The nightmare began taking shape when a Duluth. Minn. TV weatherman started tearing into me.
It was a week ago Friday and I was stretched out on my bed in the Duluth Holiday Inn. WJBR's meteorologist had just finished has forecast with the suggestion that everyone stay tuned for an interesting segment in the second half of the program about the young man whose newspaper article had caused so much controversy.
Although the young man in question was obviously not a good writer, the weatherman explained, he understood that all fledgling journalists dreamed of writing the Great American Novel or the Big Story. So when the locals measured in the young man's age and inexperience, he added, they should go easy on the misguided youth.
That's when I looked up at my pale green Holiday Inn ceiling and realized I was in trouble.
The story actually begins two days earlier. On Wednesday, March 20, I flew to Duluth--a city of about 100,000 in upstate Minn--to begin covering the Harvard men's hockey team's NCAA quarterfinal series with the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) Bulldogs.
The flight went smoothly enough, I got a sporty little rental car in Minneapolis, and began the trek north into the heart of the Iron Range.
The scenery was pretty, too pretty I realize now, the sun roof was open, mindless pop music was blaring on the stereo and I didn't have another class for 10 days.
I just sat back and soaked it all in.
Three hours later, I plopped myself down on the bed in my hotel room and saw the TV came with a full range of cable channels, a good I don't even enjoy at home.
If only I'd known the price I was about to pay for being in such a good mood. I would have packed up and flown home--or even to Newark.
After talking to some friendly people over at UMD, I sent two stories back to The Crimson. One was just another regular hockey notebook. The other, written while Madonna performed "Like a Virgin" on the tube, was about what I had discovered in Duluth.
I commented on the level of hysteria surrounding the Bulldogs, and tried to show how different Duluth's attitude toward college hockey was compared with Cambridge's.
I wrote that the town had "little appreciable culture" and how "pathetic" I found it that an entire town's fortunes were tied to the success or failure of its hockey team. "Here, hockey is king and it is more than a little disturbing," I wrote.
It turns out that a young Duluth native who currently resides in Mather House didn't appreciate my comments. So that afternoon he read my master piece to his hometown newspaper, which in turn received permission from The Crimson to reprint it Friday morning.