Monday, June 11, 2018

It Doesn't Have To End Like This

Photo: David Scott Holloway/CNN
You know by now that Anthony Bourdain has died.

Let's be clear. He killed himself, and with the suicide earlier in the same week of designer Kate Spade, we've seen two high profile individuals choose to end their own lives.

Should you want more details, there are plenty of other places for that. We'll pass here.

I liked Bourdain, as the brusque titular member of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations on The Travel Channel. What you saw on that show was clearly him.

Now, I'm not going to tell you that I'm in to the whole celebrity chef thing. To be honest, nothing could be further from the truth. Yet Bourdain -- Anthony, Tony -- was more. Sure, he knew food (remember, my pallet isn't exactly highfalutin), but he also traveled, and he went to places I'd never go to.

So he was eating food that I'd never eat and in a lot of places I'd never visit. Normally, that's not a combination I'd embrace. But the guy found a way to put a story together that roped me in.

That, of course, is not why we're writing today. We have a big problem on our hands and, at least for me, Anthony Bourdain was a bit earth-shaking.

I don't have answers. Like anyone else, I have struggles. I saw a dear friend open their heart and mind up online after Bourdan's death, and I thought what was written was brave and profound. It's their private thoughts, but again, it had a big impact on me.

Again, we don't have answers.

There is that belief that suicide is cowardly. To a degree, I get it.

But nobody is in that persons' brain at that moment.

I know despair. I know horrible sadness, depression, anxiety, loneliness, and angst at three in the morning, when I can't sleep over fear about money, my son, my career (or utter lack thereof), my health.

I know the horror of the holidays. No, really, any holiday. Three-day weekends are rough. Thanksgiving to January 2nd? I'd rather be on an island. Any island. Gilligan's Island.

I've had a post written in my drafts here for nearly three years on how awful the holidays are. I was encouraged to keep it tucked away, and it will stay there, but now you have a sense of it.

I know. Me. Me. Me. That's not what this is about, but I guess that, too, adds to the demons I chat with.

This post is about our problems with mental health. How we just don't know. People smile all the time. They tell you they're fine. They see the social media posts.

"Wow, you're staying busy," they say. "I can tell you're doing great!"

No. No they're really not doing great. Call it "The Tears of a Clown," if you know what I mean.

Some are blatantly asking -- crying -- for help. Yet for reasons, including bureaucracy, they don't get that help.

Bourdain looked like he had conquered his demons. The drug abuse appeared to be gone, and I thought I even read he was kicking or had kicked smoking. He seemed to still drink, but it looked like -- there are those words: "looked like" -- he was OK. He had a child and a partner. The focus was on living.

So we thought. So it "seemed." So it "looked like."

Nobody knows what happened in that Paris hotel room. We might never know.

If you get the chance to read about Robin Williams, well, yeah. There's another sad story.

We need help. We need to get people help, and it's more than just telling someone to go get therapy. They have to get TO therapy. Short of actually driving someone there and placing them in the office, it's sort of difficult.

In some cases, there are many without healthcare (HI!). Kind of hard to get help when you can't afford it.

Then there is fear. Despite FDR's famed words in 1933, fear is a factor. Fear...Factor, indeed.

I know of a story of someone who was in therapy during a time of upheaval. One of the things they were there to talk about was money. Guess what they got asked each time they walked in the office? Did they have the -- wait for it! -- money to pay the bill!

Vicious circle, right? They stopped going to therapy then and there.

I see people who are mad at Bourdain and Spade. I get it, but I don't. Again, you're not there. They know -- we know -- that they have reasons to live. Kids, spouses, partners, friends.

Yet it can all just be too much. The pain -- whatever that pain is. The imbalance of whatever it might be. The meds help but it's possible they aren't enough or can't be purchased.

People in these states of mind see themselves as a burden. "It will just be easier if I'm not here," is the mantra.

There is no way to defend the actions of a person who takes their life, but there's no true way to indict them either. I'm sorry these people killed themselves, and I wish I could understand why they did.

We have to find how to prevent it, and I'm not smart to figure out how.

But I want to help.

It doesn't have to end this way.

Sure, everyone posts the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), but does that help? It hardly seems like enough.

I wish I had more. This feels like a lot of words for nothing.

I recited the opening of Free Bird at my dad's funeral in 1989 (copyright, 1973, words by Allen Collins and Ronnie Van Zant).

If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me?
For I must be traveling on now
'Cause there's too many places I've got to see

Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain and Robin Williams and, sadly, too many others couldn't take more pain. They couldn't take more sadness. They wanted out - for whatever reason. That doesn't make them heroic or criminals or pathetic or weak.

It just means they were done, and nobody could help them.

There were too many places they had to see.

Thanks, Tony. See you at Waffle House.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

The CIAC Airwaves Are Quiet

Notre Dame of West Haven and Masuk lineup before the Class L Championship at Palmer Field in 2014. (My photo)

OK, that title is somewhat-misleading, and I'll own that.

It's Championship Weekend in the Connecticut, as the CIAC is handing out titles in baseball, softball, and lacrosse.

I attended some of the baseball action back in 2016 because I had nothing going on, and I wanted to watch. I grabbed a media credential and sat with Shawn Sailer at Palmer Field in Middletown. We had a blast, despite the raindrops and delays.

I decided to stay away this year and get some stuff done around Robcasting Headquarters. As I was thinking about working the yard, it occurred to me how great it would be to listen to the action.

That's overall not an option.

Yes, I'm aware that (for a nominal fee), you can watch games via NFHS. That's certainly a worthy option, though buyer-beware in terms of some of the quality, to be honest. I'd be a wee annoyed to spend money and not be happy with it.

So you might say I could just pay the money and listen., and here's why:

- I, like you, have a data plan. Mine is not unlimited. Video from NFHS eats data, and my wifi doesn't necessarily make it into all parts of my yard as I'm mowing the lawn.
- I don't want to spend the money (and can't really afford it!)
- Not every broadcaster calls a game with the necessarily level of detail for a listener.

This last one is a big one for me. There are reasons that, despite calling numerous video webcast and TV games, I still largely do a descriptive radio call. Often I'm working with a limited number of cameras that can't pick up every angle, for instance, so my voice is needed to fill in the gaps.

But I also know -- and have been told by many -- that even when they do watch, they're not watching. They're doing something else.

So I describe and describe and describe.

And thankfully, by working either on just WGCH or with Local Live and Brunswick, I can put that skill to use. Plus Local Live and Brunswick have graciously allowed me to use the Robcasting platform to give people a listening option.

That's where I'd like to see the CIAC also go. The truth is, I would have done baseball for free today.

** See, here's the thing: I need to make money. Sure, that's true. But I also like calling games, and if there's a meal, maybe gas money, and hopefully a place to lay my head down (and a shower), I'm fine. A conversation for another time, of course. The point is, yes, I need to pay my bills, but there's a balance to all of this. Anyway, I'm babbling. Back to our story.**

Now, I'm aware that George DeMaio is doing softball on ESPN Radio 1300 (and, curiously, online, which the CIAC is always grumbling at WGCH about anytime we're there). So that's great.

But as I type, Ridgefield and Cheshire are in a great baseball dual in Middletown. Plus there's zero radio coverage of lacrosse (boys or girls).

The thing is, if Greenwich is involved, I'm always rattling cages to get the game on WGCH, and to that end we did cover the football and hockey title games. I'm no "VOICE" of anything, but who is?

If Staples is involved, you get their wonderful WWPT. These students produce a remarkable broadcast that is wholly unbiased. Not many on the local level can say that.

Darien might bring their DAF Media group to various state final games, but that's also a video-based broadcast, and the CIAC tends to shoo anyone away that might get in the way of NFHS.

(Side note, when HAN Radio radio, NFHS and the CIAC blocked us from radio coverage of both hockey and basketball in 2015 because we were an online station. That's after we did a full schedule in 2014, which was, of course, nirvana for me. They relented and let us do hockey only, yet other online stations show up at various state games, such as WCNX.)

I'm quite positive more schools will be trying the media concepts, but I'll still preach an audio-only element.

You know, like Robcasting.

Anyway, I'm not trying to get on a rant or stir up trouble. If it makes people think about other approaches to how the CIAC (and, yes, you too New York State) covers these games, then I think that's a worthwhile conversation to have.

There are myriad reporters doing a phenomenal job covering these games in print and via social media. GametimeCT is leading the way, and has really kicked things up with the addition of Pete Paguaga. He's not Petey Pageviews for nothing!

I know. It's a business. Business, however, doesn't often serve the fans. That's the problem.

Things are different in Middletown today, as Jim Bransfield's spot in the Palmer Field press box was taken by Joe D'Ambrosio, the now-former UConn play-by-play announcer for football and men's basketball. There are two thoughts here: 1) UConn dropped the ball. Big time. I don't know Joe D, but I've listened to him. He's a wonderful play-by-play voice. 2) Everyone is missing Mr. Bransfield in Middletown. That being said, having Joe D there is an inspired choice. Well done.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Off The Bench In An Empty Radio Station

I'm in the offices of WGCH Radio, and things are quiet.

Save for the on air signal.

Josh Somma -- solid guy, and producer of the 4-6 pm show -- took off about a half-hour ago, leaving me here alone.

Trust me, you don't want to be in a radio station without an air signal playing. Recall that I once spent the night here following Superstorm Sandy (nobody should have to deal with that). Once we were knocked off the air, the silence was eerie.

I should go home, but I love an empty office. Sometimes, my head just gets a chance to clear out, and I just might do my best work of the day.

But right now, I'm writing. How about that?

I'm still pretty horrified over the Fairfield Prep/Staples lacrosse story from last week, in which members of Prep's "Bomb Squad" cheering section apparently said anti-semitic things. To be sure, it's unacceptable if true. (GameTime CT has the pertinent info)

However, I was alerted to a rant posted on Facebook from a Staples student. Somehow, that wasn't reported anywhere. Why?

I addressed it (and more) on Doubleheader today. Mick McGowan joined the fun.

You can catch Doubleheader weekdays (almost) from 3-4 pm on WGCH Radio (and

You can also catch The Clubhouse on various Wednesday nights (like this upcoming one) from 7-8 pm.

Incidentally -- and I haven't addressed it yet -- I need to thank everyone for making year one of "Robcasting" so great. The past two't worked out exactly as planned. Or maybe they did.

Let me be quite clear: Robcasting is a concept. I don't know if it will morph into something more. It's not a money-maker, and I'm on the hunt for that. No matter what, I'd like to keep my toes in broadcasting, as I still think I have a voice worth offering. But as I've told many people, I'm actually a free agent. What would that mean for Doubleheader and everything else? Stay tuned, I guess.

If I can just have fun with games, and still pay my bills, that would be simply lovely.

But there's no question that I'm so indebted to Jake Zimmer, Dan Gardella, Shawn Sailer, AJ Szymanowski, Joe Early, Nelson Santos, Harold Turk, Chris Erway, Chris Kaelin, Ian Barto, Paul Silverfarb, Chris Lucey, Mike Richter (yes, really), Mick McGowan, Chris Lucey, Josh Somma, Kevin Devaney Jr, Tim Parry, and Jim Walsh -- along with Jay Allen, Eric Scholl, Leo Redgate, and the coaches, athletes, and supporters.

And, as always, I've missed someone.

In the past year -- between WGCH, Local Live, and Robcasting -- we've put 111 games on the air. I'm not going to lie. That's pretty cool.

So what's next? I currently have no idea. American Legion baseball? Maybe. A baseball tourney? I hope so (I had a blast in Trumbull last year, and Dave Laffey once talked about bringing me up to Waterford).

The Red and White Game at Greenwich High School on June 16 at 5 pm is definitely on the schedule.

Then we'll get back to it with Brunswick football and my 20th year as part of Greenwich High School football.

OK, so I saw "Solo" over the weekend. The short version of my review is that Sean liked it. As for me, I tolerated it. I thought they tried too hard, and don't get me going on how Han got his name. The whole thing is contrived.

I've said before that I have a bit of a love/hate with Disney. They can evoke enormous nostalgia in me, but they can also confound me.

The cleaning crew has come and gone. They were startled to see me.

It is probably time to go home.

Today didn't start great -- some days are better than others -- but it finished quite well.