Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Goodell Gone

Roger Goodell in the last few weeks has undone decades worth of NFL credibility built by Pete Rozelle and Paul Tagliabue.  It is time for the owners to wake up and find a new commissioner.  The owners are in large part to blame for the fiasco involving the league's officials.  But Goodell is their waterboy.  Add in the mess of Bountygate and the NFL's atrocious handling of head injuries and it's clear Goodell's time has come and gone.

Thanks to the scab officials that are working NFL games, the sport is unwatchable.  Last night as I watched a defensive back run through a tight end with no pass interference being called it was enough to make me turn off the TV.  People watch pro football regardless of their rooting or betting interest because the game is entertaining.  Some of the best athletes in the world going full speed, blowing each other up and making mind-blowing plays is great fun to watch.

But seeing incompetent officials blow play after play and slow the game down to a crawl is not.  Unless you have a rooting interest or even money on the line, why watch?  I think the longer this strike goes on, the NFL is going to see its massive television appeal start to fade. 

The 2008 economic downturn should have been a wake up call for the NFL.  The league seemed to ignore the problem some teams were having selling out games.  The cost of seeing a game in person costs a small fortune.  Talk about taking a family of four to a game and you're looking at a house payment.  The owners and the players are pricing themselves out of the market.

Then there's Goodell's awful handling of the New Orleans Saints.  It's embarrassing that Goodell  holier than thou edict suspending Saints' players was overturned.  It looks as if the Commish went into the investigation with a predetermined outcome.  I'm not saying the player's shouldn't be held accountable but given the short careers NFL players enjoy, a year long suspension just seems unjust.  The players didn't commit a crime.  They played dirty football and that goes on all the time.  Just witness some of the recent hits in these scab officiated games.

And finally the NFL has a concussion problem.  Goodell has nothing to get out in front of the issue.  The problem has been lingering for the better part of two decades.  Stories like Mike Webster's and John Mackey's didn't wake up the NFL, nor did suicides like Dave Dureson's. 

The league is finally conducting the kind of studies and has instituted rules regarding concussions but Goodell was really late to admitting the league has a major problem.  NFL football is violent and that's a big part of the appeal.  But you can have great, hard hitting football without shots to the head.

The NFL needs a clean slate.  It needs the contract dispute with its referees brought to an end, now.  The owners then need to start the search for a new commissioner as soon as it gets its best officials back on the field.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Extreme Jogging

Inspiration struck this week when one of my favorite Southwest Florida runners, Maria Andrews, shared an anecdote from a runner she had coached.  The runner said his mother had called Maria a jogger.  Now, while Maria is a master of running at a sane pace, she is hardly a jogger.  In fact, Maria is an adventuresome ultra-marathoner with a work ethic and knowledge of running that puts me to shame.

Then Jami Maxwell, one of Maria's training partners and race companions went into jogger mode in a post of encouragement to Dana Pucin, a great gal who kept me company on a bicycle as I raced across the Lake Okeechobee dike last spring.  All of this Facebook fun started my simple mind churning, inspiring me to coin a new term which I now will  fully claim, extreme jogging.  Don't we need a new sport?

I have to admit my own faults when it comes to the fine line between running and jogging.  There was a time in my life when I considered any distance run at a pace of more than 8 minutes a mile, jogging.  A lot of  running snobs would tell you that anything over 7 minute pace qualifies as jogging, but I digress. 

It's been a half dozen years and 20 pounds ago since I've trained at sub-8 pace on a daily basis.  I rarely, if ever, do a training run anymore at a pace under 8:30 a mile.  In fact, thanks to four months worth of injuries, I'm quite happy to trudge through my runs at 10 minute a mile pace.  This is definitely jogging.  However, if you're like Maria or Jami, then you regularly crank out 10 to 20 plus miles or more at that pace. I would say we're into extreme jogging territory.

So I've decided to officially retire as a runner and become an extreme jogger.  I'm not quite ready for the 20 mile training runs, but that's the goal.  Extreme jogging should help me shed another 15 pounds or so and help keep me competitive in my age group at the local road racers.  Steve Riley do you hear me?  Extreme jogging is now the name of the game! 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Waging Neil

Neil Young is on a multimedia tear in 2012.  Just a few months ago Neil delivered a new album of old music called "Americana."  Neil and Crazy Horse ripped apart a slew of American folk ballads and other classics.  But that simply wasn't enough for the "Godfather of Grunge."

Neil Young and Crazy Horse will release a double disc set next month dubbed "Psychedelic Pill."  Coming right along with that release is Neil's autobiography which he had previously pledged never to write called "Waging Heavy Peace."  And if that weren't enough you can pick up Jonathan Demme's latest loving cinematic tribute to the great Canadian import called "Neil Young Journeys."  I almost feel like I'm on Neil Young overload, almost.

This week the New York Times trotted out one of the best sit down interviews ever with the enigmatic rocker.  The article is a delight and if it's any indication of what the autobiography will deliver, it should be a treat.  A lot has been made about the title of the article "Neil Young Comes Clean" and Neil's admission that he has smoked pot or used alcohol in a year or so.  I say big deal. 

Neil Young is 66 years old.  It doesn't surprise me that he would step away from pot use, which I suspect was a daily habit.  Smoking of any kind isn't the healthiest lifestyle.  Neil had a pretty heavy duty cocaine habit back in the 70's that likely stretched into the 80's.  His habits certainly haven't taken away from 45 years of some amazing music.

As for the autobiography, I suspect he wanted to get his own story on the record after the release of the biography "Shakey" about a decade ago.  Jimmy McDonough's book is a great read and it gives some delicious insights into Neil Young's insecurities and personality traits.  As much as I love Neil Young, it's pretty clear that he's not an easy man to maintain a friendship with for any length of time.

And then there's "Psychedelic Pill," I suspect we're in for an onslaught of screaming guitar solo's by Neil armed with Old Black, his fabled Gibson and some great rock and roll.  The jams should be epic, just like Neil's life.  2012, Year of the Horse revisited, oh, check out that movie too when you get the chance.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Guy Named Steve and His Father Named Ed

The National Football League is what it is today, not because of George Halas or Pete Rozelle or Johnny Unitas or Joe Montana.  The NFL is the most popular sport in the United States because of Ed Sabol and his son Steve.  Cancer took Steve's life too soon and that news today left me with an empty feeling.

Ed Sabol created NFL Films.  NFL Films was ESPN before America was connected by satellite and cable television.  NFL Films turned the shooting of sports highlights into high art.  The camera work was unparalleled, the writing was imaginative, the music memorable, all pulled together by the Voice of God that was the late great John Facenda.

Ed gave birth to NFL Films but it was his son Steve that made it the juggernaut that helped feed a nation's pro football Jones for the last 50 plus years.  It was sometime in the early 70's that the NFL eased it's way past Major League Baseball as America's favorite sport.  I would argue it was Ed and Steve Sabol are responsible for that success.

It took MLB another decade to catch on to the idea of making game highlights available to the nation on a nightly basis through SNS (Sports News Network) in the early 1980's and by then it cows were out of the barn.  Baseball would never catch back up.

The last NFL Films production I watched from beginning to end was a special they put together last winter on the memorable playoff game between in 1971 between the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins that ended in double overtime and was the longest game in NFL history.  Footage, long thought lost, was discovered and NFL Films lovingly put together a wonderful remembrance of that epic game.  It was a game that I listened to on the radio on a Christmas drive out to Abilene, Kansas.  Finally getting to see it through the beautiful color footage brought a lot of pain because the Chiefs lost, but it brought back incredible memories of what it was like to live in America in the early 1970's.

Steve Sabol was a genius.  He may not have given birth to NFL Films but he made it an American institution.  The hundreds of films he produced and thousands of game highlights his photographers shot give the NFL an amazing historical archive that no other American sport can boast.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Legend of Dave

The angst of not being able to blog about politics (I don't want to lose my job) brought me to a subject I feel just as passionate about and dearly miss.  A Facebook post by the always lovely Suzanne Phan caught my attention and produced the inspiration for this bit of writing.  Dave Marquis celebrated his 19th year of work at News10 in Sacramento.

Most of you who read this blog regularly have no idea who Dave Marquis is or why I would take the time to write about him.  Dave, quite simply, is one of the most marvelous repositories of humanness that you will find walking this planet.  Dave has worked as a television news reporter for almost 40 years.  I've worked with smarter reporters, Dave Helling, I've worked with better looking reporters, Dale Schornack (who happens to be a work colleague of Dave's) better writers, here's to you Bob Thill, and better MMJ's, yes you Dr. Mel Stone.  But none of them could compare to the bundle of energy that Dave brings to the table everyday.

Dave is a student of history, politics, fine literature, and yes, even the ladies.  His only fault that I can see is that Dave will and has eaten any bit of food left lying about the newsroom.  He has a weakness for all things sweet.  And yet he remains rail thin and unbelievably healthy.

I knew who Dave Marquis was way back in 1987 when he worked at a competing station in Phoenix.  When we laid eyes on each other when I came to Sacramento in April 2010 to interview for a position at the station it was as if two long lost souls had found each other.  We became instant friends. 

Dave loved covering breaking news with a passion.  He can stand in front of a wildfire or a snow storm and spin a tale of whoa or about the enduring human spirit with the best of them.  Dave is fearless in trying to bring that something extra to a live shot or a standup.  His sense of reporting adventure is boundless.

The sad part is I only got to work with Dave for one year.  The great thing is Dave made a very difficult year in my life bearable.  We would share dinners together and talk about the world.  Dave had lived everywhere, had an amazing family history and had full experienced the 60's.  In many ways he lived the life of a big brother that I never had.  I could spend hours listening to him tell stories about his adventures, his family, his love of food and his love of the ladies.

For a time another News10 co-worker Brandon Atchison was posting Dave videos on Facebook where we would get a quick take on the woes of the day from the uniquely Marquis perspective.  One of his takes so well summed up the frustrations of working in television news I shared it with journalists in Russia during one of my seminars there.  They knew the angst that Dave and Brandon were enduring, it was a message that wasn't lost in translation. 

I can't wait until our paths cross again.  Here's to hoping Dave decides to visit Southwest Florida or perhaps a journey on my part to Northern California.  News10 has a treasure of endless reporting energy in Dave Marquis.  He's the last of a breed of television news reporters who actually understands the stories he reports.  For him it's not about being on TV, it's about a story well told.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Email Campaign of 2012

The politics of 2012 is largely fueled by email.  Yes, the television commercials touting both presidential candidates seem endless, especially in Florida, but the flood of email from the Republican Party and the Democratic Party makes up at least 25 percent of the incoming newsroom email these days.  I read almost none of it.  A quick scan and wham, into the trash.  Once and awhile I will file one because a particular candidate or office situated in our area is having an event.

I have received at least three phone calls from President Obama's local election office offering up someone to talk about one particular policy or another.  A couple of week's ago it was welfare reform and the other person on the phone couldn't understand why I wouldn't send a crew right away to listen to some lady pontificate about welfare.  Then the DNC called today asking if we wanted to do a satellite interview with Ken Salazar.  99 percent of the people in Southwest Florida don't even know who Ken Salazar is.  FYI, he's the Secretary of the Interior.  It makes me want to scream, stop, enough already!

But what's worse are the emails that come from the public.  A handful of folks love spamming us with emails to lay out blatant lies, always about President Obama.  The latest one touts that he's painted his campaign logo on Air Force One.  Another favorite bags on him for not visiting the World War II Memorial.  No, not the one in Washington, DC, but one in some far flung burg in Virginia.  Of course there are the birther cranks and other diatribes about the President's grand plan to bring socialism to America. I get at least one or two of those a week.

What's amazing is that so far none of this nonsense has come in regarding Mitt Romney.  The worst thing we've seen are emails from Senator Nelson's re-election campaign bashing his opponent Connie Mack for being a party boy.  That's news?  My guess is that supporters of President Obama have better things to do than bash Mitt with made up stories.  Then again, the same can't be said about half the crap I see on Facebook these days.  But that's a whole different blog!

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Death of Dyestat

John Dye
14 years ago a little website came along that literally changed the face of high school track and field across the United States.  John Dye cobbled together Dyestat and in doing so created a community that gave coaches, athletes and fans a chance to share stories, observations and ideas about the long suffering sport of track and field.  I personally believe Dyestat was responsible for the rebirth of American high school distance running which produced the likes of Alan Webb, Dathan Ritzenheim, Ryan Hall, Galen Rupp, German Fernandez, and Jordan Hasey.

Two years ago I wrote a blog which spelled out Dyestat's doom.  ESPN purchased the highly successful Dyestat and left it alone for awhile.  Then quietly rolled the board into its own high school banner called ESPN Rise and in doing so destroyed the sense of community.  There were several blunders when the change was made but the biggest involved dumping Dyestat's old message boards and starting from scratch.  Suddenly the once vibrant message board was a vast wasteland and everyone scattered to other boards and websites.

The old Dyestat had been easy to navigate and content wasn't hidden.  The new board was confusing, filled with nonsense stories written by people who didn't understand or appreciate the sport.  ESPN had dumbed it down and completely forgot its target audience.  It took just two years for ESPN to pull the plug.  Dyestat is gone.

ESPN's decision sent the handful of faithful into recovery mode.  California's Rich Gonzalez is desperately trying to set up a California version of Dyestat.  Rumors are also founder John Dye and one of the curmudgeonly writers Steve Underwood may try to put together a new website and why not.  The old Dyestat made money.  Not a lot, but it did make money.  No doubt John Dye sold it for a pot load of money.

The Internet has changed a great deal since Dyestat came along.  Social media now fills a major void in building communities and exchanging information.  I somehow doubt that John Dye can recapture the magic.  Second acts in American business rarely happen.  Here's hoping that John Dye can replicate his previous success.  I know I will be waiting, watching and hoping to rejoin the fun.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Little Lie

People lie all the time.  They lie about big things and they lie about little things.  Nothing gets under my skin more than someone who lies about their running.  It makes my skin crawl.  I know people who will tell me that they ran a 4 minute mile in high school or something ridiculously fast in the marathon and I'll just shake my head knowingly, all the while doing a slow burn.

It's a topic the Czarina and I discuss frequently.  She feels the same way.  While neither one of us are great runners, we aren't slouches either.  We're both happy with what we've accomplished in road races and even on the track.  The Czarina will immediately go to the Internet when someone tells them they run and babble about running this time or that.  She's generally suspicious about what others say about their running unless she's seen it for herself.  The Czarina will get really angry when she finds out that she's been lied to about a running accomplishment and it takes every fiber in her body to not call that individual out on their lie.

I've got friends who lie through their teeth about their running accomplishments.  I simply don't understand the need to exaggerate their abilities.  In fact, most of these guys are or were decent runners. I guess it's just human nature to stretch the truth but when it comes to running, the time and distance are something like sacred truths to me.

Don't get me wrong, I've told lies and I've stretched the truth about incidents relating to my life.  I'm better about not doing it as I've gotten older, but I'm not perfect.  Still, when it comes to my running exploits, I've always played it straight.  And in this day of the Internet, the consequences of lying are very unforgiving.

I get the feeling that the majority of serious runners feel the same way I do about running fibs.  It can lead to a tangled mess, whether you're a course cutting marathoner or a candidate for Vice President of the United States.  There will be hell to pay in the running community.  Which leads me to a head scratching moment about why someone would slice more than an hour off their marathon best in an interview with a reporter.  If someone is willing to tell that kind of whopper, where else are they cutting the corners when it comes to the truth?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Manny Being Manny

I probably attended my first high school football game back in 1965 or 1966.  It was in Abilene and I probably went because my older sisters were in the marching band.  I can remember one thing about my early exposure to high school football.  It was cold.

Through the years I've been lucky to cover high school football as a statistician, a game producer and now I do it was a freelance writer for the local newspaper.  I have to be honest.  Through the dozens upon dozens of games I've only seen a handful of truly great high school football players.  The first one I remember is Steve Little of Shawnee Mission South.  Little was an all state quarterback and placekicker who was all everything as a collegiate kicker, went to the NFL where he flopped.  He ended up in a wheelchair after a horrific car crash.

My alma mater, Lawrence High, had an incredible reputation as a national powerhouse.  LHS wasn't very good when I went to school there but Bill Freeman took over after I graduated and pretty soon the Lions were back to claiming state championships on a regular basis.  The first of Freeman's titles came against a very good Wichita Southeast team led by future NFL running back Jeff Smith.

I saw some pretty good players at Lawrence High.  My classmate Mike Wellman played in the NFL.  Running back Steve Jeltz played major league baseball.  The best back was Mike Coleman who now works as a sports anchor in Kansas City.

The best high school player I had seen in person until last night was a running back from Tempe McClintock.  Brian Drew ran for 225 yards in the state title game to lead his team to a victory back in 1989.  He never amounted to anything.  I'm not sure he had the grades to even get into college.  Drew was remarkable and I saw him shortly after I had watched Kenyon Rasheed at Rockhurst High School and he was a mind blowing bruiser of a back.  Rasheed went to Oklahoma and had a short stint in the NFL.

But last night I watched Naples High School's Manny Morgan for the second time in two weeks.  I knew he was a star.  His sophomore and junior years Morgan topped 1,000 yards and led Naples into the playoffs last year.  Manny was very good against Hialeah last week.  He ran for over 90 yards and barely played in the second half.

Friday night Manny shredded North Miami for 278 yards on the ground, 3 rushing touchdowns, plus a 73 yard touchdown reception.  He had a 37 yard touchdown run that made me gasp out loud.  I've seen a few spectacular TD runs in my day, but Manny's stop and go ability just took my breath away. 

Manny Morgan is built.  He's probably 5-9 and 180 pounds.  He's good speed but not spectacular speed.  He can't run over people like Rasheed or run away from people like Drew.  What's incredible is his elusiveness.  He makes a shoulder dip, a stutter step, or a complete jump stop that leaves defenders grasping at air.

He's a great high school player.  I have no way to judge whether he can do this on Saturday's and in my mind it doesn't really matter.  I've had a chance to have a couple of short chats with Manny.  He strikes me as a good kid with his head on straight.  Hopefully he'll play college football and get a degree. And who knows, maybe he'll be playing on Sunday's in five years and I can reminisce about the great player I got to see when he was just a hot shot running back out of Southwest Florida.