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Perspective: by Jerry Pyle
Perspective: At Least We Had Bomber
OK, so it wasn't a very good week for Cobber sports. But at least we had Bomber.
Bomber is Steve Baumgartner, our hockey coach. There is the famous joke about the optimistic boy who, upon seeing a pile of manure, began digging in with glee, convinced there must be a pony in there somewhere.
Bomber was that little boy.
While making the rounds of our coaches this week I started with Duane Siverson. I save Bomber for last.
Having lost two games in a row, Siverson is convinced that his Lady Cobber basketball team will not win another game. If you try to suggest otherwise to him the top half of his ears become red and he starts questioning the type of mushrooms you had for lunch.
My next stop was Ron Nellermoe, the wrestling coach. By the time he got done telling me how tough UW-River Falls was going to be I was worried that he might be liable for damages for sending his team to such an inevitable slaughter.
John Eidsness, the men's basketball coach, was only slightly more hopeful. Sure, he still shakes a little.
But the uncontrollable crying spells, which began in October when shooter Bryan Flam got hurt, have almost disappeared.
Then I saw Bomber. He had on his usual boyish grin, filled with innocent confidence, undaunted by the world's cruel realities. It was not hard to imagine the manure on his knees from his most recent digging.
"We're doing great," he started. "We got second in the MIAC Thanksgiving Tournament. We got speed. We got goaltenders. We got..."
Slow down Bomber. You got fifth in the MIAC tournament.
You lost the first one to Gustavus and then beat Augsburg and Hamline. In an 8-team tournament that makes you fifth, right?
"I don't think they figure it that way. We had a 2-1 record in the tournament, that's tied for the second-best record. By my figuring that makes us second.
You should have seen how well we played those last two games in the tournament. We dominated. You should see the way our freshmen are playing. We got speed..."
Wait Bomber. You can't be saying that kind of stuff.
You beat Augsburg in an overtime shoot-out and you beat Hamline 7-5. That's dominating?
"You had to be there."
Listen, I can't be writing that you were dominating when you win in a shootout. You guys are 1-3-1 and got beat by Steven's Point 11-1 just last week.
"Ya, but we played 'em even-up for the middle thirty minutes of the game. How come you didn't write that?"
Bomber, I can't be using the words "even-up" anywhere in a story about an 11-1 hockey game. People already think my grip on reality is shaky. Tell me how you see the MIAC race shaping up.
"OK, the coaches in the league all think it's going to be really even, a lot of splits. Nearly everybody looks like they are better and there is no dominating team.
St. Thomas and Gustavus and Augsburg... I shouldn't even name any favorites because they are all so even. But by the end of the weekend most of the people at the tournament were saying we looked like the dominant team."
There you go again.
"OK, OK. You're right. It's just that our guys are working so hard and they're a good bunch of guys. I really get pumped working with this group. Our power play is solid. We might have the most explosive scoring in the..."
Some people think Bomber developed his buoyant attitude when the first team he ever coached, a junior team in Canada, went 62-0. The concept of losing a game simply left his conciousness.
Others say that when Baumgartner won the MIAC title in his first year at Concordia in 86-87 he was forever doomed to a life of rampant optimism.
But he is a delight. He can predict great things for his team every week without sounding like he is running down an opponent. He's not likely to get an ulcer because he never seems worried. He always thinks he is going to win.
The coaching profession has, as always, differing theories about this approach, depending on whether the coach in question is winning or losing.
If the coach who is always praising his team is winning he is looked on as a brilliant motivator who successfully employs positive reinforcement. If that same coach is losing he is seen as letting his team live in a dream world, never pushing them to know the hard work needed to be successful.
Bomber isn't much for theories. He just loves coaching hockey.
I asked him how he expected to do this weekend at Gustavus.
"Well, they won that MIAC Thanksgiving tournament with a 3-0 record. They looked good. But if we play our game I think we'll dominate. Hassman is playing great. Gillie is coming around. I think our freshman goaltenders might be the best in the..."
True to his prediction, the Cobber hockey team played well over the weekend, skating to a 4-4 tie on Friday night and a 6-6 tie on Saturday against one of the best teams in the league. It was the best performance of a Cobber team this week. Compared to the rest of us, Bomber's team is dominating.
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