Monday, December 27, 2010

Gender equity in sports thanks to Title 9 has given women much deserved opportunities in athletics.  But news that ESPN has decided to launch a website directed at women sports is something of an eyebrow raiser.  But it does raise the chicken or egg argument.  If the sports leader builds it, will they come?

I decided to write about this because I've been chuckling about all the grousing about the supposed lack of coverage of UConn's remarkable run of 89 consecutive wins by its female basketball team.  Trust me folks, the Huskies' winning streak has received far more coverage than UCLA's 88 game run by its men back in the 1970's.  I repeat, UConn has gotten much more exposure than UCLA.

Remember, ESPN didn't exist back in 1974 when Notre Dame ended the Bruins' streak.  There was no FOX sports, no CNN, UCLA got most of its due from Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News, both print publications.  UConn has gotten a ton more coverage than UCLA did simply by the fact that a lot that the media landscape has grown by leaps and bounds in the last 40 years.

But I'm not sure that the appetite for sports coverage of women has.  Granted, more women than ever participate in sports.  It's up almost 500 percent in the last 40 years according to a publication I read.  But participation doesn't equate to consumption of the product in my view.

Women have come a long way in terms of their athletic ability.  The college game is fundamentally sound at the top levels, but only among the very best teams. It's a game played below the rim.  equate with consumption of women targeted sports coverage. UConn's women are at best like watching a very good high school boys basketball team.  Sorry, but it's true.  You really have to be a connoisseur to appreciate women's basketball.

Before you rag on me I enjoy watching women compete in track and field just as much as I enjoy watching men.  Women running a sub 4:00 1500 meters is just as exciting to me as watching men run the same race under 3:30.  Basketball is different than just running, jumping, or throwing a shot, discus or javelin.  The athleticism exhibited by men on a basketball court is often jaw dropping.  You rarely go oh my when watching the same game played by women. 

I guess the point of all this is that a website targeting women athletics or even a magazine like the failed Sports Illustrated for Women seems like a tough nut to crack.  The financial scale of the Internet leads me to believe that ESPN can make it work.  But it would shock me if it became any kind of massive financial success.  The WNBA is a ratings disaster for the world wide leader.  But then again, who would have thought that a website like Dyestat, which targeted high school track and field, a truly small audience, could end up being attractive to an industry leader like ESPN.  But then again, ESPN has messed that up too.

True Grit

When I first heard that Hollywood was serving up a new version of "True Grit" I thought, why?  When I heard the Coen Brothers were at the helm of this re-make I thought hmmm.  I remember seeing the movie as a teenager in Abilene, Kansas and loved every minute of it.  The epic gun battle where Wayne grips his reigns in his teeth and shoots it out at a full gallop really began my love affair with this larger than life movie star.

I remember Oscar night in 1969 hoping that Wayne would win the Oscar and how touching it was to see such a big screen hero turn soft with a statue he probably didn't deserve.  But watch his movies that he made with John Ford and tell me he didn't deserve an Oscar for his epic anti-hero in "The Searchers" or for his role in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance", but I digress

So this afternoon I went to see Joel and Ethan's effort to bring "True Grit" to the big screen.  They made a movie that couldn't have been made in the late 1960's.  Nevertheless the Coen's managed to make another great film.  The acting is superb.  Jeff Bridges is wonderful in the role made famous by Wayne and his supporting cast is so much better with Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, and Hailee Steinfeld, than the original cast, it's not even the same movie.

And true to their nature as film makers, the Coen's bring the grit to "True Grit."  Are these guys the best filmmakers over the last 20 years or what?!?  Go see it, I think even the Duke would agree if he were still around, it's a great flick.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Road Trip

I jumped on I-80 and headed west last night deciding to abandon work for a little Kansas basketball.  It was a shockingly easy drive to Berkeley and a surprisingly easy ticket.  The game was nowhere near a sell out and Kansas fans easily made up one-third of the crowd. 

It would be my first chance to watch the Kansas Jayhawks in person against the Cal Bears at the Pete Newell Classic.  It was K.U.'s first game at Cal since Wilt Chamberlain wore the crimson and blue.  Right from the beginning I thought I had traveled back in time.  I hadn't seen play this rough since the mid-1970's since players like Al Eberhard and Jim Kennedy roamed the baseline for Mizzou and Ernie Kuysner did the same for Kansas State.

It was all because of this guy, Jorge Gutierrez.  He's easily the dirtiest player I've seen play in person in more than a quarter of a century.  He pushes, grabs, shoves, and in one instance, tried to bar arm choke his opponents.

The first instance I noticed followed a slight push he received from a Kansas guard Elijah Johnson.  Gutierrez responded by riding Johnson across the lane up underneath Johnson and then flopping when Johnson tried to back off.  The play worked and Johnson got whistled for the foul.

Then when Thomas Robinson got tagged for a flagrant on Gutierrez what the officials failed to take into account was the two handed shove then the arm wrap that he used to draw Robinson's ire. 

The incessant grabbing and pushing continued and climaxed when as Gutierrez lay on top of Robinson on a held ball he shoved his forearm across Robinson's throat.  How he didn't get tossed for this move is beyond me.

Now I write all of this knowing full well that the Morris twins are no angels.  They like to mix it up.  Marcus let his emotions get the better of him when he finally threw an elbow at Harper Kamp.  What you couldn't help but notice was that Kamp and fellow Bear big man Markhuri Sanders-Frison continually shoved all three Kansas bigs every time there was a contested rebound and were continually going over the back for rebounds without getting called for it.  In fact on the elbow play Kamp came running down the lane and tried to shove Marcus out of the way which resulted in the first swing of the arm which was followed by full contact.

The Pac 10 needs to take a good look at Gutierrez and his play.  If he continues to play like this he's going to get an ejection or two before seasons end.

Though rattled Kansas never succumbed to the poor officiating and the physical play.  Josh Shelby has shown that Xavier Henry won't be missed.  Shelby wants the ball and isn't afraid to take the big shot.  He's Sherron Collins but five inches taller and a better outside shot. I'm not sure that this Kansas team is capable of a big run this year but there's no reason why this squad can't make another trip to the Sweet 16.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mr. Roberts

Television news is a rough and tumble business.  The hours are unpredictable, you work way too many holidays and the pay is atrocious.  Yet you get to work with and meet the most interesting people along the way.  Along the way in my crazy patch work of a career a few people served as role models.  Mike McDonald, Jim Overbay, Gary Long, and Mary Cox come to mind.

Constant readers of my blog know that Mike was my news director for many years.  He worked tirelessly at trying to mold my managerial skills.  Jim Overbay was the assignment manager at KMBC when I first started in TV news and his ethics and unflappable nature always struck me as a sort of journalistic North Star.  Gary Long was the anti-Overbay, with a crazy, manic, approach to managing.  But his genius was his self-assured approach to decision making.  Mary Cox was just the smartest one in the room.  I can't find enough adjectives to describe how great she is so suffice to say Mary's amazing.

 But I don't think I would be the producer that I am without having come across the man pictured on the left.  Gerry Roberts was the very first producer I ever worked for.  Gerry along with the human dynamo Jerry Plantz both tutored me at KMBC.  But Gerry was special because he was so multi-talented.  Mr. Roberts as Pam Freund and I always called him, could report, run the desk, produce a great newscast, and run the entire newsroom.  I bet he could have run a life truck if needed.

After I left KMBC in 1979 Gerry stayed on at the then #1 station in town only to watch it slowly slip into the market's bottom slot.  He left for KYW in Philadelphia in the mid-1980's when the then NBC affiliate was a complete train wreck.  He tried to help Mike Sullivan turn it around as the assistant news director.  After the station ended up spitting him and Sullivan out Mr. Roberts landed back in Kansas City.

Our paths crossed again at WDAF in the early 1990's for a short time.  He worked the assignment desk and his presence served as a strong reminder of the what it took to be a great television journalist.  Unfortunately KMBC didn't wait long to snatch him back and he was back at the #1 station in the market.

Gerry served the last several years as the station's assistant news director.  It wasn't unusual for Mr. Roberts to roll up his sleeves and produce a newscast.  I'd be willing to bet he is the only AND in a top 30 market at a #1 station who could do that on a consistent basis.

I always treasured our relationship.  Gerry never hesitated to call or email with either a question about a possible hire or just to inquire into how life was treating me.  I don't think Mr. Roberts had any idea how much it meant to me that he trusted my judgment.

Mr. Roberts is calling it a career on Friday, December 31st.  Kansas City is losing the best television journalist it ever produced who didn't serve as a news director or sit at an anchor desk.  The community is losing a treasure.  Fortunately for me, I still have a touchstone that reminds me that you must always do whatever it takes to get the job done.  Thank you Mr. Roberts.

Editors Addendum:  If you think I'm kidding about the producing, Mr. Roberts is producing on Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Gift

I've been working for 32 Christmases or so.  I can say that most of the time the television stations I worked at rarely held a Christmas party and often gave a turkey or a coupon to the grocery store as a Christmas gift or "bonus."  In those 32 I received one "bonus" and it was a nice one when I worked as a news director at WPSD in Paducah, Kentucky.  And my old boss at KVLY in Fargo, Charley Johnson, always scheduled the Christmas part in January at the beginning of the budget year to make sure it didn't get cut and always offered great door prizes.  But a lot of years there no gifts and no parties.

Besides the bonus the best gift I can remember getting was a wristwatch at a station Christmas party when I worked at KTSP in Phoenix.  It was a cheap watch but I still have it though I've never worn it.  It makes for a nice memento, especially since the call letters are no longer in existence.

News10 held a Christmas party which was great from what I heard.  But I was recovering from a nasty sinus infection and couldn't drag myself off the couch to attend.  Nevertheless the station did give out the best holiday gift I've ever gotten from an employer other than cash.
I've been so busy with work and dealing with another illness (I won't bore you with the details) that I haven't even gotten it out of the box.  But as I laid around my apartment staring at the box tonight, completely worn out from a lack of sleep and a long day at work, I couldn't help think about the double-edged sword that this particular gift represents.  It's a not so subtle reminder that this is an item we should carry with us at all times in case we come across a news story.  Still, it's a heck of a gift.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

And it's Cold Too!

This priceless photo arrived at my email in box at work.  Cold weather has finally come to Florida and as you can see the Czarina doesn't believe in turning on the furnace.  It's a nice look at our office as well.  I especially seeing my Bob Dylan poster above her right shoulder and a signed picture of Alberto Salazar over her left.  The good new is that she's going to doctor to get her toe looked at and hopefully get some help for our plantar fasciitis.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Suffering Czarina

The Czarina is the toughest person I've ever known.  She will work herself to exhaustion and come back for more.  I realized it when shortly after our marriage she took out a patch of thick vines along the back of our house on a hot summer afternoon.  When I asked her what in the world she thought she was doing our response was, "Now you know why the Russians won the war!"

It wasn't long after that the Czarina took up running.  Within a few months she became a great running companion, often pushing me in our workouts.  Without telling me in the weeks leading up to the St. George Marathon the Czarina was suffering with plantar fasciitis.  Shortly after her return to Florida the pain in her foot became unbearable, the Czarina even resorted to using a cane to aid her in walking.  I can only imagine the pain she had been dealing with leading up to the marathon.  If you've ever had plantar it's no picnic.

Much to her chagrin the Czarina hasn't been able to run on a consistent basis since early October.  To add to her misery she bumped her foot into a door jam two nights ago.  Given her description of the pain and the color of her foot I advised her to go to the doctor.  She refused.  Tonight I got a tearful phone call because she did it again.  I scolded her for not going to the doctor, who would have probably put the injured foot in a protective boot.  She promised to go to the doctor tomorrow. 

It just goes along with the time I told her not to go up on the ladder to cut a tree limb by herself, immediately ignored me and went out and broke her wrist.  I think if you looked up the word stubborn her picture would be next to it!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Nice Surprise

More than four months ago I committed to running a leg of the California International Marathon.  I was going to join the gang that invited me to take part in the Eppies race last summer.  The marathon went off this Sunday morning but not without a week of worry leading up to it.

I developed a nasty sinus infection early in the week.  By Wednesday my head felt like it would explode because I was so stuffed up.  I finally gave in on Friday and went to a doctor who prescribed me antibiotics.

The other issue was the weather.  Our meteorologists were promising a weekend full of rain and cool temperatures.  So the prospect of running a little more than seven miles feeling like crud in cool, rainy, weather didn't sound too appealing.

But miracle of miracles the weather started warming up on Saturday.  And while working Saturday night I actually started to feel good again.  Even though I was short on sleep because of work I got up at 6:30 a.m. to 50 degree temperatures and clearing skies.

So I made it to my relay spot at 7:40 a.m. and waited about 20 minutes or so for our first team member to arrive.  Steve Holmes, our captain of sorts, had told me that he had given me the toughest leg.  I thought he merely meant longest because it measured at 7.6 miles.  It turned out to be the toughest too!

I never knew there were this many hills just a few miles from my apartment.  It was unending up and down for the seven plus miles.  I was worried because I haven't been running much since St. George, but I managed a steady 8:20 pace.  I focused on catching the pacing groups that were in front of me hoping to make it all the way up to the 4 hour gang.  I missed catching them by about a minute but I was pretty happy all things considered.

The surprise came when I got home and was informed that we had won our team category.  I suspect the high school athlete we had running anchor reeled in a few teams to help out the cause.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

As Go the Twins, Go the Jayhawks

It took a trip to Fort Myers to get my first full look at the 2010-11 version of the Kansas Jayhawks.  It's real simple this year, if the Morris twins can stay out of foul trouble, Kansas will be on track for a Final Four appearance.  I don't care if Josh Selby ends up being the second coming of John Wall, K.U. won't make it past the second round of the NCAA tournament if Markieff and Marcus don't dominate the middle.

The Jayhawks are woefully thin when it comes to front line guys who can bang.  Thomas Robinson is going to be a great player but the jury remains out on Jeff Withey and his ability to contribute meaningful minutes in the post.

Basing opinions on 40 minutes of basketball is a dangerous thing but it's never stopped me before.  The best looking perimeter player isn't going to get very many minutes this year.  It's a shame because Mario Little can spot up from 15 feet and has no fear putting the ball on the floor and going to the basket.  The only thing I can figure is that Self sees Little as a defensive liability.  His athleticism alone and his ability to score makes him a much better player in my book than Brady Morningstar, who will hopefully disappear on the bench with Selby's arrival.

The other problem on this team is Tyshawn Taylor.  The talented junior hasn't shown much progression from last year's less than sensational sophomore season.  Maybe Selby's addition to the team in mid-December will force Taylor to raise his game to another level but I doubt it.

This guard laden addition of the Jayhawks will only go as far as the twins can take them.  The Morris brothers are certainly the most talented siblings to appear on campus since the football team's Alexander twins.  Come on, who out there remembers Carky and Marky?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Promise

Bruce Springsteen's latest dive into his impressive vault has been out for more than a week, but it often takes time for me to digest offerings from my favorite artists.  I was a Springsteen fan before Bruce was BRUUCCEEE.  I purchased "Greetings from Asbury Park when it came out my senior year in high school and when I heard that he was the next "Bob Dylan" I had to give it a listen.

Asbury was a remarkable album for a first effort from a new artist.  The man who discovered Dylan, Tom Hammond, tried to make Bruce the second coming of Bob.  Thank God Bruce and John Landau found each other because Springsteen's follow up "The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle" left me cold.  The arrival of "Born to Run" signaled the arrival of the "real" Bruce and the rest we say is history.

Except I grew tired of "Born" and then Springsteen's legal entanglements pulled him off my radar.  By the time he came out with "Darkness on the Edge of Town" I had dedicated myself to Dylan, The Dead, and Neil Young and for some reason I dismissed Springsteen.  It would take me the better part of a decade to rediscover his greatness, ironically, when he put out two CD's considered weak by many of his fans and critics, "Human Touch" and "Lucky Town."

The best part of this rediscovery was diving back into the treasure trove of music he had produced through the 1980's, though I stayed away from "Born in the USA" because it had over-saturated the radio airwaves.   I didn't buy the disc until last year and again I was amazed by its greatness.

Now Bruce has brought us "The Promise."  The depth of incredible material he decided to leave off "Darkness on the Edge of Town" is stunning.  And don't shortchange yourself, buy the big box set.  The lives performances are riveting.  My favorite piece is a version of "Racing in the Streets" that Bruce rejected in lieu of the version that appeared on "Darkness."  "Darkness" is such a great album on its own but to realize the creativity that poured out of him during his legal enforced exile is staggering.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ode to Big Red

It was a classic end to one heck of a week.  We were working as hard as we could to score some ratings successes as we enter the last few days of sweeps.  The final push involved some major weather coverage as the first big snow maker is pushing down from the north over the Sacramento area and dumping a lot of snow in the Sierras.

What you see here is Big Red, our massive, outdated, satellite truck.  It was up at the Boreal Resort at 6 p.m. for a live shot and the snow was just beginning to fall.  The decision that I faced was where to send the truck next to make sure we didn't get into a situation where driving this monster was impossible.

My initial thought was to drive to Colfax.  It sits at about 2251 feet of elevation and would be just on the edge of the rain/snow line.  The idea was to cover travelers who were trying to beat the storm before I-80 was shutdown.  Sometime after my reporter headed out the door to head to Colfax to meet up with the sat truck it was suggested to me that Nyack would be a better spot.  I'm not going to name the individual (who probably should have known better) but boy, what a difference 18 miles can make.

The altitude of Nyack is about 3000 feet higher and that makes a hell of a difference when it comes to snow.  Add to that Tom Wagner, our truck operation, called me at about 8 p.m. telling me he couldn't get the chains to drop on the truck.  I asked him how the weather was and he said it was fine.  I asked him if he was okay staying and he said sure.

Then my intrepid reporter Will Frampton called at about 9 p.m. telling me that the drive had gotten a lot more difficult.  It took him about an hour to make the last 18 miles because Cal Trans was making drivers put chains on their vehicles.  He suggested that leaving Big Red in Nyack for the weekend might be a wise decision.  I took his suggestion under advisement.  I love Will but he is extremely cautious and it's difficult to gauge which sometimes causes me to take a his concerns with a grain of salt.

Will made it to Big Red at 10 p.m.  The live shot was stellar.  I was shocked by the amount of snow that had accumulated since I had talked to Tom at 8 p.m.  It was snowing about an inch an hour so a good three inches on the ground.  I had been checking the Cal Trans cameras and could see traffic was moving on I-80, albeit, slowly.  Surely I thought to myself as I watched the live shot, Tom will call if he feels that driving this behemoth back would be a problem.  I figured parking it for the weekend at the Shell Station was an option rather than risk the run back to Sacramento.

The live shot came and went, one of Will's best efforts since I've been here and a fine effort by Tom.  They even did a shot for KGO in San Francisco.  The rest of the newscast wasn't what it should have and could have been given some technical issues and manpower issues but it went off with little on air problems.

Then just as I was preparing to head home at 11:45 p.m. and end a massive 12 hour day my phone rang.  It was Will.  Big Red had slid off I-80 and was hopelessly stuck.  I can't begin to describe how upset and hurt I felt.  Tom was fine, the truck was fine, but that Big Red beast was stuck on I-80.  It was a fitting ending to a rough and tumble week.  I'm going to bed grateful that Tom is all right and praying that his journey home is uneventful the rest of the night.  At the very least, I owe him a bottle of scotch.
Postscript:  Tom is fine and in good spirits and so is Big Red!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Steely Dan

A gentle nudge on Facebook from my friend and personal blues guitar hero Lew Jetton brought a huge smile to my face tonight.  He shared a link to a Steely Dan concert.  Lew and I forged a friendship more than 15 years ago driving to and from a Steely Dan concert in Nashville.  The show was riveting and so was the conversation during the drive.

Steely Dan is the greatest band the never really was a band ever.  Donald Fagen and Walter Becker ran through some of the best studio musicians to create some of the best popular music imaginable in the 1970's.  In fact their music is one of the few good things to actually originate out of the 70's musically. 

I've been lucky enough to see them perform three times over the last 15 years and I never get tired of the overwhelming rock and jazz riffs that liter their best work.  If you've never listened grab "The Royal Scam" and if "Caves of Altamira" doesn't blow you away then you don't have ears.

My personal favorite song is "My Old School."  I would sit and listen to this song with my old buddy from Lawrence, David Barnhill, and we shake our heads in wonder at Larry Carlton's almost effortless guitar solo.  I've attached a live version which should help convince you that Steely Dan is among the best to have graced a stage.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Back to Kansas City

When I last left off on my dialogue on my never ending professional travels I was living a miserable life in Phoenix, Arizona.  I was drained by the unending colors of brown and beige that desert living brings not to mention the stifling heat.  Mike McDonald wanted me back at WDAF to be his 10 p.m. producer and that seemed like the right move to make.  I would back close to family and around a cast of characters that I had enjoyed working with for about seven years.

My return home came in April 1990.  The city was on the verge of a massive growth spurt that would see southern Overland Park explode with new housing and strip malls galore.  The anchor line up had changed slightly during my absence.  Reigning Kansas City anchor queen Cynthia Smith had given up her chair and a southern belle named Kelly Minton had arrived from Little Rock as her replacement.

A lot of different things had combined to cause WDAF to slip from its number one spot.  The ownership had allowed the ratings grabbing "Oprah" to go to KMBC which immediately delivered them great ratings.  Smith's departure that coincided with the arrival of a new news director all helped cause a ratings slump.

McDonald had left for nearly a year to try and work his magic at KXAS in Dallas.  His replacement, Joyce Reed, who had seen success as a news director in Springfield, Missouri was something of a failure.  I never worked for her so perhaps my criticism is unfair but she earned a reputation as being a first class bitch among my former co-workers.  Without going into the particulars because even I don't know everything that happened, Mike returned to Kansas City in the winter of 1990 where he would rule the roost for another 12 years before heading into semi-retirement.

I only spent a short 15 months back at WDAF as 10 p.m. producer.  I went through some more life changing experiences, some very bad but a lot of it very good for my personal growth.  As badly as I wanted to move up into an EP position at the station it would have to wait.  The ratings weren't moving but I was.  By July 1991 I was on the Kansas Turnpike heading west to Topeka to take my first job as a news director at KSNT, the NBC affiliate.

Monday, November 8, 2010

And there Ain't Nothing Like a Friend

One thing about my life, it's never been dull.  As much as the Czarina likes to complain about my lack of motivation on a Sunday afternoon as I devour football game after football game, I've been lucky enough to have lived in just about every part of this great county and I've met a lot of great people along the way.

Despite my varied travels I've managed to stay connected to a core group of amigos who help me stay grounded and connected.  The one thing that ties us together is either our love of running or in one instance, a love of sports.  They're really good about keeping me out of the ditch. And just as importantly I learned that even those that are more mentor than friend care, enough to make sure that I shouldn't let the verities of life get the better of me.

And to remind me of this came an email late last week from one of these friends who never ceases to amaze me with his sly sense of humor  It was a pick me up right when I needed it most.  I've supported him in this important cause last year.  After viewing this, I hope you join me in supporting The Flash in this worthy effort.  Enjoy!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Things Have Changed

What a week from a sensational World Series win by the San Francisco Giants to a largely satisfying election night for the team at News10.  But as Bob Dylan so aptly put it, things have changed.  Life deals us all manner of curve balls, foul tips, and even breath taking family tragedy.  I would go into detail but suffice it to say that some things are best left unwritten, at least for now.

The seven days that made up the first week of November ranks nowhere near the worst in my life, but I had to pause on Friday and remind myself of that.  The tools that I have been given remind me to keep it first things first, put one foot in front of the other, and to let go, let God.  Yet my mood is best summed up in Bob's Oscar winning masterpiece, I used to care but, things have changed.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Giants Win the Series The Giants Win the Series The Giants Win the Series

Who would have thought it possible that the pitching rich, batting starved San Francisco Giants would rip through the playoffs into the World Series, much less win it all.  I remember sitting in a restaurant in late August watching the Giants fighting just to work the team into the playoff picture.  They barely made it on squeaking by the Padres on the last day of the season.

But in playoff baseball the Giants showed that great pitching will win out in the end.  The combination of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, Madison Baumgarner, and Brian Wilson was formidable.  The Giants were impossible to beat if the any of their starters could get the team into the 7th with a lead.
More remarkable was the fact that the first four starters were all homegrown, something that hasn't happened since the 1983 Baltimore Orioles.

Watching the Giants remarkable run almost made me fall in love with baseball again.  I've been keeping the game at arms length since the strike of 1994.  Free agency and the players inability to see that their greed is destroying the game along with the owner's inability to set salary limits has destroyed the game.  Want proof, don't be surprised if the Giants don't even finish third in their division next year.  Enjoy it Giant fans while you can, because you can be like me still waiting for the Royals to repeat the magic that was 1985.

A Missed Opportunity

For only the second time in my adult life I will miss voting in a major election.  I feel so ashamed.  I am still registered to vote in Florida.  For a lot of reasons which I won't go into, maintaining my Florida residence is important for the time being.  I even considered flying to Fort Myers so I could see my wife and vote early.

There are a lot of exciting races in Florida.  The U.S. Senate race is interesting because of Charlie Crist's decision to run as an independent.  I have mixed feeling about Governor Crist.  I've met him and I like him but he often does what's politically expedient and not what's best for the state.  But his main rival, Marco Rubio, is an example of what's currently wrong with Republican politics.  There is no room for moderation.

The other race that concerns me is a County Commission race in which a clueless Carla Johnston stands a good chance of getting on the board.  If she wins and Brian Bigelow keeps his seat county government could grind to a complete halt, which might be a bad thing.

And don't get me started on Congressman Connie Mack, who only pretends to live in the district.  He may not be the worst congressman in the world but the fact that voters let this carpetbagger stay in office just goes to show how bad Florida politics can be.

But I must admit, California politics makes Florida look amateur.  The state is out of control with its ballot propositions.  The big one this time around is the pot proposition I blogged about earlier.  The fact that voters get asked to decide things like how the state does its redistricting and how lawmakers pass a budget shows you how horrible our legislators are. 

Then we've got a race for Governor and the U.S. Senate that mirror each other.  Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer, career Democrat politicians are facing wealthy, ex-CEO's on the Republican side, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina.  Whitman's run for Governor and Fiorina's U.S. Senate campaigns have been laughable.  Brown and Boxer have horrible records yet neither Whitman or Fiorina have been able to drive home a consistent message about how they can be difference makers. 

Tuesday night is going to be interesting here and across the nation.  It's a shame I can't vote.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Proposition Pot

The people of California are getting ready to decide whether to legalize marijuana.  Proposition 19 would green light the sale and distribution of pot despite the federal ban.  I had a small hand in putting together a great special that we're airing Saturday night called Proposition Pot.

I don't advocate the use of marijuana.  Yes I've smoked it and I inhaled but I haven't touched the stuff in more than 20 years.  But with that said I think it makes sense to at the very least decriminalize its use.  I think the people of California will vote 19 down but as I've already seen since moving here, doing so would really be stupid.

Medical marijuana shops are everywhere.  I've seen pot plants sitting out in the sun on the decks at the apartment complex where I live.  As badly as the state needs revenue streams legalizing and taxing the hell out of pot makes sense to me.  Legalizing it would also help do away with the dangerous, illegal grow houses, that seem to catch fire at least once a week.

One of the sad parts of the half special that Tim Wells, Damien Espinoza, Brandon Atchison and Cristina Mendonsa put together is that we couldn't include a wonderful piece from Suzanne Phan.  Suzanne and her partner Ryan Yamamoto put together a great story while vacationing in Amsterdam.  Because they were off the clock, corporate rules won't allow our station to air the fruits of their labor.  So I thought I should share it here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tomorrow is A Long Time

I saw the title to this often overlooked Dylan classic and it got me to thinking about my current state of mind.  I've been here in Sacramento for four and a half months.  Now that the hard work of marathon training is behind me all I have to keep me occupied is my job.

Time is all I have, to worry about the mistakes I make, to worry about what I may have overlooked as we head to a very busy election night, to worry about what needs to get done for the November sweeps.  Being in my head all the time is not a healthy thing.  I need to find some positive distractions to keep myself mentally healthy and in check.

I miss my wife.  I miss fighting with my wife.  I miss sitting in our office while she works away on the computer and I play the Dylan and Neil Young songs that I love so much.  I miss our cat Rudy wandering in and joining us because he likes keeping us company. 

I have to wait for her to find a job here in California and it's becoming torture for both of us.  We've been through it before and I pray to God we never have to go through it again.  Below is a nice cover of the Dylan song.  It seems Bob doesn't like sharing his work on You Tube.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


I'm a sucker for a Clint Eastwood movie.  He's directed three classic movies beginning with 1992's "Unforgiven."  "Mystic River" and "Million Dollar Baby" would also fall into that category although for my personal taste "Gran Torino" is better than either of those two movies.

I had not gone to a movie theater since moving to Sacramento in June so despite suggestions that I make "The Social Network" my first cinematic experience here, it didn't fit my schedule so I opted for Clint.

The subject matter is one all of us face, death.  The big question Eastwood tackles is what awaits us after life.  It's a good story but not a great one.  It all seemed rather cliched.  But I ached for the boy who lost his twin brother and felt empathy for the other central figure, a French journalist who barely survives a tsunami and wrestles with her brush with death.

Matt Damon is solid as a reluctant psychic and Eastwood artfully brings the trio together for a predictable and satisfying ending.  But in this day and age it's hard to part with ten dollars to see a movie on the big screen unless it's a visual extravaganza.  Eastwood tries with the tsunami scene but this is a movie best left for the Red Box bin.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


To say things have been busy since the marathon would be an understatement. Thank goodness the race happened when it did because time for training has been hard to come by. I actually had my first run of more than an hour today, three weeks after the disaster that was St. George.

The chaos started with the Czarina's surprise post-race visit to Sacramento when she got an unexpected job interview with the state of California. We're still waiting to hear if she landed the gig. Then the weekend following the race, a producer who was supposed have show duties on Saturday and Sunday was out sick, so I stepped up because I had little better to do, and it would help out our group of producers who have been filling in on weekends for four months now.

Then it was head long into preparations for the upcoming elections and November sweeps plus producing a half hour special on California's water crisis. Add in another Friday night producing stint and a second straight weekend as the on-call manager and well, you get the idea.

This week started with an early trip into work for a manager's meeting. Wednesday also meant an early start to the day for "Burger-fest" as the big bosses decided to dole out free eats and get the station staff up to date on various items. Thursday I went in early again, ostensibly for an election meeting, but it turned into the Roseville fire from hell at the mall. I somehow squeezed in producing two more specials into the evening before getting home at 10 p.m.

I earned a trip to the woodshed when I decided sleeping in Friday morning sounded better another getting up at 9 a.m. in order to put in an appearance at work at 10 a.m. to catch the announcement of our new G.M.  Anita Helt, a former reporter at KTKA in the 1990's will be our new commander-in-chief.  It's ironic because I was the news director at KTKA long after Anita had left.  My boss wasn't buying my excuse for wanting to come in at 2:30 p.m. because I was scheduled to produce the Friday 11 p.m.  I offered my profuse apologies.  I really did feel bad because I thought long and hard about coming in because the email that had gone out made it clear that the "announcement" would be pretty major.

Anyway, I better enjoy these two days off because the following week I'm on the hook again for producing the weekend newscasts plus a live one hour election special.  Don't even get me started about election night.  That will make for a nice ten day in a row stretch of work.  At least I'm getting some miles in now!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Big City

I have quite a few guilty music pleasures.  But really, when it comes to Merle Haggard, I really shouldn't feel too guilty.  I've already professed my love of one of Merle's classic's, "Pancho & Lefty", written by the late, great, Townes Van Zandt.

This afternoon as I waited for my Ribeye at the Texas Roadhouse my second favorite Merle tune came over the speakers at the restaurant.  I remember the first time I heard "Big City."  It was at a Merle Haggard concert in the late 1980's concert in Phoenix.  I remember going to the show expecting to be bored to tears for the next two hours.  It turned out to be one of the best concerts I ever attended.  The Desert Rose band opened for Merle and it was an enjoyable 45 minutes of country/rock.

Then Merle came out and blew me away.  His band complete with horns locked down a tight groove.  Then I began to realize just how many Merle tune's I had grown up with as a kid in small town Kansas.  In the mid-60's I used to sneak away from my step-father at his work in Detroit, Kansas.  I would walk across the blacktop that was U.S. 40 into the Midway Cafe.  Jenny Gray ran the beer joint along with her husband Lloyd.  Jenny would keep me entertained with burgers, pinball, and the juke box.  It was loaded with country music and the occasional Beatles tune.  That's where I got familiar with Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, and of course Merle Haggard.

My mom didn't like me going over to the Midway because of the fact that they served beer.  Farmers would gather there after a hard day in the fields and drink their fill.  Of course there were regulars who would enjoy themselves a little too much.  It was the antithesis of "Cheers."

One night I was there with my step-father who could knock them back with the best of them and witnessed quite a fight.  Weapons included cue sticks and pool balls.  When I excitedly recounted what I had witness to my mother my days of play at the Midway came to an abrupt end.  It wasn't another 25 years before I set foot in this piece of burger and brew heaven.  And by the way, I had an O'Doul's.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chile - Mining the Disaster of Cable News

A good friend of mine pointed me to a story suggesting I blog about it. KMBC, the #1 rated news operation in Kansas City, the first television station to hand me a paycheck, sent a reporter to Chile to cover the mine disaster. My own initial reaction to it was, publicity stunt. Then I quickly recovered and thought, My God, local television stations used to do this kind of coverage all the time.

The true market leaders in local television news back in the 80's and 90's would never hesitate to send a reporter across the country, or even across the globe, to cover a great story. We used to do it all the time when I produced in Phoenix. We chased hurricanes, plane crashes, earthquakes, you name it. I can remember my current colleague Dale Schornack, heading to cover the unbelievable crash of a DC-10 in Sioux City, Iowa where the remarkable actions of the pilot kept loss of life to a minimum. That was more than 20 years ago.

Even when I worked in tiny Fargo, North Dakota just ten years ago we went to New Mexico, New York City, Washington, DC, Kosovo, Turkey, and other destinations important to our viewers. That was just a decade ago but I know KVLY doesn't travel like that anymore. That simply doesn't happen anymore in local news or more importantly and the point of this blog, cable news. The bean counters have destroyed the business. They've gutted our budgets and made traveling to stories that truly have an impact to our local viewers almost impossible. It's happened to cable news and the networks as well.

The Chile mine disaster shows what cable news used to do on an almost weekly basis. Deliver the power of an emotional story, either tragic or as in this instance, positive. Look back six weeks ago to what happened in San Bruno, California. Five years ago CNN or even FOX would have been on this disaster from the moment it broke bringing viewers wall to wall coverage, even if it meant simply showing the local stations covering the explosion.

If you were watching cable news the night of September 9th, you wouldn't have known the horrific blast in San Bruno until almost 11 p.m. The explosion happened about 9:30 p.m. eastern time. I kept an eye peeled on CNN waiting for them to break in. I was dumbfounded and FNC didn't do squat either.

The Chile mine rescue was tailor made for the networks and cable news. They had plenty of time to plan and to get their people into place. If a major earthquake hits the west coast God knows how long it will take before the rest of the country really gets the kind of coverage we used to see 10, 15, 20 years ago. I remember the Bay Area quake in 1989 and CBS was all over it. They went wall to wall shortly after 8 p.m. eastern. We did our own hour of coverage in Phoenix beginning at 10 p.m. and on the following day we had our own satellite truck in San Francisco with our own anchor and reporter on scene to tell the story. It's sad to say those days are long gone.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Le Noise

It took some time for me to digest the epic collaboration between Neil Young and Daniel Lanois.  I've had a couple of weeks now to listen to this amazing sonic trip that this dynamic duo created.  I won't call it Young's most powerful work yet there are a handful of songs that are among some of his best recordings ever. 

"Peaceful Valley Boulevard" is probably my favorite because of the haunting sound of the guitar and the weaves in with Neil's voice. I also love "The Hitchhiker" and "Love and War." You can go to and watch the entire album on Neil's channel which is offered as both a visual and audio delight. Also well worth the watch is Daniel Lanois's explanation of how the album came together and what he brought to the project that makes it one of Young's most unique works.

Finally, I want to say the aforementioned three songs are just as powerful live. Neil's touring days are far from over and if you get the chance to see him take it. It's a musical ride that few other artists can even attempt to offer.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fear and Loathing in St. George, then Vegas

Maybe that's what I needed for this trip was Carlos, Hunter, and an unlimited supply of illegal drugs and alcohol.  All I had was the Czarina and she's been on my case to blog about this trip because she took plenty of pictures.  She was chomping at the bit to drive the course on Friday.  We stayed at the Super 8 which was only a five block walk to the buses that lined up early in the morning for the start of the race.

So we boogied all the way to the starting line.  It's changed a lot from the first time I ran the race in 1989.  They used to dump you off in the middle of the darkness of the desert with a handful of barrels with fires burning for those who couldn't stand the night chill.  Now there are flood lights everywhere and even a corral for the top runners to wait for the start.  In fact, most of the first mile is pretty well lit because the race starts a good 15 minutes before the dawn of light.  Of course in 1989 there were only about two thousand runners, now the entry list tops seven thousand.
They've even put up flags along the starting corridor for every runner representing each state or nation at the race.  From what I could gather the only state not represented at St. George was Vermont.  It's a first class race put on by a great community.

Seven miles into the race you encounter this.  Veyo, an extinct volcano, offers a pretty stiff climb that lasts for about three-quarters of a mile.  From Veyo the course continues a steady climb for about a mile and a half.  It's a real grind after the gentle downhills of the first seven miles.  If you can survive until the halfway point the real fun begins.
Just about at the 14 mile mark the bottom simply falls out.  Just looking at this picture you get no sense of how downhill it truly is but take this into account.  In 1989 I was running 6:35 pace up until this point when I put down a 5:38 mile over this section.  Even in 2010 I went from a 9:30 mile to an 8:05 as you enter stunning Snow Canyon.

Snow Canyon is a delight to see as you go from mile 15 to mile 17.  It's a nice distraction as you begin to suffer from the toil of running 26.2 miles.  Even the Czarina, who usually doesn't notice a thing during her races, admitted to admiring the beauty of this gorgeous spot in Utah.

The Czarina wanted me to share with you the secret of her St. George success.  It was her strategic placing of a wet sponge in her cap the helped ward off the unusually warm conditions that the runners had to endure.  She bought a sponge for me but I declined to use one.  We all know how I ran.  Enough said.

The best part of our adventure was Las Vegas.  We stayed at the Trump Tower.  The room was luxurious at a very reasonable price.  The only thing missing from the property is a casino, which is probably a good thing for the Czarina and myself given our luck at the slots and blackjack.

The Czarina loves checking out all the goodies in a room.  This phony piece of coral caught her eye and then she found what was written on the bottom.  Also in this picture is her other favorite from our stay at Trump.  No, it's not the robe on the hanger, but the television built into the mirror.  She loved that thing.  She's especially fond any hand or body lotion that the hotels put out.  She's gathered quite a collection over the year.

It's not the best picture but certainly the highlight of the entire trip.  Craig and Irene Davidson took the time to catch up to us at Caesar's Palace for a quick visit.  Craig was the whole reason for going to St. George in the first place as he ran his 200th marathon.  I miss talking to Craig on a regular basis.  The 16 mile trips on Saturday around Mummy Mountain were always a great way to spend a couple of hours conversing about the week's events with Craig.  He's promising to run marathon number 300 in another 14 years or so.  I'll try and be there, but this time I think I'll just watch.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Crash and Burn

As my old sports director Frank Boal used to say, sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you.  That pretty much describes my St. George experience.  Just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong.

About the only thing that went right was the trip into Las Vegas and the drive to St. George.  Even that was something of a mind blowing experience seeing the growth in blips on the map like Mesquite and the huge growth in St. George itself.  Heck, they even went and built a convention center which now hosts the runner's expo.

I last went to St. George to run the 1997 edition because my friend Craig Davidson was running his 100th marathon.  I ran just a hair over 3:07 that year very short on training but took advantage of the downhills that start after mid-race.

The Czarina and I made a mid-afternoon drive Friday over the course at her insistence.  It gave her a good feeling to see the terrain, especially the beautiful Snow Canyon section of the course which the runners traverse after 14 miles.

The first bit of bad news came from the forecast.  The temperature at the start was forecast to be about 60 degrees.  That's a good 15 degrees warmer than the norm which would mean some warm conditions for the race.  We got up at 3:30 a.m., enjoyed a little breakfast, before walking to the buses that would carry us up to the start at 56-hundred feet.  We arrived at the starting line at 5:15 a.m. giving us a nice 90 minute wait for the start.  The Czarina and I huddled together sitting on the edge of the roadway waiting for the 6:45 a.m. start.  I never did see Craig at the start, he made a late arrival showing up just 30 minutes before the start.

I positioned myself in between the 3:30 and 3:40 groups.  The Czarina headed further back to the 4:15 group.  When the horn sounded we walked along, finally getting into a slow motion gate about 100 yards in front of the actual starting line.  It took only a couple of minutes to get there.

I took my time, running well within myself over the next seven miles, which feature gentle rolling hills, but moving steadily downhill all the while.  I felt great at seven miles which I hit at just a hair over 58 minutes, but then came the biggest climb of the course, more than half a mile of seven percent grade to mile 8.  I didn't push but suffered nevertheless.  By the time I made it to the top I was gassed.  That was expected and I hoped to be able to relax and recover over the next hilly three miles of the course.

As I moved forward I started to realize that I was in trouble.  Even before 13 miles my quads were starting to bother me.  I stopped at 13 to relieve myself and to take a stone out of my right shoe.  I hit the halfway mark at 1:55:10.  I was way behind scheduled but I told myself to push the downhills and get some time back.  The course begins to drop at this point and I got rolling again, but by 16 miles my quads were trashed.  I knew I was in serious trouble.  I knew that if I kept trying to push I wouldn't finish.  The heat was beginning to take hold as well so I went into preservation mode.

I began walking through the water stops that came every two miles, making sure I had plenty of fluid.  I shuffled along between 9:30 and 10:00 pace.  It was amazing to see the carnage.  I've never run a race this far back in the pack.  It was a challenge just to make it through the debris.  Runners were stopped everywhere stretching, one writhing in agony by the side of the road while another runner knelt down and a motorcycle cop called for an ambulance.  I trudged onward hoping against hope that I might see Craig and hoping against hope that the Czarina didn't catch me.

At 22 miles I saw a woman being held up by two men struggling down the road.  She had messed her running shorts, excrement running down the back of her leg.  I looked away and moved over as far as I could because I knew the sight would make me sick.  I knew the only goal that remained was to make it to the finish under four hours.  I did, with several ticks to spare, my chip time recorded my effort at 3:56:47, my slowest marathon ever by more than 40 minutes.

Craig finished more than 3 minutes in front of me.  We hugged each other when I came out of the runners paddock.  It was great to see him and his wife Irene.  I decided to trudge up the hill back to the hotel for a quick shower rather than wait for the Czarina.  She had threatened to run five hours and I had no desire to wait another 45 minutes to see her come stumbling across the finish line.  The Weather Channel showed the temperature at 88 degrees when I got back to the room.

Little did I know that she was having a good day, following along closely with the 4:15 group. She took advantage of the downhills and finished in 4:14:34, a time good enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  Her training in the sweltering conditions of Southwest Florida paid off for her in the hot, yet dry desert climate of Southwest Utah.  As she pointed out to me she beat me by more than six minutes based on age grading the marathon.  I don't think I'll ever hear the end of it from this BQ.  She says it stands for Boston Qualifier.  I told her it means B***h Queen!

The heat was a factor but I think I failed in two areas when it came to preparing for this race.  I really needed to put in at least three 21 milers leading up to the run.  A bunch of 16 mile runs simply won't cut it at my age.  I also needed to do some hill specific training. 

Two of my running compatriots who I trust gave me, I told you so lectures after the race.  Chris told me he never thought I could come close to running 3:30 based on my training.  He figured I would be lucky to break 4 hours.  Coach Mike was a little more generous saying he expected something in the 3:45 range.  He was surprised I even bothered to finish given the heat and the problems I experienced with my quads. 

This marked my 20th marathon.  It was number 200 for my buddy Craig.  I've only DNF'd one marathon in my life.  That was my second one in 1976 at the Kansas Relays.  I had made it to the halfway point in 1:31 and was about to turn around and face a fierce headwind back to Memorial Stadium.  I decided my time would be better spent riding back to the stadium in my mom's car to watch Frank Shorter run the 5000.  That's probably the best running decision I've ever made.  That having been said, I have no regrets about St. George.  I was in shape to run under 3:45, of that I have no doubt.  But as I've heard said more than a few times, shit happens.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What Happens in Vegas?!?

Actually, it's what happens in St. George.  Tomorrow night I board a flight for Las Vegas and will arrive about a half hour after the Czarina's flight touches down.  We'll then grab a rental car and make the two hour drive to St. George.  If everything goes smoothly we might make it to the Super 8 by 1 a.m.  The poor Czarina will be suffering because to her it will be 4 a.m., although she rarely has problems sleeping in the car so maybe she'll snooze her way across the desert.

She called me in a panic last night because the marathon organizers have the website set up to allow you to print your bib number to help ease the registration process.  For some reason when she entered her name, her bib number doesn't come up.  Mine did.  I think she's secretly hoping she's not entered and can skip the race.  As I pointed out to her the registration page shows that she's in the race so I think she'll have to join me at 5 a.m. Saturday morning to board the buses for the trip to the starting line.

The Czarina has also spent much of this week fretting about the weather.  A pretty good heat wave has much of the west in its grips.  We've had record heat in Sacramento.  It could be pretty toasty by the time we finish the marathon.  Normally it's really cold, almost cold at the start for St. George.  Normally by the time you finish it's only 70 degrees.  It could be about 10 degrees warmer plus there's a chance of rain in the forecast.  Now 80 degrees in the desert is nothing like 80 degrees in the desert so I'm not too worried, but it has the Czarina pretty worked up.

Anyway, my bags are packed.  I'm ready.  Here's to a weekend of fun with good friends and a wonderful wife.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Ageless Wonder

My mom got me a subscription to Sports Illustrated for Christmas in 1967.  It only fueled my love of sports.  I would glean through the pages reading about my heroes and living legends in baseball, football, basketball, hockey, golf and of course track and field.

George Blanda was one of those legends.  His five game run of saving the Raiders in 1970 was something to behold.  He did it kicking and he did it playing quarterback.  Mind you, he was 43 years old at the time.  Back then most NFL quarterbacks never made it to their mid-30's much less 43. 

As a fan of the Kansas City Chiefs I hated the Raiders.  But I deeply admired George Blanda.  He was a survivor and an incredible athlete.  He played in the toughest league in the toughest game on the planet until age 46. 

As our heroes pass away one by one it reminds us of our own mortality.  Many of my great sporting heroes like Sandy Koufax, Willie Mays, Bobby Orr, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Ryun, Billie Jean King, Jack Nicklaus and Billy Mills.  This just a small slice of the men and women who I admire for their athletic accomplishments.  Blanda, even though he was a hated Raider, was just one of them.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Valley of the Sun

July 1987 I threw my lot in with KTSP (now KSAZ) in Phoenix. I was lured away from my good paying gig at WDAF with the promise that I would be the next Executive Producer because the current EP was pregnant and not expected to return once she gave birth. It never happened. It was probably just as well.

My near three year stint was marked by a lot of personal turmoil. Those that know me well understand what I'm alluding to so I don't wish to dwell on those problems. Instead I would rather focus on the good things that came from this experience.

The first thing was the formation of an enduring friendship with Craig Davidson. When I asked around the newsroom if there were groups that went out for weekend long runs, someone suggested, I believe it was John Warren who suggested that I call Runner's Den. Craig answered the phone at Runner's Den and invited me to join us long run group that met every Saturday in Scottsdale. That was more than 23 years ago. I put in more than a few 16 milers with Craig and the Mummy Mountain Mothers as we called ourselves.

Craig was just a great friend. He never judged me or my bad behavior. He offered unending support and spiritual guidance. He's the only reason I'm going to run St. George this coming weekend.

The other wonderful part of working in Phoenix was the great group of professionals that I got to work besides. Some of them are gone now. The late Burt Kennedy was the consummate professional. His knowledge, his easy going personality, and his courteous style taught me much. Gone to are Mike Makela and Alfonso Duran, two very good reporters.

I also got to work with two legendary anchors. Bill Close was Phoenix television news. He was crusty, could swear like a sailor, but had an unbending, no nonsense approach to journalism. He has long since retired. So has Dave Patterson, who was the main anchor during my time at KTSP. He had an anchor's ego but the chops to back it up. He was a first rate reporter and his ability to absorb information on the fly was unparalleled. He didn't get along with the producers. It took him nearly two years to realize that I wasn't a complete retard and our relationship warmed. Below is a promo from Cleveland where Dave anchored before a stop in Philadelphia. Why he ended up in Phoenix is anyone's guess.

The group of reporters and photographers were great as well. Dale Schornack, William LaJeunesse, Gilbert Zermeno, Richard McKee, Jeff Hollifeld, Linda Williams and John Cain are among the very best I've ever worked with at any station.

I also enjoyed our weatherman Dave Munsey. He was always giving me his old clothes which were expensive and looked great. The sports guys Fred Kalil and former Congressman J.D. Hayworth were simply awesome. J.D. welcomed me on my first day at work by taking me to a Triple A ball game and doing the Rock Chalk Chant, seems like Kansas had recruited him when he was a high school football star in North Carolina.

Two managers also made a great impression on me. Jim LeMay was like a lab rat on speed. His frenetic energy could wear you out. Jim went on to a great career as a news director and now works at CNN. Most important was the gentle guidance I received from Mary Cox, who is the best teaching journalist I've ever been around. Mary is smart, tough, determined and knows how to convey what she wants in the easiest to understand terms. Mary teaches and consults now. I still rely on her wisdom from time to time.

The thing that made Phoenix different is that we traveled to big stories. We went to major plane crashes, hurricanes, and the biggest story of that period, the Bay Area earthquake. It's a sign of a bygone era. Stations don't travel to big stories anymore unless the drive is under five hours. Our news director Dave Howell thought nothing of sending a crew half way across the country to cover a major story. I got to go on the road more than a few times including the 1988 Democratic National Convention and the 1988 Final Four. But nothing could beat attending the first two training camps of the Arizona Cardinals. Eating at the training table was first rate fare.

Unfortunately I needed a big change in my life. I needed support and security and I wasn't getting it in Phoenix. It was time to go home, back to Kansas. And my old boss Mike McDonald was back on Signal Hill after a short stint as a news director for the NBC station in Dallas. So Mike and I conspired for my return to WDAF. It was a professional step backward but a change that was needed to straighten out my personal life.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Deer at Dusk

This last weekend of training before St. George presented me with something of a dilemma.  I really wanted to run a 5K race as a final dust buster before next week's marathon.  The problem is the only local 5K went off at 5:30 p.m. in 94 degree heat.  So I decided to run a leisurely 10 miles just as the sun started to set to beat the brunt of today's heat.

A little less then four miles into the run along the American River the deer began populating the edges of the trail.  They are surprisingly tame despite the comings and going of bikers and runners.  I kept a wary eye on doe's with their fawns.  I've seen pictures of does defending their babies.  It can be nasty.

Other than the deer it was a rather uneventful run.  My sciatica is only mildly annoying at this point.  I finally relented and had an x-ray taken of my right hip earlier in the week.  The fact that I haven't heard from my doctor tells me nothing serious is going on in my leg.  I'm positive the leg can stand the stress of a full marathon. 

Tomorrow I'm putting on my racing flats and will head over to the practice track at Sac State to run a three mile time trial.  I won't be able to come anywhere close to what I could run in a real race but at least it will give me one last hard effort where I get my legs going.  If I can run 12 laps in 22 minutes I'll be happy. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sometimes You Can't Make it on Your Own

I think it must be separation anxiety.  The Czarina paid me a visit over Labor Day weekend and I can't wait to see her again in ten days when we arrive within minutes of each other in Las Vegas.  This move to Sacramento isn't the first time we've spent time apart because of my profession.  She spent a hellish six months on her own with a wild man of a teenage son to look after while I established myself as a news director in Fargo.  It's remarkable that those events didn't destroy our less than year old marriage.
She's very tough and strong willed.  Above all the Czarina is courageous.  I don't know how else she made it through Fargo.  This move is different because we're both very much alone.  The boy was with us through the first two moves be he is now a grown man living his own, successful life in Southern California.  I have a couple of guitars and laptops to keep me entertained while she only has Rudy.

The early part of the separation was easy for her to endure because the visit from Masha, Vlad and Natasha.  But now I hear nothing but complaints about Rudy's unending quest to get her to feed him canned cat food instead of his dry food. 

Thankfully her job search moved into high gear after the Labor Day visit.  She's even had me dropping off resumes at a local state office.  The Czarina is an amazing programmer because she brings to her work the same things she brings to our marriage, passion and commitment.  She doesn't give up on any task, no matter how daunting.  I know this because I've seen the sweat, I've seen the tears, I've seen her break a wrist because of her stubbornness.  We're quite a match and I am ever so grateful that she hasn't give up on me.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cold Irons Bound

"I’m beginning to hear voices and there’s no one around
Well, I’m all used up and the fields have turned brown."

Bob Dylan

That pretty much sums up my final long run in preparation for the St. George Marathon.  I decided to log an 18 mile run two weeks out from the race.  I never made it to a hoped for 21 mile effort but I'm okay with it.  Today I just wanted to survive and I barely did. 

Between a week of work filled with stress and a fairly high mileage week (52) for me I knew this morning's run would be a bear.  It was overcast and humid when I headed out and by the time I hit 11 miles I wanted the run to end.  I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and I made it home running just a shade over 9:30 pace.

I suspect I'm tired from last week's ten mile race.  I can look forward to two weeks of mostly easy miles now.  I want to do a time trial sometime in the middle of this week and a 5K race this coming weekend if possible. 

I've averaged just a shade under 40 miles a week for the year.  It's not considering my right hip is a mess, I moved all the way across the country, and I'm still a good 15 pounds over what I would consider a decent racing weight. 

My coaching friend Mike told me I should just shoot for a 4 hour marathon at. St. George.  I appreciate his logic, why hurt? My response was, why did I do all this work just to run 4 hours?  I think he's just jealous.  Despite his considerable running and coaching accomplishments I don't think he's ever broken 3 hours for 26.2 miles.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Buffalo Stampede 10 miler

A tough week at work and a so-so week of training left me wondering what would happen Sunday morning.  I signed up weeks ago for a 10 mile race figuring it would be a good test for St. George.  But as I rolled out of bed I could tell I had made a mistake not eating a full meal the night before and I felt extremely sluggish.  I chugged down as much water as I could stand, took care of business in the bathroom and headed to Rio Americana High School for the 8 a.m. start. 

The flat course was a basic out and back with very few turns.  I was hoping I could average 7:45 per mile.  I even wore my racing flats hoping for an added edge.  Normally I wear light trainers for longer races.

A race called the Migration had started a half hour earlier for slower runners.  More than 300 runners lined up for the Stampede and I could tell it was going to be a fairly warm morning with almost nothing to call a breeze.  The horn sounded and I got out at what I felt was a solid pace.  I must have been passed by 50 runners in the first mile which I clocked in a comfortable feeling 7:30.  Though I had gone out fast I wasn't worried as another two dozen runners whizzed by over the next mile and I had to keep an eye out for the slower runners doubling back on the course.

By mile three I had settled into a steady 7:45 pace and I was now beginning to catch runners who had taken it out too fast.  I didn't catch many over the next seven miles but I held my pace and took water at nearly every aid station due to the heat.  As I headed into the last mile it appeared that 77:30 was doable even though my Garmin was showing that the course was long.  I hit 10 miles on my Garmin in 77:11, a good 200 meters from the finish.  I was a little disheartened but worked my way to the finish, my chip time showing 78:05.  The course was .14 long according to my Garmin, making up for the .14 that was missing from the Modesto Midnight Half Marathon.

It was a hard effort, much harder than Modesto.  And I'm much more tired hours after the race than I was after the half.  Another two weeks of hard training remains. Given Sunday's effort I really believe a sub 3:30 marathon is a possibility in St. George.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Hay Is in the Barn

It occurred to me as I ran an easy 10 miles tonight that St. George is three weeks away.  The realization sort of stunned me.  I'm running a 10 mile road race on Sunday so that means no long run.  That leaves one final long run the following weekend.  That part of the grind will be over.

This has been a difficult week training wise.  I've felt very stale.  I tried to do a hard tempo run on Wednesday and my body just wouldn't let me.  I had to laugh when later that night I was reading some posts on my favorite message board about the great coach, Arthur Lydiard.  When one of his talented runners, Barry Magee, told Arthur he felt stale, Lydiard told him to do three straight days of 22 miles. 

I haven't even managed one 20 miler leading up to this marathon but my training has been remarkably consistent since the beginning of the year.  My mileage has been steady between 35 and 40 miles a week.  I managed 180 miles for the month of August and that's with a trio of days off thrown in for good measure.  I've enjoyed my best stretch of training since 2002/2003. 

I feel confident that at the very least I will run under the Boston qualifier in three weeks unless something really untoward happens.  In fact a race under 3:30 seems well within my reach.  But I guess I should be focused on Sunday and the 10 miler before me.  I would like to think I can run 77:30 but I'm going to try and do what I did at Modesto.  I plan to take it out easy and slowly ratchet down the pace.  Based on two weeks ago something under 79 minutes should be within my reach.

Now I just need to find a 5K for the week before St. George to sharpen what little speed I possess.  There are plenty of races in the area, I've just got to figure out which one makes the most sense. 

San Bruno Misery

It never fails when I land a new job.  Something terrible seems to happen sometime within the first year on the job.  During my first tour as an intern at KMBC it was the Coates House Fire that killed 20 people.  In Minneapolis it was the riots at the Red Lake Indian Reservation.  When I hit Little Rock a Titan II missile exploded killing some airmen.  Back to Kansas City and while it took a little longer than usual the Hyatt Crown Center sky walk collapse killed more than 100 people.  When I got to Phoenix a flight passenger jet bound for the Valley from Detroit crashed on takeoff killing a lot of people from the area.  You get the idea.

Tonight a huge natural gas line exploded in the San Francisco suburb of San Bruno.  It's one of the few communities in the Bay Area that I am somewhat familiar with.  I used to date a woman who lived there.  The destruction is beyond believe.  Block after block of homes were consumed by the fire.  So far the death toll is only one, but I suspect there may be victims we don't know about at this moment. 

Technically this disaster didn't happen in the Sacramento coverage area but it's less than a two hour drive from our newsroom to where it all happened.  I'm proud of the way our reporters, photographers, and producers responded tonight.  Our assignment editor did yeoman's work tweeting and putting updates on Facebook throughout the night while coordinating directions with the crew.  It made for a 13 hour day but that's nothing to the monster hours I've pulled during hurricane coverage.  Here's hoping that we don't have more excitement like tonight for a very long time.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Czarina Visits!

It took three months but the Czarina got on an evening flight last Friday from Fort Myers and paid me a weekend visit in Sacramento.  The poor girl was tuckered out by her cross country journey but that didn't stop her from devouring a bag of potato chips when she got to my apartment.  She also managed a quick critique of my housekeeping, which while negligent, was better than she expected.

We enjoyed a morning run along the American River Trail.  The Czarina was thrilled at getting in a run without feeling like she was in a sauna.  She wanted to see the surrounding countryside so I took her to Auburn and we made a stop at Ikeda, a tourist favorite for burgers, fresh fruits and pies.  She picked up a bag of dried banana chips while I inquired about a good place to go for a hike.  The Czarina wanted to make a trip into the wilderness by foot so we were directed to a trail about four miles outside of town.
The fun started as we headed out Forrest Hills Road and across a very high bridge that spans a branch of the American River.  Even though we were traveling on a very wide and nice two lane blacktop the Czarina was in full freak out mode.  By the time we had crossed the bridge and made it to the turn off for the trail she was demanding that we leave.  I proceeded to creep my Ford Escape down a windy blacktop toward the trail and her demands only intensified.  The drop offs were pretty frightening but it wasn't anything to get too riled about.

I finally found a spot to pull off and we took a gander at the beautiful valley.  It was breath taking and she wanted pictures but she refused to drive down to the bottom of the canyon where the rivers converge.  She did insist on stopping at the bridge for another scenic view and then it was off to her favorite destination of the entire trip, the Thunder Valley Casino.

The scary trip must have done something to her appetite because at the buffet she went through three plates of food including two steaks and two trips to the dessert bar.  The Czarina can eat but her performance at Thunder Valley was amazing.  We got in a good three hours of gambling and called it a night and headed home where we watched the worst movie about running ever made called "Running."

Sunday's highlights included a 14 mile long run around massive Land Park and a trip to the station.  She finally got a chance to see where I worked.  We also toured some of the neighborhoods in East Sacramento, Fair Oaks, and Carmichael.  We even went as far east as the dam at Folsom Lake which was pretty cool to see.

Sadly, our visit ended Monday morning as I had to drive her to the airport and head into work to produce the 5 p.m. news.  The Czarina had a good time and agreed that Sacramento was a pretty cool place. Hopefully this will put some umpf in her job search.  Our next rendezvous is just three weeks away when we hook up in Las Vegas for our marathon adventure in St. George!

Monday, August 30, 2010


11 months I blogged about my sense of loss of friendship.  I can count on one hand people who were friends that were near and dear to my heart but as time passed those friendships have slipped away.  One of my favorite friends reminded me quite gently in a comment that it's a part of the ebb and flow of what life brings us.

Sunday night I had an opportunity to renew a very old friendship.  One that stretches back to grade school.  I first remember Gary when I was in the second grade but we didn't become best buds for about two more years.  He was a little intimidating at first but then I think we discovered a mutual sense of mischievousness when it came to teachers, girls, and the social strata in general that comes in elementary school.  We spent a lot of time together and got into as much trouble as two kids growing up in a small town could get into without actually breaking the law.

The 6th grade was the best.  We had a great teacher Milton Pippenger who later went on to become an outstanding superintendent of schools in Kansas.  Mr. Pippenger fanned the flames of what would become my life's work, journalism.

But Gary moved to Kansas City just before the start of the 7th grade and my life was somewhat adrift.  It took awhile for me to find my compass and it came in the form of another friendship.  But that's for another blog.  Gary and I remained friends but time and distance did its damage.

As fate or irony would have it we both ended up in Lawrence attending the same high school, but we never reformed the bond that we had shared in Abilene.  We had different friends and different interests, but through all the years we always kept track of each other.  The gulf that had grown was finally bridged in 1994 when I went to Boston to run the marathon and Gary offered to let me stay at his house.  My life, at the time, was in a shambles.  I never let on to Gary about my personal undoings but seeing him, reliving our "greatest hits," gave me a sense of renewal and revisiting the past helped me move forward with my life.

The latest twist in our enduring friendship came during my drive from Florida to California.  I don't why Gary decided to call me as I sat in a Amarillo steak house but he did and the glee in his voice was unmistakable when I told him that I was moving to Sacramento.  Gary had failed to mention in the occasional emails that we traded that he was slowly but surely moving to Sausalito while running his business in Boston.

Tonight we met up in a small restaurant in the East Bay to catch up.  Gary remains an anchor and a touchstone for my life.  Every time we get together he reminds me of when I was a snot-nosed gawky kid and gives me a glimpse of how far I've come in my life.  That's a good thing.  We may not terrorize the Bay Area the way we dreamed of terrorizing Abilene but we both still dream and that is a good thing indeed.