A strange thing appeared on Minnesota Public Radio’s web site yesterday, and it might be such an excellent example of crappy journalism that it is worth mentioning just for that reason. Or, it could be an excellent example of journalistic activism, and that’s worth a look too. Or, it could be a reporter with nothing interesting going on, and since he’s a sports reporter working in the Twin Cities one can easily see how that would happen this year, so he made up a story. But he did so in a potentially destructive way that may need to be critiqued.

Here’s the background. Saint Paul, Minnesota, has a minor league baseball team called the Saint Paul Saints. They promote themselves cleverly. You know how major league baseball teams will sometimes have a theme to a particular game, like “bat day” so everybody gets a bat, or whatever? The Saint Paul Saint are ALL about this sort of promotion, and every one of their games is themed. One year they gave out bobbleheads that were The Count from Sesame Street, but he had two faces, one of Norm Coleman (then outgoing Senator from Minnesota) and the other Al Franken (then incoming Senator from Minnesota). This game was held during the Great Recount. And so on.

Well, several months ago Minnesota Atheists put up a billboard campaign promoting Atheism and Free Thought, and someone connected with the Saints saw it and thought “Hey, that’s cool” and contacted Minnesota Atheists and suggested that the Saints do a promotion with the Atheists. The team would be renamed Mr. Paul Aints (get it?) and the shirts and stuff would be reprinted with the modified name and later sold (after laundering them, I’m sure) as a fundraiser. And so on. That game is coming up on August 10th. I just got my tickets. See you there.

Meanwhile there is talk in Saint Paul of building a new stadium and sports facility that would be used, among other tings, for the Saints. This is something that would be passed through the City Council and the State. Saint Paul is requesting $27 million dollars from the state to cover part of the cost.

Nowhere is there any evidence that anyone with the state has complained that a ball team that does not hate Atheists is asking for money, or that someone should be punished for interacting with non-believers. If such a thing was said by an elected official or appointed official or state staffer, that should be reported because it is a violation of federal and state constitutional protections. But as far as I know that did not happen. But Bob Collins still managed to write a piece for MPR News that implies that such a thing happened. He refers (without linking) to a story elsewhere on the internet which reports Saints manager Dave Sharrer talking about this particular promotion in positive terms. No one mentions anything about anybody getting mad at anybody. Then, Collins adds his own two cents:

Sharrer said the promotion is “all in good fun.” “This isn’t about mocking or ridiculing any one belief,” he said.

And, no doubt, many people will find it funny. But religious people tend to take matters of faith seriously, and it’s nearly impossible to separate religion and politics. There’s a fair chance an overblown national debate on this that should start in 3…2….1. You know the “Merry Christmas” vs “Happy Holidays” debate? It’s going to be like that.

Marketing genius? Probably. It’s what the Saints do. And it’s pretty smart of the atheists to have the event to coincide with the Minnesota Regional Atheists Conference.

But it’s not particularly astute politically and what with the intertwining of religion and politics these days, the idea risks costing the Saints a stadium.

Sorry, Bob, but that’s just you. Nobody else is expressing any difficulty with this. You appear to be manufacturing a controversy. Why are you doing that? Or, if there really is a controversy, where other than in your head is it? Document, describe, provided details. Thing is, I don’t think you have any.

By the way, you do need to get your facts straight. The Regional Conference was scheduled to coincide with the game because everybody thought that would be fun. The conspiratorial implication you make is not only backwards, but silly. Jeesh.


  1. #1 Michael Haubrich
    Central Coast
    July 14, 2012

    None of the people I know who are currently on the city council of Pig’s Eye, nor in the legislature from a district that is in St. Paul would be outraged by this promotion. If anything, they might say “Oh, those guys are such cards.” I think they would not change their minds on whatever they come up with to finance the stadium (or not) because of this promotion. Collins must have been bored when he wrote that blog or his life has been lacking in drama since the last session ended.

  2. #2 Eric Jayne
    July 15, 2012

    I was so frustrated when I read Bob Collins’ write up about our event. I expect cable news and talk radio outlets to manufacture opinion-based malarkey that fans the flames of ire, but I don’t expect that from MPR. I’m a paid member of MPR because I consider them to be fair, objective, and producers of high quality journalism. I’m not so sure now.

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    July 15, 2012

    I don’t know too many people in office in Saint Paul but from a Minneapolis perspective, American Atheists and the Saints promotion is vanilla white bread. Minneapolis council members are relatively radical. So, Mike, what you are saying does not surprise me at all. And, if that was all there was to it, Bob Collin’s write up would be just the silly misunderstandings of some guy who knows sports but nothing about politics.

    However, Saint Paul is looking for money from the state, which at the moment, is populated with an inordinate number of Tea Party radicals who will probably in fact grab onto this. Thanks to Bob Collins, the politics surrounding the Saint Paul Saints request (indirectly) for improved facilities (which are part of a much larger community-benefiting project, I think) have been complicated. At best, Collins was thoughtless. But if he was thinking about what he was doing, he may have been nefarious, torpedoing the Saints because he has something against them or dissing the Atheists because he does not like them or maybe even messing with Coleman because he has a problem with him. I don’t know the guy, so I can only guess.

  4. #4 F
    July 15, 2012

    And to think that the news of this I’d read previously was essentially reflecting that there was no news in terms inappropriate religious outrage. Guess we had to make some.