Tuesday night, we headed over to the Black Sheep Pizza in the North Loop to meet with Jim Bickal and his friend, and colleague, Howard Sinker. Bickal, an alumnus of Grinnell College who works for Minnesota Public Radio, had a lot to say about his career’s evolution. He found that sports reporting, especially during the 1987 World Series the underdog Twins won, showed him how news can capture a community’s attention.
It was interesting to hear his views on topics we had discussed in depth, like stadium financing. Bickal discussed the impact his work on Morning Edition might have on the people making these decisions, especially since the demographics of those listening to public radio don’t always intersect with sports fans. He brought up the idea of a cycle of outrage over long projects like US Bank Stadium and Target Field, and what the media does to cover it. Hearing from a seasoned reporter and producer in an informal setting was another fascinating perspective on the wide impact of athletics.
Cretin-Derham Hall is a high school of about 1,000 students in Saint Paul, Minnesota. A private, Catholic school in a residential neighborhood, Cretin-Derham Hall competes in the Suburban East Conference. A quick glance at their website reveals some of the school’s priorities: faith, education, service, and athletics.
In terms of extracurriculars, athletics appears to play one of the most influential roles. There are 27 varsity sports, with the school reporting that about 76% of the student body participates. So many students participate that there are junior varsity, B team, and 9th grade squads as well for many of the more popular sports. Cretin-Derham emphasizes athletics because they view sports as promoting “their mission and values,” as their sleek website puts it.
Many of Cretin-Derham Hall’s famous alums are professional athletes, including NFL, NHL, and MLB players. Alums have won awards at the highest level of their sports. Behind this must be a system to fundraise and manage a large athletics program at a private school. Looking at the development office at Cretin-Derham Hall should reveal a staff adept at getting people to support an educational institution largely because of sports.