The Twin Cities sports community is processing much grief after learning of Tony Geer's death. Geer was an omnipresent being in basketball coverage, ranging from high school to professional level assignments. He died in his sleep Monday night at the age of 50 in his Minneapolis home.
Geer graduated from Minneapolis Washburn in 1980, and people who could withstand his enigmatic surface were rewarded with possibilities they would have never considered on their own. No matter how frustrated his contacts could get when he was unable to deliver a promise he made, cutting off ties was still a foolish decision because of his networking talent. Geer was aware of this fault, often introducing himself by saying "Last name: Trouble. First name: Big. Middle name: Huge," occasionally expanding the joke to include other puns with the word "trouble."
His coping mechanism? Humor. Losing your direction on road trips was more entertaining with Geer than most drivers. Nearly every gym he entered would become a temporary "smile zone," where patrons were required to grin if they wished to gain entrance. Children would be mesmerized by his mastery of his "hidden ball" trick as they tossed an imaginary object that landed perfectly inside any bag he happened to possess.
His outreach abilities spanned throughout the Midwest, from his time working at Minneapolis Television Network in the 1980s to coaching Iowa AAU basketball in the 1990s, ending with his efforts to utilize new media to promote basketball coverage when he returned to Minnesota, including a short stint with JDL Horizons, who partners with the Minnesota State High School League and KSTC 45 to bring expanded state tournament broadcasts.
Spanning all of his contributions would be impossible in a swift, proficient manner, but he was influential in creating the professional opportunities this writer has utilized.
My first meeting with Tony was January 2008, when he and I intersected at a girls basketball game between Bloomington Kennedy and Minneapolis South during the Tayler Hill era. Noticing my professional attire, he instructed Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach Pam Borton to use me as an anchoring point to locate him, generating a stunned reaction from a then 20-year-old play-by-play announcer.
We called a few games later that season, and following an extended period of understanding that included him christening me with several nicknames (Spock, Columbo, Jim Rockford), he played a gambit in 2009 that remains responsible for many of my adventures: placing me in the Minnesota Lynx press corps. At the time, the Lynx were an afterthought among mainstream media due to their lackluster history, but still offered far more exposure than any high school beat could match.
Geer went a step further in 2010, encouraging me to cover a Lynx road game, which we did that August when they visited the Chicago Sky. His reasoning was doing so would leave a permanent impression on a franchise still clamoring for attention. The road trip morphed to an annual tradition where I personally attend at least one Lynx road game each season as part of my coverage.
He made another excursion with a colleague of mine at the end of the season, revealing his motive for setting me up with multiple opportunities: his health was failing and he suspected his physical existence would vanish soon, and he wanted to see those with admirable pursuits chart a course that would bring them independent recognition.
His strategy played out for me in 2011, when he spun me off his Community Hoops site to remove any restrictions of writing directly for him. The Lynx won the Finals that year, bringing a championship to a thirsty market while acquainting big-name personalities within the WNBA to "minor league" media members like myself. Praise that used to flow in his river was now seeping mine, just as he planned.
Curiosity occupied Geer's thoughts as well. He made several attempts to comprehend my editing skills, particularly in graphic design, often my signature with sports coverage. One of our last conversations involved his confusion over yellow hash marks I added in my score banner to indicate timeouts, a practice nearly every professional sports broadcast implements. He acknowledged the banner by calling it the "Pedon scoreboard," altering the pronunciation of my last name to a fake French designation.
Rarely would Geer ask for recognition for bridging others, and no personal crisis would stop him from diverting attention to other proficient members of the community. His intervention has led to many contacts I have established with the WNBA, Gopher women's basketball and high school communities. His passing will forever mark an absence in local sports coverage, but an eternal smile zone awaits to greet his contributions.
Geer's family is currently seeking donations to cover funeral expenses. People wishing to do so can visit any US Bank and make a deposit under the account number 104781602057 or through mail at the address below.
C/O Sharon Geer, 3400 Parklawn Avenue, Apt. #212, Edina, MN 55435