Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Great Communicators

-They say the deaths of great people come in threes. Well, I'm not exactly counting, but I would say Jim McKay, Tim Russert, and George Carlin passing in the last few weeks add up to three pretty great ones.

Like most, I was a Jim McKay fan without really knowing it until he wasn't available to be seen that much anymore. After his retirement, we were left with a much less sophisticated batch of communicators on the tube. Oh, Costas, Nance, and a few others rise to McKay's level of journalistic integrity and thoughtfulness when faced with a camera. But McKay, when you think back on it, was the standard-setter for how to broadcast televised sports events, no matter how cheesy, with grace and dignity. He was the anti-Cosell.

Many of today's adults weren't alive for, or old enough to remember, his riveting and emotionally perfect reporting of the Munich Olympics tragedy of '72. For almost an entire weekend he faced the camera and provided continuous reportage of some of the 20th century's most tragic moments. He did so with a sense of the history of the moment and a third-person view that many of today's talents would never consider. Today the anchors are inclined to report about their own experiences and involvement in a situation. McKay understood that it wasn't about him. ABC Sports boss Roone Arledge understood that McKay would be the perfect link from Germany to the United States for a news/sports story of such magnitude. In relegating Howard Cosell to beat reporter status for the coverage, he made a major statement. We need the gravitas of McKay, not the bombast of Cosell. He was so right.

Tim Russert's passing provides baby-boomers with another reminder of our graying status, mortality, and the fickle nature of fame. Here's a man who was on top of his game. By all accounts he was the best communicator of the political landscape around. Not only that, he brought an "every man" quality to his Meet The Press program every Sunday that made one think he was the perfect human to be grilling the politicos on behalf of the rest of us. His humanity showed through brilliantly in all of his work. In most cases that's the best that can be said about a mass-communicator. All of the broadcasters that we've fallen in love with over the years have had the ability to fabricate their thoughts effectively as well as immerse them in a large portion of their own personality. For my part, I will, as long as I have left, remember being in the studio for my show at KMOX the Sunday after Mr. Russert's death and keeping one eye on the NBC coverage. Several times it was posted--Timothy J. Russert--1950-2008. This reporter was born the same year. A powerful reminder that every sunrise is to be celebrated.

George Carlin, in my opinion, is one who will be respected and revered more in death than in life. Many of his comedy routines were filled with observations and opinions that took a genius to communicate. And, make no mistake, the brilliance of Carlin was based in his ability to take an observation and formulate it into an idea worthy of discussion, then elevate it into a comedic presentation. He was a brilliant communicator, whether or not he was funny. He, especially for a largely uneducated person, understood the nuances of our language, society and its mores, and timeworn traditions. He could, and did, ask questions about all of them in a hilarious way. Sure he went over the line with language from time to time. But he always made you think about why that line was located there in the first place. Why do we feel that way about language? What are the rules and why? How did we get to the place where this is acceptable and that is not? He was much, much more than a hippy-dippy weatherman...man. He was a genius, and will likely for many years to come be considered a hero of the common man.

In the communications world, we can only boast about those who break through to immense achievement and fame. Very seldom do communicators make a real difference in the world unless they do so in government. These three did so outside the realm of partisan politics. Rest well gents, we are lessened by your absence.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Spreading the Wealth?

-Remember before the season when all that stuff was going around about Albert Pujols needing elbow surgery and that he should miss this season to have it done? Well, with AP being on the DL with that calf strain, it appears we're getting a look at the Cardinals we would have been left to root for if he had. And the picture ain't pretty. The lineup obviously goes down several notches without Prince Albert in there. The opposition can pretty much pitch around who they want to now.

-I saw maybe the most incredible meltdown I've ever witnessed in a professional baseball game today. The Grizzlies led Windy City by 5 runs going into the top of the 9th at GCS Ballpark. Before the Thunderbolts finished batting in their half, they had scored 8 times and sent 12 batters to the plate. I say meltdown because the 'Bolts didn't do much to earn it. The Grizzlies closer...and former closer (names spared to protect the young and impressionable) combined to allow only 3 hits. But they walked 4 batters and hit 2. It was one of those innings where you wanted to suggest that they pitch it underhanded just to get it over the plate. Windy City would have likely hit the ball somewhere to make 3 outs before they scored enough runs to tie it. Poor manager Phil Warren was probably ready to take a job selling vacuum cleaners by the end of that one. Sheesh...Well, as they say, excrement occurs.

-Even with gas at an incredible $4.19 a gallon today, there will be an enormous debate in this country about the off-shore drilling proposals, and any other proposal that means messing with the environment. Don't you think that's what the foreign oil barons and sheiks are counting on? They know that our way of running a government ensures that no decisive action is ever taken on anything. Our internal struggles over everything are their best ally. Keep putting the burdens on business Washington, and watch our economy go further down the toilet. I keep wondering when we will come together on the side of educational and economic excellence for the sake of a stronger country. But it seems many have their own agenda to serve no matter the economic price and negative impact on our world standing.

-Now that we know what Tiger Woods was dealing with physically during the U.S. Open, could it be the most amazing individual athletic achievement of all time? You don't win a U.S. Open on one leg. Most humans couldn't do it given unlimited legs.

-I know I'm not the only one who hopes that the InBev attempt to take over Anheuser-Busch goes away. People outside of St. Louis, especially those with A-B stock, aren't nearly as protective. But the devastation that InBev would likely bring to the job picture and pride of St. Louis...and America for that matter...is cause for major alarm. There's just something not right about one of America's iconic brands being owned by people in Belgium. But most of us, including the politicians, are powerless to do much about it.

-It sure would be nice if the Blues found a way to trade up into that number one pick in the draft Friday. But that's not likely to happen. Tampa Bay would be crazy to give up the rights to the one player that everyone agrees is a can't miss offensive impact player...Steve Stamkos. The Blues will either settle for the best player available (likely another defenseman) at number 4, or trade down a little way for more picks.

-I was in another of those 48 hour Film Project movies weekend before last. It was fun, but it appears my box-office appeal and acting ability is fading. Our team didn't make the St. Louis finals this year. Director Tim Snider won the Best Film award in '06.

-The real actor in the family, son Stewart, is staying busy in Hollywood. He's been on stage for a couple more plays over the last few months. And Stew is also being considered for a major part in a short film as I write. Still looking for the big break...but staying busy. In that market, that's saying something.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hey, Wher've I Been?

-Practically a month since I found the time to write. Holy Moly!

-Just about every time I've walked into the KMOX newsroom to prep for my weekend morning shows recently, I've felt the spirit of many of my broadcasting heroes who spent time there. I'll never forget the first time I walked into that room as a college intern to see the great Jack Buck standing there looking over some sports copy. I was scanning some news copy from one of the, now antiquated, AP tickers. I must have been frozen for a good five minutes not knowing what to say or do in the presence of my number one hero. Eventually, he broke the ice by turning to me and saying.."Well...aren't you going to introduce yourself"? Of course, he said it in a very friendly and engaging way. We wound up talking for a good 5 minutes as he got to know "the new kid". He always remembered me and my name after that. And, like many, I will always remember him in anything I do as an example of how one should lead a life.

-Mitchell Boggs starting for the Cardinals tonight. I'll bet I'm not the only Cardinals fan who didn't know much about him at the start of the season. So let's see...how many starting pitchers are unavailable...or have been at one time...for us this season? Wainwright, Carpenter, Mulder, Clement, Pineiro, Wellemeyer, didn't Looper and Lohse miss a start or two? That's just about everybody isn't it? How much are they paying these people who don't even pitch? Wow!

-So the Presidential race is finally set...Obama vs. McCain. I refuse to announce my choice in this dogfight until I hear more from each about some of the issues facing us....such as--
-What do you plan to do about our dependence on foreign oil?
-What do you plan to do about the enormous bills facing the country for Social Security and other programs?
-How do you plan to... fairly for business, individuals, and especially taxpayers...deal with the growing numbers of medically uninsured?
-What's the plan for the millions of people in this country illegally?
That's a start.

-As I write, I'm munching on some Tostitos and salsa. I just wonder where the tomatoes in the salsa came from?

-I've been in the process of accomplishing a lot of stuff with my business. The biggest thing is that my office has been moved from West Main in Belleville..to my home in Millstadt. As much as I enjoyed being at the West Main location, it became obvious that operating there was a bit of a luxury for what I do. The ad business doesn't require me to have an office very often. And my voiceover stuff is just as easily accomplished at home, as long as I have a high-speed internet connection. Once I pulled the trigger on satellite internet for the home a month ago, then the office became expendable. But, moving is always a pain in the backside. And this move was no different. Getting everything set up and operating...especially my computers...was a little more than I had expected in the way of hassle. But, now all is settled down...and operating fairly smoothly. For those who correspond with me regularly by snail mail... please contact me for my new mailing address.