Genius Lessons

THE RAKE: What is the scoop you’re most proud of?

Sid Hartman: The two biggest ones were about Ara Parseghian and Bud Grant. In 1975 I got the scoop that Parseghian was leaving as football coach of Notre Dame and that he would be replaced by Dan Devine. And in 1983 I reported first that Bud Grant was stepping down as the coach of the Vikings.

THE RAKE: What about non-sports scoops?

Sid: Well, there have been a lot. I helped the Star Tribune get the names of the finalists for the job of president of the U of M a couple of times. I do know a lot of people in town, and when you get to know a lot of people you hear a lot of stuff.

THE RAKE: If you get a good scoop, but it means losing a friend, what do you do?

Sid: I’d print the scoop, if it’s accurate, even if it meant upsetting a friend. If the friend knows it’s accurate, they might be mad for a short period. Bud Grant was probably my closest friend, and he used to get upset with me all the time. When cut-down day came at the Vikings training camp, I had friends in the NFL with the waiver list of who was going to be let go, and I’d print the names. Bud would get upset, because he hadn’t told the players yet. But my loyalties are with the Star Tribune and with WCCO Radio. I’m paid to do a job and that’s the number-one concern for me.

When you write something that’s a criticism or a rip, if it’s accurate, there’s no problem. They’ll get mad for a week or two. But here’s the thing: If you write something that’s going to upset some athlete or coach, be sure you show up the next day and face them. The biggest mistake these writers make is that they hide for a couple of weeks and it hangs out there and gets worse. If you face the guy, he’ll be pissed off, but if you show them that you’re willing to take the heat, they’ll respect you. I go out of my way to do that, I’m there the next day. I don’t rip that much, but I’ll do it if it’s right.

THE RAKE: Who is the greatest athlete to ever play on a Minnesota team?

Sid: There have been so many of them. Bud Grant may have been the greatest athlete that the U of M ever had. He was a starter in all three major sports. Dave Winfield would be up there, too. They’re both great, great athletes. On the pro side, well, I think Kevin Garnett rates at the top. He and Kobe Bryant [of the Los Angeles Lakers] really stand out, in that they have been the most successful players to go right from high school to the NBA.

THE RAKE: Will you ever retire?

Sid: I’ll never forget when I was in third grade. I had a teacher, Mrs. Nettleton. One of the kids in our class was always looking at the clock. She said, “I hope when you boys and girls grow up, you get jobs that you like enough where you don’t have to be looking at the clock all day.” And that’s exactly what I’ve got. I love the relationships I have with people.
My job is all an adventure. I contact every beat every day. How many people do you think want my job? I’m the luckiest guy in the world.

THE RAKE: Could anyone today take the same path to success that you did?

Sid: I never went to college. If I went and tried to get my job today, they’d laugh at me. I was delivering papers for the old Minneapolis Times and working in their sports department at the same time when I was 17 years old. You could never do anything like that now. My friend gave me a job delivering papers to newsstands when I was a teenager. Before that I was selling newspaper on the street corners, starting when I was 8 or 9 years old. You were supposed to be 12 years old to sell papers to people, and this guy, Nathaniel Johnson, chased me all the time to get me to stop. He caught me when I was 10, but he left me alone and let me sell the papers, because he said anyone who worked that hard should be allowed to do it. After that we became lifelong friends. At one time, I sold Sunday papers at Fifth and Hennepin, starting at 7 p.m. and working through to 3 a.m. [The Minneapolis Times was an evening newspaper—Eds.] I worked that corner because that’s where the streetcars would line up, leaving every hour at 1, 2, and 3 in the morning. It would be 15, 20 below zero, and I’d ride my bike home to 525 North Humboldt Avenue after I was through.

THE RAKE: Do you still travel to away games?

Sid: I don’t do much traveling anymore. I’ll go if I can go to the game in the morning, and then come back, maybe with the team, in the same day. I didn’t make a single Vikings or Gophers road trip this year. That was a first. I’m sick of all that travel. It’s a joke. You have to wait around in airports forever. Why should I do that, if I can watch the game on TV and then call the coach and the players afterwards? I’ve got all their numbers.

THE RAKE: You’ve done radio and newspapers. How come you never got into TV reporting?

Sid: I was never that interested. TV’s just a pain in the rear end. It’s not the reporting that’s the problem, the problem is they only get about three minutes on sports. They’ve got to do the weather for about ten. You don’t get the chance to really cover sports on TV.