Sunday, September 27, 2015

An Editorial: Not My Child

Many of you who read Exit 55 are parents. Most of you are around children that you care about.

Many of you - many of us - believe our kids are safe and insulated from the evils of the world.

And that's where we make the mistake.

So read this editorial from the Darien Times.

As usual, the writer in question (TWIQ) is spot-on, and while she is specifically writing about Darien, CT, the information can be applied anywhere.  I suppose we can surmise that Darien is an affluent community and, as such, it's easier to acquire narcotics, but the reality is one will get what one wants.

That's the sickness of it all.

In fact, I discussed the editorial with TWIQ and praised her for it. Just another in a long line of excellent writing by her. If there was anything to quarrel with, it was the last line:

"Don't be a friend now, because you want to be a parent for the rest of your life."

It's actually not a quarrel, but it's the conundrum of the life of a single dad.

Specifically, this single dad.

Susan, er, TWIQ is absolutely correct: "Don't be a friend," and indeed I'm not. Sean does know, without question that (commence Darth Vader breathing), "I am your father."

Yet I see him every other weekend (and Wednesday's when I'm available). My friends (and likely, you) know that I worry about him constantly because I don't know the level of details that I want to know.

I know there is bullying at school (that's what he tells me, and I have no reason to doubt him). I know of the other contentious parts of his life. Yet I hear other things either second-hand or well after the fact.

I can't be a helicopter to him. As I once said, I wanted nothing more than to hug him on the day of the Sandy Hook story. I couldn't.

We're finally at the point where we're talking about a smartphone for him, and believe me, the same things that I've enforced with his iPad will carry on. He's a smart kid and is largely reminiscent of his father as I was truly not someone to engage in such activities.  I'm still not.

A man in a deli told him to make sure to stay away from all evils yesterday morning. The man felt that his telling him - as opposed to his father - would have more impact, especially since this guy had just given up smoking, and was a reformed drinker as well. Sean was, as ever, polite if shy.

I trust Sean. I do. We're pals. We're father/son. That doesn't mean there aren't evils.

Therefore, back to the editorial. As TWIQ Whatshername writes:
"Ask questions. Violate privacy. Look at phones. Note changing behavior. This can alert us to a variety of problems, not just drug use."
So true.

Boston Baked: The Departure of Don Orsillo

From NESN/Twitter

Things will look and sound different in the TV booth of the Boston Red Sox in 2016.

Don Orsillo, their play-by-play voice, has been let go.

Orsillo, who has been hanging around the Sox since 1989, when he was an intern, will do his last game today (Michael Silverman, Boston Herald), likely step away with the same class and decency that he has exhibited all along, and move on.

Oh don't cry for him too much. There are rampant rumors that he is on his way to San Diego to take over the Padres job, especially as the legendary Dick Enberg enters his final year as TV voice out there*.

* A quick aside: I told Chris Erway this yesterday, and I'll say it here. With Enberg stepping down and/or backing down to a very reduced schedule and...gulp...Vin Scully projecting 2016 as his 67th and final year, you might want to invest in stock for tissues purchased in the metro-Mahopac, NY area.

The decision to dump Orsillo is the responsibility of NESN, the regional cable network that carries the Red Sox. Of course, the team gets a say in that also, and don't think otherwise. Like it or not, here in New York, there are people who approve the return of John Sterling, Michael Kay, Suzyn Waldman, and yes, Ryan Ruocco. The YES Network, WFAN, and the Yankees are in cahoots in these choices.

Like it or not.

Orsillo and his partner, Jerry Remy, the former Red Sox second baseman, have become a very popular pairing. Orsillo plays the straight man, the honest play-by-play voice who calls the game (and does it very well) while playing along with the goofier, New England-accented "RemDawg." Together they became appointment TV. When Remy stepped away a few times (various reasons abounded), it was Orsillo, acting as the glue and working with other analysts who continued to entertain the Boston faithful.

Yet it just wasn't the same.

Yes, we as fans largely tune in for the game. Generally, we hope the broadcaster doesn't get in the way (as in the recent times that I've muted YES and it seems I will have reason to in 2016), or even enhances and gets us to watch/listen (a rarity of course. I call this "The Vin Impact.'")

If Sox fans aren't tuning in, it's simply because the team stinks.

And let's be honest, it's been an awful year in Beantown.

It's no secret to those who read this little corner of the world that I am a passionate Yankees fan. It's also no secret I have plenty to say when it comes to broadcasting. Yet I must also add I've always enjoyed a pleasant relationship with the fans of the team from Boston. I like their history. They've had plenty of players worth admiring. They've often, as an organization, done so many first class things, from the Jimmy Fund to the 1999 All-Star Game to the way they treated both Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter.

But the Red Sox, and NESN, dropped the ball here.

As I said, it appears Don will be just fine. The Padres, networks, and so on will come calling. He will weigh his options. Will he move his family (he's a New England native)?

It's a lot to consider, and it's the Red Sox fans who come out the loser.

Broadcasters move on. Believe me. I know. Time moves forward.

Fans, overall, don't truly forget. They get over it, but they don't forget, and with the likely move of Dave O'Brien to the Boston TV booth, the Sox will recover from the PR hit.

For the departure of the ultra-popular Red Barber in Brooklyn brought on that kid named Scully full-time. Mel Allen's messy divorce from the Yankees moved Phil Rizzuto to prominence. You get the idea.

Boston better do the same.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

At The Yankees Saloon...

It's open mic night at the Yankees Saloon, in a fabled place, situated at the corner of E 161st St, River Ave, and a corn field.

Of course, because this is, well whatever this is, then a corn field must be nearby.

Toots Shor is running things, as usual, because everyone wants to be near Toots.

Mystique and Aura, a local band, just finished their set.

Thurman Munson is grumbling over a beer at a corner table, talking hitting and family with Bobby Murcer. He still feels slighted by Sparky Anderson, who said he was no Johnny Bench in 1976. At least that's what Munson still thinks. Murcer just smiles.

Joe DiMaggio, looking like he just stepped out of the California sun, makes sure his hair is perfectly in place before grabbing a drink.

Babe Ruth has just finished a hot dog. This being, you know, the place, Ruth doesn't have to behave himself as well as he did post-1929, when he married Claire. Oh no, the Babe, as heavenly a figure as any, can have all the dogs and beers he wishes.

The Colonel, Jacob Ruppert is here. Of course he is. Before he bought the Yankees, he was a brewer. So he supplies all of the beer to this establishment.

Robert Merrill, the famed baritone, is performing onstage at this point, when suddenly Bob Sheppard, the "voice" of Yankee Stadium, approaches the microphone. Mel Allen, "voice" of the Yankees, is standing nearby. Something is clearly up.

Pete Sheehy, the legendary Yankee Stadium clubhouse attendant, stops things by flicking the lights. This annoys DiMaggio because Sheehy normally does this only for the Yankee Clipper.

The room falls silent. The laughter stops.

Sitting at the bar, Mickey Mantle and Billy Martin wonder if Whitey Ford is finally coming through the door.

"Your attention, please," Sheppard intones. "Now catching, for the Yankees, number eight, Yogi Berra. Number eight."

Phil Rizzuto is the first to speak, uttering, of course, "Holy cow."

Casey Stengel greets Yogi as he comes in. The two always had the closest of relationships.

"I came to the fork in the road," Yogi says. "I took it. It got late early out there."

The place explodes in laughter.

Lou Gehirg ambles over. It's shocking to see The Iron Horse here, but everyone knows he's on his way to either his mother or his wife, Eleanor. He stops to greet Yogi.

"Nice to see you, son," he says, and disappears without a trace.

Bill Dickey is waiting patiently to hug his old friend. There's a lot to suggest that Berra doesn't truly become a Hall of Fame catcher without the tutelage of the gentleman from Arkansas. Of course, Dickey was number eight long before Yogi.

Roger Maris smiles at the site of Yogi. They were teammates in '61 (yes, always 61 with Roger) and Yogi managed Rajah in '64.

All seems to be well in the saloon. Many other Yankees sidle over, waiting for their chance to chat with the man of 10 World Series Championships. Someone offers a Yoo-Hoo, but that won't do in this room.

"Hi ya, Kid," says Ruth (he never knew names anyway). "Barkeep, get this guy a beer."

Elston Howard, not only the first black Yankee in 1955, but a friend of Berra's, and his successor behind the plate, quiets the room for just a moment.

"Friends," he begins, "we have our catcher."

Many in the room nod in approval.

"Yogi," he continues, "we thank you for your service to our country. For being at D-Day."

Hank Bauer, the tough old Marine, quietly chokes up. Only Moose Skowron notices, and doesn't dare say a thing.

"We salute you for all that you did on the diamond," Howard says. "For raising of a wonderful family with your beloved wife, Carmen. We welcome you into the family you knew your always had."

"Thanks, everyone," Berra finally says. "And I don't care what anyone says. Robinson was out at the plate."

Raucous laughter ensues. It's deja vu all over again.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Opening Night of FCIAC Football

Lancaster Field at Tiger Hollow, Ridgefield (RA photo)
The HAN Network is four broadcasts into the high school season. We called football games at Yorktown and Notre Dame (Fairfield), as well as soccer(!) matches (correct lingo) at Brien McMahon and Greenwich.

Those felt like the warmup acts, and I mean no disrespect with that statement.

Oh, let's spend a moment on soccer (aka futbol). I know how loyal fans are of the "Beautiful Game." I also know how they feel about their broadcasters (the Gus Johnson disaster, anyone?). I'm no Ian Darke, or Kenn Tomasch, or any other respected soccer voice that I admire. For now, I'm a narrator, as I respect the passion for the sport and don't want to infringe on it. The last thing I want to do is insult fans. I'm content to guide the broadcast along as best as I can, with the analyst (both Dave Stewart and Tim Murphy were excellent, as Mike Suppe will also be) explaining the game. This will also be the style for field hockey.

Anyway, I'm babbling. Back to the point.

Friday night was the fifth broadcast of the fall season, and it was not only time for football, but it was time for FCIAC football.

To me, it was really opening night. As such, despite the addition of a whole new level of production, it was time for the emotions.

Yes. Those emotions.

You see, now in some cosmic way, I'm"voice" of the FCIAC. Or the face. Or whatever. Football has always been the opening of my year. These emotions that I speak of normally hit me before the first Greenwich game of the year.

It's a combination of nerves, fear, and pride, coupled with a certain amount of doubt.

Things felt OK as we got close to opening the extended pregame show (FCIAC Tailgate and FCIAC Gameday). Yet once things shut down on those, I texted a friend the following: "I'm getting nervous."

The response, naturally, was of support and empowerment. Still, I stepped away to get my thoughts together and get ready. At that point, my emotions were that of tremendous pride and excitement. It was a good nervousness.

Many hours earlier, I had texted Chris Erway, my "A-Team" broadcast partner a simple message: "FOOTBALL FRIDAY!" Clearly we were both ready, but that was also some 10 hours before kickoff.

Now, in the lobby of Lancaster Field at Tiger Hollow, I gathered myself.

The lights were lit in our "broadcast booth" (we used our tent in the crowd, and it looked great), and Chris and I did our live opening. We high-fived each other as we went to the commercial for the National Anthem.


Fortunately, nobody could see me. I paused. I thought of family, friends (past and present). I thought of those that I wished were able to watch. I thought of those that I wished were at the game.

That moment, during the anthem, is very important to me. It's my last breath. It's my warmup music.

I felt sad. I felt proud. I felt pressure. I felt that I. Was. Exactly. Where. I. Belonged.

It was time to get to work.

The game wasn't great. No, nothing is ever perfect, but it was an excellent broadcast, with the outstanding analysis of my friend, and the merely OK that is me.

So we're off and running. Down to business.


Game Broadcast

Tunnel of Love, Indeed

Photo by Jamie UK on Flickr
Thanks to a largely dry summer, I hadn't needed to mow the lawn in a few weeks.

Until today. Which is always dangerous because it gives me time to think.

Sometimes I put a game on in my headphones. Alas, the Steelers were still over an hour away from kicking off. The Yankees were scheduled to play someone tonight.

As I moved a car to get the tractor out of the garage, I spied a title on the radio: "Tunnel of Love."

It seemed like fate.

Bruce Springsteen and I are on speaking terms, and it's certainly not the split of 1984, when I was just sick of him (and can still not entirely tolerate Born in the USA). Indeed, for me, "Bobby Jean" is still the best track on the album.

But I've felt a disconnect with the Boss lately. The reasons aren't entirely clear or important, I guess, though I admit that I've felt a little un-Boss-worthy because I've only seen him once.

Yes, some fans - especially Springsteen fans - look down on such things.

There is a certain amount of resentment built it. I feel it towards him because his tickets are normally obscenely high-priced. Then again, they're not easy to get, and I generally resist scalpers, save for one time outside The Chance in Poughkeepsie, NY, when Sean's mother and I plopped down winnings from a football pool to see a band called The Sports Section.

They're usually known as Huey Lewis and the News.

I resent myself because I can't afford his obscenely high-priced tickets.

Oh, and not that this matters, but I don't really have a date for such events. That's for me to deal with. The aforementioned Mr. Lewis is playing Long Island in October. Tickets are reasonable. But...nah.

I'm getting way off-track here.

I set up a system that sent the music from this very computer to my radio so that I could listen to Tunnel of Love. If not for the J. Geils Band, the album could easily be called Love Stinks.  The album is as much about flawed romance as it is about loss. His marriage to the actress Julianne Phillips was crumbling. He was splitting from the members of the E Street Band (and "shacking up" with Ms. Scialfa).

The words, as usual from the poet Bruce, hit home.
"I tried so hard, baby, but I just can't see, what a woman like you, is doing with me." (from "Brilliant Disguise")
"When I look at myself I don't see the man I wanted to be." (from "One Step Up")
"Ought to be easy. Ought to be simple enough. Man meets woman and they fall in love but this house is haunted and the ride gets rough. You have to learn to live with what you can't rise above if you want to ride on down, down into this tunnel of love." (from "Tunnel of Love" and, quite honestly, one of my favorite song lyrics.)
Of course, that's just a small sample of the collection of the quotable lines.

We've touched on "One Step Up" before (Jan, 2013).

I'm sure if I had written this post immediately after I finished mowing the lawn, or even while I was on the tractor (kidding...sort of), this would have been a little deeper, and more profound. Probably a lot darker, but I'm guessing that's pretty much assumed by this point.

For the record, Bruce and I aren't totally on the outs. I'll still find a higher volume for "Born to Run", "Spirit in the Night", and others, and I know both Sean and I have an extremely tight bond for "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)."

But something's not right. Today didn't patch that up, but it didn't hurt either. It was the right album for the right mood.

No easy answers.

One step up and two steps back.

*Incidentally, if you ever want to hear another great "Tunnel of Love" song, and have never heard it, I encourage you to listen to Dire Straits' 1980 song from their masterful album Making Movies, with the gorgeous "Romeo and Juliet." A fascinating tidbit between the two "Tunnels" is that Roy Bittain - yes, "The Professor" on E Street - plays on both versions. The things you learn.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Fourteen Years Later

It's been something of a rite around here: a post dedicated to the anniversary of September 11, 2001.

It's hardly minimized when you're a New Yorker. Oh, no. It will take many years for that to happen. If ever.

Even for me: nothing more than a lousy suburbanite who suffered no truly personal losses that day, there's still a sting. An anger. A bitterness. The whole day - every ounce of it - is still so vivid to me. Walking out of our apartment to a blue sky that seemed to bless the warmth in the air. Listening to Mr. Imus as Warner Wolf called in to say he felt the first impact from his apartment. Knowing I was on NY route 139 in Somers, NY, right near its intersection with NY route 100. Beginning to turn the dial for more.

Remembering how I glanced at the sky after the second plane hit while southbound on Interstate 684 near the Katonah service area.

The scene at WGCH as everything else unfolded, and relaying things I had heard on the radio to my colleagues Jim Thompson and Dima Joseph, who frantically worked the story to get on the air.

Seeing a friend sob as one of the towers fell.

Watching the final tower fall myself as a I sat in a nearly empty conference room.

There was a piece of me that ached to get on the air and talk. I'm not sure what good I would have been.

Short of that, I drove home.

I wound up on air - in theory, to do a golf show - on September 12. I can't think of a darker hour of radio in my career.

Every year since, I've relived it. I've watched the video. I've listened to the audio that I collected.

I always think of my great friend Harold, still pondering the loss of a childhood friend. I always think of the Zions of Greenwich, a football family who lost a father. I think of wanting to be close to my unborn child, as we tried to figure out exactly what the hell was going on.

This is rambling. I apologize. Maybe it's the mood. A lousy night's sleep. A bad football game. Bad...stuff. I can't quite seem to get at what I'm trying to say here.

It will pass. Work to be done. Football to broadcast.

Every year, I put Springsteen's The Rising on. I feel sick. Sad. 

For some reason, I don't have it in me this year. Again, maybe it's the mood. I admit something's not right.

What I feel matters very little. It's those who lost - and those we lost - that matter on September 11.

I don't want today off. I don't want a holiday. I want life - the very thing we were all doing 14 years ago - to go on.

So I'll call into WGCH in a moment to chat sports with Tony Savino. I'll go on the air on the HAN Network at 11 from a remote in Vista, NY. Then I'll do my best to call football later on from Yorktown High School.

And as we always do, we keep moving forward.

In New York, Washington, Shanksville, Boston, San Francisco, and everywhere else, the same will go on.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

A Song, Fate, and Coincidence

I was chatting with a friend when I texted them a YouTube link.

It was a link to a song. The song, while it had meeting to me and that moment, was nothing grand beyond that. It worked in that particular conversation.

The friend liked it, yet had never heard it before.

I reacted with a touch of shock, feeling that this tune, while not a big hit, was another piece of a legendary artist (The Beatles, of course). Yet I filed the conversation away and moved on with my evening.

A day later, the same friend went to an unusual place. It wouldn't shock me if it was the first time ever going there, and certainly not more than once or twice a year at most.

Coincidentally, not unlike me going to a church.

Just after I got the first text to say where they went, I got a second. It might as well have said the following:

"Dude. That Beatles song is on here."

I mean, I dig fate. I buy into it. I also have a healthy dose of skepticism. Yet sometimes I just can't help but glance into the abyss.

Why - WHY - was that song playing THEN?

I was stunned. Just dumbfounded. I mean, of all the songs in all the gin joints, it played there?

It's not obscure, but my friend had. Never. Hear. It. Before.

And yet, here it was, bellowing over a PA system in an off-the-wall place. A place that has far more importance to me.

Coincidence? Maybe. Yet funnel some of the tunes that played on my recent trip to North Carolina (the first one when I got in the car just made me laugh) and you can't help but wonder.

What can I say?

The Babe works in mysterious ways.