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FSN ending “Circle Me Bert” tradition during Twins broadcasts

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What next? Bert Blyleven can’t talk about his birthday?

Minnesota Twins v Colorado Rockies
Twins fans at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado in 2008.
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Anyone who’s watched Twins television broadcasts in the last fifteen years or so knows the deal: you bring a sign to a Twins game asking MLB Hall of Famer and Twins color commentator Bert Blyleven to circle you, and he might use his whatever-the-do-hickey-is-that-sports-people-use-to-draw-on-the-screen to circle you. In recent years, you might also get a bunch of lottery tickets for being circled.

Apparently, however, Fox Sports North is ending the “Circle Me Bert” campaign, per Bert Blyleven himself:

It’s not clear what exactly is happening here. Is the Minnesota State Lottery Winners just ending their sponsorship, or is Bert literally not going to be allowed to circle people at all? Because the latter seems unfair.

“Circle Me Bert” didn’t start as any sort of actual promotion. It started as something Bert did during games to entertain himself with his new telestrator. In the early 2000s, after a lot of losing in the 1990s (plus an awful baseball strike), the Twins didn’t have a lot of fans. When Blyleven saw Twins fans in the stands at away games, he started circling them on the screen to point them out.

As Blyleven explains on his official website:

FSN gave me a telestrator and said to use it to help describe the plays. We were on the road in Kansas City, the game was going on, and there was a heavy-set individual in the upper deck who was a Twins fan. I went, ‘Here you go, you are hereby circled.’

This was in 2002. After the series in Kansas City, the Twins went to play a series in Detroit, and Blyleven continued:

Somebody had a sign that read, ‘We drove 660 miles from Detroit Lakes,’ I said, ‘Here we go, you are hereby circled.’

Apparently, according to a history of the phenomenon published by the local CBS station, when the Twins returned to the Metrodome, tons of fans who took note of the TV broadcasts suddenly had signs reading: “CIRCLE ME BERT!” I know this is not an embellishment — it sounds pretty darn accurate to my own witnessing of the creation of the “movement”. It’s also pretty quintessentially the quirky kind of crap Twins fans did in the Metrodome all the time, like the huge sign for the LaTroy Hawkins Fan Club in the upper deck in right field or that extremely intricate paper plane someone threw on the field during the 1987 World Series.

I’m not sure what to feel about FSN putting a stop to this, if that’s really what they are doing rather than just ending the Minnesota Lottery sponsorship. On one hand, it’s been an organic tradition among Twins fans that has done on for over a decade. On the other hand, probably over 1000 fans bring these signs to every game, whether or not Blyleven is even broadcasting. Blyleven — though still the main color commentator — only works roughly half of the Twins’ broadcasts these days. FSN has a whole slew of new broadcasters who serve as color commentators now, including former Twins Jack Morris, Roy Smalley, Torii Hunter, LaTory Hawkins, and new for 2018, former AL MVP Justin Morneau.

What do you think about the end of “Circle Me Bert”?