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The Weekly Brief Pro sports can succeed in Rochester

Many in the community are skeptical about the prospects for success of the newest professional sports team to hit the community, the Rochester Fire basketball team that is set to begin play next fall.

And they have a right to be skeptical. After all, every professional sports franchise that has competed here in the last 20 years — one baseball team, a volleyball team and three previous basketball franchises, went belly up after anywhere from one to three seasons.

But that doesn’t mean a pro sports team can’t succeed here. We think it can, but only if its owners create a solid and self-sustaining business model for the franchise.

The Fire would do well to follow the example of the Rochester Honkers baseball team, which has been a popular summertime entertainment fixture here since 1994. The big difference between the Fire and the Honkers, of course, is the fact that the Honkers team is composed of college players who aren’t paid for their work, whereas the Fire players will draw salaries.

But the Honkers are run like a professional team in every other way. They’ve succeeded for a number of reasons, but most notably because they’ve made the games affordable and fun for entire families to attend.

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The Honkers have done an excellent job promoting the club by teaming up with local businesses to offer give-aways and entertainment before and after games.

One thing working in the Fire’s favor is that Rochester has changed since its last pro basketball franchise left town in 2000. It’s bigger, more diverse and, perhaps, more hungry for wintertime entertainment options.

We wish the team’s owners success as they gear up for the Fire’s inaugural season.

    Winterfest raises cold, hard cash
    Stocking hats off to organizers of this year’s citywide WinterFest celebration, and to those in the community who took part in the many events associated with it.

    The 2007 version of the annual mid-winter festival, which was initiated by Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede five years ago, raised at least $286,000. It appears to be gaining in popularity as more and more people look for ways to stave off cabin fever that don’t involve a drive out of town.

    This year’s proceeds total, which is donated to local charities, is a big jump over last year’s sum of about $165,000. But we have to remember that many of last year’s events were canceled due to a lack of snow and unseasonably warm temperatures.

    Hopefully, there will be plenty of snow and ice for the 2008 Winterfest, which begins Feb. 1. The community can use an excuse to have some fun during the short days and long nights of winter.

      A new perspective
      Empathy has been playing on big screens in southeastern Minnesota in recent weeks and Sunday night received attention at the Oscars.

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      Clint Eastwood’s film, "Letters From Iwo Jima" depicts that famous World War II battle from the viewpoint of the Japanese defenders of the island. The film is a powerful reminder that, in war as in so many other endeavors, we are more alike than we are different.

      Propaganda often turns enemies into hateful savages. But as Eastwood’s movie so eloquently shows, battlefield enemies are people with families they love and miss and hope to see again.

      That understanding of our common humanity, should it become widespread, would be bad news for the war business. If a tough guy like Clint Eastwood recognizes as much, there is indeed hope for a peaceful future.

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