Monday, August 28, 2006

Nagin and NOLA (General)

Tuesday is the first anniversary of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, and Mayor C. Ray Nagin is back in the news again, in an interview that ran on “60 Minutes” Sunday night with Byron Pitts. When I first heard that Nagin had ripped New York City, my blood pressure began to rise. Then I heard the quote. Before I comment, I want to share the quote with you. The following is from the story, courtesy of

"On a tour of the decimated Ninth Ward, Nagin tells Pitts the city has removed most of the debris from public property and it’s mainly private land that’s still affected – areas that can’t be cleaned without the owners' permission. But when Pitts points to flood-damaged cars in the street and a house washed partially into the street, the mayor shoots back. 'That’s alright. You guys in New York can’t get a hole in the ground fixed and it’s five years later. So let’s be fair.'"

Those last two sentences are the part that got people excited. My reaction isn’t going to please those same people. I agree with him. It has taken five years, and New York isn’t all that closer to building the Freedom Tower. OK, there’s been ground broker, and a basic design is in place and so on, but the fact is, this is what happens in the US. We spend so much time in litigation, and dealing with NYMBY’s (Not In My Back Yard) that it takes forever to get things done. In this case, respectfully, the NIMBY’s are the families of those lost on September 11, 2001. I respect those who consider the site of the World Trade Center to be sacred ground. But it seemed to me, from day one (known as September 12th) that there was a unanimous feeling to rebuild on the site. Still, we endured design changes, lawsuits, rhetoric, and more. Some see it as capitalizing on the tragedy to rebuild there. I disagree. Rebuilding there, to me, has always been about giving the collective finger to terrorism. On September 12, 2001, and for a few months after, the US (and especially, the Northeast) was one big neighborhood. Everyone cooperated and respected one-another. Everyone hung their flags and so on. Now, many of those same flags are tattered and forgotten.

The post-script of the comments is that Governor Kathleen Blanco distanced herself from the comments because God forbid somebody take an unpopular stand. Mayor Nagin ultimately apologized for the comparison.

So Mayor Ray’s point is that his city can’t be expected to be rebuilt overnight, and that folks should get off his back. I think his point is well taken. Still, many things took too long to happen in The Big Easy, as we all know. In a gripping documentary that ran tonight on NBC, anchored by Brian Williams, we were reminded how long it took for the United Stated Government to respond. I had forgotten about some of the wounds from Katrina. First and foremost (and this part can never be forgotten), is that many think the post-Katrina response was blatant prejudice against class and race. While I would never want to see this happen again, what if it had happened in a predominately white area? I’m inclined to think that the end result would be the same. However the simple matter is that most whites would have access to a way out. Why did those New Orleanians stay behind? Why couldn’t they get on a bus, or train, or plane? Why didn’t they leave when the reports clearly stated that this storm had the chance to be among the five worst storms to hit the US ever!

As we know now, the storm, while bad, was not a deadly category five storm, but a fierce and powerful cat 3. The levees was the problem, and there are those in the NBC special who think, without a doubt, that the United States purposefully blew up the levees to rid themselves of the lower class neighborhoods. My response to that is that in the process of doing that, they would have then eradicated a rich white neighborhood called Lakeview. Think white America was going to allow that?

So often, in times of tragedy, blacks become angry and play the race card. Those whites who want to be seen as politically correct, join them in that anger. Why doesn’t everybody just focus on the moment, and fix the problems. Why bitch and moan when it does not curry favor in many corners of society? Why? So the media eats it up, and the political hand wringing and societal game playing begins. Let’s just debate it, and send a bill to Capitol Hill saying that what happened was bad. WRONG! Let’s get the National Guard down there with supplies NOW. That’s what should have happened the minute we saw the levees break. New Orleans thought they dodged the bullet, and the United States Government breathed a sigh of relief. Then the Led Zeppelin song played and nobody knew what to do. And President Bush made it increasingly worse with his praise of then FEMA director Michael Brown (“Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job”).

Bottom line - regardless of race, creed, class, and anything else - the United States Government goofed. They screwed up. They blew it. They thought that they didn't need to marshall the forces because the hurricane, while bad, was only a category three. They didn't see the levees breaking. Here's my question - WHY NOT? The city sits below sea level. Their cemetery tombs are built above ground. I could see that I hurricane, or some natural disaster could destroy the city of New Orleans. Why then, couldn't our Government?

Before we proceed, let’s quickly chat about me and race relations. I can tell you that I don’t care about race. If I’m in a foxhole, I don’t give a damn who you are. If you move into my neighborhood, or come into my life, there are a couple of basic things that matter, regardless of race, sex, or creed. Be fair with my wife and I, don’t disrespect us, and don’t ever hurt our son. Do that, and we’re going to be just fine. I grew up in a town that was predominately white, but I can clearly remember the minorities who were in school with me. I enjoyed knowing them as human beings and friends. I didn’t enjoy knowing them because they were the token black. I didn’t care about that. That same creed exists today for me. I personally enjoy diversity in my life.

What I don’t enjoy are those who feel it is their duty to whine because life isn’t fair. I’ve been laid off four times from jobs, and trust me when I say nobody is coming to my aid, or pitying me. I’m a white man approaching middle age, and nobody gives a damn about me. So I have to pull myself up by my own flip flop straps and keep on keeping on. That’s why my favorite person is the survivor; the person who looks crap in the eye and becomes better because of it. I saw at least on example of that on NBC tonight – an African American who saw his marriage dissolve after Katrina, and still leaves in a FEMA trailer. Yet he keeps on smiling and believing. He’s working hard to try to help troubled people. All the while, he just stays hopeful for better days. That’s the man I want in that foxhole.

I feel a connection to NOLA because I’ve had the fortune to travel there three times. The first time was in 1975, as a seven year-old to visit family in Gretna, just south of the downtown. The next time was 2003, when I attended the Baseball Winter Meetings. To further my connection, my oldest niece moved to Belle Chasse, where she was stationed in the US Navy. Eventually, she would marry and have a beautiful little girl. That led us to visit in March of 2006. My long-winded point is that I’ve send New Orleans (or “NOLA”) pre-hurricane and post-hurricane. The differences were startling.

When we visited in March, it was obvious that there was still so much to be done. Louis Armstrong Airport was eerily quiet. Only one concourse was open, and while it was clean, there was still visual evidence of Katrina’s power in some of the blown-out stained glass. The rental car shuttle bus sat and idled, with the driver relaxing away from the driver’s seat. On our short ride to the cars, the driver and I had a nice conversation, and he seemed to appreciate the best wishes that my wife and I expressed.

From the air, New Orleans’ problems were evident. Young girls, returning from Spring Break, muttered that they knew they were home by the sight of the blue tarps on the houses below. Eventually, I would drive part of Interstate 10 that was seen many times on TV, with stranded people on a bridge, surrounded by water. That water line was very apparent. Other parts of the city and the surrounding environs were barren, with brush and trees and debris everywhere. The place where an outsider can be fooled is in the French Quarter. If that’s all you see, then you’re fine. The crowds are a bit smaller, but the beverages are just as tasty. The signs of the devastation arean’t as apparent.

Closer to the Riverwalk, the story is different. When we visited in 2003, it was our meeting place for lunch and shopping. Having read that the mall had reopened, we stopped there for lunch one day in March. It was the almost the saddest site I saw. Bear in mind that the Riverwalk sits right next to the Morial Convention Center, which was destroyed by the overflow crowd from the Superdome just over a mile away. Looting was an obvious problem, with plenty of broken glass in the parking lot. Some of the most awful images of NOLA during post-Kartrina came from this stretch of town. Countless people died in the streets and doorways there.

The worst damage that we saw was when we took a drive into East New Orleans. My goal was to reach the bridge that carries I-10 over the eastern edge of Lake Pontchartrain, but only got to Morrison Blvd, near the Lakefront Airport. The devastation was sickening. I could only see just a bit of the Lower Ninth Ward from the elevated portion of I-10, which is to say, that we didn't see much.

Overall, we were able to enjoy our weekend visit to New Orleans. Most hotels are open, and travel, generally speaking, is not a problem. The Harrah’s casino, near the Riverwalk, is open again, having reopened right before we arrived in March. Restaurants are open as well. Common sense is required though to visit New Orleans. There have been some problems with violent crime, but avoiding bad neighborhoods takes care of that. The French Quarter, especially Bourbon Street, is pretty safe as the last thing that NOLA officials want is any problems there. The Central Business District, where our Country Inn and Suites hotel was, on Magazine Street, felt fine as well. Put it this way – even as I walked the city with my wife and son, while helping escort my mother (who doesn’t walk as well as she used to thanks to back problems), we never felt threatened. Not once. Not due to panhandlers, or “undesirables” or anything else. The city still smelled of that unique NOLA smell, but guess what? That’s the way it always smelled! The city can be dirty also. That’s part of its charm. That’s why you’re always reminded to now walk in the puddles on Bourbon Street, when there’s been no rainstorm.

I want New Orleans to survive and thrive. I want one of America’s great cities, with myriad quirks, to return to its glory. My suggestion to you? If you have some disposable income, go visit NOLA. Yes, it can be a somewhat dirty and smelly place, but that’s what it was like pre-Katrina. That’s part of its charm. If you have some disposable income, and enjoy a good party, you’ll enjoy yourself. That’s still what they want you to do in the French Quarter. They need the income. The city is still understaffed, causing restaurants, in particular, to have some strange hours. If you want recommendations, I’d be glad to help.

As they say in New Orleans (and you see it on countless tourist trinkets), “Laissez les bons temps rouler!” I don’t know French very well, but I know what this means: “Let the good times roll!” If you go, start your day with some beignets and café au lait at Café Du Monde, some gumbo at Tujague’s, find some good jambalaya (it has to have the andouille sausage), and finish off with a hurricane at Pat O’Briens. Then toast yourself (and me, because I’ll wish I was there with you). To good times, and better days to come.

QUICK NOTE - John Mark Karr, we barely knew ye. Prosecutors in Bolder, Colorado decided not pursue charges against Mr. Karr in the murder of JonBenet Ramsey. So the mystery continues.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Thoughts From The Week (General)

As I type away on this Friday night, I’m listening to some play-by-play calls from the history of the New York Rangers. I’m a sucker for historical broadcasting moments – be it news, entertainment or sports. I have a large collection of old news reports from many of the top moments of the last century (JFK’s assassination, Pearl Harbor, September 11, and so on). I have an even larger collection of play-by-play calls, especially Yankees calls. What, you were expecting my largest collection to be of the Devil Rays? Anyway, I can’t profess to be a huge hockey fan, but I like hockey a lot, and consider myself a Rangers fan. Listening to the call of Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals definitely brings back some nice memories. If only the Knicks could have finished the job, and if Major League Baseball hadn’t been so selfish, 1994 could have been an incredible year in New York. The Yankees had the look of winning the World Series that year. Ah, but if…if…if…

Anyway, I suppose it might be safe to describe myself as being “punch drunk.” I worked this week as the anchor for WGCH News, filling in for our regular anchor, Tony Savino. Tony has been at WGCH for about a year now, and is a solidly professional newsman. Tony walked into to one of the tougher situations I’ve ever seen – replacing Jim Thompson, who held the job for just under 30 years. Tony has been nothing but classy and professional. In conversations with him, I find him to be composed in what can occasionally be a high-pressure circus.

The week was a game of survival for me. I was up no later than 3:30 every morning, and on the road by 4:15. Dima Joseph, a longtime friend, and WGCH’s news producer, was my rock, feeding me questions for interviews, and bringing stories into the studio when I was running out. I tend to be at my best when it’s ad-libbing time, which is probably why I’m best suited to be a play-by-play announcer. Still, I enjoyed doing the news, especially when I hit my “comfort zone.” Those were the moments that I was most confident. I’m told that most people enjoyed hearing my upbeat style, which is conversational, bordering on, perhaps, to upbeat and friendly (I don’t agree, but fair enough). One person reminded me that “this isn’t the Today Show.” That person was right; I’m not Matt Lauer (for one thing, I’m much heavier). However my style is to treat the news with the reverence it deserves, but to not forget that there’s an audience that likes you speaking to them as if you’re there. It’s a fine line to walk, but it’s one that I enjoy…so long as I’m left to my own devices.

Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans supposedly put his foot in his mouth in an interview that will run on Sunday on CBS. I have thoughts on his comment about New York, so stay tuned…

I’ve changed my listening attention to current play-by-play. Oakland A’s pitcher Barry Zito was flirting with a no-hitter. That would be the first no-no in the Majors since Randy Johnson flipped a perfect game in 2004. However, I said Zito WAS flirting with a no-hitter. Mark De Rosa broke it up to lead off the 8th. Normally, baseball sees at least one no-hitter a year, but it looks like we might see a second straight full season go by without one. They’re great fun to watch or listen to. They’re even more fun to be at. I was lucky enough to be in the right field stands for Jim Abbot’s no-no against the Cleveland Indians in 1993. My voice was hoarse for a week after.

Last week, the Yankees handed the Red Sox a five-game sweep. Still, nothing like a West Coast swing for a letdown to begin. The Sox picked up a game on the Bombers in the AL East as the Yankees lost two of three to the Mariners, while Boston picked up ground in wins against the Angels of Anaheim of Los Angeles of California of the United States of the United Nations of the Western Hemisphere of the Universe. What a stupid name. That’s not an indictment of Mike Scosia’s team, who plays a terrific brand of baseball. Scosia, incidentally, is an elite manger to me. One or two more World Championships could punch a ticket for him to Cooperstown.

Let the AL MVP debate begin, and it will wage all the way until the hardware comes out in November. I still have problems with an incomplete player winning the award. Still, I think David Ortiz will win it. He is incomplete in that he is strictly a designated hitter, but his offensive numbers are gaudy, and chicks and voters dig the long ball. If I had a vote, it would go to Derek Jeter, and I can say that without any bias. I don’t care if you believe that or not.

It’s panic time in Steeler Country. I’m watching the Steelers and Eagles on ESPN, and the Iron City gang is about to lose their third straight pre-season game, 16-7. Now I think pre-season isn’t worth getting upset about when wins and losses are concerned, but 0-3 won’t sit well in football insane Pittsburgh. Incidentally, The Worldwide Leader’s coverage is fair at best. Mike Tirico is a pro, and Tony Kornheiser’s funny, and Joe Theisman is…well?…Joe Theisman, but the who production just seems flat. We’ll see how that plays out. There’s no question that NBC’s Monday night is now the prime gig.

The one story that permeated in my news reading throughout the week was the JonBenet Ramsey/John Mark Karr story. Would you really want this guy as a teacher for your kids? That answer is obvious. But I still think there’s something really shaky about this story. I’m not convinced that he did it, and there are a lot of holes in the story. Still, I promised myself that I would be man enough to say the following: Patsy Ramsey, I’m sorry. In our quick-to-judge world, I thought for sure that you had a hand in your daughter’s murder. With the discovery of Karr, it appears that I was wrong. I’m man enough to admit that. Unfortunately, Mrs. Ramsey didn’t live long enough to see if this clown will be brought to justice.

Late August sends my brain into overdrive. High school football season is just around the corner, and I’ll begin another year of calling Greenwich Cardinals games on WGCH. Since WGCH has declined my offer of a blog for their website, I’ll just roll on with things here. However I suppose I just put this disclaimer in now…

“The views and expressions within this blog do NOT represent the staff and management of WGCH Radio, the Business Talk Radio Network, or Lifestyle Talk Radio Network. These views are MINE…plain and simple. Copyright, 2006, Steel-Yankee Productions. All rights reserved. Seat back can be used as a floatation device.”

There, I feel safer. No hurt feelings. It’s all good, as they say. So back to football. Check the WGCH website for the dates. I’ll post them here also eventually. There are two blogs that you will definitely want to check out regarding two of the leagues that I cover. The first would be Tim Parry’s blog here on Blogger. The second is from Kevin Devaney Jr., who writes for The Journal News in Westchester, Putnam, and Rockland Counties. I met Kevin a few years ago, and he’s a great guy. Links for both of these blogs are on the right now. Read them after you finish “Rangers Lead The Way.”

I’ve added a few other links as well. WGCH is there now, so that you can check out our website, and possibly give us a listen (I’ll be on calling the Greenwich-Brunswick scrimmage on September 9th). Lastly, I’ve added THE site for those interested in sports broadcasting, Call of The Game. Joe Block and Jim Tocco have put together the best place to go for news, jobs, and discussion of all things related to sports broadcasting. I’ve made some friends there, and have learned things about my favorite industry. I’m fairly obsessed with it (to my wife’s dismay), and recommend it to all broadcasters, and those interested in broadcasting.

To wrap things up, I’ve learned some stuff already about being a Blogger. For instance, I need to be very sensitive to what I write. Now that’s common sense, but I mean EVERYTHING. Some people don’t want their names mentioned, and I understand that. I always thought of writing a blog as the same as writing a newspaper column, or talking about you on the radio. God knows I’ve mentioned people on the radio enough times. Heck, I slid a mention of my brother’s birthday into the news this past Wednesday (Happy Birthday, “Fred”). But with so many trolls on the ‘Net, there’s a lot of concern out there. I consider myself very web savvy, and very computer smart (not a “geek” per se), but I hadn’t considered these issues. I figured if I didn’t get too personal (addresses, phone numbers, you know, THAT kind of common sense stuff) then we’d be OK.

So here’s what I’ve discovered. People like me, Ricky Fritsch, Sean Kilkelly, and some others don’t care about these things because we’re semi-public people. We’re on the radio, and each one of us uses our own names. Others are private citizens. My wife, for instance, gave me a smack down on this issue. Will I print her name? I don’t know…we haven’t discussed it. Those who are on MySpace also don’t seem to care. Several of you also don’t care because you’ve left your names in the comments section of this blog.

What can I tell you? I’ll try to use my best judgment as we go along, and I will apologize profusely if I slip up. Generally, my best intentions are normally pretty safe. As I’ve said from my very first post: we’ll just see how this all goes.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Definitely Maybe This Is NOT The Best Album Ever (Music)

Recently, I saw a list of the best albums ever, as determined by a British music website,, and the book of British Hit Singles and Albums. I love lists, especially when they spark conversion, and this one was unbelievable, so much so that I had to go buy one the CD’s to see what the fuss was all about (specifically, I bought number five on the list). So let’s take a look at the list:

1. 'Definitely Maybe', Oasis
2. 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band', The Beatles
3. 'Revolver', The Beatles
4. 'OK Computer', Radiohead
5. '(What's The Story) Morning Glory?', Oasis
6. 'Nevermind', Nirvana
7. 'The Stone Roses', The Stone Roses
8. 'Dark Side Of The Moon', Pink Floyd
9. 'The Queen Is Dead', Smiths
10. 'The Bends', Radiohead
11. 'The Joshua Tree', U2
12. 'London Calling', The Clash
13. 'The Beatles (The White Album)', The Beatles
14. 'Abbey Road', The Beatles
15. 'Up The Bracket', The Libertines
16. 'Never Mind The Bollocks Here's The Sex Pistols', Sex Pistols
17. 'Four Symbols (Led Zeppelin IV)', Led Zeppelin
18. 'The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars', David Bowie
19. 'A Night At The Opera', Queen
20. 'Is This It', The Strokes

Let’s start with only one American album, “Nevermind” from Nirvana. Brilliant stuff, I readily admit, and probably my first choice when I’m feeling angry, but is it better than “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen, or The Eagles “Hotel California?” We can debate that all day, and I’m OK with that. So off the bat, this list is tainted by it’s decidedly un-American leaning. So then I look at the twenty and can see where my buddy Sean is seething. No “Who’s Next” or “Quadrophenia” or anything else by Pete, Roger and the boys.

So let’s examine what is there. For the love of God, please stop telling me how good “The Joshua Tree” is. I get it, it’s a great album, but I would NEVER (and I don’t use that word unless I mean it) put it on my iPod over “War” or “Boy”, two far-superior U2 CD’s. Would you take “Led Zeppelin IV” over “Physical Graffiti?” I’m just asking here, because I’m not sure either. “Zep 4” has been flat out worn out over the years, and I’m of the opinion that there should be a moratorium on the playing of “Stairway to Heaven.” Great song, but those in charge of music radio stations should have their licenses revoked if they play that or ANYTHING by Aerosmith. Give me at least a year off, and I’ll be back.
While I’m yelling at radio programmers, let me also thank you. You see, I was once a big Zeppelin and Pink Floyd fan. I own as many of their CD’s as I can. However, you figured that a day shouldn’t go by without playing them, along with the aforementioned Aerosmith at least once an hour. Thus those Zep and Floyd CD’s are just collecting dust these days, and that’s just a shame. I dare you to play something different. This is why my music radio station is The Peak, 107.1 from White Plains, NY. An old boss of mine, Peter Mutino, works there and they have done a great job. I haven’t been a DJ in years, but I’d go work there in a heartbeat.

Back to the list. I think Radiohead is brilliant, and “OK Computer” and “The Bends” are two of the best CD’s that I’ve ever heard. I can’t complain about those two because one is as good as the other. Can’t complain about “A Night At The Opera” either, though I’m partial to “News of the World” or “The Game” from Queen. By the way – NEWS FLASH, America!! – Queen is much more than just “We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions.” I’ll spare you my “chapter and verse” analysis on the rest of this list.

Now let’s get to the heart of my beef – the Beatles angle. Firstly (that’s very British, I might add), I don’t think “Sgt. Pepper” is the Fab Four’s best album. I might be inclined to go with “Revolver”, “The White Album”, or “Rubber Soul.” But to say that “Definitely Maybe” is better than anything by The Beatles is, well, one fools opinion. I told you recently that I bought “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory” by Oasis (number five above) to see what the fuss was about. Yes it is quite good, as is “Definitely Maybe” but let’s take “Sgt. Pepper” for instance. There had never been anything like it before. Inspired by The Beach Boys “Pet Sounds”, “Pepper” is amazing and still holds up.

Again, I’ll spare you the breakdown analysis but have come to a very simple conclusion. In sports, there is the Most Valuable Player Award, given to the player who is, well, most valuable to his team’s success. Quite often, more than one player from a particular team is up for the MVP, and votes commonly get split between those players. That’s what happened here. With so many brilliant Beatles albums to go from, voters were split. Oasis fine CD, “Definitely Maybe” snuck in stole the top spot. Of course, it’s not a crime, and creates fine discussion. Guaranteed, some future pole will get it right and return The Beatles to where they belong. Oh, and The Who will get some respect as well. Have to look out for my mate Sean.

I get by with a little help from my friends.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

What’s In A Name? (General)

When you get right down to it, I’m writing a blog thanks to three people – Sean Kilkelly, Matt Hamilton, and Zach Braff. What? Wait, let me explain.

I think a lot of broadcasters, me included, often get the bug to write. I’ve had the privilege to be published just a few times, including my elementary school newspaper, but just as importantly in the pages of the Greenwich Citizen. So as blogging came into vogue, I thought about using one as a way to get my writing urge out of my system. Still I did nothing about it, until this year. Last winter Matt Hamilton, a former intern of mine at WGCH and an occasional colleague now (when he’s home from college), started his own blog. My only criticism of it is what my biggest fear is: that it doesn’t get updated enough. Matt’s writing is good – full of opinions and commentary regarding his sports world (especially the New York Knicks, Giants, and Yankees). I get on him when I see him, especially because I want him to succeed, and part of that success is to keep the blog going. Come on Matt!

Eventually, Sean sent me an email in the Spring that he had started a blog. I’ve probably bragged enough about his blog to the point of nausea, so I’ll let it go at that. That convinced me to create a blog. So I set up an account here at Blogger. But what to call it? That became my most pressing concern. I am big one for quoting movies, and I thought for sure that something from “Napoleon Dynamite”, Anchorman: the Legend of Ron Burgundy” or “Office Space” would inspire me. No dice, despite the efforts of my sister-in-law, who suggested “PC Load Letter” from “Office Space.” How about a song quote, or some stupid saying of mine? Again, nothing. I wracked my brain, and those of my aforementioned sister-in-law, my wife, and my niece. Ultimately, it was going to have to come from me.

As I discussed last time out, I love roads, especially our highways here in the US. And that’s when it hit me. Why not use a road reference? In high school, I would sketch signs (school was so boring to me), among other things. Among those signs was “Exit 59”, a reference to where we would depart Interstate 75 in Florida to get on Florida state route 52 and head west to my grandparents’ house in Holiday. I always viewed Exit 59 as the symbol for heading to paradise. However a few years back, Florida changed their exit numbers from sequential to mileage-based, which means, essentially, the number of miles from the southern end (in this case) of the highway in question. If it’s an east-west highway, it’s the number of miles to the eastern end. So Exit 59 has been changed to Exit 285. It’s just not the same.

So you get the “exit” reference, but what about the number? When I was five, my age became my favorite number. Yep, there was no “Mensa” in my future. At that same age, baseball was becoming my obsession, and I wanted to be a baseball player. So what better number than five? Yes siree, when I made it to the major leagues, I would wear number five for the New York Yankees. And that’s when I was told of a problem. You see number five was retired in 1952 for the great Joe DiMaggio. My dream was dead. That’s why I never became a ballplayer. Plan B, therefore, was to make my number 55. I’ve worn it in softball leagues, and have made it a part of my life in other ways. And now, it is part of my blog. Thus after literally months of consideration, I decided on “Exit 55”, a choice that my wife agreed with.

Oh, so what about the Zach Braff reference? Sorry, I almost forgot. Right around the time I was preparing to put “Exit 55” online, I watched Braff’s excellent movie, “Garden State.” I’ve seen it a few times and enjoy more each time. Not long after, I was in Times Square (in New York City, of course) at the Virgin Music Store. Virgin is a very dangerous place for me, especially when it’s sale time, and guess what was going on when I got there? You got it – thousands of CD’s for ten bucks. Among my purchases was the “Garden State” soundtrack. It is a very good CD, and worth my ten dollars. So that led me to search the net for info on the music. During that search, I came across the site and blog for Zach Braff, star, writer and director of “Garden State” and of course, “Scrubs.” Turns out that he’s a blogger and a MySpace junkie. Add it all up and what do you get? How about Rob’s MySpace website and ALTERNATE blog?? So if you wish, go to or if you want more of your “Rob fix.” And if you do, please seek counseling. Now.

This MySpace thing allows you to welcome “friends” to your site, and you to theirs. So guess who one of my friends is? That’s right…Zach Braff. Strange, I know. Can’t say we’ve exactly truly communicated, but I know Zach and I are homey’s.

I can’t say that with a straight face.

Friday, August 18, 2006

OK, So Just Who the Heck Am I? (General)

First off, thanks to those who left me comments after post number one. Some are on the comments page and others were emailed to me. Of course, the first batch of readers has been family members and friends. I’ve already learned some things about this blogging thing, and I’ll just leave it at that.

A “Ricky Fritsch” (whoever he may be) wrote, “If you keep writing I'll keep reading.” Well, that’s pressure, but I’ll try to handle it. Some days, the posts might be long. Other days, it might be a sentence or two. Again, we’ll see how it develops. I might have to get one of those RSS things going so you can be notified when the updates have been made.

That “Ricky” guy, by the way, is a friend and colleague of mine. That works as a perfect segue into getting to know me. I’ll try to keep the biography brief. A lifelong suburban New Yorker, I am currently seeking a full-time position, having recently been laid off from the corporate world…again. Shouldn’t there be a prize after so many layoffs? Three from corporate and one from radio. Radio, you say? Yes, radio, and that’s where Ricky comes in. Starting next month, Ricky and I will begin our third season as the broadcast team for the Greenwich Cardinals in Connecticut high school football on WGCH, 1490 on your AM dial, and on the net at Technically it’s Ricky’s second year, but he did a few games with me the year before last, so why quibble? I’ve worked in radio since 1990, virtually all as a part-timer, and I love it. Sure, I’d love to work full-time in radio, but salaries are what they are, and that’s just the reality. I’m not talking out of school here. So I work my backside off in things like marketing and generally use radio as a hobby. Everyone winds up with a top-notch effort from me.

Anyway, back to the bio. Let’s see, lifelong New Yorker, recently bought a house after living in Mahopac for over 37 years, happily married to my best friend, with a great little boy who keeps us sane…or crazy, depending on the day. What else? After my last post, you probably figured out that sports plays a huge role in my life, and that is so true. You know by now that I am a big Yankees fan, but I’m not afraid to bash them, as with that ceremony yesterday. Come on, give me a break. I blame a lot of that on the Yankee lackeys (Randy Levine, etc.) because despite George Steinbrenner’s bravado, he always had his limits.

So you get it with the Yankees. But there’s also the Pittsburgh Steelers, my favorite football team. Admittedly, I jumped on the bandwagon when I was about 10 (hey, anybody who could beat the Cowboys was OK with me), but I’ve been crazy loyal ever since. Music is also a huge part of my life. I have a wall of CD’s staring at me, and belong to the iPod world as well. There’s always a song running in my head. Now I tread lightly here, because sometimes people give me looks when I tell them who my favorite band is, but I don’t care. Huey Lewis and the News hooked me in early 1984, and I’ve seen them more than I’ve seen anyone else. Trust me on this one – they put on a great show. Free your mind and give them a try the next time they come around.

So far, I’ve given you kind of basic stuff – sports, music, movies, history, travel and so on. Then there’s my interest in roads. There, I said it, and I feel better. I don’t think I’m a true “roadgeek” (yes, there’s such a term) in that I can’t define engineering terms and so on, but I love to go on road trips. This was born out of some 14 family drives to and from Florida when I was young. Since then, the Internet has shown me that I’m not alone. There’s a whole lot of “us” out there, many with websites, blogs, and a discussion board at miscellaneous.transport.road. I enjoy taking pictures of road signs (again, I feel better) and have had some published on the web. So from time to time, you might hear me go on about roads. Be kind to me at those moments.

I think you’ll learn more about me as this blog progresses. For now, I’m content to leave things here and carry on. But before I go, please take a moment and notice that I’ve added a link on the right. The link is for “Rangers Lead The Way”, the blog of a good friend (and WGCH colleague), Sean Kilkelly (who told me that I could use his name here). Whatever you do, take the time and read his blog. I’ve read many blogs and his might be the best. It is written much in the spirit of how I’m going to write mine. Sean talks about sports, politics, pop culture, and so on. He has even teased us with parts of a novella. Most of all, though I’ve known Sean for about seven years or so, and we’re fairly good friends, I’ve learned quite a bit about him from his blog. It is exceptional. This is a guy who should have a professional column somewhere, or a radio show, or both.

Oh, one last thing. In each post, I’ll put some pithy title at the beginning, but will also put a category in parenthesis. That way you, dear reader, will be able to decide if you’re in the mood to read it.

The Yankees and Red Sox are off and running on a five game series this weekend. You’d be wise to check in on them.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

And Away We Go (Sports)

Welcome to my first entry at This will be the place for my thoughts on the world surrounding me. I expected to use my opening entry to introduce myself to you if we’ve never met, or perhaps tell those who know me something that they never knew about me.

But I can’t do it. Not today.

The word “yankee” is in my blog address for a good reason. The New York Yankees have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember (the “steel” part is a reference to the winners of Super Bowl XL – the Pittsburgh Steelers). I attended my first game at Yankee Stadium as a three year-old on June 20, 1972, when they beat the Kansas City Royals. I have very vague memories of that night, and my second game, in 1973, when the Yankees beat Jim Palmer and the Orioles. These would be the only two games that I would ever attend with my father, and helped further my affection for the Yankees and the game of baseball. Incidentally things would come full-circle for me in 2005, when I took my three year-old son, Sean, to his first game.

Like I said, I have vague memories of those first two games, but I also have some 8 mm film from one of the games as well. Alas, the old building was in its last days, as Yankee Stadium would be renovated in 1974 and 1975. (A quick aside – my father, a truck driver for a plumbing supply company, drove in to the stadium during the renovation. I always liked that little tidbit.) It would reopen in 1976, and though it was not exactly the same building, the foundation was still the same. Despite what some say, you can still sense the ghosts of Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle and so on.

Well today, those ghosts got a shock, as they (and I) began to face the inevitable. After years of discussion, debate, and rhetoric, the Yankees broke ground for a new Yankee Stadium today. Personally, I’m having a hard time facing the end of the building that I hold as dearly as I do my boyhood home. To their credit, the Yankees are trying to do EVERYTHING right, and that helps to soften the blow. They’re working hard to rebuild the Stadium that we all hold so dearly – the 1923 version. Of course, they will build a 1923 stadium to 21st century standards and conveniences. They are even doing the right thing with the old Stadium. They’re going to preserve it, sort of. The building will be largely torn down, but the field will stay, with a limited grandstand surrounding it. It will be a jewel in a new park system in the South Bronx. It will be perfect for high school baseball and rec leagues. At least it won’t be a parking lot. The Yankees will even build a museum, a hall of fame, restaurants, shops and so on. Sounds pretty sweet, right?

So why am I sad? It’s not the same Stadium as Ruth played in, right? Hey, whatever. Those who want the new building can believe that if they want. But there’s something to be said about Curt Schilling’s two favorite strippers, Mystique and Aura. How do you transport that to another building? Did they do that with the Montreal Forum? Chicago Stadium? Maple Leaf Gardens? Tiger Stadium? Old Comiskey Park? Not to mention Forbes Field, Ebbets Field and so on. Hell, people STILL cry at the loss of Ebbets Field.

In 1998, my wife and I went to Boston with Harold and Tracy, two of our closest friends. Harold is the Boston Bruin equivalent of me as a fan. He’s passionate; right down to his love the building, the history and the minutiae. Of course, Boston replaced their dilapidated but charming building, the Boston Garden, with the Fleet Center (as it was known at the time.) It is now known as the TD North Bank Garden, but does anyone remember that, for a brief moment, it was known as the Shawmut Center? Oh, so many banks, so many mergers. As we got closer to the Fleet Center, Harold prepped himself for the site of the Garden in the process of being torn down. What he HADN’T prepared for was the Garden to be gone. It was completely leveled, and the look on his face and sound of his voice saddened me greatly. That’s the concept that I am now dealing with.

The mere sounds of Frank Sinatra’s “There Used to Be a Ballpark” or even Madonna’s “This Used to Be My Playground” is going to reduce me to sniffles, and inevitably, the demolition of Yankee Stadium, will go down as one of the saddest days of my life. All I can do is hope to get some piece of the old building, preferably some seats. The reality is that Steiner Sports or some sports memorabilia concern will rape us for a lot of money. I watched the same thing happen when Three Rivers Stadium came down in 2001. No disrespect to my friends in The Burgh, but that was a concrete cookie-cutter. This is the House That Ruth Built. The prices will be exponentially higher.

I worry that the new Yankee Stadium will be like the Shawmut/Fleet/TD Bank North building – cold and sterile. The ghosts of the great Bruins and Celtics don’t exactly haunt the new building, but they were an integral part of the old one. And I suspect that the Yankees won’t let that happen. Of course, most importantly, winning takes care of all of that, and allows us to create new memories and new ghosts. But I’m going to miss that magnificent old building, whether it’s truly like Babe’s old building or not. It’s close enough for me. Somehow, Fenway Park and Wrigley Field get to roll into the future. There’s no sense lamenting that Yankee Stadium won’t be allowed to continue on. It’s progress, and I’m sure I’ll embrace it, especially if I can be a season ticket holder, as I am now.

So what I saw today, in an overwrought farce of a ceremony, was the beginning of the end. As I watched it, I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps EVERY politician and Yankees lackee would get a chance to pontificate about “what a wonderful day it is.” That’s where the Yankees embarrass me at times. But I suppose that rant is for another day. Today was about convincing myself that I have to begin to say good-bye.