really started sounding clumsy when Fleck felt obliged to add on the "Ski U Mah.''
- On May 1, 2019, the Timberwolves hired Gersson Rosas, then 41, as the president for basketball operations. The Wolves would be steeped in collaboration and become a "family,'' Rosas assured us, with his young twins sitting on his knees.
By September 2021, he was fired, and now we have new owners on the way, billionaire Marc Lore and terrible baseball TV analyst Alex Rodriguez. Lore is promising three "core values'' that will set this team on a course to make Minnesota proud.
And as of Thursday, we have Adofo-Mensah, 40, but only in football for the past nine years, and with no mention of having ever put on a pair of shoulder pads.
That leaves us with theories, not experience.
Not to be cynical, for I was truly impressed by the upgraded corporate lingo, both from Adofo-Mensah and Vikings co-owner Mark Wilf.
We were promised by both — almost immediately by Wilf, in introducing the new GM — that the Vikings will be making "intentional decisions.''
I'm so old school as to consider nearly all decisions to be intentional, good or bad, so I had to look it up by typing in "Corp Speak 2022, intentional decisions.''
Lo and behold, here it is: "Intentional Decisions is a compelling model for raising awareness of the possibility of choice, serving as an ethical framework for our choices, and empowers us with the ability to decide.''
We now have that decision-making with the Vikings, to go with collaboration, culture, family, and even a ship that's a lot bigger than Fleck's boat.
The countdown to that first Super Bowl win starts when Adofo-Mensah makes his intentional decision on a coach.
Excuse me, make that partner.