Instead of dismissing the newer generation, how about helping it

by C.J. Spang

I don’t know Sid Hartman. I had heard his name before I came to school here and all I knew was he was the big shot in the Twin Cities when it came to sportswriting.

The 86-year-old is a staple of the Star Tribune and his column appears four times a week. He can also be heard on WCCO 830 AM radio and seen at almost every major sporting event in the Twin Cities.

Back in the day, he was a part-owner of the Minneapolis Lakers and currently is a very wealthy man because of his numerous real estate dealings.

In short, he’s a legend.

But when I began my job as a reporter at The Minnesota Daily a year ago, I started to hear different things about Sid – not always flattering things.

Some say he’s old and out of the game, some figure he has others doing the legwork for him. The man can be arrogant, and he says what he wants, even if he doesn’t have all the facts to back it up.

He also can be heard referring to young journalists as “punk kids.”

Some of that seemed true when I encountered him at men’s basketball games.

During the news conferences, he sat up front, or sometimes right next to coach Dan Monson. He always asked the first question and then some, even if it meant interrupting the beat reporters.

But you know what? He’s put in his dues and earned it – well, some of it.

However, despite all he’s done in life, Sid certainly didn’t earn the right to say to me what he did Friday.

I was in the Athletics Communications office on Friday, squaring away some work-related things when Hartman walked in. I laughed on the inside, as I’d heard about him making the rounds in the Bierman athletics building.

While he was in an office, I sat down to talk with a friend of mine and another person who works in the office.

He walked by and got to the door, only to turn and look toward the three of us.

“You can do better than that,” he said to the other two people in the room while gesturing to me. “This guy’s a nothing.”

And, with that, he walked out the door.

For one of the few times in my life, I was speechless. I didn’t catch the whole insult because Hartman mumbles, but the “This guy’s a nothing,” I heard plain as day.

I sat there, dumbfounded, asking everyone, “Did he just call me a nothing?”

The general consensus was yes, and welcome to the club. Apparently it’s a ritual for him to come in and insult someone on a regular basis.

Why does he think he’s entitled to that?

His 86 years on the Earth? His 60-plus years of experience as a journalist? His millions of dollars? All of his “close, personal friends”?

No matter what his reasoning, there was no point in saying it.

Instead of tearing me down, why not build me up? Why not share his extensive knowledge and experiences with the next generations of sports reporters, who hope they can be around as long and be as recognized as him?

I have nothing but respect for his dedication, his hard work and his insider knowledge that has taken years to cultivate. The amount of knowledge I could glean in a 15-minute conversation with him would be more valuable than some semesterlong classes I’ll take.

But after Friday’s brief encounter, my opinion of him has changed. I wouldn’t want to be considered the next Sid Hartman or anything like him.

Quite honestly, if I end up a nobody in the sports journalism world, I’ll be fine with it.

But if I end up with an attitude like Sid Hartman’s, I will consider myself a nothing.

– C.J. Spang welcomes comments at [email protected].