Friday, November 29, 2013

Assumption Leads to Disappointment

Staples Field, Westport, CT, a little after 7:00 am. Taken Nov. 28, 2013.
This is my own fault.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. For me, it's the 13th straight year that I've spent my turkey day morning at a football field, calling a game on WGCH. Over time, we've seen the Greenwich Thanksgiving game turn into an event, complete with a large tailgate. While I'm fine with turkey and the trimmings, my mouth waters thinking about the annual hot sausage, egg, cheese, and...oooohhh YES...chili sandwich.

I talked it up on The Press Box. Kato, CJ, Paul, and others were having visions of said food dancing in their heads.

I knew Thanksgiving, 2013 would be a busy day. Having to drive to Staples High School in Westport is not a pleasant thought so early in the morning on a very cold day. In fact, it might have been the coldest Thanksgiving I've covered, with the wind included in the mix. Yet with the knowledge of the tailgate, and an early HAN Radio pregame show before the WGCH coverage began, I set the alarm for 5:00 am.

I didn't make it, rising at 4:45. As much as I wanted some extra sleep, I passed, pulling myself together. I still had to print out my scorecard, and various game notes, along with getting the Staples roster off the CIAC website. (which was, in part, inaccurate, thank you very much).

I was on the road just after 6, with the equipment in the car, a chill in the air, and background noise on the radio. The news spoke of cold temperatures and possibly black ice.

Around Pound Ridge, NY, I heard a thump and listened as the sound of something dragging began. Muffler? Flat tire? The mind wandered. Of course, my trusty car is heading towards 240,000 miles, so any noise makes me shake.  I found a place to stop and got out. I knelt down. Nope. Nothing. Oh, wait.

A stick.  I pulled it out and motored on.

Chris Erway had said he would see me at 7:00, so I hustled to be there in time. Sure enough, I pulled off North Ave. in Westport at 6:59.

Surely, I'll say hello to the tailgating guys, maybe even grab a sandwich, and head down to the booth. Mike Zito, head of WWPT Wreckers Radio, and all around good guy, said the booth would be open by 7:30.

Wait. Nobody's in the parking lot. Well, no nobody, but close. No Cardinals flag. No tables. No grills. No eggs. No cheese.


I texted Mssrs. Erway, Kaelin, and Silverfarb: "Heads up. No tailgate."

Oh, by the way, can somebody bring me something to eat?

I left the house empty-handed.  No coffee or anything.

Later on, several people would say the same thing, but the truth is, nobody needed to tell anyone that the tailgate was off. The tailgate is done through tremendous generosity, and nobody - certainly not some radio guy - is owed an explanation.

Oh no, this is on me. I was the dummy who left the house without coffee. I was the dope who didn't at least have a bowl of cereal. They have the right to pull a tailgate without any prior notice.

It was bitter cold at Staples High. A few stragglers made their way in.

Staples is probably the hardest of the FCIAC schools to find, and Chris Erway's GPS failed him. So he called me for help.

He called me a second time when I was in the booth trying to set up the broadcast. Somebody had walked in, and chuckled as they heard me say, "Take 57 south. No, don't take 136 north. Go straight."

He was there by 7:45. Chris Kaelin, the hero of the story, showed up a little after 8:00 with a sack full of Sausage McMuffins from McDonald's.

And he threw my money back at me when I tried to pay him.

Football is a game that, like any other sport, can confound. I'm sure many didn't give the Big Red boys from Greenwich a great chance to win this game. Hell, some thought this Cardinals team would win only four or five games. Instead, after yesterday, they're 8-3 and can lament an October loss to Trumbull High School. A win there might have helped them into the Class LL playoffs.

Oh, but they took great pleasure in looking across the field and knocking off the Wreckers. Staples needed a win to advance to the playoffs. The Cardinals played their most complete game of the year in beating the Wreckers, soundly, 27-7.

In the booth -  a place I hadn't worked in at Staples since 2001, we stayed warmer than those in the crowd or on the field. We were solid on the air. We ended the 2013 season on a good note.

As with any year, the last broadcast brings trepidation. Will any of us be here when 2014 begins? Will we all be back? Our lives are all changing and evolving. New jobs, opportunities, and life events take us all in different paths. There will likely be changes of some kind.

What's next? Holy cow, I've been trying to get that question answered.

It was a lot to think about. It also was the end of a couple of supremely hectic weeks. HAN Radio, WGCH, Wilton Bulletin, etc. You get the idea. I was beginning to fall asleep by the time the turkey was hitting my mouth.

I got home, watched the end of a very disappointing Steelers/Ravens game, and was soon asleep.

Food coma? No. Just wiped out.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Tune Your Browsers!

Thanksgiving is a big football time, and Hersam Acorn Radio will have plenty of football talk, beginning today at 2:00 with the Thanksgiving High School Football Pregame Show, live from The Lumberyard Pub in West Redding, CT.

I will host the show with Hersam Acorn sports editors Paul Silverfarb, Bill Bloxsum, Rocco Valluzzo, and maybe others.

Today's show will be available across the many HAN websites, but I'll point you to the Wilton Bulletin, just because.

Then tomorrow, the Chris Kaelin and Chris Erway will join Paul and I for a special Thanksgiving preview, live from Staples Field in Westport. We are planning on a 9:00 start time to preview the games. As soon as we're done calling the Greenwich/Staples game on WGCH, we will shift back to HAN Radio for a quick wrapup.

But WAIT! There's more! We are planning a state playoff preview show on Monday afternoon, and we will be out calling a game on Tuesday night.

So, of course, check your local listings, follow me on Twitter (@double5), and so on.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

In Case You Haven't Heard It - The FCIAC Championship

Here is the audio of the 2013 FCIAC Football Championship, if you haven't heard it.

Overall, a very passable broadcast.

The FCIAC Championship Game

One of the four banners at Friday night's game.
I've had almost 48 hours to ponder our first game broadcast on Hersam Acorn Sports: the 2013 FCIAC Championship football game.

To be sure, it was a long, strenuous day. Despite my focus being on the game, I still have a paper to write for, and to that end had to make my presence known in Wilton (although not in the Ridgefield office). I'm working on a story about the upcoming toy train fair taking place at the Wilton Historical Society and trust me when I say that it will be very cool (the fair, not the story).

After that, I beat the traffic to the Fairfield area, where I treated myself to a birthday lunch of Moe's. Ah yes, true bliss. Nothing like a burrito to make me happy.

And queso. Must have queso.

With broadcast partner Paul Silverfarb living a few minutes from Moe's, what better place could there be to crash, use some wifi, do a little "Wilton Work", and decompress before the game?

Especially since my sister, who lives around the block, wasn't home (she was, in fact, with my son, ironically). Oh, and I caused Paul's wonderful wife, Beth, to have a slight heart attack, but after we used the paddles, she is back and fully functioning.

The short version is that Paul went and got his sons off the bus. I stayed in his place, continuing to work. In came Beth, having no idea I was sitting there. I tried to warn her but, alas, the plan failed.

After playing a quick game with the Silverfarb's (the kids make me feel like a star), I shot over to Trumbull's McDougall Stadium. The place was empty when I got there, but I set about putting the equipment together. I was ready to go in a reasonable amount of time, soon joined by Paul (wearing the same jacket as me, but a different brand), and Chris Kaelin.

We were ready. Except...

Damn you, Trumbull, and your amazingly inadequate cell phone service. Seriously, how can these conferences put these games in places like this? It really is a necessity in this era to have sufficient service for those trying to work, live tweet, send out stats, etc.

Ridgefield, I'm also looking at you, along with a few others. Hell, even Greenwich can be spotty at Cardinal Stadium.

I'd say get wifi, but let's not get crazy.

* Let me also say that, otherwise, Trumbull is a great facility with great people running it. The atmosphere in that booth was amazingly supportive and helpful. Everyone at Trumbull high ran a top-notch operation.

For me (be it with HAN Radio or WGCH), cell service (or wifi) is crucial. At times, I had one bar - ONE - on my phone. I stepped to the roof of the press box and saw three bars (but that dropped to one later). I worried. I tried Verizon (that's me), and AT&T (Paul and Marty Hersam).

We decided to go with my service.

At first, well, I think it was OK. But then I started seeing texts and iChat messages. Of course, me being me, I began to despair. When Marty Hersam appeared in the booth later in the second quarter, I wondered if we were done.

But not so fast.

Marty had Paul hold the phone in his hand. That seemed to work. Eventually, I watched as my phone got taped (!) to the window. The problem was resolved.

I'm told we had a fairly big audience and despite a few negative reviews due to the drop outs, we also had a lot of nice compliments.

Broadcast-wise, Kato was Kato. He brought good commentary, witty remarks, and worked hard to get interviews after the game.

Paul started out fantastically. He is still very new to the lead analyst chair and has already come a long way. I think Friday night was his third time serving as a lead game analyst.  He got tired later on because he hadn't eaten, and holding the phone out the window got a little exhausting. The energy will drain without some fuel.

Me? Meh. I started off very nervous. I felt like I couldn't mentally organize my thoughts. Initially, I felt like I couldn't identify players either. Overall, it was solid in the end, but of course I think I could be better.

We cranked out a broadcast that went past three and a half-hours. After two days of pure emotion and energy, I was drained. Paul and I grabbed a later dinner (a little after 11:00), and I was on the road by 12:30. Just as I thought, I began to nod off through New Canaan.  Feeling confident that I could take a break (and a nap) in Scotts Corners, I pulled into a parking lot around 1:00. Ten minutes later, I woke up to discover a Pound Ridge (NY) police officer looking at my car.

I explained that I was on my way home, very tired, and just paused to get myself together. He ran my license which, at first, seemed excessive, until I found out that there had been some recent robberies in the area.

"I applaud your taking a break," he said. "But you picked the wrong parking lot."

Satisfied with my tale, and my clean license, he wished me well. With that little episode, I was wide awake again and, finally, my long day ended back home after 2:00 am.

I took Saturday for myself.  Now, with football on in the background, I will again begin spitting out stories for Wilton.

The stress and this pace will take a toll eventually, and I'm sure something will have to give, but it's been an exhilarating stretch. Based on what I know from this week, this is only the beginning of Hersam Acorn Radio.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The First Broadcast

Rob Adams, Bill Bosxom, Dave Stewart (photo courtesy of Josh Fisher)
The first broadcast of Hersam Acorn Radio is in the books. I have to say, with all modesty, that I thought it went really well. Regardless of me, it surpassed our expectations.

An article with another picture is up on the New Canaan Advertiser.

So we're off and running.  You can listen to it here.

Ten Minutes to Launch

I'm sitting in our "studio" in the offices of the New Canaan Adveriser, a mere 10 minutes away from the first official broadcast on Hersam Acorn Radio.

After months of a roller coaster ride that culminated in a few hair-raising weeks of preparation, I'm now in the lull of waiting for the start.

It's almost show time.

Please join me at Noon with Dave Stewart of the Advertiser, Bill Bloxsom of the Trumbull Times, my broadcast partner Paul Silverfarb of the Greenwich Post, and possibly Chris Kaelin of WGCH Radio for the FCIAC Championship Game preview show.

You can listen to the show here.

The championship is tomorrow night. The pregame show is at 6:45.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

New Canaan vs. Ansonia? Yes, Please?

I was told about a news note in which New Canaan head coach Lou Marinelli said that his Rams would happily play Ansonia (they are the top two teams in the state currently) in a benefit game.

“We’ll give all the proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project," Marinelli told Hearst Connecticut Media Group's high school football blog. "If we are still number one or number two  in the state and people are still torn,  let’s go to the Yale Bowl on December 21 and do it. Play the game and give the proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project. Why not?”





Make this happen, CIAC. Be smart. You can do it. You would be doing something OFF THE CHARTS for Connecticut football.

Look, there's always been a clear bias in the polls towards the "I-91" teams, as I often call them. Ansonia could be 0-9 and they would still get votes to be the top team in the state. It's just the nature of the beast.

For me, it brings back memories of 2007, when voters made the Chargers the top team over a similarly high powered Greenwich team. I thought the Cardinals would beat the Chargers at that time, and I still do.

But that's an opinion, and it's irrelevant. Wouldn't a one-game deal be fantastic?

And I would be beating on the door of the right people to make sure you had a broadcast partner for the game.

Assuming these two teams are still the top two in a few weeks, make it happen, CIAC.  I think Connecticut football fans - who deserve something like this - would come out for it.

It's a great idea.

This idea will likely be bounced around on the FCIAC Preview Show Thursday at Noon on Hersam Acorn Radio.

Monday, November 18, 2013

This Week

As I mentioned on Saturday morning, it's quite a time around here. The debut of Hersam Acorn Radio is coming on Thursday at Noon with the FCIAC Football Championship Pregame Show, followed by the Championship Game Friday night at 6:45.

But there is so much work to do. Pick the music, produce commercials, get rosters, write notes, and so on. Then there's the setup and breakdown. Engineering and everything else.

Now add in writing stories for the Wilton Bulletin and host The Press Box (tonight at 7).

I'm no complaining at all. Oh, no. It's a good time, but a stressful time.

It's going to be great. I just wish it would get here!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Hersam Acorn Radio

Page 1 of this weeks New Canaan Advertister

I can keep a secret. Sometimes it's tough, but when sworn to secrecy, I can keep it to myself.

I've been keeping something quiet for over three months now. Finally, I can let it out.

A new project, Hersam Acorn Radio, will debut Thursday afternoon, with the grand opening on Friday night.

With the help of Paul Silverfarb, we began to craft an idea for an online radio channel. Once we had a fairly salient proposal, we passed it on to Marty Hersam, the "Hersam" in the company name. We didn't use a conference room. We didn't use email, or a memo.

We did it after a softball game.

He was intrigued. That was in August.

So began the journey. I met with Marty in the Ridgefield office and was told at that time to keep the idea quiet.

The plan seemed to lag after that. Everyone was busy and it even seemed that it might die. And then...

Paul suggested a site to host our audio, Mixlr, which has an app for the iPhone (as well as Android, though I'm told the results are shaky there at best, so we're still looking into options). We will embed our live broadcasts from Mixlr onto our sites, or people can just listen via Mixlr.

Next, I needed a mixer, preferably one with a USB hookup to take the audio to the computer. We purchased one, and we were on our way. I knew with my collection of equipment, we would be just fine.

We had to do some tests, and I played around with it on a personal site I created on Mixlr. You can hear the early results, including a few tests of just some talking, a talk show with my Wilton Continuing Ed class, and a full broadcast of the Brunswick/Berkshire football game that Paul and I called.

Among the tests was the day I disappeared into a room off to the side of our kitchen in the Ridgefield office and just talked online for almost an hour. Several people listened in to give us all feedback, while the web people did their work to try out a website embedding widget.

With the tests completed, the goal was set. While I wanted to get it going for the start of football season, once that passed, I turned my eyes towards the FCIAC football championship.

Friday, November 22.

From the New Canaan Advertiser
But first, we will begin with a preview show, on Thursday, November 21, at Noon. Paul Silverfarb (he of course of the Greenwich Post), Dave Stewart (of the New Canaan Advertiser, and the guru), Bill Bloxsom (of the Trumbull Times, among others), and I will review the season and discuss the championship game. Then, on Friday, Paul and I will have the call as New Canaan plays the St. Joseph Cadets. Chris Kaelin - yes, from WGCH - will walk the sideline for us, and we hope to get input from Bill and Dave as well.

All of the broadcasts will be archived on Mixlr and SoundCloud.

Hersam Acorn Radio is an opportunity for us to expand our coverage and show off the amazing reporters we have in the company. We haven't quite determined what's next, and I'm still writing away at the Bulletin in the meantime, so it's definitely a time to stay tuned. Plus I'm still at WGCH, so make sure to catch our work there as well (we've got GYFL Championship Sunday at 11:00 on 11/17).

I'm nervously excited. At the same time, it is overwhelming.

You will be able to listen at the New Canaan Advertiser and the Trumbull Times, as well as at

We'll have more here as this project develops.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Dave Brubeck

As you walk into the Wilton Library, the first door on the left leads you into a small hall, known as the Brubeck Room.

The picture of the bust, above, was taken in that room. It is of the namesake: the amazing Dave Brubeck.

Mr. Brubeck lived in Wilton until the day he died. To say he is a music icon is a very fair statement.

His 1959 album, Time Out, made with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, is one of the most important jazz pieces ever made. With the silky smooth Paul Desmond on alto sax, Eugene Wright on bass, and Joe Morello on drums, the album hit the pop charts, peaking at number two in 1961. The single, and signature tune, "Take Five," also reached the pop charts as well.

I really became a Brubeck fan in late 90's, so to be able to visit this room, and see this tribute to him, is an honor.

Here is the quartet playing Take Five.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

A Good Reminder

I was terrible last night. Just. Horrible.

I had the call, with Chris Erway in the booth, plus Tom Prizeman and Matt Bozzuto on the field, as well as Sean Kilkelly in the studio, of the Greenwich/Westhill football game. GHS won the mess, 40-7.

Holy heck, I wouldn't even hire me if I could.

I knew I didn't feel well, but a head cold really isn't a solid excuse. As my Friday progressed, I realized that I was working off a minimal breakfast and no lunch. Knowing that I didn't want to get to Cardinal Stadium with nothing in my system, I stopped at Dunkin Donus for a cup of coffee and a bagel.

It didn't help.

I set things up, and we were ready to go by 6:00, which is somewhat unusual this season. There hasn't been time, generally, for me to go to the field and chat with coaches, or find the tailgate and talk with the families.

Not there have been many tailgates this year. The parking lot at GHS is in a bit of a shambles due to construction.

The game started, and I just felt like I couldn't stay with the play. I was misspeaking also - making up words. Just destroying the language. It was alarming, at least to Chris Erway, who asked if I was OK when we were in a break.

Halftime arrived quickly, with the game at 14-0 in favor of Big Red. I grabbed a dinner of a wrap, a sliver of red velvet cake, made by a friend off public address announcer Dick Leonard, and a Kit Kat bar, courtesy of the great Nancy Chelwick, who always comes up to see us, even on a pretty cold November night.

Side note: her husband, George, is a friend of mine, and a wonderful man. Let's think good thoughts for my friend. Nothing too serious, but he just couldn't get to the game last night.

The food seemed to do the trick. My call was a little more crisp in the second half, and Erway said my description of Austin Longi's 80-yard scamper following a cluster-bleep of penalties was good. So I'll take it.

We survived and finished.

By the way, the officiating was just silly. Too many personal foul penalties to count. But I've never been a football official, so I will decline to criticize. Besides, plenty of other people in the crowd did.

So for those who listened last night, my apologies. I didn't feel right, and it was a good reminder to keep the system running. I'll try to right the ship next Friday at Danbury.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Team Sports and the Mahopac Sports Association

Me, MSA rookie, 1977 at Lakeview School in Mahopac, NY, in the days before they gave out uniform pants.
A few days ago, over on the blog at the Wall Street Journal, Jeff Pearlman wrote a fascinating piece called "Why I Don't Want My Kids to Play Team Sports." It broke down his frustration with the way his brother wast treated in the Mahopac Sports Association in 1982, and the overall culture of youth team sports.

I won't minimize his take at all. It sounds like his brother, while probably not a talented athlete, was mistreated by an unfortunate coach.  Yes indeed, sports (and literally anything else in life) can have a bad impact on confidence and self-esteem.

Now let me tell you about a no-glove, no-hit kid from those same streets, albeit from the other side of town. While talent was an issue, heart, they say, was not. He'd run through a wall for you. Tell him to squeeze? He'd gulp, say "Who? Me?" and then do it.

His confidence could also be as fragile as a floppy slice of pizza from any of Mahopac's fine establishments.

There were times when he, too, had to ride the pine, waiting for his appointed chance. But he showed up to every game. He made it to every practice. He loved the uniform. Loved getting his number.

He tried to wear 2 a lot because his boyhood idol wore that in his later years.

I mean, it's a layup (wrong sports metaphor) of course that I'm talking about me.

I played in MSA for 11 years and hold those memories very close to my heart. I can tell you the highs and lows. I can tell you about my colt league season (my second year in MSA) when I couldn't see the ball and hit a robust .000.

That's right. Then I got glasses and never had the problem again, with my father promising to buy me a custom-made T-shirt as soon as I got my first hit of the next year. He made good on it, too, taking me to Tom Kat in Mahopac (in the old Grand Union grocery store) and we made a fake Yankees road uniform with "New York" across the front and my number 55 across the back.

I still have my trophies, because everybody didn't get one back then.

I can tell you in that same hitless colt league season, I took a called third strike to end a game. In an utter flood of tears, I promised I would never let that happen again.

I didn't. I developed a better sense of the strike zone, which made me a good top of the lineup guy because I walked a lot.

In a total state of fear (not the best way to survive), I always found a way to not make the last out. And I certainly didn't take a called third strike.

Yes, I could regale you with other great and not-so-great memories. Stealing home to win a game. Throwing runners out from right field at third. Making scoop plays and falling in love with playing first base when we needed somebody at that position.

I could take you - in detail - through the 1986 championship game, and how I scored the winning run.

I could tell you about the great friends I made, and the athletes I played against (including eventual Seattle Mariner Dave Fleming).

I could go on about my undying love and respect for Lou D'Aliso, the coach who had me on his team for seven of those 11 years, and never had to keep me. I still talk to Mrs. D all the time, and am trying to get together with the great coach, who was often a mentor for me.

Letting him down was like failing my dad. Slamming my glove down after a season-opening error earned me a quick talking to, because Coach D expected me to be a leader.

It was devastating, and it didn't happen again.

It wasn't a perfect experience. Goodness, no. But I loved it enough that when it came time for Sean to give baseball a try, I jumped in feet first and coached him for five years in Carmel. We both loved it.

Maybe it's more about the love of the game with me, and that why my MSA experience was such a positive one.

I encourage children to play team sports. I know, there's a nasty, ugly side to youth sports, but at its core, it should be about learning sportsmanship and developing the skills to play the game. They should be led by good, honorable people with no agenda, but that's simply a myopic view. For every Coach D, there's also the guy that Jeff profiles in his story.

In reality, and I've said that too many times, it's the adults who ruin the kids' fun. A bad coach. An overzealous administrator. Parents. Fans.

Its not perfect. Heck, what is?

But let's put it this way: On my bookcase is a framed picture that was given to me back in 1986. It's a team picture of Mahopac Towing, in our royal blue T-shirts (I was number 7). We're standing in front of the side of what was then-known as Mahopac Junior High School (now Mahopac Middle School). I can't identify everyone, but in that picture are me, Frank Viggiano, Steve Adamec, Ralph D'Aliso, and a bunch of other friends and teammates.

I haven't seen many of them since we left school, but I still have that picture. I still have the trophies. I still have the memories.

I wasn't a good athlete. But I had a wonderful experience in MSA.