Thursday, August 6, 2009

Interview with a Circle Me Bert Superstar

Boone Hagarsky suffers for his sport. Sunny summer days spent inside the Metrodome has colored him the cadaverous off-white of the Metrodome ceiling. His failing eyesight and aggressive tinnitus he blames on the stadium's poor lighting and ear-shattering sound system. With his permanent squint and his head perpetually cocked towards his better ear, Hagarsky is a portrait of the man perplexed by something in the middle distance, or perhaps in another dimension. And yet Hagarsky's four-dome-dog a game habit places him unmistakably among the corporeal. Taken altogether, Hagarsky seems to have achieved in his person the impossible: An immense nullity that suggests both the impressive heft and the near-weightlessness of a giant marshmallow man.

Despite these handicaps, Hagarsky has been circled by Bert Blyleven more than any other Twins fan. GameDay caught up with this Circle Me Bert superstar in his studio apartment in Minneapolis.


GD: How many times have you been circled?

BH: Twenty-seven and counting.

GD: I think most of them have found their way into a YouTube video montage that’s gone viral. Are you recognized at the Dome?
BH: I think so. People stare at me a lot. But I don’t get approached, if that’s what you mean. Actually, I was asked for an autograph once. But the guy thought I was Henry Kissinger.

GD: The resemblance is astonishing.

BH: So I’ve been told. But why would Henry Kissinger be at the Dome wearing a Circle Me Bert sunflower sign? It made no sense.

GD: Why did you put the video out there?

BH: Well, I know there are a ton of people who would love to be circled by Bert just once. I guess I hope the video inspires people to chase that dream, and that it also acts as a tutorial of sorts for people just getting started.

GD: But it just boils down to holding a sign over your head, right?

BH: No, not at all. Listen, there’s a hell of a lot more to getting circled than just holding a sign over your head. I mean, if that’s all there was to it, then what have you accomplished? Why get so excited? "Hey everybody, look at me! I’m on TV! Yay!” Maybe if you’re a little kid you feel that way. But a grown adult? It’s not like Bert’s circling imbeciles out there.

GD: I’ve pushed a button.

BH: Well, I don’t think people understand the preparation that goes into getting circled.

GD: You mean the sign making piece?

BH: See, that’s what I’m talking about. Yeah, the signage is important. But I could give you the best sign in my collection and unless you spend some time with it away from the game you're not going to be circled.

GD: I’m not following you. Are you talking about practicing?

BH: Definitely. That camera can come at you from any direction. So right there you’ve got 360 degrees to worry about. There’s the angle of tilt on your sign. You’d better have that calibrated to the angle of the camera. And then Bert can pull that pen out at any time, and you want to snap right into your presentation stance. So there’s a muscle memory element there.

GD: Do you work this out in front of the mirror?

BH: Sometimes mirrors. Dressing room mirrors work great -- you can analyze your presentation from multiple angles. Even better than that are in-store security video monitors.

GD: Don't the stores mind you doing this?

BH: Sometimes. Actually, all of the time. I’ve been banned from just about every Super America between here and the Iron Range. And then there are the arrests and all that you’ve got to deal with when they take you downtown and throw you in with the perverts. But this is what I’m talking about. If you want to be circled, there’s a price to pay. There’s a price.

GD: Let’s get back to the signs themselves. What makes a good sign?

BH: Well, that’s going to be a big part of my book, so right now I don't want to go into the crafting aspect. But here again, preparation is key. You want to do your research. You can uncover just a treasure trove of ideas and inspiration if you study the history of the hand-held sign.

GD: There’s a history there?

BH: (laughs) Believe it or not we Minnesotans didn't invent the hand-held sign.

GD: How far back does the hand-held sign go?

BH: Well, there is some pretty compelling evidence that Jesus Christ used hand-helds.

GD: That’s unbelievable.

BH: Not really when you look at the crafting aspect if this. Lots of times I’m sitting there and an idea just comes out of nowhere. Ten or twelve or fourteen hours later I’m looking at a finished sign and I know that my rationality played absolutely no role in that exercise.

GD: Does this “divine madness” touch you when you’re presenting the signs?

BH: I think it does. At least, I can tell when Bert is in the process of circling me. I don’t know where that comes from.

GD: How can you tell?

BH: I’m talking physically. My muscles tighten. I flush. I start to tremble. My nostrils flare uncontrollably. I pant like a dog. And then there’s a prominent, and frankly, quite embarrassing reaction that I don’t want to get into here.

GD: That sounds pretty uncomfortable.

BH: Well, I think of it more like a heightening. It’s like when you go into combat.

GD: You’ve seen combat?

BH: I did a Civil War re-enactment once. Gettysburg. Battle of.

GD: Last question: have you ever met Bert?

BH: Nope. Don’t want to either. I don’t want favoritism to play any part in this. I want to be circled for my excellence.

GD: Thanks for your time.