Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Day Two-Hundred Sixty-Eight: Mike Russo is Awesome

You probably don't know who Mike Russo is. (I know my readers) Russo's the Minnesota Wild's beat reporter for the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. Somehow, the guy balances covering the team for the paper with keeping an AWESOME daily blog on the paper's web site. I will be honest, I really don't like the Wild, despite the fact that many former Aeros have been and are enjoying success out there. Originally, I started following Russo's Rants to see when Pouliot, Reitz, Harding, or Clutterbuck might get into a game. Also found it useful to get a scoop on bubble-players that may be sent down to Houston, like Mojzis was last year.

As I read, however, I determined that Russo blogs hockey the way hockey should be blogged.

Daily content. I'm talking quality content, too. Updates from practices, anecdotes from drills, comments from players, lineup for the night's game, Russo's got something either useful or interesting virtually every day. It's also amazing what a great relationship he seems to have with the players and coaches. He shows his readers their human sides. This is something I've seen a lot of newspaper beat writer blogs do on occasion, but somehow Russo brings out the lighter side of these guys all the time. I know it sounds cliche, but you really get a sense that you're in the locker room or traveling with the team when you read Russo's Rants.

Furthermore, when Russo interviews a player, you have an interview to read. None of this "just throw up the video, it's faster" nonsense. The guy takes his blogging as seriously as his reporting. That's getting rarer and rarer, and as a guy who doesn't always have access to sound and video while checking up on my hockey updates, I sure appreciate the extra effort.

Finally, Russo's always great to the fans, the team, and the paper, without sacrificing any one for another. He's not a homer at all; while I usually get the sense that he wants the Wild to win, he never uses terms like "good guys" or "bad guys," and his reports are always fair. He'll call it like he sees it, even if it's unpopular (i.e. picking the Avs to beat the Wild a couple years ago in the playoffs--the guy took a lot of heat from the Wild faithful for that one, and kept his cool. Contrarily, the Avs beat writer picked the Wild to win and took the same flack from Avs fans and was...less than gracious...) He knows hockey, and he knows how to explain it so that experts and novices understand at the same time. (This is particularly useful in the new CBA/Salary Cap era)

I've already decided that, if/when Russo moves on from the Star Tribune to another market, I'm going to keep following his work. Unless he goes to write for the Wings.

Dear Mike Russo: Please never accept the beat writer position in Detroit. Thanks.