Friday, June 30, 2006

My Cup is Empty at Lunch

Around work and the pool this week, two topics have dominated the conversations. I have not been able to participate in this intercourse, because I truly have no basis or interest upon which to base any remotely intelligent comment.
At lunch today, the people surrounding me were speaking with great passion about the World Cup. The people with whom I was passing the time have cultural roots distinctly different from my own, and for a moment or two I felt as if I had been transported to another country.
Their eyes danced and they engaged in robust laughter as they recounted their consumption of World Cup splendor. One of these guys apparently has a nice little set-up at his house where he watches the games on satellite TV while listening to a broadcast from another country on the internet. They were comparing the broadcasting styles of announcers from around the globe. They were discussing how Ghana got a bad break, and were speculating about the possibility of an all-South America final. The best I could muster, as I was getting up to leave, was “Guys, thanks for the company.”
Everywhere else, people are talking about this Star Jones fiasco from daytime TV. The only thing I knew about “The View” before this week was that a quarterback’s wife is one of the hosts. I saw her in the stands of a football game, and the announcers made reference to her. Since the show is on ABC, it must have been Monday Night Football. Legitimate news organizations, even from competing networks, are dedicating significant blocks of time to this messy catfight between Barbara Walters, Star Jones and Rosie O’Donnell. Honestly, this absolutely mystifies me. To be fair, the same shows covered the results of “American Idol” as a developing news story, too. So, I shouldn’t be surprised.
I think of Barbara Walters as a legitimate journalist, her sappy interview specials notwithstanding. She has the chops, the credibility, and dare I use this word…the gravitas…to stand toe-to-toe with the world’s best broadcasters. Having never seen an episode of “The View,” I don’t have any perception of her as a talk show host. So, I’m disturbed a little to see her wallowing in the mud with a huckster like Star Jones.
The lines between journalism and entertainment get blurrier every day. Meredith Viera, who used to be a correspondent for “60 Minutes,” is moving from The View to the “Today” show. But, she will stay on as the host of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” What’s next, Dan Rather doing jazz hands on “America’s Got Talent?”
Maybe CBS can prop up the Evening News by having Bob Barker co-anchor with Katie Couric. What difference does it make now?
You know what? I’m going to extend my subscription to Entertainment Weekly and let Time expire. Soon enough, there won’t be a discernable difference, anyway.
I should send off for People or Us Weekly, too. I can keep up with Victoria Beckham (famous soccer wife), the exploits of The View crew, and the American Idol summer tour all at once. Then, I would have something to talk about at lunch.

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

A Painful Broadcast Past

I’ve had a variety of tasks in broadcasting. Primarily, I was a TV sportscaster. I’ve also been a radio talk show host, a morning oldies deejay, a play-by-play man and I’ve anchored a few newscasts. I even have a little experience presenting weather forecasts. There is one role I played in broadcasting I’ve steadfastly avoided discussing until now.
Now matter how much I try to avoid it, there’s no running and hiding from it. Even now, it comes up. It’s Dialing For Thousands. There I admitted it. Let the ridicule begin.
As recently as today, someone has recalled an encounter with Daddy D and his viewer-interactive enterprise. Each weeknight for more than fifteen years, I made a random phone call to some phone somewhere in the viewing area in hopes that the lucky viewer knew some random fact announced during the 6:00 news and the amount of money in the jackpot. If he knew, he won. I can’t tell you how much I hated doing that. Every. Single. Time. I over compensated, and apparently I was pretty good at it.
I must be grateful for the notoriety. Countless times, I have been asked in public, “When you gonna call me?” My standard response became “The second Tuesday of next week.” It almost always got a laugh. I was smiling on the outside and cringing on the inside.
Back in 1986, the Big Boss of the TV station called me into his office and asked me to do this little deal between 6:30 and 7:00. He said we were going to give it a try during ratings. We tried it for a decade and a half. The correspondence I got about that vastly outweighed any communication I had from viewers about the sports I was reporting each night. Ninety seconds of my workday dominated my life. It is, sadly, part of my broadcast legacy.
It was hokey and anachronistic. I always thought it undermined my credibility as a legitimate broadcast journalist; but it was bigger than me and there was no stopping it.
These days I still feel embarrassed when it’s brought up, but I’m legitimately amused by it now. People who say they “grew up watching” me often tell stories of practical joking a grandparent or an elderly aunt by calling their houses while I was on TV. It must have happened tens of thousands of times, based on the number of people who have shared their experiences with me over the years.
So, I amused the Ark-La-Tex. That can’t be all bad. Plus, we gave a few people some spending money. Maybe we did a little good, after all.

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A Wet Face in the Crowd

Somewhere in the small type of a future local newspaper, in the section of the sports page known in the business as the “agate,” you will find the name of the 2006 13-14 girls’ city champion in the 50 meter backstroke. It’s worth mentioning because she lives upstairs in my house.
My daughter is a competitive swimmer in the summer only. She tried the year-round bit, but the commitment was too much for her. Even now, she’s juggling the city swim meet with All-Star softball practice and gymnastics. She’s what her kindergarten teacher called a ‘go-go” girl. Most days, she wakes up and has to go, go, go.
She’s proud of her accomplishment in the pool, and she should be. There’s a banquet planned at which she will be presented with a gold medal in front of her teammates and their parents. She’s skipping softball practice for that.
She had the second-fastest qualifying time in the city, so her win is the mildest of upsets. The strange coincidence is that the fastest qualifying time belonged to a girl who lives on our street, five doors down. They are the same age, have been softball teammates and have been riding the school bus together for several years. They’re friendly and familiar with one another. Before the race, each was sure that the other would win. There’s was almost a full second’s difference in their times, which was not encouraging for our camp. Yet, somehow my daughter shaved more than a second and a half off her personal best time, right when it counted the most.
I watched the race. She kept an eye on her neighbor, who was in the next lane, all the way. It is clear that having that friendly competition made the difference.
To her credit, though, here’s what she said to me: “I won, and I got twenty points for the team!” You have to like that. Now, I need to convince her to swim competitively for her high school. Dare I think scholarship?
I think it might be better to concentrate on her grade point average and not her times in the pool. But, hey, a dad can dream.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Three Stations, Three Stories

Local TV stations have been making their marks this week, in what typically is an agonizingly slow time for news content. Let’s face it, when there are stories in the first segment about a truck dropping oil on the interstate or cars being broken into at apartment complexes, you know times are tough. Three local stories have stood out, however.
Let’s start with the sidebar KTBS produced about the arrest of Dr. John Davis on charges of attempting to produce child pornography. The story is interesting on its own merits. However, KTBS’s angle about a local veterinarian who shares a name with the arrested doctor was outstanding. The vet is getting death threats and is enduring other unpleasantness simply because he has the same name as a bad guy. Chris Redford is to be commended for giving the innocent veterinarian a forum to set the record straight.
While KTBS led the pack on the arrest of KEEL News anchor Mike Sieve on charges related to soliciting sex from minors, KSLA caught up Tuesday night. Sieve got out of jail, and David Begnaud literally went knocking on his door. While Sieve would not appear on camera, Begnaud spoke with him at some length and was able to paraphrase the conversation. He was also able to lift some actual sound, picked up by his microphone through Sieve’s front door. The interview he did with a neighbor was disappointingly predictable and borderline cliché, but I suppose it was necessary. Sieve is heard saying he just wants to fly “under the damn radar.” I guess so.
KTAL sports reporter Dave Owens went to cover BattleWings practice Monday and caught coach John Fourcade clearly saying that he believed some of his players were stoned during Saturday’s game in Stockton, California.* Practice was open to the media, and Owens was the only reporter present at the time. So, he got quite a scoop. He’s been running with it, too. I think he may have gone a bit too far. He’s stretched the story out over two days, but it is a painfully slow time for sports. He’s been pushing for an “investigation into the charges.” He was careful not to use that phrase on the air, since there are no actual charges. All he has is a coach making a dubious accusation, hoping to scare his players into some kind of admission of misbehavior. Owens is new in town. This is his first chance to put himself on the map. Mr. Owens, Rand McNally called. You’re good now. Move on.
These are examples of reporters making the most of opportunities presented to them. The Sieve and Fourcade stories have had an impact on me personally, because I know both men. The stories can’t be compared, but you know both of them wish they weren’t in the news in these contexts. Both have been in a position to celebrate the media spotlight when things are going well only to find themselves abhorring it presently. As for John Davis, DVM: the glare shone upon him through no fault of his own. Now, he just hopes to deflect it and, to borrow a phrase, fly under the damn radar.

*In the spirit of full disclosure, it is important to note that I was with the team during the trip to Stockton. I was in the company of the players much of the time, but not all of the time. I saw no evidence of any illegal behavior on the part of anyone. I was among the people Dave Owens called while working on his story.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Boom Goes Bullet Bob

As a long-time television and radio sportscaster, I’m a little embarrassed that I somehow let the phenomenon that was “Boom Goes the Dynamite” slip past me. If you don’t know about it, I congratulate you. You’re in a tiny, exclusive club of which I am the president. Just Google the phrase and you’ll understand. I ran across a clip of the unfortunate moment in local TV history this week. Then, I sent an e-mail to a bunch of people I know who are still in the business asking if I am the last person on the planet to hear about this. The sheer volume of incredulity and wit which rained upon me was imposing.
“Dude, did you hear the North won the Civil War?”
“I’m sorry to report the Lindbergh baby has been found dead.”
“We landed on the moon! Yes!
“Did you know the world is not flat?”
Okay, I get the picture. The funny thing is, once I started reading about this, I remember it now. I remember the kid on the Letterman show, and I remember sportscasters dropping the catch phrase in at seemingly random times. It was a worldwide inside joke.
I think I must have blocked the whole thing out because it reminded me of perhaps the worst experience I had in local TV. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, I worked at KSLA. Bob Griffin did the weather and sports on weekends in those days. As Griffin’s #2 man, it fell upon me to anchor sports in his absence. I had no experience presenting the weather report. Griffin was gone one weekend, and I was in the office diligently preparing a sportscast. Tim Larson, who did the 10pm weather at the time, was scheduled to be on the air that night, as well. It was a springtime Saturday and Tim spent the first part of his day at a crawfish boil. What do you drink with spicy crawfish? Beer. Tim had too much. To his credit, I suppose, he realized he could not go on the air. Somehow, weather duty fell to me. As I recall, the dynamite went boom for me, too. Fortunately, the internet did not exist and as far as I know, no tape of the incident exists. It was a complete flameout, and I still have bad dreams about it.
Maybe the most embarrassing moment I had as a sportscaster actually happened much later in my career. The Dallas Cowboys planned to honor legendary wide receiver Bob Hayes by placing his name in Texas Stadium’s ring of honor. I reported the story, and said “Hayes died earlier this year after a long battle with….” Here’s the thing: Hayes wasn’t dead. He was really sick, though. Just when you think nobody’s watching; announce on the air that a sports legend is no longer living. The next day, I ran a correction and an apology by saying, “I’m happy to report that I was wrong. Bob Hayes is very much alive and plans to be in Texas Stadium when his name is unveiled.
Deservedly, I will never live this down. I can prove it to you. Among the responses to my “Boom” e-mail was this:
Darrell, don’t listen to all the haters. Just remember, you were the first with the “’Bullet’ Bob Hayes is dead” story. No one can ever take that scoop away from you!
Everybody’s a comedian. I guess you can say they lowered the boom.

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

The American Way?

San Francisco (June 25, 2006) 5:30am PDT - In the post-9/11 era of travel, what is the rule of thumb for arriving at the airport? Isn’t it two hours before your flight? If that’s so, then can anyone explain to me why I was booked on an American Airlines flight scheduled to depart San Francisco at 6:02am, and yet the ticket agents at the American counter at SFO were visibly and audibly angry that the people on that flight were attempting to check in at 4:15am?
The automated check-in stations were not operational, and the baggage check windows were not open. Workers were there. One woman in an American Airlines uniform actually screamed, “These are not supposed to be open for another half hour!”
The American Airlines person on duty with the best attitude could easily and fairly be described as surly.
One poor traveler, who looked exhausted, finally had enough of their recalcitrance and got into a full-blown argument with one of the agents.
I was frustrated, but more than that I was embarrassed for American Airlines. The flight was full, by the way. There were even stand-by passengers. Surely someone knew we were coming.
Is that the American way, or a San Francisco treat? Either way, the attitude and behavior of the people in American Airlines uniforms was disgraceful.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

All About California Trippin'

Stockton, CA (June 23, 2006) 4:30pm PDT- Exactly fourteen hours ago, I was standing near my car in Bossier City, Louisiana. Now, exhausted and surprisingly amused, I am grateful to be still and quiet.
I’ve been looking forward to this trip to northern California, even if it is not for pleasure and it’s just for two days. I knew virtually nothing of Stockton until a couple of hours ago. That’s no knock against the place. I had just had no occasion to think about it until now, when work brings me to the beautiful banks of the San Joaquin River. I was thinking that I would get a brief respite from the stifling heat at home. That shows you what I know. It’s 106 degrees here right now!
The journey has been arduous. Twenty-five grown men, many of them young and considerably larger than I, jumped on a little charter van at 4:30 Central Time and did our best sardine impersonations for almost four hours. For reasons unknown to me, we flew not from Shreveport, but from Dallas. We flew not to Sacramento, which is a half-hour north of here, but to San Francisco. Then, we rode on a bus for two hours to Stockton.
On the airplane, I had a seat on the last row. I thought I had a window seat, and I would be able to look out and see the Rocky Mountains as we flew over. No, Row 32 on this particular aircraft does not have a window. So, for three and a half hours, I was crammed against the side of the airplane with two grown men I don’t know very well between me and the aisle. If you’re adding, that’s more than six hours of sardine duty for Daddy D. I saidto the man next to me, who was also next to me on the charter van, "This must be how the early astronauts felt, crammed inside a tin can in close quarters."
The trip to San Francisco was a little bit if a blessing. Most of the guys with whom I am traveling had never been there. Even though we didn’t stop, we drove right through downtown and across the Bay Bridge. We got to see the skyline, Candlestick Point, Bank One Ballpark (or, as most of them called it, “Barry Bonds Ballpark). It was great to see them get so excited. They were like teenagers, snapping pictures and pointing out landmarks to one another.
Conversation highlight: “Hey, man. Where’s Frisco?”
“You mean Fresno?”
“Nah. Frisco, man. Text message says when will we be in Frisco?”
“Dude, Frisco! San Francisco. You there now!”
Amazing moment of the trip: We are fresh from the airplane and on the bus when the driver looks at us and says “I need directions.” Now, I’m thinking it’s a core competency of a charter bus driver to know how to arrive at his destination.
Another conversation highlight, moments after that question: “Bet the dude know where a Chop Suey restaurant is.” I’m traveling with a witty, politically incorrect group.
Here’s another one for you, as we crossed the Bay Bridge: “Y’all, look! It’s sea lions, for real! They be trippin’ out by that wave.”
I’ll be doggoned, there actually were sea lions out there. Whether or not they were trippin’, I couldn’t tell you.
“How come they ain’t no sign that say ‘Welcome to California?’ I want to get my pitcher made there.”
“Hey Jim, I need to leave two tickets for a friend of mine. I don’t know her name, Dog. I ain’t met her yet.”

This is the quality of conversation I was enjoying. Actually, it was a lot of fun.
I haven’t seen much of Stockton yet, except for my hotel room. However, I did notice that the minor league baseball team has a home game tonight. The Stockton Ports, AA for the Oakland A’s, will play Visalia. I think I’ve figured out how to spend my evening. The stadium looks relatively new, and has nice appointments. It’s adjacent to the downtown arena, right on the banks of the river. It appears to be an outstanding sports and entertainment complex. I’ll be in the arena tomorrow night. There’s a balcony there just over the left-field fence of the baseball park. So, people in that section of the arena can simply turn their heads and catch the ball game. That’s pretty nice, right there. If I were in there, I just might be trippin’.
Stockton seems like a nice little city. I’m told the population is about 250,000. If we had come straight here, we might have a better perspective. But, we’re exhausted, and we did come through San Francisco. It’s unfair to compare, but imagine what fun we’d be having if we hadn’t gotten on that bus bound for the Chop Suey restaurant.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Sixteen. Car. Girlfriend.

If you see my son around, tell him I said hello. Hey, I remember what it was like to be sixteen with a girlfriend and a car. It was a real kick in the pants. Let's just say this: it was the 70’s, a time when certain activities which offered an irresistible allure to a teenage boy were viewed more liberally and were, frankly, a little less dangerous. I’m proud to say I’ve never done any kind of recreational drug, but there were parties in high school. Some of them were legendary. If he engages in similar behavior, I may go into full-blown panic.
I hope he’s more like his mother, who apparently was kind of a goody two-shoes. We’ve often said that it’s fortunate that we met when we did because earlier in life we simply would not have gotten along. She’s my human credential and is now the moderating influence in our family dynamic.
I think that translates into naiveté, though. Let’s put it this way: our notions about our son’s activities are becoming somewhat divergent. My view is that she believes he is more innocent than he really is. The guy’s been around, and I know how guys think. My wife, on the other hand, is thinking like a mother who with a couple of notable exceptions always did what her Daddy told her as she was growing up.
Our son is growing more independent, and that’s a good thing. He’s growing in confidence every day. His academics have been outstanding. His manners are by and large acceptable. Over all, he seems to be a good kid. Even good kids test the boundaries.
Sixteen. Car. Girlfriend. We’ll keep the light on for him.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Muzzle is on at KEEL

710 KEEL news anchor Mike Sieve was arrested Friday night. It is Tuesday, and so far no witness has come forward to assert that his employers have acknowledged his arrest on the air in any way.
The radio stations which employed Sieve have had dozens of opportunities to do so. This is as close as they’ve come: This is from KEEL's webpage....

New child sexual predator task force arrests six while still in training.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A brand new Attorney General's task force to fight internet crimes against children hadn't even finished its initial training session when the arrests started. Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti says the task force, which also consists of Caddo and Bossier deputies, and Shreveport and Bossier City police, charged six local men with computer aided solicitation of a minor and other related crimes. He says the task force will continue operations in both making cases and educating parents about keeping their children safe when they're on line.

Among the “six local men” charged was, you guessed it, Mike Sieve. Reaction in the community to Sieve’s troubles ranges from shock and dismay to disappointment. Certainly, the crimes of which he is accused are an infinitely more serious matter than the fact that the news organization for which he worked has chosen to ignore his arrest. Nonetheless, it is troubling that someone in the Clear Channel Radio organizational chart has chosen to put a muzzle on the local news department.
Let’s be clear here: Clear Channel Shreveport (KEEL in particular) has exactly two people on staff who can be considered purely a news person. They are John Lee, who was until Friday night Mike Sieve’s morning show partner, and Bess Maxwell, who presents news in afternoon drive. Everyone else is some homogenized version of an “air personality” who also reads news copy on one or more stations.
I know Lee & Maxwell. While I haven’t spoken with them, I have every confidence that they have been feeling an obligation to report the story of their colleague’s arrest. I can say with certainty that they’re in a classic pinch. They know what they believe is the correct thing to do, but management won’t let them.
News departments should operate with autonomy, but they don’t. Management, sales and the imagemeisters have entirely too much influence over editorial decisions.
It’s disappointing but not surprising that KEEL hasn’t mentioned Sieve’s troubles. we can be sure there are people in Clear Channel management who just don’t see it that way and believe in their hearts that the proper course of action has been taken. Is it significant that the names of the other men also were not used? Is that the balancing component? Clear Channel has a responsibility to look out for the best interests of its stock holders, and that's what legal and management will prioritize.
I guess that's something we can depend on.

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Monday, June 19, 2006

The Carwash Caper

We were presented with another parenting challenge over the weekend, a moral and ethical dilemma. This was nothing life-altering, but it was concerning nonetheless.
A young woman of our acquaintance was ticketed for speeding, 85 miles per hour in a 60-mile-per-hour zone. Our teenage daughter was in the car at the time. The fine for an infraction of this magnitude is hefty, and our young driver simply doesn’t have the money to pay it in a timely manner. For reasons known only to her, she was not comfortable asking relatives to help her, so she appeared to be in a bit of a crisis. Then, she formulated a plan: She would have a Saturday carwash to raise money for the fine. She asked my daughter and some of her friends to help.
When this idea was presented to us, I was ambivalent. There was an underlying sense that this was wrong somehow. I couldn’t articulate it, though. I appreciated the ingenuity and resourcefulness involved. If she couldn’t pay the fine, she probably would be compelled to work it off, anyway; although, that likely would be through some community service. I guess we could stretch the imagination far enough to paint a carwash as community service, but that’s another argument. To me, it’s amazing that she got a business to allow her to use its parking lot for this scheme. Without asking directly, I was troubled about how she must have pitched the idea. Obstacles were cleared and the plan moved forward.
We asked our daughter how they planned to drum up business. How would they attract customers? Would they tell people they’re raising money to pay this girl’s speeding ticket? No. They just would hold up “car wash” signs. With a distressing undercurrent of moral ambiguity, we dropped our daughter off at the appointed place. A handful of her friends were there, willing to help.
Several components came into play. First, the speedy driver was taking my daughter and the girls on a fun summertime outing when she was stopped by the police. So, we had a sense that we should be supportive. Second, this was an opportunity for some clean fun in the sun and upon examination appeared to be relatively harmless. Third, our daughter might have been embarrassed if she were to be the only girl in the group not to participate. Finally, we genuinely like the driver and know some details of her personal life. She was willing to work this out herself and not ask for a handout. So, that was in its own way admirable.
As parents, we did feel a responsibility to check on their health and well-being periodically. So, about forty-five minutes after we dropped our daughter off, we drove by the carwash. Front and center was a girl from our group holding up a sign that said “Send us to cheer camp.” A parental powwow of less than one minute ensued. The discussion was not about whether our daughter would be leaving immediately, but whether we should say something to the rest of the group about their deceptive ways. There was no more ambiguity, no more middle ground. They were misleading people to get their money. The sign was carefully made, so someone planned it this way. There was no outrage, but there was disappointment. There also was one obvious thing to do.
We turned around, called our daughter to the car and said, “Come with us. We need you to come home now.” That was it. She looked puzzled, but complied without complaint. When she got in the car, she asked what was going on. We asked if she knew about the sign. She said no. We believed her because she was with the buckets, towels and hoses about seventy-five yards away from the signs. When we told her what we saw, she simply said “Oh.” The drive home was routine.
I’m proud of her, because she seemed to understand instantly what the issue was. My kids know that nothing upsets me more than lying. The fact that she was participating in a big lie (we are accepting that she was doing so unwittingly) made my moral compass spin. I think we did something right, although I’m still not so sure allowing her to participate in the first place was such a good idea.

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Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Disturbing Disposition of Mike Sieve

Mike Sieve, a morning new anchor at KEEL radio, has been arrested on a variety of charges stemming from an apparent attempt to meet teenagers at Shreveport’s Columbia Park. KTBS was the first local news agency to report the story, and the other major outlets followed in the subsequent days.
This is disappointing on many levels. Of course, it is disturbing that any adult would use the internet to try to arrange a meeting with teenagers, presumably for a sexual encounter. It’s all the more disturbing that a high-profile public figure like a news person on a popular radio station would do it. By the very definition of his profession, he’s supposed to be trustworthy. Personally, it’s unsettling for my family because we have known Mike for a long time and like him.
I’ve been to Mike’s home. My wife and I have spent many hours with him at various parties and public gatherings. I’ve worked with him at two radio stations. He’s always struck me as friendly, witty and talented. I did not have a glimmer of a notion that he might be the kind of guy who would try to “hook up” with teenagers. I have a fourteen year-old daughter. The idea that someone I know and like might be some kind of predator with her in his sites is chilling.
I really hope there’s a legitimate explanation for Mike’s activities. As far as we know, he’s been in jail since his arrest. His mug shot has been broadcast all over the area and is prominently displayed on several news websites. His reputation is in shambles. Having your picture shown on television with “Attempted Carnal Knowledge of a Juvenile” and “Attempted Aggravated Rape” displayed next to it will have that effect. In the event that this is all some huge misunderstanding, the rehabilitation of Mike Sieve’s name will be long and frustrating. If he is guilty of these nauseating activities, he deserves swift and severe punishment. He also deserves help. He is a witty and talented guy, but it looks as though something is terribly wrong.

From a completely different point of view, it's interesting to observe how the media handled this. Here's KTBS' Headline: Shreveport Radio Personality Arrested in Computer Sex Sting. KSLA: Radio Personality Jailed On Sex-Related Charges. The Times: Local radio personality arrested on six sex-related charges. Then, KTAL misses the mark: Shreveport Disc Jockey In Custody Following Caddo Sting. (I guess the folks at channel 6 don't actually listen to radio news. Maybe they don't know what a "disc jockey" is. Sieve certainly is not one.) So far, of course, the silence from KEEL has been deafening. To be fair, they havent had a live, local show since this news broke. I don't envy their position. The news director, John Lee, is Sieve's morning show partner. Lee's a veteran professional, a straight-shooter and a stickler for accuracy and ethics. I'm sure he will report this story with appropriate vigor.

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Big Russ and Bones: Summer Reading

In the spirit of the season, I have begun my summer reading routine. I started with Tim Russert’s follow-up to his smash hit Big Russ and Me. In his new book, Wisdom of Our Fathers: Lessons and Letters from Daughters and Sons, Russert shares with us some of the correspondence he received from those among us who enjoyed “Big Russ.” I have to say I was moved by the first book. Russert’s tribute to his blue-collar Pop didn’t necessarily lead me to appreciate my own father more. However, it accentuated the point that fathers must be cognizant of the most subtle interactions with their children. The two Russert books remind us again and again that we can never underestimate how our words and actions influence our kids. In my view, both of these offerings are must-read material for men at any stage of fatherhood.
Russert and his correspondents remind us to celebrate small moments with our children. Certainly, since reading the books I’ve taken more delight (and exercised more patience) in sitting to listen to a new CD with my daughter or supporting my son’s desire to redecorate his room again and again. We learn that these are the kinds of things that our children remember as adults.
My wife and I got an alarmingly late seat on the The Lovely Bones bandwagon. This remarkable novel, which apparently has been read by everyone in the known universe except us, has occupied our thoughts and discussions for a week now. In an odd and unintentional way, the book is a workable companion to what I took from Tim Russert. The Lovely Bones starts with the kidnap and rape of a 14-year-old girl. It’s a brutal and disturbing start to a story that, through the magnificent talent of the author, becomes uplifting literature. The story is told from the girl’s perspective. Although she dies in the book’s first pages, she watches her world from Heaven. Her observations on grief, fear, retribution, and reconciliation are enlightening and inspiring. As the father of a 14-year-old girl, I found the story difficult to endure at times. The work is artful and compelling, though. I couldn’t put it down. The destination is worth the journey.
I need a couple of days off to recover. I think I’ll read a sports book next. Doesn’t Rick Reilly have something new on the shelf?
Yes, he does, and I've finished it: a fun little two-day read entitled Shanks for Nothing. It's a sequel to the entertaining Missing Links. The most recent book can stand alone, but having read the first one will enhance enjoyment of the second.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

A Delightful Day in the Sun

To celebrate the imminent arrival of summer, we go back to June of 2000 for a Daddy D classic. I was moved while watching my son and his great grandfather together at a baseball game:

Jack took in a ball game on a splendid sunlit Sunday. It was the last thing he expected to do. It was the best thing he could have done. His friend Christopher sat beside him, sharing the day. Two guys, worlds apart, bound by blood and baseball.
Jack has been going to games for a while now. He has forgotten more days in the sun than his buddy has ever seen. When pressed for his first baseball memory, Jack can recall seeing Babe Ruth in Shreveport, a rare glimpse of greatness that any child of the 20's would find hard to forget.
Press Chris, and he can go back as far as Mark McGwire's 70-home run season - a summer any child of the 90's would find impossible to ignore.
As the old man nears ninety, memories don't come as quickly or as clearly as they once did, but feelings flow freely as a lazy fly ball lands helplessly and harmlessly into a left fielder's mitt. If he closes his eyes, Jack knows his father is sitting beside him now. It's the day The Babe came to town. Dad doesn't want him to miss this. Jack is a little boy again, just like Chris. A breeze brushes Jack's cheek and breathlessly he is beside his beautiful bride again. He has loved her since third grade, since he was a little boy just like Chris.
Jack's companion is a bundle of memories in the making, a 10-year-old great grandson sharing a Sunday, along with a nacho or two, with someone he finds easy to love. From a distance, they seem an improbable pair. Sitting behind home plate, their caps pulled low over their eyes, at once they're talking about nothing much but saying everything that needs to be said. Examined more closely, it becomes easy to see why they are there. It's simply to be together.
The day swirls around them. Without warning, a blimp floats overhead; an unlikely occurence, to be sure. It seems somehow fitting on a day that has become so unexpectedly extraordinary. A sharp crack rips the afternoon air as a batter makes contact, the thrill of the moment lifting them and their anonymous companions out of a mid-afternoon malaise. A singing rhyme echoes through the stands, a veteran vendor hawking his wares. The little boy nudges the old man. They take it all in with a glance and a smile.
Some might say the ball game is dragging along as the three-hour mark slips silently by; but for Jack and Chris, time stands still. "We had a good day, good seats and good company" is Jack's simple assessment of an elegant afternoon at the ballpark.
But it wasn't so simple, after all. The game became a caretaker, holding at bay the angst of aging while embracing all the wide-eyed wonder of just being ten. That's the responsibility baseball bears: to make sunlit Sundays and moonstruck Mondays at the stadium special. The game is a steward of something that should be spectacular, yet understated: an old man, a little boy and thousands in between having epiphanies at the park, and realizing it subtly but surely.
That's the thing about baseball. Often, the players don't matter. The outcome usually is irrelevant. On this particular Sunday two guys didn't really care who won or lost or that the ace pitcher had to leave the game early.
They can only tell you that they had a great day, great seats and great company.

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Handicapping Hincapie

Cheering, robust applause and a near swoon greeted George Hincapie in Shreveport last fall. He is a huge international sports celebrity, but many people never have heard of him. For those who follow his sport, having him in town was like seeing Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter or Tom Brady. The news that he was in the building was greeted with breathless anticipation. His arrival was reminiscent of that of an emerging rock star, complete with wide-eyed devotion in the eyes of some young female onlookers. Even middle-aged men who knew of him seemed giddy at his mere presence. The demand for his time or the ability to shake his hand was borderline oppressive. He was here, sitting on the brink of achieving superstar status, and he thrilled those assembled by patiently answering their questions. Then, he allowed those who had the desire and the ability to participate in the sport with him for part of an afternoon.

George Hincapie may be America’s best hope on a bicycle in France. Legendary cyclist Lance Armstrong retired after winning the Tour de France seven times in a row. Hincapie was on his team, and is given a tremendous amount of credit for helping Armstrong to victory. The pressure is starting to build as the Lance-free tour approaches, and the weight of the cycling world may rest for a time on Hincapie’s slender shoulders. He is featured on the cover of a prominent pre-tour publication, and devoted cycling fans are counting on him. However, those shoulders might not be as strong as they should be. Earlier this year, he crashed during a race in France and suffered a grade three shoulder separation, among other less significant injuries. There was discussion of surgery, but an operation would have essentially eliminated any possibility of Hincapie contending for victory at the Tour de France.
When he was here, he explained that savvy cycling observers may perceive the notion of him as a candidate for the yellow jersey to be strange. He’s better known as a Classics rider. He’s been getting better in the mountains over the last few years, though, and he’s shown a knack for performing admirably in time trials. At six feet- three, his size may be a factor in the long, grueling test that is the Tour, but by all accounts he’s spent much of his rehabilitation time following his crash getting into the proper shape for cycling’s most noticed race.
Make no mistake: Hincapie is not the favorite to win the race. Some of his teammates may stand a better chance. With Armstrong out of the picture, the door is wide open for someone new to breeze under the Arc de Triomphe and raise his hands heavenward as the winner. The pressure is there, anyway. In previous years, Hincapie and the riders on his team would head to France knowing that they had three grueling weeks ahead of them trying to win the race with Armstrong. Now, they will be competing with one another while trying to contend, as if riding a bicycle through the Alps and the Pyrenees isn’t enough of a strain.
Having witnessed with amazement the reception our emerging hero received in Shreveport, it’s easy to imagine the weight of expectations pressing on him now. America’s best hope in cycling has been dwelling in the significant shadow of a living legend in his sport. If he finds his way into the sunlight wearing that yellow jersey, we may once and for all understand what all the cheering and swooning was about.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Summertime TV Confessions

It’s summer time. It’s not actually summer for two more weeks, but when the kids are not in school and the temperature is north of 90 degrees every day, it is summertime. This means we can catch up on our reading and take life a little slower, doesn’t it? Maybe for the enlightened, it does. For the average sloth-like American in the South, it means a change in TV viewing habits. So, let us make time now for Daddy D’s summertime TV confessions.
I only know two other people who watched Rock Star: INXS in the summer of 2005, and one of them is my wife. She watched because I always turned the show on. Now, I’m seeing promos on CBS for Rock Star: Supernova. I suspect I’ll watch.
Under immense pressure from Daddy D readers, I set my TiVo for “The Daily Show,” and I have to admit I’ve enjoyed it. I typically watch only the first two segments. I like the comic spin on the news, but I still haven’t learned to enjoy the interviews. Also, succumbing to reader influence, I have been grinding “The Office.” I even sat through the two-hour, four episode The Office mini-marathon on NBC last week. I have to admit I laughed a few times. I’m thinking the show is an acquired taste, like “Curb your Enthusiasm.” Once you get it, you get it.
I am proud to say, and you can check an earlier post on this topic to verify it, that I latched onto “the New Adventures of Old Christine” early. It was in the top ten last week, and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss apparently has broken the so-called “Seinfeld Jinx.” That CBS Monday is pretty strong. We also enjoy “two and a Half Men” at our house.
We were in lockstep with America most of last TV season, but we seem to be taking a different path these days. I saved the last five episodes of “Lost” on the TiVo for a while. Then, it dawned on me that I hadn’t watched five straight new episodes, and that is a pretty clear indicator that I had lost interest. So, I deleted them all, and no one at the house seemed to care. We also have yet to return to Wysteria Lane. The Housewives may be desperate still, but I’m not desperate enough for something to do on Sunday nights to watch them.
I’m looking forward to this new NBC Series “Windfall.” They’ve been pushing it hard, and the promos have captured my attention. The pre-debut rankings have it “season pass” worthy.
There are some shows I’m saving for summer viewing. I’ve banked a half-dozen or so “House” episodes, and there are several “Law & Order SVU” shows still on the hard drive.
The whole family watched every episode of “American Idol,” so we’re not completely out of touch with America’s tastes. We did play out the string with “Alias,” too. One of these days, I’ll get “24” on DVD and see what all the fuss is about.
In the mean time, I’m sitting and anxiously awaiting the arrival of two things on my TV: College football and the new season of “Battlestar Galactica.” Until then, maybe I will try to catch up on my reading.

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Monday, June 05, 2006

Am I a Friend of Bill?

Little Rock, AR (June 3, 2006) – I went to the Bill Clinton Presidential Library. I had no expectations. In fact, I had no plan to see it. However, I found myself in Little Rock with five hours free, and what else would you do? There it sits, on the banks of the Arkansas River, looking from a distance like a double-wide with a sun room.
Somewhere in the folds of my memory, I knew there was a full-scale replica of the Oval office in there, and I wanted to see it. Like any good American tourist, I’ve been inside the actual White House a few times, but only on the public tours. Certainly the Oval is off-limits on those trips. I saved that piece of the library for last, and unquestionably it is worth seeing. The whole experience was positive, to my surprise.
The project has become more of a museum than a library. The interactive exhibits and the memorabilia are impressive and informative. Walking through, watching movies and reading about Clinton’s eight years in office, I found myself kind of missing the guy. It was upon reflection that I realized his presidency roughly coincided with my thirties, a time when I was thinner, had more hair, and my children were babies. Life is better for my family now, but that was a more exciting period of our lives. We’ve settled now into a routine of contentment, and that is not to be underappreciated. Things will get lively in a couple of years when the first kid finishes high school, which will roughly coincide with the start of a Presidential election season. For now, we’ll play out the string along with Dubya.
Having observed Clinton with some amusement and a good dose of fascination, I was not prepared for the doe-eyed devotion I saw in some of my fellow visitors to his massive Natural State shrine. Apparently, there are people who hold Clinton and his wife in great esteem. I don’t have any sense that he touched my life in any day-to-day way, but some people seem to think he made living life better. I’ll take their word for it.
I will say that the museum er, library, shows a side of the Clintons that I hadn’t noticed. There’s a video presentation of the Clintons’ humor. I sat and watched the whole thing, and I have to admit I laughed aloud several times. Pre-September 11th Presidential humor seemed to have a more playful feel to it.
I was impressed that the designers did not shy away from the Monica Lewinski scandal or the impeachment proceedings; although the display about the impeachment does engage in a dizzying amount of political spin. There’s no blue dress with a stain, but Mrs. Clinton’s gown from an inaugural ball is there.
I was thinking it would cost about twenty dollars to get in, but admission was just seven bucks. The trip and the time spent were well worth the money. Despite your politics, the Clintons are compelling figures in American history. To have so much of their public lives displayed for public consumption is worthy.
I just wonder, if Hillary is elected president, will they just expand this facility to triple-wide status? Maybe they’ll add a deck and a hot tub. It might be worth voting for her just to find out.

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Friday, June 02, 2006

Feeling Alive With Emotion

This week has been emotionally tumultuous. I have caused a woman to cry. I’ve seen another woman cry and sweat simultaneously. I’ve been to yet another funeral. I saw a group of people I hadn’t encountered in almost a year. I experienced unanticipated jubilation.
Let’s start with the ridiculous. I have a part time job calling Arena Football games on Saturdays. The team to which I’m attached lost its first seven games of the season. As you might imagine, the mood around the arena has been a little tense. Last Saturday, our boys played at home against the top-rated team in the league. With thirty seconds left in the game, our team was behind by three points and was facing fourth down and 27. It seemed ugly. Then, in a jaw-dropping moment, the ball was in the air. In the back of the end zone, a wide receiver leapt high and caught it. Touchdown. We win by four. It was the first victory I had had the pleasure to call. A week later, I still can’t believe how excited I was.
Moments after the game, my heart racing and my sweat glands working overtime, I hurried to the coach’s locker room and changed into a suit. A long-time friend, in her early thirties, had been married earlier that evening. She had not been married before, and this wedding was quite a social occasion. I was determined to wish her well and experience at least part of the party. The wedding had been outdoors, and the evening was uncommonly warm and muggy. Resplendent in her gown, she glistened in the night. When I saw her, she still was producing tears of joy, and she had been dancing. She was happy to see me and said, “I’ve been sweating since I said ‘I do.” It was a classic moment.
I know this bride because we worked together for many years, although our relationship assuredly has a significant personal component. People flew in from all over the country for this wedding, and a by-product of that was something of a newsroom reunion. It’s astonishing, really, how many people have moved on over the years. It is an inspiring tribute to this woman that so many people traveled such great distances to be with her on her wedding day. To sit at a table with people with whom I worked for many years after an absence of many months was somewhat surreal. It was uplifting, though, to spend time with them in a relaxed and celebratory atmosphere.
A mere three days later, my wife and I marked our 19th wedding anniversary. I don’t know anyone who’s more happily married than we are, and we snuck away from work for a high-end lunch. It was a Tuesday, though. There wasn’t much celebrating. We try to honor one another every day, so the nondescript nature of the proceedings isn’t particularly disappointing.
Midweek, the news came that one of my high school teachers unexpectedly passed away. He was a prominent athlete in the sixties, and his death made headlines nationally. His funeral was a somber affair, traditionally Roman Catholic and somewhat perfunctory. I saw several high school classmates and many members of the faculty from those days.
My French teacher approached me in the parking lot to say hello. I asked her why we hadn’t spoken in more than twenty-five years. She didn’t know how to answer, but we caught up amiably. Then, I said something I certainly had not planned, but happens to be true. I told her that, of all the teachers I had she is the one I remember the most fondly. I had no expectation of a response. It was a spontaneous utterance. Tears began to stream down her face. It was like a movie. I have no idea what has been going on in her life and career, but apparently she needed some affirmation. She hugged me tight and cried a little more. I was so surprised; I don’t even remember what we said after that. I’m just happy I said what I said when I said it.
Sadness, jubilation, gratitude and love all presented themselves to me in the course of a calendar week. It’s good to really feel alive.

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