Almost 47 years ago – May 16, 1970, to be precise – Mike Lundgren was hired by The Thief River Falls Times. On Feb. 1, Lundgren, who has had a long and successful career as the sports editor at The Times, will officially set down his pen and camera.
“Somewhere along the line I got old. Not so old that I can’t enjoy what life has to offer, but old enough to know that I don’t have the energy I once had. I’m tired, plain and simple.”
Most of us cannot and never will be able to say they’ve had an opportunity to do the thing they love for over 46 years and call it a job, but Lundgren can.
“The first 46 years on the job just seemed to fly by.”
But, the years caught up with him last year when he had what he describes as a “glitch.”
“Bypass surgery this past summer,” said Lundgren, “took a little wind out of my sail.”
The procedure went well, and Lundgren said the medical personnel who attended to him did a wonderful job and that he now feels much better than he did before the operation, but he still feels like he’s carrying some baggage.
And that mindset played a role in his decision to end his long career now.
“The winter tournament schedule is a bear, even for someone much younger and more energetic. At the end of last year’s winter sports season, I was shot. I had absolutely nothing left in the gas tank. I think that was the beginning of my health problems.”
The more he thought about it, the less he wanted to go through it again.
“I do have guilty feelings about leaving in the middle of something, but in the end, I really feel this is my best option.”
Lundgren said he’s had a great run. He’s had a career that he thoroughly enjoyed. He said the seasons, the activities were always changing and it made it interesting and challenging.
He also had an opportunity to be around some highly motivated people – athletes, coaches, administrators and officials.
“They kept me going year after year,” said Lundgren.
And he’s had some great people to work with.
“I apologize to those I forget to mention, after all, I’m old and my memory isn’t what it used to be, but a list of those whose friendships and relationships have been special include Russ Smith, Jim Sims, Ralph Skay, Charlie Cornell, Jeff Mumm, John Schmitz, Whitey Olson, Glen Peters, Tim Olson, Dick Tyler, Ed Krystosek, the Berglands Scott and Tim – Wendell Grand and Jeff Loe at Lincoln High School; Chet Engelman, Deb Jacobson, Rick Nelson, Rick Nikunen, Terry Wiseth, Kathy Huschle and Paul Peterson at Northland Community and Technical College; Ron Ueland and Dave Kragness at Newfolden; Eldon Sparby and Tom Neibauer at Middle River; Vern Johnson at Grrygla; Gary Brantl and Rick Koivisto at Plummer.”
Naming the top athletes he’s covered is equally as dangerous, but Lundgren said in nearly five decades there have been more than a few to choose from.
“I would not put a list together that did not include Kent Smith, Wayne Peterson, Kyle Sanden, Michael Forney, Doug Dallmann, Scott Sabo, Chelsea Haviland, Jodi Kruta, Nicole Kopari, Brooke Yaggie and Meleah Biermaier.”
To his credit, Lundgren has been recognized for his contributions and skill as a sports writer as well. Lundgren is a member of the Lincoln High School Prowler Hall of Fame, Northland Community and Technical College Athletic Hall of Fame; holds a certificate of appreciation from the State High School Athletic Director’s Association; and a service award from the National Junior College Athletic Association.
Lundgren is humble as well, though.
“Even though it’s my livelihood, I realized a long time ago that writing about sports is not brain surgery. It’s important to a lot of people, but it’s not a life or death situation. My favorite saying of all time is by former Villanova and Irish Olympic runner Noel Carroll: ‘Sport is a way of proving you are better than somebody else at something that’s of no use to anybody.”
“I want to thank The Times staff for providing a great workplace environment. A special nod has to go to former editor Marv Lundin, who offered a young unproven job applicant an opportunity – a hire that opened the door for a lifetime career.”
Lundgren said he has thoroughly enjoyed the many, many years he’s had at The Times. As you might imagine, trying to balance family and job has been the biggest challenge.
“My wife Shirley was supportive and (mostly) understanding when late nights, early mornings and weekend work took a big chunk of family time. Somehow I have to figure out a way to make up for all that lost time.”
He’ll now have that opportunity. He’ll also have an opportunity to be a fan. He’ll be cheering on his grandchildren, Alex and Parker, and all of the athletes who make being a sports reporter a job of a lifetime.
“I can clap, and I can cheer. No longer do I have to adhere to the long-time rules for the media that mandated no cheering in the press box.”