Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wow! What a Day!

(Nashville, TN) - Vanderbilt won its bowl game, 16-14 over nationally-ranked Boston College. It was the Commodores' first bowl game since 1982 and their first bowl victory since 1955! It was the school's second bowl win ever. My wife, a long-suffering Vanderbilt graduate, saw every moment of it and was thrilled. My daughter and I were pleased to be in her company. We had to earn it, though. It was COLD!
During the second quarter, temperatures were in the 30's with a stiff wind. I started to shiver and my daughter said her toes were numb. We thought we were prepared, wearing many layers of warm clothes; but were a little uncomfortable to put it mildly. It was the coldest I had been for any sustained period in at least fifteen years, probably more.
That's okay, though. The conditions made the experience more memorable. The truth be told, if it had become unbearable, we would have been okay. We had club level tickets, so we had the option to go inside and watch the game on television at any time. Why would you want to do that, though? It wasn't a particularly well played game, but it did go down to the final seconds. Vanderbilt intercepted a BC pass with less than two minutes left in the game to seal the victory. At that moment, the temperature didn't really matter.

It really meant a lot to my wife, who stayed long after the final horn to watch the trophy presentation, see a fireworks show and to find out who the Most Valuable Player was. Her phone starting buzzing immediately with text messages and calls from friends and co-workers who knew we had made this trip.
It's been a blast, to be honest. Given Vanderbilt's pace for winning bowl games, it may truly be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Let's hope not, but either way I'm glad we were here to share it.

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Low-Key Little Trip

(Nashville, TN)- This bowl game experience has been very nice so far. It's interesting to attend a "minor" bowl game as an outsider, since I've been so close to the one at home for such a long time. As a bowl visitor, it would be easy to note the absence of any kind of "buzz" around the game, but that's not something to complain about.
There was a significant gathering of fans on Nashville's famed 2nd Avenue for an outdoor concert and a "battle of the bands." You would think in Music City, USA you wold get frontline entertainment. Diana Degarmo sang the national anthem and hosted the event. The featured entertainers were the Carter Twins, who are poised to release their first CD. Front line? Depends upon your perspective, I guess. It was harmlessly entertaining. There was nothing wrong with it and there was very little intensity. This is how I imagaine many visitors to the Independence Bowl must feel.
On a personal level, the highlight of the trip has been catching up with old friends. My old Friend Tommy drove in from just across the Kentucky state line to join us for dinner. My friend Dave, a Nashville sportscaster, joined us in the Big Suite late last night to catch up.
It's been exeedingly pleasant so far and that's all you can really expect.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Confusing Hotel Matters

Over the last few years, I seem to have developed a loyalty to Hilton Hotel properties. I keep coming back, so I must be happy. I know exactly what I can count on at a Hampton Inn, for instance.
There are two things which confuse me, but they're not important enough for me to ask about them. I think I would get blank stares from the help if I did.
Number one: at Hamptons and other "lesser" properties, internet access is free. But, at the hotel like the one we're enjoying in Nashville and other "higher end" facilities in the chain in which I've stayed recently, internet access is ten bucks a day. That makes no sense to me.
Here's the one that gets me, though. I've recently stayed in "nice" Hilton properties in places like Austin, Lexington, Birmingham and Nashville. They've put these state of the art, flat-screen televisions in the rooms. They're BIG TV's, and they're High Defintion capable, obviously. But, in the rooms, standard definition. What's the point?
That's all.

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Memory Lane and Maybe A Glimpse Into the Future

(Nashville, TN) - Our daughter, a junior in high school, made her first official university visit today when she sat through an information session and took a long guided tour of Vanderbilt. This is exciting and scary for a lot of reasons. She really liked the place, but it's expensive! Also, she has to get in if she wants to attend. She probably will have the academic credentials, but the place is intensely competitive.
Her mother graduated from Vandy, which is why we find ourselves here for the football team's first bowl game since 1982. I wonder if having a parent as an alumna will work in the favor of an applicant? It can't hurt, can it?
There was a nice moment for my wife. We walked through the some of the buildings where she had classes and found a composite photo of her graduating class. She was front and center as class president! It was neat for her daughter to see that. It was also nice for me, because that's the year I met her. I told my daughter, "Look, that's the girl I met." Very sentimental.

There was a beautiful reunion with my wife's college best friend. I told our daughter this would be noteworthy because no one makes her mother laugh as hard as Dana does. The occasion did not disappoint. The hilarity started on the phone and less than five minutes into lunch, my wife had tears shooting cartoon-like out of her eyes. It was immesnsely entertaining for near observers, who can only imagine what life must have been like when thosse two were together on a daily basis.
Soon, we will turn our attention to the business of football. I hope the Commodores cap off an already memorable trip with a nice victory. It doesn't seem likely, but a Vandy fan can dream. My wife and her schoolmates have been waiting more than a quarter-century for this. Win or lose, it's been worth it.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Quick Hitter From the Road

(Nashville, TN)-My wife is true blue, no doubt about it. She has long vowed that the next time her school's football team won its way into a bowl game, she would be there to witness it. After all, The Vanderbilt Commodores haven't been to a postseason game since 1982, which was before we even met (and we've been married a long time). As luck would have it, Vandy finally makes it and fate leads them across town instead of across the country. They're in the Music City Bowl, so we are in Nashville.
It works out well. Her College Best Friend lives here, so she's excited about seeing her. I have a good friend who works at a TV station here, so we will spend some time with him. Another old friend lives about an hour away. So, like the song says, "Through the years, we all will be together if the fates allow." So, fate creates a set of happy reunions. Plus, our daughter can look over the campus while she's here to see if she wants to consider following in Mom's footsteps.
It's a long drive and we spent the day in the car. It's an easy drive, though. Once again, I connot recommend books on CD enough. The time just flies by if you pick a good one.
It's colder here than I would like, and I'm not sure how to dress for cold weather. I'll figure it out. Now, it's late and we are road weary. More to come.

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32 of 33's not Bad

At the Independence Bowl
Originally uploaded by Darrell
We made it to the Independence Bowl, and it was a pretty entertaining ball game. Louisiana Tech outlasted Northern Illinois, 17-10. It wasn't a dream matchup, in fact far from it, but it got the job done.
I went to my first Independence Bowl in 1976, when I worked as an usher as part of my school's commitment to community service.
I've been to every one, except the 1984 game. I had traveled to Charleston, SC to cover a Louisiana Tech football game that day. So, there's a nice little bow to tie things up, wouldn't you say? In 1984, I did drive past the stadium during the 3rd quarter on my way home from the airport. So, I can say I have personally witnessed at least part of every Independence Bowl.
It's much more fun to be a spectator than to cover it, although this year might have been a little different because a local team was in it. There seems to be more pressure when big-name schools from power conferences come to town.
It was a rather unremarkable day, although the people around us were consistently entertaining.
I plan to see number 34 next year.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Best Dog Ever

Originally uploaded by darebouche
I have enjoyed almost fifty years of uninterrupted dog ownership. There was a 2-3 year period in the early 80's when I did not live with a dog due to apartment complex rules and an ugly break-up with the co-owner of a sweet little puppy named Bear.
In my life, I have buried six dogs which lived long, happy lives. I loved them all and each had a distinct personality. None of them compares to our golden retriever.
This is the smartest, sweetest, most expressive and affectionate dog I've ever known. She is remarkable. Her only flaw is an annoying tendency to shed, but she just can't help it. Other than that, she is essentially flawless. She will be six years old later this week, just about middle age for a dog.
We have been advocates of what I call "doggie overlap." This means you get a puppy or young dog long before your current dog runs out of days. It serves many purposes, but mostly it's to soften the blow when that sad, sad day comes.
We agreed long ago to get a second dog when this one was six years old. Now that the day is upon us, I'm not so sure. Our relationship wtih this great llittle friend is so good, I don't want to do anything to alter it. Plus, if she lives a long doggie life, we will be well into our fifties and the children will be well into their twenties before we don't have her anymore. By then, we may have grandchildren. We also may not want the responsibilty of another mouth to feed and another life for which we will be responsible 24 hours a day.
I just don't think we can do any better. I think we just go out on top (hopefully a long time from now) and then take some time to reassess.
I hope every dog lover is fortunate enough, at least once, to have a pet like ours.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Truth Hurts

My daughter turned seventeen this week, and I'm having trouble dealing with that. Seventeen (17!) is just different from sixteen. Think about it. How are movies rated? The worst film these days is rated "NC-17," which means no one under 17 is allowed in. Reverse that logic. The people who rate movies think it's okay for a 17-year-old to see serious pornography and/ or violence. That's where my baby is right now.
She said, reflecting on reaching seventeen, "This means if I get a ticket I don't have to go to traffic court." I guess not. Daddy just pays the fine.
Did I say "Daddy?" Forget about it. I've been "Dad" for a long time now, unless she wants something. Then, conveniently, I'm "Daddy" again, but only for a moment.
Janis Ian sang that at seventeen, she learned the truth. I'm not sure my daughter knows the truth yet, but if you ask her she will tell you she does.
I'm proud to have known her for seventeen years. That's the truth, for sure.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Surrender Your Manhood at the Door

Christmas spectacular
Originally uploaded by Darrell
Any cool points I may have earned by hanging around the sidelines of the Cowboys-Giants game two nights ago were surrendered immediately and with prejudice when I found myself at CenturyTel Center for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring The Rockettes.
The show had its moments. Production value was high. It was colorful and lively. I could not identify a single masculine moment.
I feel compelled to explain how I wound up there. A lady we know, the mother of one of our daughter's friends, bought a row of floor seats for the show and invited the crew of girls to go. They all showed up last night, but their tickets wouldn't scan. It seems the tickets were for Tuesday, not Monday. Oops. Sadly, several of the girls had plans for the next night and couldn't attend.
Seeing the unused (and expensive) tickets sitting on the counter was too much for me to bear. The waste was just eating away at me. A futile attempt to sell them was made, so there they sat. What else did I have to do on a December Tuesday? Off to the show we went.
It was old fashioned, you might say "tradtional" and not very stirring. Still, it was wholesome and basically harmless. There was actual livestock in the show: a camel, a donkey and some sheep. I guess the only shot I had at being manly would have been to pull out a shotgun and go hunting. But, really, would that have helped anyone?
Maybe it will spark my Christmas spirit. If you see me high-kicking at the mall, you know things have gone too far.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Still a Thrill

I've been standing on the sidelines of football games for more years (decades) than I care to admit. Still, the opportunity to see the reigning Super Bowl champion NY Giants up close against the Dallas Cowboys was too good to pass up.
When you hear a coach say, "I had the worst seat in the house," he has a point. One can actually see each play develop much more clearly from an elevated vantage point. Still, nothing gives you a sense of the size of the players or the speed of the game like standing right there with 'em.
All that being said, the event seems much bigger when viewed on television, especially in HD.
The Cowboys found a way to win in prime time and the assembled crowd raised quite a ruckus. I don't know if I'll ever get back to the sidelines, but I'm glad I made my way to the floor of Texas Stadium one more time before the Cowboys move out.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Mouth of the South

public address
public address,
originally uploaded by Darrell.
The people I have known since childhood are not the least bit surprised that for many years I made a living by talking. It's what I do the most, if not what I do the best. The most recent opportunity to spread my vocal wings presented itself when I was asked to be the public address announcer for a college basketball game.
If you've watched basketball in person or on TV, you know it's hard to miss the PA guy a lot of the time. There are similarities to ring announcers in boxing. You have to really sell it hard when the home team makes a big basket.
You also have to pay attention and know the rules. If the PA guy blows a call, he can impact the game. In my game, for instance, a foul was called on number 30. None of us on press row saw the referee make the hand size for the "zero," so we thought the foul was on number 3. It would have been his fourth foul, which means trouble. It was 30's first foul. When I said, "the foul is on number three, so-and-so, his fourth personal...." the game came to a halt. Coaches, players and refs all stared at me.
"Correction. The foul is on number thirty..." and everybody felt better.
It's not as easy as it looks, plus now I'm hoarse. But it was fun and I had the best seat in the house. Next time, we'll watch those hand signals from the guys in stripes a little more closely.
And for all those teachers who gave "B's" in conduct because I couldn't keep my yap shut: The foul's on you.

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Through The Years, We all Will be Together

Sweater Vest and Tennessee Dave
Originally uploaded by Darrell
My buddy Dave blew into town for a few days and it was great to see him. He lives in Nashville now, living a local sportscaster's dream. He's anchoring in his home town, covering the SEC, NFL and NHL. It's a kind of perfect storm: the best thing short of ESPN or an actual network.
He had a voucher for a flight, so why not come back to Shreveport where he made many friends?
We rectified an obvious oversight. He claimed (and this is an outrage) that all the years he lived here, he never went to Herby K's. So, he rounded up his crew and to Herby's we went.

Dave and Darrell at Herby K
Originally uploaded by Darrell
Being on vacation, he was able to relax, enjoy the company and a big mug of beer.
It has been almost three years since I had seen him, and happily it will be a just three weeks until I see him again. We're going to Nashville for the Music City Bowl!
That trip works out well for everyone. The Daughter gets to look over a university or two and Joe College gets to live in the house without family encumberance for a few days. Who knows what he will do? That's a little scary. As long as there's no damage and the place is cleaned up when we get back, we'll be okay.
By the way, We saw Dave two days in a row. On the second day, he was wearing a very familiar sweater.

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Sad Times In Shreveport

Three Bowl Amigos
Originally uploaded by Darrell
Take a look at this photo from 1991. Independence Stadium is packed on a December afternoon. It was a Sunday and the Georgia Bulldogs were playing the Arkansas Razorbacks in a game nationally televised on ABC. Standing there are the sports directors of the three local television stations. As of this week, none of them works in local TV anymore.
Sadly, the last man standing, Bob Griffin, was shown the door by KSLA this week. He had been there for 48 years. His goal was to make it to 50, and he had gone part time a few years ago in an effort to get there. The fact that he wasn't allowed to leave on his own terms is a shame.
The bowl game has also fallen on hard times. Its sponsor squirreled out with almost two million dollars in debt hanging over the organizers. The football gods conspired to deny the game teams from major conferences, to boot. So, instead of SEC vs. Big XII, it's MAC vs. WAC.
Maybe things will improve and a year from now the stadium will be full once more and everyone will be ready to smile again.

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Gone But Not Forgotten

KTAL 2001
Originally uploaded by Darrell
This photo has been a recent phenomenon on FaceBook. It started innocently enough when the guy standing to the right of me in the image added a simple comment: "I still have that sweater." Ultimately, every person in the photo except for the blonde in the black sweater in the front row weighed in. It turns out, everyone wearing a sweater still HAS the sweater.
That may say something about salaries in local television, or it may say something about temperate southern climates. Who knows?
Cool weather gear notwithstanding, there is something more noteworthy: All of these people worked at a local TV station in 2001. None of them works there now. Moreover, Daddy D is the only one still in town.
There was talent assembled there. They have all moved to bigger cities, and I hope they have found happiness.
Back row (l to r): Providence, Memphis, Nashville, Shreveport (me).
Front row (l to r): Nashville, Denver, Denver (different stations, a happy coincidence).
Maybe their wardrobes have improved. As for me, I wore that sweater this week!

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Reluctant Unclehood

There's a new member of the family named Grant. I'll spare the details because I don't really have permission to go all up in somebody else's privacy, but let me make one thing clear: We are not yet grandparents. The fact that we have the potential to be so in less than a year hangs over our heads at all times, but I can honestly say we're have not been emotionally prepared for the arrival of a newborn. Yet, here he is, a nephew. The guy has a 16-year-old sister. It saddens me at this moment that her name is not "Denise," because I have no legitimate reason to call the new kid "DeNephew," a joke which always cracks me up even though it's stupid and ancient.
Let me make another thing clear: nobody around here is pregnant, as far as I know. I'm just saying that things can happen quickly. I'm looking forward to being a grandfather, I just don't want it to happen anytime in the next five years or so.
For now, Grant's arrival is the most momentous thing to happen in the family in a while. Let's hope things settle down around here now. I've spoken to his mother only briefly since she came home with the baby, because I assume she's losing sleep. I will be interested, in a month or so, to depose "Denise" about how she's dealing with all of this.
For now, let's just say congratulations to the excited family. Welcome to the world, Grant.

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