December 29, 2012 9:28:04 PM
You'll find little here today about resolutions or sage observations about the year just past or the one before us. Nothing so ambitious.
I have only a modest wish on this, the cusp of a new year: that the Minnesota Vikings make the playoffs. And, to do that they have to win this afternoon.
I don't follow the NFL, but the subject came up during a recent flight to Atlanta when I struck up a conversation with a tall, handsome woman, seated next to me, Stephanie Hall. Now retired and living on Southside near her mother, Hall played basketball at Lee High, attended Ole Miss and then taught school in Houston, Texas.
When I asked who were her favorite teachers at Lee, she named J.D. "Tuffy" Bourland, who was then principal, and Bert Wynn, long-time girls coach and athletic director.
"Did you know Leslie Frazier?" Hall asked.
"Not when he was in high school," I said. I met the Columbus native and Minnesota Vikings head coach after he agreed to be the cover story for the premier issue of Catfish Alley.
Frazier has taken his Vikings from a lackluster 3-13 season in 2011 to the possibility of a playoff berth this year. To get there, the Vikings (9-6) must beat the Green Bay Packers (11-4) today in Minnesota. The game starts at 3:25 p.m.
It seems trite and hackneyed to call someone a "class act," but that cliché best describes Frazier. When I interviewed him for CA, I asked him a question about priorities, he replied that the most important thing at that moment was doing all he could to help me write a good story.
He went on to answer my question about the effectiveness of his mild-mannered approach, an anomaly in our "hey-look-at-me" sports world. "Once my players and assistants realize I'm doing all I can to help them be successful, said Frazier, "they respond." I understood perfectly.
"I don't think he could scream if he wanted to," Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams said in an interview with Fox Sports last week.
In that same story, titled "Frazier's consistent message carries Vikings," fullback Jerome Felton said about Frazier: "He's the coach I've been looking for to play for my whole career. He's just such a good person. ... He's consistent. He has a message and he believes in it. So that makes us believe in it. He's hands-down the best coach I've played for, and I look forward to playing for him for a long time."
When was the last time you heard a pro athlete say something like that about his coach?
In the same piece, Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway said about Frazier: "His approach is perfect, in my mind, for what an NFL coach needs to be. He's really consistent. He knows what he wants from his players. He hires high-character guys to have in the locker room and it seems to be working pretty well."
A St. Paul Pioneer Press sports writer asked Frazier who on the team had been the biggest disappointment this season.
"I have so much love for all the guys on our team. I'm just very appreciative and proud of every one of our guys" Frazier replied.
Class indeed. It does make one proud our little spot on the map has produced such an admirable and accomplished leader.
Though Coach Frazier might not, I hope you'll join me in screaming for the Vikings this afternoon.
Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.
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