Football, rural life for Stephen-Argyle make a splash in the Big Apple
When a member of the news media from a large city does a story in this region, the story almost always includes a colossal gaffe. In a New York Times' story (see it on Page 1C of today's Herald) about how the Stephen-Argyle football team reflects...
When a member of the news media from a large city does a story in this region, the story almost always includes a colossal gaffe.
In a New York Times' story (see it on Page 1C of today's Herald) about how the Stephen-Argyle football team reflects changes in rural America, there was a chuckle-worthy sentence. The caption on the lead photograph referred to a "mowed" wheat field. Not a "harvested" wheat field, but one that was "mowed." That's one meticulous farmer if the field was indeed mowed.
"That was my fault," free-lance writer Joe Spring said. "Darn it."
Spring is forgiven because he did a commendable job of otherwise capturing the story, concerning both the football team and northwestern Minnesota. Otherwise accurate and incisive, his story used football to weave the story of changes to the rural landscape. But he did it without the usual gloom-and-doom angle adopted by big-city outsiders.
Times' editors must have agreed because the story appeared on the front page of the Sunday sports section, where the competition included the NFL and both New York major league baseball teams in the pennant race.
His insight was partly a result of familiarity. He lived in Grand Forks while his parents went to graduate school and with a brother who also attended UND. He also spent a handful of summers with his family in Argyle, Minn., working on a farm one summer as a teenager.
"There was a connection between us and him," S-A Coach Mark Kroulik said.
Spring has tracked the team's success in recent years. He returned to spend two days during pre-season practices in August.
"I originally pitched it as a story about 9-man football," Spring said. "But then I talked to the state demographer about what's going on over the prairie. So, I pitched it as something larger that is going on."
Spring used the football team to help define the region and used the region to help define the football team. He backed up his judgments with statistics.
The story is partly about Stephen-Argyle success of four straight state 9-man titles, four-plus consecutive undefeated seasons and eight straight trips to the HHH Metrodome for the state semifinals.
"Their work ethic up there is through the roof, and it translates onto the football field," Spring said. "There's this sense of community, where the parents come during the middle of practice to hand out snacks and sports drinks and take turns (monitoring) the weight room, so the guys can lift.
"The other thing was that Coach Kroulik seemed to have a goodness that trickled down."
Along with the football, he also blended in the changing rural dynamics and culture.
"I thought it was pretty on-target," Kroulik said. "I thought the story was fair and balanced."
Kroulik had the story's best quote. Commenting on how 68 of their 111 students in the top four grades are boys, he quipped: "Good for football. Tough for finding a prom date."
Kolby Gruhot, a senior lineman, was impressed with the story's prominent play. "I was pretty amazed that we were in the New York Times," Gruhot said. "This is a big deal for small towns like ours."
He, too, gave the story a thumbs-up, even with the one slip.
"People here got a laugh out of the mowed field mention," Gruhot said. "But most of the readers in New York probably don't know any different, anyway."
Bakken reports on local news and writes a column. Reach him at (701) 780-1125, (800) 477-6572 ext. 125 or email@example.com .