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.