Thursday, August 31, 2006

CNN: Chatty News Network

While President Bush gave a recent speech in New Orleans regarding Hurricane Katrina, a CNN reporter spent some time in the bathroom talking with another woman about relationships. The CNN viewers got to listen in as the reporter left her microphone on.

Unfortunately, just as the conversation started to get good -- the reporter called someone's wife a "control freak" -- a third person enters the bathroom and tells the reporter that her mic is still on and to please turn it off.

It is my belief that it was at this precise moment that this reporter found herself thankful to be near toilet paper.

Not quite as good as the Frank Drebin my-mic-is-still-on-while-I-go-to-the-bathroom moment from the Naked Gun movie, but not bad either.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Katrina: One year later...

I've been watching several shows and documentaries recounting the horrible events that took place one year ago in the gulf region as Hurricane Katrina battered that area. It's still unbelievable to me that this country could have failed the people of New Orleans in a time when they needed help the most.

I remember going on the air a day or so after the storm hit, and talking about how the New Orleans area came out of it better than was expected, and that was the common believe. Streets were dry, and damage, although substantial, could have been much worse.

Then the levees broke, and, well we know what happened next. So much blame to go around. Former FEMA chief Michael Brown got the majority of it, but that was mainly due to the fact that he was one of the only government officials that was brave enough to be interviewed during the first few days after the hurricane hit. Brown, while certainly deserving plenty of blame, was not alone. Bush, Chertoff, the Army Corps of Engineers, and to a certain extent, Nagin, and Blanco, all had their fingerprints on this mess.

"Brownie" agreed to be interviewed on various TV shows, but I like the one Ted Koppel did on Nightline the best. You can see it here. He really starts to squirm at about the five-minute mark. Koppel was relentless, as he should have been.

Recounting an event like this is never easy. The images are as brutal today as they were then. The memories still fresh. We'll be going through this again in two weeks when the 9/11 tragedy hits the 5th anniversary milestone.

It's important that we remind ourselves of what happened, and in the Katrina tragedy, why it happened and how so much of the aftermath of the storm could have been avoided. Many people agree that it was TV, print, and radio journalists regained some bite to go along with their bark during that event. Koppel, Brian Williams, Anderson Cooper, and many others made themselves heard and helped get the word out as to what was going on and what needed to be done.

Too bad the people that had the power to help, didn't take notice until it was too late.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Redskins embark on title defense

Is it really the start of another football season? Wasn't it just a few days ago that baseball ended with Minooka finishing 3rd at state? Wasn't it just a few weeks ago that the Seneca Boys won the basketball title? Wasn't it just a month or so ago that the Morris Redskins finally got past JCA and went on to a perfect season?

Sure seems that way. So, here we are at the start of another high school football season, and the Morris Redskins are primed for another run at post-season glory. I couldn't help but go into the John Facenda voice while typing that last line.

It'll be a little different for me this season in the broadcast booth. I'll be starting my 14th year as voice of the Redskins, and for the first time since my very first year, Jay Zumbahlen will not be on the broadcast with me. Now that his son Dane has graduated, Jay wants to spend more time with Dane and the rest of his family on Friday nights. Whatever. How dare he prioritize family over Friday nights with me. I'm kidding of course. Because we all know, there would probably be a Saturday game here and there.

Tonight's opener will take place at the school that I did my very first Morris football game, Geneva. Back then, in 1993, I was doing play-by-play along with Dick Steele for brand new WJDK. Jim Murray did the game that night with Daryk Brayton on WCSJ. Since it was my first night, I made sure I got there early. Early enough that I was the first of the four broadcasters in the press box. Early enough that Jim and Daryk had to do the game standing up off to the side because they only had room for one station, and I, the new guy, got the prime spot.

Jim Murray will be with me tonight on the broadcast, and for several other weeks during the year. I'm looking forward to it. I think Jim is excited too. After all, he may get to sit while doing tonight's broadcast.

It's been quite a ride doing Morris football all these years. It's hard not to get spoiled by all of the wins, playoff appearances, state championship runs, and memorable nights. There have certainly been a fair share of memorable nights. And days, too.

Now, my memory is so bad these days, that I can't even remember how I started this sentence, but I thought I'd take a stab at giving you some of the more memorable Redskin games that I've broadcast over the years...

2005 Morris 28, Joliet Catholic 21 - I've never had a broadcasting night quite like that one. The crowd was amazing. The game unbelievably exceeded the hype. John Dergo went from one of the Morris Redskins' best players ever, to a folk hero for the town of Morris, and a legend to generations of Morris fans for many years to come.

1999 Joliet Catholic 16, Morris 14 - My first Morris/JCA game. Everyone remembers the field goal kick that came up a little wide and short, but the sweep that was snuffed out for about a six-yard loss helped seal Morris' fate just seconds earlier. A great game, and a rivalry was born.

1996 Minooka 29, Morris 28 - Dan Sharp, then coach at Minooka, decided to go for two after the touchdown that had pulled Minooka to within one in overtime. What a gutsy move, and in the playoffs no less. The Indians scored on the conversion, and all was well on Wabena.

1995 Morris 64, Westmont 0 - A real stinker of a game, from an announcer's point of view. And this was before the days of the running clock. What made it so bad was, Westmont did not have any room inside for a radio station. The "press box" was basically the size of a phone booth, and with less amenities. Jay and I did the game from the top of the bleachers, on a cold and windy October afternoon. By halftime, my nose was running like a faucet, I couldn't keep my papers still, and we were both pretty miserable.

Jay pulled his truck up near the sideline, and after we ran extension cord to the concession stand, we did the second half from Jay's truck. Only problem, by sitting in the truck, we were at field level -- kinda difficult to see thru the players who were lined up on the sideline.
So, I did the play-by-play standing on the step of the passenger side with one arm on the mic, and the other arm holding onto the roof so I wouldn't lose my balance. The angle gave us no depth perception either. I Couldn't tell if a run up the middle went for 1-yard, or 21-yards. Fun times.

2003 Morris 17, Minooka 14 - This was cornfest Saturday. The night before, lightning forced the postponement of the game until the next day. Morris rallied late and a last second field goal won the game. One of the rare home day-games that Morris has had since I've been doing the broadcasts.

2001 Joliet Catholic 27, Morris 20 - The Redskins had four cracks at the tying score from the 10-yard line, and couldn't score. Morris would have gone for two had they punched it in.

2005 Morris 33, Crystal Lake South 13 - Memorable for being Westmont-esque, only much colder and windier. Jay and I were on top of the press box, and I think I set a record for most layers of clothing for a human being that night. By the 4th quarter, I tried to scarf down a few hotdogs real fast -- just for the heartburn! But seriously, it was very cold, but the Redskins stayed hot, won the game, advancing to the state championship...

2005 Morris 14, Normal Community 9 - Did anyone think Morris was going to lose this game? Were they worn out? Sure, probably emotionally more than physically. But the letdown game would have been the previous week at CLS. It took Morris awhile to get going, but they did, and this turned out to be a pretty tight game. But no matter how close the game was, or how well played, a state championship is always memorable.

Congrats again Morris for the title, and for giving me, and many others, so many wonderful memories.

Well, I'm sure I've left off some real classics...the playoff battles at Kankakee, the 2003 JCA game, the Glenbard South game when Dan Darlington got tossed, some classic opening week clashes with Pontiac. Feel free to add some of your memories in the comments section.

I'm looking forward to going to the place Friday night where all of this started for me back in 1993, Geneva, to start taking in the 2006 memories.

I think I'll get there early.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Bears fans -- 'Shuffle' on over to Youtube

UPDATE: As I posted in my blog on November 11th, The NFL has asked Youtube to pull over 3,000 clips of game footage from NFL games. That includes the games that I provided links to in the post below. I'm leaving the original post, so for now at least, just ignore the links, because they won't give you the clips. Thanks NFL.

Here's further evidence that YouTube is one of the best sites on the internet, if not the best. As I mentioned on the show this morning, the other day I discovered some old Chicago Bears clips from the Super Bowl season on Youtube. If you are a Bears fan, and especially if you don't have any of that championship season on tape, or on DVD, I highly recommend you check out these clips. I was psyched to watch them myself, and I'm not a Bears fan.

What's great about these clips is that it's the actual game footage as it aired on CBS, NBC, and ABC during that memorable season. You get a younger, although most likely inebriated, Pat Summerall, and a much more youthful sounding John Madden. You get a Tim Ryan, a Don Criqui, and a Monday Night Football crew that featured Frank Gifford, Joe Namath, and (yikes) Orenthal James Simpson.

What makes it even more of a treat is that getting to see actual game footage of old NFL games on any of the networks these days is about as impossible as finding a copy of The Jazz Singer at Mel Gibson's house. Whether it's ESPN Classic, the NFL Network, or any network in between, old NFL footage is usally made up of highlight reels and slow-motion NFL Films montages. Still enjoyable, but not authentic.

I'm a sucker for the old play-by-play footage. That's why these are fun to watch, even when you're not a Bears fan.

If you go to Youtube and search "Chicago Bears", many of these clips will come up, and then some. I'll give you direct links to a couple of intersting ones I've found from the Super Bowl season...

Super Bowl XX highlights - Here is about an 8:00 collection of plays from the Super Bowl win over New England. Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen on the call. I need to email this link to Tambling.

NFC Championship Game - This is the opening drive of the win over the Rams. The clip opens with part of the NFL Today preview. I may be in the minority, but I am a Brent Musberger fan.

NFC Divisional Game - This is a collection of plays from the win over the Giants. I forgot how long it took Summerall and Madden to realize that Sean Landeta whiffed his punt attempt. Also, check out this postgame feature where Rams coach John Robinson tries not to look like he's scared to death at the thought of having to play the Bears the following week. Clip earns an A+ within the first two seconds thanks to a Jimmy "The Greek" appearance.

Even a treat for a non-Bear fan like me.

Now where did I put Tambling's email address?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Hell's Kitchen and even more Gordo

The 2nd season of Hell's Kitchen wrapped up Monday night as Heather was chosen over Virginia for the top prize. Heather becomes executive chef in Las Vegas at a casino restaurant, and it seems after having watched every episode this season, the right person won.

Overall, this group of contestants seemed overwhelmed most of the time, and in some cases (sweaty Tom, pants-too-low K-Grease, hairnet-less Giacomo) seemed a lot closer to a health department citation than to becoming an executive chef at an actual restaurant.

My guess is the people at Fox weeded out the people who applied to be on the show that were top-notch chefs in favor of decent chefs that would provide enough drama to keep viewers coming back each week for more.

Let's face it, a show that features a bunch of highly skilled cooks that make good food, work well under pressure, and don't swear, sweat in the food, fart, make obscene gestures, and undercook chicken like this group, might not be that interesting. And the ratings for this season were up over last year by the way.

This show is a hoot. Lots of yelling, crying, insults, knives, fire, bleeped out words, cool theme song, a pompous Brit, it's all there. Sure Ramsay is obnoxious, but that's the point! This is not breaking news. Especially for the contestants. They know what they're getting into.

So thanks, Gordo. And even thanks to you sweaty Tom, slimy K-Grease, ex-con Garret, gassy Sara, buxom Virginia, and the too-often forgotten Larry. The guy that admitted his weakness for "the ladies" in episode 2, and then literally displayed that weakness after a night spent in the hottub with several of the ladies from the show.

His body coudn't handle it, along with the other shows pressures, and he ended up in the hospital with some kind of heart/stress issue, and was never heard from again. Larry joined Dewberry as one of my favorite Hells' Kitchen castoffs ever. Or as Megan calls him, Blueberry.

I already can't wait until season 3.

If you still want your Gordon Ramsay fix, and especially if you'd prefer to see a softer side of the master chef, then try "Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares" on BBC America. It airs Tuesday night's at 8pm.

I've only seen half of one episode, but I really liked what I saw. Ramsay goes around England visiting one restaurant per episode. He observes for awhile, then spends time trying to improve what they do -- the menu, presentation, service, prices, etc.

There's still a lot of the Ramsay attitude, but he's much more nurturing on this show, and for many viewers (Haensel), much more tolerable I'm sure. The good thing is, this show is just as entertaining as Hell's Kitchen. It plays out more as a documentary, then a reality game show. Check it out.

So Heather, congratulations. Larry, get well. Tom, wipe the sweat off your brow. Keith, pull up your pants, Sara, don't forget to take your Bean-o.

Gordon, see you when Hell's Kitchen opens up for season 3.

And Tuesday night, too.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Saturday in the park

To follow along with the lyric, it wasn't the 4th of July, but their were still some fireworks this past Saturday morning. Verbally at least. The fracas happened at a harmless Girl Scout jamboree, filled with learning, bonding, and serious overcharging.

My daughter, Megan, is a Brownie Girl Scout. Saturday, she participated in a jamboree with the other girls in her troop at a day-long festival in Bolingbrook.

Girl Scouts from around the area, at various levels, were to participate in various events -- "try-its" -- to further their progression in, um, Girl Scouting.

Am I using the right terminology? I'd sit here and say how bad I feel not knowing the proper phrasing for all things Girl Scouts, but considering I was one of the only dads in attendance at Saturday's jamboree, I don't feel so bad.

I was there because my wife stayed at home with our newborn, Sarah. Considering this event was to last from 8:00am until 5:30pm, and that Sarah is just three weeks old and needs to be fed and changed every other minute (or so it seems), it was pretty obvious that I'd be the one tagging along with Megan.

I've been to several troop functions, get along well with the other kids and moms, and was looking forward to this event as a chance to spend the day with Megan, watching her work her way through many new elements of, um, Girl Scouting.

The weather was spectacular, and we arrived a few minutes early as the girls were to check-in, and meet up with their troop. Opening ceremonies weren't until 9:00am, and the actual jamboree wasn't scheduled to start until 9:30am. So, after Megan and the rest of her troop checked in by 8:10, we found ourselves spending over an hour trying to keep a group of seven 6-year olds entertained, as I feverishly looked around for a coffee/donut vendor. No such luck.

After the opening ceremonies, which consisted of introductions of councilmen, trustees, and other city officials (hard to imagine a more snooze-inducing 10 minutes for a group of preteen girls), we made our way back to the "try-it" area for a day long jamboree. Or so I thought.

After the girls made their way to their appropriate station for the first set of activities, all of us moms in Megan's troop stood nearby to watch, and lend any needed assistance. Then things turned sour.

About 15 minutes into the day's first task, one of the Girl Scout leaders came around by us moms and told us that in order for us to stick around, we'd need to "register" like everyone else had done. Ok, we thought, no big deal right? Wrong. The "registration" would cost each of us $20. Yep, they wanted to charge each of us $20 just to stand off to the side and watch our kids learn.

Whoa, Nellie. What exactly are we paying $20 for, anyway? We had already paid a fee for our daughters to participate in the jamboree. This covered lunch, etc. But apparently, us parents had to pay an additional $20 just to be on the grounds with our kids.

Megan's troop leader started to voice her displeasure, and started asking the million dollar, or $20 dollar question I guess, "what exactly are we paying $20 for?" The Girl Scout leader had no specific answer. She went on some ramble about insurance, and covering themselves in case of blah blah blah.

Our response was, "okay, fine. Surely it doesn't cost $20 just for insurance, so tell us what the insurance costs, and we'll pay that." That was turned down.

After a few minutes of this taffy pull, I chimed in.

"So, basically, you're charging me $20 to stand off to the side and watch my daughter participate in this jamboree? What does the $20 go towards? We're not going to eat your lunch, or your dinner, we just want to watch our kids."

The lady in red, official NBJ red t-shirt that is, mentioned to me that they had set up many different adult activities that we could participate in if we wanted.

I said, "I don't want to participate in any of that. I'm here for my daughter, I took a day off of work to spend time with my daughter, watching her get better at, um, Girl Scouting, and you're fooling yourself to think that I'm going to pay you $20 for the right to stand behind my girl and cheer her on."

She came back with some typical "I'm just following Girl Scout guidelines..." mumbo-jumbo, and after three or four pleas, we gave up.

So, either we had to pay $20, or we had to stay in the parking lot. Sorry lady, I work in small market radio, I'm not forking over twenty of my hard-earned dollars for "registration", or to "make a profit" as I like to call it.

Look, if you need extra money to cover expenses, then just say so. Don't mask it as some official "registraion" baloney. Doesn't seem very, um Girl Scouting-like does it?

I spent an hour or so in the parking lot, rearranging the items in my trunk several times, then when Megan returned from a hike she was participating in, I told her I would be leaving for the rest of the day, and that I'd pick her up when she was done at 5:30pm. She was fine with that, confused at first, but she understood.

I went home, watched the White Sox win, did some yardwork, changed a few diapers, watched Sarah so my wife could get out of the house for an hour or two, and when the time came, we all went to pick up Megan.

Megan had a blast, which was the most imprtant thing, of course. And having been gone from the event for a few hours made Megan's, "Daddy!", followed by a sprint-into a bearhug-from 50-feet away a great moment for me. So, maybe it was a blessing in disguise that I ended up not staying.

And, at least the whole $20 registration fiasco provided me with a blog topic.

I mean, really. $20, just to be able to sit under a nearby tree and watch my daughter get better at, um, Girl Scouting?

I don't even think that $20 would have earned me a box of Girl Scout cookies.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Hey Sox fans, enjoy the ride

First of all, I'm sure there are people out there that believe, along the same lines as noted Cub fan Kevin Schramm, that I am simply a member of the White Sox bandwagon, a card carrying member since the magical run of 2005.

Truth be known, I've been following the White Sox since the late 80's. Just because I don't wear the clothes, go to a lot of games, or randomly run onto the field and attack an opposing team's base coach doesn't mean I'm not a fan.

I'm a quiet fan. Actually, I'm more of a Phillies fan than a Sox fan. Considering the lack of success with that team over the years, I'm pretty quiet about that, too.

So as we head towards another possible playoff appearance by the 'good guys', the length of fingernails for Sox fans all across the country are shrinking by the minute. I say, good. This is what it's all about, a pennant race -- ok, a wildcard race, but that doesn't have the same charm to it -- and this race looks like it's going right down to the wire.

A two-month long pennant race! Sit back, relax, and strap it down.

Last year's Sox season was so smooth fans didn't have to panic for one instant, until we got to September. As the Sox huge lead began to evaporate, there was no "pennant fever" that set in for fans, but rather a "Holy-s***-they-might-blow-this-thing migraine/coronary." Not fun.

What we have this year is fun. The Sox are locked in a tight 3-team race for the wildcard. Forget the division title. If they should catch Detroit, great. Really though, it doesn't matter. Just get into the postseason, any way, any how.

Every game feels like a playoff game.

Every night, you check the out of town scores to see what the Twins, Red Sox, Tigers, and Yankees are doing.

There's nothing like a pennant race in baseball. The daily ups and downs of following a team in the playoff hunt is one of the benefits of being a sports fan. Heartbreak, jubilation, sweaty palms, frustration, feeling like a kid on Christmas morning after your team hits a walk-off home run for a big win -- it's all there.

So enjoy it. These are good times Sox fans! Sure, their starting pitching looks worn out, the bullpen not quite as good as last year, the offense is relying a little too much on the home run, and the possibility that they won't make the playoffs is VERY real.

But, they are the defending world champs. They have one of the best records in baseball. And, the White Sox seem primed for success for the next several years as well.

In other words, don't dwell on any negatives from this season. Grinder rule number 3,856: Enjoy the ride, embrace the drama of the playoff chase. Hey Sox fans, this team won it all last year, and are pushing hard to do it again this year. Savor every moment.

It sure beats the alternative, being a Phillies fan.

Or worse, a Cubs fan.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Iceman Cometh

My number one goal in life is to help people. Well, it's a tossup between helping people, and becoming a millionaire and quitting radio. Be that as it may, I do like to help people. After the post about MTV's 25th anniversary I thought I'd provide the link to one of the moments I selected, Vanilla Ice's meltdown.

The quality of the video is poor, but there are only two clips that I could find of this wonderfully bizarre event, and each is equally blurry.

I like how "Ice" sits with the comedians during the "retiring" of his video, laughing at some of the one-liners, going along with the gimmick, and seeming to have a good sense of humor about the whole thing.

It's hard to tell if "Ice" is genuinely upset at the jokes coming at his expense, and then unleashes his rage by destroying the set -- or if his meltdown is his attempt at outrageous and shocking humor. Well, the comedians didn't find it that funny, and the folks at MTV didn't either.

If that was "Ice"'s attempt at humor, then he shouldn't quit his day job.

By the way, what exactly is his day job these days?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

MTV's birthday -- oh, for the old days

I read today that MTV would not even be mentioning on-air the fact that this was it's 25th birthday. Apparently they are a network that "looks forward, not back" to paraphrase the audio clip in a newscast this morning from a network executive.

Why wouldn't the network want to mention the anniversary, play a few clips, interview some musicians about the impact music videos have had on their careers, etc.?

Maybe MTV didn't want to spotlight the past, to bring up old memories of a time when they, oh I don't know, actually PLAYED VIDEOS.

Yeah, for about a decade or so, MTV was a pretty cool network. Then they got a little too full of themselves, and it all went downhill. Oh sure, after the downfall started, I still watched a few seasons of The Real World, the first season and a half of The Osbournes, a Road Rules now and then. But that was a while ago, and now I barely ever put MTV on.

So since the network isn't going to look back, I thought I'd offer up a few memories of mine, and feel free to share some of yours by adding a comment at the end of this post.

There have certainly been some memorable events on MTV -- including, in no particular order...

Live-Aid: 17-hour event to raise money for Africa in a fight against hunger. U2 became global stars that day. Phil Collins played in London, hopped a Concorde and played a set in Philly, drumming for Led Zeppelin that day. Mick and Tina closed the show, and Queen stole the show. A truly great event that spawned many similar fundraising efforts over the years.

Live-8: The event itself was spectacular. MTV's coverage was spectacularly awful. Constant commercial breaks during performances, and the unforgettable cutting away from once-in-a-lifetime performances -- a Pink Floyd reunion WITH Roger Waters -- to show vapid veejays in the crowd talking to drunks in the crowd.

That may have been the last day I watched MTV.

Martha Quinn: The stoners loved Nina Blackwood. Martha was my gal.

Any David Lee Roth video: Diamond Dave, thanks for the laughs!

TRL: Hundreds of screaming teens, and oodles of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera videos. The show that also gave us the classic Mariah Carey meltdown.

The Real World: Before this series became a caricature of itself, it was actually a decent show.

Vanilla Ice flips out: MTV was "celebrating" the 25 lamest videos with comedians Jon Stewart, Denis Leary, Janeane Garofalo and Chris Kattan making sarcastic remarks as each video was shown. They get to "Ice, Ice, Baby", and none other than Ice himself (or Rob Van Winkle as he wanted to be called) came onto the set with a baseball bat to ceremoniously shatter the tape of his video, thus "destroying" it so MTV could never play it again. Ice didn't stop at just bashing the video. He went on to destroy the set as well. At first glance it looked like a setup -- until you saw the terror in Kattan's eyes.

Madonna's "Borderline" video: I was 13, and I was in love.

Ahhh, I could go on and on. The VMA's, Bill Clinton's appearances that helped him win in '92, The Osbournes, Thriller, The "paint the mutha piiiiink' Mellencamp promotion, The "Money For Nothing", and "Sledgehammer" videos, Remote Control, The Grind...

Thanks for 25 years MTV. At least 10-15 of those years have been pretty good. Now play a video once in awhile, ok?

"Borderline" would be a good start.