A Quick and Trivial Visit

Feb 14, 2019   //   by bwilber   //   Bob's Blog  //  Add a Comment

Hello blog faithful. Just a quick one today because we all have better things to do on February 14th. Happy Valentine’s Day. It’s a unique holiday in so much as it’s completely contrived and based on nothing more than a chance to sell a lot of cards, chocolates, and flowers, but most of us go along with it. I tell my wife I love her every day of the year, and this day is no different.

Barbara is not a big fan of chocolate, and we can’t have fresh flowers in the house because Boofus and Buster will eat them and get sick, but I do enjoy the chance to browse through the cards at the Hallmark store and find a couple that seem the most appropriate. Whether it’s Valentine’s Day or her birthday (in April) I long ago established a tradition of getting her one sentimental card and one funny one. I accomplished that mission a week ago, when the selection at the store was still good. I can guarantee there are panicked gentlemen at the Woodbury Hallmark store right now. I’m all set, thanks.

We’re going out for a nice dinner tonight, at Angelina’s Bistro. As far as I know, it’s the only night of the year when they take reservations. For the rest of the year it’s just first-come-first-served in the little restaurant. Or you can eat at the bar. That works, too.

It’s a lot of snow. (Click on any image to enlarge)

Since last week, we’ve had yet again another Snownami to add to the pile. It snowed for about 24 hours, starting late on Monday and all through most of Tuesday, and at one point I remarked “I bet we have 20 total inches after all three of these storms.” I didn’t pay myself much mind, because I’m generally terrible at judging how much snow we have. I’ll look out at the patio and say “That’s gotta be eight inches” and it’s really only four. This time, though, I nailed it. Our esteemed local weather experts on various channels tabbed the overall total at 20 inches. Whatever it is, it’s a lot of snow. And, it’s going to be here for a while. I don’t see any forecasts that call for temps above 32 for the next two weeks.

At the shopping centers, the snow mountains are gigantic in the middle of the parking lots. When they get that big, it can be late April before they’re gone. It will be nice to see the grass again, someday.

A couple of days ago they were saying we had a chance for another large storm to roll through today, but as of last night the forecast I saw had it toned down quite a bit. It is, however, snowing right now. Just little harmless flurries, but snow nonetheless.

With all the white stuff, I’ve been able to concentrate on writing quite a bit, and I crossed another big milestone today. I had promised my editor Greg Halling that I would finish Chapter 12 today and I shared it with him this morning. It’s big in subject matter and importance, because it gets my Roseau hockey character all the way through high school. That was my device for getting the two characters “synced up” in terms of where they are as they “write” each chapter. The hockey kid is three years older than the baseball character, so I made Chapter 12 his biggest one yet to get him through high school. I think, therefore, we’re only three chapters away from them actually meeting, and then things will really go crazy.

The process is fascinating. It’s hard to explain but it doesn’t feel like I’m writing. It actually feels like they are. As my fingers move, “their” memories appear on the page and I hear their voices. I did some basic character outlines before I started but I’m not even looking at those anymore. Their words just come to me. I don’t really even know how it works. It just does.

After I shared the newest chapter with Greg, I went back and spent a few hours reading everything I’ve gotten done so far. There’s a thing in your mind that I think every writer is familiar with. OK, maybe not Stephen King, but certainly the rest of us. It’s self doubt. I thought Chapter 12 was good, but that made me worry that Chapters 1 through 11 weren’t. I had to go back and read it all again, in order. And I’m not saying this to be boastful, I’m just using it as an example of how weird the concept and process is. They’re all pretty good. They’re all on target and in the right voices. To me, as I said, it’s as if these two guys are writing the book. I’m going to take that as a good sign, right?

OK, here’s my final topic for this ultra-short blog today, and I do not believe it’s one I’ve written about before. It’s about the Minnesota Kicks.

Who, you ask, are or were the Minnesota Kicks? Valid question. MLS (Major League Soccer) is not the first established pro soccer league in US history. It’s not even the first successful one. From the late 60s to the mid-80s the NASL (North American Soccer League) was in business, and for quite a few years the league was packing them in and selling out NFL football stadiums. The New York Cosmos were the flagship team in the league, and Pele played for them, along with a bunch of other World Cup stars. That was kind of the unofficial NASL method. They’d throw a lot of money at European or South American superstars who were older and in decline, and then they’d fill out the rosters with younger American players who didn’t command that kind of money.

The Kicks played at Metropolitan Stadium, where the Twins and Vikings originally played. Mall of America now sits on the site, in the suburb of Bloomington. The Kicks drew big crowds, but that’s not what people around here remember about them. What people still talk about, even in 2019, are the tailgate parties that went on all across the sprawling asphalt parking lots that surrounded the stadium. They went on for hours before the games, and I’ve heard many stories of the parties going on during the games and afterward, as well. Some people would actually drive to Met Stadium without tickets to the game. Or maybe they were partying so hard they lost track of time. Those tailgate parties are the stuff of legends, now.

But here’s the fun trivia. Three members of the 1977 Minnesota Kicks were guys I went to school with. One, Tim Twellman, went to both high school (St. Louis U. High) and college (SIUE) with me, and we were baseball teammates at both schools. Tim was an outstanding ballplayer at second base, but he was an absolutely elite soccer player. When the Kicks drafted him, he left SIUE after his junior season. His son, Taylor Twellman, ended up being a big star in MLS and on the US National Team.

Cougars as Kicks

If you follow me on Facebook, from time to time you’ll see me interacting with a guy named Greg Villa. Greg played with Tim on the SIUE team and also grew up in St. Louis. We knew each other then, because we were fellow Cougar athletes and (you’re not going to believe this) we might possibly have ended up at various local bars on the same nights. Shocking, right? Greg was a great player for the soccer team and he signed with the Kicks after his junior year, as well. He was also one of the biggest and most powerful soccer players I’ve ever met. He went on to play quite a bit in the Major Indoor Soccer League after his outdoor career. That would be the same MISL I was in as a front office executive, a few years later with the St. Louis Storm.

I suggest clicking on the photo to enlarge it. Tim is second from the back on the left side and Greg is the last guy on the right. Mark Moran is in the photo, too, as the third guy from the end of the row on the right. He, too, played at SIUE but I really never knew him. We must’ve gone to different bars or discos, or maybe we just went on different nights. Nah, all the SIUE athletes went to The Granary on Wednesday and Spanky’s on Thursday. Somehow, I don’t believe we ever met. Interestingly though, you can see a guy named Sam Bick over on the right side, fourth from the back. Sam is another St. Louis boy, and he and Greg both ended up playing for the St. Louis Steamers, the original indoor soccer franchise in St. Louis. It was the Steamers who made me an indoor soccer fan. Tim Twellman ended his professional career by also moving indoors, playing in the MISL for the Kansas City Comets.

Next interesting tidbit: One of the Kicks’ goalkeepers was Tino Lettieri. Tino was born in Italy but raised in Canada. After playing for the Kicks, he and his wife put down roots in the Twin Cities and raised a son, Vinni Lettieri. Vinni took to hockey, and is now in the NHL with the New York Rangers. It runs in the family. Tino’s wife is the daughter of a huge Minnesota hockey legend, former player, coach, and general manager Lou Nanne.

So you likely never heard of the Minnesota Kicks but now you know I played baseball with one member, knew another, went to school with but didn’t know a third, and the goalie’s kid is an NHL hockey player. Plus, the tailgate parties are still the subject of mystical stories from years gone by. You’re welcome.

That’s it for today. I need to go get my car washed. It’s covered in ice and salt and one very large bird used it for target practice yesterday. Maybe it was a Bald Eagle. Whatever it was, it was big. SPLAT!!!

As always, if you read this brief bit of bloggage and kinda sorta maybe liked it, please click on the “Like” button at the top. If I get enough likes maybe I can find an old Kicks jersey on eBay.

Bob Wilber, at your service and full of trivia.

PS: I clearly jinxed us with the “just little harmless flurries” comment. It’s legit snowing now. Awesome. Wouldn’t want to have our total sneak down to 19 inches, would we…

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.