Monday, November 20, 2006

All right, Mr. Zito, I’m ready for my close-up!

My career reached a new pinnacle today, with a visit to Staples High School in Westport. For those who don’t know, that is the home of the Staples Wreckers, the current archrival of the Greenwich Cardinals. The purpose of my visit was to be on Jason Intrieri’s TV show, “Coaches Corner.” Tim Parry and Staples coach Marce Petroccio were the other participants in the roundtable.

So why do I say, “Mr. Zito, I’m ready for my close-up?” Because Mike Zito is the man who runs the behind-the-scenes portions of the impressive Staples TV and radio studios. It’s very much Jason’s show, but you have to have a steady hand to direct, run the cameras, edit, and produce DVD’s for those of us who want proof of our efforts. Um…that would be me. Anyway, Mike did a great job of keeping everything under control. You can tell he runs the ship but at the same time, just turns things on and lets the magic happen. That’s what the best directors do.

After we finished taping the show, Mike asked Coach Petroccio, Tim and me to do something extra for the play-by-play “voice” of Staples football, Greg Kaplan on WWPT, 90.3 FM. Kaplan, along with Patrick Toole, and Mike Friedman had the call of the Bridgeport Central-Wreckers game back on October 14th. The Wreckers needed every last second of game time to pull of a remarkable 17-14 win at home on a pass from RJ Marsilio to Mike Samela. Now to be fair, I am an extremely harsh critic of announcers. Also to be fair, I am not a fan of screaming, and have even cringed at the classic call of “The Giants Win The Pennant” by the late Russ Hodges from 1951, when Bobby Thompson hit the famous “shot heard ‘round the world.” But as I listened to the call of this moment, I had to remind myself of two things – 1) these are young men with a golden opportunity to call play by play of Staples football home games and either put it on their resumes or cherish it as a memory, and 2) the enthusiasm of the call is the result of spontaneity (OK and maybe being students at Staples High had something to do with that also). The bottom line is that I laugh every time I hear it.

Trust me, there are many calls of big moments that I would love to have back. I’ve received kudos for some big calls and the truth is that I wish I had called them differently. For instance, Greenwich and Trinity played a classic basketball game in 2002 that came down to a last-minute bucket by Dave McClure. After a moment to ponder what I had just described, I let go with the word, “Insanity.” My old friend and hockey broadcast partner, John Spang, has never let me forget it, though that’s because he liked it. I also don’t like the way I called the Harrison-Chenango Forks football nail-biter in 2002. When Peter Kohlasch of Harrison hit the championship-winning field goal, I simply yelled “GOOD!” Looking back, I think I sound too wrapped up in it.

My point is, Greg was apparently embarrassed by the call, according to those I’ve talked to. He shouldn’t be. We’re our own toughest critics and it seems everybody likes the call. In many ways, he received a level of celebrity that is hard to achieve, and all in good fun. If I were still doing a talk show, I would hunt him down for a chat. As it was, I was going to find him and introduce myself this Thursday, but Jason told me that they only do home games. Anyway, if these guys ever wanted to sit and talk about calling games, they could get in touch with me any time. I love to talk about the business and doing what I can to help young broadcasters. Not only with technique and suggestions, but to talk about the history of our “profession.”

When all is said and done, kudos to these guys for having an opportunity that I would have give anything to have at their age, and for having an on-air moment that few will ever know. If I’ve posted it correctly, listen and enjoy.

Back to the TV show experience. This was the first time that I had ever had a chance to talk with Marce Petroccio, other than a “hello” or “any injuries?” kind of chat. As the so-called “voice” of the Cardinals, I shouldn’t be infiltrating into Wreckers Nation, and hanging with the evil Coach P. At least, that’s what some might think. If I like Coach Albonizio, how can I sit and talk with Coach Petroccio. Don’t they hate each other?

Don’t be stupid.

Sure, they’re rivals. Maybe they don’t see each other beyond coaches meetings and the like. But I’ve never had any inkling of any bad feelings between two of the most-successful coaches the FCIAC has ever seen. I really enjoyed laughing with Coach P about a number of things, and felt like I made a new contact by the end of the day. He couldn’t have been more gracious and accommodating. I look forward to many future conversations with him. The coaches in the FCIAC, and anywhere else for that matter, are a big fraternity. There’s a load of respect between these people. While I understand the nature of Yankees-Red Sox (believe me!), or Mets-Yankees (ditto!), or Ohio State-Michigan, and so on, I think high school rivalries are different. I went to Mahopac and sure I hated Carmel. But I never wanted to hurl epithets at them, or hurt them. I wanted it to be good, clean fun. That’s the way Greenwich-Staples should be. At the end of the day, the kids are going to go eat their turkey (or tofu, or turducken, or whatever) and not lament things too much. It’s the parents, as usual, who need to get a grip, and be the role models. Remember, nobody’s getting paid to play in these games. Even those on the periphery (coaches, broadcasters, etc) are only getting a pittance. It’s all about perspective.

So the show went well, with individual chats for each of us with Jason, then a final roundtable with all of us. I think I did OK, because I’ve been asked to come back for another show, this time with Coach P and Coach Al. Back in the day (as they say), I would have asked Jason if we could play the audio of the show on WGCH during “The Press Box.” I think it’s important to see (or in this case, hear) people, and give them the respect they deserve. I’m not sure Coach Al gets his respect in Westport, and I think it’s fair to say that Marce Petroccio doesn’t get the respect he deserves in Greenwich.

One last thing before I move on. Jason asked so many questions and I handled them well, but the one thing I wasn’t prepared for (and should have been – look at the calendar!!) was, “What are you thankful for? “ Poor Tim had to go first, and I won’t give his answer away. I went second and discussed things away from football – things that are very close to my heart. As those of you know from reading the blog, 2006 has been a mixed bag. Sure, The Wife and I bought a house, but I also got laid off and have struggled to get work since. Paying the bills has been a real challenge, and patience has been tested. Working in radio is my favorite thing but most of the time, it’s a hobby and nothing more because at this stage, I can’t pay a mortgage on that kind of salary. So I’ve really battled with my confidence, self-esteem, and some bitterness and depression. Plus I worry about my health, as I hit 38 on Wednesday, and my cholesterol resembles a good batting average. Beyond that, I have other significant things that I can’t and won’t address here. As I said earlier, it’s about perspective. There are people with far worse issues than mine. So when Jason asked the question, I pondered it, and figured that I’m thankful to have health, love, and happiness. We’ll figure the rest of it out.

Anyway, too much serious stuff, so let’s get a few more things out of the way. Yesterday I called the GYFL championships. Normally I love seeing the innocence of these young people, who are playing the game of football and having a lot of fun. Their coaches serve as good models for them and there is normally a lot of sportsmanship in the air. For the most part, there was, but there was one, um, person who thought he was god’s gift to all sports. This clown berated everybody in his path – officials, opponents, and your friendly, neighborhood broadcasters. GYFL Championship Sunday is normally a very lighthearted broadcast, which it needs to be considering calling three games over four-plus hours. It’s a long day, so I try to keep it fun. We also try to get in as much info as we can – player’s names, rules (different from high school football), and so on. This jerk got mad at me for basically not keeping track of the game, in his estimation. Oh, contraire. The fact is the senior game (the one is which his kid or kids participated) was the one that I called closest to a regular game. Do you not have any better things to do with your life? Sad. We gave it our best. Sorry if we weren’t good enough. Next year, see if Al Michaels is available – to broadcast JUST for you.

All in all, we received good feedback, and people seemed to have fun. But there’s always one. Always.

Coach Petroccio was telling me that I should update more often. Now I took this to mean that he, and others associated with Wreckers football, have been reading the blog and enjoying it. You have no idea how much that means to me. As I’ve long said, this is not about just football, or sports, but a mixed bag of everything. In short, this is just a small effort, which is meant to satiate my need for writing. To know that people are reading it, and that it’s creating discussion is a very good thing. I wish I could reopen the comments to anonymous posters, but some spoiled the stew.

Stew…oh, that reminds me. I departed Westport and had lunch sitting in my car at Stew Leonard’s in Norwalk. Clam chowder…oh yeah!

Guess we can put away those “Rutgers – 2006 National Champions” T-shirts, eh?

Oh, I’ve updated all of the labels so that you can find things a little easier now. Want to only read the High School Football posts? Now you can!


Tim Parry said...

True or False:

1) Rob did a great job on The Coach's Corner (True)

2) Marce Petroccio is "Jeremy from Port Chester" (False)

3) That Parry guy has no broadcasting skills (True)

Rob Adams said...

1) False! He was best.

2) OK, I'll go along with that one. We can eliminate Marce.

3) Come on! I told you with your knowledge that you could be a good analyst!