Christmas is just 27 days away, which means there are 26 days before I begin shopping.
One gift I may consider, and wouldn't have to wait more than three weeks to purchase, is Ross Bernstein's book "Hardwood Heroes: Celebrating a Century of Minnesota Basketball." The foreword is by former Boston Celtic and Hall of Famer Kevin McHale and the afterword by former Minneapolis Laker and Hall of Famer Vern Mikkelson.
Bernstein's book is an exhaustive history of Minnesota hoops, male and female, including the pros, the Gophers, state universities and colleges and high schools. It contains more than 500 pictures and is crammed with stories, anecdotes, lists and statistics.
"I think it's important that everyone understands, appreciates and celebrates our hoops history," Bernstein said. "I had no idea the first college basketball game was played in Minnesota, that the Lakers won six NBA championships, that the ABA was founded in Minnesota.
"It's a great time for hoops. The Vikings are stinking it up, the Twins situation is a downer with everything going on. The Wolves are in first place and the Gophers' men and women are looking good. A ton of high school kids have gone on to star at major universities. We're doing something right, I think."
Photos of every high school state championship team are included. Among the boys' champions are the 1954 Brainerd Warriors and 1975 Little Falls Flyers. Girls' state champions include the Little Falls Flyers of 1980, 1984 and 1985 and the Staples Cardinals of 1985.
"Some people say (the pictures are) too small but I would rather have more than less," Bernstein said. "My books are primarily for guys, and most guys have short attention spans. They like the Cliff Clavin sidebars, information and bios on people. That makes it a true coffee table book."
Prominent area players featured are former Brainerd Warrior "Whitey" Skoog, who starred for the Gophers and Lakers and later coached at Gustavus, and Pine River's Dina Kangas, a standout at Minnesota-Duluth who became the state's all-time leading collegiate scorer.
The book is the 11th literary work for the 32-year-old Bernstein. The Fairmont native has written about the history of Gophers football and hockey, a 50-year celebration of Minnesota sports and the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. He also has written children's books on Gary Payton and Randy Moss, with books on Kevin Garnett and Daunte Culpepper due to be published next year.
"At a certain point in life you realize a lot of guys are jerks, and it's tough to put lipstick on a pig to make them look good, but I choose to take the high road with almost all guys," Bernstein said.
His next project, a history of Minnesota baseball, is under way and should be available by Christmas 2002.
"It's not the most glamorous lifestyle," Bernstein said of being an author. "I spend a year doing research. The fun part is doing interviews and going on TV. I just try to create a widget every year and bring them to the marketplace.
"I hope to God it won't be a eulogy to the Twins. I hope all that gets worked out."
Signed copies are available from www.bernsteinbooks.com. Copies are also available at area bookstores.
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