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ISSUE 121 VOL 18 PUBLISHED 4/25/2008

Inside the Lines: 'Ugly' column ruins fun

By Matt Tiano
Executive Editor

Friday, April 25, 2008

I don't watch much hockey.

Saturday night saw yet another playoff series loss for a Minnesota sports team. The Minnesota Wild lost to the Colorado Avalanche in six games, and this fair-weather fan was entertained. If you don't include Game 4, of course.

I still know that I have a hard time endorsing a sport where fighting is allowed and expected. (Side note: The Wild play-by-play announcers edge Twins commentators Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven in a homer race & just barely.)

As most playoff series are, this one was tense. Say what you must about the officiating or the on-ice behavior of either team, but one columnist chose to do both, about one team in particular -- in a completely inappropriate fashion.

Denver Post columnist Mitch Kiszla's column "Ugly Betty hockey in Colorado's future" ran in the daily paper April 15, one day following the Wild's 3-2 overtime Game 3 win.

"Minnesota, the land of 10,000 dead car batteries, has an inferiority about this hockey team," Kiszla wrote. "The Wild's style of play is as ugly and obnoxious as the uniforms, which look as if designed by a toddler who randomly pulled two crayons from the box of 64 and began scribbling."

It gets better.

"To advance in the NHL playoffs, the Avalanche must embrace the darkness. When playing this goon-it-up Wild bunch, hockey is a no-holds-barred battle of attrition, not skill."

This topped it off.

"Minnesota, whose red-and-green uniforms must have been inspired by those gauche folks who leave up their Christmas lights all year, ranks No. 1 in the NHL in only one department. This has to be the worst dressed team in hockey."

That's it. The Wild lost because of uniform design.

Admittedly, I was convinced that hockey was a physical game, such a physical game that fighting is permitted without penalty. Kiszla's agenda stirred a reaction, mostly from dumped-on Wild fans. But mostly, Kiszla is flat-out misinformed about the game he is supposedly covering. Hockey happens to be physical. The Wild happen to be a physical hockey team.

But that's not the point. Here was a playoff series that had a non-hockey fan completely entertained, tuned in for three-plus hours six different times. There was superb goaltending, fantastic scoring chances and great hockey on both ends. The journalist's responsibility is to convey this, and Kiszla completely failed. In fact, he tried to ruin it.

Report facts, report passion, report hard work. Report the fun in sport. Negative on all counts.

So I did a little research. Turns out this wasn't the first time Kiszla had some fun while reporting on a Minnesota team. Flashback: 2004 Western Conference Semifinals. Nuggets vs. Timberwolves. Game 4.

"The Timberwolves are poseurs and wannabes, not legitimate contenders for the NBA championship."

Let the hate begin.

"If Denver plays anywhere near its potential, if forward Carmelo Anthony did not look like a hopelessly lost rookie, this series would be tied and the Timberwolves would be muttering curses to themselves on the airplane ride all the way back to Minneapolis." What did happen in the game, anyways?

"In victory, the Timberwolves lost respect. They acted like thugs, not champions."

Seems to me it's pretty obvious who the Ugly Betty is.

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