Monday, September 25, 2006

Breathing Easy

This is the conversation I had with my daughter while driving to school this morning:

Me: "Huh. This is kinda weird."
Her: "What?"
Me: "I'm breathing through both nostrils. Usually, I only breathe on the right side. It's a strange feeling."
Her: "Did you sleep on your back?"
Me: "What?"
Her: "Did you sleep on your back? Don't you usually sleep on your left side?"
Me: "I don't know. What are you talking about?"
Her: "Well, that's probably why you're breathing through both sides of your nose. If you sleep on your left side, all your snot shifts to the left during the night."

I laughed all the way there and haven't recovered yet.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Myth of High School Football

There is a prevailing notion that high school football is a big thing around here. I once believed it. I spent a quarter-century perpetuating it on local television. Maybe at one time it was. Now I believe, with a couple of exceptions, high school football has insignificant mass appeal in northwest Louisiana.
This is sacrilegious, I know, coming from someone who demanded the full resources of a local television station be dedicated to covering prep football for fifteen Fridays every fall. It's still being done, by the way. At the risk of sounding pompous and arrogant, I claim a significant amount of credit or blame for that. Over the last couple of years, I've spoken with two other long-time local TV sports directors about this phenomenon. I asked Ed Baswell (KTBS) and Bob Griffin (KSLA) if they can recall when we started going nuts over Friday nights. I worked for both of those gentlemen on dozens of autumn Fridays before I ran my own shop. I distinctly remember a time when we did not bring in extra help for Friday football. Nowadays, it's all hands on deck. Somewhere in the late 1980's, we starting turning up the pressure. Instead of three games, we covered five, then six, and so on. Gradually, we were spreading out over the massive geographic footprint of this television market and covering as many as fifteen games a night. None of us has been able to pinpoint when the decision was made to pursue Fridays with such vigor.
Special sets have been built, overtime is approved, graphics and music are produced. Now, at least two local TV stations do hour-long specials on Friday nights. "The Sideline Show" and "Friday Football Fever" on KTAL and KTBS are the kind of presentations that used to be reserved for annual sporting events such as the Super Derby and the Independence Bowl. As long as the account executives at the stations can make hay with this stuff, I guess the shows will continue.
That's the only real justification for them. I have two kids in high school. I can tell you that kids do not rush home to see their school's highlights on the local news. They go to parties after games. Except for Byrd, Airline, Evangel and Calvary, students and parents do not show up for the games in significant numbers. The circumstance is different in the rural parts of the viewing area, particularly in east Texas. Still, I'm not convinced that there is a massive viewership yearning for videotape of a sophomore running back breaking through the line for a gain of seven.
On the other side of the argument, you could add up the number of people in stadiums across the Ark-La-Tex on a given Friday and come up with an impressive number. Certainly, it would be larger than the crowd count at the movies or even a major concert. Okay, now I'm doing the math and the ancient logic I used to convince News Directors and Chief Photographers to sell their souls to Friday football is coming back to me. Maybe I'll catch a game and hurry home to see who had the best angle on the long touchdown run.
I know first-hand how hard all the local sports departments work. I know intimately how challenging and frustrating Friday nights can be. I also know how exhilirating and satisfying a well-presented highlight show can be. I wish my TV sports buddies well this fall. I just hope all the sweat and aggravation is worth it.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

It's September. Do You Care?

Tradition tells us that since it is September, we must be thinking about baseball. Surely someone out there is, but I suspect the majority of those people are somewhere else. America’s pastime has become little more than a distraction, sadly.
Long gone are the days when a kid would sneak a radio into school to listen to World Series games. Of course, that’s not really a factor, anyway. The games all are played at night.
The point is: unless you’re in or near a baseball market with a playoff team, chances are you just don’t care. Steroid scandals, over saturation and slow play have led to the dilution of passion among casual fans. You can find a few hardliners in Houston and some diamond devotees in Dallas-Ft. Worth, but to find real baseball fans you have to go to St. Louis. There, the community lives and dies with its Cardinals. There’s no denying the passion in Boston for the Red Sox and long-suffering Cubs fans can be found in the four corners of our country. The same can be said for a few Yankees fans scattered coast-to-coast. Outside of that, we can find a passing interest at best in baseball.
Go ahead; try to start a conversation at the office about the playoffs and the World Series. You won’t get very far. Bring up LSU football, the Cowboys or the Saints and your productivity numbers will take a nosedive. That’s what engages people. Can you make a case for any baseball fan base which approaches that of any number of Southeastern Conference football teams?
If a northeast bias exists in the national media, then maybe a southern bias exists here. On a Saturday or Sunday this time of year, if you watch a sports highlights show, don’t you get aggravated if they interrupt the football segment to show baseball? Do you really care what John Kruk has to say? Somewhere, someone must because the national broadcasters keep playing baseball high in their shows. The national magazines put guys in caps instead of helmets on their covers, which may generate newsstand sales in the northeast, but not in the south.
Baseball is not dead by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it’s thriving in its own way. Even if the game in enshrouded in suspicion, people show up at the ballparks (at least some of them). The players are wealthy and of course the owners are much wealthier. Still, the game is out of touch, almost elitist. Many of the players just aren’t real and certainly they are not accessible. The average fan can’t afford to go to a game. Too rare are the visceral moments which allow the game to transcend those difficulties.
Conversely, the average football game will offer something once or twice during its course which will provide a real thrill. If you’re emotionally bound to a college program, you somehow can actually find enjoyment in being disappointed by your team’s season. At least you feel something.
Emotions will run high as Barry Bonds approaches Hank Aaron’s home run record, but that likely will come in the early to mid part of the season in 2007. For now, the question at hand is interest in crowning a world champion. Weren’t you left a little cold with the White Sox’ title a year ago? Did you even remember they are the reigning champions?
America’s relationship with baseball needs to be repaired. Just like any relationship, there must be give and take. Both sides need to care. Both sides need to work at it. At the rate things are going, the fans won’t even walk away from the game. That requires planning and a certain level of commitment. The worst thing that can happen to baseball seems to be taking place. A lot of people just don’t think about it anymore.

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Friday, September 08, 2006

These Things Are Stuck in My Craw

Does anybody really know what a craw is?

I know it is September, but temperatures are still getting into the 90’s every day. Can’t we all agree that it’s still HOT? Then, why do the TV weather people insist on saying it will be “cooler?” In order for the temperatures to be cooler, isn’t it self-evident that they have been cool to start? See what I’m saying? It can’t be “cooler,” if it’s not already cool. Don’t they mean it won’t be as hot? Or, have we reached a point in our lives as Southerners that 90 degrees can be classified as cool? I’m here to say no temperature can legitimately called “cool” unless it starts with a “6” or a lower digit….

I’ve noticed that some people have trouble grasping the consonant sound combination which sounds like “ts,” or “nce.” For instance, “license” is a singular word. “I need to renew my driver’s license.” Inevitably, someone will ask, “Did you get ‘em?”…as opposed to the more correct, “ Did you get it?” Conversely, there is the infamous media pass for a game at Shreveport’s “Independent Stadium.” This actually happened. Perhaps more egregious: the usually excellent superintendent of Caddo Parish schools heard on the radio saying something will cost “fifty cent.” That’s just inexcusable, in my view. One more example: a service station attendant in LeCompte, Louisiana with a name tag indicating she is called “Constant.”

My last annoying observation comes from Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, where vendors were distracting me. Their little tags said ”Soda Water $3.00.” It was bottled spring water, just like Dasani or Ozarka or Evian. It’s not sparkly or soda or anything. I just want to know they they’re calling it “Soda Water,” when it’s not.

It’s not my last one, after all. This reminds me of a bonus annoyance: If it’s mayonnaise, it’s mayonnaise. If it’s salad dressing (Miracle Whip), it is NOT Mayonnaise. They’re both white and spreadable, but they do not taste alike. At the cafeteria at work, they make sandwiches. The ladies there offer you mustard or mayonnaise. It’s NOT mayo. I tried to explain it once, after I nearly gagged on my turkey & Swiss, but Apparently I’m the only one who cares.

I’m finished for now. Thank you.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The KTAL Dream

I dreamed last night that KTAL, in an effort to reach viewers, had reconstructed its anchor team from the mid-1980’s. Somehow, they convinced Sherri Allen to come back from KTBS, Ron Young to come over from KSLA, Dale Hoffman to move back from Alexandria and I was there sitting at my old desk. They even reconfigured the newsroom so that we were sitting in an office, just like we did for all those years.
This dream was not set in the 80’s. We sat around and talked about our experiences over the last twenty years, and none of us could believe we actually were sitting there. In this bizzaro world of my subconscious, the backdrop for the news set featured an 80’s Shreveport skyline. There was no AmSouth tower, no casinos, and no neon bridge.
I remember sitting at my desk, saying, “This is kind of cool in a nostalgic, retro way, but where is my computer?” as I stared at a beige IBM Selectric. Since the computers weren’t there, the prompter didn’t work, and a technician was scrambling to hook up an old-school, paper-fed conveyor belt prompting system.
Just for a moment, there was a flash of anger and frustration. Then, it all became comfortably amusing. We wondered where Al LeGrand was and told old stories about our late news director, Gordon Grafton. We decided that this was a stroke of genius, that a return to a Reagan-era presentation of the news might be just the tonic the station needed. I had the impression we all were doing this on the side, anyway. So, it was basically for fun, a kind of pseudo-social experiment, maybe even a stunt.
I actually have an image in my mind of Dale and Sherri sitting together on the set. Ron is walking over to the green screen as I walk into the studio, making final preparations to do a sportscast.
It was a happy dream, in a way. All the old interoffice rivalries were a distant memory. We were all older and wiser and happy to be together. We even used 80’s technology to present our little newscast, and it went smoothly.
Then, after the show…on my desk was a little slip of paper upon which was written the Count, Direction, Jackpot amount and Bonus Clue for Dialing for Thousands. Only then did I realize it actually was a nightmare.

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