Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Classy Sunday

(Photo by Shanna)
With great thanks to Shanna for the best ticket upgrade of my life, Kris and I (and Shanna) enjoyed the incredible Mariano Rivera retirement ceremony on Sunday.  It was a day of pure class, from Metallica (yes, they were classy) to the guests: Gene Michael, Jeff Nelson, John Wetteland, David Cone, Tino Martinez, Paul O'Neill, Joe Torre, Bernie, Williams, Jorge Posada, Rachel and Sharon Robinson, and the Rivera family.

Not to be forgotten was Andy Pettitte, who pitched his tail off, flirting with both a no-hitter and a perfect game, allowing two runs on two hits with one walk.

And he took the loss.  Ponderous.
 Anyway, time (as usual) is short for me today, but I did want to throw a few pictures up.
The boys - Kris enjoys a rare beer (Shanna photo)

Metallica rocks The Bronx (Shanna)
Oh, and this guy made a video appearance.  Total class.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Andy Pettitte to Follow Mariano Rivera Into Retirement

The news is breaking from several sources - I'll give credit to WFAN, whom I saw tweet it earlier - that Andy Pettitte will announce his retirement today.

He is scheduled to start Sunday at Yankee Stadium, against the Giants.  That is also the same day as the farewell ceremony for Mariano Rivera. Pettitte will then start against the Astros in Houston and finish up a fine career.

It's the end of an era for sure.  The talk about Andy and the Hall of Fame has already begun.  To be certain, there are a few things: he was a wonderful big game pitcher.

He also used PED's, and owned up to it.

I guarantee that there are already PED users in the Hall, with more on the way.

So let's not be so myopic and say Pettitte isn't a Hall of Famer purely because of PED's.  Say he isn't an elite pitcher if you want.  That's your call.  There's no doubt that PED's will part of the narrative, but be fair about it at least, given that, as I said, there are already users in the Hall, with more on the way.

That's why the list of names should be released.  Once and for all.

Anyway, I'll enjoy watching Andy pitch Sunday, and saluting Mo at the same time.  It's going to be emotional in The Bronx.

With Jorge Posada have retired after 2011, and Andy and Mo leaving this year, the Core Four is down to one...

Friday, September 13, 2013

Ugh...One Rainy Night at Cardinal Stadium

The scene at Cardinal Stadium (courtesy Paul Silverfarb)
Does anyone remember when George Steinrenner, perfectionist nonpareil, issued an apology for the Yankees' performance in the 1981 World Series?  Of course, Boss George was roundly criticized for doing so, but he expected nothing less than victory from his beloved Bombers.

I feel that way after the most recent broadcast at Greenwich High School.

WGCH was in the house (Cardinal Stadium) for the Greenwich/West Haven kickoff to open the season.  Though I didn't get to the press box as early as I would have preferred, I still felt comfortable with enough time to setup shop.

I got to work; plug this here, put that there, assign this mixer pot to Chris Erway, I'll take pot number five, set something up for Matt "Stats" Bozzuto, and have the wireless mics ready to go for Tom "Sizemore" Prizeman and Paul Silverfarb.

Things soon fell apart, and fast.  We didn't have enough radios for guys to listen to the broadcast on the field.  The Marti - our transmission unit to send a signal back to the studio - wasn't working.  We'd have to go by cell phone and we didn't have the right clip to hook that up.

Turns out our antenna on top of Cardinal Stadium had been knocked down.  So while we were feeding the Marti, the Marti wasn't feeding the antenna...and couldn't send anything back to the studio.

We went with my iPhone.  Nope, that was a disaster also, as people could sort of hear me, basically not hear Chris at all, and mostly hear the public address announcer.

These were probably all things that an on-site engineer, whose sole purpose it is to fix these things, could fix.  Alas, I'm that guy.  You know, budget and all.  Except I'm doing 20 things at once.

Just to be sure, I'm hardly alone.  Many produce their own broadcasts.

On the field, they kicked off close to 10 minutes early.  That didn't help things.  In the studio, both Sean Kilkelly and Bob Small were calmly trying to assist by describing what they were hearing.

The problem was I needed help - there.  In the booth.

It took until halftime to work it out.  We simply needed time and we didn't have that.  It was all on the fly.

Greenwich had a 7-0, second quarter lead, before the Westies broke off two long runs to take a 13-7 lead at halftime.  We had our transmission problems fixed (still on via cell phone though) but I now had to hold the cell phone in my hand to keep from having ridiculous static on the line.

Tom couldn't really hear us on the field.  We didn't have a radio for Paul, so we had only one sideline guy.  Tom, to his infinite credit, was happy to be there, and would have understood if he just got to watch.  Paul, honestly, had his own hellacious day, so he was probably just as happy to pass on joining us.

Jason Intrieri, waiting patiently to do his FCIAC Insider report, didn't join us in the pregame and was ready to go at halftime, except that I was furiously trying to fix things.

Did I mention that there had been lightning strikes in the vicinity of Cardinal Stadium not too long after kickoff, and that almost all other games had been postponed?  In the second half, those strikes got closer, and eventually, with 8:33 to go in the third quarter, the officials halted the game.  They said they would reassess things within a half hour.

Now, in the booth, Tom and his dad, Ryan DeMaria (just there to watch), Chris, Matt, and me, along with assorted others, stood or sat shoulder to shoulder.  Dick Leonard stayed at his trusty public address microphone.  Evan Dubin (who thoroughly enjoyed an off-air meltdown of mine) was at the scoreboard controls.  Jason rejoined us to come on the air - having run back from the parking lot.

We did a 45-minute chat on things around football and so on.  It was, likely, the best part of the broadcast.  Of course, I did have a complaint email about the sound quality of the early part of the evening.

At 8:00, I broke for news and to go back to "regular programming" when we received the final word on the night.  Sean got me right back on the air.

The game had been officially suspended, and would be picked up Sunday at 1:00 (it's since been changed to 12:30).  "So we will talk you just before 1:00 on Sunday," I said. I wrapped up the broadcast when Sean told me, off the air, that WGCH had a Bridgeport Bluefish broadcast that would conflict with us.

At that point, what could I do other than laugh?  We've tape-delayed one football game since I started, and that was in 2000.  We've never, to my knowledge, missed airing a game.

(And yes, we are going to tape it and play it following the conclusion of the Bluefish)

The night had been an unqualified disaster.  It happens to all of us in the business.

But wait!  There's more.  Ryan informed me that, as he ran out of the stadium with Jason, he lost his wallet.  I looked and looked and looked - as rain continued to pummel - but couldn't find it.  Happily, Paul Silverfarb told me that the wallet had been found and was in the possession of the Greenwich Police Department.

I'm sure there is something that I've missed in this wacky tale (some of it on purpose), but darned if I can remember it.  In a week that I'd like to forget, this wasn't even the coda.  Earlier today, I got a call from someone I interviewed for a piece in the Wilton Bulletin.  Seems I attributed his quotes to the wrong person.  What can one do except apologize and fix it in the online edition?

Thankfully we have more football to cover this year to atone for everything (we're at Darien next Saturday).  So while we have a story to tell for the ages, we simply move on.

People watch me and ask why I continue to do it.  Some tell me to just walk away - it's bad for my health and so on.  But the "why" is simple.  I think I'm OK at it.  I care about it.  That's why I do get really frustrated/annoyed at times with the equipment, bureaucracy, etc.  I feel that we put on a really good broadcast and I have expectations. 

In the end, when it's all working, there are few places I'd rather be than in a broadcast booth.  I'm with my friends, and I'm near people that I get to see all too rarely.

Yet something was missing about opening night, 2013.  None of the buildup.  No butterflies.  No surge of emotion.  

It was a night when just about everything - for everyone - went wrong.  I feel like I should apologize to everyone for it.

Just like Boss George.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Peter Mansbridge and September 11

We know the narrative pretty much by heart now.

September 11, 2001.  8:46 am.  Four airplanes.  Nearly 3000 dead in New York, Virginia, and Shanksville, PA.

The memories are so vivid.  Certain details get lost in the passage of time, but the major points can't be forgotten.

For me, the day is etched.  It was amazing weather.  The first plane struck right around the corner or Routes 139 and 100 near Katonah, NY as I drove to Greenwich.  I was listening to Don Imus.  The second one hit as I was on Interstate 684.  I had turned to WCBS news radio 880.

I listening, watched, and read.  Everybody had - and still has - a story to tell.

September 11 turned to September 12 and, like many, I was up very early.  I was awakened by a low-flying aircraft (I always forget what kind it was) around 4:30 or so, and stayed up.  Moments later, after retrieving the newspaper from the edge of the driveway, I was right back in front of the TV, and listening to the radio.

Later that evening, after I went and did "Tee Time" with Michael Breed on WGCH, I returned home and watched as cameras were focused on the Empire State Building, with the news that a bomb scare was going on.  The camera focused just as it did on the World Trade Center towers the day before.

It was at that moment that I needed a time out.  I was done.  If the Empire State Building did come down, well, I don't know.  It just felt like it would be too much.  But I still needed to stay in touch with the story.

I don't remember which channel it was - I think it was C-Span, maybe PBS, it doesn't matter - was carrying coverage from CBC, the Canadian Broadcast Corporation.  After days of Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, along with cable and local broadcasters, I began watching the Canadian broadcast.

Enter Peter Mansbridge, anchor of The National, Canada's answer to our nightly news programs.

Like the others, he seemed very much the prototypical network news anchor.  Warm, authoritative, trusting.

I don't even remember what he said that worked for me, but whatever it was, it was effective. For some reason, it seemed less - this might not be the right word - hyperbolic.  Something about Mansbridge and the CBC team was calming.  You can say it was because they weren't attached to the story, but to a point they were, as of course, they're our neighbors and, many of the grounded planes on September 11 had to land in Canada.
Peter Mansbridge
 I was still able to get the news.  Eventually I returned to watching everything, but I'll never forget the work of Mansbridge, who became anchor of The National in 1988.

So when I think about September 11, many images flash in my memory.  Many names come to my mind.

Peter Mansbridge is one of those names.

As always, I will listen to Bruce's The Rising today.  If you feel like you can stand listening to it, here is the montage of audio I assembled after events of September 11, 2001.  I post it as a tribute to the lives lost.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Scott Fujita's New Orleans

Sean in Jackson Square, New Orleans, March, 2006.
There's a really nice piece on Fox Sports today from former New Orleans Saints linebacker Scott Fujita about his recruiting visit to New Orleans in March, 2006.

The visit came not quite six months after Hurricane Katrina had pummeled the Crescent City.

Scott's memories are quite evocative.  He spoke of how strange the city looked and how decimated it was.  The only thing is, I have a few different memories.

I, too, was there in March, 2006. My great-niece, Kendall, was being baptized there.

She was born in Texas in October, 2005 - the result of Katrina scattering people out of New Orleans.  Her parents, (her mother is my niece, Laura) were down there in the Navy.  They left their base in Belle Chasse and went to Texas.  Upon their return to Louisiana, they suffered minimal damage, only losing some food and fish, if memory serves.

Personally, I've always been fond of New Orleans.  I first visited it in December, 1975, but a seven-year-old really doesn't "get" NOLA.  My next trip wouldn't be until December, 2003 when I came back to attend the baseball Winter Meetings.  My mom and my niece, Stephanie, came along to see Laura.

Then came Katrina.  Like many, I watched whatever I could on TV.  Then I read.  I listened to streaming radio, mostly of WWL, the big AM news station.  I recognized so many of the places being shown, including the convention center, whose halls I had walked roughly two years earlier.

Laura wanted Kendall to be christened, and we all wanted to be there.  She delayed it until March, when it was hoped that things would be somewhat better.

They were.  Slightly.

Things were good in the French Quarter.  Oh, not great, and let's be clear about that.  But there were places to eat, like the Crescent City Brewhouse, where I had gumbo and jambalaya for dinner on our first night.  Pat O'Brien's was still open to get a Hurricane.  Bourbon Street was, well, Bourbon Street (and, yes, we had Sean with us, but it's fairly tame in the daylight hours).

Cafe Du Monde was cranking out great coffee and beignets.  These were just some small signs that life would go on in The Big Easy.

The casino was open as well, and many hotels and other businesses had returned.  The zoo was also open.  New Orleans, ravaged by a storm, politics and, one might say, the government, was trying to put on a happy face.

The picture I took of Sean, in Jackson Square,  makes New Orleans look pretty good, right?

Now the outlying areas were a pretty different story.  Things were hit and miss, for instance, down LA Route 23 towards where the baptism would be held.  I recall finding a Subway that was open for lunch.  Oakwood Shopping Center, which I stayed next to in 2003, was closed and took a long time to rebuild.  The Riverwalk Mall, near the convention center, was open but eerily empty.  No food tenants were open.  A few stores were.

Just outside, a streetcar line was deserted, but the gate was down and the crossing lights flashed as the bell rang out.  Constantly.

It was like a ghost streetcar was coming by, with Marlon Brando yelling "STELLA!"

(Sorry, cheesy reference)

That was where the devastation hit me the most, because I had spent so much time in the Riverwalk area a few years earlier.  It was sad.

Tolls weren't being collected on the Crescent City Connector (Business Route US 90).  Many downtown traffic lights worked.  But many didn't.

From the air, the blue tarps that were on everyone's houses were abundant.  It was a stark introduction, enough that a passenger on the plane with us made note of it.  I remember getting a rental car - all they had were mini-vans - and it smelled.  But, really, who could possibly complain?

We stayed in the Country Inn and Suites on Magazine Street.  It amazed me, considering the looting and everything else, what fabulous shape this place was in. 

The devastation was apparent though.  The first view of the Louisiana Superdome - which I remembered seeing for the first time in '75 (it had opened only a few months earlier), and then in '03 - was remarkable.  A banner stretched across the front promised the Saints (and the NFL) would be back.  It would, with the Saints beating the Falcons 23-3.

It was a strange trip; that gathering in 2006.  The smells, the sadness, he destruction and yet the smiles and good natures.  Only a mile or so away from the French Quarter is the Lower Ninth Ward, the site of some of the worst Katrina and levee breaches left behind.  Thanks to media coverage and a Spike Lee documentary, we all know just how bad the Ninth Ward was hit.  As I drove Interstate 10, I could see, in the distance, how bad it looked.

I couldn't - I wouldn't - drive into the neighborhood.  The last thing they needed was some nosy New Yorkers.

Other areas were hit very hard.  Lakeview, Metarrie, Plaquemines Parish, Algiers, and so on.  The names became familiar.  So did the faces of the politicians.

It was an ugly time.

Scott Fujita made it his home, despite what he saw.

I haven't been back since.  But I've wanted to go again.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Boyle Stadium's New Look

Scott Ericson, now of the Stamford Advocate and formerly of the Greenwich Time, tweeted this:

(PS, congrats to Scott on the new gig.  Nice guy, and I'm happy for him.)

Paul Silverfarb and I had just talked about this a few days ago.  We ranked the FCIAC football facilities from 1-18.  There are 19 teams, but Bassick and Bridgeport Central share Kennedy Stadium (bad turf, big facility, bad concessions, love the view from the press box, which is a long walk to reach).

I hesitate to list all 18 as, nice guy that I try to be, I don't necessarily want to rip any particular facilities.  Some are rough - bad press box, field, parking, etc.  Some are wonderful.  It's fair to keep in mind that education is priority number one, so their athletic facilities aren't high on the list.

Boyle Stadium in Stamford is, to me, the cradle of FCIAC football.  It's where the Championship should always be.  It should be returned there, at once.

But...I'm worried about this new press box.  I know the old one was falling down, but I loved calling games from there.  Whether I was sitting in the general area, or tucked into the side booth that I got to use a few times, there was nothing like Boyle.  The view was great.  While everything is this era can often be sterile, Boyle was big, concrete, and rough around the edges.

They've made smart updates to it, such as the field, and that was much-needed.  The turf had turned to concrete.

This new press box, Scott reports, is only accessible from outside the stadium.  Unique, certainly, but not entirely uncommon.  I've been to a few of those.  It's also on the opposite side of the old press box.

Sadly, Boyle is not on the calendar for me in 2013.  Yet.

But I hope it will be.

So, how did I rank the fields of the FCIAC?  I will say, obviously, that Boyle is #1, followed by Dunning Field in New Canaan, with Casagrande Field in Norwalk, Crotty Stadium in Danbury, and McDougall Stadium in Trumbull rounding out my top 5.  I took everything into account: game experience, press box, concessions, parking, cell phone service, staff, and more.

It's not very scientific, of course.  I've called at least one game in every current FCIAC footbal facility, with one exception: Tetreau-Davis Field in Fairfield (Fairfield Warde*).  That will be rectified in 2014, when the Cardinals play there.

* I originally wrote "Ludlowe" instead of "Warde" for Tetreau-Davis Field.  My bad.  Thanks to Tim Parry for politely correcting me.  I knew what I was writing at the time, and yet my fingers STILL typed the wrong word.  It happens.

As for Cardinal Stadium, well, it's home, but it's flawed.  The press box is small (try fitting two broadcasting outlets in there - we do it, but it's a chore) but it does have heat and air conditioning.  The view is unique in that I have to adjust if the action is near the east end zone.  I've been known to lean out the window to my right - even sit there.  The lights...well...the lights (looong story) and the turf is looking long in the tooth.

Of course, given the fights that were waged for the lights and the Cardinals Nest (where the concession stand is), we won't even get into the lack of restrooms.

I guess what I'm saying is that I love Cardinal Stadium.  Like I said, it's home.  But it could be so much more and, I'm willing to bet, those who call it their field would love that as well.

Oh I'm not complaining about any of this.  I'm happy to have these things to talk about, and love that we're just a week away from kicking off the 2013 season.