I am not going to declare any New Year’s Resolutions for 2023, and my reasoning is simple.
I’m still working on what I set out to do in 2022.
Weight loss is a big one, no pun intended. As much as I like to think my situation is improving in that area, along comes the holiday season to send me crashing back to reality. For starters, Duluth has winter weather that makes my mobility an even bigger challenge than usual. I also have a brother-in-law who is a professional chef – I’ll let you figure out how I “stomach” that combination.
The other concept I hope to master is far more mental than physical. I need to be more positive in my outlook on the busy life I lead. It’s time to realize that it’s a life full of opportunities, not full of obligations. Like I told myself and all fans of the Vikings in recent columns: Stay in the moment and enjoy each one. My words can say that, but can my mind follow?
Looking at January alone, I will be on a microphone in some capacity for more games than there are days in the month. I showed my boss at “The Northland FAN” my announcing calendar, and even he said, “Oof. That’s a schedule.”
It’s in my nature to worry about bringing my “A-game” each time I’m on the microphone. Will my energy be there? Will my voice itself be there? Will I be healthy overall? Am I able to keep that schedule but still show proper commitment to my “day job?” Am I able to be a good husband despite rarely being home?
Every one of those questions gives my mind substantial anxiety. 99% of that trepidation comes prior to working an event. Once I am at a game and on a microphone, the excitement and enjoyment win above all else. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a labor of love. I hope the audience appreciates my effort to share that love with them.
Everything I do on a microphone has a huge element of fandom to it. I’m attending the same types of games I did as a kid, just with a different level of responsibility.
Can that responsibility get to be too much?
This is the constant cycle of emotion I’ve gone through for many seasons. Working upwards of 200 games a year is probably too many, but a mental solution seems so simple. Just get into that “gameday mode” earlier, and don’t sweat the exhaustion of the overall schedule.
No doubt that’s easier said than done, but perhaps it’s even easier when written? Ever since I started this weekly column back in-late September, I’ve found it to be therapeutic. I get to express myself as a sports media personality, but again, and perhaps more importantly, as a fan.
I’m going to look ahead to 2023 and tell you why I’m excited.I’m looking forward to the places sports broadcasting and sports fandom will take me in the coming year. If I share it this way, everything will be viewed as a positive and not just something to cross off a calendar.
I’ll give you 15 places (one for each consecutive broadcast year I’ve completed after dabbling for 25) to be in 2023 and tell you why you should join the fun:
15. Romano Gym – UMD
There are many reasons to get here in ’23. UMD basketball features two of the top programs in the country and two of the best young coaches guiding the respective ships. If that’s not enough, you’ll find prep playoff basketball action here later as well. The smaller schools somehow produce the biggest crowds. The basketball season wraps up here with the Border Battle High School All-Star Games on March 28th. If you can handle the announcer, that’s an outstanding evening. UMD volleyball owns this building in the fall, and if you thought this gym couldn’t rock, they’ll prove you wrong.
14. Pick a local prep rink
Proctor, Hermantown, Superior, Denfeld, East, Marshall and other area schools all have outstanding home venues. There will be plenty of action at each during the early months of 2023. As a broadcaster, I know I love some arenas more than others, but it’s tough to beat a night of good prep hockey. It’s a fabulous next 10 weeks of play-by-play coverage.
13. Williams Arena – Minneapolis
I like Ben Johnson. Minnesota basketball pundits seem to like Ben Johnson. Fans seem to like him too, but not many like his current product. All of that said, “The Barn” is a perfect place for basketball nostalgia. I’ve got tickets to a pair of conference rivalry games. The Gophers may not come close in either one, but the team isn’t the only thing that’s down – so are ticket prices. Go see a great building and see if a great game becomes a bonus.
12. Target Field – Minneapolis
While we just discussed a great venue with a bad product a moment ago, the same theory applies to Target Field. I love the Minnesota Twins, and I love baseball. I’ve been to every opener with one exception in Target Field history. Let’s just say one year I shouldn’t have done my own taxes. Home opener for the Twins is my favorite trip of the year, and 2023 will likely be no different, even if the Twins ask someone in my party to play shortstop. The home opener has fallen on my birthday just once, but it’s almost always near my birthday. Friends often wish me a happy birthday while we are on that trip. I’m cool with that concept regardless of the inaccuracy each year. Target Field is a sign of a spring for me, and all Northlanders need one eventually.
11. Duluth Curling Club
With all due respect to my friends Chris Plys and John Shuster, I’ve never curled for one second in my life. I’ve watched it a lot, but I understand it just enough to pay attention. I’ll end up watching in 2023, as friends and family will participate in bonspiels. I’ll attend out of tribute to my father, who loved the sport a great deal. We never quite shared that love, but Duluth Curling Club makes a mean Captain Morgan and I loved having those with dear old Dad.
10. Reif Gymnasium – St. Scholastica
The Saints have struggled since joining the MIAC, and don’t quite have the elite basketball program that UMD has just blocks away. Yet, the Saints offer a different bonus of having tons of local standouts on their roster. If you feel like you’ve watched these players since they were toddlers, you probably have in many cases. Reif Gymnasium offers a very intimate setting where fans are right on top of the action. As the announcer, I’m sure I’m biased, but mainly because of a top-notch sound system. At times, it sounds like a dance party where a basketball game happened to be played. Come out for a night and win or lose, I promise you’ll come back.
9. Duluth East Baseball Field
As a Greyhound alum, I get a lot of grief about supposed East bias. Sometimes I over-compensate against that, and other times I simply embrace it. This is a time to embrace it. Again, I love baseball, I love working on a microphone, and I love my hometown. The view of Lake Superior from the press box at Duluth East is very tough to top. I haven’t done baseball public address work since college, but Coach Chris Siljendahl asked me to work the home season this year for the Greyhounds. There aren’t a high number of games, but if there isn’t a need for a high number of layers, prep baseball can be a lot of fun.
8. Friday Night Lights
With 2023 just about to start, it seems ridiculous to think about the late months already. Yet, football in our area just feels different. It hasn’t had the success level of other areas on the gridiron, but it has the passion. Legendary coaches have combined with the youthful energy of new coaches to enhance area rivalries. The sights, sounds, and even the smells of Friday nights in the Northland are quite appealing.
7. Hermantown or Duluth East Gymnasium
Everybody still pines for this rivalry to hit the ice again, while failing to notice that these are the elite programs for boys’ basketball in the area -- and it’s not particularly close. Both schools have loud and entertaining venues, and their games have become community events. They’ll square off at East in January, and at Hermantown in March. I strongly recommend catching at least one classic battle. Both of these gyms have plenty of juice in them during other games too.
6. Xcel Energy Center – St. Paul
I hope the Wild make another playoff run, and I would love to get to a game in one of the NHL’s best “palaces”. Yet, the biggest honor is broadcasting the Minnesota State Boys High School Hockey Tournament. Assuming at least one local team brings me back there, I can’t wait. It seems everyone with even the faintest hockey interest either attends, listens, or watches. It’s an easy conversation starter with almost anyone. My alma mater went all four years of my high school life. However, doing the last five as a member of “radio row” has been surreal.
5. AMSOIL Arena
We are all well-versed on UMD’s recent hockey success. It’s common knowledge that the city seems to come to a halt (especially traffic) during a weekend of home games. I love all of that. Having said that, give me the semifinals and finals in Section 7AA and 7A every day instead. As great as the State Tournament can be, the tension and emotion involved in trying to get there is what prep sports is all about. Sprinkle in the potential for geographical rivalries, and you’ve got the best hockey days of the year.
4. U.S. Bank Stadium (in spirit) – Minneapolis
I say in spirit since my heart and nerves could not handle being there. Yet, my eyes and mind will be on U.S. Bank Stadium many times in 2023, both in the stretch run of the current season and the start of the next. Will 2023 be the year we remember for a parade and a fitting end to an incredible journey? Or will September 2023 start another season of “unfinished business” after falling short?
3. A Road Trip
You’ll notice a handful of places I’ve already listed are in the metro area. Getting there is half the fun. Whether it’s with Dave Cook, Steve Pitoscia, Jon Carlson, my wife Jennifer, or any friend of the radio show, you just never know what conversations each trek will produce. The entire ideaof “The Northland Sports Page” was born during a trip to a Twins game in 2015, only to debut two years later. Topics for each show have often been completed by going from Public Schools Stadium to Lakeside after a CSS Football game. Road trips create content and strengthen friendships that already seem destined to last a lifetime.
2. Target Center – Minneapolis
I enjoy the NBA, the WNBA, and prep basketball. However, I probably only have the budget to “Meatloaf” these events (two out of three ain’t bad). Regardless, I need to get back in that building. I haven’t had a lot of meaningful sports moments in it, but I’ve had one of the biggest “life” moments anyone can ever experience. I was engaged on March 30, 2012, at Target Center -- just a few hours before the Timberwolves faced the Celtics. The Wolves lost, but I was the big winner that night. If for no other reason, I hope to get back to that venue just to smile and know that I was able to get the person who makes me want to be the best version of myself, to share a lifelong commitment. That’s better than any championship I’ll ever witness.
1. On the Radio
No matter how many places I go to work or witness a game, there’s no place I enjoy being more than simply “on the radio.” Whether it’s describing a great play by your favorite team, or discussing the latest strategies of a professional team, very few things bring me more joy professionally. I love every minute of it and sharing that time with people who mean so much in my life. I was told earlier this week by a listener that “they listen to my show, and my opinions are trash.” Hopefully in this industry, that means I’ve made it. Love me or hate me, keep listening.
Thank you for letting me write out things to look forward to in 2023. I hope you’ll join me on a fun ride all year. Don’t feel obligated to do anything, but feel free to seize a great opportunity.
Brian's show, 'The Northland Sports Page', can be heard Saturdays from 10 am to noon on the FAN 106.5 FM/560 AM. You can catch previous episodes on the Northland FAN On-Demand area of our website or on our mobile app.