The Wild played at home Tuesday night, and one of the things I like to do on the drive home after the game is listen to Coach Richards' post-game press conference on WCCO radio.
The good ol' 8-3-0 has been around my entire life, of course, and there was a time when it was one of the premier radio stations in the country. A "clear channel" station, its nighttime signal could be picked up over wide swaths of the nation, and it had a well-earned reputation as a great source for breaking news. When something big happened, there used to be a sort of automatic reflex to turn to 'CCO and find out what was going on.
On the drive home I listened to Richards, then listened to the post-game chatter between Wild studio guy Kevin Falness and 'CCO nighttime "personality" Dark Star. After the hockey talk ended - about 10:30 - I would normally have switched the channel or plugged in my MP3, but right about then I reached Hastings.
What I saw was a sea of police lights. Cop cars were blocking Hwy. 61, forcing us over to the side streets. TV trucks were parked all over, and clearly something big had happened. After a few blocks on the side streets, I cut back to Hwy. 61, and went only two blocks before finding another big area blocked off by police cars.
Having no idea what had happened, I decided to leave the radio tuned to 'CCO, where I assumed I'd get the story. Instead, I got about 20 minutes of Dark Star chatting with some buddy of his who apparently owns a restaurant where Dark Star likes to eat. They chatted about the economy, the President's laughable speech on Afghanistan and a couple other things. Dark Star's buddy had no real insights to offer, but then, he's not a news guy, he's just Dark Star's buddy.
I put up with the gibberish because the top of the hour was coming up, which generally means the CBS network news break, then local news. 11:00 p.m. came, we went to CBS, and at 11:05 we went to local news. Nothing about Hastings. Whatever event had happened that was big enough to close chunks of U.S. Hwy 61, bring out dozens of police cars and attract TV news trucks wasn't a big enough deal to mention on WCCO Radio.
So I thought, well, either it wasn't that big a deal, or it just happened in the last 15 minutes and 'CCO hasn't had time to get someone on the story. Wrong on both counts.
Turns out that police had a felony arrest warrant for a guy, who was suspected of stealing a truck, and when they tried to stop him, he started ramming into squad cars. Police started shooting, and when they were done the suspect was hauled away in an ambulance and bystanders said there were more than 20 bullet holes in the car.
And all of this happened between 8:00 and 8:30 p.m., more than two hours before I drove through Hastings. But, again, it didn't merit a mention on WCCO radio news.
If the news-gathering capability of this once-great station has fallen that far, there's pretty much no reason for it to exist except to bring us the fabulous Wild hockey broadcasts of Bob Kurtz and Tom Reid, along with Coach Richards' press conferences. The other 280 or so days of the year they may as well shut it down. Which is kind of sad.