Ambassador Duke

COON RAPIDS, Minn., Sept. 11, 2000—It’s creeping up on 0400 hours, the only sound a busted compressor on the ice machine outside my door, and I’m sitting here sipping Witch Hazel, fumbling with my reel-to-reel Grundig, trying to remember when I first met Bobby Knight. 

As best I can pinpoint it, it was around ‘79 or late ‘86, somewhere in that area, and I think it may have been at the court-ordered anger-management class I was auditing at a Muncie night school. Then again, in those days Bobby could have beaten a referee to death on national television and the governor would have pardoned him the next day, so his presence in a therapeutic setting then isn’t all that logical. So it’s possible the first time we met was at the party following Lenny Bias’ memorial service, when he taught me how to fling a folding chair without having it snap open midair.

In any case, I’m sorry to see him exit over such a trivial incident. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve had to teach someone manners, I’d be as rich as Ralph Nader. I know what it’s like to be addressed by my last name, a taunt made no less disrespectful by my lack of a first name. Moreover, I don’t believe a man should be punished for a “pattern of behavior” when no single offense rises to the level of a really costly lawsuit. It reeks of double standard. For instance, would we arrest one of his star players, say, for a “pattern” of driving late at night in the wrong neighborhood before he actually got into trouble? Well, OK, we would, bad example, but if profiling is wrong for the players, it can’t be any less wrong for the coach. Bobby Knight’s propensity for violence caused him to be stereotyped as a violent person. Is that fair? Not on my playground …

The ice compressor just kicked off, so now it’s quiet enough to hear the jackhammers tearing apart the offramp that makes this motel and nine others just like it possible. Coon Rapids, part of the St. Cloud/Minneapolis “growth corridor,” is on a bit of a comeback jag these days*. Of course, the State of Minnesota in general is plump and happy, ripe for the picking, electorally speaking, and my staff has concluded that there is no longer any purpose served by campaigning here. Yesterday, a local judge disqualified both Buchanan and what’s-his-face, the Reform Party splinter guy, and it doesn’t take a Harvard physicist to see which way the wind is vectoring.  Minnesota is solidly in the Duke column, and even if Buchanan pulls an October Surprise (reliably reported to be a 13-city Krystallnacht, underwritten entirely with matching federal funds), there’s just no way the Man from Stuttgart is taking down the Man from Muncie. Buchanan, who if he didn’t actually once kneel on his own sister’s windpipe is certainly capable of it, is now polling less than 1/2 percent. With a margin of error of 3 percent, this means he’s now wandering in negative territory, inspiring people who otherwise wouldn’t vote at all to line up with Anyone But Pat. Come November, that’s the vote I intend to own. More on this TK.

*Local color note: For generations, Coon Rapids depended on the fortunes of her sister city, Anoka, which every 20 years or so would burst into flames and burn almost entirely to the ground, providing ample work for Coon Rapids’ many brick-makers. The fact that the Coon Rapids bricks were apparently flammable seemed to have been lost on the childlike Anokans, who rebuilt five times before relocating to a different county in the early ‘40s.  Coon Rapids’ brick manufacturing industry went into a tailspin, and prosperity eluded the township until it was finally reborn as a bedroom community in 1962. (For more on the hometown of the Duke2000 campaign, click here.)