Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Busy Man (General)

I know, you haven't heard much from me lately. I apologize - I've been doing a temp job for about a week now, and haven't even had access to email. Believe me, it's a pain, but it's nice to have a job again, if only for another week or so.

In other news, my infamous cat, Fred, has disappeared. He has been sighted a few times, but has otherwise not returned. In some ways, good riddence; in others, he's missed.

There's plenty to talk about, but I just don't have the time, so we'll catch up soon. Football rolls on (three, count 'em, THREE games this weekend to broadcast), the job search heats up, and life goes on. The Saints returned to N'awlins (which was great), but the U2/Green Day concert was best. It meant a lot to the people there, but how much do those acts resonate with the people of the Lower Ninth Ward? Just curious...

Still, it was a great scene in The Big Easy. Good for them that they get a little closer to life down there.

OK, enough for tonight. Again, we'll catch up soon.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Quick Followup (General)

So leave it to a few odds and sods-type things to get my largest set of comments yet. Allow me to review...

To "Jon" - I would expect nothing else than for you to have a Missy CD. You've always had the widest, best variety of musical taste. The only thing I ever knew you to dislike was the Talking Heads, if memory serves. And yeah, Mahopac is changing. Is it for the better? Who knows?

To "Ricky" - Nah, the Bronx faithful are fine. I thought the Mets players did a nice job of celebrating the moment, especially with their little curtain call. Nice touch. It seems that Willie Randolph has done an excellent job of leading them. I was serious when I said "congratulations." They've had a great year. It actually wasn't meant to come off as griping or talking trash.

Does this mean we're not friends anymore?

For all - Oh, one more thing, while we're talking some baseball. For the love of God, PLEASE stop saying the Atlanta Braves have won 14 pennants in a row. Was 1994 a dream? As far as I'm concerned, the Braves streak should be disallowed due to the strike that cancelled the World Series that year. The selfishness of that situation negates that. If anything, the Montreal Expos should be given the 1994 NL East crown, but nobody in their right mind would do that. If baseball wants to pretend '94 didn't exist, then they're idiots. It's still impressive, but, to me, it's not all in a row. Thank God the Mets put and end to it.

For "Anonymous" - Missy, is that you? Or is it Pedro Martinez?

For "Sean" - First, say something funny, right?? Anyway, I've heard of "The Grey Album", and I'd be interested to listen to it. Just read an article about Jay-Z. He seems like a pretty talented guy, to say the least.

I knew I'd rankle some feathers with people thinking that I was "tweaking" the Mets. Not true - It's "My Town, MY TEAM!!" I'm pulling for the eventual 2006 World Champions! Amazing how a little hit and run gets people excited. Go rip city on the Katrina anniversary, and defending Mayor C. Ray Nagin, and things are as quiet as a radio station after sign-off. Or when useless programs are on. HI-YO!!

Ricky and I (pending the mending of our friendship) will have Greenwich-McMahon on the air, Thursday night at 6:50. Talk to you then.

Anyway, keep those cards and letters coming.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Fashionable Guy (General)

Since I haven’t written in a week, I figured I’d do a little potpourri. Some “Hit and Run.” A little “Odds and Sods”, if you will.

** Might as well start with the title. Last week, I was asked by WGCH to engineer a radio program, called “The Fashionable Life”, at a remote in New York City. The show is hosted by two smart and funny ladies (Jayne Chase and Jennifer Goodkind) who made me feel very welcome. All I had to do was set them up and keep them on the air. Though this is never easy for me, I got no airtime. That’s OK, I guess, as the paycheck will be welcomed.

Doing a show in the big town is not an easy chore. Sure, you can drive, but have fun finding parking. NYC police wouldn’t exactly be making me feel the love if I tried to pull up, leave the car to drop off the equipment, and then park. So I came up with a plan. I would try to buy a luggage utility cart (you’d recognize it if you saw it) and take the train. It took a little bit of shopping, but Macy’s in Jefferson Valley had my cart. Then I had to take an early train to get to Bryant Park by 7:00 (or shortly thereafter). I was all set to take a 5:23, having bought my ticket, when I saw the lights of the train coming around the bend at Croton Falls. Long story short? The doors closed as I got to the platform. So I took the next train, about a half-hour later. Now how does one deal with large cargo on a train, if it doesn’t fit in the overhead rack? Keep it in front of you. Don’t you know that at the very next station, some troll decided that she had to sit in the same row as me…when the train was otherwise empty? I just laughed. You’ve got to love people.

The show went fine, and it was a fun experience for me. I felt bad that The Wife (who says I can use her name here) wasn’t there. She’s the most fashionable person I know, or ever will know. She should have been there. As a heterosexual male who appreciates fashion, and like clothes, shoes, etc., I liked it. I think I can fashionable at times, even if it takes a nudge from The Wife.

By the way, I think The Wife is OK with my using her name here because I told her that I was planning on giving her a pseudonym. I was going to use the name of an ex-girlfriend. I hadn’t decided which one yet. Then I thought I’d use “DiDra” (pronounced “Drr-Druh”), because, like me, she is known by various versions of her first name. I’m “Rob” to most everyone, but a “Robert” or even my boyhood name of “Robbie” still pops up – especially with family. Just so we’re clear: I’m NOT “Bob.”

Incidentally, I missed my train to come home as well. That’s show biz.

** I love where I live. I lived in Mahopac until April, and now reside in Carmel. It’s not easy to live in my high school rivals town, but it doesn’t matter. The Wife likes that The Son will go to a different school than either of ours. If she doesn’t want him to go to the brilliance factory known as Mahopac High School, then that’s her mistake. But I digress. As you cross into Putnam County, you see many signs imploring you to “Shop Putnam.” I would love to do that. However, in the towns to the north and northeast of Carmel, the citizens there are under the delusion that you can get everything in the General Store, and anything else comes via the Sears and Roebuck catalog. For several years now, developers have tried to put a shopping enclave at the corner of Interstate 84 and Route 311, right on the Patterson-Kent town line. Of course, many are crying foul. Of course, many of the many are those who recently moved from the Bronx to “come to the country.”

Here’s the reality for you. To do my “warehouse” shopping, I go to Costco. In Brookefield. Connecticut. Sometimes in Port Chester, which is in lower Westechester County, NY. Grocery shopping? Most of it is done at the Stop and Shop…in Somers, which is in Westchester County. To be fair, I can go the A&P in Carmel or Mahopac. A mall? Danbury in Connecticut; Jefferson Valley and The Westchester in Westchester County; Palisades Center in Rockland County, and Poughkeepsie Galleria in Dutchess County. In Putnam County, there is currently a Home Depot, a Kohl’s, a Linens n Things and a few other stores that recently opened. But while places like Target are exploding in this area, they’re still roughly a half-hour ride away for me.

We need tax breaks. We need to be able to “Shop Putnam.” We can’t do so if the NIMBY’s (Not In My Back Yard) continue to whine about everything. You wanted the country? MOVE! But please do us all a favor and pipe down. Stop whining in the papers, and posting the stupid signs. It really makes the area look silly.

I’ll have more to say about this as it moves along. Somehow, the people of this area will have to learn that the electric light has been invented, and that Route 311 is not a cow path.

** While on the subject of my home area, Mahopac has gone through some troubling times. Recently the school budget was rejected. So what does the board do? Put the same budget on the ballot again. Did they think that people didn’t SEE it the first time? The result? A contingency budget that resulted in a system where athletes and club members have to pay to join. Now I don’t mean this in a bad way, but my family was never rich. We were middle-middle class at best, as a one working parent household. I was able to go visit my grandparents in Florida 14 times between 1969 and 1986, but we never flew (and I didn’t go on a plane until I was 25). So you get the idea. Still I can remember having to choose if I wanted to go on the eighth grade class trip to Boston, or the ninth-grade class trip to Washington, DC (all that marble won out over the Red Sox, I guess). To go to Washington, I had to help raise money. What I am getting at is this: I can not be 100% positive that I would have been able to play sports if this “pay to play” system existed for me. My parents would have done their best, but $408 per person per sport is a lot of money. Look, I was no great athlete. I was captain of the bowling team at MHS, and I did it for a couple of reasons. Chief among them was the chance to “letter” in something, and to be with friends of mine. We were not your average bowling team. I think we were more like the “Slap Shot” of bowling teams. Or maybe the “Average Joe’s” of “Dodgeball.” The point is, it isn’t easy for these families, especially with multiple kids. And many thanks must be given to those (like the Mahopac Sports Association, where I played baseball for 11 years) who helped get that amount DOWN to $408. There was a chance that all sports and clubs would have been discontinued without their help. Some heads should roll on that school board.

** Let’s stay in Mahopac. A fellow-MHS alum, who now lives ion Virginia, might be the only one to care about this next fact, but let it serve as a reminder to the rest of you that nothing lasts forever. Fisher Brothers Chevrolet sat on the side of US Route 6 for almost 60 years. It’s where my father knew the owners and staff personally. It’s where I bought my first car with a loan (a 1986 tan Chevy Cavalier). It’s also where members of that same staff came to pay their respects when my father died in 1989. I may have left them as a customer (largely due to not liking the domestic automobile), but my mother and brother were always standing by them. Fisher Brothers saw the death of those original brothers, then saw their sons (the new brothers, I suppose) sell the business. It now sits largely empty on the side of the road. Even when the new owners take over, it just won’t be the same, and certainly won’t have the same name. I can still remember sitting inside of a 1980 Blazer in the showroom, wishing I could drive off in it. Time marches on…

** One more Mahopac note, though this is throughout the area as well. There’s been a recent rash of high school deaths over the last week. In Mohegan Lake, a Yorktown High student was murdered by a Lakeland High student (see why I DON’T want The Son going to The Wife’s alma mater?). Also in Yorktown, another student died when her friend’s mother, who was drunk, decided to go northbound on the Saw Mill Parkway in Dobbs Ferry. One problem: she was in the southbound lanes. A night of partying in New York City brought this on. Look I’m all for being a “cool” parent. I think I’m going to be a cool parent (sometimes), I know The Wife will be, and I think my father was, as well as my mom. But some common sense has to be exercised, right? You want to take your kid and a friend into the City to relive your love of The Ramones? Great. How about not getting tanked then?

Lastly, Mahopac High is awash in tears following the death of a 17-year-old senior who was apparently driving too fast on Agor Lane (now that’s a cow path, or at least it was) in a souped-up Mercedes that could do 155. Now I know for that for many of his friends, this is the first time they’ve lost anybody close. Here’s my only beef: don’t turn the crash site into some makeshift memorial. This is a residential area and I can’t imagine the people who live there want to see that, not to mention the crowds that gather at the site. It will die down, I know, but the memorial will be left behind to rot. That’s the way those things go. You see them on every highway. Why does mourning have to be so public like that?

So what do we get in the end? Three young lives over. Each one as foolish as the one before it. Sad.

** Many thanks to the fine folks at New York State Unemployment. Why? Because I haven’t received my benefits since early August, and now I can’t get anybody to return my phone calls. Quality stuff, to be sure.

** I am starting a very short temporary job tomorrow. The funny thing is that it’s in the same office park as the job that laid me off in June. Funny.

** A big thanks to an old high school friend of mine, who held his annual “Jimmy Buffett Bash” on Saturday. As I wrote in my MySpace blog, “what happens at the Buffett Bash STAYS at the Buffett Bash.” It was a blast, as always, yet was a little spicier this time. Always fun to make new friends, and catch up with other that you only see once a year. I even got on the phone with a friends cousin, who I haven’t spoke with in about 19 years or so.

** I’m trying to do more to the MySpace page. I’ve added some pictures, updated the blog, and edited my friends. At first, I was just adding anybody as a friend. I might still do that, but if I find you’re creepy/freaky/trouble, then you’re gone. Besides I have to keep mine up. The Wife has created one. She said she felt left out.

** Entertainment Weekly (or EW) recently had an article about female rappers and their recent troubles on the charts. I can’t speak with any authority about that, but I do know this. I, largely due to The Wife, have broadened my musical tastes. I have great admiration for the talents of Beyonce, for instance, and even Eminem has won me over (don’t own any of his music, but I still “get” him). I can see where rap has its place, especially because people (mostly, The Wife) like the beat. She was all over Sean Paul’s “Temperature” (which sounded like idiotic prattle to me). But then again, she’s also very moody – lately it’s Snow Patrol, and back to The Killers. It had been Nine Inch Nails, and 311, and Blink-182. I tried, but it didn’t stick. Still I’ve mellowed in that I can laugh when what I consider to be pure garbage comes on the radio. I won’t necessarily put my fist through the tuner if I hear some overplayed crap. Radio, for instance, killed U2 for me for roughly 15 years.

One of the faces featured in the EW article was Missy Elliott. Without turning this into some debate on race (since I just praised Beyonce), let’s just say that I’m not a fan. In fact, I blame her for the dumbing-down, or the “ebonicization” of our youth. I know pop culture works into the psyche of people. It’s one thing to repeat movie lines, and even emulate some people, but at the end of the day, I can be understood when I talk. I write in basic English, with some flair (and that’s not an “Office Space” reference). When goofing around, I can be heard saying “wassup yo’” or “fo’ shizzle” because it’s an act. If I’m on the radio, or at a job interview, or just conversing seriously, I talk and write just like this. Missy can’t seem to handle that. Then add in the fact that her music does nothing for me and neither does she. One day I might be proven wrong, or change my tune.

** I’ve saved the best today for last. Whole-hearted congratulations to the New York Metropolitans. The Metsies won the National League East last night, and for the most part, celebrated appropriately. That being said, broadcaster Howie Rose’s call on WFAN in New York was a little over the top. Reminder, friends: winning the division doesn’t mean what it used to. We’ve seen enough wild-card teams go to, and even win, the World Series. All five real die-hard Mets fans can tell you that the Mets were a wild-card entry in 2000. I don’t dare say who they lost the World Series to. No hint of bias here.

What drives you nuts about the Mets is how they can border on being a college team. From the theme song, to Mr. Met, to this – having the grass painted with “NL East champs” (or something like that) immediately following the game. I remember throwing things at the TV when I saw “1999 Wild-Card Champions” back then. Do the Wilpons’ get it? Are they so hung up with bringing the ghosts of Pee-Wee, Jackie, Campy, and Hodges into Shea Stadium that they forget that the World Series is the ultimate goal? I work in Marketing, and I have this to say – leave the work to the players and coaches. Keep the Marketing and Promotions dopes out of it.

Then there are the fans. No not the five I alluded to. The OTHER fans. The ones who are the long-timers. At least since May. The ones who are talking trash. One did it to The Wife yesterday, after she reminded him that good seats were still available for the division clincher last night. He’s right off the boat from Ireland, so I’m sure he’s been a loyal fan since he got back to the States…last week.

Treat the NL East title as a nice first step. It IS nice to win the division. It gets you more home games, and you can hang a nice banner, but try hanging a divisional banner at Whatchamacallit Stadium in the Bronx. They’ll hang you as well. The Mets, especially with people talking trash, MUST, I repeat, MUST make it to the World Series, at least. Keep watching out for those pesky Dodgers (remember 1988, anyone?) or Padres (Piazza’s sweet revenge) or the Cardinals. Oh sorry, I can’t say that with a straight face. Tony LaRussa win in a big spot? Hahahahahaha!

By the way, that other team should clinch their 10th American League Eastern Division crown in 11 years within the next few days. Yawn. With them there is one goal. The division isn’t it.

Again, congrats to the Mets, and congratulations to their REAL fans, of which Ricky Fritsch is one. He’s loyal and he doesn’t talk junk. That’s probably why we’re friends. At least I hope we are after he reads this.

The playoffs. I live for this.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembrances of September 11th (History)

September 11th. The mere mention of the words can send shivers up ones spine. It is our date that will live in infamy. Long before I became a blogger, I would write journals, at least occasionally. Sometimes I’d have stretches where I would write every day. Sometimes it would be once or twice a year at best. Following September 11, 2001, I decided to write my thoughts. With my wife pregnant at the time, I wanted a written record of what happened from my perspective, so that our son could read them. The following is from that journal entry – dated January 14, 2002.

To begin, I guess one must understand where we were prior to that day. Just 11 days earlier, I had finished my final Hudson Valley Renegades game and was ready for Labor Day, which I had hoped would be a turning point in my job hunt. That nations' economy wasn’t doing great, but I think we all hoped for the best. In fact, I had just been asked to do some temporary work that would allow me to train for the position in White Plains and work from home for about four months or more. The company providing me with the work would be American Express, and I would work with the Premier agency of White Plains. So overall, I was hopeful. I was to begin my training with Premier on Tuesday, September 11 at 1:00. That morning, I would go to a job fair at the Westchester County Center. But first, I would go to WGCH to do a little prep work for the beginning of football season. Now you know what was on my mind that morning.

Believe it or not, I don’t remember now what I wore that day, except to say that I left the house ready to look professional. I walked out of the house around 8:30 and headed off in the Honda for Greenwich. It was an absolutely perfect day – sunny, warm, my favorite kind of weather. It wasn’t too hot yet it was not cold. As always, I was listening to Imus in the Morning. My ride was uneventful, until just around 8:50. That’s when Imus reports that Warner Wolf saw a plane go into the World Trade Center from his nearby apartment. I had merged from NY route 139 onto route 100, heading for 35 and eventually, Interstate 684. My first thought was of the plane that went into the Empire State Building in 1945 that killed 29 people. As the story began to develop, it appeared that it was a commuter plane that had hit the building, the north tower. Obviously, I felt somewhat horrified that this had happened. There would have to be casualties, and quite a disaster. Looking back now, it seems like we (the media, the general world) weren’t taking this too seriously. Sure, there was a certain amount of horror at what had happened, but things seemed to be calm. As a reporter and media hound, I began to think that I couldn’t get to the station fast enough. I wanted to follow the story via television and radio, and cover it if needed.

Back on the radio, Imus talked with Warner about what he could see from his apartment. But as news breaks, I become a flipper, in that I change stations looking for more information, and to see how different stations are covering it. So I switched between Imus and WCBS. By and large, Imus (who’s extraordinary in these times) was sticking to the normal show, bringing in Warner as necessary, playing commercials, and going to Charles McCord for the news at the top of the hour. They even played a comedy bit at one point. Chuck didn’t seem to have much more to say so I switched over to WCBS for more. By 9:05, WCBS had an eyewitness saying that a second plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, this time into Tower 2, the south tower. At this point I had two reactions. Number one was to flip the dial to see if Imus could confirm what was being reported (he did), and number two was to look at the sky. Clearly, we were under attack. I was now on Interstate 684, near the Bedford rest area. I looked around at the other cars on the road. If they had the radio on, they now had to know what was going on. What were they thinking? And why didn’t they look concerned?

My drive continued without incident. Imus and WCBS continued to report what they were seeing. I took note of nothing spectacular going on at the Westchester County Airport. As I got into Greenwich, the radio was now reporting the type of planes that had hit the World Trade Center. Armed with that information, I bolted into the station to try and assist if I could. Jim Thompson and Dima Joseph were hard at work, trying to get the story on the air without killing each other at the same time. In truth, that’s the way they always work. The faces that were at WGCH will never be forgotten. Jim and Dima were airing the story; Bob Small was trying to clear coverage with CNN and get the network on the air; John Iannuzzi was along to help Jim and Dima, and to anchor his own coverage on sister station WVIP; Jane Crawford had come in to watch the coverage and prepare for her afternoon show (she had recently announced that she would leave the station); Dana Masini was in her usual role as executive assistant; Peter Baumann (GM) and Janet Beckley (VP) were both playing the “boss” role. Mary Hamel and Audrey Young would also be in during the day. All of this only gets us to about 9:15, and it amazed me that people didn’t seem more horrified. In some ways, I could go sit down and not know any better that the world was going crazy.

The televisions in the newsroom and conference room at WGCH were now humming with coverage of the events. I could see how smoky and badly damaged the two towers were. Around 9:30, the unthinkable happened. Tower 2, the south tower, crumbled to the ground. I wasn’t in the room to see it, having walked out to sit in the WVIP studio to work and make some phone calls. But I heard the yelling and returned to the conference room to see that there wasn’t a tower there anymore. Tears rolled down Dana’s cheeks and I just stood there, thinking this was a dream. The crowd would eventually thin down to just Jane and myself, who stared at the screen and talked casually about the events. I couldn’t help but wonder – were there bombs aboard those planes? And if one tower had come down, how long before the second one? The television cameras – CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox – all focused on the remaining tower. I knew not to take my eyes off of that monitor in the conference room at WGCH in Greenwich, Connecticut on this Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001. I was watching history – our day of infamy. Around 10:00, my suspicions, sadly, came true. I watched as the remaining tower, its antennae waving, came down. It was sickening.

Now the news came fast and furiously – a car bomb at the State Department, an explosion on Capitol Hill, a fire at the Pentagon, and a plane missing over Pennsylvania. What the hell was going on, I thought. How much of this information was true? What we would find out was that the Pentagon and Pennsylvania stories were unfortunately true. But now, the United States was under siege, or fear of it. The skies were closed to all air traffic. Monuments and tourist attractions were closed – Disney World, Mount Rushmore, the Sears Tower, the Space Needle and more. Bridges, tunnels and buildings of commerce were also closed – the Hoover Dam, and all crossings into and out of New York City. Back inside WGCH, we wondered what was next. We knew it was terrorism, so they had to be looking at more ways to hurt us. The Sears Tower seemed logical, so did the Golden Gate Bridge. Or maybe something in Las Vegas.

For me, as for so many, it was time to take a personal inventory. Obviously, except for the raw emotions of what I was seeing and feeling, I was physically fine. I called my wife at work, and she was fine. The mighty rock that she is, she was sympathetic to what was going on, but wasn’t overreacting to it. It always appears that she thinks I get too excited when things like this happen. But we’re both realists. And in reality, we had not been harmed. My mom was at her job, and was fine also. She thinks I have all of the answers, so she looked to me for any news that I could provide. I called her back as stories broke. My sister was at home, and she was well. Her concern was with her children. Does she bring them home from school? She decided to leave them there and let the school district figure it out. The kids would eventually be sent home. There was no easy way for me to get in touch with my brother, but I would talk with him later on.

By 11:00, it had become apparent to me that I had some decisions to make. I still had to go to White Plains for both the job fair and training. I quickly decided that the job fair wasn’t worth it. The training was a bigger issue. I felt that it seemed foolish to go, but I don’t like to blow off my responsibilities. I called Premier to find out if we were going forward and they said things were fine. My wife, as always, left it up to me. My sister thought I was crazy to go to White Plains at all. She thought I should go home. Janet Beckley asked me to go into downtown Greenwich and get reactions. This last option seemed the least appealing. I had always wanted to be in on a big story, and here I was with the mother of them all, but I just could not see myself going to Greenwich Avenue to ask people what they thought. On this day, it was just not appropriate. I called Premier and cancelled with them. They were very gracious, if not a bit surprised that I was reacting like this. I called my wife to tell her the latest – I wouldn’t be going to White Plains, but I would stay around Greenwich to report. But she had other news for me. Her building was closing and everyone was being sent home. That clinched it for me – I was going home. The thing that mattered the most to me was to get home and be with her. If this was the end of the world, I was going to see it end with them. I told my WGCH colleagues what I was doing and left.

I turned the radio dial to hear more and was stunned at what I was hearing. Nearly every radio station had committed to following the news. Shock jocks, news people, sportscasters and more were combining to cover the story. On “K Rock”, Howard Stern had appropriately toned his show down. He knew, wisely, that many of the “regular folks” who were in the Trade Center were listeners. And now, many emergency personnel were missing. Many of those people were Stern fans. Over at WPLJ, Scott Shannon and Todd Pettengill were covering it with passion and dignity. The same could be said for Z100, WNEW, and so on. Many stations that traditionally carry music had switched over to their networks for coverage. On WFAN, Imus stayed right where he had been, covering the story as only he could. Charles McCord and Warner Wolf (via phone) would continue to provide updates. Amazingly, nobody was playing commercials. Q104 was the only station that I recall playing music and were making appropriate choices. They too would go all news eventually.

By now, Westchester County Airport was closed. The police stood at the ready in case anything happened and watching cars as they passed by. As I approached Interstate 684, I looked for the road to be clogged with cars trying to get home. Yet it seemed normal. The radio reported that construction projects would be picked up, as I would discover at Exit 6 (Katonah). This would slow me up for a moment. Yet by the time my wife passed by, they were gone. Again, the rest of the ride was nothing special. I followed it all via radio and glanced at the sky occasionally, almost expecting to see an armada of planes bringing Armageddon. I was home by 1:00, heading inside to throw the TV and radio on. My media flipping at these times drives my wife mad, but I could do it for a little while until she got home. Fred (our cat) was unfazed and unaware, living the good life of a cat. He probably didn’t understand why I wanted to pet him. Yet despite getting the media on in full force, I was restless. So I headed back outside, telephone in hand. I had hoped my wife would be home by now. So I tried her at work…no answer. I did the same thing with her cell phone…same result. Patience would have to be key. I called my sister to thank her for making me come home. I called Mom to tell her where I was. As I stood out in the driveway and waited, I could not get over what an absolutely fabulous day it was. The weather was beautiful and the sky was a remarkable blue with a few stray clouds. And there was nothing else up there.

My wife was home by 2:00. I tried not to overreact; yet all I wanted to do was hug and kiss her. I’m pretty sure I allowed myself to tell her that I was glad she was home and talk about my theory of us seeing the end of the world together. Now it was time to watch it all happen on TV. We watched the scrolls at the bottom of the screen tell the details. Of note to me, and quite upsetting, was that Yankee Stadium had been evacuated. We saw the planes hit the towers and the buildings subsequently collapsing over…and over…and over…and over… I checked to see how each channel was following it. Every channel had coverage, except for networks that were aimed at children, like Disney and Nickelodeon. HBO tried to entertain people with family shows. Otherwise, virtually everybody had it. ESPN, ESPN Classic, Madison Square Garden, home shopping channels, VH1, MTV, and so on. The networks had agreed to go with wall-to-wall coverage, no commercial and a sharing of information, at least for a while. Then there were the stations that were knocked off by collapse. Remember that antennae that I mentioned earlier? That took several stations off with it. Many of them scrambled to get alternate options up, but for some it would take a few days. I wanted to watch this story from the local angle, because who could cover it better? But Channel 4 was off, so was Channel 5. Channel 9 was off, and I think Channel 7 was down also. Later in the day, I watched as RCN, our local cable network, tried to get their satellites straightened out to bring us the news on these channels. For a short time, I know we had an NBC affiliate from Philadelphia on Channel 4, followed by a Los Angeles affiliate.

Back on the radio, Imus had gone home but announced that he would start his show the following morning at 5:00 AM. Charles McCord had now teamed up with Mike Francesa and was doing a remarkable job. I don’t care what people say about non-news people covering a news event. Mike Francesa, specifically, gave the story humanity and a different angle. I remember him during the Gulf War also, and thought he was great then. He and his partner, Chris Russo (known as. “Mad Dog”) did a nice job on their September 12 show. So long as it was accurate and dignified, I didn’t care who covered it. I knew I could do it well, and I’m a sports reporter.

My wife and I watched well into the evening. After 8:30 or so, my wife headed off to bed. The pregnancy was tough on her, as it is on any woman, so she called it a night. I just couldn’t – I was too glued to the TV. At one point, I did go to the computer to check my email and wondered if the terrorists could upset the Internet. Were we in danger out on the web? The answer would eventually be no, but strange things go through your mind at times like this.

Up until this point, my emotions had been under control. I felt sadness for the losses, which were surely to be in the thousands, but felt fortunate that my immediate loved ones were fine. Yet it was a bomb threat to the Empire State Building that nearly did me in. This was well into the evening and I watched as cameras again focused on the historic structure. As I always do, I feared the worst. Ultimately, the threat was a hoax. If the Empire State Building went down, I think I would have sat in my place on our couch and sobbed. It didn’t and I decided that was enough for me. It was time to turn off the TV and go to bed.

Sleep did not come easily to me that night. I tossed and turned with a hundred thoughts racing through me. By this point, we ALL knew that billionaire terrorist Osama bin Laden, a man who despises the United States and Christianity, was behind the attack. It was he and his cronies who were behind the attempted bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. I was positive this attempt had something to do with him as soon as the second plane hit. I couldn’t help but fear that he had nuclear weapons or perhaps some other kind of weapon of mass destruction at his fingertips. So what was next? And one must always wonder if the government is truly telling us everything. Obviously, they can’t for reasons of national security. So what didn’t we know? And when we will find it out, if ever? Will we someday find out that there was truly a “Bay of Pigs” –type incident that had us just seconds away from destruction? Who knows, and that’s exactly what raced through me that night. I think I woke up every hour on the hour. But I will never, ever forget 4:00 in the morning of September 12. I began to hear a humming overhead. It was obviously a plane or jet of some kind. I lay there in my bed and wondered exactly what it was. It also sounded like it was right over the house. My heart raced as I listened to it. What I didn’t know was that I was not alone. Maybe a minute into the sound, my wife sat up and looked around. At least I wasn’t dreaming. The fact that we were both awake was enough to get us up. We each went to a window. Upon looking out the front window, I saw the newspaper at the end of the driveway. I walked out to get the paper and at the bottom of the driveway, I looked up into a sky full of fabulously bright stars. Among them was one moving star with a flashing red light. I was later told that it was a F-18 fighter jet. Whatever it was, it scared the “F” out of us. I was through sleeping. When Imus went on the air at 5:00 on Wednesday morning, I was there to listen.

The postscript of September 11, 2001 is that I went to WGCH that night to do the final edition of the golf show “Tee Time” that I co-host with Michael Breed. We didn’t talk about golf once. Tom Henderson and Sean Kilkelly, who had both hosted the show at one time or another during the season, joined us. I produced a collection of sounds from the day before that Michael said was perhaps the finest production I had done for him. I will always keep it as a reminder, just as I will always keep a copy of that very sad show, one that I am forever proud of. While most high school football games went on that weekend, the game that I was due to broadcast, Norwalk at Greenwich, was cancelled. Charles Zion, the father of a Greenwich football player, Zach Zion, worked for Cantor Fitzgerald and died. I can’t even begin to imagine what he went through.

I would have liked to have the game played but understood why it wouldn’t be. I felt that same way about professional sports. In the days after “9/11” I needed entertainment. By September 12, I vowed to not watch the coverage, except for an occasional check of the headlines. The constant images were too upsetting and I didn’t like the fear it was instilling. So without burying my head in the sand, I checked in at the top of random hours for updates. Our politically correct world went insane. The Clear Channel radio company distributed a list of songs that they felt were questionable to play on their stations. Some choices were questionable. Others were understandable. Still I thought it was stupid. Even President Bush (who at first looked like a dear in the headlights but eventually shined in this dark hour, along with New York Governor George Pataki and Mayor Rudy Guiliani) told us to get back to normal, whatever that was. Clear Channel had “Bridge Over Troubled Water” on their questionable song list. Paul Simon played it on the worldwide telethon broadcast on September 20. So what was right?

In the sports world, baseball, after some hesitation, did not play again for over a week. Football did the same, especially after some of their players, most notably Vinnie Testaverde of the Jets, said he would not play if the league told him to. I thought his stance was reprehensible. This pampered million-dollar prima donna could charter his own flight to Oakland for the game against the Raiders and yet on September 12, my wife went back to work, and so did most of the world. Once the skies opened again to air traffic, millions of business people began flying again, because it was their jobs. But this athlete gets to dictate that he won’t play. Let’s trade places for a day or two, OK Vinnie? Again I understand why many sports shut down that weekend. And the liberal, panty-wearing press screamed at those who didn’t and forced others to. A lot of it had to do with nearly 38 years of guilt left from when the NFL played their games after President Kennedy was assassinated. But many people needed to have sports in their lives that weekend. I know I did. In any event, I know I lost some respect for some people for their actions following 9/11.

How to wrap this all up? It can’t be wrapped up. As I write this, we are just four months removed from September 11. In some ways, it still doesn’t feel real. In other ways, it’s very real. By and large, life did get back to normal. The holidays came and went without incident. Many traditions went on as scheduled. Yet every now and then something happens that either brings panic or reminds us of that awful day. In October, fighting began in Afghanistan to rid the world of the Taliban and Osama bin Laden. But there were other events closer to home that rattled us. A commercial jet crashed in Queens after takeoff from JFK. Terrorism was suspected but never confirmed. A man tried to blow up a jet from Paris to Miami with a bomb in his show. There were anthrax scares all across the country, specifically in Washington DC, with several deaths. The World Series went on, though pushed back a week due to the attack, with the Yankees losing a heartbreaker in seven games to the Diamondbacks. I was at Game 5, the first baseball game to be played in November, and the second in a row to end dramatically, with the Yankees rallying from behind to win in extra innings. As New Yorkers, it seemed that we should win this series, but it doesn’t matter in the bigger scheme. Of course, it still matters a lot to me.

When all is said and done, some nearly 3000 people died on September 11. People across all religions, races, nationalities and classes. And while we got back to “normal”, things would never be the same for those of us who lived through that day. I’ve been told that if you were not from the Northeast, you wouldn’t know the difference. Yeah people are more patriotic (“Bandwagon Patriotism” I call it), but in places like Arizona, life IS normal. That’s what I heard during the World Series. But it is very real in New York, and in places like Boston, Pittsburgh, and Washington DC. I know this is only my part of the story and I’ve probably neglected a lot of things. But this is how I will remember it. And I will never hear a jet the same way again.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The First Broadcast (Sports)

Well, I got it out of my system. There are always butterflies before the first football broadcast of the season. This was not the normal first game though. Normally, it’s a regular season game. This time, it was a scrimmage. Only a scrimmage.

Not so fast. This was Greenwich versus Brunswick, public school powerhouse versus private school machine. Town pride on the line. WGCH discussed doing this game last year, but do to a breakdown in communication, we wound up missing the game. Believe me, I caught heck for that, but it was an honest mistake.

I have to stop right here. Before I began my blog, I promised myself that I would adhere to a few rules. One would be to try to not use profanity (so far…so good!!). So I’m really f****** proud of myself, because I never f****** say f*** ever (OK, that’s a reference to “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”). Among my other rules is to be very careful about using people’s names and not revealing too much information. But one of the most important rules? The Career Suicide Factor. That means to avoid negative things about jobs, coworkers, etc. For obvious reasons, that is not a smart way to go. So perhaps you can read between the lines, but I’m going to try to be really careful.

With that said, we continue. I am not generally in favor of covering scrimmages because they don’t make for good radio. Why? This is not the pros – there is no media director, no SID (Sports Information Director) at high schools. I’m lucky to get very basic information. Believe me when I say, we’ve come a long way, even since I started calling games in 1998. The internet has definitely improved things. Still, coaches have not completely put together rosters by this time in the scrimmage season and the uniforms might not be the real thing. Some players might not be wearing numbers, and numbers are extremely important to a broadcaster. What’s the old saying? You can’t tell the players without a scorecard.

But an assignment is an assignment, and though I’ll voice my opinions and concerns, I’m a pretty good egg in that I’ll do as told. Over the years I’ve learned to not sweat every thing as much as I used to. That’s a good thing. For Saturday was crazy.

Coach Sean Brennan is starting his fourth season at The Brunswick School in Greenwich, CT. An all-boys private school, Brennan took a somewhat dormant team and turned them into a monster. At his first game with Wick in 2003, Brennan, outfitted in khakis, watched the Bruins get smacked by the Kent School, 40-13. The next week, Brennan, now wearing shorts, coached the B’s to a 41-0 over against Hackley. The Bruins have won every game since. And oh by the way, Brennan has worn shorts to every game since that loss. That would be 29 straight over three years, with three straight New England Prep School Athletic Council Championships. That would also include games as late as November 20th.

Last year, I had the privilege of calling Wick’s NEPSAC title game against Belmont Hill in Hartford on November 19th. It was a sunny, but very chilly day. I’m not sure my doctor would have been thrilled that I called that game, as I had just had surgery a week before. To be honest, I should have had somebody ride with me because I remember being very weak, and our press box was open and cold. The Bruins won and there was Coach Brennan, walking the sideline in shorts. That is sports superstition right there, my friends.

Coach Brennan is one of the really good guys in sports. He couldn’t be more accommodating. Even though he has a game to coach, he comes to say hello every time Ricky and I are in attendance. He also makes sure that we have everything that we need. This time, he didn’t have one thing that we needed – a numerical roster. After apologizing profusely, he produced a depth chart for us, with some numbers handwritten on it. We smiled and said thanks, but I realized there was another problem. The roster had last names only. So we decided we’d work around it by using a 2005 roster (thankfully, I’m fanatical about my archives).

Greenwich-Brunswick has become a familiar show – in hockey, where they played for the Town Crown up until this past season; in baseball, where they tried it once and the Cardinals destroyed the Bruins. That ended that. The Town Crown is also played for in lacrosse, where the games have gotten close, but the Cards aren’t quite up to the level yet. Talks of a hoop showdown have never come to be. By the way, there really isn’t a “Town Crown”, it’s just a made up name that my hockey broadcast partner, John Spang and I use. It has stuck, including T-shirts that were made in 2004.

In Connecticut and New York (north of New York City) football, the general rule is that the public schools rule. That’s been the case in Greenwich. At one time, Greenwich-Brunswick in football was unthinkable. I asked a former Brunswick coach about that and he told me that the Cardinals would beat the Bruins. Badly. But Coach Brennan and his counterpart, Greenwich’s Rich Albonizio, thought differently. They tried is last year, and it was successful in that Brennan got to show his team what it took to be a powerhouse – to aspire to that level of play. Coach Albonizio (or Coach Al) was successful in A) winning and B) continuing to teach the Cardinals to respect all opponents. The B’s gave the Cardinals all they could handle, but the Cards were too tough.

Back to 2006 – a hazy, sunny, hot day at Brunswick’s Cosby Field. We at WGCH are so fortunate to broadcast from some amazing locations. Greenwich High’s Cardinal Stadium has become a palace. It was always nice, but got nicer with the introduction of lights to the addition of field turf. I was not a fan of synthetic turf, but this Forever Green stuff that’s being put down today is incredible. Cosby Field is much of the same – a beautiful facility, with less seating than Cardinal Stadium, but nice vantage points. There isn’t a booth (or press box) at Cosby (or The Cos’) but if it rains, then we have the option of using their classroom building behind the north end zone, where we can use a multi-purpose room that looks out on the end zone.

We’ll have two interns in 2006 – Nick Angotto and Zach Fisher. Nick is a former Cardinal, who graduated in 2006 and is trying to start his broadcasting career. He’ll work with us while he goes to college up the road at Norwalk Community College. We’ll use him on the sidelines for his inside knowledge of the game and the Cardinal program. Zach also brings us an inside edge, as he is a senior at GHS. Zach will be our statistician, and he was able to procure a Greenwich roster for us – with names, numbers, the usual drill. So for the most part, we were ready to go.

One thing about radio – equipment gets beaten up. That’s a normal given, but I set everything up and hoped for the best as usual. What can’t be controlled is cellular telephone service. The phone that the station uses wasn’t getting a good signal, but I rolled the dice and started the broadcast with it. We were no more than a minute into the pregame when the phone died. I tried again – no good. Sean Kilkelly knew what to do in the studio. He ran through some commercials, and then went to an interview from earlier in the week that caused some stirring. The rumor was that the Bruins start quarterback, Kevin Decker, was talking “smack” about the Cardinals. Not true of course – Decker is too smart of a player, and Brennan is too smart of a coach. The rumor quickly died. So did our phone.

At the field, I reverted to plan B – my cell phone. My service from Verizon was strong enough, so that would work, right? Well almost. To put our headset microphones into a cell phone signal to broadcast the radio, we use a special kind of mixer that allows for an interface between the two. The technology has changed a bit, so our old mixer that works fine with the older Motorola phone (despite some loud horrible pre-game feedback), doesn’t work as well with my LG. Sean (in the studio) and the listeners could hear us just fine; at least once I fixed a “flushing” sound that Sean was hearing. We couldn’t hear each other. So Ricky, Zach and I made sure to stand close and keep one ear of our headphones off, so at least one of our ears could be exposed. Then there’s Nick – walking on the field with a cordless microphone. We couldn’t hear him either, but we worked around that. For the first half, we devised a plan where Nick (wearing a radio – he could hear us!) would take it from me, say what he had to say, then send it back to me, by waving at me. I cracked later on that “that was some of the finest analysis I’ve ever heard.”

For the second half, I took out a small walkman radio and when I went to Nick, I put the headphone to my ear. Now we were in business. I suppose there were other things that went on, but you get the idea. Radio “scholars and experts” say that you should never talk about your hardships – the listener doesn’t care. Generally, I’ll agree with that however, I disagree when it’s a smaller station with a very intimate listenership. These people like the one-to-one that we try to give them. We mention some of the little things that go on, usually with a disclaimer that this is “inside radio info.” So long as we don’t sound whiny and dwell on the problems, I think it makes us look human, and very down to earth. Which we are. God knows we’re nothing special.

So how did the game turn out, you say? Just fine – I suppose all is right with the world in that the public school still has not lost to the private school. But I’ll say this – an injury made a huge difference. The aforementioned Kevin Decker, who had already looked very sharp with two touchdown passes, left the game with an injured wrist. Wick led 17-6 at the time and the Cardinals took advantage, picking off Decker’s replacements four times, en route to a 35-24 Greenwich win. I talked with Coach Brennan and he told me two pertinent things – 1) he was proud of his team’s effort, despite the second quarter (when Greenwich scored 22 unanswered points) and 2) he felt Decker would be day-to-day. A friend of mine, who is a high school football nut, called me today and confirmed that Decker might be OK by Friday night, when the Bruins host Hamden Hall at The Cos. I hope so. The Bruins go as Decker goes. I can’t root for anyone too openly, but I can tell you that I like Decker a lot. He’s a top-notch young man, who even went out his way to say hello to Ricky and I at a basketball game last year. That’s quality.

Don’t think that this was a kissy-face love note to the Bruins. I have plenty of great things to say about Greenwich, which has been my “home” for nearly a decade. We’ll talk more about both of these teams as the season goes along. This was really more about the broadcast, and how proud I was of my new team. The new guys (Nick and Zach) performed like they were vets, even with our technical problems. That’s a huge plus, and something that every broadcaster must have. Ricky was Ricky – despite total exhaustion, he provided solid analysis, and kept me laughing both on and off the air. And me? It wasn’t my best stuff but I’ll take it. I lost track of the yardage at times, messed up the score on occasion, missed names, probably mispronounced a few as well, and probably didn’t give enough details. That’s OK, I guess. I still think we’re better than a lot of what you’ll find out there, and we’ll only get better. We’re back Friday night from The Cos, with Brunswick and Hamden Hall at 6:00 (probably 5:50 for our pregame show). Then we go to Stamford on Saturday for our first Greenwich broadcast, against the Westhill Vikings. The pregame show starts at 1:20.

Tomorrow, I’m going to share some 9/11 memories.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Agony and The Ecstasy (Sports)

Early this morning, my son and I marched out of our house. Literally. Four year-old’s like to march. As I hummed a marching tune, we moved in procession to the top of the driveway, before turning right and proceeding to the tree there. What kind of tree? That’s not my specialty.

At that moment, we saluted the American flag hanging from the tree. Then, to conclude this stirring ceremony, we took the Stars and Stripes down. My son held on to it for dear life, but this flag that was bigger than him. Then I hung another flag. The flag of the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers.

Thursday was opening day for the NFL and as the defending champs, the Steelers get the honor of starting the season with a nationally televised home game. The Miami Dolphins are the visiting team. There was plenty of pomp and circumstance, with a brief few brief ceremonies, and musical performances. Also of note was the return of NBC to broadcasting football. Al Michaels and John Madden handled the call, and seem to be on their game. Their presence, while perhaps a step past their prime, is still needed, as NBC gets comfortable. There were a few technical gaffes, but by and large, the presentation is that of the former Monday Night Football on ABC, right down to the cheesy theme song and the “personal” introductions of the starting lineups.

To the average fan, it probably isn’t noticeable. I don’t think I’m the average fan, because I study broadcasts like a playbook. So far, the graphics have been OK, but not great. The music is also nothing special, with Pink warbling a custom version of a former Joan Jett marginal hit. You might recall Hank Williams Jr. doing the same thing each week with “Are You Ready For Some Football” on MNF. Still, so far, so good. It’s nice to see NBC, the network that perfected sports broadcasting to me as a kid, get back into the NFL.

Anyway, as I write, the Steelers (or Stillers, in ‘Burgh-speak) lead 14-10, heading towards halftime. By working on my blog, I’m not as inclined to get emotional. The Wife and The Son are both in bed, so I need to keep it under control. Doesn’t always work, but I try.

Even thought the Yankees are off tonight, I couldn’t help but check what was on the YES Network anyway. I was an early fan of the Classic Sports Network concept, before ESPN’s bastardization of it. I’m one of those people who will watch classic games and, no surprise, collect them. So during a commercial in the Stillers game, I flipped on YES. In the way back machine was Game 4 of the 2001 World Series – Yankees versus Diamondbacks, at Yankee Stadium. Of course, even a non-baseball fan is going to connect that series with the September 11th terrorist attacks, which had occurred not two months earlier. In fact, it was 50 days earlier, as Game 4 started on Halloween night. It would end just past midnight on November 1st, when Derek Jeter hit a home run to win it.

To most, the World Series was an afterthought. I was the lone voice in the wilderness after the attacks that said sports must get back on the field, if only to get back to whatever “normal” means. Five years later, I still feel that way. Selfishly I went out of my mind waiting for something, anything to take my mind off of what had occurred. High school football was also getting ready to start in Connecticut, and only two games were cancelled following the attacks. One of them was Greenwich hosting Norwalk, a game that I was scheduled to broadcast on WGCH. While disappointed, I understood because Chuck Zion, the father of Zach Zion, a member of the Greenwich Cardinals, died in one of the World Trade Center towers.

Mr. Zion was one of just a few people that I even remotely knew who perished that day. Otherwise, I knew people who knew people who died, like the boyhood friend of a close friend of mine. He was a Port Authority officer whose death is portrayed in the Oliver Stone film “World Trade Center.”

Fortunately in due time, sports did return, and the Yankees were front and center. Yes, the Mets and Mike Piazza got back to the field first, with an epic home run against the Braves (no comment about their ceremonies that night), but the Yankees, as they often do, eventually stole the spotlight. First they went on and won the American League East. Then came Derek Jeter’s “flip” play, part of a stirring comeback against Oakland. The Yankees were down two games to none before winning two straight in Oakland. I was fortunate enough to go to the decisive Game 5, and the mood there after the Yankees won the series was nothing short of relieved elation. It wasn’t overly jubilant, but more of a fun, friendly atmosphere. For the first time in 50 days, I saw a lot of smiles in the New York metropolitan area. I got the feeling that people didn’t quite know how to react. Celebrating in a building that had recently held a memorial service for “9/11” victims seemed strange.

More smiles, and a sense of pride, came in the American League Championship, as the Yankees beat the Seattle Mariners. The M’s had won a record 116 games during the regular season, a fact which is now obscured due to their failure to win the World Series. That set up the Yankees against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The word from those who were in the desert was that, while their was fear and compassion regarding what had happened in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, people outside of the Northeast generally didn’t care. I was always afraid of that, and hoped it wasn’t true.

Things didn’t start well in games one and two at Yankee Stadium. The Bronx Bombers looked old and flat, getting dominated by dual aces Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. Back in New York, the most stirring first pitch ceremony in baseball history preceded Game 3, as President George W. Bush stood on the mound ad fired a strike. The Yankees would get just enough to win the game and cut the series lead to 2-1.

Then came Game 4. The Yankees were flat again, down 3-1 heading into the bottom of the 9th. Side-arming right-handed closer Byung-Hyun Kim was embarrassing the Yankees, until Paul O’Neill flared a single to left with one out. With two outs, Tino Martinez stepped to the plate. Martinez would later say that he knew Kim would start him with a fastball, and Tino just wanted to get a good swing. He did better, as the ball landed in the right center field bleachers. Bedlam ensued, as it would again when Jeter homered for the win off of Kim. A new name was born – “Mr. November.” The series was tied.

I can only imagine that Mets fans were in hell. Not only was the evil crosstown team inching towards their possible 27th world championship, but there was almost a feeling that the northeast, and perhaps the country, were rooting for them. New York needed to smile, right? Personally I think that’s nuts. No self-respecting Mets, Red Sox, or any other fan would dare to root for the Yankees.

My father in-law and I went to Game 5. We stood there in disbelief as we watched the events of that night. Again, the Yankees were down two in the bottom of the ninth, except this time, it was 2-0. In the top of the ninth inning, fans serenaded crowd favorite Paul O’Neill by chanting his name. O’Neill was planning to retire after the season. I would have joined them in the chanting, but O’Neill was one of my favorites. I didn’t want to cry.

Jorge Posada would start the Bomber ninth with a double. But the rally would stall, until Scott Brosius came to the plate, down to the last out again. From our vantage point in the very top of the upper deck, just to the first base side of home plate, we watched Brosius put a good swing on a Kim pitch. But this couldn’t be happening, could it? Was I really seeing the ball disappear into the sea of raised arms in the left field seats? Was I really feeling the grand old stadium shake? It was amazing. Again, the Yankees would win in extra innings. One more win, and the world championship would belong to New York.

As sports fans, we’ve all injected God into the discussion at one time or another. God’s a (blank) fan – insert team name in the blank. There’s “Touchdown Jesus” at Notre Dame. So after everything that New York had been through, it was fate. The Yankees HAD to win the World Series.

The Lord moves in mysterious ways.

Not only would they not win the World Series but it would end in epic fashion. The Diamondbacks dominated Game 6, and embarrassed the Yankees, 15-2. Game 7 would be the kind of game that baseball fans love. I would normally love it, but I don’t ever want to see it again. Up a run, the Diamondbacks would scratch for two in the bottom of the ninth. I sat on my couch at home, stunned.

That’s why, although I love watching the replays of the home runs by Martinez and Brosius, the happy memories evoke the heartache as well. I’ve heard many people talk about how the 2001 series loss wasn’t that bad. Wasn’t the 2004 collapse against the Red Sox worse? And considering what had happened a few miles away, wasn’t it just enough to get the World Series and give New York such excitement?

Well yes…and a definitive no. Yes, the ’04 loss stung, but at least that was the ALCS. Still, they probable hurt just as much. But as a Yankees fan or player, it is never enough to just get to the World Series. That being said, the ’01 Yankees were old, and clearly at the end of their run. Martinez, Brosius, and O’Neill would all be gone, and the 2002 Yankees would be decidedly different. So if the Diamonbacks had run through the Yankees in five, or even six games, the hurt would have been minimal. However, winning the middle three games, especially Games 4 and 5 in such incredible fashion only adds to the hurt. The world championship was there for the taking.

It’s funny. Yankees fans supposedly don’t now pain. But that’s bull. For the thrills of 1977, 1978, 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2000, how about 1981, or 1995, or 2001, or 2003, or 2004? Oh we know pain, that’s for sure. I don’t exactly expect anyone to feel our pain though. I didn’t expect anybody to pity us in 2001 either. That’s the beauty of New Yorkers. With sports, as in life, we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and move on.

Oh, I can’t finish without a quick nod to Steve Irwin, who had more guts than I’ll ever know. Not only was he not terrified of reptiles (unlike me), but he reveled in being around them. He seemed like a good person, and was so passionate about what he did. With his passing, as cheesy as it is, all I can say is crikey. Take care, mate.

NOTE – Final score – Steelers 28, Dolphins 17. The officiating doesn’t appear to have improved from last year, with bad calls on both sides. Still a win is a win.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Laborious Thoughts (General)

Happy Labor Day all. I hit this Labor Day with a mixture of sadness and hope. The sadness comes from the end of a summer that was in so many ways, short and less-than-sweet. Back in the spring, the promise of the summer of 2006 had the makings of being tremendous. My wife (whom I thinking about creating a pseudonym for) and I had bought and moved into a house in April, and we were looking forward to buying a pool, hosting countless parties, making some improvements to the house, and hopefully sneaking away for a few “date nights” and a few vacations.

Then came May 25th. A company-wide meeting was supposed to happen at my job to review our business performance. Then I, and approximately 15 of my fellow coworkers, received an ominous email from our company president. It said, roughly, that there would be a special pre-meeting meeting that we were to attend. The email was addressed to the president from the president. If you know anything about doing blind emails, that was it. If you also know anything about reading between the lines, then the email was clear. I was going to learn that I was losing my job at that pre-meeting.

Indeed, that was the case. It was the fourth layoff that I have been a part of. Like the others, it was quick and rather painless. Like the others, I handled it as well as I could. I was dignified, and I made sure to burn no bridges and leave quietly. There would be plenty of time for the other emotions to happen. Eventually, away from management and coworkers, I was angry, depressed, bitter, sarcastic, and more. I was also hopeful that the pain would be short-lived.

Each previous layoff had its quirks. When I was laid off from Kraft Foods in 1996, I was still very young. I joined the former General Foods in 1988 at the age of 19. I moved from the mailroom to an accounts payable job within nine months. My father had died about a week before I was told that I had gotten the A/P job, so there seemed to be something cosmic about it. Truthfully I had no business in that job. I was working on a Communications/Media degree (which took me a looooong time to get), and in a lot of ways, veering off into accounting was a detriment, at least in the eyes of some. I always thought it proved, quite frankly, how talented I was. I can learn almost anything and adapt to whatever.

I stayed at General Foods through three name changes. General begat Kraft General begat Kraft. This was inevitable, as was the elimination of my job, which would move to the Chicago area, home of…surprise!…Kraft’s corporate office. Such is life. I lasted nearly a decade with them, and needed to move on so that I could begin to grow as a professional. It was a great place to work, but it was probably just as well.

Around the same time that I left Kraft, I found out that WREF, the radio station that I was hoping to grab a full-time job with, was changing ownership and moving to Danbury, CT, where it would continue, basically without a staff. I would be the last live on-air voice in their Ridgefield studios in March of 1997.

I’ll spare you the rest of my resume, except to say that I was next laid off, in 2001, from the former Micro Warehouse. At 10:30 in the morning on that fateful June day, my wife told me that she was pregnant. AT 4:30 that same day, I was packing my desk.

I’ve been aggressive during my time off, looking into any and all opportunities. I’ve also contacted a number of agencies to assist in the process. So far, the job hunt has not been fruitful. I’ve picked up a few things at WGCH over the summer, but that would not be possible without the thoughtfulness of both Ricky Fritsch and Tony Savino. They each took some time off, and gave me their open work. It’s a little something that I appreciate.

One of the biggest things I’ve heard during the summer is “don’t get depressed.” Well it’s easier said than done, especially when you’re checking your phone and email to see if they work. So the key thing is to be very careful how you analyze the situation. Ignoring it won’t help, because I need to keep strategizing. At this point, I would consider a career change from marketing, if it will help me find some gainful employment. That brings me back to what I said earlier – that I fit into a lot of situations.

I didn’t want the summer off. If you read “Exit 55” consistently, you will discover many things about me. One of those things will be that I often deal with a lot of guilt. That has been issue number one during this time. The pressure on my wife has been immeasurable to stay gainfully employed. My guilt has been with dealing with that, and the feeling that I let her, and our son, down by getting into this situation. Compounding that has been the inability to get something…anything! Now we’re talking about part-time jobs for both of us.

This was not meant to sound whiny, and I hope it doesn’t come off that way. If anything, it was meant to be information. I know there are far more dire situations than ours. I’m very hopeful that September is the key month. As Labor Day passes, the market tends to open up. We have many exciting things that we look forward to as a family, and we want to make them happen. As the man of the house, it is paramount to me that I can contribute to my home, financially, emotionally and spiritually. A new job situation will also improve my confidence. I look forward to it happening very soon.

In job-related news, I’m really looking forward to getting back on the air this Saturday, as WGCH begins its 2006 high school football coverage. The Greenwich High School Cardinals travel across town to Cosby Field, right on the New-York/Connecticut border, to take on the Brunswick School Bruins. The Bruins are the defending New England prep school champions, while the Cards are a perennial powerhouse. Greenwich is coming off a down year in which they were 8-2. That’s right – an eight-win season is considered a “down year” in Greenwich. Put it this way: I’ve been around Cardinals football since 1999, and last year was the first time that I didn’t have a post-season game to broadcast for the team known as “Big Red.” Ricky Fritsch, Nick Angotto, and Zach Fisher will join me at Cosby Field for the call of the game. Sean Kilkelly, who writes the wonderful “Rangers Lead The Way” blog, handles our studio programming. Want to hear, in my humble opinion, the best in high school coverage? Tune into 1490 AM, or on the internet at, beginning at 10:50 Saturday morning.

The rest of our schedule is can be found at Check us out and let me know what you think.