When the 27-page report that followed a two-year study of bird fatalities at U.S. Bank Stadium was released recently, I was reminded of William Shakespeare's 16th century play, "Much Ado About Nothing."
We were informed that the $300,000 spent on a study by the Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facility Authority (MSFA) came up with the estimate that 111 birds die each year while crashing into the stadium. That's a whopping three-tenths of a bird perishing each day at the stadium, of which the Vikings are the main tenant.
Full disclosure is needed here: I don't want any birds to die by colliding with a building, or any other way. One of the other ways came last summer when I saw a cat in Princeton pounce upon an unsuspecting sparrow. (I wonder how many birds die that way, be they wild or tame cats, with nobody - as far as I know - calling for the extermination of cats that prey on birds.) And last year I had a bird crash into the windshield of my car.
But c'mon, three-tenths of a bird dying a day at U.S. Bank Stadium? And it took a wastful $300,000 to figure that out?
The study included 21 buildings in downtown Minneapolis and found that 74% percent of bird collisions and 68% of fatalities occur at four of those buildings. The stadium came in third on that list, the IDS (167 bird deaths per year) and an unnamed building (216 per year) being even more dangerous for birds. Annual fatalities at the four buildings ranged from 79 to 216. Meanwhile, at McCormick Place in Chicago, the fatality count is about 1,028 a year. There's a building in Toronto where the count is 800-plus, and at the JFK Space Center in Florida the count is about 421.
Outdoor writer Dennis Anderson, in his column in the Star Tribune last Sunday, noted that last year hunters in Minnesota killed 615,000 ducks, 205,000 pheasants, and 195,515 ruffed grouse. "So," Anderson wrote, "are we running out of ducks, pheasants or ruffed grouse?" HIs answer was no.
Anderson noted that turning off stadium lights during peak spring and fall migration is easily done. (One report I read said that about 80 businesses in Minneapolis and St. Paul do turn off their outside lights during migration season.)
"But blowing about $1 million — the high end of one hypothetical remedy — to rework the stadium's glass to 'save' a theoretical 111 birds would be little more than a bow to political correctness," Anderson wrote. I agree.
Anderson also wrote that two noted U of M researchers had written a report in 2011 that was titled, "Collision mortality has no discernible effect on population trends of North American birds."
A recent letter to the editor in the Star Tribune asked what percentage is 111 (the study's number of birds that died at the stadium) of the birds that fly over Minneapolis, and what percentage is 111 of birds that die of other causes such as windmills, power lines, cars and other human creations. Good point.
You know who has made out the best in this whole thing? That would be the group for which the $300,000 check was written. The study was led by Oklahoma State University associate professor Scott Lonn, classified as an internationally recognized bird mortality expert. That report listed various options to cover stadium glass and ranged in price from about $40,00 to $570,000, not including labor and installation, which are expected to at least double the cost, according to a story by Rochelle Olson in the Star Tribune.
Representatives of the Roberts Bird Sanctuary, Minnesota Citizens for the Protection of Migratory Birds, and the Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis wrote an opinion piece in the Star Tribune last week that gave their side of the story. The final paragraph read this way: "MSFA's own study now confirms that U.S. Bank Stadium is one of the highest-risk buildings in Minneapolis. It's time for current MSFA officials to undo the bad decision made by their predecessors and fix the glass."
Their position is understandable and they're no doubt passionate about the situation. But throwing an additional half million dollars, or maybe even more, at the situation would not be a good idea. As three of us talked about the situation recently at an area watering hole one person made the comment that such an amount of money would be better used to benefit humans who need groceries, clothing, and a place to live. "Nothing against birds," that person said, "but that money could better be used to help people in need."
As hinted by outdoor writer Anderson, this is all about political correctness. I'm all for having our fine feathered friends be a part of our lives. We've not had an epidemic of birds attacking humans other than in the '60s move "The Birds" that starred Minnesota's own Tippi Hedren (a New Ulm girl). So we should allow birds to live and let live. But let's not spend money, even if it isn't taxpayers' money, to keep birds from colliding with glass buildings, as birds do all over the world. Enough of that foolishness.
Forty years since PHS boys hockey began
On Dec. 4 it will be 40 years since boys hockey began in Princeton, the Tigers losing 7-3 to Willmar at the Elk River arena. And it was 20 years ago last fall that the first girls game was played against Cambridge-Isanti at the arena in Isanti. I remember writing in my sports column in 1999 that I made sure to mention to some of my detractors from the hockey community that I was the only person from Princeton to attend both of those program openers.
That first boys game at Elk River, with no one having any idea what to expect, was at a site where Princeton youth teams had played some games in previous years . . . at least when they had the luxury of an indoor game.
I remember Jason Boser getting the first-ever Princeton goal. He went on to lead the team in scoring with 22 points, playing both wing and defense while logging an incredible amount of minutes. The Tigers also lost their next game, 11-1, to Minnehaha Academy.
Then a game scheduled to be played outdoors at Crosby-Ironton had to be postponed because of bad outdoor ice. That 1979-80 team got its first win in January at Princeton, outdoors at the PYHA rink behind the center field fence of Solheim Veterans Field, beating Crosby-Ironton 3-1 as snow fell during much of the game in which Alex Metcalf scored twice. I remember we had a picture in the Union-Eagle that showed the snow coming down as the two teams shook hands.
A game with Baudette was canceled because of bad outdoor ice at Princeton and the the Tigers got their second win of the season, 3-1 at Crosby-Ironton, making the record 2-11 at that point.
It was a tough year for Princeton (6-14), making the switch from midget hockey (called bantams today) to varsity hockey, but it was a memorable year and it doesn't seem possible that 40 years have gone by, with coach Todd Frederick in his second stint as head coach. Lynn Bastian, a Princeton elementary teacher, was the first head coach and Dan Voce Sr., who was a starter on three undefeated state title teams at Eveleth, the assistant. (Dan Voce Jr. and Dan Voce III later played for the Tigers.)
One other thing, a question I posed 20 years ago: Do you think anyone would play outside today?
PHS alum Paul Sather, in his first year as head basketball coach at North Dakota, won the season opener against Crown College. Since then the Fighting Hawks (no longer Fighting Sioux) have dropped three road games in a row at highly-rated Gonzaga, and at Valparaiso and Milwaukee. This Sunday North Dakota will play Minnesota in a 6 p.m. game at The Barn as Sather comes back to his home state . . . Last Friday someone asked me how I thought the Gophers would do against Iowa the next day. My answer was that there was an 80 to 90 percent chance they would lose. My questioner was aghast. "That's not very supportive," that person said. I replied that the game was coming after an emotional upset of Penn State, that Iowa had a very good defense, and that Minnesota hadn't won in Iowa City for 20 years. Of course, if someone had told me Minnesota would have a 431-290 edge in yards, I'd have said Minnesota would win. But there were too many mistakes. It's bothered me all year that most offensive snaps go down to the final second or two because plays are very often changed at the line. Thus, timeouts are sometimes taken early in a half to keep from getting a delay-of-game penalty. That was costly against Iowa. Let's hope the Gophers can rebound at Northwestern this week. One thing for sure: Tanner Morgan has proved, much to my surprise, that he's a legit big-time quarterback . . . PHS senior Anna Dahlen was named MVP of the Mississippi 8 Conference in tennis this season. That marked the fifth time in seven years that a Princeton player has won that award. Mary Claire Mayerchak won in 2013 and 2014, and Kelsey Dorr won in 2016 and 2018. The team had a 15-7 record this season . . . I repeat: The Minnesota Vikings defense is overrated, although the players did make plays late last Sunday in the comeback win over Denver. And the offensive line had a tough day. But a win is a win and the performance of Kirk Cousins should quiet his detractors. He's been very good. and it was one of the franchise's best comeback victories after trailing 20-0 at halftime and winning 27-23. It reminded us of the 1977 game (in place kicker Fred Cox's last year) of the biggest comeback ever, a 28-27 win over the 49ers after trailing 24-0 in the second half. Tommy Kramer, the back-up to Bob Lee who had replaced Fran Tarkenton after Tarkenton had the only serious injury of his career earlier in the season, was inserted into the lineup with eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter by coach Bud Grant,with the Vikings trailing 24-7. Kramer, spotted at a Long Siding bar earlier this fall, quickly threw two touchdown passes and then threw a 69-yarder to Sammy White that led to the 28-27 win after Cox made the extra point. I was there that day and it was cold, with a minus windchill. Two-Minute Tommy, a rookie from Texas, wasn't used to that kind of weather but pulled off the unforgettable win.
PRINCETON SPORTS MEMORIES
Nov. 27, 1959 - The PHS basketball team was to open the season on a Saturday night in Princeton against Minneapolis Patrick Henry, with the B game at 6:45 and the varsity game at 8. Patrick Henry center Mel Northway later was the starting center at the University of Minnesota for two years and then was drafted by the NBA's St. Louis Hawks.
Nov. 26, 1964 - PHS grad Bob Nick, picked as the all-MIAC quarterback by the Minneapolis paper, had a good game as Concordia beat L:infield College (Ore.) to advance to the NAIA title game. His father, Bob Nick Sr., the high school principal at PHS, was captain at Concordia in 1939, as was son Bob Jr. in 1964.
Nov. 26, 1969 - The first-ever Rum River Conference basketball jamboree was held at Cambridge, Princeton outscoring Milaca 20-18 in the 10-minute period as Mark Jacobs had nine points . . . The wrestling team began practice with Gary Stottler, fifth in the state the previous season, as one of the top wrestlers.
Nov. 28 1974 - All-conference in football were Keith Julson and Brad Ekstrom . . . The high school offered season tickets, good for all winter sports, at $3 for students and $10 for adults.
Nov. 30, 1979 - PHS grad Dan Johnson finished third in North Central Conference rushing while playing for St. Cloud State, and was honorable mention all-conference. The year before he set a school single-game record with 193 yards. Johnson, after playing at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, ran for 1,604 yards in two years at St. Cloud and averaged 5.03 yards a carry . . . The first-ever boys hockey season at Princeton was set to open with a Dec. 4 game at Elk River against Willmar.
Dec. 6, 1984 - Dean Groebner and Dan Voce scored in the first two periods and then eight goals by Princeton, including another by Voce, followed in a 10-2 win over St. Michael-Albertville . . . There were rounds played at the Rum River Golf Club on Thanksgiving Day.
Nov. 30, 1989 - Doug Patnode, who returned five years later as head coach, resigned as PHS football coach . . . The boys hockey team began practice in search of its sixth straight Rum River Conference title.
Dec. 1 1994 - Bill Barth, Toby Bryant, Troy Minks and Mike Pasche were named all-conference in football . . . JoAnn Erickson, a 1982 PHS grad, began her first year as PHS girl gymnastics coach.
Nov. 26, 1999 - Amanda Gray was chosen most valuable on the girls tennis team . . . All-conference in football were Matt Lonn, Dave Porttiin, Paul Gibbs, David Holmes and Ian McVey. Lonn was the team's MVP on defense and Gibbs the MVP on offense . . . Eighth-grader Lisa Pearson advanced to the consolation finals of the 100-yard breaststroke at the Class A state swim meet.
Nov. 25, 2004 - Justin Bronson, a 2002 PHS grad and a redshirt freshman at the U of M, placed fifth as a heavyweight in a meet in Omaha. He was second in the state at 215 for Princeton in 2002.
Nov. 26 2009 - The girls hockey team opened the season with a 7-4 win over Babbitt-Embarrass as Ellie McElhone had six points (two goals) and Julia Osowski had four points (two goals).
Nov. 27, 2014 - All-conference in tennis were Mary Claire Mayerchak, Jenna Doyle, Brianna Dorr, Kelsey Dorr and Reilee Schepper . . . The girls hockey team (5-1) beat Brainerd 4-3 in overtime, Erica Schramel getting the winning goal.
Dorr is the former editor of the Princeton Eagle (2 years) and Princeton Union-Eagle (31 years), and has covered sports in the Princeton area for 52 years.