Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sgt. James Crowley

All I can say is WOW! I was completely blown away. I understood both sides of this debate. I believe both Professor Gates and the Sgt. were both wrong in their actions. But what I saw this evening was remarkable. James Crowley made me very proud to be an American. His community and his police department should be as well.

Crowley pulled President Obama's backside out of the fire. His remarks were intelligent, diplomatic, but to the point. As the Czarina remarked to me as we watched, he's going to be running for political office.

None of us know how this will all play out. But for the moment I feel a lot of relief. There's something to be said about sitting down for a beer and a chat.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


That sums up the economy in Southwest Florida. I know, I know, the whole country is hurting, but it's the pits here. How can I tell you may wonder? Because, the Miami Dolphins are actually paying attention to us.

During my six year stint in Fort Myers the area NFL teams barely paid any attention to us. I can remember a newsroom visit by the Dolphin cheerleaders and I've got a cheesy Tampa Bay Buccaneers football bank sitting on a kitchen shelf, but I'm pretty sure both teams took the fan base around here for granted.

But Florida's economy is completely in the crapper. Our wonderful legislature stole from just about every rainy day account to balance the budget without raising taxes. We had the hottest housing market in the nation three years ago, now it's the worst. My home has lost half its value from the peak of the market, fortunately I bought before it went completely out of control.

So with that in mind, out of nowhere, two weeks ago the Miami Dolphins showed up in our area to tell the folks around here that the team has quote "proclaimed a re-commitment to the area." I think it speaks volumes. Even the NFL, a license to print money, is hurting in Florida.

Today Dolphin players showed up at a local library to read to kids. I'm floored. Next thing you know Dolphin cheerleaders will be holding a car wash at one of the local 7/11's.

We're two hours from Miami and two hours from Tampa. I've never been to a game at either stadium and even when the Kansas City Chiefs have been here I really didn't care about making the drive and I love pro football. In fact, my first trip to an NFL stadium in Florida will be in October when U2 plays at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. Of course unless, I don't have a job at that point and am forced to sell the tickets to pay my mortgage!

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Somewhere along the way some folks with a lot more wisdom than myself taught me what the real meaning of fear is, false expectations appearing real. I sense something in this country that I haven't experienced since the early 1980's and before that in the late 1960's.

The fear in the 1980's was the very real threat of nuclear war. President Reagan was upping the ante in the Cold War. Reagan pushed us to the edge of war with his rhetoric and his defense spending to let the Soviet Union know in no uncertain terms, we were ready. The ploy paid off as the arms race bankrupted the Soviets.

In the 1960's the fear intertwined with the Vietnam War and race. Racism was a major problem. Civil unrest in our largest cities was nothing new starting in 1966 by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. seemed to push everything over the edge. I can remember walking into a restroom at K.U.'s Memorial Stadium during the Kansas Relays in 1969 and seeing a black man in an army jacket with a handgun stuck in his belt. It made me catch my breath.

We've come a long way. But even with the election of a black President we've got so much further to go. What happened last week in Cambridge, Massachusetts to Professor Gates aside, there are other signs of this simmering problem of race in this great country of ours.

I believe this whole squabble over President Obama's citizenship is purely race driven. It's being pushed by people who simply don't want a black man in the White House. These people fear what they don't understand.

The same is true with the whole Tea Bag movement. It's not about taxes. It's not about out of control government spending. It's about race. The people I saw out manning the picket lines in Clearwater, Florida on the 4th of July were by and large rednecks. These are the same kind of people you would have found at a Klan rally 50 years ago. Fear has convinced them that President Obama is the Manchurian candidate sent here by the socialists to destroy the United States.

These same folks need to reflect deeply upon the man they put in the White House for the eight years prior Obama's election. George W. Bush and his Vice President Dick Cheney nearly destroyed our constitution. They started a war that never needed to be fought. They nearly bankrupted the greatest nation on earth. You want something to fear, chew on that for awhile.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Jayhawks

No, not those Jayhawks, I want to express my appreciation for the band called The Jayhawks. If you haven't given them a listen then I strongly suggest you take the time to do so. Their first album in 1992, "Hollywood Town Hall," is an indy rock classic.

Back then the band featured the amazing harmonies and songwriting talents of Gary Louris and Mark Olson. The sound is country tinged rock. Unfortunately they never put out a lot of music and in 1997 Olson decided to go his own way.The reconstituted lineup in my estimation was better. Louris was free to lead the group into a more rock based groove. The Jayhawk's last two albums, "Smile" in 2000 and "Rainy Day Music" in 2003 are staggeringly good. But nobody seemed to notice.

David Letterman liked them enough to have them on his program a few times. My take is that their sound never fit into a nitch. They weren't country and they weren't rock, they were alternative country-rock. The music they made is simply beautiful. I guess I'm writing about it because they've released an anthology this month called "Music from the North Country." You see despite the name, the band is from Minneapolis. Give them a listen, you won't be disappointed.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Greed is Good

Remember when Congress, especially Republicans, fought like hell to stop TARP? If you recall our financial was locked up tighter than a Catholic girl at a convent on Christmas morning. The idea was to give taxpayers equity in the banking system. In return the banks were given a boatload of money. The result was supposed to allow for a return to lending between the banks, lending to regular folks like you and me, and help for all the idiots out there that bought McMansions with a five year interest only ARM that jumped to a fat ten percent rate.

If you follow the stock market at all the banks are showing signs of life. The stock prices for big banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America have rebounded significantly since the market bottom in March. The taxpayers of this country stood to make a tidy profit. But as the government begins to redeem the warrants it received for TARP, it seems that it's getting less than fair market value. In the handful of deals that have gone through so far the taxpayers are getting about 66 percent of what we should.

Guess who's crying foul? No, not the Republicans. Shockingly enough House Democrats are scolding the Treasury Department for not getting the going rate for its warrants. It seems the GOP doesn't seem too worried about the taxpayers getting the shaft. Instead of getting what was promised when we bailed out the banks, we're getting screwed.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

When Money Trumps History

Tom Watson is leading the British Open. It's been nearly a generation since this golfing great has been in contention on the final day of a major championship. And yet, his hometown newspaper won't spend the money to send a reporter to Scotland to cover this historic effort.

Watson is one of the great sporting heroes of Kansas City. He's one of the big three along with Royal's Hall of Fame 3rd baseman George Brett and Chief's Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson. The late Joe McGuff, the legendary Kansas City sports columnist is probably spinning in his grave right now. The very newspaper he used to manage, the Kansas City Star, refuses to bite the bullet and send one of its own reporters to provide the hometown touch to this momentous event.

The Star like a lot of newspapers is owned by a company that is bleeding money. Many of its top line sports reporters have been shown the door over the last year. It probably would have cost them over ten thousand dollars to send someone on Saturday to cover Sunday's final round.

As I told the Czarina earlier today Watson winning the Open would be akin to Bill Rodgers winning the Boston Marathon. Watson is 59 years old. A victory would make him the oldest winner of one of golf's major championships by more than a decade.

Shame on the Kansas City Star. The people of this city have had very little cheer about when it comes to its sports scene over the last decade. This once great paper is missing out on the biggest sports story for the community George Brett's induction into baseball's Hall of Fame. Oh yeah, they did send a couple of reporters to cover that.

Friday, July 17, 2009


I am profoundly saddened tonight by the death of Walter Cronkite. His passing marks the end of a tradition of television news that those of us old enough to remember, will never likely see again. I became interested in journalism because of Cronkite. I have collected very little video during the course of my lengthy television career but one priceless possession is a 3/4" cassette of his final night anchoring the CBS Evening News.

Cronkite became my hero during the 1968 Democratic Convention. That week in Chicago made for some of the most riveting television that I ever witnessed. He reflected the outrage that I believe most Americans felt over the insanity of what was going on inside and outside the convention hall. The city of Chicago had turned into a police state and its Mayor Richard Daley a goon of the first order.

America's premier anchorman cemented his place in my heart with his unabashed enthusiasm in his coverage of the space program. That night 30 years ago sitting in front of a black and white TV watching Cronkite overcome with emotion will always stay with me.

His other shining moments include his outspoken stand on the Vietnam War, his coverage of Watergate and of course his iron man performance when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

This clip in all its primitive splendor shows you just how human he was and why he became so trusted. He wasn't afraid to reflect the collective feelings of a nation.

Edward R. Murrow was the architect of the amazing CBS news team that dominated the airwaves for more than a quarter of a century. But Cronkite was its chief engineer. He utilized the talents of such greats as Eric Sevareid, Harry Reasoner, and Marvin Kalb. Dan Rather's rise as a correspondent and Cronkite's eventual replacement in the anchor chair mirrored Cronkite's ascent to America's anchorman.

As I grew older and became a television professional I realized that the other networks had some other incredibly talented journalists. I became an aficionado of NBC's David Brinkley. Where Cronkite was straight forward and to the point, Brinkley brought an edge and acerbic wit to his delivery. I can't think of one without the other now. It's a shame that a generation of Americans didn't have the opportunity that I did to enjoy and learn from these giants of journalism.

The Afternoon Crap Shoot

Running in Southwest Florida comes with a few challenges. You've got to deal with heat and humidity for about half the year. Certain times of the year bugs become a big problem, especially if you choose to run around dusk. It can turn into an insect buffet at times. Also there's the wildlife, namely snakes and alligators that sometimes like to sidle up next to the trail.

The biggest challenge is lightning. Our rainy season starts at the beginning of June and last until November. Weather patterns become predictable and sometimes that means morning storms or at other times, afternoon storms. A pattern started last Tuesday where big thunderstorms start building up inland in the late afternoon.
It can be a blessing and a curse requiring an ability to read the local radar in order to avoid getting caught in lightning. Tuesday I got out the door just as the storm rained itself out and got in a terrific 6 mile run. I just managed to beat the return of the sun which created a sauna.

Wednesday the Czarina and I headed out the door for a four mile effort as a storm built to the east. I started us out running through our development with an eye to the sky. Just before two miles the sky lit up with lightning to the east and we were back at the house in under two minutes.

Thursday the storms were collapsing just to the north of our home. The Czarina refused to head outside but I could tell it was dying out. I managed to get in a wonderful 7 mile run with refreshing breezes from the dying storms downdrafts. Just so you don't think that the Mrs. ducked a run, she did head out about a half hour later.

Today it was the same story with the storms building up again in the east, but much farther inland. It was a little more humid but it made for a 4 mile pleasant run. Running is such a bear during our summers these storms come as a welcome relief despite the dangers. But as any runner can testify, nothing's more terrifying than getting caught a good two miles from home in the middle of a lightning storm.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Parity is part of what makes the National Football League so incredibly popular. Parity is the biggest problem facing Major League Baseball. But I see a glimmer of hope for the game that I used to follow with a passion. Used to because the strike in 1994 and the over-inflated home run totals of the steroid era were a turnoff.

Drug testing has changed the playing field. Because it's harder to cheat, the game is reverting back to its natural form. That game relies on speed, pitching, and defense. I think that's part of the reason why you see teams like the Tampa Bay Rays and Florida Marlins competing with such minuscule payrolls. Slugging outfielders and infielders cost a lot of money. Speedy outfielders and nimble infielders do not.

It gives hope to the hopeless. But I'm not sure a lot of baseball management gets this. For example my favorite team, the Kansas City Royals, thought it was necessary to go out and get slugging first baseman Mike Jacobs from the Marlins. The Royals need to think retro. When this club was at its top its best hitters clubbed between 20 and 30 homers a year, hit a ton of doubles, rarely struck out, and ran the bases. The team could run the bases and other than Frank White, was adequate defensively. They had pitching, tons of it.

The Royals have a lot of good young arms. But they need to focus on getting hitters like Billy Butler who offer occasional power and hit for average rather than sluggers like Jacobs and Jose Guillen. Drug testing has changed the game. In the end it will help level the field between the big market money teams and teams like Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati. The difference will be in scouting and front office decisions.

A salary cap would really cure what ails the national pastime, but that's about as likely as me running a sub four minute mile.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Every guitar players nightmare

With a nod to Hula Girl for linking this video.

A poor Canadian musician has experienced every guitar players worst nightmare. Flying with a guitar is unnerving at best. The handful of times I've done it I could usually carry the guitar onto the plane. One time Northwest insisted it was too big for the overhead. The flight attended turned into a complete bitch. I reluctantly handed my Taylor over. What made it worse is that the flight attendant was surly and nasty to me the rest of the flight from Indianapolis to Kansas City. I hadn't said anything to her or even shot her a nasty look. I should have sent a complaint email but I was just happy to see that my favorite Taylor was in good condition when I retrieved it from the plane.

I've had guitars broken during shipment and it just makes you sick to your stomach. Fortunately the music store was on the hook, not me. There's something special about a Taylor. They've got a sound and ease of play that make them worth the extra dollars they cost. In the video Dave Carroll is playing a T-5, Taylor's first attempt at an electric guitar. I own one and it may be the finest instrument in my collection.

United screwed up big time on this one. Taylor guitar has offered to make repairs and sell him another one at a discount. They know their customers are loyal to the core.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Hard Rain

A nice surprise came in the mail from one Steve Riley, masters runner extraordinaire and a dedicated Bob Dylan fan. It was a DVD of Dylan's "Hard Rain" concert that aired on NBC 23 years ago. The disc is a Japanese dub of the show because it's got Japanese writing plastered all over the broadcast, karaoke if you will.

The concert was taped in a driving rainstorm in Boulder, Colorado. I remember watching the show live and helping my friend and former high school teacher Tony Gauthier commandeer a reel-to-reel video recorder from the high school to tape the event. If my memory serves me well even outgoing Lawrence school superintendent Randy Weseman (then a student teacher) was on hand for the after hours bootlegging. I have no idea what happened to the tape.

"Hard Rain" was a stop during Dylan's epic Rolling Thunder Review. The year before Steve had invited me to travel with him to Massachusetts to see Dylan and company at the start of this classic tour. My mother forbade it so I stayed at home while Steve had an experience that will last a lifetime.

A few years earlier Steve sent me a grainy VHS copy of the Dylan concert that was originally supposed to air instead of "Hard Rain." The performance had been taped in Tampa and called "Black Rain" by fans. "Hard Rain" is good but "Black Rain" is a great performance. The only reasons I can speculate as to why this didn't make it to general release was the extremely dark lighting and the fact that Joan Baez absolutely stole the show.

Oh where have you gone my blue eyed son?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Night Racing

Every once in a while you've got to break up the routine with something a little different. For the Czarina and I this 4th of July weekend meant a road trip to Dunedin, Florida, a suburb in the Tampa Bay area. The idea was to run in a midnight race put on by the local Kiwanis Club.

They held three races Friday night beginning with a one mile run at 11 p.m. The race we chose was the 5K which started at 11:25 p.m. Our other choice was the 10K at 12:15 a.m. Now for a few seconds I considered running the 10K then common sense grabbed me. I realized that about the time I hit two miles in a 10K I'd be wishing there was only a mile to go.

This race went out and back on a causeway complete with a drawbridge that spanned the Gulf of Mexico leading out to an island that is a state park. All that open water provided plenty of humidity. Race time the temperature was 86 degrees, the humidity 80 percent, and the dewpoint 75. The best way I can describe it is think about putting a treadmill in a sauna and going for a 3 mile run, it was about that enjoyable.

Normally, Czarina bolts out at the gun and will lead me through the first mile, but not this time. She wisely held back. We both ran slower than molasses, me 24:01, she 25:53, but the Czarina as usual claimed her age group and carted home a nice plaque.

This got me to thinking about other night races I've attempted through the years. There's Night Flight in Lee's Summit, Missouri, a pretty decent race in suburban Kansas City. I ran the inaugural Midnight Madness 5K in Phoenix back in 1990. My buddy Craig Davidson runs dressed up as Father Time and the idea is to beat him and win some prizes.

My favorite evening event is the 10 mile race at Lake Atwood. The oldest road race in Kansas is hosted by the tiny town of Atwood in extreme northwest Kansas. I've run this race a half dozen times or so, both in the evening and morning. They used to start it about an hour before dusk you'd run eight laps around a lake. Sometime in the early 80's the lake dried up and it was overgrown with weeds but the community pitched in and replenished the eyesore.

For a time the race moved to mornings in an effort to beat the heat. The only year I ran it in the morning was 1991 and I remember a dusting of snow on the ground on the drive up from Colby. It was early August and colder than all get out. By the time the race started it was actually great running weather but all the precipitation had flooded the spillway that was normally dry and part of the course. I chose to get wet.

A lot of great runners circled that lake, Ted Crank, Bob Luder, Kent McDonald, George Mason, Tim Tays, Terry Drake, Fred Torneden, Tim Gundy. These names may not be familiar but they were some of the best runners to come out of Kansas during the 70's and 80's. I had the privledge of getting my ass kicked by all of them.

Footnote: I just went to the Lake Atwood website. Much to my surprise I was inducted into the Lake Atwood 10 mile Hall of Fame in 2002. But I don't feel too embarrassed about it because they spelled my name wrong. Who'd a thunk it!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Carnage Continues...

Just when you thought it was safe to be a television sportscaster in Kansas City another well known name is out the door. KSHB decided to let Leon Liebl go. I never worked at the same station as Leon but I worked with him countless times through the years. He is a great guy and a first rate journalist.

Journalism on all fronts is under siege. Gannett just announced it was cutting another 1000 positions. Even in good old Fort Myers, the two mom and pop TV operators have been trimming payrolls. WINK (CBS) has axed at least ten positions in the last year. WBBH/WZVN (NBC/ABC) has sliced more than 20 bodies from its collective payrolls.

The reason I bring this up is because both companies are family owned. That means that neither operator has any debt to speak of, unlike a lot of newspaper and TV companies around the country that are tossing bodies, slicing salaries, and forcing furloughs on their already overworked and underpaid staffs.

For Fort Myers Broadcasting (WINK) and Waterman Broadcasting (WBBH/WZVN) to jettison staff like this only emphasizes the horrendous state of the Florida economy. I know that much of the country is hurting but I can attest that Southwest Florida's economy started hemmoraging a good year before the financial markets collapsed last fall. When the recovery starts it will likely begin in our neck of the woods much, much later than it does in other parts of the U.S.A.

It's a shame because while the quality of television news in Fort Myers doesn't quite match that of Kansas City's, the staffing levels used to, which made for some decent investigative and in-depth reporting. I fear that the blood-letting in both television markets is far from over.