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Updated: October 13th, 2013 5:22pm
P.J.R.: Candor went into hiding last week in T.C. sports media

P.J.R.: Candor went into hiding last week in T.C. sports media

by Patrick Reusse
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The past few days haven't been the greatest time for the local news media to dive into separating fact from fiction.

There were episodes sensitive and tragic that required reporters and even talk-show hosts to go with the party line and not share candid observations on these subjects:

*Jerry Kill's status as the Minnesota football coach in view of his ongoing problem with seizures.

*The death of a 2-year-old boy through a beating suffered in Sioux Falls, S.D., and the tyke's link to here as the biological son of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.

The Star Tribune's Jim Souhan offered his unvarnished look at the Kill situation in September, when the coach collapsed before halftime and missed the second half of a game vs. Western Illinois. All Hades broke loose after that column, sending the Twin Cities media into hyperventilation to be properly sensitive to Kill's situation specifically and for epilepsy as a malady.

Then, Kill had more seizures and was unable to make it to the Michigan game. The Gophers followed that loss with a bye week. Kill remained unable to get back to the office.

We reported the quotes from university President Eric Kaler that there was no change in the coach's status. On Thursday morning, Athletic Director Norwood Teague gave a radio interview in which he mimicked Kaler's remark on the status of the football coach.

A few hours later, the university announced that Kill was turning over the team to his coaching staff - with defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys acting as head coach. The university told the public and the media that this was Kill's idea.

We all know this: Even if it was the idea of Kaler and Teague, the university would have told us it was Kill's idea.

All last week, it was obvious that Kill couldn't go forward in what had become a losing battle with seizures, even as the media went with the no-big-deal angle. And perhaps, as soon as he gets his "medication right,'' Kill will be back on the job.

What's embarrassing is for the media to be so covered-up and on the ropes over this issue that we're willing to go along with this suggestion:

It's not really a dramatic change for a Big Ten football program to be missing its head coach ... that Kill's coaching staff has been through this before, and besides, Jerry will be calling Claeys and other coaches frequently.

OK, then.

On Friday, the news turned worse when it was a revealed the 2-year-old boy in Sioux Falls had died from injuries suffered in a beating. Joseph Patterson, 27, was charged, and was said to be a current boyfriend of the mother.

There were reports on the probability that Peterson was the father, in the sense he was responsible for her pregnancy.

Immediately, the media (here and nationally) leaped on the angle that this boy was part of the "Peterson family'' and it was a tragedy that Adrian, courageously, would try to play through on Sunday vs. Carolina.

By Saturday, TMZ (which is right more often than not) was reporting that Peterson saw the boy for the first time on Thursday, as the 2-year-old laid unresponsively in a Sioux Falls hospital.

This is a tear-filled story, for the boy who died at the hands of a beast, for the mother who went home to South Dakota to raise the boy as a single mom, and maybe for Peterson, for losing a son that he never had a chance to know.

On Sunday, after the 35-10 beatdown suffered against Carolina, Peterson was asked about his relationship with the 2-year-old son. He declined to answer.

As a media, we would have been better off in recent days if we had declined to set up Peterson as heroic for playing on Sunday, and simply shared in the mourning for a murdered 2-year-old.


Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He co-hosts SportsTalk from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. and hosts The Ride with Reusse from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. He also co-hosts "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Patrick | @1500ESPN_reusse | The Ride with Reusse