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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1 comment:

Winter said...

It has to be hard to be remembered for that ONLY. I know I watched you do other news, but really that's all I can recall, the spinning of that large cage, the calling of the number.. it was all very exciting.