Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Live from Yankee Stadium

The House Built? (Sunday)
OK, OK, OK. Somebody cares that Exit 55 rides again. When I see life has been hectic, take my word for it.

For me to find a few minutes to say hello, I had to come to the media dining room...

At Yankee Stadium.

That's right - I'm here for the Rangers/Islanders Stadium Series game. There is no score with under five minutes to go in the first period as I write.

It's also 22 degrees outside.

So with no actual place for me to sit (and not interested in scoping a seat out right now), I decided to grab a cup of coffee and get some work done.

Because, you know, that's sort of why I haven't written on the blog in over two weeks.

So with Sam Rosen of MSG a few yards behind me, and Linda Cohn of ESPN to my right (as in pretty much next to me), I greet you.

Oh and the best that there is, Michael "Doc" Emrick, rode an elevator with me on Sunday. And is currently about 35 feet to my left, through a few walls.

To be honest, that's about all I've got time for. It's been a wild ride, with the highlights being the great Sunday of hockey here between the Rangers and Devils, and Super Bowl media day in New Jersey on Tuesday.

I've been disowned by my sister for getting close to Peyton Manning. Sigh. (In good fun, of course)

It's been an interesting time.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

For One Day, I Was an AHL Lead Announcer

From today's game notes sheet
If I'm done today, if this is it (that sounds like a song), then I will always have this one.

Today, I was the lead announcer of a professional sports team: the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League.

I don't take this honor lightly. Anything but.

I wanted so many times to be the lead dog of the Hudson Valley Renegades. Baseball - the game that is in my blood. I felt after years of being Sean Ford's accomplice, that I had earned a chance. The team went different ways each year after Sean left. So it goes.

But Phil Giubileo, the fabulous voice of the Sound Tigers, needed a number two to back him up. I didn't know if time would allow me to do so. I still don't, really.

Then I had a terrible crisis of confidence. It took me a while to figure out what it was all about, but I think I found it.

First, I had called one game since early 2012, a high school game on WGCH in March of 2013. I wouldn't call another hockey game until December.

Then I worked color with Phil on our first Sound Tigers games, before he had me handle the second period of a different game. I was off - way off. Didn't know the players. Didn't know the teams. Just felt lost.

To be honest, I was crushed. My second time was better, but not by much.

That feeling carried over to my work on Hersam Acorn Radio (and, maybe, WGCH soon). I felt like I couldn't find a rhythm.

Yesterday, with the familiarity of Darien and New Canaan in high school hockey (teams that I've seen a few times this season), I found a groove again. I heard some really kind words for John Kovach and I (along with Chris Kaelin and Josh Fisher) following our call of the 1-1 tie between the two rivals.

That led to today. There is no doubt that I was absolutely terrified when I walked into Webster Bank Arena around Noon. I'll be blunt: if someone had said that I couldn't call the game, I think I would have said "OK."

At first, nobody knew who I was when I arrived.

Then the equipment was no where to be found. But, in quick order, Sound Tigers Communications Manager Corey Hersch showed up, and we grabbed the tools of the trade. I had things set up after that, and was soon escorted by Corey to the Sound Tigers locker room, where I interviewed captain Chris Bruton and head coach Scott Pellerin. Both men couldn't have been nicer and more accommodating.

I ate my lunch (burger and fries - ah, media food), and came up to the booth near section 105 to review my notes. Hartford Wolf Pack broadcaster Bob Crawford stopped by to introduce himself and we quickly spoke. He helped me with a few pronunciations.

The Silverfarb's - Beth, Connor, Luke, and papa Paul, stopped up to say hello, as they had tickets for the game. Richie Spezzano, a great hockey mind from Greenwich, was also in the crowd and texted me to say hello.

As air time approached, I made a sad discovery. AHL Live, the broadcasting arm of the American Hockey League, had not picked up our feed. As of game time, I wasn't on the air.

Phil Giubileo was monitoring things from New Haven, where his wife Tina had given birth to baby Bianca Louise. Corey Hersch tried to fixed things.

I - we - all decided that I would go on as if I was on the air. Did this help soothe my nerves? I suppose.

For one solid period, featuring numerous scuffles and penalties, as well as a 2-1 Sound Tiger lead, I broadcast the game to an audience of one: me.

But if you listen to the tape of the broadcast, you'll never know the difference.

Phil told me later on that the issue wasn't anything I did. The equipment was set up correctly. There was something wrong separate from the booth. The Sound Tigers had to use the radio call of the Portland Pirates for Saturday night's game, since I couldn't get to Bridgeport in time to fill-in for Phil following the Darien/New Canaan game. Perhaps things didn't get switched correctly. I honestly don't know.

As the second period began, it was now official: I was broadcasting professional minor league hockey.


I kept the same approach the first period: calm, hopefully professional, but excited at the right times. I was probably more excitable on Saturday, but today's call stayed more low-key. Yes, I'm sure I made my mistakes, and can absolutely get better, for I felt sort-of maybe kind of OK as I signed off. I kept it simple. I didn't worry about making highlights today so I could focus on the task at hand. So there were no post game highlights, and I'm good with that. I reported, told stories, shared laughs, and was essentially the same person I've been on the air.

Finally, it was over, and I said good night to the world. In quick order, a photographer stopped by to say that I did a great job, and that his son, a hockey player, was listening in Canada. He told his father, "Phil's great, but this guy is really good also." He said he was impressed.

I was stunned, and God knows those words meant a ton to me. Then I had a personal message from Tim Parry, and that also lifted my spirits. Plus I have the support of Lisa, who knew how nervous I was. The first two times I did play-by-play here for the Sound Tigers, working with Phil, just weren't what I expected.

I felt like a high school broadcaster. I honestly wasn't sure I belonged.

Before the game today, I gave myself a pep talk.

But what was the difference?

I remember that, back during the Renegades days, I always felt that it was Sean Ford's booth. And, to be honest, it was. When Geoff Brault and Nick Gagalis each came in, I knew it was their booth as well. The same went with Phil. It's not that any of these guys made me feel like an outsider. They couldn't have been more accommodating and accepting.

Even when I worked in the Bluefish booth last year, only doing color, it just wasn't my booth. I didn't want to mess things up for them.

Today, here, at Webster Bank Arena, on January 12, 2014, it was my booth.

I didn't own it (well, maybe I did for today), but merely kept the seat warm. Phil Giubileo is the voice of the Sound Tigers. Perhaps, one day, I will be again. I'm here if he needs me, and if I'm available.

But I can walk out of this arena, where I'm still sitting, proud of the fact that finally, after years of wanting it, I was the voice of a pro sports team.

Even if it was only for one day.

A few pictures from the booth.
The Sound Tigers celebrate after beating Hartford, 6-3.

During the warm-up.

A stick salute for the crowd of 6,006 in attendance.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

If I Had a Hall of Fame Vote

The Mad Dog is a no-doubt Hall of Famer.
Let's be clear: I don't. I don't belong to the Baseball Writer's Association of America. So I don't have a vote for the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

That doesn't mean I don't have an opinion. That also doesn't mean that I lack a clue on the topic.

Since I'm prepping for Greenwich and Millbook in hockey, to be heard live on the channels of Hersam Acorn Radio, including (and the HYPHEN is IMPORTANT), I can't give chapter and verse on my thoughts.

Here are my votes (a maximum of 10 are allowed):

Greg Maddux
Tom Glavine
Frank Thomas
Craig Biggio
Mike Piazza
Jeff Bagwell
Tim Raines
Mike Mussina
Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens

I think Curt Schilling will get in eventually, but he doesn't do it for me, especially in this class. Great postseason pitcher though.

Alan Trammell was a tough exclusion. I also think highly of Jeff Kent, even if you might not have liked him as a person. Yes, I passed on Jack Morris. The high ERA doesn't do it for me.

The others? I'm good. It's time for people to recognize how great Rock Raines was, for instance. I know - compare him to Rickey Henderson and it's not fair. But if you saw him, Rock was a great player. Could get on base. Stole a ton of bases. Could hit. Play defense.

Maddux? Duh. Glavine? Duh. Two of the best of their generation. Do we even need to discuss it? Frank Thomas could hit. Sure, he wasn't a great defender, and if he was a pure DH, he'd be lumped in with Edgar Martinez (which is unfair to both of them), but wow, could The Big Hurt hit.

Mike Mussina was a terrific pitcher. I think it is time to know that if you don't. He wasn't interested in sticking around to get to 300 wins. He was happy to win his 20 and move on.

Craig Biggio surpassed 3,000 hits. Played multiple positions. Again, I don't have enough time to support the case. He passes my "eye test."

The same goes for Bagwell. Yes, I know, we're entering the PED discussion here. We could do so with almost all of these players, but really, do we need to? Yes, the whispers exist - most prominently about Bagwell and Piazza (and, of course, those other two, whom we'll get to), but there is no proof.

By the way, I see Piazza in the Hall as a Dodger, or with the Catfish Hunter blank cap. That's just me.

Then we have Bonds and Clemens. Look, they didn't get busted. They didn't do jail time. I know we all want to stand on the mountain of purity, but can we simply get over that a lot of these people aren't great guys? There's Lou Gehrig and a few other "pure" types. That's about it. The rest are super-flawed.

Sometimes we found out how flawed later on, after we've etched them on Mount Rushmore, and named streets after them.

I know what I saw. Before Bonds blew up, he was already a Hall of Famer. The same goes for Clemens.

Besides, I want to see how that goes over in induction day in central New York.

Those are my 10. The results of what the writers think will come later.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Chuck Noll

Charles Henry Noll was a Paul Brown disciple. He was hired by Mr. Art Rooney after the 1968 NFL season to take over the woeful Pittsburgh Steelers, coming off a 2-11-1 year in which they were coached by Bill Austin.

The first year wasn't great for Noll and the Steelers, as the Black and Gold finished 1-13, with new defensive tackle Mean Joe Greene in place, having drafted him from North Texas State.

Some coaches wouldn't survive that, but it was a different time. Then Noll drafted a quarterback out of Louisiana Tech named Terry Bradshaw in 1970, and they were off and running.

Sort of. They went 5-9 in 1970, and 6-8 in '71. Then came the 11-3 1972 season and a little event that we call "immaculate." Now they were off and running.

When we talk of "greatest coaches," I hear the same names. Lombardi, of course. Landry. Shula. Belichick. Walsh (aka, "The Genius"). Parcells. Halas. Lambeau. And so on.

Hell, that complete gas bag Rick Reilly ranks Noll 9th. He writes:
Four Super Bowl wins in six years. Then why isn't he higher, you ask? Because he did it with only one quarterback, Terry Bradshaw, and one defense, the Steel Curtain. The Rooneys go on winning long after Noll. And once Bradshaw left? Noll went 62-67.
He put Walsh 8th, for essentially the same reason: one quarterback. Oh, yeah. Reilly knows tons about sports.

But read again, will you? Four Super Bowls. FOUR. F-O-U-R.

More than anybody. Now, granted, Lombardi did a ton of championship winning in the pre-Super Bowl years, and also snagged the first two, er, Lombardi Trophies.

Regardless, you often hear about a lot of other coaches. These men had a certain swagger. Shula looked great going 17-0 while wearing the sunglasses in the Miami sun. Landry had the fedora. Lombardi had great quotes. Belichick is an awful quote.

Noll apeared completely, unbelievably bland to the public. He liked wine. He was book smart. He just knew how to coach a football team. Even when he found controversy, calling George Atkinson of the Raiders the "criminal element," the subsequent lawsuit was quickly pushed aside.

Noll won. Won by smart drafting (jeez, that must count for something). Hmmm, Rick, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, Mel Blount, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Franco Harris, and Mike Webster didn't just magically appear, did they?

Noll was also unfazed by color. Start a black quarterback? OK, let's try Joe Gilliam as Bradshaw struggled. Yes, #12 won the job back from Gilliam and went on to win the Super Bowl that year, but he still had the courage to start Gilliam, which was very uncommon at that time.

Believe or not, black QB's in the 70s were rare. Go ahead, name them? James Harris. Gilliam. Doug Williams. Vince Evans. not many others.

He also gave a coaching job to a guy named Tony Dungy. Not bad, eh?

So here, on January 5, we raise a glass of chardonnay, merlot, pinot noir, or whatever to Chuck Noll.

I'm sure he doesn't care if you give him the credit he deserves. He just thinks about those four gleaming Lombardi Trophies and smiles.

And so do I.

Hersam Acorn Radio Under the Weather

That's my car straight ahead, past the streetlight. The snow is falling in Ridgefield at 4am.
Today has been a day to catch up with myself.

Thursday and Friday were, well, fun.

I was supposed to be at the desk of the Wilton Bulletin for one last day, but we decided on Wednesday that I would also be covering the impending snow storm on Thursday. So, for one more day, I expected to do the balancing act.

I got to the Ridgefield office and immediately began putting radio equipment together. My now former editor, Jeannette Ross, stopped into say hello, wondering where I was. We exchanged greetings, and I asked what she wanted me to do, but in reality, I no longer worked for her. She didn't need me at that point.

I was now, officially, the General Manager of Hersam Acorn Radio. Or Radio Rob. Or whatever.

To that end, while my radams@wiltonbulletin email address is still working, I can also be contacted at

So the day turned into planning. I used our conference room in Ridgefield as the "studio" for the storm coverage, and got to work on creating music for the broadcast, editing promos, lining up guests and so on. Josh Fisher, editor of the New Canaan Advertiser, soon joined me. Josh would play a big role in the coverage.

Knowing that this storm had the chance to be nasty, I packed two air mattresses and a sleeping bag. Something told me Josh might be sticking around that night also.

We got on the air at 4:00 on Thursday afternoon, with John Kovach playing a big role via Skype. Ken Borsuk would also Skype his way in as well. I can't name everyone (I'll forget a name), but Jeannette, Kim Donnelly, all of the great web/technical people, and many others, made the next 18 hours (give or take) a wild ride.

Each of these people made sure that we had guests to talk to, kept us on the "air," and helped me retain my sanity.

We cranked out three hours of "pre-storm" coverage, and headed out into the teeth of a cold, blowing snow to grab a quick dinner at Fifty Coins, a nearby Ridgefield restaurant (and pretty good, I might add).

Around 9:00, Josh and I walked back into the Bailey Ave. building, ready for the long winter's night.

Marty Hersam, Executive Producer (and my boss), said he would be back to us around 4:45, with Josh and I hitting the airwaves at Five.

In the morning.

I still had some work to do for WGCH/Business Talk Radio Network to finish out the night before I went to bed. Josh, in the meantime, decided to occupy a downstairs office, while I took over Publisher Tom Nash's corner space.

Josh found me upstairs to tell me he had spoken with Marty, who said that the alarm company could not turn off the system in the building.

I thought I heard Josh say that the system armed itself at 1:00, but would give us a warning alarm.

Either way, he said, unless we caught the warning, we'd be setting off the alarm.

I'm still not clear why an alarm company CAN'T turn off their system, but at least they made it so that the cops wouldn't visit us when the inevitable happened.

Radio work done, I tried to get some sleep.

Not. Happening.

I suppose I got a little - half-hour or so. At least it felt that way. At first, it was devices that were going off. Texts. Tweets. Retweets. People were raving about our coverage, and my buddy Fia in Seattle was texting me a greeting via iMessage.

No harm, so I tuned the volume off on the devices.

But one thing Josh mentioned stuck out: if we missed the alarm warning, the system would arm. So, say, if I needed the men's room, for instance, I would trip it. Or if I rolled over in bed, as I believed a sensor was right over my head, well, then, good times.

I was awake at 12:57 (remember, I thought the warning would go at 1). One o'clock came...nothing. I dozed. At 2:00, I heard a sound. Yup. The warning.

I shot downstairs to the control panel to discover a message that said, in essence, "Get out now." Thankfully, I remembered the code to first arm the system, and then disarm it.

I'm still stunned that the alarm company couldn't just shut it off, but whatever.

In the meantime, we were running a loop of the rebroadcast of the earlier three-hour show, but of course, that was just running off my computer in the conference room. So, yeah, that continued to run.

But sleeping was not happening. I tossed. I turned. I relaxed. But I didn't sleep. A little after 3:00, I gave up. I replied to some emails, and even responded to the late texts that I received. I even went on the air, at 3:37, to just say hello, give a quick update, and remind those listening (from what I could tell, there were a few) that this was a rebroadcast.

Eventually, I packed the air mattress and sleeping bag back up and walked out to my car.

It was basically zero outside. Or colder.

I stood at my car and loaded up the trunk, when I heard voices. Wanting to see who else was crazy enough to be outside, I turned to look, but could see no one. Then again, the wind was blowing snow into my face.

I wanted to take a walk up Bailey Ave. to Main St. (that's Connecticut Route 35 to me - which goes from US Route 7 in Ridgefield, into New York, ending in Peekskill...and there's more I could tell but I'll stop). However, it was so...freaking...cold that my face was hurting.

I was back inside within five minutes. It was a little after four in the morning.

A few brave souls were ready to go. John Kovach and I found each other on instant messenger. Josh and I microwaved some leftover coffee (yeah, we either need a Keurig brewer or, you know, a coffee maker in the office).

By 5:00, after I played both Simon and Garfunkel and The Bangles' version of "A Hazy Shade of Winter," we were off and running again.

Despite my occasional protests that we didn't sound as coherent as I wanted us to (largely because I was on about two hours sleep and delirious), we stayed on until 10. Again, reviews seem to be positive, and everyone did a phenomenal job of getting us guests, feeding us bits of information, and keeping us on point.

We mixed in news notes, kept it light at times (a little humor goes a long way where appropriate), and mixed things up.

I broke the equipment down, talked with my colleagues (including the few that were actually in), moved my stuff out of my Wilton Bulletin desk, and hit the road. They weren't great, but I was soon visiting Lisa (remember her? I do!) before picking Sean up and going home.

We took the weekend off (I almost ran and called a basketball game tonight, but decided it was best not to), and will hit the ground running on Monday.

But now, I'm going to sleep. I hear we could have another storm later in this week (that's courtesy of @SWCTtweather, whom you really should be following on Twitter. The guy is great, and totally accurate.).