Three Eras…Three Endings (sort of)

When I came into the office, the news hit me about three people in the public entertainment eye who have made decisions that the current phases of their careers will change.  I’ll offer thoughts on all three here.

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Bob Costas

Watching an Olympic games on NBC will not be the same for me.  As a sports fan, it was always a comfort to me when you tuned to the Games in prime time and saw Costas in the anchor chair.   He has announced that the most recent Rio Olympics was his last as lead anchor.  Former ESPN anchor Mike Tirico will take over.  Costas says he’s “transitioning” his career.   The Associated Press couched Costas’ next chapter thusly:

Costas, 64, said he’s not retiring from the business, but entering the “Tom Brokaw phase” of his career. Brokaw, the former NBC “Nightly News” anchor, is a commentator at big news events and makes documentaries.

Tirico will be fine…but it won’t be the same.

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Aretha Franklin

What can you say about “The Queen of Soul” that hasn’t been said already?  She’s earned every bit of R-E-S-P-E-C-T throughout her career.  Now she says this year will be her swan song.  Detroit TV station WDIV reported it first and offered this detail that the AP relayed:

The singer says she will make one more album, with several tracks produced by Stevie Wonder, and will otherwise limit herself to “some select things, many one a month, for six months out of the year” as she devotes more time to her grandchildren. She also says 2017 will be her “last year in concert.”
“”This will be my last year,” Franklin said. “I will be recording, but this will be my last year in concert. This is it.”

My only question is…who will be heir to the queen’s throne.

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Al Jarreau

As a jazz fan…this hits me the most.  I have always been a fan of Al Jarreau — from the traditional jazz to the pop crossovers.  Even his theme from Moonlighting carried a lot of his jazzy style.   But I was saddened to read this statement on his website on why he is stepping away:

“Al Jarreau is in the hospital in Los Angeles, due to exhaustion. He is receiving excellent medical care, responding to treatments, and improving slowly.   The medical team has instructed that he cannot perform any of his remaining 2017 concert dates.   Therefore, with complete sorrow, Al Jarreau must retire from touring. He is thankful for his 50 years of traveling the world in ministry through music, and for everyone who shared this with him – his faithful audience, the dedicated musicians, and so many others who supported his effort.”

The best thing I can do is leave you with a sample his music mastery.  Below..a duet with Kurt Elling on a scat-filled version of Dave Brubeck’s classic Take 5.

Godspeed and good health Al.

 

Isn’t 108 Years Enough?

Wrigley_Field_-_by_Kaczmarczyk

As much as I would love to…I can’t bring myself to pick my favorite baseball team to win the 2016 World Series.  It would be the first title since 1908.

That’s right.  I am a Chicago Cubs fan!

I know what you’re thinking.  How does a guy from South Carolina (whose only experience with the Windy City are delays at Midway Airport) get to love the Cubbies?

The answer is simple.   I like baseball..but in Charleston..the only teams you would regularly see on cable were the Atlanta Braves (on Superstation WTBS) and The Cubs (on Superstation WGN).  The late Harry Caray called Cubs games.  Harry’s son, the late Skip Caray, called Braves games.  Quite honestly, I liked Harry more than I liked Skip.  In my eyes, who wouldn’t have?

So I became a Cubs fan.  I like a Bud every once in a while, too.

Before last season…when the Cubs hired former Tampa Bay skipper Joe Maddon to lead the team, I said..if he sticks around..it will be about four or five years before they contend. But they won…and kept winning.  They finished with the third best record in baseball.

Surely..that was a good enough first season for Maddon.

It wasn’t.  And don’t call me Shirley.

They vanquished the Pittsburgh Pirates (who had the Majors’ 2nd best record) in the Wild Card Game.  Then polished off arch nemesis St. Louis in the divisional series.  The Cardinals finished the season with the best record in the bigs.

Hector Rondon

Chicago Cubs players celebrate after winning Game 4 in baseball’s National League Division Series, Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015, in Chicago. The Cubs won 4-6. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Only a New York Mets buzz saw stopped the Cubbies from reaching the Series.

Turn the page to 2016…and expectations are high.  Names like (Cy Young winner) Jake Arrieta, (Rookie of the Year) Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, Jon Lester and new additions Ben Zobrist (from the World Champion Royals) and Jason Heyward (formerly of the Cardinals) give hope that this will be the year.

Already this year…some adversity.  Schwarber has been lost for the season injuring his ACL and LCL in an outfield collision.  Ouch!

But the usual early-season joke — about the Cubs already being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs — isn’t being heard.   Hope is running rampant in Chicago.

But I still can’t pick them to win it all.

Oh but if they do!   One of these flags that fly after Cobs victories at home..and sometimes away..will find a spot in my office.

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I can dream…can’t I?

 

Take Me Out To The World Series..For The First Time!

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It’s not like watching it on television.

For the first time in my nearly 30-year broadcasting career,  I was literally in the building covering one of the grandest events in sport — The World Series.   I’ll admit it — it was cool.

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FOX News Radio afforded me the opportunity to staff the press box for the middle three games of this year’s Fall Classic pitting the Kansas City Royals against the New York Mets.  It was my first trip to Citi Field in Queens.  Those three days I left Newark to take the train to New York Penn Station.  then it was a short walk to the subway at 34th Street…one stop to 42nd..then a walk to catch the 7 train into Queens

I stepped off the train to see this.

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In the midst of my reporting duties, I met some interesting folks.  I came across people like Richard Birthright, who was here 29 years ago for a world title when Shea Stadium was the Mets’ stomping ground.  He even brought the newspaper of that series-clinching day with him.

Howard Fein was another of those I met.  He didn’t have a ticket for the game but — as a life-long Queens resident — he just wanted to be where the action was.

I can’t say that I blame him.

While I was there..work was the priority.  I would be lying, however, if I said I didn’t stop to take it in for myself.

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Before this, I had only attended one Major League game — at the (now gone) Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.  I thought that was cool too.  The thing I remember about that trip was not the game.  It was going to the top of the bowl and looking out at what was then the soon-to-be-completed Olympic Stadium.  It would later become Turner Field.

I’m not sure when..or if..I’ll get to cover another World Series.   But I will look back on these three days in October and November fondly.

My career took off as a sports reporter on the radio.  It’s those full-circle times like this that make it all worth while.

 

 

 

Please Turn In Your Bibles To The “Book of Brady”

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Enough already.

Can we drop the term ‘Deflategate’ from the lexicon..PLEASE!!??

And since when did Tom Brady become Jesus Christ, Elliot Ness and James Bond all rolled into one?  I’m just not sure.  This ‘game ball deflation’ story has taken on a life of its own since the NFL came out with the Wells Report saying Brady had “general knowledge” of the skirting of the rules.

Since then people have just gone nuts.

Cases in point:

1.  From the Associated Press:

BOSTON (AP) — A Massachusetts woman has used her own obituary to convey a final message on Tom Brady and the “Deflategate” scandal.

Boston.com (The Boston Globe’s website) reports that Patricia M. Shong, of Auburn, Massachusetts, died on Monday (5/18) surrounded by family. Her obituary says the 72-year-old enjoyed scrapbooking, weekly card night and spending time with her family. “She would also like us to set the record straight for her,” it reads. “Brady is innocent!!”

2.  Thanks again AP:

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Dozens of New England Patriots fans filled a parking lot at Gillette Stadium to protest the four-game suspension handed to quarterback Tom Brady over the “Deflategate” scandal.

   The “Free Tom Brady” rally was organized on Facebook. Many of the fans who gathered on Sunday wore Brady football jerseys with his number 12 on the back and held signs calling on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to rescind the suspension.

3.  From CBS Boston (WBZ)

FOXBORO (CBS) — Two just-married New England Patriots fans are suspending their own honeymoon until Tom Brady can take the field again.

The NFL has punished the star quarterback with a four-game suspension for being “generally aware” that the Patriots were deflating footballs to below the league limit.

Paul and Kellie Goodrow, married on May 9, went to Sunday’s “Free Tom Brady” rally in Foxboro with their own unique show of support: they’re postponing a honeymoon to Bermuda as long as the suspension stands.

“Til Brady is back on the field, that’s the way it is,” Paul Goodrow said. “I’ve been a fan my whole life, since 1982. Actually, I have tattoos of Tom Brady on my body.”

Let’s just stop there.

I have a news flash for all of you folks.    TOM BRADY DOESN’T NEED YOU!   He has a fine two-income family without all the idol worship.  Let him sit his four games and be done with it.   Heck..with the extra rest..he might be even better and fresher for the season.

Think about that.

However it goes…can we just put “Defl..” (whoops!) that scandal behind us.

Oh..and don’t get me started on the fan site seeking to raise money to help pay the Patriots organization’s million-dollar fine.

Stop it!

A Reflection On Baltimore

I’ve been watching it.   I’m sure you all have as well.

The protests in Baltimore — I’ll leave it to your discretion as to whether they were “violent” or “riots” as some have referred to them — have definitely caught the attention of Americans.

Opinions on whether civil disobedience is or has been the right course of action have been varied.  The looting and burning of businesses in the community of Freddie Gray (the man arrested by police who later died of a spinal injury) have sparked criticism of the community itself.

Sports columnist and commentator for ESPN Stephen A. Smith, on the network’s program First Take, delivered his own impassioned analysis of the confrontations between some residents and police.

Here are his comments.

Go Get ‘Em, Stuart!!!

And to think..I wasn’t really a fan of ESPN’s Stuart Scott when he started with the network in 1993.

Over the years, his delivery, his catchphrases and his grace under fire have won me over.  The last part in particular strikes me today.   Stuart is battling a rare form of cancer.  He’s seven years into that war.  At the 2014 ESPY Awards in July, he was presented with the Jimmy V Perseverance Award.   Stuart’s words of acceptance in the face of a grim diagnosis gave a new generation of sports fans their Jim Valvano moment.  The legendary N.C. State basketball coach burned the phrase “Don’t give up.  Don’t ever give up!” into our brains as he battled the cancer that took his life 21 years ago.

But enough from me.  Enjoy.

 

A Young Baseball Fan’s Kind Gesture…EXPOSED!!

It was an awesome time at the ball park for one kid at the Toronto Blue Jays/Texas Rangers game.

The third base coach catches a foul ball and tosses it to a kid in the stands.  With the smoothness of a seasoned ladies man, the young Casanova  wheels around and hands the foul ball to an attractive young lady sitting in the row behind him.  The woman is clearly impressed by this act which teaches us the lesson the chivalry is not dead.

Or so we thought.

One thing I’ve learned from my years in television news is that the camera never lies.   Watch below as the game announcers break down this play and expose some pretty nifty slight of hand.

 

Some say charming.   I say chicanery.

Sorry kid..but you’ve been stone cold BUSTED!

 

No Bandwagon Jumpers Allowed!!

I cut my teeth in my journalism career as a sports reporter.  The phrase: “No cheering in the Press Box!!”  was a directive I always took to heart each time I grabbed a free pre-game meal.  From Citadel Football…to College of Charleston basketball..to Gamecock Soccer.. to Stingrays hockey.. even the 1991 Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course — I enjoyed having a front-row seat for all of it.

As adept as I am in covering sports…I must say I’m not as good at picking teams to follow as a fan.

Case in point — I’m a long-time, long-suffering Chicago Cubs baseball fan.   I admit it.   Most Cubs fans will say (some jokingly..others not) that at three weeks into the new Major League season, the Cubbies have already been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.   Sheesh!

I’ve also been a fan of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders since the days of Kenny “The Snake” Stabler, Jack Tatum and coach John Madden.  I’m such a Raiders fan that the picture below was the groom’s cake at my wedding last year,

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Yup…it’s a Raiders helmet.

My favorite NBA player of all time to this day:  Michael Jordan?  No.    “Magic” Johnson?  No.   It’s Julius “Dr. J.” Erving.   For that reason, it always makes me feel great when the Philadelphia 76ers do well.

Since I’ve lived in Raleigh..I’ve become a big fan of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes.   They technically finished the 2013-2014 season with more outright wins (36) than outright losses (35).  The anomaly there — and you hockey fans know where I’m going with this — is that the last number in the Canes’ record this season (36-35-11) indicates overtime LOSSES.  They’ve also missed the playoffs seven of the last eight seasons.

So..if you combine the records of all my favorite teams’ most recently completed campaigns, the Cubs, Canes, Raiders and Sixers are a whopping —

Wait for it —

125-206-11 !!!

Yes..we suck!   And yes..I said WE.   The teams I like might put up a virtual goose egg in the win column, but they’ll still be MY teams.

I grow weary of people who say, “This has been my team forever..but they stink, so I’m cheering for these other guys now.”   Please..for the love of Pete..stick with your team.  Their time will come again.

Hey..if the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats can take the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs — there’s hope for EVERYBODY!